When you’re dealing with a roleplaying game system where the worlds are varied and infinite, it can be daunting to learn where to start. Who are the major intergalactic players? How does time function in the Drift? Where do Skittermanders come from?
Sometimes we see an all-you-can-eat buffet and just pile our plates high. There’s that age-old adage that people’s eyes are bigger than their stomachs, and it’s absolutely true. It’s as true for tabletop games as it is for crispy hashbrowns.
Diving into worlds and lore in a controlled, piecemeal fashion can give better results. Baby steps!
When it comes to Starfinder, Paizo did an awesome job with their latest book, Near Space. Instead of throwing a boatload of information at you, they showed restraint and instead focused on fleshing out the lore and planet information in an easily-digestible format.
So let’s break down the details of this latest Starfinder supplement book!
What is Near Space?
If you’re familiar with the concept of ‘space’ in Starfinder, you know about the Drift and the Vast. The Vast is essentially the sprawling expanse of space filled with unknown dangers and destinations. The Drift is the strange, time-agnostic phenomenon that crews use to travel throughout space.
That being said, Near Space is sort of in-between the Vast and the Pact Worlds. Drift beacons are sporadically floating all throughout the galaxy. Basically, pilots can use these beacons to hone in on specific locations to travel to.
If there are a lot of these Drift beacons around, the areas are more accessible and considered to be Near Space. Areas lacking these beacons fall into the Vast.
This supplement details several different aspects of Near Space for you to use at your tables. It’s broken out into four major chapters:
- Chapter 1 is on the Veskarium, the collection of planets ruled by the militaristic Vesk Empire. If you like Vesk, this book delivers information in droves. Nearly half of Near Space is dedicated to the lizard-like species.
- Chapter 2 focuses on other Worlds within Near Space jurisdiction. If you don’t have Paizo’s Deck of Many Worlds to easily create your own planets, this will provide you with an ample starting point. Tons of great stuff in here.
- Chapter 3 gives the people more of what they really want: STARSHIPS. It’s only about ten pages of content, outlining specific statblocks for ships as well as offering more customization options for starships in your campaign.
- Chapter 4 outlines the additional player options. Not only are there more species options for you to play, but we get five more Archetypes and five more Character Themes as well. Paizo is making it difficult for me to stay on top of my Character Concept series by releasing so many Starfinder Themes!
The Worlds of Near Space
You could easily contain an entire campaign in the Veskarium with how much detail there is in the Starfinder Near Space supplement. There are 8 different planets that make up the Vesk Empire, and they’re all unique and interesting.
As a map-lover, I appreciate the provision of maps or 3D views of the planets with key landmarks noted. There’s plenty of room for improvisation if you want to go off-book as well; you can use these planets in whatever way that you wish.
When I’m reading about worlds and lore, I’m really looking for accessibility. That is to say, am I able to quickly find various details in broad strokes that give me an overview of an area if I’m looking on the fly. Between the imagery, maps, and the cultural details, it’s easy to picture the ‘gist’ of each planet presented in the book.
What are my favorite planets featured in Near Space? I’d like to list them all, but unfortunately my editor will send me a scathing email if I don’t keep this review relatively succinct, so I’ll just highlight my absolute favorites:
- Vesk-6: A planet with insane magnetic fields, and sprawling flora, this is like Felucia crossed with one of those huge magnets that picks up cars to be crushed. The Vesk are curious to find any advanced magic or tech, centering at a huge dig site known as Drill Point. What might they find?
- Gideron Authority: Home to the hobgoblins, Gideron Authority is a planet with a harsh, arctic-like environment. I can see some intense missions dealing with imports and exports at the Furidaimu Shipyards, and crazy competitions at the Koboden Arena.
- Nemenar: It’s known as The Prismatic Shadow. How cool is that? If that wasn’t enough to draw you in, the world is covered with thousands of glass spires, providing light that pierces through the darkness.
- Pakahano: The planet that’s basically a theme park. Illusion magic and technology are on display in brilliant fashion in the City of Veils. One of the largest cities here, Hano, is composed of towers of volcanic glass.
New Player Options
I mentioned that Near Space offers an abundance of new player features as well. Let’s take a look at those quickly and see what you get with the book.
First up are the Race/Species options:
- Damais are typically ambitious to the point of recklessness
- Embri resemble mollusks who abhor creativity
- Ghorans were thought to be close to extinction
- Hobgoblins are always looking for an edge in any situation
- Ijtikris are akin to squids, but are influenced heavily by their environment
- Osharus are a heavily adaptable aquatic species
- Pahtras are individualistic and showcase their personalities
- Skittermanders are the six-armed mascots of Starfinder
- Vesk are in the Core Rulebook, so we know all about them
Each of these species have ties to the worlds featured within the book. Between Alternate Racial Traits and Feats, there is ample opportunity for customization. A minor quibble is that most of the species detail is folded into the world information, so you’ll have to go digging there for more than the brief blurb in Chapter 4.
The new Character Themes are as follows:
- The Bureaucrat, who doesn’t take no for an answer, using their connections to get behind closed doors
- Giantbloods, who have ties to the Giants, granting them powerful strength
- If you’ve escaped captivity in any fashion, the Prisoner theme would fit the bill for your character
- Quartermasters always have the right tool for the job, and they keep meticulous inventory
- The wide variety of harsh environments on planets can keep many away, but not the Stormrunners who thrive on their survival aptitude
The beauty of Starfinder is that archetypes aren’t necessarily limited by class. Features from Archetypes can be incorporated into any character, creating staggering amounts of customization as your character progresses. Here are the new Archetypes in Starfinder Near Space:
- Assassin if you’re going for an Ezio concept or using the Bounty Hunter theme
- Battle Leader to offer those words of encouragement that are key to any successful team
- Commando for dangerous situations where you need someone who lacks fear
- Doshko Specialist to showcase the traditional weapon of the Vesk
- Mediator for when you need to bridge divides with gracious compromise
It’s nice to see that there’s an option that isn’t completely battle-focused in the Mediator archetype. Sometimes there tends to be a focus on combat-heavy characters, and it’s nice to have some avenues emphasizing roleplay more than fighting. The Battle Leader is a nice support addition that would probably be the first that I incorporate into a new character.
Starfinder Near Space: Final Thoughts
Again, the content Paizo is putting out these days is amazing. Between Starfinder and Pathfinder Second Edition, there’s plenty to be excited about.
Some might think the Starship section of Near Space is too short, and I’d be inclined to agree if it was supposed to be a primary focus of the book. The intent of Near Space is to showcase the worlds, their cultures, environments, and inhabitants. In a game about space, the section was included to show examples of the starships from these areas that you might encounter somewhere in the galaxy.
Overall, Starfinder Near Space gets a gold star in my book. Just add it to the millions of others waiting to be discovered out in the Vast. Snag yourself a copy of the supplement here.
Disclaimer: Nerds on Earth was provided a copy of Starfinder Near Space by Paizo Publishing in exchange for an honest review.