Starjammer Core Rules
This massive tome clocks in at 238 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 230 pages of content. Of these, 8 are devoted to a handy index (kudos!).
This review was requested as a non-prioritized review by my patreons.
So, as you can see from the page-count, this is a massive book. As such, I will try to be brief without sacrificing analytical depth.
First of all, we take a look at how to use this book – and, in case you did not know, this is NOT, I repeat, this is NOT a Starfinder-book – this is a scifi-toolkit for PFRPG. We begin with different ways of using the book: From sprinkling parts in, to developing an ongoing campaign to go to the stars to a full-blown campaign in the vast regions of space. It should be noted, that this book makes use of the Technology Guide’s rules. I strongly suggest getting that book.
The first chapter deals with races for Starjammer. The first would be the Abiarazi, a race of shapechanging oozes that take humanoid forms. As such, they are oozes with the shapechanger subtype, get +2 Con and Int, -2 Cha, 30 ft. speed, do breathe and don’t need to sleep, unless preparing spells etc. They thankfully are neither blind, nor mindless and have no special immunities to gaze attacks, illusions, etc. The race can, as a standard action, assujme oozeform, which allows them to fit into spaces as though they were half their size, quarter their size with squeezing penalties. They also get a plasmic lash, which is kind of like a tongue that can tether those nearby to the creature, with rules codified properly – kudos! 1/day, they can use blur as an SP (which is pretty potent), and as a shapechanger, they can alter their forms into a Small or Medium humanoid as per alter self, minus the ability score adjustments. As downsides for their potent tricks, they suffer a -2 penalty to Will-saves against compulsions and require twice as much food, suffering the fatigued condition when not eating at least once in 4 hours. Shape changer may be replaced with 1/day psionic powers or psychic spells. The racial archetype is an interesting fighter-tweak that replaces armor training for an immediate action miss chance that scales with the levels. Pretty cool for a small tweak. The racial feats range from basic bonuses to 1/day crit/precision damage negation to a high-level –feat that nets a lot of immunities – but the previous, less amazing feats make up for the massive benefits that one provides. There is also a spell to lock targets in a specific form and there would be two race traits.
It should be noted that all of the races herein come with favored class options AND an age, height and weight table as well as some flavor to contextualize the respective races, so bear that in mind – I’m not going to repeat myself in every entry.
Manu have seen a meteoric rise from basically savages to one of the most advanced races in the system. Black-skinned, with chiseled features, they gain +2 Int and Wis (lopsided), have normal speed, darkvision, detect magic as a constant SP, +1 untyped bonus to Disable Device and Knowledge (engineering) as well as +1 to Knowledge (arcane) and Craft (mechanical) and treat the latter two skills as class skills. They gain a further +1 to Craft checks made to create magic items. 1/day, they may treat their level as 4 higher for the purpose of a level-based class feature. This does not grant early access and an ability thus boosted only lasts for one round. While this could be slightly more precise, it is surprisingly concise and well-presented, considering its open nature. The alternate racial traits include a psionic variant of the skill-boosts and magic sense and master tinkering may be replaced with +1 to atk, +2 damage versus goblinoids.The racial archetype would be the technician investigator, who is better at using and identifying magic items, resists them easier and later manages to craft them quicker. Basically, a crafter engine-tweak. The racial feats let you hold your breath longer, haggle better, etc. There is an anti-magic suit that nets SR +2 (or grants you SR 7), a stabilizing jacket when gravity is lots( doesn’t help vs. spells) and a spell to suppress magic items. The traits help you better assist allies in crafting items or improve your vessel crafting skills.
The Pasimachi are crafting beetle-people – they are monstrous humanoids with the insectoid subtype. They have slow and steady as a speed, darkvision 60 ft., a climb speed of 20 ft., additionally a constant spider climb effect (but can’t cling to smooth surfaces), +2 natural armor (split over two traits) and a primary slam attack as well as stability. Attribute modification-wise, they gain +4 Str, -2 Dex and Int. This race is pretty lopsided and arguably stronger than the previous 2. Clumsy, personal flight and several options for a natural attacks beyond the slam attack make this race distinct and interesting, but stronger than the others presented so far. That being said, the archetype presented is pretty cool: Bombardier beetle rider cavalier? Yes, please! Better wings and pheromone messaging make for interesting racial feats. A healing clockwork beetle and spells that enhance defenses (highlight: Prismatic shell, which lasts for 7 rounds and switches defenses each round) complement the entry. The trait that enhances AC by +1 verss bludgeoning and slashing weapons is interesting, but a bit micro-manage-y.
Transgenics are the result of the coupling of a human and an alien. They gain +2 Str and Int, -2 Con, are humanoids with the transgenic subtype, darkvision, normal speed, +2 to Acrobatics and Survival and they can survive in the void for longer. They also have 150 ft. range individual telepathy, usable for 1 round per character level.v There are a ton of racial variants for them – 10 subraces, all of which come with their own alternate racial skills and ability score modifiers – no complaints regarding their balancing. The racial feats include personal flight (unlocked at 4th level) and this feat#s dressing is modified for the subraces – kudos! The Xenofilos magus can tap into the arcane pool to enhance telepathy, using limited telekinesis and combine that with spellstrike. They also learn some custom spells. All in all, an interesting archetype!
Now, beyond these new races, we take a look at the core races and their role within the context of Starjammer: Each race gets some crunch and fluff – archetypes and flavor. Dwarves get a construct-specialist cleric; elves get a rocket-pack specialist investigator. Gnomes get the close-quarters combat scuttle swashbuckler, an anti-construct specialist. The gnome technomancer summoner is pretty potent – with a mechanical eidolon that gets some modifications and a custom summon-list. As a whole, I’d be weary of this one – it’s pretty potent. Half-elves can become hullbreaker brawlers, anti-tech sunder specialists. Half-orc space marines are brawlers trained to deal with strange worlds, unusual gravity, etc. – really cool! Halfling privateer slayers can study vessels, gaining the benefits of studied target versus captain/pilot and may execute breaching ramming maneuvers with vessels. Human explorers are all about knowledge and all classes may take it – the archetype replaces skilled and 1st level’s bonus feat. Finally, there would be the razer – a gnoll barbarian, who gets progressively better at smashing through walls and obstacles – both with attacks and charges.
Okay, this concludes the racial section; from here, we move to the non-race-specific class options. The heliacal healer cleric is locked into the Healing domain. Cool: Creatures healed multiple times may be designated as crew – this title connects with the other abilities – pretty cool. Shock trooper fighters also have a bit of a Warhammer 40K-feeling: Chanting litanies while boarding? Hardsuit training? Yeah, I like that! The Void tracker ranger can, bingo, track in space. Speaking of rangers: We get a Siege combat style for them. Oracles can elect to choose the infinity mystery, which allows the oracle to lock down dimensional travel, temporarily remove targets from time – pretty damn cool mystery here! There is a utility wild talent to create air and a rogue talent to use siege weapons with sneak attack. All in all, a flavorful bunch of options – surprisingly so, if I may say so. While I wasn’t totally blown away by the material, there is a distinct lack of filler or broken material, so yeah, kudos!
To my surprise and delight, this is where the book introduces factions. Not one or two, but 5 of them – all with their own proper write-ups: You know, entry-fees, extracurricular activities, education granted – pretty damn cool, they also provide a context for learning, magic, etc. – big plus here. And yes, we get, for example, codes of conduct, rules for the drug-spice salmagundi (stats provided; cue insert “THE SPICE MUST FLOW!!”)…really neat chapter. Speaking of really neat: The book also covers a new skill uses and modifications: Craft (vessel) is provided and Knowledge (geography) is modified. Profession (pilot) treats the vessel as a flying creature, just fyi. The pdf also contains 18 feats – and there is a big plus here: From Null Gravity Combat and its follow-up feats to those that help piloting, the feats do the right thing: they focus on the peculiarities of the system instead of providing numerical escalations. Big plus.
Anyways, the equipment section discussed currency – and while it explains, in detail, the use of comets (common markers for economic transactions), these are correlated to traditional coinage – i.e. you won’t have to deal with nasty currency conversions: Prices in silver, gold and copper are retained. The setting comes with its own WGL-table (helpful!) and sports new items: magnetic shields (lacking italicization in one instance), an extremely long-range emergency beacon, a torc that slows the movement of the wearer…really cool. Similarly, there are quite a few costly custom tech suits…and hardsuits. Think of these as basically power armor. And yes, in another callback to Warhammer 40K, we do get a space marine suit. Apart from some cosmetic hiccups, a cool section.
The spell-section follows a similar design-paradigm, focusing on the demands of the setting, as opposed to being redundant – air creation, an antimatter ray (with a powerful untyped damage balanced by spell level and affected target), creating slipstream or a holy nova, mending vessels…some spells use plasma, using the proper fire/electricity duality – in short, as a whole, a welcome array of spells.
From here on out, we take a look at encounters – and hazards: Dust clouds, comets, anti-magic fields, solar flares – there is a ton of these, including handy tables that include checks to avoid, collision damage, etc. There are rules for planetary rings, ribbon storms of highly virulent fungal filament…this section really drew me in, and, beyond what I’ve seen so far, helps to make the system presented feel more unique. We also get guidelines for planetary classification by size and type: Rules for acid world, cold iron worlds that are anathema to fey and demons, planets permeated with fear, mithral worlds – and yes, the classics, from desert to swamp to the elements are all covered as well. Once again, a really handy chapter. We also get 3 completely detailed sample worlds, with adventure hooks, stats, notes on adventuring and sketch-like gazetteers. Next up is a chapter on the gods of the setting: Mechanically, we usually get 5 domains and subdomains per deity, with sacred animal7color etc. noted. Similarly, inquisitions are provided – some deities, like Israfel, do go a bit beyond that with e.g. 6 subdomains. Instead of retreading old content, the pdf notes deities suitable for the setting with a handy table.
Now, let’s take a look at traveling the Void, shall we? First, we should talk about crew roles: These are flexible, with command(optional) captain, chief engineer, first mate, helmsman, medic and tactical officer as basic roles. Recommended skills/feats are provided – and yes, NPCs can take up these roles. Automata may be purchased to cover these rules, we get notes on mutiny and 4 specialized crew roles. Instead of trying to jam Pathfinder’s sizes onto vessels, they are categorized in 5 classes, with length, squares, ram damage and costs per square allowing for pretty solid customization. Vessels are really big – as such, they track their damage in VP (vessel points) – each is the equivalent of 10 hit points. This retains the importance of big weaponry, while still allowing potent PCs to damage the vessel, if in a greatly reduced capacity. Vessels reduced to 0 VP are crippled and start breaking apart after 10 rounds, with additional damage reducing the count-down – nice solution to allow for last second saves etc. We get full stats for a ton of vessels – from drones to destroyers, this section is massive and groups the vessels by size. Personal Transportation Devices.
Speed rating ranges from 1 to 30 and is divided in 3 categories: tactical speed for starfights, interplanetary for travel within a solar system, interstellar for the journeys between solar systems. Vessels move 1 mile cubes in tactical combat equal to their Speed rating. A vessel can increases its current Speed by the Acceleration rating each round. A handy table collates tactical and interplanetary speeds, with notes for travel times etc. And yep, including interstellar speeds. Big comfort-plus here. Vessel engines, with repair DCs, costs etc. are all provided as well – Spellforge turbines require Spellcraft, as do Essence Drones – the other engines use Craft (mechanical) for repairs. Really cool: You may coax out more of an engine, but at the expense of the engine, which is damaged by overclocking it thus. The engines all note their maximum speed factor,a cceleration, propulsion, control devices (including stats for AC, hp, hardness, etc.) and the Driving check in question. If the “-jammer”-aspect has been lost on you so far – the weapon-section will change that: Various ballistae, including rules for pod-mounting can be found alongside spell projectors, all next to beam cannons, weapons that can fire alchemical payloads, rail cannons…the blend of the fantastic and weird is nice here. And yes, we get custom ammo as well. Weapons etc. obviously cost space – as such, we get a simple and easy to grasp Point Buy value for weapons, crew space, defensive components, etc. – the system is elegant and easy to grasp. Want a cloaking device or a heat shield? Both may well save your behind, but their point cost and weight must be considered…and yes, life support is similarly codified, as are communications, tactical components…This whole vessel section is very easily scavenged for other purposes as well – the proximity of the rules employed to classic PFRPG-vehicle rules helps there as well. Amazing: This is NOT where we stop: We also get vessel templates for e.g. blessed vessels…and if you don’t want to handcraft a vessel, starting packages help there, as does the massive Point Buy Chart array for vessels. This chapter is really, really, really good.
Okay, so next up would be the vessel combat section – it codifies diagonal movement regarding the cubes assumed for 3D-combat. The fast-play rules are as follows: All vessels drop to tactical speed. PCs and important NPCs roll initiative. Movement occurs on the Pilot or captain’s initiative count. Speed rating can be moved as a move action. Direction changes cost a standard action, but only at the start of the character’s turn. Attacks are executed at the pilot or captain’s initiative count. This is relatively quick, but it shows, rather quickly, a weakness of the system presented: The other characters become less important…which is a pity, for I LOVE how the respective piloting options are concisely summarized, how we learn about CMB/D of vessels and the dogfighting tactics add a bit of strategic depth: They have prerequisites, but are otherwise unlocked by those meeting the prerequisites. Strafing, swift reversals…pretty cool. Even the circumstances of piloting, from withdrawing to other options, are concisely covered.
The next chapter deals with new creatures, introducing variants of starflight (with a handy table, once again making the actual use of the book easier) as well as the plasma burn ability. Beyond these, we get strange predators, mighty CR 24/MR 10 ribbon dragons that can trail ribbons of torn space-time fabric, space remoras, asteroid spiders and starbeasts like Betelgeuse, Fomalhaut, Wormwood…and there would be the extremely varied tardigrades, which come in a frightening variety of types, courtesy to their extreme adaptability. There are space goblins, cephalopod living vessels…and there are the zhurkans. Super-powerful destroyers and enslavers of civilizations – 3 of these fellows are included, they are CR 20 – and compared to some starbeasts, they are not the worst you can find within the endless Void…
Editing and formatting, on both a formal and rules-language level, are surprisingly good for a tome of this size. The tome has obviously gone through a lot of careful checking. There are a few hiccups here and there, but yeah – well done. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard that captures the style of the setting rather well. Artworks range from amazing original full-color pieces to some stock artworks – particularly the bestiary section suffers a bit from that. The pdf comes with extensive, nested bookmarks, making navigation comfortable. The presence of the massive index really helps, as do all the helpful tables.
My congratulations to Peter K. Ullmann, Kirby Flake, John Reyst, Troy Daniels, Michael McNeill, Manuel A. Oaxaca, Allen Snyder and Michael Ritter – in spite of the numerous authors, the book feels surprisingly concise and unified. It is only in a precious few instances when internal balance could be tighter. I love the vessel-customization options and the flavor that suffuses this book: It feels like a more magical version of a scifi-setting, with some slices of the weird and Warhammer 40K-ish aesthetics. The book sports a distinct and unique identity – while I did bemoan the lack of spacehamsters and goofiness, I think that the decision to not just do Spacejammer 2.0 is a smart one; there are some nods here, but this is, as a whole, a serious, concise setting.
Now, when taken as a whole, I do really enjoy this tome. There are a few things that could have been better – the vessel combat could have used more stuff for non-pilot/captains to do; much like PFRPG’s default vehicle-rules-engine, the vessels herein are a bit captain-heavy regarding tactics etc. The races aren’t perfectly balanced and there are a few hiccups here and there – not many, mind you, but yeah. That being said, I am complaining at a high level – this is certainly well worth checking out. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.
You can get this massive book here on OBS!