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Starfinder – One System, Many Settings

There are a lot of TTRPGs that focus on a specific kind of story and setting. If you want a Grimdark futuristic war story there is a very singular game system expressly for that, whereas if you would rather play plucky cybernetically enhanced criminals taking on megacorps for fun and political action there is a single game custom built for that very purpose. Starfinder, on the other hand, is made in such a way that it can accommodate those settings and many others, even allowing you to have a party with characters from all of those and more, which is part of why I love the system. Let’s take a look.

Scum and Villainy / Space Merchants

Look no further than the Fly Free or Die adventure path to see how this might go. Think Outlaw Star or Firefly. Starfinder has the starship built into the system from the get go, and has a variety of classes, themes, and archetypes that are made with this kind of game in mind. Build in a lot of chase scenes, both on the space ship and elsewhere, shifting allegiances and a cast of reprehensible smugglers and assorted chancers and you are good to go. Check out the Fly Free or Die podcast to hear one possible permutation.

Space Opera / High Space Fantasy

I’d describe this as the default setting, and the Dead Suns adventure path is a prime example of how a game like this might go. Think Flash Gordon or Star Wars. Sweeping adventure, operatic villains, threats to the entire galaxy, so on and so forth.


Starfinder actually does this play style very well, so much so that I wrote an adventure specifically in this genre for the game. You’ve got hacking, a variety of augments, and a host of built in semi-evil megacorps right there in the Pact Worlds setting. Embrace a shades of grey morality structure and a plot that keeps the party constantly on their toes as the go from job to job trying to stay ahead of the authorities and private security of the corporations that both their employers and their foes.

Post-Apocalyptic World

Looking for something with more of a Fallout or Thundarr the Barbarian feel? Starfinder has you covered. The system has detailed rules for radiation, includes weapons and items that span the gamut from low tech to high, with magic and magi-tech in between, and even the vehicle and vehicle creation rules if you want an added Mad Max element. You’ll need to accommodate magic/psychic power and how that fits into your game world, remove environmental protections from most armor, and likely remove the star ship system entirely, but those are easy enough to do. Finally, pick your base player species, whether that is just human, or broader in scope. The Species Graft augmentation chart makes for a great place to build a mutation system too!

Space Western

I did a whole blog post about this back in February. Basically take the Scum and Villain and Space Opera sections, mix and match as needed. Probably remove environmental protections from most armor too.

Space Horror

Much like Space Opera, Starfinder does this right out of the box. Instead of making sure your encounters are within CR of the party, you are now making sure they are just on the edge of what the party can handle. The rest is largely environmental, with derelict space hulks and abandoned scientific facilities being prime locations for this kind of adventure. The Signal to Screams adventure path may provide some inspiration. As always with horror, make sure your players are on board and that everyone is ok with the topics and themes being explored.

Grimdark Future

Like horror, this is a lot less about play mechanics and a lot more about how you are dealing with setting and plot. If you want to ramp up how deadly the game is, simply double the cost in RP to regain Stamina and make sure opportunities for safely resting are limited. If the theme of the campaign is military, there are themes and archetypes to accommodate, and you could even start everyone out with a level in Soldier.

Giant Robots / Anime

With Tech Revolution the Mech combat side of this is simple enough. The system is even robust enough to handle a party who each pilot their own mech or one that all work together to pilot the same one. As for giant foes to pit against said mechs, check out the Kaiju and Titan creature type grafts from last year.

Near Future and The Fantastic Now

Another setting we’ve covered before on the blog. Keep an eye out for the upcoming Shadowfinder from Owen K. C. Stephens too.

As always, if you like this or any of the other content here on Solo Run Studio I would welcome a little of your support through Ko-fi. Until next time Starfinders!

Categories: Article Writing

Jeremy Corff

Artist and Writer