People seem to like the Starfinder hardback preview/reviews, and with Interstellar Species getting into subscriber’s hands soon, it’s time to look at the latest release. Much like Drift Crises was a new kind of TTRPG book, Interstellar Species is basically three different kinds of publications in one. It is a player class option book with the release of the Evolutionist and alternate class features for several classes. It is a player species option book with alien species creation rules and 25 playable alien species collected from AAs, adventure path back matter, and even the Alien Character Deck for those much loved but long overlooked Kobolds. Finally, the last section of the book is a thorough collection of NPCs in a variety of flavors, with not a single core species to be seen! For some time now GMs have lamented the lack of a good NPC codex to quickly populate adventures with, and now at last they have one (and with the NPC section in Pact Worlds, have a very strong selection to choose from).
Chapter 1: Classes
We start with a class graft for the Evolutionist so you can easily make an NPC one, which is a much appreciated addition in the last couple of books. From there we go directly into the meat of the Evolutionist. A primary combatant, the Evo has the toughness of a Soldier with Dex or Str as their primary stat, but also differ significantly from that class. First off, they get more skills than any other full BAB class, with 8+Int (though it looks like this is reduced to 4+Int in errata, which I can understand, but does make them less of a skill monkey). Second, much like the Operative is the ‘skill wizard’ of the setting, the Evolutionist is a ‘battle adapter’ able to leverage Mutation Points to overcome combat challenges. I’ll be interested to see how that goes at the gaming table, but it looks like it has a lot of potential. They also join the Solarian, Nanocyte, and Vanguard in the ‘scaling weapon as a class feature’ club which is always nice to have considering how expensive it is to keep upgrading your gear. The emphasis on Augmentations is carried over from the play test (so you’ve got something to spend the money you saved not buying weapons on), the same Niches to choose from as the playtest, and at 7th level you can focus on Augmentation, Combat, or Packmaster (to buff your whole party with mutations!) The Niches are Eldritch (magical beast powers), Mechanized (constructs), Sepulchral (undead), and Vital (ooze, plant, aberration, or something else). Adaptations, the Evo’s every 2 level powers, are geared towards giving your body more flexibility, with some of the stranger abilities I’ve seen in Starfinder. I’m eager to give this final version a play!
For the other classes, we have a sonic option for Biohackers and new Fields of Study, new Improvisations and Expertise Talents for Envoy, Drone options and mods for the Mechanic, some environmental Nanocyte Knacks (and a Predator style camo sheath), a Str based Operative alt class feature that is intriguing, a reincarnation themed Anchor for Precog and some anomalies, and finish with sniper and trap options for Soldier.
Chapter 2: Species
Race as a descriptor for the heritage of characters and NPCs is gone, replaced by Species. This has been the trend for awhile (and here on the blog too) and is the way it always should have been IMHO. Glad to have it. We also have a glossary of all playable Species in Starfinder so far, with source book and a brief description, which is especially handy for more obscure ones like the Svartalfar.
The Species Creation section provides guidelines on how to build your own aliens, and is a mix of crunch and more ‘feel’ based rules. There is also no ‘add a weakness to unlock more abilities’ so power gaming the system isn’t as much a thing. The GM is always going to be a part of this process, but having tables for combat and non-combat abilities you can choose from is nice and means you can theoretically just roll up a new alien species as needed. Alert readers will notice that some of the traditionally stronger species (Aasimar, Tiefling, and Trox for instance) are mechanically stronger than this system allows.
The highlighted species covers in-depth looks at a variety of aliens, many of which only had a page or less before now. Personal highlights include the Contemplative, Kobold, Hanakan, Shimreen, and the ever popular Uplifted Bear. Each entry includes Feats, Spells, or Gear themed around the Species as well.
Chapter 3: NPC Gallery
I’m impressed by the thoroughness of the NPC gallery. There are a lot of entries here, often more than one a page, and they make use of all the species featured in this book. If you wanted to set a scene like the Mos Eisley Cantina, this book lets you have stats for every strange alien in the bar. As a GM I’ve also longed for an expanded range of pre-stated NPCs for throwing together encounters. The Pact Worlds ones are good, but very limited in range, while these cover a great deal more ground. If you are looking for foes with class levels, or even party allies and scene dressing, this is an invaluable resource.
Summary: A strong addition to Starfinder, and a great GM resource that also has a lot to offer players. If you like playing a shapeshifting druid-type in fantasy games, you’ll love the Evolutionist, and even if that’s not your bag you are probably going to want the Uplifted Bear details at some point ;D Available soon from your friendly local game store!
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