Starfinder through a Pathfinder 2e lens
Since Pathfinder 2e came out, folks have asked hesitantly about when Starfinder 2e is coming out, and they are assured it won’t be as anytime soon. However, what if you want some 3 action economy degree of success system peanut butter in your science fiction chocolate?
As a third-party publisher with no physical inventory, I can give that to you, a Starfinder Unchained if you will.
Update: I’m re-threading this article to more closely mirror the Starfinder Core Rules like so many of my *setting* in Starfinder articles.
Races: All of the Starfinder Core Races would be treated like Pathfinder 2e Ancestries in that you get more benefits as you level instead of getting your stats, eyes, and funny haircut at 1st level.
Classes: Somebody would have to rewrite all the Starfinder classes so that the class abilities work in the three action system, degree of success system, and the proficiency system. Do all of the classes get Attacks of Opportunity to stay true to the Starfinder material, or in the spirit of embracing the 3 action system, do we shake up the Classes and Monsters and speedup play by removing AoOs from most classes and monsters and giving everyone different reactions.
Skills: Since both systems have the following ten skills in common, they would be a natural place to start converting. Acrobatics, Athletics, Bluff/Deception, Culture/Society, Diplomacy, Intimidate, Knowledge/Lore, Medicine, Sleight of Hand/Thievery, Stealth, Survival. We can start converting over the skill descriptions and degree of success. Computers, Engineering, and Piloting, will need new write-ups altogether.
Our first decision, are you moving the proficiency system over, or just the degree of success and action economy. It’s possible to use the degree of success and still use Starfinder style skill points instead of proficiencies; you would substitute Unchained style skill unlocks for any proficiency requirement in skill checks. So let’s say we write a sidebar for that and move on.
Somebody would have to write knowledge check failures for the Alien Archives. In Pathfinder 2e when you use Recall Knowledge to find out what you know about a Monster, there are degrees of success, including Critical Failures where the GM gives you a plausible bit of lore that sounds real but isn’t true. ERG wrote 2 books on this for Pathfinder 2e to accommodate this new part of the system. They are like Monster Knowledge Cards for PF1e but include different results for failures too.
Feats: We’re going to have to rewrite feats that affect degree of success skills like the ones that reduce critical failures to regular failures and so on.
Equipment: Starfinder has scaling damage by level, PF2e has Runes and things, as a basic conversion Science Fiction probably works better with people upgrading their gear over time as their abilities improve. We will probably leave in some of the innovations from PF2e, but it needs to serve the Scifi feel and the numerical structure at the core.
Vehicles: The Vehicles in Starfinder are intentionally slow to keep pace with Character combat, vehicle to vehicle combat without characters isn’t very fast either; we’re going to rebuild this and accommodate 3 actions per turn as well as model some real-world vehicles until they play right and then we can add speeder bikes and starfighters that characters can interact with on more than a superficial level. Starships will integrate into character combat more like star Wars D20 and SWSE did.
Tactical Rules: We’re going to have to rewrite actions a little to accommodate the 3 actions versions while dropping things like Material, Somatic and Verbal components that Starfinder doesn’t have. Pathfinder 1e had 15 bonus types, Starfinder has only 4 bonus types, Pathfinder 2e only has 3 bonus types, and PF2e completely rewrote 8 subsystems (AC/BAB/Saves/Skills) around the proficiency system, which’s going to ripple through a lot of Starfinder math.
Starships: There are no Starships in PF2e, but we’re going to make some changes to starship construction and combat. Starship combat will probably play more like Character scale combat.
Magic and spells: Somebody would have to rewrite all the Starfinder spells to have 1-3 action capabilities. Since many have Pathfinder 2e equivalents, this shouldn’t be too hard.
Game Mastery: Well, we’re going to need to pick the NPC and monster making rules that make the most sense. Encounter design, XP, wealth by level, and treasure will have to use the parts the system ends up closest to.
Update: I have a very thoughtful email about this post from a customer keenly interested in this project. I will be updating the main post and making some new posts covering some of the details as I explore just how big this is to smash together two Paizo systems take what I feel are the strongest parts of each, and end up with something playable. The customer also asked me if we’d be doing a Kickstarter, a Playtest, and if we’d be converting more than just the Core Rules, what Starfinder hardbacks we’re on the table, so to speak.
If you have any comments about this post, please send them to: