Starfinder: Pact Worlds, by Pazio
One thing that is important when one is looking at a game is to gain a sense of place about the world that one is supposed to be playing in. At times, as is the case here, one finds that a place that might appear to be alien but which appears far more familiar when you think about it. And while it might not be a perfect picture of our solar system, this book does offer a very similar sort of picture to our own solar system only with a lot more aliens. Indeed, this particular game takes place in a very narrow range when one considers the galaxy as a whole, focusing on an area that is just the size of a solar system, facing the possibility of warfare across a whole galaxy. I’m a bit puzzled as to why this world is designed so small, especially given the high speed travel that exists, and whether there are a lot more worlds in neighboring systems that will be discovered or that will play a rule in the game once one moves ahead several levels. The constricted nature of this particular game makes it about the same as most regular role playing games are that occur on single planets.
This particular book is a bit more than 200 pages and is divided into four chapters. After a short introduction to the so-called pact worlds in which the Starfinder game appears to take place, the authors begin by discussing the various “worlds,” one of them a spaceship and one a station and one the sun, in which the game takes place. Most of the names appear to refer to the solar system by other names, so we have the sun, Aballon as Mercury, Castrovel as Venus, probably, Absalom Station as the remnant of earth, Akiton as Mars, and so on. Not all of the planets are present but enough are to make the similarities plain. After that the author talks about starships owned by various factions that one can use. This leads to a discussion of the supporting cast of characters that someone could encounter, like cultists, free captains (pirate), hellknights, mercenaries, security forces, and street gangs. Finally, the book ends with discussions about player options that include various feats, weapons and fusions, armor and armor upgrades, as well as magic and hybrid items and playable races. The book then ends as one would expect with an index that helps the reader find the info they are looking for.
Is this a solar system that I would want to live in? There are some areas that make this solar system in this game more appealing than our own, such as the way that it is possible to live on the sun and also help settle the asteroid belt and enjoy living with sentient machines on Mercury (or its equivalent, I should say). This world, though, is definitely terrifying in other respects, whether one looks at the absence of earth and its replacement with a small space station, or the weird ideas the authors have about deities and undeath and the ubiquity of pirates and rebels or conflict between people and dragons. This solar system is certainly a dangerous one, and that is true whether or not we are the only sentient beings that we are in contact with. And although I have to say that the imagination of the person or people who made up this game is pretty demented, it is at least the sort of demented that I can understand and which I could imagine myself playing if the time and company was right, so there’s that.