Starfinder – Character Operations Manual
Starfinder gets an upgrade with the Character Operations Manual! Boasting three new classes for the hit sci-fi RPG, this tome contains so much more too!
Overview: When Starfinder was first released, the game included seven core classes ranging from grizzled sci-fi soldiers and covert espionage operatives to enigmatic technomages and cosmic solarians. A good range of options, but you know what RPG fans are like – people wanted more! Following an open playtest, three new classes were developed and scheduled for release in this, the Character Operations Manual. However in practice, this book contains a whole lot more!
Clocking in at less than 160 pages, it’s extremely impressive how much this volume actually holds. The main course is, of course, the three new classes – vanguard, biohacker and witchwarper. But let’s not rush right to them just yet. Come with me as we turn the page and get a good look at just what dwells in this manual!
The book presents the player with a hefty wealth of additional options for the game’s core races, and a load of new themes. Working like small mini-classes in their own right, the themes add small bonuses to the characters, allowing the player to personalise their creation in nice aesthetic ways. Several previous Starfinder supplements have included new themes, and these follow the same style at those. Seven are included in total – athlete, noble scion, grifter, sensate, guard, street rat and law officer. Of those seven, the grifter and street rat appeal to me the most personally, with the latter including a very nice set of bonuses to thief/operative type characters in a way that definitely evokes Aladdin, whilst the law officer provides a few nice boosts to investigative skills. The noble scion is great for players who want a debonair and wealthy mogul, whilst the sensate is a hedonistic thrill-seeker.
Following this, however, is one of the book’s greatest segments – a huge wealth of new options for existing races and classes. Each race has a handful of alternative backgrounds that can be used instead of their default, giving different ability adjustments at character creation. For example, rather than +2 to dexterity and intelligence, your android character could have been designed for labour as a service mech, one of the downtrodden ‘slave’ machines before gaining their liberty, and therefore has a +2 to strength and constitution instead. Each race has a variety of different options like this, and are all very welcome in terms of providing more flexibility for playing the type of character that you want in your game.
Now the really good parts! New racial options! So, your vesk? You could swap out their natural weapons for something else, replacing their vicious claws with, say, a prehensile tail or venom sacks! Androids have a unique feat available that allows them to integrate nanites into their bodies, healing their wounds! Kasatha have a huge array of skills that put all four of their hands to use, including a new option for them if they are a soldier which allows them to fight with four weapons at once, becoming expert swordsmen. Lashunta and Ysoki have new options including unique spells and loads more, and even the legacy races of the dwarves and elves are not forgotten.
There’s a lot of material here, and it’s all great. But wait, it gets better! Let’s look at our new classes, shall we?
First up, the Biohacker, or as I like to call them the Mordin. This is a class specialising in field medic and using medicine to inflict damage on their enemies. You’ll want to keep them at far range, as they deliver their injections by means of dart guns – they have a bonus to shooting their allies, so let’s hope your team-mates don’t mind getting jabbed with needles during the course of a combat round! Because the Biohacker uses their skills on allies and enemies alike, their medicines are divided into boosters (which aid by giving buffs, for your allies) and inhibitors (which harm by giving conditions, for your enemies). Biohackers have Intelligence as their key ability, and are a type of class that I can see a lot of groups wanting in their parties.
Up next is the Vanguard, or as I call them, Bishop. These are front-line fighters who are built to take damage, so thankfully Constitution is their key ability. Vanguard specialise in protecting their comrades in battle by taking damage in their stead, converting that damage into energy and redirecting it back at their enemies in a massive damage-dealing blow. I had the chance to play a Vanguard during the test, and they feel very satisfying! The manual gives them plenty of ways to gain energy to send back at the enemies, and their unique class powers – disciplines – make them invaluable on the front line. I really love how the Vanguard plays!
The last of the new classes is the Witchwarper, a magic-wielding class with Intelligence as their key ability and a wealth of spells that allow them to pull elements from alternative realities. I call these ones Songbirds, and… okay, you get my meaning. In short, these mages can alter the environment on a localised scale, creating hazardous terrain, barriers, small-scale vacuums, changes to gravity and so on. They are, in short, geo-mages. The majority of their abilities impact on the landscape around the group during combat, and they round out the trinity of mystics and technomancers quite nicely!
Now, this isn’t the end of the chapter. Not at all. Because if you aren’t planning to make up a whole new character from these three classes yet – perhaps you’re already at level nine on your current character – the book then goes on to do exactly what it did in chapter one for the races, but for every single class in the game! Just… yeah, just wow.
So, quick run down of these!
- Envoys now have a whole load of more options including combat specialisations, which can put them in the front row of the firefight if you want to play Kirk rather than Picard!
- Mechanics can now build experimental prototype weapons and armour. You want to be Iron Man? You want to build your own home-made gun? Of course you do.
- Oh, did you want your Mystic to be a able to literally sing the song of the cosmos? Or be a fist-fighting contemplative monk with an ability called Wrecking Fist?
- So, you know your Operative’s trick attack? Well, they now have Stunt and Strike. Works kinda like trick attack, but instead you can deliver a variety of skill-based effects. My favorite is running up walls.
- Solarians. Okay, so know how they had a choice between solar armour or a solar melee weapon in the core book? Well, now you can have a solar shield or ranged weapon option too. It’s called solar flare.
- Soldiers. Battle stances. Multi-positional attacks. You can choose a type of weapons and gear to specialise in and get bonuses for using them. Boosts to existing feats. Really nice.
- Technomancers have always had a spell cache. Now they can adjust, augment, and eventually hack their respective cache in a variety of ways!
My personal favorite out of these are definitely the solarian and mechanics. Giving the solarian an option for ranged and shields… oh yeah, the shields! That’s in the equipment section now. So, let’s quickly discuss that. The manual offers a grand variety of new items, feats and spells, many of which really do seem to carry through with one of the main themes that I noticed in our three new classes – that of party synchronicity. This manual includes a lot of abilities and rules that allow the character to benefit their allies in positive ways, be it from aiding one another’s healing abilities, supporting one another through downtime actions (another really nice addition to the optional rules that add so much flavour to the game), or so much more. I think that this focus – this attention to bringing the players together through the options that their characters are given – is my favourite thing in this book.
One last thing – and I almost forgot to include it, only because that’s a testament to how much content is included in the manual – is a segment on additional roles for starship combat roles. Starship combat may not have been the strongest aspect of Starfinder’s gameplay for many players, but this manual recognises some of the issues with the rigidity of the roles that the players have in terms of ship-to-ship combat. Until now, the roles were fairly strict in who should take which seat – which meant that spell-casters typically would struggle to really excel at any of the roles offered. This volume tries to make some adjustment on that by giving a Chief Mate and Magic Officer role, which are nice and do occasionally provide some benefit, but mostly fill the gaps that were left unclosed. There is also a list of Open Crew actions that anybody can perform, and these feel like a great step in the right direction. As of the time of writing, Paizo has announced that their next manual will deal heavily with starship combat, and it’ll be great to see how they build on the progress made in this volume!
Conclusion: If you own the Starfinder core rulebook and aren’t sure which book to pick up next, this is the one that I would direct you towards. It expands the game in such a wonderful variety of ways, focusing the character options whilst bringing a wealth of new flexibility to the table. The three new classes are solid, but its the expansions to existing core ones that really forge a strong direction for the game, and that’s just such a joy to experience. I think my next character will be a vanguard. After I’m finished with my solar flare wielding solarian, that is.
|Authors/Artists:||Alexander Augunas, Kate Baker, Simone Dietzler, Jennifer Dworschack-Kinter, Leo Glass, Sasha Lindley Hall, Amanda Hamon, Vanessa Hoskins, Jenny Jarzabski, Jason Keeley, Lyz Liddell, Luis Loza, Ron Lundeen, Crystal Malarsky, Robert G. McCreary, Conor J. Owens, Joe Pasini, Owen K.C. Stephens, Jason Tondro, and Landon Winkler|
|Type of game:||Tabletop RPG|