14 July 2021
If your group is going to explore the sandbox for a while it’s going to be invaluable.
Where other RPGs are often limited by how much room there is for exploration – for how far the frontiers can be pushed back – the same can’t really be said of Starfinder. All you need for near-limitless adventures are a spaceship and, now, the Galaxy Exploration Manual.
The slim-ish book is divided up into roughly three sections, starting with the near-obligatory pile of new character option. Almost all of these are themed around the idea of exploration, with technomancers gaining the ability to upgrade vehicles in the field, and soldiers being able to pick up the ‘Rover’ fighting style that turns them into rough-and-tumble explorers.
It’s not the most revelatory list of upgrades out there, but it does the job and ensures that the Galaxy Exploration Manual is never going to just gather dust on the shelf, even if you never try out a sandbox-ey campaign.
If, however, you decide to lean into exploration, you’ll certainly be making use of the second, and by far the longest, section of the book: the rules and guidelines for generating new planets from scratch.
This is a beefy block of random tables, guidelines and story hooks. Depending on how much you want to lean into the luck of the dice, you can use the system to determine everything from a planet’s biomes and gravity through to its level of tech and dedication to religion. There is an absolute treasure trove of information buried amidst the rules, and it’s easy to spend a couple hours with the rulebook and some dice and come away with an entire solar system of planets to explore.
This is where the third and final major part of the book comes in. Rather than talking rules, it covers how to run sandbox sci-fi campaigns, with decent advice on both the practical and the creative side of things. It is perhaps a little brief if you’re looking for a truly comprehensive guide, but still manages to pack a lot of information into its page count.
The Galaxy Exploration Manual isn’t going to be a vital purchase for every Starfinder table. If you’re more interested in running traditional campaigns you probably won’t be referring to it all that much, but if your group is going to explore the sandbox for a while it’s going to be invaluable.
This feature originally appeared in Issue 57 of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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