Every time I try to explain RPGs to uninitiated friends, I focus on the idea that it is “shared storytelling,” with a group of players getting together to help develop an epic tale of excitement and adventure. When I’ve had people interested in actually playing, I try to do my best to get them up to speed without letting them see the 300+ page rulebook, stacks of sourcebooks, and mountains of options for their characters. It would be nice to have everything a prospective player and group needs in one handy box, wouldn’t it? Enter the Starfinder Beginner Box from Paizo Publishing, which promises to bring new players into the world of their hit space-based role-playing game.
The Starfinder Beginner Box is a space fantasy roleplaying game for 2-6 players, and includes a scenario designed for solo play. The Starfinder Beginner Box plays best with 4-6 players.
The Starfinder Beginner Box is designed as a simplified introductory version to Paizo’s Starfinder Roleplaying Game. Having origins in the d20 system and traditional RPGs, one player serves as the Game Master, who develops and presents the story and associated challenges that the players will face. Players controlling their own character, each with unique races and powers that impact the role they play in the story. When a character wants to do something, be it hacking a computer, shooting a flamethrower, or lying to authorities, they roll a 20-sided die (d20), add whatever associated bonus their character has to that action, and see if they succeed or fail. Working together, the GM and players share responsibility in developing the story.
The Beginner Box comes with everything a group looking to step into Starfinder needs to jump right into the universe. 6 complete, premade characters come ready to go, along with a stack of blank character sheets for players to develop their own character vision. A player’s guide contains all the rules for character creation, listings of all the various classes, races, and powers. There is also a catalog of all the different equipment available to outfit those characters, from guns of all types, to armors, to all the various tools and bits and what not that can be found in a space fantasy saga.
The Game Master is given a toolkit for running the game, with the centerpiece being a guide containing all the rules for combat and exploration, details about the backstory of the Starfinder universe, and statistics on enemies and critters that can be used to create scenarios and adventures. Also provided to the GM are pawns to represent both the party and the enemies, and a flip-mat that can be used as a map. Finally, a short scenario is provided to help both GM and players take their first steps into a larger world with the Starfinder RPG.
Following and appreciating Paizo since the release of the Pathfinder RPG a decade ago, I was very interested in checking out the Starfinder RPG rules, and found a game deep in complexity, with plenty of options to explore both all kinds of characters and worlds in a space fantasy genre that I absolutely love. Even as an experienced RPG player, I will admit I was a bit overwhelmed by the volume and complexity of the material presented in the Starfinder core rulebook, and I can only imagine what a new-ish player would think. To open the game to a wider audience, the Starfinder Beginner Box does a great job of narrowing down the focus of the game to give a great experience with a low-to-moderate level of complexity. Some of the more minute details of combat, skills, and character powers are streamlined to make the game immediately playable out of the box.
The pre-generated characters are, quite simply, perfect for a group of new players. On the front of each sheet, it states “Play this character if you want to…” then gives a general description of the powers and flavor of the six different options. The sheet opens up to a double-wide character sheet, not only simplified for the beginning player, but a full explanation of the meaning and game impact of each feature, whether attack bonuses or feats or class powers. The brand-new players who joined us in a game using the Beginner Box were able to hit the ground running at the start of the session, in no small part to the amazing pregens.
For players who want to make their own characters, the Beginner Box provides a great process for doing so, by taking the forest of options available in the Starfinder RPG and trimming them down to a set of pathways to follow. Our group developed quite a few character concepts and were able to create those characters quickly and efficiently using the streamlined rules. The only negative we found in the process was that, with only one rulebook, the process was a bit slow.
The scenario that was included in the Beginner Box was perfect for bringing non-Starfinder players into the universe and up to speed with the game rules. Our players had a blast (quite literally) in learning the unique powers and traits of their characters by going on a mission for the Starfinder Society. One issue we encountered was that, with very experienced RPG players in the group, they continually tried to approach the game assuming there was more complexity. It needs to be noted by groups picking up the Beginner Box that have a large amount of experience that they need to take the game for what it is, and not try to create more and more complex rules.
On the resources for GMs, we found them to be above-average. With a brief primer on creating encounters for adventuring parties, a guide to the solar system and larger universe of Starfinder, and details on types of planets and the bad guys that can be found on them, GMs are given a good amount of material with which to start building their own adventures. An experienced GM would have no problem putting together a set of encounters for their players to run through after the introductory scenario. However, we felt that some more supplementary materials would be beneficial to a new GM to help them develop a more cohesive encounter.
The Starfinder Beginner Box is the perfect offering from Paizo to launch new players into the Starfinder RPG, whether they be new to the hobby or old hands at RPGs. The box has everything needed to start playing, and we recommend it wholeheartedly to any group who have even a passing interest in the Starfinder or space fantasy world. Use it to blast off to adventure!
Final Score: 4.5 – Great for beginners and newcomers to the Starfinder universe. It can be good for experienced folks, as well.
• Perhaps over-simplified for experienced players
• Steep step-up from Beginner Box to regular Starfinder rules
• Only one Player Handbook makes character creation difficult