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Win A Free Trip To PaizoCon 2018!


This year the entire Roll For Combat crew is going to PaizoCon 2018 and we want you to join us!

Here is what we are giving away:

  • Airfare to and from PaizoCon 2018! Arrive Thursday, May 24th and leave Monday, May 28th.
  • Free hotel room at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotels.
  • Free 4-Day badge and banquet ticket.
  • Possible chance to play Pathfinder Playtest with the Roll For Combat team!
  • All winners will be announced when the giveaway ends on May 1, 2018.

Ready to enter? Simply head on over to the entry form, fill it out, and listen to the show on May 8th and see if you won! Good luck!


The Starfinder Pact Worlds Review – Let’s Meet The Neighbors

starfinder pact worlds

If you enjoyed this review make sure to check out our weekly actual play podcast where Jason and the team are playing the Starfinder Dead Sun’s adventure path. Check out the podcast and check our new contest – a free trip to Paizocon 2018!

Free airfare, free hotel, free badge, free ticket to the Paizo banquest and a closed session preview of Pathfinder v2 with a Paizo developer! Check out the latest podcast for more details!

In the Alien Archive, Paizo decided to kick off its line of Starfinder supplements by looking deep into space and seeing what sort of creepy crawlies lived out in the great unknown. In their newest release, Pact Worlds, Paizo trades the telescope for a microscope and takes a deeper look at the worlds we’re already familiar with from the Core Rulebook.

Now, when I say “worlds” you have to take an expansive view of the word. Yes, you have traditional planets like Castrovel: fairly close to Earth-like, if a little hot and jungle-y. On the other hand, you also have planets that play around with planetary physics, such as Verces (doesn’t rotate, so it has a day side, a night side, and a thin habitable strip in the middle) or Triaxus (goes around the sun so slowly that seasons last centuries). It’s also got things that don’t count as planets at all – Absalom Station ought to be pretty well-known to even a passing Starfinder fan, the Diaspora is a series of colonies out in an asteroid belt, Idari is a space-ship that has been recognized as a planet, and ohbytheway, there’s a series of magically-protected bubble-cities inside the Sun itself. There’s a lot of different and surprising concepts – 14 in all.

Logistically, the book is organized into four major sections, though the real meat of the book is in the first and last parts.

The first, and largest, section is the information on the Pact Worlds themselves. If you like, think of it as Chapter 12 (“Setting”) of the Core Rulebook on steroids. Each of the 1-2 page planetary summaries from the Core Rulebook is expanded to a more fully fleshed-out description of each world. These generally include information on geography (including full-page maps of each), how society is structured, who their friends and foes are, plus a summary of various people and places of interest.

At its simplest level, it’s just a lore-dump, but what it really gives you framework on which the enterprising GM can build his or her own stories. Need a gladiator pit? Akiton has you covered. Want a story involving space pirates? Welcome to the Diaspora. Or, when in doubt, you can always send them to Eox and see what sort of shenanigans Zo! can inflict on them. (Think of Zo! – and yes, the exclamation mark is part of his name – as the undead version of Ryan Seacrest). A brief bone is thrown to players in the form of a planet-specific character theme for each world (to pick a few examples, the Diaspora gets the Space Pirate; the undead world of Eox gets the Deathtouched) but this part of the book is mostly for the GMs.

The players get theirs in the final chapter of the book. Gear, spells, feats… there are some of each, but they’re really the appetizers here. The big additions are six new archetypes (the core rulebook only had two) and six new playable races. I suspect the one that’s going to be a fan favorite is the SROs (“Sentient Robotic Organisms”) which are exactly what they sound like – robot PCs. If you want to play as HK-47 from Knights of the Old Republic… Paizo’s got your back, meatbag.

The middle two sections are smaller and a little more specialized in nature. Chapter 2 offers a selection of various faction-specific spaceships. To pick a couple examples, Hellknight vessels (you may remember them from Pathfinder) are heavily armored and full of jagged edges and pointy bits, while Xenowarden vessels incorporate living plant material into the ship design. Chapter 3, on the other hand, lays out NPC generics – cultists, mercenaries, street gangs – in case your campaign needs some extra cannon fodder. These seem useful in the right situations but might not make it into every campaign.

So that’s the nuts and bolts of the book. The real question is: is it something your gaming table really needs? I’ll put it this way – I think anyone can enjoy it, but where it’s really going to shine is for the GM who homebrews his own stories – groups that predominantly play adventure paths may not get as much out of it. If you’re sticking to adventure paths… OK, it deepens the lore a little and gives you a few more character options, but there might be a fair amount of overlap between the lore available in Pact Worlds and the lore in any given AP. But if you’re looking to make your own adventures, this thing is an idea factory and it’s probably worth having at hand – it’s almost impossible to read all the world lore and not have some sort of storytelling gears start turning in your head.

The World of Warcraft Diary Sneak Preview!

World of Warcraft Diary 1

One of our very own Roll For Combat team members is kickstarting a book about what it truly takes to make video games!

John Staats, who plays Maurice “Mo” Dupinski in our Dead Suns Starfinder campaign, has written a book about his years at Blizzard and what it took to create one of the greatest video games of all time!

John was on the World of Warcraft team for over 10 years and his book is a VERY detailed look at how they made Vanilla WOW. He sent me an advance copy and I’m still reading (it’s over 300 pages), but look out for it on Kickstarter soon!

World of Warcraft Diary 2

While John was developing World of Warcraft, he took constant notes, created monthly updates, and interviewed his co-workers throughout the development of the project. I count 140 pictures (all with captions) in the book, most of which I’ve never seen before and they’re all very behind-the-scenes.

With hundreds of never-seen-before pictures and behind-the-scenes interviews, this is a must-read for anyone interested in video game development or the history of World of Warcraft!

World of Warcraft Diary 3

John’s been working this book for over for two years, and he recently got permission from Blizzard to use their content. Next week he’s launching his Kickstarter campaign where you can pick up a copy of this amazing book. If you’re into computer games, check out his webpage where you can read more about this book:

Good luck John, and look for more information in the near future about this amazing look into one of the most popular games in history!

Join the Loot Box of Wonder Revolution Today!

Roll For Combat Loot Box of Wonder

When we first started this podcast I wasn’t sure where we would end up, but getting a published title (even if it’s a small title) written was Thurton Hillman wasn’t really on my radar at the time. However, fate and chance are a strange thing, and we were lucky enough to get Thurton to create for the show a wonderfully fun Starfinder magic item that can be used by everyone!

Part video game loot box, part deck of many things, this magic item was featured in our latest Episode 23: The Mysteries of Lootboxing and you can now download this item for free at DriveThruRPG right here!

Some of its amazing features include:

    • Two Page Introduction (almost)! Don’t you hate it when you buy a new RPG product and it only comes with a one-page introduction … or no introduction at all? With the Loot Box of Wonder, you get two whole pages of introduction (almost), that’s quality right there!
    • Lesser Loot Box of Wonder! Specially designed to cause havoc for low to mid-level PCs of all kinds, the Lesser Loot Box of Wonder will amaze and mystify your PCs and their friends!
    • Greater Loot Box of Wonder! But wait, there’s more! With the Greater Loot Box of Wonder now you can unleash mayhem on even the highest level of PCs! Bring those high-level PCs down a peg or two!
    • Twelve Full-Color Pages! Unlike other inferior products with nine pages or less, this product has not 10 pages, not 11 pages, but 12 whole pages! And all in full-color! Value city!
    • Skittermanders! Everything is better with Skittermanders, and this product has Skittermanders galore!

Don’t miss out on this amazing off today and take part of the loot box revolution! Join now!

Help Roll For Combat Name Their Skittermander!


The guys at Roll For Combat are about to start playing some Starfinder Society and we managed to get our hands on a Skittermander boon (listen to future shows to learn how you can get a Skittermander SFS of your own!). We need your help in naming our Skittermander character.

Check him out! Isn’t he cute! Wouldn’t you like to hear a rough voice of one of our regulars playing a cute little Skittermander?

If you have an idea for a name for our Skittermander, please send your Skittermander name to:
. You can also enter your Skittermander name here as well. If you name is chosen, we’ll send you a custom Roll For Combat t-shirt and use your name on the show! Good luck!

Dungeons & Dragons – Stranger Things Style, Part 3

If you enjoyed this post make sure to check out our weekly podcast, Roll For Combat, where a group of old-school gamers play Paizo’s new Starfinder RPG.

Also, make sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

When we explored my Dungeons & Dragons treasures from a few weeks ago there was one item in my 1980 Trapper Keeper that I didn’t show – the 1981 TSR Hobbies Gateway To Adventure catalog! This catalog was released in 1980 by TSR and featured all of their new releases for the upcoming year.

My catalog was in poor shape but I wanted to show it in full as the treasures found in that book contain a dragon’s horde of awesomeness.

Luckily I was able to find a more detailed scan of this same book (in full color), so without further adieu, I present to you the “1981 TSR Hobbies Gateway To Adventure”. Enjoy!

Look at that graphic! It’s just begging you to open this catalog and delve into its pages! Today everything is so slick and professional. Back then you really needed to go that extra mile to ignite the imagination … I miss those days.


Let this sink in for a second … this 16-page catalog contained the entirety of the world of Dungeons & Dragons and TSR. Everything in the world of RPG at that time could be contained in these few pages. Look how far we have come!


This was the time when D&D was starting to enter the mainstream and TSR was getting more professional with its presentation. Both covers were created by the illustration god Erol Otus … I would dare say that without the Otus illustrations D&D might not be where it is today. One could spend hours looking at his fantastical illustrations, always finding something new, further drawing you in. His illustration of the Basic Set is legendary, but I always loved the Expert Set illustration which clearly conveyed that the Expert Set was an expansion of the Basic Set in the artwork alone.


Look at all those modules! All … four of them!


Here we go, the “Core Four”. You had/have these books, everyone you knew had/have these books, without these books there would be no D&D. The only question was did you have the original Deities & Demigods Cyclopedia with the Cthulhu and Melnibonéan sections … or the lame later editions which had these section cut? Only the cool kids had the original edition, and you were cool … weren’t you?


I original DM screen I still see people using at conventions from time to time. I wish I still had mine. It must be around here somewhere…


Here we go, the list of the “Advanced D&D Modules”. Back then there was so little D&D content I think everyone had nearly every module, even if you weren’t a DM. Just having them and reading them was fun … and is still is!


You don’t hear nearly as much about the TSR board games, but they were classics in their own right. Dungeon! was THE original dungeon crawl boardgame (it’s right there in the name!) and I probably played this game a good 100 times when I was a kid. I have heard endless stories about how great Divine Right was, however even though I own two mint copies I have yet to play it. One day…


In addition to D&D, TRS also published other role-playing games back then. Gamma World was probably the most popular of the bunch as it was basically D&D in a sci-fi setting. I played Top Secret and Boot Hill a few times, but they never managed to have the same hold on me as D&D. I never played Fight in the Skies, nor knew anyone who played it. I would be curious to know it was any good.


These are some of the more famous TSR boardgames. Snit’s Revenge! I never managed to find anyone to play with for some reason. The Awful Green Things From Outer Space on the other hand, is still in print today … and perhaps the hardest most random game in history. I love that game, but holy crap that game is hard if you play the crew. I never played 4th Dimension so I can’t speak to that game, but the art was always trippy.


The minigames were pretty popular back in the day and they were just that … boardgames that could fit inside a ziplock bag. For a few bucks, you could get an entire game – the rules were a small black & white booklet, the game board was a color piece of paper, a simple color board of unpunched cardboard consisted of the game pieces, and it also included a set of dice. Although I have all of the games listed, I never played them. They were so cheap that it was hard to actually play with the little cardboard pieces and the game board would never stay flat. I guess you get what you pay for.


Back in 1980 “random number generation, multi-sided dice” were still fairly rare. TSR had their own version “Dragon Dice” … and they were single-handedly the worst dice ever released. The dice were that terrible baby blue color, you had to color them in with a crayon, and the dice themselves were so brittle they would start to lose their shape after a few uses. What a piece of crap! I loved them!!!


Ah, Dragon Magazine. Perhaps my favorite magazine of all time. The covers had some of the best fantasy artwork found anywhere, the content was a treasure trove of D&D and role-playing articles. the cartoons were legendary, even the ads were awesome. When Dragon (and Dungeon) Magazine were canceled years ago I was emotionally crushed for months afterward. I still go through my old magazines to this day, I think everyone loved Dragon Magazine.


Holy crap, am I just learning NOW that GENCON had a sister convention GECON EAST in Cherry Hill, New Jersey?!? That was just a few hours from my house! As a kid, there was zero chance I could get to Lake Geneva, but I could have easily gotten to New Jersey! Crap!!! I wonder what I missed?


Look at those t-shirts! T-shirts from the 80s did not age well, even back then they looked like crap, but that is all we had so how did we know? Of course, nowadays you can get an exact replicate 80s t-shirt … for a mere $40!


Holy crap, those t-shirts were only $6 each? Plus shipping? Damn, get me that Fight in the Skies t-shirt right away!

If you have some D&D treasures from your childhood please send them along! We love unearthing these classic treasures when D&D was mysterious and only shared with friends at school.

If you enjoyed this post make sure to check out our weekly podcast, Roll For Combat, where a group of old-school gamers play Paizo’s new Starfinder RPG.

Also, make sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

Dungeons & Dragons – Stranger Things Style, Part 2

Dungeons & Dragons Angels

If you enjoyed this post make sure to check out our weekly podcast, Roll For Combat, where a group of old-school gamers play Paizo’s new Starfinder RPG.

Also, make sure to check out Part 1 and Part 3 of this series.

Last week we explored some of my Dungeons & Dragons treasures when I was a kid growing up in the 80s. This week friend of the show Rob Trimarco shared some D&D artwork he did when he was a kid in the 80s as well … and I simply love it! I felt this needed to be shared with the world.

Ladies and gentlemen … I present to you “Fighters and Wizards, Good & Evil Book I” and “Book II, Evil Monsters of the Dungeon”. Enjoy!

From Rob, “I, apparently, made my own D&D type monster manual/campaign book when I was, maybe 10? 12? I dunno but please enjoy it whilst I cringe.”


“Facts not Story!”


“TEEMA EVIL HOBGOBLIN LEADER – Teema is kind of a dick leader to wear nice boots while his warriors are shoeless…”


“…500,000 warriors all without shoes. Truly a tyrant. Also, mixed occurrences of cursive writing is a little unprofesh.”


“EELO GOOD DWARF FIGHTER – Sorry, he definitely looks like an elf. What the hell, 12-year-old Rob? I like his 1970’s disco chain and poofy Aladdin pants, though.”


“GOOD WIZARD OLIN – Fuck yeah, Chain Lightning. Still the coolest spell. Cool sandals.”


“ERGON, EVIL WIZARD – I had to hold up the spine of this poorly assembled ‘book’ to get the full effect of the evil staff. Cool evil sandals.”


“ATHAMEUS GOOD BARBARIAN – Li’l-too-big winged helm, runic axe, longsword in a back scabbard, charging tiger on a shield, furry spiked onesie. And the sandals … again.”


“VIL PALADIN EEMON – Ok, wow. A lot to unpack here. Let’s start from the top:

  • 80’s porn ‘stache on a school principal.
  • Tae kwon do gi top and short shorts.
  • Evil bat shield WITH STRAP.
  • The greatest belt ever.
  • Booties.”


“Book 2! Buckle up!”


“EVIL MONSTERS OF THE DUNGEON!!! Not the good ones.”


“DUNGEON DWELLING GHOUL – Standard. C’mon, 12-year-old Rob, you can do better.”


“VAMPIRE – Screw you, White Wolf!”




“SKELETON – Influenced heavily by Ed Emberly’s drawing techniques.”


“OGRE – Often mistaken for a human? Not with those nipples.”


“GIANT BAT – I know I titled the book ‘Monsters of the Dungeon’ but I seem to have been compelled to remind everyone that these monsters live in one on every page.”




“I definitely fear this monster but for different reasons than I originally thought.”


“ENERGY DRAGON – Conjoured up by Wizardry to … blast walls? Bad. Ass.”


“GIANT SPIDER – It sure is giant … and striped!”


“PLANT MONSTERS (various) – Are those coconut feet?”


“I vaguely remember being proud of almost getting the perspective right on the top vs. underbelly of this beast.”


“Also, it seems I looked up what carrion meant and put it in the book so you all could learn definitions.”


“GREEN SLIME –Heyyyyy wait a minute, look at those eyes… This is the Hedora, the Smog Monster!”


“THE WAMIA– I am definitely sure I saw a picture of a Neo-Otyugh and forgot what it was called but that didn’t stop me!!”


“GIANT RAT – I definitely phoned this one in. BE CAREFUL, ADVENTURERS!!!! The End.”

If you have some D&D treasures from your childhood please send them along! We love unearthing these classic treasures when D&D was mysterious and only shared between friends at school.

If you enjoyed this post make sure to check out our weekly podcast, Roll For Combat, where a group of old-school gamers play Paizo’s new Starfinder RPG.

Also, make sure to check out Part 1 and Part 3 of this series.

Dungeons & Dragons – Stranger Things Style

Dungeons & Dragons Blackrazor

If you enjoyed this post make sure to check out our weekly podcast, Roll For Combat, where a group of old-school gamers play Paizo’s new Starfinder RPG.

Also, make sure to check out Part 2 and Part 3 of this series.

After watching Stranger Things, I decided to dig into the attic to see if I could find some of my old books and Dungeons & Dragons characters when I was a kid playing back in the early 80s. Somehow, beyond all hope and logic, many of my original characters and play-aids were intact and in near mint condition. I share these with you for a look back to what D&D was like for a 11-year-old kid … way back in 1981!

AD&D Folder
Look at that custom-made folder of AD&D power! The sword is what makes it impressive!


AD&D Folder Spine
And the spine graphics don’t disappoint either!


D&D rules and The Rogues Gallery
My original 1st Edition Dungeons & Dragons rules! These rules still have the best subheading of all time, “Rules for Fantastic Medieval Role Playing Adventure Game Campaigns Playable with Paper and Pencil and Minature Figures.” Not sure why The Rogue Galley was in there as well but that book is a treat.


Trapper Keeper
How do you know that this is from the 80s? I have two words for you … TRAPPER KEEPER!


1st Edition AD&D character sheets and NPC character sheet
The original AD&D Player Character Records and a bonus NPC character sheet. As a kid, I had access to a Xerox at my dad’s office (which was fairly rare for the time) and I remember trying to copy these suckers with that colored paper was a total nightmare.


D&D Index
Look at that folder index! Characters! Graph Paper! Modules! Monster Cards! Books! What more could you want in your D&D binder?


Index card of Dungeons & Dragons
Why I decided to do this, I’m not exactly sure, but I congratulate you my 10-year-old self! Look at that penmanship! What a great start to anyone’s D&D collection back then. I even listed my dice collection as you can see (dice were rare back then, you kids nowadays don’t know how lucky you are!).


Old campaign notes
Adventure notes, a map of an adventure I was playing (my DM made some crazy dungeons), and an envelope my DM gave with … something inside. I’m not exactly sure what was in there, but I’m sure it wasn’t good.


Samson, the Cleric-Fighter
I actually remember this character. Back then it was nearly impossible to identify magic items, and I only discovered that ring was a Ring of Feather Falling after I fell off a cliff and lived. What a mess of a character sheet!


Little Pseudo-Dragon
My Little Pseudo-Dragon (red) pet! My DM gave him to him (hence the different handwriting). Nothing is more awesome than having a small Dragon as a pet!


AD&D Conan
Come on, who didn’t make a character sheet for Conan back then? Fun note, the barbarian class didn’t exist at the time (and was later introduced in Dragon Magazine), so I had to make my version of Conan a monk. For some reason, there was also an Eastern boarding pass next to the character sheet as well … not exactly sure why, but I thought that was a fun touch.


Wizardry the Wizard!
Look at that artwork! And my character name was … not exactly original. I believe I made this guy to run him through the Tomb of Horrors … of course, we didn’t make it. But we did make it all the way to the room of fire (and then promptly died). I still say to this day that my DM gypped us with that TPK and we totally could have made it out in time.


Other size of Wizardry
The other size of Wizardry the Wizard (the name that’s so bad it’s good).


Level 6 AD&D fighter
Another one of my characters. Look at that crazy block of numbers! And this is a fighter!


2nd page of level 6 AD&D fighter
I think Rhialle the Wanderer was initially named Elric after looking at this side of his character sheet. I like how “apparent age” was a category on the character sheet back then.


AD&D 7th level druid
This character wasn’t actually mine but it somehow ended up in my binder. I don’t remember whose character this was … but if you are reading this and played D&D with me back in 1981, come forward and claim this character!


The trifecta of AD&D goodness!
The trifecta of AD&D goodness! Of course, like everyone back then, I had a set of these classic books as well. They really made these things tough as nails, after 30+ years of wear and tear, they still look amazing.


AD&D Monster Cards Set 1 and Set 2
And what is this? I found this in the back of my folder! Mint condition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Cards! These were awesome as you could show your PCs a picture of a monster … in full-color!


AD&D Monster Cards Set 1
Look at that artwork! I still think the Red Dragon looks a bit wonky, but that Neo-Otyugh is sweet!


AD&D Monster Cards Set 2
Set 2 was even better. My all-time favorite Gelatinous Cube! That Roper looks nasty! And what the hell is a Land Urchin?!? I need to add that to my current campaign.


Druid vs Mind Flayer
Color artwork was very rare back then, so everything was illustrated in black and white. This picture is from The Rogue Galley and looks fantastic.


Bad AD&D art
Of course, not all of them were winners…


The Rogues Galley
What I really miss were the endless tables and their descriptions of everything under the sun. Sanity charts! General Tenacity charts! Everything had a chart back then, and awesome bonus artwork as well.

So there you go … a snapshot of D&D from 1981. Things haven’t really changed that much. Today we will make D&D characters of our favorite characters of literature and film (Conan and Elric in my case), we still spend too much time organizing our collections (I really need to get a Trapper Keeper for my Pathfinder Society characters), and we never stop playing.

I guess we’re all just big kids at heart when it comes to D&D.

If you enjoyed this post make sure to check out our weekly podcast, Roll For Combat, where a group of old-school gamers play Paizo’s new Starfinder RPG.

Also, make sure to check out Part 2 and Part 3 of this series.

Roll For Combat Wallpaper and Sound Effects


People have asked for Roll For Combat assets, and we have listened! Below you can find links to the desktop wallpapers and the Roll For Combat sound effect so that you too can put the fear of God into your players.

Click the image below to download desktop wallpapers sized 1920×1200, 1920×1080, 1680×1050, 1600×1200, 1440×900, 1280×1024, 1280×960, 1280×800, 1280×720, 1024×768, 800×600:

Click image below to download the wallpapers



Click image below to download the sound effect



The Starfinder Alien Archive Review – We’re Not In Golarion Anymore…

Starfinder Alien Archive

If you enjoyed this review make sure to check out our weekly actual play podcast where Jason and the team are playing the Starfinder Dead Sun’s adventure path. Check out the podcast and the $1000 contest giveaway!

In addition, check out the podcast episode for a full one hour review of the Alien Archive!

It’s the newest rules supplement for the Starfinder game system. So new we had to rupture a small hole in the space-time continuum to get a copy. It’s best if we don’t discuss that any further, other than to say if you meet a cybernetically-enhanced otter named “Alphonse”, DO WHAT HE SAYS and wait for his quantum reality to collapse back into nothingness. But now that we’ve gone to all the trouble of rupturing the multiverse, the least we can do is offer you a few first impressions of the book.

At its simplest level, the Starfinder Alien Archive is a bestiary of creatures for use in your Starfinder games, even if that description sells it a little short. Nuts and bolts, it’s a little shy of 160 pages, with somewhere between 60-80 creatures (depending on how you choose to count variants and subtypes), 22 of which are presented as options for character races. Each creature gets a full two-page spread, so there are no half-finished monsters tucked into whatever space they needed to fill. As with pretty much all Paizo products, the production values are top-notch – beautiful artwork, the data-heavy elements are presented clearly… these guys have been doing this for a while and know how to make these books look great.

But let’s give the Paizo guys credit – they didn’t just dump a bunch of random re-skinned orcs and zombies on us and call it a day. There’s a lot of other stuff going on under the hood.

Starfinder Alien Archive skittermanderFirst, there’s the sheer variety of the creatures. Yes, you do have some holdovers from the world of Pathfinder (elementals make an appearance, as do dragons), but most of the stuff in here is totally new. On one end of the spectrum, you have the Skittermanders, little technicolor furballs that could give the Porg from the new Star Wars a run for their money on the cuteness scale. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s the Novaspawn, which only has rules for starship combat because it’s so large (and yes… you’ll be happy to hear it has tentacles). The gelatinous cube of your youth gets a high-tech facelift as the Assembly Ooze, and now it can assemble and disassemble technology devices. One of the most intriguing might be the Hesper, a radioactive creature whose radiation attack can cause random mutations – because who doesn’t want to grow a few extra eyes in the middle of a battle?

Similarly the player races. The Drow, Dragonkin, and Space Goblins represent a shout-out to Pathfinder, but you’ve got plenty of new options. You have a couple different insect options; an aquatic race (the Kalo…. I actually kind of like them); the Reptoids, who have shape-shifting powers; the Nuar, who are kinda-sorta minotaur-ish. We also get an appearance everyone’s favorite little gray men from Area 51 (the Grays), and I can’t stress this enough… we now have a BRAIN-IN-A-JAR race, better known as the Contemplatives. So if you thought the races of the core rulebook were going to be a bit limiting… the Starfinder Alien Archive has got you covered.

Starfinder Alien Archive DragonkinIn addition to the creatures themselves, you also get a small armory of treasure items that can be included as loot for the party. Sometimes it’s the loot carried by the creatures themselves – the Sarcesian are a race of mostly mercenaries that happen to carry really good sniper rifles. Sometimes it’s gear that can be harvested from the remains – you can take the remains of a scavenger slime and make sticky bombs out of it. Sometimes it’s more of a similarly themed item – the Bryrvath is a creature that manipulates light to fuel its powers; in studying it, scientists invented the “Aura Goggles” which protect against any effects that target vision.

And that’s the other thing — the bestiary sneaks a fair amount of lore about the Starfinder universe in through the back door. Yes, they give a GM the nuts and bolts they need to run it in combat – stats, what tactics it uses in combat – but they also give you a bit of lore about the creature and its place in the Starfinder universe. Add up all that content, and you get a nice piece of world-building.

Lastly – and in some ways most importantly – the appendices contain a lot of info about HOW Starfinder monsters are made. With the Starfinder system being so new, this may be one of the few times I’d advise reading the appendices before diving into the body of the book – it’s that useful. I almost wonder if they shouldn’t have put it up at the front.

I will say at first read it felt a little too “template-y”. You start with an array, which is a general role – fighter, caster, “expert” – and then you add different “grafts” to represent other aspects (race, class, etc.). Add special abilities, give them skills and spells, bake for 45 minutes at 350… I’ll confess it felt a little dry and by-the-numbers at first read, and I even started to get some 4th Edition cold-sweats.

Starfinder Alien Archive OmaBut I thought about it a little further and I think it works because it serves the premise well. I think fantasy tends to come back to familiar tropes while sci-fi is expansive. When you look at sci-fi, a lot of the fun is this idea that you have a whole galaxy/universe as your playground. Think Star Trek or Doctor Who where… yes, they have a few core races that reappear, but they also have a lot of fun with Alien of the Week. Some people are going to want the comfort of adventure paths, but some people are going to want that more expansive feel, and what the Starfinder system DOES offer out the wazoo is flexibility. If your players decide they want to take a detour to a moon you weren’t planning on visiting, you can have a new race for them to meet in a matter of minutes.

Besides, as the authors themselves admit, if you don’t like the rules, feel free to bend or break them as you like.

If there’s one thing I’m not completely sold on… maybe I’m being overly sensitive but I sometimes feel like the Pathfinder holdovers feel out of place. You’re coasting along looking at all this new and exciting stuff you’ve never seen before and then… “Space Goblins” (record scratch). I know they wanted to have a gateway to the familiar to help ease Pathfinder players into the new system, but sometimes it feels a little forced and I wish they would’ve just burned their ships when they reached the New World. But I think that’s a personal taste more than a fault with the material – there are GMs and players who will want that familiar element in their campaigns.

All in all, I think the Starfinder Alien Archive is an exciting addition to the Starfinder ruleset. If you’re going to be kicking the tires on Starfinder at all, the Starfinder Alien Archive is going to be a good addition to your real or virtual bookshelf.