I played Starfinder…once.
Let’s get it straight, though. The fact that this game fell flat for me was through no fault of the game itself or its publishers, Paizo. The failings of this game laid squarely on the shoulders of the GM and the players. Yup. It was all our fault.
I Was Really Looking Forward to the Starfinder RPG
This goes back to my love / hate relationship with the Pathfinder RPG. One of the first roleplaying games I played as a young lad was Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition. Since then, like so many other gamers, D&D has kind of remained a staple of my RPGing repertoire. I really enjoyed 3rd edition and 3.5 and that lead into Pathfinder. I played the heck out of the Pathfinder beta test. When Pathfinder finally came out in full force, though, I wasn’t getting much time to play.
Next thing I knew, I had been back to enjoying roleplaying games for awhile, although none were Pathfinder. I went to get back into Pathfinder and there were all these new books, errata, books simply on how to make a better min-maxed character. Every time I went to play Pathfinder, it was with people who had all the books, knew all the in’s and out’s, and ran circles around me at the gaming table. Unfortunately, the players had beaten the game. It really wasn’t for me as a player who didn’t have the kind of funds and time to dedicate to the game. I still enjoyed it when I was with people just using the main and maybe one other book, though, and people who were teaching and enjoying themselves rather than trying to outsmart the GM or the adventure.
When I saw Stafinder was coming out, I had a renewed hope within me. Here was a chance to get in on the ground floor. No other books would be out yet (although I turned out to be wrong there). People would be familiar with, but not necessarily masters of the system at this point. Plus, it was combining my love for this newer version of the game I grew up with right along with sci-fi. This was going to be fun, right?
The Starfinder Rules Did Not Dissuade Me
I noticed, as I went through this new rule book in front of me, that there we a number of changes. Some of those were interesting, like multi-attacks–or the lack thereof, no more defensive spell casting, how the ability scores leveled up, etc.. The character creation process was different and I liked it. It didn’t seem like there would be too much to handle here. We could totally play this.
That is probably where my first mistake was make. I tried running things like Pathfinder. I’d make a ruling and something someone had as a feat or ability would make me scratch my head. Oh, that’s not how it works in this game. My mistake. Carry on. There were enough of these instances, though, it really made the game drag. And, here it was totally my fault. I should not have assumed the rules were so close to the game’s predecessor. I should have read things more thoroughly, more closely.
But, What is Sci-Fi?
I bet you can ask ten different sci-fi fans that question and get at least ten different answers. This ended up being the biggest stumbling block for me. Again, as GM, I fully take the blame for this one. I should have been able to make it work.
First, my players simply did not want to read the book. They seemed really interested in what I shared with them, but reading the book was a greater time investment than they wanted to make for a new game. Next, it was a cross between a lack of point of reference and lazy GMing that really set things off the rails. These players hadn’t watched the same movies, read the same books, or had any of the same experiences with science fiction as I had. If I wanted to explain to this group how things worked, what they looked like, and so on, I was going to have to put in a bit of effort.
This was during the same time as the “meh” gaming phase I talk about recently coming out of in my review of the 2d20 Conan RPG. It just wasn’t going to happen. I didn’t have the energy or enthusiasm to put into properly and fully describing this world the players had never seen before. As a result, everyone wanted something different, everyone had different expectations. This caused the game to fizzle as quickly as it began.
Failure Doesn’t Have to be the End of the Story
That was pretty much the last time I played a roleplaying game for some time. No, Starfinder did not break me or do anything wrong here. Sure. If I had given it more of a chance, I’m sure I would have my own personal pet peeves with it, as I do with pretty much every game I play–yup, even the ones I enjoy.
While that game ended as quickly as it began, it gave me moment to pause. I realized I wasn’t having the amount of fun I should. It made me realize some mistakes I was making that caused me to not have fun. I needed a break.
I look forward to playing Starfinder again and giving it a fair shake. Admittedly, I may not be the one running it, but I still want to give the game a shot. In the interim, I have found other games I enjoy and even returned to some old favorites. Sometimes, we just need a break. And, sometimes, we feel refreshed after that break and there is nothing wrong with that.