Archives of Nethys

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Chapter 1: Building Starships

Interstellar Travel

Source Starship Operations Manual pg. 8
Triune’s Signal revolutionized space travel, making Drift technology the preferred method for interstellar treks across the galaxy. However, other forms of interstellar travel existed prior to the Drift. Many of these are still in use today, alongside other recent innovations in stellar drives. While some of these remain in the experimental stage, they provide intriguing alternatives to Drift travel.

Drift engines enable starships to overcome the limitations of traveling faster than light by entering another plane of existence. Most other interstellar drives also operate by using planar jumps. However, planar travel outside the Drift involves extremely expensive magical technology, often in concert with divine assistance, and such magic is usually tightly controlled by the groups and organizations that use it. As a result, Drift technology is the most commonly available means of interstellar travel, and ships using other methods to travel between stars are relatively rare. More guidelines on incorporating these alternative modes of travel can be found below.

Non-Drift Travel in your Game

Drift engines are the most widely used technology in the galaxy for interstellar travel, and the Starfinder RPG assumes that all starships use the Drift for journeying between worlds. The interstellar drives presented in this section are generally restricted to certain faiths or organizations and are intended primarily for NPC use. As always, the GM has final say on whether PCs have access to these starship systems, but be aware that adding these options could challenge the baseline assumptions of your game. While these alternative interstellar drives aren’t more powerful than standard Drift engines, they might introduce complications for certain types of stories.

If you want to outfit a published starship with one of these new options (such as giving an Inheritorworks Cathedralship an archon drive), you can simply replace the Drift engine with the interstellar drive and update the ship’s Drift rating to match the rating of the new drive. The ship’s BP total and PCU rating will likely not be completely accurate, but the discrepancies should not have much of an impact on play, especially if the ship appears only in a single encounter. Alternatively, you can rebuild the ship from scratch using the new engine, but you will likely have to make other adjustments to the ship’s stat block to accommodate the interstellar drive’s BP cost and PCU requirements.

Alternate Interstellar Navigation

Source Starship Operations Manual pg. 8
Traveling through the Drift relies on Drift beacons for navigation, and these beacons effectively divide the galaxy into two zones: Near Space (regions close to Drift beacons) and the Vast (everywhere else). These distinctions are meaningless to starships without Drift technology; the density of Drift beacons in a given region of space has no bearing on travel times through planes other than the Drift. Likewise, Absalom Station’s Starstone has no effect on travel outside the Drift—it takes just as long for a ship without Drift tech to reach Absalom Station as it does to get to any other point in that system.

For most of the non-Drift interstellar engines presented here, travel times are the same whether a ship’s destination is in Near Space or the Vast, and the actual distance between the starting point and the destination doesn’t matter. With the exception of fold gates, traveling within a system takes about 1d6 days, and traveling anywhere in the galaxy takes about 5d6 days (the same as travel to the Vast via the Drift), though more powerful engines can reduce this time. When traveling to a world using a non-Drift interstellar drive, roll the travel time, then divide the result by the engine rating of your starship’s interstellar drive to determine how long it takes you to reach your destination. For example, a starship with a planar aperture drive (engine rating of 2) traveling to a planet elsewhere in the galaxy would roll 5d6 and divide the result by 2. If you rolled 15, then the trip would take 7-1/2 days (don’t round down travel rolls). As with Drift travel, days spent traveling through other planes are no different for a crew than days spent in normal space. A starship can stop while traveling through another plane, but such breaks don’t count toward your travel time.

Interstellar travel through planes other than the Drift has its perils, as the planes of the Great Beyond are often more dangerous than the Drift. The risk of random encounters when traveling through other planes is always higher than in the Drift.

As with Drift-capable starships, for a starship to activate its interstellar drive to either exit or enter the Material Plane, it must remain stationary with its conventional thrusters turned off for 1 minute.
  • Travel In-System (1d6 Days): Jumping between two points in the same solar system is moderately faster than moving between them in real space, but there is a 10% chance of random encounters on the plane being traversed.
  • Travel In-Galaxy (5d6 Days): Regardless of the target location or plane traversed, traveling to another location in the galaxy takes the same amount of time, and the risk of random encounters on that plane can be anywhere from 40% to 60%.
  • Travel Beyond the Rim: While technology capable of carrying a ship to another galaxy might exist, it is unknown to the galaxy at large; intergalactic travel using either Drift technology or non-Drift interstellar drives is currently impossible.

Interstellar Drives

Source Starship Operations Manual pg. 9
The interstellar drives below let you travel to distant star systems without using the Drift; their statistics appear here. For each ship, divide the base travel time by the drive’s engine rating; the better the rating, the faster you can reach your destination (See above). Interstellar drives have a PCU requirement and a maximum frame size. The cost in Build Points is based on the starship’s size category (for the purposes of this calculation, Tiny = 1, Small = 2, Medium = 3, and so on). Also, most of these interstellar drives have the restricted special property.

Restricted: This particular starship component is typically only available to a specific group or organization, listed in parentheses.