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All Rules in Getting Started

What's a Roleplaying Game?

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 6
Starfinder is a tabletop adventure roleplaying game (RPG): an interactive story in which one player—the Game Master—sets the scene and presents challenges, while the other players each assume the role of a science fantasy hero and attempt to overcome those challenges. By responding to situations according to their characters’ personalities and abilities, the players help to create the story’s plot as the outcome of each scene (called an “encounter”) leads into the next. Dice rolls combined with preassigned statistics add an element of chance and determine whether characters succeed or fail at the actions they attempt. You can think of an RPG as theater: the players are the actors, while the Game Master is the director. But you don’t have to be a skilled actor or storyteller to play the game; just describe what you want your character to do, and let the Game Master and the rules do the rest!

The Players

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 6
Before the game begins, players typically invent their own player characters’ backgrounds and personalities. While it’s possible to play multiple characters at once, it’s generally the most fun to have one character per player, so players can really get into their roles. In addition to coming up with character concepts, players use the game’s rules to build their characters’ numerical statistics, which determine the characters’ abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Chapter 2 provides in-depth instructions for how to create a character, pointing you toward relevant rules in other chapters. One of the reasons this book is so big is that there are tons of optional rules to help you customize an infinite variety of characters!

During the game, the players describe the actions their characters take. Some players particularly enjoy play-acting (or “roleplaying”) the game’s events as if they were their characters, while others describe their characters’ actions as if narrating a story. Do whatever feels best!

Many in-game situations in Starfinder have rules that govern how they’re resolved. When a fight breaks out, for example, the rules in Chapter 8 explain how to attack, defend, move, and so on. All the rules players need to play Starfinder can be found in this book.

The Game Master

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 6
While the rest of the players must create their characters for a Starfinder game, the Game Master (or GM) is in charge of the story and world. The Game Master is a player, but for the sake of simplicity, she is referred to in this book and other Starfinder products as the Game Master or GM, whereas the other players are referred to simply as players. The Game Master needs to detail the situations she wants the players to experience as part of an overarching story, consider how the actions of the player characters (or PCs) might affect her plans, and understand the rules and statistics for the challenges they will face along the way.

Many Game Masters find it fun and convenient to run premade adventures, in which the game’s story and mechanical preparation is largely complete. The Starfinder Adventure Path line fills this role nicely. Other Game Masters enjoy preparing original game material, and many use a blend of both methods. Either way, the rules in Chapter 11 help Game Masters figure out which characters or creatures are appropriate opponents for a given group of player characters, as well as how to adjudicate everything from zero gravity and environmental hazards to what sort of loot PCs should get as rewards for their accomplishments.

During the game, the players roll dice and use their player characters’ statistics to determine how in-game actions are resolved. Much like a referee, the Game Master is the final arbiter of any action’s success or failure, and she can always override the rules if she disagrees with an interpretation or feels a given rules interaction is breaking the mood.

Unlimited Adventure

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 6
A roleplaying game such as Starfinder can be played for as long as the Game Master has an ongoing story she enjoys exploring and advancing with her players. This means the game might last for a few hours, if the story is short and self-contained, or it might last several years. Each time the Game Master and players sit down to play, it’s called a game session—most sessions last several hours. Games generally consist of several linked sessions that together form a complete story, called an “adventure.” Short adventures that can be played in a single session are commonly referred to as “one-shots,” while games that last many sessions or contain several linked but distinct adventures are called “campaigns.”