Archives of Nethys

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The Starfinder Roleplaying Game is about more than just meeting aliens—it’s also about playing alien characters. In Starfinder, the word “race” usually refers to an intelligent, selfaware species whose members can be considered characters rather than simple monsters. While not all races are appropriate for player characters, many of them are; any creature with a racial traits entry is a member of a potentially playable race, provided that your GM approves it.


Source Interstellar Species pg. 56
In 1 AG, Pact Worlds scientists emerging from the Gap discovered a data file detailing a bizarre species that swam in methane but had a plantlike physiology, which kept living symbiotes but built homes out of the bodies of their own dead, and communicated solely through bioluminescence. Scholars assumed cephalumes were a thought experiment, the result of a brainstorming session by creative xenobiologists imagining what might be possible. Then came the Signal, and soon after, the first cephalume explorers arrived at Absalom Station in one of their own starships, modified to travel through the Drift. Cephalumes were real after all.

Ability Modifiers +2 Str, +2 Wis, -2 Con
Hit Points 4

Size and Type

Cephalumes are Medium aberrations with the plantlike subtype.

Beguiling Glow

As a standard action (as long as their bioluminescence isn’t suppressed), a cephalume can create flickering patterns in the light emanating from their skin. Each sighted creature within 20 feet must succeed at a Will saving throw or be fascinated for as long as the cephalume continues this presentation (a standard action each round). The DC of the saving throw is equal to 10 + half the cephalume’s character level + the cephalume’s Wisdom modifier. A cephalume can’t use this ability again until they have taken a 10-minute rest to recover Stamina Points.Creature that understand Lumos are unaffected. This is a sense-dependent effect.


A cephalume increases the light level by one step out to a radius of 20 feet. A cephalume can suppress or reactivate this light as a move action, and they receive a +4 racial bonus to Stealth checks when their light is suppressed. A cephalume also uses this light to communicate with others.

Cephalume Movement

Cephalumes have a land speed of 10 feet and a swim speed of 30 feet.

Cold Resistance

Cephalumes have resistance 5 to cold.


Cephalumes have darkvision with a range of 60 feet.

Depth Inured

A cephalume is immune to the dangers of extreme depths.


For effects targeting creatures by type, cephalume count as both their type and plants (whichever type allows an ability to affect them for abilities that affect only one type, and whichever is worse for abilities that affect both types). They also receive a +2 racial bonus to saving throws against mind-affecting effects, paralysis, poison, polymorph, sleep, and stunning, unless the effect specifies that it works against plants.

Symbiote Adaption

Cephalumes form symbiotic unions with krikiks, a living biological augmentation unique to their race. Most cephalumes have one of the following krikik symbiotes.

Airjet Krikik: An air bladder in the krikik increases the cephalume’s land and swim speeds by 10 feet. Once per day as a swift action, the cephalume can double their movement speed for that round.

Electrostatic Krikik: The krikik is covered in thin, electrically charged spines that allow the cephalume to cause any weapon they wield to deal half its damage as electricity damage, becoming lethal and non-archaic if it is not already. If the weapon already deals two damage types, this effect replaces one with electricity. In addition, this allows the cephalume to grant any weapon they wield the staggered critical hit effect. If the weapon has any other critical hit effects, the cephalume chooses only one to apply on a critical hit.

Sharprock Krikik: The krikik’s hard crust grants the cephalume a +1 racial bonus to AC.

Siltsight Krikik: The krikik has heat-sensitive eyes that allow the cephalume to double the range of their darkvision and to see through non-magical fog, mist, and clouds without penalty, ignoring any cover or concealment bonuses from those effects.

Tentacle Krikik: The krikik has a prehensile tentacle that increases the cephalume’s natural reach by 5 feet.

About the Cephalume

Physical Description

From the outside, cephalume biology doesn’t seem particularly unusual. A cephalume’s body is cylindrical, thick, and muscular, with a head decorated by a fan-like frill, two flexible tentacles, and a powerful foot that ends in 6–12 short tentacular toes. Cephalumes are covered in elaborate bioluminescent patterns unique to each individual; by the age of 5, a cephalume has mastered control of the light given off by these patterns, which is key to communicating in Lumos, their native language.
The cephalume’s surface resemblance to squids is misleading; in fact, cephalumes have an internal physiology more like that of plants, and their tentacles are more akin to vines than the limbs of a cephalopod. Similarly, a cephalume’s brain and other vital organs take the shape of long fibrous stems that run the length of their body. Cephalumes, like most plants, are monoecious—each individual has both male and female structures—and any cephalume can fertilize any other cephalume. Traditionally, they’ve relied on the methane current of their home world for this fertilization, but for as long as cephalume history has recorded, there have been romantic examples of cephalumes who chose to fertilize each other in defiance of random chance. Cephalumes reach physical maturity by the age of 12 and typically live to their 80s.
Cephalumes metabolize energy through their skin. Deep in the methane layer of Luminar, there’s no sunlight for photosynthesis, and despite the incredible pressure at the center, the planet is cold; remarkably, cephalumes have evolved to live off low-level background radiation, though they remain just as vulnerable to high doses of radiation as other species.


in fact, from another world altogether but were stranded or somehow introduced to Luminar and cephalume society in prehistory. The quest to find the original home of the krikik species contributed to cephalume exploration of the stars and remains a priority for cephalume explorers even now, three centuries after the Signal.
The typical krikik is 2–3 feet in diameter, though the species displays remarkable physical variation, sometimes including air bladders, heat-sensitive eyes, or a prehensile tentacle. They live for several centuries, reproduce very rarely, and are passed down through cephalume families. The most common method of symbiosis is for a krikik to surround the cephalume’s upper body, but it isn’t unheard of for cephalumes of great age and social status to bond with more than one krikik and have the symbiote’s hard shell protecting their head, foot, or tentacular arms. They communicate with their hosts through bioelectric pulses that mimic the semaphoric code of Lumos, but their intelligence isn’t well understood, even by cephalumes. Krikiks can experience pleasure and pain, and they have preferences and desires, but they have no culture of their own and seem content to cooperate with cephalumes who befriend them and treat them well. It’s rare for a krikik to refuse to bond with a cephalume host, but it can happen, and cephalumes consider good care of their krikik symbiotes to be a sign of positive health, akin to good personal hygiene.

Home World

Luminar is an unusual gas giant orbiting a red dwarf in Near Space. None of the other worlds in the Luminar system—mostly cold and rocky planets—have intelligent life of any kind, though they do provide valuable minerals that cephalumes have mined since inventing space travel at some point during the Gap. Luminar has three layers. The outermost layer, what cephalumes refer to as the planet’s sky, is a vast region of glowing-hot hydrogen and helium gas colored by trace elements. The middle layer, dominated by methane kept in a liquid state by intense pressure, is where cephalumes evolved and where their society is based. Finally, Luminar’s core is an inhospitable ball of frozen methane and other chemicals, with a temperature below –300 degrees. Contrary to all expectations of physics, Luminar grows colder the more intense its internal pressure becomes. Scientists have never explained it, but the so-called Luminar Phenomenon has been detected in a small number of gas giants elsewhere in the galaxy.
The methane layer of Luminar isn’t entirely uniform; rocks of iron, lead, and other minerals float in this sea, providing valuable resources that cephalumes began to mine early in their history. However, the lack of oxygen in the environment—and methane’s flammable nature—meant that cephalume society evolved without the use of fire. Indeed, cephalume society remained at a stable pre-industrial level for hundreds of thousands of years. Many of the things simple technology would normally be used for—such as the creation of light or cooking of food—were simply unnecessary to cephalume biology. When cephalumes encountered an engineering obstacle they couldn’t solve, they either went without or found a way around the problem with magic.
There are now dozens of large cities inside Luminar, but the planet’s hot hydrogen and helium layer poses a challenge to visiting starships. At some point during the Gap, cephalume interplanetary explorers reached one of Luminar’s moons, where they mined industrial resources and constructed Metal City. Metal City remains the primary starport for Luminar; merchants, tourists, and diplomatic visitors land here in safety, leaving penetration of the gas giant’s hot outermost layer to those starships designed for such environments.

Society and Alignment

Cephalume culture is rich and complex, filled with references to their long pre-industrial history and placing an emphasis on honoring one’s ancestors and traditions. Before the Gap, cephalumes developed a culture that prized curiosity, visual art, physical aptitude, rhetoric, and etiquette. A cultured cephalume was a poet-athlete and warrior-artist capable of posing philosophical questions on the nature of life or entertaining friends with the deeds of a dozen distinguished ancestors. With little in the way of material resources, cephalume culture placed an emphasis on a few possessions of great value—typically handed down through generations. Until they arrived at Absalom Station, they’d never used money, though the idea did exist as a theoretical concept. Instead, cephalume society was a complicated web of patronage, political alliances, and familial ties.
Sometime during the Gap, cephalumes advanced to an industrial state and developed space travel. Their first starships were made of the same construction material used for their architecture, but to survive the trip to space, cephalume corpses had to be magically petrified and preserved. Most cephalume starships are still made in this manner, for although cephalumes have brought many technological advances from other species back to Luminar, the idea of traveling so far without the company of ancestors unsettles most cephalumes.


Sound travels poorly through liquid methane, and cephalumes have no sound-producing organ. Instead, they developed language based on their bioluminescence. This language, known as Lumos, begins with a single dot of light somewhere on a cephalume’s skin, representing a single sound. Each cephalume boasts hundreds of lights on their body, has remarkable control of each light’s intensity and color, and can flash each light on or off many times in a single second. As a result, cephalumes communicating solely among themselves can transmit and understand an astonishing amount of information in a very short time, flashing pages worth of words at each other in moments.
A visual language does have its challenges. Most notably, it’s dependent on light and visibility. Cephalumes can see clearly in darkness out to about 60 feet, but in the methane seas of Luminar, they can’t see the color of another cephalume’s bioluminescence beyond about 20 feet. Lumos reserves color for private conversations that others aren’t expected to overhear or to add a color inference visible only to those nearby. For example, a cephalume safety officer might loudly broadcast a warning that everyone should evacuate the area while simultaneously using color to tell those standing near the officer that they’re safe and should remain at their current location. Lumos is practically unintelligible beyond 60 feet—it’s impossible to shout in Lumos. In large public gatherings featuring a single speaker, members of the audience relay the primary speaker’s message with their own bioluminescence. Written Lumos uses short, multicolored arcs of varying length, but it isn’t held in high regard in cephalume culture; cephalume society is overwhelmingly “oral,” in the sense that it’s transmitted from person to person rather than written down.
Since the development of Drift technology and the creation of an interstellar culture, cephalumes have started to learn Common, a language they find laboriously slow—albeit better understood at long distance. Pact Worlds researchers who have learned Lumos typically speak it with a handheld sign that flashes light and color, but those who dwell inside Luminar on a long-term basis often acquire a bioluminescent skin augmentation (page 59), allowing them to, after often lengthy study and practice, perfectly replicate Lumos as cephalumes speak it.


Cephalume names are best communicated by light and sometimes have a color that only those physically close can see. They’re often filled with alternating glyphs that visually appear as a kind of strobe effect. Because cephalumes can flash an extraordinary amount of information to each other in a very short time, a name can be exceptionally long. All this makes cephalume names very difficult to translate. Many cephalumes adopt a Common nickname that simulates some small aspect of their name, typically a repeating series of glyphs.

Sample Names

Atatat, Boribori, Eenu-Eenu, Geechee, Iyo-Iyo, Kekemomo, Meenee, Oxox, Ronto-Ronta, So-Ro-Sa, Tunu-Sunu, Umi-Umi.

Vital Stats

Average Height 5-1/2 to 6-1/2 ft.
Average Weight 200 to 400 lbs.
Age of Maturity 12 years
Maximum Age 70+2d10 years years