Archives of Nethys

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Chapter 9: Starships / Space Travel

Drift Navigation

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 291
Using Drift technology differs from ordinary astrogation in that the distances between worlds are less important than the difficulty of correctly targeting the jump. Within a given solar system, jumps are relatively quick and easy, though this method is only moderately faster than flying between worlds using conventional thrusters. Outside of a given system, Drift tech divides the galaxy into two sectors: Near Space and the Vast. While Near Space worlds tend to be closer to the galactic center (and, incidentally, to the Pact Worlds) and the systems of the Vast tend to be farther out, the true difference between the regions lies in the density of so-called “Drift beacons.” These mysterious objects, sometimes spontaneously generated and sometimes placed by priests of Triune, help navigation systems orient ships in the Drift. While placing a single Drift beacon on a world isn’t enough to convert a Vast world to Near Space status, placing many in that general region of space can cause the shift, and thus it’s possible to find pockets of Near Space worlds all the way out to the galactic rim, as well as uncharted zones considered part of the Vast near the galaxy’s core.

When traveling to a world through the Drift, determine whether the destination is in the same system, Near Space, or the Vast. The distance between the start and end of your journey doesn’t matter, nor which category of space you’re starting from: traveling from the Vast to a Near Space world is no more difficult than between two Near Space worlds. Roll using the travel times below, then divide the result by your starship’s Drift engine rating to determine how long it takes you to reach your destination. For example, a starship with a Drift engine rating of 2 traveling to a world in the Vast would roll 5d6 and divide the result by 2. If you rolled 15, then the trip would take 7-1/2 days. Note that you never round down with Drift travel rolls, since these partial days can be extremely important when multiple spacecraft are racing each other to a destination. Additionally, since the Drift is a plane that you’re traveling through, it is possible to pause midjump, and even to land on one of the floating chunks of terrain or engage in starship combat. Time spent stopped in this manner does not bring you closer to your destination, and thus does not count toward your required travel time. Days spent in the Drift are no different for the crew than days spent in normal space, and thus they can craft items, heal, and take other actions as normal.

The one exception to the rules above is Absalom Station: for unknown reasons, the Starstone at its core acts as an extremely powerful Drift beacon, allowing ships from anywhere in the galaxy to jump to Absalom Station in 1d6 days.

While traveling through the Drift, a starship uses its conventional thrusters. For a starship to engage its Drift engines to either enter or exit the Drift, its conventional thrusters must be 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, and is so short as to carry only a 1% chance of random encounters in the Drift.
  • Travel to Absalom Station (1d6 Days): Jumping to Absalom Station always takes only 1d6 days, thanks to the Starstone.
  • Travel to Near Space (3d6 Days): Near Space contains the Pact Worlds system and most of the worlds colonized and contacted so far by their explorers, but there are still thousands of Near Space worlds yet to be investigated. Jumps to Near Space worlds rarely carry more than a 10% chance of a random encounter while in the Drift.
  • Travel to the Vast (5d6 Days): Largely unexplored, the millions of Vast worlds are significantly more difficult to get to than Near Space, and the risk of a random encounter in the Drift can be anywhere from 25% to as high as 50%.
  • Travel beyond the Rim: While other galaxies are known to exist, the distances between them and the galaxy of the Pact Worlds are so incredibly large that there have yet to be any confirmed instances of intergalactic travel using Drift technology. Whether this is due to the extreme travel times involved, limits to the reach of the Drift itself, or dangers encountered in the Drift during such attempts remains unknown.