Archives of Nethys

Pathfinder RPG (1st Edition) Starfinder RPG Pathfinder RPG (2nd Edition)

All Rules | Downtime Rules

Exploring the Galaxy

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 9


Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 9
A character’s home world, life experiences, and relationships can greatly affect their personality and how they interact with the people, places, and situations they encounter. A shirren operative raised on a tranquil nature preserve might be more chipper than if that same character grew up on a planet engaged in interstellar war, or was falsely imprisoned, or regularly consorted with demons. Fleshing out a character’s background can make it easier to understand their motives and get invested in roleplaying them—even just a few details can breathe life into a character, making them more than just a name with statistics. Players are encouraged to work with their GM to integrate the story elements, plot hooks, and important actors of their character’s background into the broader campaign.

The following tables contain a variety of narrative-focused, open-ended ideas intended to help players craft aspects of their characters’ backstories. Each step is optional. Players can roll for a random result, choose entries they find interesting, or simply use them as inspiration for their own ideas. Of course, players can tailor the entires as they see fit for their characters’ concepts.

Players are encouraged to use other parts of this book (such as the world-creation system in Chapter 2 and the NPC, Settlement, and Starship Toolboxes starting on page 148) to further detail their associates, families, and homes. Players can tie their characters to locations and organizations established in the Starfinder setting using information presented in the Starfinder Core Rulebook, Starfinder Pact Worlds, and Starfinder Near Space.

Step 1: Home World

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 9
Every character has a home world or origin, whether they were born and raised there, migrated later in life, or fled from it. Every character has a unique place of origin, and some characters might even have more than one. The following table lists ideas for home worlds, including planets, space stations, and societies. Each entry contains a few detailed examples to inspire ideas. Steps for customizing aspects of a home world, such as its environment (atmosphere, biomes, gravity levels, flora, and fauna) or cultural attributes (accord, alignment, magic, religion, and technology) can be found in Chapter 2.

Place of Origin

1–4 Your home world is a terrestrial planet overrun with dangerous creatures, such as giant animals, enraged elementals, swarms of voracious vermin, tormented undead, or massive colossi.
5–8 Your home world is a gas or ice giant containing a portal to another plane. You might live in the upper atmosphere, sail the world’s dense gas seas, or hail from one of the planet’s several moons.
9–12 Your home world is a verdant place where flora and fauna live with little interference and could even grow to immense sizes. It might be unexplored and dangerous, or a peaceful nature preserve.
13–16 Your home world is a tourist destination where life revolves around keeping patrons entertained. It might be visited for its ruins, casinos, theme parks, or idyllic scenery.
17–20 Your home world is the site of a miraculous decennial phenomenon. Perhaps its orbit crosses through the atmosphere of another planet, or it teleports throughout the universe to orbit different suns.
21–24 Your home world is at war on a national, planetary, or interstellar scale. Many citizens are soldiers, and those that aren’t support the war effort in their own way. You’ve likely lost loved ones to battle.
25–28 Your home world is overrun by hostile forces. Whatever their treatment of your people, you might embrace the new regime, rebel against it, remain indifferent, or strive to go unnoticed.
29–32 Your home world is a post-apocalyptic wasteland, destroyed perhaps by meteor impacts, war, or pollution. The survivors might live hidden in subterranean bunkers or scrounge through the wreckage of the past in the barren wastelands.
33–36 Your home world is inhospitable to organic life. It might have extreme temperatures, a toxic atmosphere, or fatal radiation levels. Surviving here required specialized tools, such as magic, equipment, or even divine intercession.
37–40 Your home world is a massive living creature, host to an entire biosphere. If your society is aware of its nature, they might treat the creature like a pet, a subordinate, or a god.
41–44 Your home world is harried by extreme environmental forces, such as hurricanes, thunderstorms, or volcanic eruptions. These disasters could be natural, magical, technological, extraplanar, or signs of a god’s displeasure.
45–48 Your home world is a large, urban settlement. Whatever its size or location, you live amid bustling crowds and the hectic buzz of city life.
49–52 You’re from a newly-founded colony. Your community is tight‑knit, and the world outside is largely unexplored. Whether life is serene or dangerous, thriving or failing, the colony and its residents are focused mainly on survival.
53–56 You’re from a physically-confined community whose citizens have never crossed its borders. You might have lived in a cave system, fallout shelter, walled-in community, or mobile fortress. You might feel safe within these confines or yearn to break free.
57–60 You’re from a mobile community, such as a nomadic colony, a traveling circus troop, a flotilla adrift on a flooded world, or a small fleet of starships traversing the galaxy together.
61–64 You grew up in an educational institute or specialized training program. It might have been localized, such as in a monastery, school, or military base, or it might have been in a vast university-city.
65–68 You’re from a city that flies through the skies of its home planet. Your people might have hated the world below, ignored it, fled from it, or considered themselves its protectors.
69–72 Your home is a starship, and its crew like family. They might have been long-haul truckers, mercenaries, smugglers, space pirates, surveyors, or musicians touring the galaxy.
73–76 You come from a colony ship designed to relocate large populations to new planets. The colonists might be daring explorers, political exiles, religious pilgrims, or refugees fleeing from a destroyed world.
77–80 You live on a space station. It might have been a large urban metropolis, a corporate-owned way station, or a scientific research facility.
81–84 You’re from a community of miners. They might have been nomadic, moving from prospect to prospect, or they might have stayed working one promising vein for months or years.
85–88 You hail from a society that was built upon the ruins of another culture. Most citizens might pay these ruins little mind, though some consider them holy sites, subjects of study, or places to explore for a thrill.
89–92 Your society comprises a utopia built and maintained by the labor of hidden slums; you might come from either side of this social divide, fallen or climbed from one to the other, or be unaware of the division.
93–95 You were found adrift in an escape pod with no memory of how you got there or where you’re from.
96–98 You’re from another plane of existence, such as the transitory Drift, the riotous First World of the fey, or the shimmering slopes of Heaven.
99–100 You come from a simulation under constant observation, unaware your world was artificial. Life might have been a dangerous fight for survival, a blissful utopia, or anything in‑between. The simulation’s architects and their objectives might be shrouded in mystery.

Step 2: Major Event

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 10
A character’s unique life experiences shape their personality, inspiring joy, challenging them with hardships, or burdening them with sorrow. Major events might propel a character toward their dreams or upend their life with hardships. The major events in a character’s life can have a significant impact on how they interact with others, as well as perceive themself.
The following table lists suggestions for major events your character could have experienced, alongside some examples to spark inspiration. Players are encouraged to customize these suggestions, taking into consideration how these events affected their character’s personality and motivations. Many events serve as catalysts that launch a character into the life of an adventurer. Players can select as many major events as they desire, with the GM’s approval.

Major Event

1–2 You don’t know who you are or where you came from. Your missing memories might be a result of amnesia, repression, or a memory-modification procedure. You’re driven to uncover your past.
3–4 You were once an animal, but somehow you gained sapience, whether through the power of technology, magic, or divine will. You’ve adapted to society well but retain some animalistic behaviors.
5–9 You distinguished yourself as extraordinary, perhaps through academic excellence, a gladiatorial competition, or an important discovery. You might embrace, hate, or struggle with your reputation.
10–14 You made an important scientific or anthropological discovery and strive to make more. You yearn to push the boundaries of knowledge, perhaps exploring the galaxy to uncover mysteries or unearth relics of the past.
15–18 You crash-landed on an alien world, becoming stranded for hours, days, or decades. You likely struggled for survival and might have fought fierce beasts, traversed treacherous landscapes, or made contact with an alien species.
19–22 You were cursed. You might have bad luck, strange features, or an unfortunate tendency to self-sabotage in embarrassing ways. You’re searching for a cure and might turn to faith, magic, or superstition to find it.
23–26 You fell into debt, and payment is past due. You might have gone to extreme lengths to repay loaners, such as theft, gambling, IOUs, or indentured servitude.
27–30 You won the lottery, were the beneficiary of an inheritance, or otherwise obtained something of great value. Your good fortune might have been met with celebration, jealousy, false friendship, or theft.
31–34 You came into possession of something you shouldn’t have, perhaps a magical relic, a cutting-edge prototype, or classified information; whatever it is, its owners are determined to retrieve it—and they might not be the only ones.
35–38 You obtained a mysterious key, coordinates, or a map you suspect leads to something valuable—perhaps a place, object, or wealth. Whatever the prize, you’re not the only one searching for it.
39–42 You’ve been repeatedly mistaken for someone else thanks to a strong resemblance, or they’re often mistaken for you. You might have access to their wealth, gain their enemies, or be the victim of identity theft.
43–46 You accidentally wronged someone and are struggling to live with (or escape) the consequences. Your negligence might have caused property damage, injury, or death. Those you wronged might be innocent victims, powerful public figures, or criminals seeking revenge.
47–50 You spent time with someone who inspired you to follow in their footsteps, such as a crime lord, doctor, musician, or war hero. You idolize them, whether they deserve it or not.
51–54 You met a rare creature and were changed by the encounter. It might have been a demon, a mi-go, or a unicorn. You might live in fear of the creature or yearn to meet it again.
55–58 You fell under the influence of a criminal, and as a result you took the fall for a crime—whether you really did it or not. You might have served jail time, been exiled, or fled; you still might have a bounty on your head.
59–62 Someone you trusted betrayed you. They might have been an individual, such as a lover, sibling, or friend—or perhaps a group, such as law enforcement, religious leaders, or employers.
63–66 You seek revenge against someone who wronged you. They might have slandered you, robbed you, hurt your family, or killed your pet. Whatever they did, you’re furious, and believe whatever repercussions they faced were inadequate.
67–70 You were the subject of experimentation. You might have been abducted or tricked into it, or maybe you volunteered. Either way, it was probably painful, and you might still suffer side effects. If you’re an escapee, the experimenters might be looking for you.
71–74 You took a dangerous stand for your oppressed or endangered people. You might be an activist, freedom fighter, or revolutionary. You might uphold your morals or be willing to break them to achieve your goals.
75–78 Someone close to you went missing. They might have gotten lost or been taken, or they might have disappeared of their own volition, the reasons for which seem embroiled in mystery. Finding them is important to you.
79–82 Someone close to you died, such as a friend, mentor, or parent, perhaps leaving you alone in life. You might have difficulty accepting their death, be driven to investigate it, or want revenge for it.
83–86 Disaster, such as extreme weather or war, destroyed your home, likely hurting or even killing people you care about. You’re homeless and struggling to find your place in the galaxy. You might care for other survivors, such as an orphaned child or lost pet.
87–90 You were shunted here from the past, future, or an alternate dimension. You might encounter familiar faces, perhaps even another you, but they’re not the people you know. You’re likely motivated to find a way home.
91–94 You have prophetic dreams or visions of another dimension, or you hear voices no one else perceives. The purpose, source, and veracity of these strange occurrences are unknown to you.
95–100 You died or came close. You might be alive, undead, or possessing a robot or plant. You might have seen strange visions or felt the weight of your sins. Whatever your experience, death changed you.

Step 3: Influential Associate

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 11
Throughout a character’s life, they’ll be influenced by other people: the people who raised them, inspired them, and hurt them; the people they confided in, competed with, and loved; and the people they fought with, squabbled over, or hurt in turn. This web of personalities pulls on everyone within it, influencing some, repelling others, and providing ample opportunity for adventure.
The following table lists influential associates your character might have acquired during their lives alongside suggestions for detailing each connection and the role they might serve in a campaign. These associates include allies, contacts, mentors, and foes. Players should determine the associate’s name, location, and relationship to their character and can use the NPC Toolbox on pages 148–149 to flesh out details. Players are encouraged to work with their GM to incorporate these associates into the wider campaign.

Influential Associate

1–4 A mentor that raised you, educated you, or trained you. They might be a parent, teacher, sibling, boss, or captain. They might be especially fond of you, be indifferent toward you, or treat you unfairly.
5–8 Your idol. The person you look up to, emulate, or who inspired you to follow in their footsteps or surpass to surpass their legend. They might be a relative, mentor, or celebrity. They might not even deserve your praise.
9–12 A socially awkward loner that taught you an important lesson. They’re independent and capable but battling loneliness. They might be an exile, hermit, or introverted intellectual. They’ve likely been hurt or taken advantage of by others in the past, but they trust you.
13–16 A confidante that knows your secrets and has your full trust. They might be a parent, sibling, lover, best friend, or therapist. If you wrong them, they could become a terrifying enemy.
17–19 An old friend that has reinvented themselves, hiding their past to become powerful. They might be a celebrity, corporate executive, politician, or gang leader. They’re never happy to see you, but they might be convinced to help you— at least enough to make you go away.
20–22 An influential friend that’s well-liked and well-connected. If you’re looking to make new contacts, they’re happy to facilitate introductions with other guests if you attend one of their numerous parties.
23–26 A clergy or religious leader that you’ve known for many years. You might confide in this person, seek their advice, or practice at their place of worship.
27–29 Your benefactor or financier. They’ll cover your expenses in exchange for you plying your trade on their behalf. They might expect you to create holographic diversions for them, put on musical performances, or cure their ailments.
30–32 A commanding leader you respect. They might be an educator, head of a crime syndicate, savvy CEO, military officer, or passionate activist. Whatever their role, when they speak, others listen.
33–35 An irresponsible wanderer that flits in and out of your life. They’re fun and you care for them, perhaps as a friend, family, or lover, but they visit only when they need help—and they usually bring trouble.
36–39 A criminal, troublemaker, or layabout that’s a bad influence. You might be friends, family, colleagues, or enemies. You might aspire to be like them or want to get away from them.
40–42 An eccentric storyteller that orates wild tales of adventure that they claim happened to them in their youth. No one believes them, but occasionally their stories prove true. They’re an entertaining but dubious source of information.
43–46 An academic, linguist, or scientist with a love for educating others. Brilliant and long-winded, they’re willing to answer your questions free of charge, though the answers are conveyed through lectures that last hours.
47–50 A doctor, medic, herbalist, or mystic that repeatedly saved your life. When you’re hurt and in need of aid, you can count on them to patch you up–though they might not appreciate your visits.
51–53 An enthusiastic inventor that supplies you with cutting edge, experimental technology in exchange for detailed reports on the objects’ performance. Many of these prototypes glitch, have unfortunate side effects, or explode.
54–57 A trusted mechanic that keeps your starship maintained or upgraded in port. Whether they’re a junker working with spare parts or a corporate innovator, they’re always willing to bump you to the front of their queue.
58–61 The owner of your favorite restaurant or hangout. They might treat you like a VIP, give you a place to hide, or complain whenever you visit. Whatever their opinion of you, they never turn you away.
62–65 A dispatcher, fixer, or intermediary that connects you with clients, jobs, or contacts. When you’re looking for work or short on credits, you can count on them to hook you up, though the work might not be legal.
66–69 A black market fence who’ll always off-loads even the strangest items, no questions asked. They’re shifty and reticent, refusing to engage in idle conversation or exchange personal information with customers, and they use an alias.
70–73 A law enforcer that doesn’t appreciate your meddling but might aid you if they deem your cause worthy. They might let you access a crime scene, give you information, or check a restricted database on your behalf.
74–77 An unwavering professional that, despite their close connection to you, never works for free. They believe everything has a cost that must be paid. When compensated, they complete their work to the letter despite obstacles. They’re reliable, fair, and confident.
78–81 A person you’re indebted to, perhaps a moneylender, loan shark, best friend, landlord, or mechanic. You might be able to renegotiate terms or squeak some leeway out of them, but the cost is steep.
82–85 A treacherous liar, hustler, or swindler who has gotten the best of you before. Every time you think you have the upper hand; they fool you again. You swear next time will be different.
86–89 A longtime rival you’re constantly competing with. Whether good natured or cutthroat, friend or foe, neither of you get the upper hand for long.
90–93 A competitor you bested or embarrassed who despises you for your victory. They likely accuse you of cheating, slander your name, challenge you to a rematch, interfere in your affairs, or sabotage your efforts.
94–97 A criminal, detective, or space pirate that’s pursuing a vendetta against you. Driven by desperation or wounded pride, they hunt you wherever you go. They can’t be bargained or reasoned with.
98–100 An outsider, fey, or other creature that takes pleasure in meddling in your affairs. They might have hold over your soul, claim you have a destiny to fulfill, enjoy messing with you, or be your friend.

Step 4: Party Relationships

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 12
The most important relationship in any campaign is that between the player characters. Building these relationships ahead of time can improve group cohesion and gives the characters reason to find solutions to disagreements and unite despite personality clashes.
The following table lists potential relationships your characters might have with one another. The group can select a single entry connecting the whole party, or each party member can choose relationships for as many party members as they wish. Players should select these relationships collaboratively and can customize entries as they see fit for their characters’ visions.

Party Relationship

1–4 You and this character are family. You might be joined by blood, marriage, adoption, oaths, or through long-standing bonds of friendship so close as to make you effectively kin.
5–8 You and this character shared an intimate relationship, which might still be ongoing. You might have been lovers, soul mates, or considered yourselves two halves of a single identity. You know each other inside and out and have many shared acquaintances.
9–12 You and this character were once close, though circumstance, distance, or time caused you to drift apart. You might be happy to see each other, interact awkwardly and have nothing in common, bicker over past slights, or even utterly despise each other.
13–16 You and this character met online, have been friends for years, and are meeting in person for the first time. You have shared interests and jokes; you might or might not get along in person as well as you hoped.
17–20 You and this character used to be enemies, but over time you became friends. You’re brutally honest with each other, and you might regularly mock or tease each other or bring up past conflicts. However, when push comes to shove, you’ve got each other’s backs.
21–24 You and this character are competitive rivals striving to outdo one another. Whether your rivalry is friendly or cutthroat, you push each other to try harder, aim higher, achieve greater feats, and reach your full potential.
25–28 You and this character served together in a military unit. You celebrated, fought, struggled, and suffered through loss together. You might be the sole survivors of your unit. Love them or hate them, you trust them to fight alongside you.
29–32 You and this character are colleagues who worked together in the past or present. You know each other’s habits and probably work well together, even if you don’t get along personally.
33–36 You and this character share a professional relationship, such as boss and employee, teacher and student, or superior and subordinate. You probably want to make a good impression on each other and might be uncomfortable socializing.
37–40 You and this character collaborated together on a project. You might have been co-stars in a theatre troupe or holovid program, members of the same band or orchestra, scientific research partners, or construction workers on the same build site.
41–44 You and this character trained together. You might have enrolled in the same classes at school or university, gone through military training together, or been on the same sports team.
45–48 You’re a fan of this character’s accomplishments and work, or they are of yours. One of you might even be a customer or patron of the other. Both of you likely appreciate each other and can count on the other’s support.
49–52 You and this character are criminal associates. You understand— but might not trust—each other. Your illicit activities might be known to other members of the party, or not.
53–56 You and this character are friends of the same person. You met through a mutual acquaintance or have overlapping social circles, and though you’ve socialized, you aren’t close.
57–60 You and this character were both hurt, tricked, or ripped off by the same person. You might bond over shared misfortune, fear, or desire for vengeance.
61–64 You and this character temporarily competed, such as by applying for the same job or pursuing the same lover, but you were both passed over for someone else and now bond over shared rejection.
65–68 You and this character know each other by reputation but have never met. You might look forward to working together, regard each other with mild interest, or dread every interaction.
69–72 You and this character were both arrested and falsely accused of the same crime. You might have proven your innocence together, served time in the same prison, or been pardoned but live with a tarnished reputation. You might both hold a grudge against those who accused or condemned you.
73–76 You and this character are from the same neighborhood, settlement, country, or planet. You might be neighbors or strangers bonding over shared roots and connections. They might remind you of home, so you might find their presence comforting.
77–80 You and this character have mutual interest in a hobby that you regularly engage in together. You might go clubbing, hunting, perform music, or meet regularly to play a favorite game.
81–84 You and this character share an intense passion for a specific hobby or media. You might love the same band, game, movie, or sport; both of you might even belong to the same fan club.. You discuss your shared interest for hours, in greater depth than anyone else thinks it deserves.
85–88 You and this character are affiliated with the same organization, such as AbadarCorp, the Free Captains, the Golden League, the Starfinder Society, the Xenowardens, or a local charity. If it’s a large organization, it’s unlikely you know each other personally.
89–92 You and this character are members of the same philosophy, religion, or cult; you might even be members of the same congregation. Although you might quibble over minor philosophical matters, you support each other in matters of faith and morality.
93–96 You and this character met while sharing an enjoyable experience together. You might have been volunteers at the same charity, spectators at a sporting event, or passengers on the same planetary cruise.
97–100 You and this character survived the same mass tragedy, perhaps an invasion, crash landing, or hurricane. Whether or not you met during the disaster, you’ve bonded over your shared loss and suffering in the time since.

Exploration System

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 34
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges of having an entire galaxy to explore is figuring out where to start! With limitless stars ahead, each with the potential for multiple worlds to investigate, the task of picking a destination can be daunting to say the least. The exploration system presented in this section gives your party of galactic adventurers a wide range of tools to seek out new worlds.
Over the course of many adventures, your character may travel to a far-flung locale in the Vast, catalog a specific planet within a star system, attempt to locate something from orbit, or explore a previously unknown world on foot. No matter the scope of exploration, Starfinder provides a system for it in the following sections, starting with wide-ranging galaxy exploration and narrowing in focus to world exploration.
Galaxy Exploration (see below) expands upon the standard rules for the navigation task of the Piloting skill, especially when you know next to nothing about the system to which you wish to travel. By doing research and gathering more information, you can learn enough about the system to make it merely unfamiliar. Once you locate a system and travel to it, the next logical step is to explore the system itself. The System Exploration section (page 35) gives you tools to track down the various gravity wells within a system and, with a little time and effort, create a map of the system.
Once you’ve reached a particular world, Exploration from Orbit (page 36) provides guidelines for getting the most from your starship’s sensor readings while in orbit. It covers not only general information on what your sensors can ascertain, but also how to focus on and analyze data to gather information about a world’s attributes, anomalies, and inhabitants.
The last section, World Exploration (page 37), gives some general guidance on how to handle on-the-ground exploration on a new planet, including using the tools presented in the biome sections of this book (pages 48–95). It also provides a system called hexploration to help you narrate and map the exploration of a world.
Downtime Activities: Several components of this system use Starfinder’s downtime rules.

Galaxy Exploration

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 34
Long ago, galactic exploration was primarily the business of a diverse and often secretive group of priests and other magic‑using fellowships who jealously guarded their secrets of magical space travel and planes-hopping. With the revelation of Triune and the advent of faster-than-light Drift travel, the galaxy became ripe for mass exploration, but only for those with the technology and know-how to navigate its expanse.
Navigation is the key to exploring the galaxy. Every navigator is aware of the difference between Near Space and the Vast. Near Space comprises systems and worlds that have the greatest density of Drift beacons, thereby reducing the time and risk it takes to travel there. Destinations in the Vast have fewer such beacons, increasing both the travel time and risk of potentially dangerous Drift encounters (pages 146–147), and making reliable information on such places even harder to come by.
While a navigator must be knowledgeable in various calculations and equations to feed into Drift engines, they also must have at least some knowledge of where they want to go. While strange properties of the Drift make the galactic distance from one place to another almost meaningless, knowing a system’s relative bearing from one’s current position (and that said system even exists) is needed to properly navigate via the Drift. These details can be hard to ascertain, especially when searching for a path to a world in the Vast.
If you want to find and travel to a known destination, even one unfamiliar to you (Core Rulebook 145), you can. You might even use the plan route downtime activity (Character Operations Manual 154) to gain some aid toward navigating to that system. But what about destinations, especially those in the Vast, about which little is known? Maybe you’ve found some brief reference to a system on a datapad, heard rumors about a mysterious space station, or uncovered some old but faulty star chart. For such obscure destinations, you can attempt to narrow your search by using the Locate Galactic Destination downtime activity.

System Exploration

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 35
Once you’ve located and successfully traveled to an unfamiliar system, your next step is learning what exactly is in that system—no easy task, considering it may be hundreds of millions of miles across. Entering the system might give you some fundamental information about what’s present there, and you might have learned some particulars already through your initial search. To learn more about an unknown system, many explorers rely on the activities and starship systems detailed below. See pages 394–395 of the Core Rulebook for brief summaries about various types of astronomical objects you might encounter.

Finding Gravity Wells

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 35
Gravity wells are formed when massive astronomical objects exert significant gravitational pull, such as a star or black hole around which a system’s other astronomical bodies orbit. When you arrive in a system, you can typically discover its primary gravity well very quickly and without the need for skill checks.
You can then attempt to locate other astronomical objects in a system by searching for their telltale gravity wells. The most basic (and time-consuming) method for doing so involves searching the system via a starship’s sensors, using the map star system downtime activity. You can then determine the nature of the astronomical objects you locate (see Analyzing System Data below).
Due to the massive sizes of star systems and the relatively small size of even the largest planets and other bodies, finding all of a system’s gravity wells and corresponding worlds takes time. Traveling via starship to an identified astronomical object works as traveling in-system, taking 1d6+2 days.

Starship Systems

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 35
There are widely available starship systems that can speed up the time it takes to map a star system. This tech include very long‑range system-wide sensors that, while not useful in combat, can quickly scan a star system and produce a general map as well as sensor drones that you can deploy throughout a system. Such drones are slower but more affordable than system-wide sensors.

Analyzing System Data

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 35
After pinpointing a system’s gravity wells, you may want to determine exactly what kind of astronomical object lies at the heart of each well, especially before investing the time it takes to travel to one. This requires further analysis of the data.
To analyze gravity well data and identify the type of astronomical object at its heart, you must first have pinpointed the gravity well, whether by successfully completing the map star system downtime activity, analyzing sensor drone data, or coming into possession of the necessary information some other way. Then you can perform the Celestial Analysis downtime activity.

Exploration From Orbit

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 36
While you can ascertain the location and general type of astronomical objects from a distance, finding out more generally requires traveling to and orbiting the body. While in orbit, you can use your starship’s sensors to determine the world’s atmosphere, primary biomes, and gravity. This process typically takes ten minutes and requires a successful DC 15 Computers check, as detailed on page 301 of the Core Rulebook. This check is modified by the type of sensors you have on your ship, as usual. A number of factors can increase or decrease that DC, as outlined in the Sensor Modifiers below.
Keep in mind that such scans must be performed outside of combat and that certain worlds’ inhabitants will not permit offworlders to peer down from orbit indefinitely—or at all.
While getting general information about a world can be crucial, more information can be gained from a full sensor sweep and analysis of the data obtained. You can use the world analysis downtime activity to attempt a more thorough scan, or you can map out a portion of a world’s geography using the world mapping downtime activity.

Sensor Modifiers

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 37
Various circumstances might modify the DC for the checks needed to ascertain information about a planet while using sensors in orbit. The following is a list of some of those circumstances and how they modify the DC. Modifiers from two or more different sources can stack (such as if a planet has both a thick atmosphere and an extreme magnetic field). Strange anomalies may hamper scanning at the GM’s discretion; see the Planetary Anomalies below.

CircumstanceDC Modifier
Anomaly–2 to +4
Energetic magnetic field+2
Extreme magnetic field+4
Planetary sensor scrambler+4
Thick atmosphere+2
Thin atmosphere–2

Planetary Anomalies

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 37
Anything that makes a world unique beyond its basic physical and cultural characteristics can be considered a planetary anomaly. This could manifest as a strong connection to a different plane of existence, a global magic- or technology-dampening field, an abundance of mystical crystalline caverns just below the surface, especially active plate tectonics, or a singularity barely contained within the planet’s core.
Each biome section (pages 48–95) and most cultural attributes (96–129) contain tables of adventure hooks, which can be a great source of inspiration for planetary (or more localized) anomalies. Feel free to adapt ideas from your favorite books, films, and other media, and remember that the only limit in a science fantasy setting is your imagination.

World Exploration

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 37
Exploration-focused adventures and campaigns often take place on a single uninhabited or previously uncontacted world, or in a system of such worlds. Exploring a world whose inhabitants are willing to interact with outsiders and who have some degree of technological advancement can be as easy as getting the proper permissions to land your starship, buying a map, and booking a guided tour. In such places, you’ll often be able to use a large settlement as a base of operations. There, you might hire guides, purchase or rent terrestrial transportation, and stock up on the necessities of exploration before setting out, as you would in any major settlement of the Pact Worlds.
Even without these benefits, you are likely to have enough information from whatever led you to the world in the first place, or from your exploration from orbit, to have a general location from which to begin your exploration. A relatively small terrestrial world still contains uncountable lifetimes’ worth of adventure in its millions of square miles. You’re likely to focus on key areas of interest in your exploration, rather than make a comprehensive mapping of a world’s every rock and tree.
But what happens when you lack a known starting point, or the world doesn’t have large cities or advanced technology—or even any sapient creatures? Well, things may get trickier for both the player characters and the GM. The Sandbox Adventures chapter (starting on page 130) contains advice for creating and facilitating open-ended campaigns and adventures, while this section provides a “hexploration” system that GMs and player characters can use together to explore and map uncharted areas. Hexploration is detailed in the following sections, which assume the PCs have landed their starship in a relatively safe location and are traveling on foot in trackless terrain on an uncharted terrestrial world.
Finally, the various biome sections in this book (pages 48–95) detail not only the kinds of environments, both familiar and alien, that you might encounter, but also potential inhabitants and adventure hooks. Each section also presents player options, such as equipment, feats, and spells, that can be especially useful in exploring such areas. It’s then up to the players to collaborate, using these and other tools along with the explorers’ decisions to weave together a fun and exciting story of the exploration of an alien world.

Hexploration Map

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 38
Hexploration uses a map split into a hexagonal grid. Each hex on the map represents an area 12 miles across and features its own dominant biome, be it desert or forest, marsh, or mountain— see the Hexploration Table on page 39 for a full list of biomes. Terrestrial worlds with dynamic climates often have most, if not all, of these terrain types, while stranger worlds might feature only one or two dominant biomes across their entire surface. Just because each hex has a primary terrain type doesn’t mean that it’s the only terrain in that hex. A hex might feature a road or river snaking through it, smaller bodies of water, a thicket of alien vegetation, a massive city, or countless other variations.
You can quickly draw a map using just a few colors, some basic symbols, and letters or numbers for reference; the Exploration Log on page 158 includes a hex grid for this purpose. When creating a hex map—often when the PCs land their starship or set out from a settlement—it’s helpful to start in the middle of the grid, since they can generally explore in any direction.

Hexploration Activities

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 38
A group of PCs gains a number of hexploration activities per day based on the speed of the slowest member of the group, as shown on the table below. During the course of the day, the PCs can use their hexploration activities to either travel or perform recon.

SpeedActivities per Day
15 feet or less1/2
20–25 feet1
30–35 feet2
40-45 feet3
50 feet or more4


Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 38
You move into or toward an adjacent hex. This requires a number of hexploration activities equal to the required activities (see the Hexploration Table on page 39) for both your origin hex and the hex into which you’re moving. For example, a party moving from a mountain into a forest would require 5 hexploration activities. If you don’t know the biome of the destination hex, you learn it after using the number of exploration activities required by your origin hex (2 in the previous example). If you don’t have enough hexploration activities in a day to move into an adjacent hex, you can use as many hexploration activities as you want to move toward that hex, and then add that progress to travel you perform on subsequent days.
Keep in mind that with hexploration, movement from one hex to another includes some degree of exploration of the hex entered rather than point-to-point travel, so the travel rate is often slower than typical overland speed.
Traveling in Vehicles: Remember that a vehicle must be designed for the terrain in which it’s traveling to use its overland movement speed; the GM makes this determination per vehicle and can modify the speed as needed. If the entire party is in appropriate vehicles with an overland speed of at least 20 mph, the group gets 6 activities per day instead of the usual 1–5.
Traveling in a Starship: While it is often possible to fly a starship slowly enough and at a low enough altitude to easily travel over difficult terrain while gathering basic information, there are myriad reasons why this may not be advisable or preferable. Foremost, many of a world’s most interesting features are hidden from view and are fundamentally inaccessible from the air. There may be other concerns, such as an atmospheric field that interferes with technology or a strict local government with large no-fly zones. In addition, Huge or larger starships flying too close to a planet’s surface risk crashing.

Perform Recon

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 39
You carefully explore and map a single hex, gaining as much information as you can. This requires a number of hexploration activities equal to the hex in which you’re performing recon, and you choose whether to be more careful or more thorough. If you choose to be more careful, the encounter DC (see Random Encounters below) increases by 2; if you choose to be more thorough, it decreases by 2.
Once you have successfully performed recon in a hex, you discover all the hex’s major features that do not require a check (at the GM’s discretion), and you learn the biome of each hex adjacent to that hex. In addition, if you chose to be more thorough, you also find the fastest way through the terrain; reduce the number of activities required to travel in or through that hex by 1 (to a minimum of 1). This reduction can apply only once per hex.

Downtime Activities

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 39
Characters not traveling or performing recon can spend the day engaged in a downtime activity instead. Several existing downtime activities can be especially relevant during exploration of unfamiliar terrain. More information about each of the following can be found in the Character Operations Manual: build shelter (page 150) gather supplies (page 152), inoculate (page 153), maintain readiness (page 153), and secure area (page 155).


Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 39
When exploring a world’s unmapped wilderness, the Survival skill (Core Rulebook 148–149) becomes crucial to, well, survival. From enduring severe weather and orienteering to predicting weather and living off the land, the tasks of this skill are particularly suited to the galaxy’s wilds. Precisely what you will face is dependent on the biome you are exploring, and there may be numerous environmental hazards (Core Rulebook 400– 405).

Random Encounters

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 39
Whenever PCs explore, there’s a chance for a random encounter; this chance is based on the relative population density of an area, with some types of terrain tending to be denser than others. Each time the PCs travel or recon, roll a d20. On a roll equal to or higher than the encounter DC listed in the Hexploration Table (see below), a random encounter occurs. The GM can adjust these numbers based on circumstance.
The GM can use the inhabitants and adventure hooks tables in the corresponding biome section (pages 48–95) to inspire a random encounter. Remember that encounters can be far more than combat with wandering monsters; there are plenty of opportunities for roleplaying and social encounters, especially those that tie into and expand on a world’s adventure hooks or various other attributes.


BiomeRequired ActivitiesEncounter DC
* Assumes a fly (airborne or space) or swim (aquatic) speed; GM might require certain equipment and/or might increase the required activities.

Switching out of Hexploration

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 39
When the PCs face a random encounter or discover an adventuring site while engaged in hexploration, these encounters typically do not cost the PCs a hexploration activity to tackle, assuming that they occur over several minutes rather than hours. However, if the PCs decide to explore a vast technological ruin, engage in lengthy diplomacy with locals, or get involved in a protracted chase with raiders, the GM might deduct a hexploration activity for the time spent.