Archives of Nethys

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All Rules | Downtime Rules

Exploring the Galaxy / Exploration System

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.