I’ve had an opportunity to look over three of Paizo’s new campaign books that introduce science-fiction concepts to Pathfinder. The books in question are: 1) The Numeria campaign guide, 2) People of the Stars and 3) the Technology Guide. For the most part I think these books can be used with the Beginner Box with minimal work, so I’m not planning on doing a PFBB conversion for any of them.
The Numeria campaign setting introduces a new area of Golantha(sp?) where a giant space ship crashed eons ago, depositing advanced technology all over the place. It’s a solid Sorcery & Super Science setting for those who want to play a science-fantasy flavored version of Pathfinder. It offers up new sci-fi themed monsters (i.e. robots, cyborgs), rules for radiation, a mutant monster template that could probably be converted into a PC race fairly easily, and some interesting settings. However, it lacks information on actual technological items and the adventure locations, while evocative, are not ready made for running adventures (I assume the Iron Gods adventure path will fill in the blanks).
People of the Stars is more suitable for running a Spelljammer version of Pathfinder, though it does provide rules for an Android player-character race. It’s more fantasy-in-space than science-fantasy.
The most interesting book, to me at least, is the Technology Guide. It provides the missing technological items for the Numeria setting, and provides additional rules for cybernetics, artificial intelligences and new feats, skill uses, archetypes and the Technomancer prestige class. It’s also a great resource for running a straight-up post apocalyptic Gamma World-esque flavor of Pathfinder (in other words, the Omega Box project I’ve been working on since, well, forever), or even a Pathfinder flavored version of Shadow Run. One thing I really like is that technology, while superficially similar to magic in many respects, still has its own niche. Paizo didn’t take the easy path and just model all the tech off of existing spells or magic items.
Most of the tech weapons are fairly inline with standard weapons, though they have additional concerns, such as requiring power to operate (also, timeworn items can glitch, though this is additional complexity I’d rather not deal with). For example, a laser pistol does 1d8 fire damage. It also has a few other twists to make it unique, but overall a laser pistol isn’t too much more powerful than a revolver or standard magic weapon.
Heavy weapons have more punch, and the Death Ray is just nasty, but for the most part you don’t have to worry too much about tech weapons outshining normal weapons.
As with weapons, armor is not significantly more protective than standard armor. The main difference comes with special functions: Chameleon armor, for example, provides a Stealth bonus; HEV armor protects against radiation and toxins; Space Suits protect against vacuum; etc. But you won’t find a suit of super-duper battle armor that grants a +12 AC bonus but only counts as light armor. Again, everything fairly balanced inline with magical armor, but still with its own niche.
You might think pharmaceuticals would just be a high tech version of a potion, but again Paizo avoided just a copy-and-paste of potions. Pharmaceuticals have unique roles, different from potions. For example, you’ll find a drug that grants a Fast Healing effect, but you won’t find one that acts just like a potion of healing.
Reading this section gave me flashbacks to Shadow Run, and with a bit of work you could create a workable fantasy-cyberpunk flavor of Pathfinder, if you’re so inclined. Each implant takes up a specific body location and has an Implant value. The total value of all implants cannot exceed the character’s Constitution score or their Intelligence score (reflecting both physical and mental limitations of the body’s ability to control cybernetics). Also, implanting cybernetics is a fairly risky and arduous process that causes Constitution ability damage, so it’s not for the faint-hearted.
I think this section could be used to add an interesting Cyborg class/race option to a post-apoc version of the game, but it felt a bit too much like chrome-and-polish cyberpunk for my tastes. But, YMMV.
So, for my purposes, there’s a lot of interesting information here for the Omega Box project. The android race is an excellent addition, and I can use the cybernetic rules to work up a workable cyborg ‘race’ option. I’m also thinking of ditching the random mutations and using the rather elegant Mutant monster template as the basis for mutant characters. And there are plenty of useful technological artifacts that can be thrown into the game.
However, I think I’d like to stick with the ridiculously high-powered tech weapons from Omega World (Jonathan Tweet) rather than Pathfinder’s scaled-down, balanced weapons. It just seems more appropriate for the beer-and-pretzel style game I want. Also, the radiation rules seem more fiddly than I want to deal with, and the rules for timeworn technology need a lot of streamlining as well, IMO.