GM Rolefinder: Scoured History

Somewhere adrift from our own atmosphere, between the moons and stars of forever, lies a mystical realm we call Starfinder. The four-armed Kasathas battle the strong-willed Lashunta, while the Ysoki and Androids work together to bring down the city-empire of the powerful Vesk. The Shirren hide in the shadows of vast moons, awaiting their chance to help or hinder…

That’s the world I see when I dream about Starfinder. Intrigue and danger with exotics race. And yet still in the midst of it all, we have Humans. The beige pudding of science fiction. And sure, when you watch sci-fi you want someone you can relate to. Fry or Captain Picard or Rick Deckard. But when you’re playing science fiction? I want the spice, I want excitement, I want a body far removed from my own true one. So I’ve changed something key in my campaign: no Humans. Welcome to “Pathfinder: Scoured History.”

This article looks at removing a race, but how to do it with purpose. You want great flavor, with guidance, to really show your players why the race isn’t there. In this case, the first clue is in the title, “Scoured history.” Surely Humans existed, but the players and their PCs don’t know that. The absence of Humans as a playable (or even present) race creates intrigue for the players, and there are immediate questions: Where are the Humans? Why did they leave? Did somebody else erase them and a war was covered up? Just what happened to the Humans?

The key interest here is that the campaign world itself doesn’t know Humans are missing. The word “Human” makes about as much sense as “tiklah”. And yet there are clues left behind. The term “humanoid” still exists, so where did it come from? And who then created the Androids? They don’t look like the other races. We all know robots don’t get up and just build themselves, surely?

This makes my campaign a mystery one, yet the players don’t know, at first, that they’re looking for clues. Clues simply appear as they do. And the bad guys? They all seem to know something, but they’re not letting loose any secrets. The items they’re after, the prominent people they’re kidnapping – there’s no clear tie between them all until one of the bad guys lets slip. When the PC’s boss is presented with all these seemingly random facts, they can’t make heads of it either, but they recall a secret world, something akin to the idea of “Earth” from within the Battlestar Galactica series. Suddenly, because the mundane and obvious thing (Humans) isn’t present, it’s exotic and exciting. What if we weren’t human? Then this story would be some hot stuff!

Now I want to get a little more into world building theory. In the last article, I introduced you to “Spring”, the android of the year. I said she could represent the A or B side of a storyline. Take her as a B side story, that would ideally be peppered through out a year of regular sessions. She fits nicely under the Scoured History A side story. We’ve got an Android who eventually turns into a Human – but is that good or bad? Is she even recognised after that? What’s this “thingo” she’s transformed into? As far as the PCs would know she’s the first of whatever she’s turned into.

Your story line A informs your whole world, but how can you prove Humans exist by their absence? Use your PCs. Interweave the narrative into their hands. For example, after a successful session, they get a treasure cache, including a weapon with “Bane [unknown].” The Unknown is “human” but we can’t tell them that. Maybe they think it’s a mystery monster to find later, or they’re hopeful it’s a “random” so it changes every day, but the case is it’s set to Human. Or maybe the PCs investigate this nonsense word that’s found in popular graffiti, “Hoo-mun”. They trace it back to Kasatha origins, but upon further investigation, it only leads to a legend the Kasathas have. A legend about a weaker, 2-armed sub-species of Kasatha – a legend that never the less leads to another session, another planet and, for the PCs, another clue to investigate.

Part of tying stories together is what makes for good GMing. When you tell a good portion of story line A, then change and begin telling B, your players will get used to both stories and hopefully engage, so they’ll be even more amazed when you combine the two together in perfect unison. So let’s figure out the ending for Scoured History/Android of the Year.

The Androids themselves are a mystery because no one knows who made them originally – Humans are amiss, remember. Androids maintain that they always made themselves, but every other race knows better, robots don’t self assemble. So when we get a truly mysterious Android “Spring”, and we see she is changing over time, we grow suspect. Then she winds up “evolving” into a pure Human, and suddenly we’ve got another wrench thrown into the story. “She’s changed from an Android into a… a… a “thingo?”

This of course requires a different ending then I offered in my previous article. Rather than the PCs being wanted by the government for helping a “person of interest” they are now the first to witness a “thingo”, and they’re put in contact with the leading expert in the field of “what thingos are.” Now they’re tasked with helping the direct investigation of “thingos”, which of course comes with a huge cred payment up front, and plenty of adventuring gear. Story line B has wrapped up at this point, but story line A is still to wrap up!

Now, at the stories climax, you get to do whatever cool thing you want. A pacifist ending is just that Humans are found (as well as a potentially real Earth/Golarion), and it’s amazing and everyone’s happy to remember this forgotten race. Maybe explain it all, or leave it as some what of a mystery, up to you. And this ending even has a real world player reward – Humans are now a playable race once again! Me though? I want some blood…

I see a mysterious transport vessel, that was discovered boringly in session 2, and that has remained silent for 50 years, begins to stir. Slowly opening, a bunch of filthy Humans roar forth, guns firing, armour clad!They start tearing around the lower metropolis – it’s up to the PCs to stop them! New questions emerge though: “Maybe the Humans were removed for being the most badass aliens anywhere in the cosmos?” Or “How do we keep the innocent away from these new, interesting humanoids?” Or better yet, “Does anyone still have that random Bane weapon from session 1…?”

Assuming you survive, join me next time when I do some globe building!

About jtmoriarty

Moriarty, resident evil genius, has a Bachelor of Communications and a Masters of Writing - how better to write your players dooms? He was a penniless writer but has since turned into a paid but still bad one. And yes that's real blood!

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