Review: Paizo – Character Operations Manual (Starfinder)

Character Operations Manual
Character Operations Manual is a supplement for the science fantasy RPG Starfinder, written by Alexander Augunas, Kate Baker, Simone Dietzler, Jennifer Dworschack-Kinter, Leo Glass, Sasha Lindley Hall, Amanda Hamon, Vanessa Hoskins, Jenny Jarzabski, Jason Keeley, Lyz Liddell, Luis Loza, Ron Lundeen, Crystal Malarsky, Robert G. McCreary, Conor J. Owens, Joe Pasini, Owen K.C. Stephens, Jason Tondro, and Landon Winkler and published by Paizo.
By Aaron T. Huss

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Character Operations Manual is a fun sci-fi name for a core supplement that provides additional character options during creation. It reinforces the break from standard fantasy tropes within Starfinder and expands on non-fantasy options within this science fantasy game. This includes new theme and race options, new classes and how to create different character concepts by aligning them with different themes, new archetypes (these first items take up over half of the book), new sci-fi-themed feats, new equipment to go with the three new character classes, spells to go with the new character classes, and finally some GM guidance for running campaigns throughout the vastness of outerspace in the form of additional rules for starship combat and downtime.

I’ve seen it written abroad how Starfinder was a bit of a let down, probably due to its close connection with fantasy tropes normally found in epic fantasy games (e.g. dwarves, elves, gnomes, etc.).  Paizo has been laying down a series of core supplements that do a great job of capturing the sci-fi aspects of science fantasy by exploring completely new character races and really thinking about what types of character concepts are fitting for a science fantasy game. Character Operations Manual is a valuable tool within their arsenal to meet that goal. It is all crunch and filled with all sorts of cool new things you can do to spice up the sci-fi within your games.

The themes and race options are cool, but for me the true power of this book comes with the three new character classes – biohacker, vanguard, and witchwarper. I’m not going to get into the details as it would spoil the discoveries you will make, but just know that these are 100% science fantasy, well-thought-out classes to capture the essence of sci-fi within Starfinder. My favorite is the vanguard… then Paizo does the awesome and connects these new classes to the new themes to create new character concepts. Those are a great way to provide guidance to players who just don’t know what they want to do with those character classes or don’t know how they work within the game. And of course, you need the ability to equip these classes appropriately, thus all the new equipment. If you really dig into the feats, they are probably designed to compliment the new classes and themes, but that would take a lot of experimentation with creating characters.

This is a great addition to your Starfinder bookshelf, but it can also help those seeking more sci-fi in their games. In fact, I’ve seen many comments to that effect regarding people’s satisfaction with the book.

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