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Infinite Worlds


Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 116
Nearly every sapient species has asked how the universe functions, where they come from, why they exist, and what comes after their mortal lives end. As they face the unforgiving universe, they tell tales of the things they fear and the extraordinarily powerful heroes (or villains) who vanquish (or are vanquished by) terrifying anthropomorphized monsters. They narrate acts they believe admirable, glorifying those who dedicate their lives to performing great deeds. These tales serve to explain the unexplainable, express a society’s consciousness, warn against harm, and provide hope to persevere in a universe that’s magical, supernatural, terrifying, and hostile but simultaneously wondrous and beautiful. As these tales take on importance, each society forms rituals and traditions to reinforce these messages and preserve their cultural memory. Over time, the original meanings of the tales, rituals, and traditions might become lost as new meanings, perspectives, and beliefs emerge and evolve. All these components coalesce into a ritualized set of organized beliefs and ceremonies focused on a supernatural being or beings, supernatural forces, philosophies, or science, leading to the birth of a religion.
Many factors determine religious influence that can affect adherents, nations, and entire worlds. Who or what is the focus of worship? Why do followers adhere to the faith’s tenets? Does the focus of the religion reciprocate the worship? How does the religion affect relations with others outside the faith? How does the landscape reflect the religion’s focus, possibly through divine miracles and scarred battlefields where demigods clashed in ages long past? And how common are supernatural outsiders like angels and velstracs who might not just affirm their patrons’ mandates, but actively enforce them?
In the Starfinder universe, there can be religions and philosophies as diverse as anything found in ancient or modern mythology. Unusual creatures from other dimensions, entities of cosmic abilities, strange alien beings, technologically-advanced civilizations, simple superstitions, and an all-seeing cosmic network recording events throughout the universe form the myriad myths and religions within the Starfinder universe—and these are just the beginning. Whether dealing with known and familiar deities typically worshiped within the Pact Worlds or interacting with never-before-encountered religions of the Vast’s far reaches, religion can provide a way to introduce new adventures, challenges, encounters, alliances, and immersive interactions into any Starfinder game.
Yet make no mistake: in Starfinder, the gods are real. Even among the countless false religions, salvation scams, and mystery cults with considerable followings, scores of true gods wield near-omnipotence from the Outer Planes. Outsiders comprised wholly of extraplanar quintessence battle for influence and supremacy while serving as living messengers of the gods and their dogmas. Powerful spells can open direct, albeit brief, communication to a deity or immortal servant, and questions of the afterlife can receive definitive answers by using potent spells to hop to an Outer Plane and confirm the truth with one’s own senses.
Religion in Starfinder is an expression of demonstrable fact, not wholly of just one faith; furthermore, only the most sheltered cultures and recalcitrant philosophers can deny the gods’ existence. While atheism is difficult to rationalize, societies might experience outrage rather than reassurance in the existence of the divine. These anti-religious movements are equally appropriate for societies with high-, medium-, and low‑religion attributes and can be just as compelling to explore as the gods. What actions or inactions drove the society to rebuke the divine? How passionate are the inhabitants and their laws in policing visiting faithful? What alternate faiths and philosophies might have arisen in place of worship, and how can they drive exciting adventures and stories?
No matter how religion gets expressed on a world, this section serves as a resource for GMs to use while creating new and inventive adventures with encounters that provoke imagination. Religion often describes intriguing history for a campaign or characters. It describes places of magic and legend to explore—such as towering cathedrals infused with divine energy awaiting prophesied trials ahead, lost temples whose sequestered records hold the last whisper of a forgotten history, or the reinforced bastion of a militant faith bent on conquest. It provides items of myth to find, like the first doshko gifted to the vesk by Damoritosh, the first code generated by Triune after their unification, or an Iomedaean adamantine shield inscribed with a crucial message from the Gap that has survived against all odds. Religion can also supply heroes to emulate and villains to revile, perhaps a Hylaxian saint who weathered withering attacks to broker an impossible peace or a Kuthite whose self-inflicted wounds spilled out shadows that strangled a nebula’s stars and cast part of the galaxy into supernatural darkness.
Whether characters or worlds are fanatically devout, opposed to the gods, or located somewhere within the spectrum, religious background is often at the core of any character or cultural identity. The same adventure hooks on page 119 can as easily inspire character backgrounds as local conflicts!
Religion can provide moral and ethical codes of behavior for characters as well as motivation to embark on quests and adventures. While certain behavioral or moral tenets might limit a character’s actions, they aren’t meant to limit creativity within the game. Religion within a game can be seen as a way for players to delve into their characters’ roles and worldviews for them to explore the world of the imaginary, which might differ from their real-life perceptions. It’s a way to contemplate not only the sights, smells, and textures a character encounters, but their deeper thoughts, philosophies, and motivations. Religion can give their characters inner strength, a sense of structure, and a connection to others. For any character (player or non-player), religion can also function as a source of power and advantages as well as a set of tenets to carefully navigate while trying to achieve philosophically acceptable goals.
With a universe as diverse as Starfinder, players are likely to encounter nearly endless varieties of civilizations with an inexhaustible range of philosophies, religions, and worldviews on universal truths. Characters might come across the worship of deities overseeing domains much like those of ancient Greek and Roman pantheons. Just as likely, they might meet beings with alien bodies and minds whose philosophies and religions seem incomprehensible to humanoids in the Pact Worlds. One of the exciting things about a science fantasy game is the ability to combine seemingly familiar ideologies and traditions of the real world with the fantastical, the unique, and the bizarre. However, it’s important to remain respectful of other people’s imaginations and personal beliefs, and to remember that religion is just one facet of Starfinder’s tapestry of imagination. Starfinder is a fictional fantasy game designed to be played and enjoyed by all peoples.

High Religion

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 118
In a world of high religion, deities actively participate in the planet’s existence and may take form to do so. These gods might battle one another and deliver visions to their faithful. They might be living gods or even mortals elevated to the status of godhood by their people. On some high-religion worlds, the populace might worship deities that don’t (or no longer) exist, yet they worship no less fervently for the lack of divine intervention. A high-religion world might also have multiple religions, each as potent as the others but where none can gain dominance over the entire world. In such a world, zealots are likely numerous and active as they strive to expand their respective faith’s influence.
There are varied reasons for why an individual or an entire population might adhere to certain faiths. Many likely believe in and practice all the tenets espoused by their religion, while others see themselves as religious and adhere to fundamental tenets of the faith despite disagreeing with some tenets or ritualistic practices. Some might worship insincerely, not truly having faith but coveting the financial, political, or military power they gain from being a member of the religion. For some, the safety, security, benefits, and social standing that come from being a member of the religious community far outweigh their own spiritual beliefs.
Imagine a world where religion plays a major role in the evolution of society, a world where immortal gods walk among mortals, granting them supernatural powers and sending them on quests of religious significance. Or, imagine a world where a vast city complex covers nearly the entire surface, its towering spires decorated to venerate the planet’s sovereign, a living deity kept alive for the advancement of technology wielded for the betterment (or the suppression) of its subjects. Perhaps another world recognizes and practices the religions of a thousand cultures, each religious institution competing vigorously for power, dominance, and control of resources. On another world, the majority of the population might feel drawn instinctively to perform particular philosophies that they believe necessary for communal prosperity and harmony.
Also consider how a high-religion attribute intersects with the society’s magic rating. In a high-magic society, the faiths’ supernatural power is prevalent, powerful, and potentially accessible to a large array of its inhabitants. In lower-magic societies, a high-religion attribute could represent divine power that’s tightly restricted to an ecclesiastical elite or concentrated entirely in one or more heavily involved deities who dole out only a fraction (if any) of their ample supernatural influence.

High-Religion Adventure Hooks

D20 Adventure Hook
1 An outsider is being held captive by those who worship them.
2 A humble traveler suddenly begins manifesting miracles and gathers a following. Are they a charlatan looking to earn power?
3 A fanatical, splinter religion attempts to build a doomsday device to hasten the end of the galaxy.
4 Rival demigods want to settle a challenge by recruiting offworlders for a series of trials while trying to convert them.
5 A series of recent disasters on an inhabited world reveals the planet to be a god waking from eons of slumber.
6 A capricious god grants temporary deific powers to passersby as tests of their moral fiber.
7 A monotheistic world makes first contact with the greater galaxy, and many citizens become enamored with the idea of other gods.
8 A new god manifests as a gestalt entity through the bodies of dozens of individuals, their minds linked by technology or magic.
9 On a formerly atheistic world, hundreds of minor deities begin appearing for nearly every concept imaginable.
10 A large collection of demonic or celestial creatures emerge on a distant planet with a small population.
11 Alien beings who purport to hail from another dimension promise eternal bliss to those who demonstrate their worthiness.
12 When a god is gravely wounded in conflict with another deific power, their followers look for help to heal their god.
13 An asteroid is on a collision course with a world and can be diverted from its course only by the power of a reluctant god.
14 A religious sect claims that the sacrifice of an entire world’s population is needed to placate their god.
15 A relic appears in the possession of a meek traveler. Others race to retrieve it before a conjunction of stars activates the item.
16 Robots seem to gain souls after being constructed to fight a holy war, and they now struggle with their purpose.
17 An ancient religious icon depicts an individual who only recently rose to prominence.
18 The roads and highways of a metropolis form a devotional symbol that generates new power for a god as people travel them.
19 A god has been stripped of their powers by rival deities and seeks assistance in navigating the mortal world.
20 A researcher discovers religious texts that mention a location even the gods fear to go—and seeks volunteers for an expedition.

Medium Religion

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 118
On many worlds, religion plays a significant part in daily life yet typically doesn’t maintain an overriding influence on life, politics, economy, and relations. This distinction doesn’t mean that the adherents to these faiths are any less devout compared to those of high-religion worlds. The faithful of medium‑religion worlds might allocate great structures or complexes for religions to come together, share their philosophies, and learn. However, either their gods don’t require extreme and constant devotion, or the society has developed an equilibrium where its needs accommodate, yet don’t kowtow, to its patrons’ dictums. Alternatively, a world might host numerous religions that all compete for the minds and souls of the faithful. These religious struggles could take place intellectually, ritualistically, or through physical violence. However, the daily lives of the majority of the people are less likely to be influenced by religion compared to everyday economic and political concerns.
For example, a space station or planet designated for the inhabitants of multiple worlds to intermingle and cooperate can be a place where religion, though heavily influencing the lives of many residents, has an overall muted impact due to overriding intragalactic political, military, and economic concerns. Another world might have relatively aloof or distant gods. They might grant miracles and power to their priests, and perhaps occasionally listen to the prayers of their devotees, but otherwise intervene little in mortal lives. Perhaps another world regards its heroes and leaders as living gods, thus bestowing upon them great prestige and power, while their society still recognizes them as mortal and fallible, ensuring that their influence never exceeds that commanded by a true deity. Even technology could become the focus of worship if its capabilities surpass the population’s understanding of how some devices function.

Medium-Religion Adventure Hooks

D20 Adventure Hook
1 The legitimacy of a museum’s collection of religious artifacts is called into question; the curator asks for help in proving otherwise.
2 Several assassinations occur at a conference of spiritual leaders from various religious institutions.
3 A distraught family hopes to rescue a loved one from a strange cult.
4 The key to a serial killer’s crimes hides in an obscure religious text.
5 A wealthy eccentric attempts to purchase an entire minor religion.
6 Pilgrims seek transport to observe an interstellar religious event.
7 A state-sponsored religion suddenly enacts a suffocating bureaucracy.
8 Adherents of a peaceful religion begin to purchase weapons of war.
9 Religious extremists take over a facility and make extensive demands.
10 A manufacturer of mass-produced religious curios needs help ensuring its goods reach the market before its competitors.
11 Facets of a religious holiday begin appearing in unrelated pieces of pop culture throughout the galaxy.
12 A whistle-blower who uncovered a religious leader’s corruption needs protection from that faith’s followers.
13 A group of pious adherents need to raise credits to save an orphanage, though an opposing deity’s interference makes their task more difficult.
14 Personalized pantheons of gods are a high-status purchase, and the devout followers of a single deity look to carve out a place of their own.
15 A corporation releases an app called “God 2.0”; local religious groups find the software blasphemous and demand its deletion.
16 A religion looks to grow its congregation by appealing to a wider audience but requires help navigating the current social landscape.
17 A previously unknown world appears, which many religions take it as a sign (with contradictory meanings).
18 A religious organization enacts a smear campaign against a rival group using information it acquired illicitly.
19 A religious group suddenly places bounties on seemingly unconnected individuals.
20 An outsider seeks to reform their ways, but they need asylum from religious groups who want to slay them.

Low Religion

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 118
There are also numerous worlds where religion holds little influence. Perhaps the gods are so removed from and uninvolved with the population that the residents of the world are little more to deities than ants are to humans. Religion might never have evolved, isn’t a natural expression of the inhabitants’ psyche, or became illegal following any number of disasters or secular coups. On these worlds, religion, divinely-powered magic, and spiritual practices and traditions are implausible notions—either shocking onlookers due to their taboo status or baffling witnesses due to the faith’s unfamiliar underlying assumptions.
Consider when a society’s low-religion attribute manifested. A recent change might mean the inhabitants are actively converting, burying, or destroying old symbols. An ancient change might result in gradual amnesia with inhabitants following traditional holy days and performing prayers, despite not knowing why they continue to do so. Perhaps the populace came to the realization that their world has no gods or that the gods don’t listen. These practices might offer communal solidarity but provide little else.

Low-Religion Adventure Hooks

D20 Adventure Hook
1 When a world outlaws all religion, the faithful seek aid in smuggling relics offworld before they’re destroyed.
2 Divine magic suddenly ceases working on a planet in the middle of a religious festival.
3 Copies of a banned religious text suddenly begin appearing everywhere, all with the same passages highlighted.
4 An anti-religion crusade sweeps through dozens of settlements, damaging church-owned property and harming the openly faithful.
5 Ancient beings return to a world that once worshiped them to find its inhabitants have abandoned all forms of religion.
6 Archaeologists discover ancient temple ruins under the capital city of a world with no religions.
7 A group of escaped criminals poses as gods on a world with no religions.
8 A planet that disdains all deities and religious magic now needs holy magic to combat a plague.
9 Several missionaries disappear while traveling to a remote world of sentient machines who are suspicious of religion.
10 When technology begins to fail on an atheistic world, a stranger arrives claiming to have the ability to “heal” the machines with divine magic.
11 Recently uncovered paperwork reveals that a certain company owns a warehouse full of holy paraphernalia for a religion no one has ever heard of.
12 To stop a catastrophe, a collection of ancient religious relics must be retrieved from the vaults of an organization of skeptics.
13 Scholars find a map that depicts the domains of various minor gods in a state of flux.
14 Religious pilgrims make regular stops on an atheistic world, and the xenophobic residents want it to stop.
15 A religious corporation is suspected of illegally operating on certain worlds through supposedly secular subsidiaries.
16 A popular religion’s clergy are revealed to be shapeshifters, causing a crisis of faith.
17 A group claims to have slain a god and will do so again unless their demands are met.
18 A portal opens onto a small, remote settlement populated by outsiders who seem unaware of their origins.
19 A market for illicit religious art will soon hold its annual auction.
20 A mysterious figure has the power to radically alter a person’s religious views with only a touch.

Religion And Skill Checks

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 118
When characters interact with members of their own faith, the GM might give a +2 bonus to Culture or Diplomacy checks based on the circumstance. Likewise, interacting with members of rival faiths (especially those of opposed alignment) might incur a penalty of –2.
PCs can also attempt DC 10 Culture or Mysticism checks to know how to behave appropriately among members of a religion common to a world or system. Those who behave inappropriately might suffer social penalties or outright hostility.