Archives of Nethys

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Hard Science Fiction

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 140
Related Media: 2001: A Space Odyssey (film and novel), Arrival (novel and film), The Expanse (novels and TV series)
Hard science fiction is devoted to realism and accurate science; everything in the setting should be plausible according to physics as we understand it—though, sometimes you can make exceptions to the rules of science, such as permitting starships to travel vast distances in days instead of years. There’s no faster-than-light travel, and fuel or some other reaction mass is critical to operating spacecraft. Because of this, hard science fiction is usually centered on Earth and nearby planets.
Another exciting opportunity in a hard science fiction game is the chance to learn and use actual science in building your settings. As you create your campaign, you might research various scientific topics, from the soil composition of Mars to theoretical models of methane-based life on Titan. But this also brings uncertainty, as humanity’s knowledge of science is ever changing! Creating and GMing a hard science fiction campaign can provide you opportunities to speculate on where the real-world science of today might expand our understanding in the future.
Adventures in a hard science fiction campaign are more realistic and grounded in real-world science than in a traditional Starfinder campaign. Environmental threats like a vacuum or radiation are more serious. The PCs explore biomes dangerous to many species when they visit planets in our own solar system: the deserts of Mars, the frigid ice fields of Europa, the volcanic surface of Io, or the swirling storms of the gas giant Jupiter.
Technology is high or medium and extrapolated from current real-world science, so drones, projectile weapons, artificial intelligence, pharmaceuticals, and genetic engineering are especially prevalent. There is almost never magic in such settings. Other attributes, such as accord and religion, are highly variable and depend on the types of conflict you want to emphasize—hard science fiction is often based on modern trends, and you can use these trends to determine how you change those measurements.
Envoys lead these expeditions as representatives of planetary governments and corporations, hiring veteran soldiers from the ranks of the armed forces. Operatives fly independent spacecraft around the solar system with the help of trusty mechanic copilots. Creatures found in the Alien Archives must often be modified to fit within the thematic constraints of a hard science fiction game. For example, species such as pahtras, vlakas, and ysoki might instead become genetically engineered humans.