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Sandbox Adventures / Subgenres

Space Western

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 144
Related Media: Battle Beyond the Stars (film), Firefly (TV series), The Mandalorian (TV series), Outland (film), Mike Resnick’s Santiago (novel)
You can add robots, lasers, and spaceships to any genre, but the space western subgenre is a prime example with a long history. The fun comes from mixing the two genres, so the mysterious gunslinger who drifts into town is a robot, the two gangs tearing the town apart are drow and ysoki, and everyone dreams of getting rich in a horacalcum rush. But a space western game is still about the frontier. Small pockets of safety, security, and law are surrounded by expanses of chaotic wilderness, so accord is low, but faith is an important salvation and organizing principle to those on the fringe, so religion is high. The civilians who live in these settlements are threatened by greedy corporations buying up resources, cruel mine bosses, rowdy raiders, organized-crime gangs, and monstrous creatures that lurk in the wild. Everyday civilians look to heroes to keep them safe, but they can also fear and despise the life of violence that adventuring protagonists might seem to embody. So distrustful might they be that, as soon as the heroes have dealt with the current problem, the locals force them to move on to the next town—or, as often is the case of Starfinder, the next planet—tempted by bounty hunting (if neutral), a desire to leave the settlement in peace (if good), or just the next lucrative crime (if evil).
The space western game’s emphasis on the wilderness will give you many opportunities to use the various biomes described in this book, from the harsh heat of a desert planet to a mountain world’s snowy peaks. Any of these places could be home to mining camps, humble farms, or boom towns, all of which you can generate with tools in Settlement Toolbox on page 150. Soldiers are the most common character class and a common background, with veterans of some past war venturing into the wilderness where their skills are still useful, and envoys, operatives, and mechanics are also plentiful. Magic, however, is mysterious and dangerous, something even gunslingers avoid, so you will find the low-magic rules helpful. Technology might be a mix of archaic and modern, with black powder and rust mixing with lasers and androids.
As you run a space western game, bear in mind that the western genre has traditionally been home to many harmful tropes, none of which have a place in a game of Starfinder. Remember, while a space western game may have roots in the western, it also takes place in a fictional science fantasy setting. This offers a great opportunity to leave behind the harmful stereotypes of the past; just remain wary of these insidious tropes creeping their way back into your space western game.