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Infinite Worlds


Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 48
For eons, the skies have tantalized land-bound creatures that gaze up at them from below. With modern magic and technology, those without natural flight can take to the air, their visits fleeting but fascinating. But of course, terrestrial creatures aren’t the only ones in the galaxy.
Many civilizations exist wholly or partly in their planets’ atmospheres. An airborne biome might contain elaborate towers tethered to the ground or rows of houses magically suspended in midair, built by winged sapient species with no need for ground-level doors. Airborne civilizations might construct entire floating cities—large enough that if you aren’t near the edge, you could forget you’re airborne at all—or be composed solely of a small chain of vehicles or flying buildings tethered together, like traveling caravans making their way across the skies.
Even in the absence of traditional terrain, airborne settings need not be featureless—you can narrate the sounds and scents of an airborne wilderness to give the PCs a sense of its atmosphere. The sight of a planet’s ground from the air provides a unique perspective on terrain miles below. Airborne biomes often host numerous vehicles, from simple turbogliders to massive hover carriers, and an encounter with a flying pirate ship or the vessel of a daring fellow explorer can liven up empty skies. Weather patterns and wind currents can either help or hinder the PCs’ travels and provide notable landmarks for gas giant planets that lack terrestrial features.
Airborne biomes might be alien to terrestrial PCs, and the environments can be even stranger. The atmosphere gets thinner the higher you go on an Earth-like planet, but that’s not necessarily the case for all worlds. Perhaps the atmosphere gets thicker or is poisonous or hallucinogenic to those not acclimated. A denser atmosphere could allow structures filled with standard air to float, propped up by nothing more than the atmosphere’s natural buoyancy. Species the PCs have never encountered before may make their homes in the atmosphere of a gas giant or in a floating city cut off from the rest of their planet’s civilizations.
Supplies, like food, water, and equipment, pose a prominent concern for an airborne society. Most airborne settlements can’t farm on a large scale and must distill water vapor from the air. Large floating cities can terraform, but smaller settlements (and many in gas giants) rely on what they can gather or acquire from trade. The smaller an airborne community, the more likely it is to be nomadic and to rely heavily on trade. Inclement weather can devastate airborne communities, and most have developed strategies to shield themselves from winds, lightning, and other dangers. Those who can fly, whether by themselves or in vehicles, have a greater degree of mobility than those who can’t. Still, it’s more difficult to find a safe place to rest in the air, where places to alight might be few and far between, than on the ground.
In an airborne biome, the opportunities for adventure are boundless, and the sky really is the limit!

Airborne Adventurers

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 48
The spirit of adventure inspires many who live in airborne biomes, as the wind currents create an inherently changeable environment. Adventurers from an airborne biome might be of species that can fly, such as barathu, dragonkin, or espraksa. Some might instead possess magic or technology that allows for flight or be a citizen of a floating city with no flight of their own. Adventurers often view the skies as a medium as a medium for travel rather than a destination, but abandoned floating cities, magically influenced air currents, and flying citadels present tempting adventuring locations.

Airborne Worlds

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 48
An entire biome of airborne civilizations is unlike the worlds many terrestrial creatures are used to. Some are gas giants with no terrestrial surfaces, consisting only of various gases. Even in the absence of ground, these planets’ inner atmospheric layers are usually impossible to access since pressure and temperature increase closer to the core. Further into a gas giant, where the gases become more liquid-like, native species swim instead of fly. In these worlds, weather patterns replace terrestrial geographic features for navigation. Some gas giant species are adept hunters, though others derive nutrition in unusual ways by humanoid standards, such as absorbing nutrients through physical contact with other organisms. An environment lacking ground provides less encouragement to build permanent settlements, and many gas giant species are nomadic, floating through the atmosphere unaided or in vehicles, although “rest stop” structures are often built by species who require them. Outside immigration is limited without artificial assistance, as non-native species lack the capabilities to survive in such an environment. Inhabitants of gas giants can be very insular as a result—or, conversely, extremely curious about other worlds, especially if their world hasn’t seen much outside exploration. Sometimes, permanent platform stations and bubble cities are built within a gas giant’s atmosphere to accommodate other species, providing excellent jumping-off points for those not native to these environments.
Some airborne biomes might have land, but that land is uninhabitable or dangerous—perhaps due to low-hanging smog, dangerous predators, or geological instability—that prompts the world’s prior ground-based inhabitants to move into the air. If these species don’t have natural flight, they likely rely on magic or technology to keep their settlements aloft. These civilizations face greater challenges with supplies than species of gas giants adapted to such environments, and engineering reliable sources of food and water is often paramount. Even large floating cities with terraformed farms might encourage citizens to avoid overpopulation since they can’t easily expand their territory. Some groups expand up rather than out, creating multitiered structures that ascend further into the sky.

Airborne Rules And Reference

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 49
Starfinder has many rules to aid in airborne adventures. Basic information on flying appears on page 259 of the Core Rulebook, with additional information about using the Acrobatics skill to fly on page 135. For dealing with cloud cover as well as stealth and detection in aerial terrain, see the Aerial Terrain section on page 396 of the Core Rulebook. The Weather section on pages 398–400 of the Core Rulebook details the wind conditions creatures might need to fly through and other weather they might encounter, while the rules on falling from pages 400–401 describe what happens to those who fail to stay aloft. Of course, creatures need to have a way to fly to begin with! Those without natural flight can make use of magic, such as flight (Core Rulebook 355), or technological methods of flying, such as jump jets for short hops or jetpacks for true flight (Core Rulebook 205). For specific settings to run airborne adventures or for inspiration in creating your own airborne worlds, check out the Aeries of Laubu Mesa on Castrovel (Pact Worlds 33), the strix-inhabited tower of Qidel on Verces (Pact Worlds 65), and the hovering citadels of Meruchia and Nusova on Triaxus (Pact Worlds 105). As for gas giants, the worlds of Liavara and Bretheda (Pact Worlds 108–126) showcase a multitude of settlements.

Airborne Toolbox

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 50
See Biome Subsections on page 46 for advice on how to use the following tables.

Airborne Inhabitants

1–4AnaciteAerial devil
5–8AstriapiAir wysp
9–12Azata, tritidairAshypsozoan
17–20ContemplativeCloud ray
21–24Dessamar, imagoDinosaur, pterosaur
25–28Dragon, horacalcumElectrovore
29–32Dragon, silverElemental, greater air
33–36DragonkinElemental, lightning
45–48Genie, djinniIrokiroi
49–52Genie, janniMucilaginous cloud
53–56Dragon, greenMuotta
61–64Haeshi-shaaPsychic abomination
65–68KiirintaQuantum slime
69–72LucandrianRadiation drake
89–92Planar scion, sylphSky fisher
93–96SpathinaeSwarm antecursor
97–100StrixSwarm xersk

Airborne Adventure Hooks

D%Adventure Hook
1 An enormous floating city traverses the sky, miles above the ground. However, the ancient magic (or perhaps experimental, unstable technology) powering the city’s flight mysteriously begins to fail, and thousands of lives rest upon fixing or replacing it.
2 New research has discovered valuable gases in a formerly ignored gas giant, but further investigation reveals several newly discovered species reliant on the planet’s delicate ecosystem. Mining corporations and Xenowardens clash over the planet’s stewardship, each contracting outside help to aid their efforts.
3 Heavy, low-lying pollution makes the ground uninhabitable for all but the most fearsome predators, while sky pirates prey on the air currents many traders use to transport their goods. A desperate merchants’ association calls for assistance in driving off the raiders.
4 A small faction of Dreamers, psychic diviners who are typically oblivious to their surroundings, have begun attacking people according to some yet-unknown pattern. Is something wrong with these individual Dreamers, or have they foreseen a terrible portent?
5 A violent storm has waylaid a flying caravan of nomadic traders, destroying crucial supplies. Far from any settlement, the nomads must work together and take any help they can get just to survive.
6 A powerful djinni makes it known that their domain, an aerial city, is under attack by mysterious, shadowy winged creatures. The djinni asks for help protecting the city, promising rich rewards to those who do.
7 A massive, empty airship floats adrift in the sky, with none claiming ownership or even knowledge of its origin. Exploration of the ship reveals neither crew nor passengers aboard, nor any sign of a disturbance—save for faint, omnipresent whispers that fracture the sanity of all who hear them.
8 A child implores passersby to rescue their kidnapped sibling, who was supposedly taken by a dragon to a flying castle lair. Upon investigation, though, it turns out the “kidnapping” was anything but.
9 A gas giant’s atmospheric gases are slowly turning toxic to its native species. The inhabitants and any who would help them must determine how to reverse the process—or evacuate the planet—before it’s too late.
10 Adventurers and racers from Near Space and beyond are invited to enter a multiday marathon air chariot race held by a confederation of sky-towns, but a series of accidents among the participants hints of a saboteur on the loose.
11 The PCs’ airship is blown off course in a storm, landing amidst a floating jungle landscape dotted with ruins. To escape, they must find a way to repair their ship, but disturbing nightmares indicate they aren’t alone here.
12 Several gas-refining platforms high in the atmosphere have suffered mysterious accidents lately, and neutral parties are being asked to investigate. But is it simple corporate sabotage or a conspiracy that stretches far beyond a few mining outposts?
13 A mysterious floating island suddenly appears in the sky, shrouded in mist. Rumors abound that the island holds a great treasure, but thus far, no one who has gone to investigate has returned.
14 The nervous inhabitants of a small flying city used to resupply airborne travelers are on edge. An unusually large group of sharpwings hunts the town’s streets at night, and the aerial predators seem to prey specifically on the city’s newest visitors.
15 A war has erupted between several factions of dragons, each competing for influence or resources. Locals and visitors alike have been pulled into the fray, and nearby dragonkin see daring adventurers to serve as their riders.
16 A town made of floating, boardwalk-connected buildings experiences strange incidents in which people are seen walking right off the boardwalk edges... only to reappear in town hours later, eerily calm and claiming no memory of their actions.
17 A massive, multicolored cloud bank that defies natural laws inexorably advances across the sky, totally enveloping everything in its path. Thus far, all parties sent to investigate its source haven’t returned.
18 The tether to the agricultural district of a city of linked floating platforms has snapped, sending the district adrift miles away from the rest of the city. The city’s inhabitants desperately need to reclaim their lost food supply.
19 A prestigious flight school is recruiting intrepid pilots willing to risk flying into a dangerous permanent storm, intending to train the would-be heroes to investigate the storm’s potentially magical source.
20 The discovery of a portal to a landless demiplane leads to first contact with a civilization of humanoids living in airborne buildings. The inhabitants don’t know their home is a demiplane and believe visitors are harbingers of an ancient prophecy.