Archives of Nethys

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Infinite Worlds


Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 56
Many may not see the appeal of a climate locked in perpetual winter, but when the howling gusts settle, these frigid realms hold their own stark beauty, from the sharp scent of the cold and the soft silence of a gentle snowfall to the glitter of light on the ice under waxing moons.
As distant sunlight slants over the horizon on long summer days, or an aurora’s first prismatic hues splash across the skies, even those who can’t bear the cold may forget their discomfort momentarily. On stranger worlds, varied atmospheric gases may contribute to a rainbow of colors across the sky, within the frigid seas, and or even imbued in the snow itself.
Adventurers exploring such mesmerizing, uninhabitable areas may trek across crystalline frozen seas, pilot small crafts through ice floes in frigid waters, climb stark cliffs of ice and rock, or lower each other down ominous, turquoise crevasses in search of lost secrets or new scientific discoveries. Though they may experience periods of solitude, adventurers will find the arctic is far from empty, encountering a variety of cold-weather creatures, secret bandit hideouts on drifting bergs, and thriving settlements.
If adventurers hail from other biomes, the arctic may seem monotonous at first glance: ice and more ice. But even these frozen realms have abundant opportunities for rich biodiversity, and an endless variety of forces can shape an alien arctic region. Is the ice actually frozen water, or is it made of something else entirely? How might especially distant suns or multiple moons change the periods of darkness and light? How long are the seasons, and how does the landscape transform from one to the next? An arctic zone could consist of a vast landmass surrounded by fluctuating sea ice, or it might have little land at all, instead comprised mostly of frigid water and dark, crashing seas dotted with immense icebergs. Towering snowy peaks, rocky remote islands, blue-green ice caves, and inexorably advancing glaciers provide ample domain for a wide variety of life.
Tundra typically has shallow scrub vegetation, if any, due to limited growing seasons and impenetrable permafrost, but on alien worlds, icy flora and fungi might adapt enough to flourish and grow tall. In such a frozen science-fantasy setting, massive bioluminescent mushrooms or thin, icy trees stand stark against the sky, providing faint light and brittle shelter—or masking unknown dangers. Even if ice isn’t a fertile landscape for flora, plenty of animal life exists in cold climes, from smaller amphibious birds and mammals to imposing predators, both on land and sea. Consider the impact a cold, stark climate might have on life-forms, as well as the ways they could shape their territory in return. In a land where high caloric intake, hibernation, and occasional migration are essential for survival, what creatures might have evolved to roam the cold, dark expanse of an alien arctic region?
As for sentient inhabitants, those not adapted to or prepared for the realities of cold weather and limited light won’t last long in these regions. The long, dark winters and impossibly short growing seasons (if tundra suitable for agriculture exists at all) necessitate innovations for sustenance, whether inhabitants rely on hunting and gathering or manage to cultivate sheltered crops and livestock through greenhouses and heated enclosures. Some worlds may have mineral exports from ocean or permafrost mining that enable arctic residents to rely on agricultural imports. Salvaged wrecks or mining operations can provide the metal components to construct cities on land or thick ice—or large icebreaker ships could become permanent sailing shelters for small communities, miniature nations in their own right. Less nomadic groups may turn to icy caves for natural shelter, as lumber is unlikely to be an option for construction. Larger communities might build sprawling domed settlements on (or in) a glacier where magic or innovative technologies provide light and heat that enables them to thrive, constructing sparkling towers of never-melting ice visible across the tundra for miles.
Cultures that form around periods of weather-necessitated isolation or near-hibernation may be famous for the art and music they create while sequestered from the elements, or the scientific advances they make in icy labs and observatories. Reclusive arctic cities may be home to renowned observatories, theaters, or esteemed flight schools; elite pilots looking to test their skills against strong winds and slippery landings need look no further. With large predators and extreme weather, arctic regions are not considered particularly inviting or hospitable places for some sentient species, but hardy folk have found ways to adapt and thrive even in the bleakest environments.

Arctic Adventurers

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 56
Though the exact makeup of various arctic regions may vary from one planet to another, all arctic zones are characterized by their biting cold and limited light, and adventurers hailing from arctic regions often adapt well to the vast, cold darkness of space travel. Though a prominent aspect of arctic adventurers’ backgrounds, wilderness survival is not the exclusive focus for those raised in frigid climates. Scientists, engineers, architects, miners, and artists are also common, as well as merchants who handle essential imports and exports. Mercenaries and smugglers find plenty to keep themselves busy, and soldiers, bounty hunters, and outlaws may find a foothold on the tundra.

Arctic Worlds

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 57
Arctic biomes can form on any planet with a region that spends enough time distant from a sun, but planets with large enough orbits can be entirely arctic in nature. Some planets, like Triaxus in the Pact Worlds, might not be permanently arctic worlds, but experience winters so long that they remain arctic for centuries before the glaciers recede at summer’s return. In addition to natural causes, there might be plenty of reasons a planet remains locked in ice—a deity’s will, a planetary shield or forcefield that blocks light, a poisoned sun, or other mysterious interferences.
A single-biome world won’t necessarily be uniform: an arctic planet may have incredibly cold polar regions with permanent ice that yields to mountainous tundra closer to the equator. Such planets commonly feature multicolored night skies over inexorable glaciers that shape and alter the landscape as they advance and recede, with oceans beneath that host formidable icebergs and unknown denizens of the frigid depths. Some arctic worlds might be entirely marine, with any settlements anchored to shifting sheets of ice adrift in the sea. Water may not even be the prime component of an arctic planet; perhaps the ecosystem instead consists of frigid, heavy gases or frozen chemical compounds in a variety of colors. Some arctic worlds might be completely inimical to life, but if the planet is hospitable, flora and fauna—and indeed, any sapient residents—must adapt to lengthy periods of darkness, harsh winds, and minimal precipitation.

Arctic Rules And Reference

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 57
The Starfinder Core Rulebook has numerous applicable rules to help guide adventures in arctic realms. The desert terrain section on page 397 is a good place to start, as the lack of precipitation on the tundra qualifies it as an extremely cold desert. Cold dangers are discussed on page 400, followed by the mechanics for navigating icy terrain. Heavy winds, another common occurrence on the tundra, are covered starting on page 399. You can also find information on various atmospheres on pages 395–396, in case your arctic world’s atmosphere is less hospitable.
Characters exploring frozen environments may run the risk of falling through thin ice; you can refer to the rules for falling into water on page 401. Pages 404–405 cover drowning and underwater combat if adventurers explore any arctic seas (accidentally or by choice). In this vein, the aquatic terrain section on pages 396–397 might also be useful.
Living mounts are common in arctic biomes; the fleecy, eight-legged wollipeds are a hardy steed in cold regions. These domesticated herd animals are a common choice for a companion or steed (Starfinder Alien Archive 3 146–147). Further information on creature companions can be found in Alien Archive 3 on pages 138–147.

Arctic Toolbox

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 58
See Biome Subsections on page 46 for advice on how to use the following tables.

Arctic Inhabitants

13–16Dragon, siccatiteBloodbrother
17–20Dragon, silverDeh-nolo
21–24Dragon, whiteDiaspora wyrm
25–28DragonkinDinosaur, plesiosaur
29–32EspraksaElemental, water
33–36GhostFlayer leech
41–44KaloGlass serpent
45–48KothamaGremlin, hobkins
53–56MaraquoiHerd animal, aquatic
57–60Moon GiantKyokor
61–64MorlamawMarooned one
69–72RyphorianPredator, arctic
73–76SarcesianScavenger slime
85–88Uplifted bearStormghost

Arctic Adventure Hooks

D20Adventure Hook
1 An entire region’s temperature is dropping rapidly with no obvious explanation. As their world freezes over, several groups hoping to protect their settlements and interests seek assistance uncovering the cause of this mysterious change.
2 A shady offworld corporation drilling into the planet’s permafrost has awakened something ancient and terrible. Trying to keep their blunder quiet, they surreptitiously recruit teams to handle the threat.
3 A dangerous, arctic-adapted prisoner has escaped while in transit and is now hiding in the ice and snow. Rumors suggest that the prisoner has information about a criminal organization, and that law enforcement aren’t the only ones seeking to recapture them.
4 An alien starship is discovered buried deep in the ice, its crash dated far before any similar technology appeared in the system. Does the wreck hold advanced alien technology? Or will its secrets perhaps rewrite the world’s entire history?
5 A group of devoted solarians make a pilgrimage to an arctic zone during summer to observe and celebrate the long hours of daylight. A journalist covering the expedition discovers that it may have another grimmer purpose—then disappears.
6 A new strain of purple lichen is spreading on the ice where nothing should be able to grow. Might this phenomenon lead to agricultural advances, or is the mysterious growth cause for concern?
7 Local bandits are harassing a mining operation on the planet’s largest ice shelf. The miners claim they’re collecting mundane resources, but the bandits accuse them of a far more nefarious purpose, leading both groups to seek support.
8 The singing poet whales who swim between ice shelves in the arctic seas have always drawn admirers and researchers, but recently their songs have changed. Is this some kind of message— or warning? Who is it for?
9 The PCs are invited to an aurora festival in a remote tundra, but while perusing the vibrant midnight markets, they overhear a group of thieves planning to steal a priceless work of art from the PCs’ host.
10 A newly active subglacial volcano has turned a previously frozen and impassible stretch of arctic wastes into a giant lake, connecting two communities that had been entirely cut off from each other. What opportunities and challenges arise from this new contact?
11 A vlakan research expedition discovers a fallen meteor encased in ice with bizarre properties that disrupt nearby technology and magic. What’s causing the anomalies—and will the thaw release something deadly?
12 Skyfire Legion protectors of an arctic settlement have stopped communicating with their team, and the ryphorian and dragonkin pilot team sent to investigate has also disappeared without a trace. What secrets menace this region?
13 A sparkling glacial palace boasts an ancient, expansive library. When a new cavern is discovered that may contain lost secrets of the Gap, numerous groups angle to gain access and decipher the information first.
14 Crevasses have been opening in the ice with alarming and unnatural frequency, and scientists project that the next crevasse will open underneath their research station. What’s causing these rifts to appear, and can they be stopped in time?
15 An extinct volcano now covered in rime is rumored to hold a dragon’s vast treasure, and several groups of adventurers and bandits are vying to be the first to find the lair—and avoid its guardian.
16 Xenoarchaeologists have discovered alien ruins under the ice while working to cultivate a more hospitable settlement zone. Do the ruins they’ve uncovered hold the answers to the previous inhabitants’ disappearance, and what might this mean for future settlers?
17 A technomancer scholar from the Preita Institute of Technology disappears after winning a corporate contract, and executives suspect that an isolated, storm-wracked city is involved. They’re looking for a team to brave the ursikka-infested ice fields surrounding the city and investigate within.
18 A strange new aurora has begun to fill the upper reaches of the skies and seems to cause unbalancing effects on resident creatures, including the sapient population. Tensions are rising as new cults emerge daily with conflicting ideas about what the phenomenon means.
19 A pack of frost squoxes has become so aggressive that a university student research group had to hole up on an iceberg for safety. The young scientists hope their rescuers can help them determine what’s causing the squoxes’ ferocity.
20 A ruling council of mystics is looking for a covert party to investigate disturbances among local sentient ice caves, which are central to their cultural traditions. What could be upsetting the delicate balance in this magical and wintry ecosystem? Is it the work of a subversive element?