Brand Manager Jaime Lawrence speaks with Robert McCreary, Creative Director on Paizo's Starfinder RPG and author of more Pathfinder books than you can shake a Solarian at!
1) Can you tell us a bit about the role of a Creative Director and how you got into it?
As Creative Director, my role is to basically oversee and guide the development of every Starfinder RPG product, ensuring that they all follow a consistent vision across the brand and support the kind of stories we want to tell. On a day-to-day basis, this includes things like discussing rules, setting, and story elements with the rest of the Starfinder team, concepting and outlining new products, working with freelancers and our licensing partners, developing text, and much more!
As for how I got here, I’ve been at Paizo for almost nine years. As Senior Developer, I primarily worked on the Pathfinder Adventure Path. When we started working on Starfinder, I was brought on as Creative Lead for the Starfinder Core Rulebook and to launch the first Starfinder Adventure Path, Dead Suns. From there, I moved to Creative Director for the Starfinder brand.
2) The Starfinder core rulebook is both beautiful and dripping with theme, character and possibility. How do you approach the task of creating something that is meant to inspire others to create their own stories?
Game designers and developers are gamers too, and the simple answer is that we create things that we think are cool and want to have in the game—in short, we hope that the things that inspire us as gamers will excite other gamers too. Starfinder enjoys a somewhat unique advantage as well—we have a lot of lore from the Pathfinder setting that we can draw on for inspiration and update for Starfinder, since the Starfinder setting is a possible future version of Pathfinder’s, but we also have an entire galaxy that we can fill with completely new ideas, creatures, and societies, so there’s room for both classic ideas and themes as well as fresh and exciting new rules and concepts!
3) Creating cohesion in a universe of space-lizard people, traditional fantasy races, undead diplomats and multi-gendered insects seems like a Herculean task - what are the core elements that unite the disparate parts of Starfinder?
There are probably three main concepts that help hold the pieces of Starfinder together: the Pact Worlds, the Gap, and the Drift. The Pact Worlds is the core setting of the game, a single solar system with a variety of planets and their inhabitants, who have signed an official treaty of mutual cooperation and defense. And while there’s a much larger galaxy beyond the Pact Worlds, they provide a stable base that incorporates lots of different alien races and ideas.
The Gap is a period of time where history is broken. It lasted until about three centuries ago; before that time, there are no extant memories or historical records anywhere in the universe. While the Gap serves as a clean break between Pathfinder and Starfinder and ensures that neither game’s stories overlap with each other, it also provides a mystery for the setting that everyone in the game shares.
Lastly, the Drift is Starfinder’s version of hyperspace. The Drift is another plane of existence that can only be accessed through technology, not magic. With few exceptions, this means that everybody in the setting utilizes the same technology for faster-than-light travel, and is linked together by that technology.
4) You've also worked on many Pathfinder supplements, including the Pirate-themed Skull and Shackles, the Arctic-themed Reign of Winter and my favourite, the Egyptian-themed Mummy's Mask. How challenging is it to weave the tropes of other genres into the existing Pathfinder-verse?
I find it more fun than challenging. Fortunately, both Pathfinder and Starfinder have very broad settings with room for many different ideas and cultures, so it’s not too hard to find a place for almost any themed story we want to tell. I have a degree in history and love bringing historical elements into games, so I especially enjoy the times I can blend history and gaming together.
5) Do you have any more designs on the way that you can tell us about?
We’ve just released Starfinder Pact Worlds, which is a book that greatly expands the core setting of the Starfinder game. It has a lot more detail on the individual planets of the Pact Worlds, plus new themes, starships, playable alien races, and a bunch more new rules.
In August, we’re releasing Starfinder Armory, a big book of armor, weapons, and equipment for Starfinder characters, as well as kicking off a new monthly Starfinder Adventure Path, Against the Aeon Throne. After that, stay tuned in the fall for Starfinder Alien Archive 2 and the Signal of Screams Adventure Path!
6) If people want to find out more about the games you've made and contributed to, where can they find you on the web?
The Starfinder message boards on paizo.com are a great place to see what’s happening with Starfinder and interact with other fans, as well as with myself and the members of the Starfinder design team.