Placements (Graphic Design/Layout)
Alien Archive 2, the second creature sourcebook for Paizo’s Starfinder universe, is out and on the shelves. This 160-page (hardcover or .PDF) guide contains more than 100 new beasts and brutes for your Starfinder game. In summary, this sourcebook really feels like it fills in some of the content gaps that Alien Archive (the original) was missing. Additionally, this sourcebook really develops some niche areas of the universe and greatly expands the variety of living (and un…living?) things that players might encounter. Having poured through this new-release, I can begin by reporting that I have very few complaints. Of course, I have my criticisms – the repetitive feel of some of the humanoid races – however, overall this is a thorough and expansive sourcebook that is worth its weight to any game master. Also, this sourcebook holds value for players, as it includes 16 new playable races – a slight drop in number from the original Alien Archive, but nothing unexpected from a comparatively similar equal-in-length sequel of sorts.
One genre of creature that is really explored is the “animal” family. From the clever squox to the perceptive Uplifted Bear (or “Bear, Uplifted” as listed) to dinosaurs and dragons, this book provides a wealth of new creatures to diversify your games’ worlds. The 15-pound, five-fingered squox is a cross between a squirrel and a fox and is among the most intelligent animal creatures in the Pact Worlds. Alien Archive 2 provides rules and insights into implementing these critters into your campaign as either domesticated companions or wild encounters, covering costs, stats, and traits.
Uplifted bears also get a strong mention. This playable creature comes complete with stats, traits, and abilities. These Large, magical non-sapient beasts have modified bodies and are among the most common of the uplifted animals. They are intelligent and strong, exhibiting offensive abilities such as Ferocious Charge. Although they are capable of wielding an assortment of hand-held weapons, uplifted bears also possess natural weapons, making them formidable foes or valuable allies in any situation.
Also included, is a discussion on herd animals. Although seemingly unremarkable at first glance, there is a trove of potential here. Alien Archive 2 provides stats based on size and also gives direction for creating your own herd animals to be adapted for use in a large variety of adventures. These creatures can be companions, pack animals, transportation, wild, or domestic farm animals. This creature type will undoubtedly become a GM world-building staple.
The undead. Wow, there’s a lot. And, if you’re like me, that is a good thing. I have always been a big fan of the Necrovite (found in the original Alien Archive). Alien Archive 2 adds a number of new, exciting undead beings for players to encounter. Everything from the classic ghoul (Starfinder version, of course) to the eerie emotivores, Alien Archive 2 greatly expands upon the existing undead universe. One truly unique undead being is the shape-shifting emotivore. This creature is known to select its appearance based on the feelings it receives from potential victim, opting to chose a form that evokes a passionate response. Another undead being is the corpsefolk. These free-willed and intelligent undead remember most of their past lives. They generally were turned by powerful magic and make up a large swath of the population of Eox.
Alien Archive 2 contains a little bit of everything for players and GMs with a wide variety of interests. The Polymorph ruleset on pages 145 and 146 have really made a splash. These spells allow the caster to change a willing target’s shape into a predetermined polymorphed form of her choice. For the classic RPG fans, orcs have made an appearance. Although, in the illustrations, they have shed their traditional green hue. There is even a shout-out for the H.P. Lovecraft groupies, the infamous colour out of space – a Huge incorporeal ooze composed of a “malevolent hue that defies classification and eludes identification by most sensors.”
This book is well-written, pooling from a collection of contributing authors. The large illustrations bring the reader up-close-and-personal with each creature on the page. It is also important to note that this book shipped out in a well-packaged box, complete with corner protectors. Is it better than the original Alien Archive? That is a difficult question to answer. And, given the diversity of content found in Alien Archive 2, a seemingly irrelevant question. Is it an affordable ($39.99), cohesive, and expansive second creature sourcebook worth purchasing? Absolutely.