Review – Galactic Magic (Starfinder)

If you looked at the title, you might be forgiven for thinking that Starfinder Galactic Magic was just a big compendium of spells. And don’t get me wrong, it’s got over a 100 new spells spread across ~35 pages. But it’s got way more than that, from the expected (a new base class and new options for all of the existing base classes) to the not-as expected (a lot of additional information on faith and deities in Starfinder). Starfinder supplements are always welcome and enjoyable, but I ended up liking Galactic Magic a lot more than I had expected to.

New Class – Precog

When a new class drops it’s always the first thing on most players’ minds, so I’ll kick things off with the precog. Note that the precog is much more than a precognitive. They are chronomancers more broadly, able to affect the flow of time, travel in time, or mess with the multiverse (oddly, not the first Starfinder class to play in that thematic space). Precogs have decent hit points, decent attack rolls, lots of skills, and basic armor/weapon proficiencies (plus one of their choice; I’m guessing longarms will be the most common). Their ability focus is split between Dexterity (for their “paradox” abilities) and Intelligence (for their spellcasting).

A “paradox” is a d20. When the precog gains a paradox (typically at the start of the day) they roll a d20. The precog can then use the that paradox result instead of rolling a die on a check that day. At first this is limited to a small number of roll types that can be replaced, but by 5th level it can replace pretty much anything. At even higher levels they can spend their paradox for other effects. There’s a lot more going on with the class than paradoxes, but I think they’re the most important to the feel of the class. It’s the most mechanically distinctive thing and it most directly plays into being precognitive – the character has seen what is to come and already knows what that attack roll is going to be.

At character creation and as they level up, precogs have multiple sets of options. They learn new spells from a broad array of options, including some damage dealing (but not a ton of variety) and stamina restoration (but not hit point restoration). At creation they choose a thematic “anchor” that gains more abilities at higher levels. At first level, the anchor identifies a type of die roll; the character’s first use of paradox for that check is effectively free. Later abilities are not standardized. For example, the “The Gap” anchor gets help with Will saves, later makes it harder to spy on the character, and finally lets the character remove themself from others’ memories. Other anchor options include chronomancy, dimension of time, doomed future, fragmented past, and timewarped. Precogs also learn “temporal anomalies” off of a list every few levels (20+ total to choose from). For example, at 2nd level the precog might choose “future training” to gain additional proficiencies, or “advanced preparation” to be able to spend paradox to “create” a consumable item (you totally knew you were going to need that thing).

Galactic Magic also includes a precog archetype and precog class graft.

Other New Character Options

Of course, every other class gets to have some fun as well, often in the form of alternate class features.

  • The Biohacker gets a new alternate class feature, two new fields of study, and a page of new theorems. The headliner here is the Ley Line Hacker alternate class feature, which replaces all of the basic boosters and inhibitors with the ability to create grenades that can impede movement, manipulate cover, nauseate, or enhance damage.
  • The Envoy gets more improvisations and talents but the headliner is, again, alternate class features – psychic expertise and spell speaker. The psychic had their expertise abilities significantly reduced, but can communicate telepathically and gains blindsense. The spell speaker can talk to magic and coax it to behave in certain ways, which in mechanical terms means applying metamagic feats to allies’ spells.
  • The Mechanic gets, you guessed it, an alternate class feature (and also some magic-themed tricks). The experimental apparatus (which replaces the mechanic’s AI) is a blend of magic and technology that allows the mechanic to incorporate greater and greater quantities of magic/hybrid/magitech that allow the mechanic to exceed the usual quantity of magic worn/held (the apparatus allows switching between the incorporated items, not using them all at once).
  • The Mystic breaks the streak, filling most of their allotted pages with three new connections (arcane and first world). The arcane connection has some nice anti-magic features, with access to dispel magic and eventually gaining spell resistance, although it takes a while before the connection gets access to those.
  • The Nanocyte, like the mechanic, gets an alternate class feature with an eldritch bent, gaining a limited number of spell slots.
  • The Operative is out to deal more damage. They forgo their trick attack (and debilitating attack) to become a magical assassin, imbue their weapon with magical properties, and possibly deal extra dice based on level. Or they can power up their trick attack (losing debilitating attack) to deal more damage every time, and possibly steal magical energy to further power up later attacks. On top of that there’s a memory-altering specialization and a few exploits.
  • The Solarian can break their cycle and focus exclusively on photon or graviton mode. Or they can give up hit points and attack bonuses to become a stellar sage, gaining more skill points, more stellar revelations, and more flexibility in using their revelations. That’s two highly impactful alternate class features in two thirds of a pages, leaving the rest for more stellar revelations.
  • The Soldier content focuses on new fighting styles – the spellbrawler and archer. I want to crack a joke about how the archer style just makes you Hawkeye, but they’re both about using archaic weaponry, because the spellbrawler conjures an analog weapon. I want the spellbrawler to feel more cool, but the spell part doesn’t start kicking in until 5th level, and even then requires multiple resolve points to activate.
  • The Technomancer can trade their spell cache/cache capacitor in for an immortal tutor – an aeon, celestial, elemental, fiend, inevitable, or protean. The tutor provides a free, variable-level spell and spell slot to cast it at first level, at sixth level grants a feature for a few rounds whenever the character casts a non-cantrip spell, and a couple more abilities later on. For example, a celestial tutor shows the technomancer how to summon creatures and at sixth level grants DR/evil. There are also more cache hacks (which relate to an alternate class feature from the Character Operations Manual).
  • The Vanguard can engage in mutual destruction, trading in their armor class bonus for the ability to reroll damage dice, rolling a bigger die for their entropic strike but taking damage in return, trading in the ability to reduce incoming damage for the ability to just smack a creature with entropy. And that doesn’t even include the capstone ability. It’s a pretty accurately named alternate class feature. Vanguards also pick up the apocalypse and rebound aspects, plus some disciplines.
  • The Witchwarper can avoid the multiverse and take an infinity lash instead, powering the weapon up by expending spell slots. The projected is a nifty concept, a character from another reality. The projected takes advantage of their incompatibility with this reality, flickering out of existence to avoid getting hit or altering their size. Also there are a half dozen paradigm shifts.

In addition to those class-specific options, any spellcaster can go old school by taking a school specialist archetype focusing on abjuration, conjuration, divination, enchantment, evocation, illusion, necromancy, or transmutation. For every school they add to the characters spell slots and spells known, but then each school has its own special abilities. Good old evocation, for example, extends the range of its spells (or affect an additional square, for area affect spells) as its first school-specific ability.

Spells and Magic Variants

It’s easy to focus on piles of new spells, but personally I find the magical variants here more interesting. One I really like is scaling 0-level spells, which amps up cantrip damage at higher levels so it isn’t obsoleted by just using a decent gun. Another variant that I am less enamored of is prepared spellcasting. I know, I know, it’s the classic wizard thing, and wizards should always be all like that … but I’m pretty much always glad to not have to keep track of a spellbook. But, even though I’m not rushing off to build a Vancian Starfinder spellcaster, I think it’s really cool that there’s an option for it.

Galactic Magic also includes rules for ritual magic, and introduces enough rituals to make it take up more space than the rest of the variants section put together. Rituals, which take a lot of time but no innate spellcasting ability, require multiple participants and can do things like communicate or teleport over long distances, conduct surveillance, or resurrect the dead.

And, yes, there are ~35 pages of new spells, so there’s very much something for everyone. Some themes include sonic spells and magical mitigation (including a flat-out counterspell).

Faiths and Deities

Faith and divinity was an integral part of fantasy roleplaying from the beginning (hello, cleric class). As I’ve written about at greater length before, I like deities and faith as a quick, in-theme way to distinguish and say something about a character and what motivates them. But that isn’t usually an element of science fiction. Starfinder, with it’s science-fantasy schtick, has many of the same deities and in theory they’re part of the world, but they tend to play a much more background role (Triune enables travel, Abadar sells you stuff, etc.). Even mystics, the closest class in theme to a cleric, are often played without any particular religious connection (although they all have, of course, a mechanical connection) – there is no such thing as ‘divine’ magic these days. So I was very happy to see a whole section of Galactic Magic devoted to deities, faiths, and their role in world.

Galactic Magic presents some broader thoughts on the role of faith and faith-based organizations, and a specific discussion about characters of faith, how that faith can motivate the character, shape their backstory, and generate conflict. But it also presents more content on particular deities – another page of material on each of the deities introduced in the core book, a half-page each on another set of new-to-Starfinder deities (although this unsurprisingly includes many longstanding Pathfinder deities), and shorter write-ups on ancestral deities (poor Calistria, reduced to a quarter page), the Mythos gods (like good old Cthulhu), the Eldest (the First World demigods), and outsider deities (like the empyreal lord known as the Black Butterfly). The deities with full-page write-ups get illustrations, which I always like, but the other deities do not.

In addition to those longer write-ups, the core 20 deities also get an optional mechanical effect of replacing your theme knowledge with your deities’ theme knowledge. These write-ups also include things like favored weapons, but that only has a mechanical effect if the character has the Divine Weapon feat, and other elements remain background information. Textual elements of the write-ups focus on worshippers, sacred sites, and resources. There’s a lot crammed into that space, from AbadarCorp convenience stores as shrines to how the Pharasmin stance on undead causes conflicts with the inclusion of Eox in the Pact Worlds.

Shorter write-ups are handed out to Pathfinder mainstays like Asmodeus, Cayden Cailean, and Lamashtu. Other entries include Cavrabon (god of, among other things, food), Kadrical (from the Shattered Stars AP), Angradd (once the dwarven forge god; now forced to be the dwarf god since all of the others have gone missing along with Golarion), and Isvith (the minotaur-like mistress of the maze).

In addition to the deities, there are also philosophical/spiritual organizations that are addressed, again with lengths varying from a quarter-page to a full page. The longest discussions go to the Cycle (a kasathan philosopy), the Parallel Truths (again with the multiverse), Singularitism (a belief that all life will become technological and interconnected), and the Song of Silence (who believe that this life is but a trial run for one’s true undeath). But players will also find Pathfinder holdovers like the Green Faith and the Prophecies of Kalistrade, as well as the obsessive Gap Recollective (which some players may be members of).

Other Stuff

The most noteworthy remaining content is Galactic Magic is a rumination on the role of magic in the galaxy. How, if at all, does the practice of magic spread and change? Is magic a universal force like the familiar ones from the standard model of physics (electromagnetism, gravity, the nuclear forces), and if so what would a Grand Unified Theory (GUT) look like? What is the significance of how technology can accomplish things that seem impossible with magic (like entering the Drift)? Who needs a wand when they have a blaster rifle? Why bother learning magic anyway? In a galaxy where magic can be heavily regulated or even forbidden, what organizations exist to support magic users? And, because no one can just get along, what magical factions are there are simultaneously advance their cause and squabble with each other?

But you can’t have a Starfinder book without any new gear, and Galactic Magic doesn’t buck that. Unsurprisingly, it’s all magic – 18 pages of hybrid items, magic items, fusions, artifacts. I enjoyed the diadem of Desna (probably my favorite Pathfinder/Starfinder deity), which bursts forth a wave of starlight and butterfly wings when you’re subject to an attack of opportunity, granting concealment. I’m also amused by the hood ornament of hovering, which turns your normal car into a hover car.

Final Thoughts

There’s a lot to like about Galactic Magic. The new base class always gets the spotlight, and I think players will enjoy getting to figure out the right moment to use the precog’s paradox dice. The new character options are highly impactful as well, as they tend to focus on alternate class features that often significantly impact how the class plays, in addition to the usual new options that are cool but not game-changing. And, of course, in a book called Galactic Magic there are a pile of new spells, especially ones that relate to sonics or to manipulating magic. But my personal favorite part is that we get a more extended discussion of deities and faiths in Starfinder. Not only is that an element of characters I like playing around with, but I’m quite fond of much of the Pathfinder deities so I get a kick out of seeing these evolved versions of them. (I would happily by an entire book on the subject.)

Promotional consideration was provided in the form of a review copy. Strange Assembly may earn commissions from affiliate links in this article.


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