Paizo's Starfinder system is heavily based on their long-running Pathfinder system (itself based on D&D 3.5). What rules are different between the two systems?

To clarify, this question does not cover changes to content (individual skills, classes, races, feats, etc). Changes to how those components work or are acquired are relevant. This question also does not cover new rules systems in Starfinder, such as spaceship construction and combat, as there are no equivalent Pathfinder rules to compare to.

I'm aware that some Pathfinder rule components have been renamed in Starfinder; these should only be included in answers if their functionality has also changed.

A detailed explanation of each difference isn't necessary; a quick bullet point along the lines of, "A full attack in PF is a number of attacks based on your BAB while in SF it's 2 attacks at -4," is sufficient.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm going to flag this as too broad because it would require a significant list. The changes when moving to Starfinder are vast, with just one (IE the changes to Attacks or Attacks of Opportunity, each) possibly being a valid question by itself. Paizo did keep many of the basic game structures and feat names, but it is definitely a new system. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 2:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Ifusaso You know which other question you should close? rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/1/… Alternately, if it is as you say it is, a useful answer is "There are too many changes to list", in which case, don't answer in the comments. \$\endgroup\$
    – Firebreak
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 2:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ That question was created 7 years ago (in fact, almost to the day...), and I can STILL see some omissions in the list, despite it being several pages long. \$\endgroup\$
    – YogoZuno
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 3:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ Good catch, voted... \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 5:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ We have a wide array of edition-comparison questions that have been successful, popular, and helpful. If you want to nix the concept wholesale, @Ifusaso, you really ought to be taking that to meta—where I suspect you’ll be shot down, on account of the questions being successful, popular, and helpful. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 14:16

2 Answers 2


The developers have previewed us with the major system differences on this blog article:

  • Hit Points, Stamina Points, and Resolve Points. In Starfinder, Hit Points measure the health and robustness of a character, while Stamina Points measure a character's readiness and energy (and can be replenished far more easily). Whenever you take damage, your Stamina Points are depleted before your Hit Points. In other words, you can soak up some hits without too much trouble, but once you start taking damage to your Hit Points, you're taking physical wounds that are much harder to heal quickly.

    Starfinder characters also get a third pool of points called Resolve Points, which represent grit and luck. You can spend Resolve Points to power (or enhance) some class features, or to help you stay in a fight longer. Resolve Points also determine whether or not you die if both your Stamina Points and Hit Points are reduced to zero.

    You can recover all of your Stamina Points by resting for 10 minutes and spending 1 Resolve Point; Resolve Points and some Hit Points are replenished after an 8-hour rest.

  • Armor Classes. Characters in Starfinder have two Armor Classes: Energy Armor Class (EAC) and Kinetic Armor Class (KAC). Attacks that deal energy damage (like the fire damage from your trusty red star plasma pistol) target EAC; attacks that deal kinetic damage (like the bludgeoning damage from a gravity well hammer) target KAC. Starfinder has no flat-footed or touch AC.

  • No Iterative Attacks. Starfinder characters normally get a single attack every round, and this holds true from level 1 to level 20—a character's number of attacks does not increase as their base attack bonus goes up. Instead, any character (even at first level!) can use a full action to make two attacks in a round, each at a -4 penalty.

  • Attacks of Opportunity. In Starfinder, only three things provoke attacks of opportunity: moving out of a threatened square, making a ranged attack, and casting a spell. That's it. No other actions provoke attacks of opportunity.

  • Magic is Magic. There is no distinction between types of magic in Starfinder, whether arcane, divine, psychic, or something else. Spellcasting classes like the mystic and technomancer have different spell lists, but are both harnessing the same latent magical energy that permeates the universe. In addition, spells in Starfinder have no components; all you need is the ability to cast a spell and concentration.

But there are way more changes in the system, some subtle, others not so much:

Character Creation

  • Point-buy. The points are now worth 1-to-1, meaning that the same point could raise an ability score from 10 to 11 and 15 to 16.

  • Traits. The system was replaced by the Themes, which are similar to D&D 5th edition Backgrounds, but give you an ability bonus at first level an knowledge-related ability specific to each theme, and bonus abilities at higher levels (at 6th, 12th and 18th levels). Themes can be used with every race and class combinations, and will never replace class features.

  • Archetypes. The idea for archetypes is that you can take archetypes with more than one class now, and depending on your class, the archetype will replace different abilities. There is only one archetype in the book, so we will have to wait to see how this plays out later on.

  • No classes grant 2 skill ranks per level anymore, they want skills to be more useful throughout the game.

  • Ability Scores gain a bonus every 5 levels now (down from 4). But the rule has changed, if the ability score is equal or bellow 16, you gain a +2 increase. If it's 17 or higher, it increases by +1. And you gain four increases on four different abilities of your choice.


  • Carrying Capacity. Tracking the weight of carried gear is no longer an issue, characters have a limit on what they can carry called Bulk, which is half your strength score, and each bulky item consumes a certain amount of bulk. A regular backpack increases your bulk as if your strenght was 1 point higher, and a military one increases it as if your strenght was 2 points higher. Though they cost 1 bulk, they don't cost any bulk when properly worn, only carried.

  • Critical Hits changed drastically on weapons. They only crit on a natural 20 (unless you have an ability saying otherwise, like soldiers), and they always deal double damage. But a lot of weapons have a special effect on a critical hit, such as causing the target to bleed, or cause extra fire damage, or even cause the staggered condition. A confirmation is no longer necessary for natural 20, but other results like a 19 on a 19-20 attack would require confirmation.


  • More skills are condensed into others. Like, Athletics now has rules for swimming and jumping, while Acrobatics has the rules for balance, tumbling, flying, and escape grapples and restraints. Handle Animal and Ride got condensed inside Survival, but there are no rules for tricks and training, you simply use the Diplomacy mechanics with animals using Survival.

  • Use Magic Device is gone, but scrolls and wands still technically exist, they are much less common now in a setting where anyone can buy a flamethrower and jetpacks.

  • Profession. The skill changed significantly, but the major change is that it now uses any of the three mental stats as base (int, wis or cha), and you get to pick which one if no example is provided.

  • Craft. It is much easier now to craft something you cannot find on shops, and takes much less time. You spend a certain amount of credit (equal to the market price of the item) and after a certain amount of time, based on the level of the item, it is done. Each item has a level, which decides the necessary ranks in the crafting skill you must have in order to create it. Selling anything crafted by yourself will result in 10% of the market value though. Crafting feats (magical or mundane) are nowhere to be found.

  • Diplomacy. The skill is still used for the same things, but the DC has changed significantly, it now works similarly to Intimidate, the DC is 10 + 1-1/2 the target CR (CR 4 creature is DC 16) or 10 + his total diplomacy (+5 diplomacy check results in DC 15). The skill clarifies that the target must have 3+ int, speak the same language and that it takes at least 1 minute of interaction. The initial attitude affects the DC (hostile +10, unfriendly +5, friendly -5).

  • Heal is now known as Medicine (for obvious reasons) and uses intelligence as base ability. The DC for long-term care is now 30 (down from 15, but a medpatch can grant +10 on this check and be used untrained) and still works pretty much the same, but if you exceed the DC by 10 points, they recover three times as many hit points and ability damage. The effects of Treat Deadly Wounds have changed, it takes 1 minute instead of 10 minutes, and now you can treat it twice per day if a medibay is used (up from once per day), and the DC is based on the equipment being used (25 for a medkit, 20 for an advanced medkit). There is a feat called Medical Expert that allows you to treat deadly wounds as a full round action using a medpatch.


  • 5-foot step is gone as we know it. We have an move action called Guarded Step, which allows you to move more carefully for 5 feet. If you gain bonus move actions, you could also use those actions to make extra Guarded Steps.

  • Conditions. While the game has the exact same conditions from Pathfinder, their effects have changed. The flat-footed condition, for instance, happens if you have not acted in combat yet and you simply take -2 to AC.

  • Haste and effects that would grant additional attacks simply means the penalties are reduced if you decide to make multiple attacks that round. Autofire weapons allow you to make a single attack roll and affect multiple creatures in an area if your result is enough to hit their AC, like an area spell (source).

  • Swift Actions. Changing your grip on your weapon and dropping prone are now swift actions, and you only got one swift action per round, but you can downgrade a move action to a swift action. Reactions (known previously as Immediate Actions) and Swift Actions are completely separated from each other.

  • Reactions happen after the action that triggered them, unless they are a defensive reaction (like Total Defense), then it happens before the trigger. This is a new type of action to cover several situations. Attacks of opportunity are now Reactions and still happen before the action that triggered them.

  • Precise Shot. The -4 penalty for firing with allies within 10 feet of your target is gone, along with the feat that removes said penalty. The aiming systems of all weaponry are simply superior.

  • Combat Maneuvers are all Standard Actions, even sunder, trip or disarm. And you can pin a target that you attempt to grapple and exceed his kinetic AC by 13 points. CMB and CMB are gone, and each maneuver must be checked against the target's kinetic AC plus 8. Feats are no longer necessary as no maneuver causes attacks of opportunity.

  • Difficult Terrain and Hampered Movement. If your character's movement is doubled twice, then each square moved counts as 4 squares (6 on diagonals). If it is doubled three times, then each square counts as 8 squares (12 on diagonals).


  • Areas and spell terms are now separated from the magic chapter, including descriptors and rules commonly used by spells, such as Charm, Concentration, Instantaneous, Line of Sight, Cone areas, etc

  • Concentration checks are gone (source). But some spells still require concentrating on their effects.

  • Prepared spells are nowhere to be seen, both casters presented in the book are spontaneous casters (spells knows and spells per day mechanics).

  • Spell levels, spells are condensed between 1 and 6 spell levels, certain spells that are 9th level spells in pathfinder are 6th level spells in starfinder.

  • Touch spells mostly do not allow attacks of opportunity against you. There are other spells with this exception, but each individual spell calls this out.


While it would be too much to write out an exhaustive, complete listing of every rules difference, there was an official document released that highlights the most important changes when going from Pathfinder to Starfinder, which you can find linked in a Paizo blog post titled Starfinder Cheat Sheet.

While Starfinder has a ton of differences from Pathfinder, both glaring and subtle, one of the things we shot for in the design was making sure that if you know how to play Pathfinder, it's a fairly easy switch over to Starfinder. Toward that end, Starfinder Design Lead Owen K.C. Stephens, Organized Play Lead Developer John Compton, and Starfinder Society Developer Thurston Hillman have teamed up to craft this handy one-page "cheat sheet" to help you jump straight into the action. While these notes on key rules and differences between the two games is by no means exhaustive, and no substitute for actually reading the Core Rulebook, it should provide some helpful reminders and make it easier for your gaming group to dive in and start adventuring right away.

The reference document itself goes on to describe key changes, including:

  • New combat actions including covering fire and harrying fire
  • Removal of the "5-foot-step" action and addition of the "guarded step" action
  • Dropping prone is and changing hands on a weapon is now a swift action
  • A full attack is a basic action all characters can take to make two attacks at -4 with any weapon or combination of weapons
  • You no longer roll to confirm crits; if the result of the nat 20 would be a hit normally then you confirm
  • AC is now broken into Kinetic (KAC) and Energy (EAC)
  • Flat-footed is now a condition rather than an AC category
  • Health is now broken into three separate resources: Stamina Points, Hit Points, and Resolve Points; these are all used different and recover differently

This is only a sample. The document goes into more detail on most of the changes I've listed and lists more. Still, the document doesn't cover everything, and to get a full understanding of all changes the Starfinder CRB must be read.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Just a clarification, there are confirmation for criticals that are not a natural 20. Some abilities will increase your critical thread range (to 19-20 for instance), and a natural 19 will require a confirmation (page 501). \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 19:17

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