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I have just started playing Starfinder, and I am thinking of making an Xenophile character who only knows what common knowledge there is to aliens and refuses to do further research since she believes she cannot truly know aliens without actually meeting them.

How much does someone that is a member of the general public (e.g. a human on Absalom Station) know about aliens in the Starfinder universe?

Is it to the level of knowing that there are creatures out there that are not human without knowing any specifics? Or are there lessons at high schools regarding alien culture and how to interact with them, or are there even exchange programs for alien students with each student getting a non-human?

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3 Answers 3

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You know enough

Knowledge checks to recall basic and easy information has a DC of 5, which means that most characters can pass on those checks by Taking 10. Even if you are untrained on those knowledge skills, you can make a check if the DC is 10 or lower.

You can attempt untrained skill checks to recall knowledge if the DC is 10 or less.

Among the topics you can recall information, we have a good variety of things that can help you character when you meet another race for the first time:

  • Culture: A culture’s customs, laws, government, leaders, prominent inhabitants, legends, religion, history, and related topics
  • Life Science: BioEngineering, biology, botany, ecology, genetics, xenobiology, zoology, and other fields of biological science
  • Mysticism: Alchemical theory, arcane symbols, deities, magic traditions, the planes, religious traditions and symbols, and related topics;
  • Physical Science: Astronomy, chemistry, climatology, geography, geology, hyperspace, meteorology, oceanography, physics, and other fields of natural science;
  • Profession: A specific profession and related topics.

The GM, however, has the final say on what should be considered an easy question and what isn't. But you should know everything that is considered common to know about that topic, just like in real life we know certain things from certain countries even though we never actually studied them.

For instance, ever if you never studied the Vesk, you probably know they are militaristic and reptile-like creatures, or that the Shireens are intelligent insect-like creatures that can communicate telepathically. Or even that they are all part of the Pact Worlds are usually safe to have a conversation without risk to your own safety.

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Aliens are common on Absolom Station.

From the Pact Worlds book, p40-41:

Absalom Station is a melting pot. Though many see the station as the hereditary home of all Golarion’s races, particularly of humanity, today its corridors are choked with natives of many planets, and its status as the primary waypoint in and out of the Pact Worlds means even the rarest spacefaring species can sometimes be found in its docks. ...

Even more than race, economic class divides Absalom Station’s citizens. Taxes on trade keep even the poorest on the station fed—if only with unappetizing nutrient paste and protein bricks—yet the people living in the posh corporate towers of the Eye have little in common with the impoverished wretches of the Spike. Money both democratizes and oppresses station residents: those who manage to build a fortune, legally or otherwise, tend to find the upper classes welcoming them with open arms, yet true wealth tends to remain concentrated in the hands of the elites who make the rules. ...

In addition to its own government, Absalom Station also hosts the Pact Worlds’ representative body, the Pact Council, meaning that the station is constantly flooded with ambassadors and delegates from other worlds.

Unless your character comes from one the more xenophobic humano-centric groups on Absolom Station, your character is likely to know a variety of non-humans personally from their day-to-day life; humans from other socio-economic levels would be more "alien" to you than non-humans.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I like this answer and am upvoting it, but DC for knowledge checks would still vary based on commonality/likelihood of exposure. Just because there probably are skittermanders on Absalom Station, for instance, doesn't mean odds are good a PC has encountered one. And even if the PC did not encounter one, they still might know about the race from second hand sources considering the race's role in the Veskarium, a former enemy and recent ally of the Pact Worlds. \$\endgroup\$
    – ruffdove
    Aug 13, 2020 at 23:45
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This really depends on the alien.

A human native of Absalom Station will be able to make Life Science and Culture rolls about the physical characteristics and cultures of aliens, and if they have access to an infosphere (such as the one that exists on Absalom Station and can be accessed by your comm unit), they can take 20 on these rolls--though using the infosphere probably qualifies as "research" and would be shunned by this character.

So it comes down to knowledge rolls and that comes down to DC. The GM is not going to assign the same DC for Knowledge rolls for every alien. An Absalom Station native human rolling a knowledge check for Lashuntas, Shirrens, or Ysoki would face a relatively low DC for that knowledge roll since those aliens are common in the Pact World system and on Absalom Station. It would be like asking a 5th Generation American in Brooklyn about Russians. There is a Russian ethnic enclave in Brooklyn, so there's a decent chance that the 5th Generation American would know a few things.

If the alien comes from farther afield, the DC goes up. Pahtras or Skittermanders for instance come from the home system of the Veskarium. The Veskarium was at war with the Pact Worlds for over 200 years and then has been allied with them and trading with them for a few decades. There's a reasonable chance an Absalom Station native would know a thing or two about Pahtras or Skittermanders, and may have even encountered one... but the DC would be higher because the odds of exposure would be lower. Of course there are members of these races on Absalom Station, but your character's odds of having experience with them would be less than for aliens making up whole percentage points of the station population: Ysoki (9% of the Station's population), shirren (5%), or kasatha (4%). This would be like your Brooklyn native's chances of knowing something about the Japanese shortly after World War II. Probably not many Japanese folks in his neighborhood, but world events would have made it likely he knows something.

Then if you're talking about aliens with very little contact with the Pact Worlds (very few or none actually on the station), like the Kish from the Dead Suns adventure path, the DC would go up very high since there's very little chance an average Absalom Station native would have been exposed to those aliens. It would be like asking your Brooklyn native about some barely-contacted tribe in the Amazon Basin. In cases like these the culture or life science check would encompass deductions that your character could make based on experience with different but similar cultures or lifeforms.

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