Cybernetics and Augmentations
A common trope of many science fiction stories is the ability of characters to be able to improve themselves with science, often in the form of cybernetic enhancements. In the Starfinder Core Rulebook, these kinds of augmentations fall into a few broad categories—cybernetics, biotech, and personal upgrades. Cybernetics and biotech are handled using roughly the same rules, while personal upgrades have their own system.
Personal upgrades represent any system—be it technological, magical, or a hybrid of the two—that increases a character’s ability scores. Personal upgrades are useful, but not crucial to most character concepts because of how ability score generation and level-based increases are handled. In Starfinder, when a character reaches 5th level, and every 5 levels thereafter, the character increases 4 ability scores of the player’s choice. Also if the ability score is a 16 or lower, it increases by +2, while scores of 17 or more increase by +1. This makes it easy for characters to shore up ability scores that turn out to be too low to produce the effect desired in mid-level and high-level play, without forcing a player to decide between improving a key ability score and improving weak ones.
As a result, personal upgrades are kept very simple. Over the course of a character’s career, beginning around 3rd level or so, they can buy one personal upgrade that grants a +2 to one ability score, one that grants a +4, and one that grants a +6. It doesn’t matter if these are mystic ability crystals, technological synaptic enhancers, or some hybrid system, each character can successfully use only three of them, each at a different level of ability boost.
Cybernetics and biotech work differently, as they come in a wide range of item levels, and can be as simple as gaining a fully function prosthetic limb to replace a lost body part, or as complex as installing a dragon gland that gives you a breath weapon attack. Other forms of augmentation, such as necrografts, are mentioned as existing in the Core Rulebook but don’t have full descriptions there. (Hint: keep your eyes on the Adventure Path!) Here’s an example of a cybernetic augmentation:
CARDIAC ACCELERATOR – SYSTEM: HEART
Price 3,850 credits Level 6
This implant plugs directly into your heart and can be triggered to overclock the performance of your heart and circulatory system. When you run, charge, or take a move action to move, you can spend 1 Resolve Point to increase your speed (in the relevant mode of movement) by 20 feet for that action. This extra movement is treated as an enhancement bonus.
Alternatively, you can spend 1 Resolve Point as a reaction when you attempt a Reflex saving throw to gain a +1 enhancement bonus to your roll.
Each augmentation has a system it replaces or modifies, such as an arm, the throat, or your skin. You can’t have more than one augmentation applied to the same system—once you add a dragon gland, you can’t also get a vocal modulator installed, as they’re both throat system augmentations. The price listed for each augmentation includes the cost of having it professionally installed, which normally takes about an hour per level of the augmentation. While a minimum level of skill is required to do this, there’s no check involved—adding augmentations has become a routine outpatient procedure in the universe of Starfinder, with no significant risks of failure or complication. You can also have old augmentations removed or replaced with new options, though since all augmentations are custom built for their specific user, there’s no market for used augmentations.
Once implanted, augmentations work just like your natural limbs and organs—a cybernetic arm is no more vulnerable to specific attacks or effects than your natural arm. Adding augmentations is essentially a character design choice: they can be useful, but no character concept requires them in order to be effective.