The Drift was exposed to mortals by the post-Gap deity Triune in 3 AG. This dimension cannot be accessed except through Drift engine technology associated with Triune, which gifted the technology to sentient races.124
The Drift is treated as a Transitive Plane and technically coterminous with the Material Plane: each point on one corresponds to a point on the other, but due to the Drift's mutability, two points an inch apart in the Drift might be light years apart on the Material. Objects' positions in the Drift is inconsistent: two objects next to each other one moment might be miles apart the next without any apparent movement. However, this rarely happens to people or equipment, something generally attributed to Triune's oversight.5
Travel through the Drift removes pieces and inhabitants from other planes, including Heaven and Hell, and adds them to the Drift. Trips that cover more distance in reality tear a greater amount of matter from another plane, ranging from a stone to entire asteroids. These pieces, including any creatures and items present, retain their original properties and alignment traits, becoming miniature versions of their planes floating in the Drift. Due to the mind-blowing size of the planes, the chance of an intelligent creature being negatively affected by someone else travelling through the Drift is infinitesimal. As soon as anything is removed from a planar bubble, it immediately loses its former planar traits. Some scholars speculate that over time, the bubbles break down and are 'digested' by the Drift', but this process is inexplicably random if true.1256
Sections from different planes interact in the Drift (even if they would never do so elsewhere), resulting in phenomena never recorded even in the most unstable parts of the Great Beyond. Starship captains can never predict which pockets their ship might pass near or through, so Drift travel is never taken lightly.5
In some pockets of the Drift, known as doldrums, technology ceases to function. Ships that enter doldrums with conventional thrusters usually have enough momentum to push themselves out, but no surviving crew has been consistent in estimating elapsed time. Luckier crew can still survive on the oxygen left over from their defunct life support systems, while unlucky ones have suffocated before their ship blinks back and continues to drift aimlessly. It is difficult to measure or count the size, location and number of the doldrums, but there have been enough reports that many starship manufacturers are including distress beacons with mechanical timers that can be manually launched from disabled ships.5
Unlike conventional astrogation, which allows for many different routes between two points, Drift navigation requires precisely targeted jumps that become more difficult over longer distances.
Locating a specific place in the Drift is exceptionally difficult, without the aid of magic items, divine fiat or 'beacon codes' provided by the church of Triune, as is the case with Alluvion, Triune's home and the Drift's de facto capital, whose access requires divine coordinates granted by the church.5
Drift beacons scattered across the galaxy allow for easier targeting of Drift jumps.7 These beacons serve as navigational buoys and are placed by priests of Triune or are spontaneously generated. The most prominent, and least understood, of these beacons is the Starstone at the center of Absalom Station; its extraordinary power allows Drift-capable ships to use it for fast transit from Drift-accessible locations to the hub.8
Drift travel typically takes an amount of time proportional to the distance traveled, though that time is far less than it would take through conventional slower-than-light propulsion methods. Using the Drift to travel within a solar system takes less than a week and as little as a day, while travel to Near Space can take up to 3 weeks, and travel to the Vast can take up to a month. Due to the Drift's mutability, travel through the same two points might take different amounts of time even for the same ship, and ships cannot exit the Drift into the Material Plane directly into a solid object nor at the same point as another ship. For this reason, fortifying and controlling specific jump points in the Drift are impossible, and guarding a planet from invasion would require one to cover the entire space around the world.85
When ships wish to arrive at the same place and time, they can couple their Drift engines to each other, counting as one ship for the purpose of travel time and destination. Only the slowest Drift engine in the group could be used by this method, although some militaries have devised jumpships that could circumvent this restriction and quickly and coherently move entire armadas.5
The sole exception is Absalom Station. Thanks to its Starstone, travel from any Drift-accessible point to Absalom Station takes as little as a day and no more than a week.8
There are no confirmed successful intergalactic transits using the Drift, and the reasons for any failed attempts are unknown. Theories suggest travel times might be too great to manage, or that the Drift's reach is limited, or that the dangers of such an extended expedition through the Drift are too great.8
The Drift has its own ecosystem with an infinite variety of native creatures. Xenobiologists commonly debate whether these creatures are Triune's creations or came about from mingling between planar and technological forces, and determining a species' origin is difficult since the Drift constantly absorbs chunks of other planes and their inhabitants into itself.9
- Charlie Hall. (November 17, 2016). Starfinder hopes to do for space opera what D&D has done for fantasy, Polygon.
- Matt Miller. (December 9, 2016). Top of the Table: The Starfinder Interview, Page 2, Game Informer.
- Taking20 and James L. Sutter. (December 13, 2016). Paizo's James Sutter talks Starfinder - The Drift, Space Combat & Mechs??, Taking20 YouTube channel.
- Taking20 and James L. Sutter. (December 13, 2016). Paizo's James Sutter talks Starfinder - The Drift, Space Combat & Mechs?? (13:50), Taking20 YouTube channel.
- Joe Pasini. (2018). The Drift and Alluvion. The Ruined Clouds, p. 47–48. Paizo Inc. ISBN 978-1-60125-995-0
- Taking20 and James L. Sutter. (December 13, 2016). Paizo's James Sutter talks Starfinder - The Drift, Space Combat & Mechs?? (14:50), Taking20 YouTube channel.
- Taking20 and James L. Sutter. (December 13, 2016). Paizo's James Sutter talks Starfinder - The Drift, Space Combat & Mechs?? (14:30), Taking20 YouTube channel.
- Ryan Hiller. (May 24, 2017). The Drift: GeekDad Exclusive Look at ‘Starfinder.’ Watch Your Mouth, Kid, or You’ll Find Yourself Floating Home!, GeekDad.
- Paizo staff. (2019). Alien Archive 3, p. 25. Paizo Inc. ISBN 978-1-64078-149-8