There's a chill in the atmosphere, a hint of pumpkin spice in the air recyclers, and fallen leaves are littering the floor of the hydroponics bay. Yes, October is here, and so is the Starfinder Alien Archive! Over the next few weeks, we'll be previewing some of what can be found in this newest offering for the Starfinder RPG, starting with some goodies for Game Masters!
The Alien Archive is chock full of strange alien creatures and fearsome extrasolar monsters to populate your Starfinder games, but when your players discover an uncharted world deep in the Vast, you'll want to create your weird own native life-forms to inhabit it. Fortunately, the Alien Archive has you covered!
First off, in Starfinder, all nonplayer characters (NPCs as well as monsters) are built using different rules from those used to create player characters. Since most monsters are needed for just one encounter, this system allows GMs to quickly and easily create NPCs and monsters without having to go through the entire process of building a player character. So how does it work?
The central components of monster creation in Starfinder are arrays and grafts. Every monster derives the majority of its statistics from one of three arrays, which define the monster's primary role: combatant, expert, or spellcaster. Unsurprisingly, combatants are those who excel in combat, experts are more skill-focused, and spellcasters primarily use spells or other magic. The numbers from a monster's array are not set in stone, but they give you a baseline that can be modified by grafts, special abilities, or your own preferences.
After you've chosen an array for your monster, you add grafts to it, which adjust the monster's various stats and add additional abilities. There are grafts for creature types and subtypes, as well as a graft for each character class. Generally speaking, an NPC or monster will only use a creature type graft or a class graft, not both, depending on the monster's focus. Template grafts are another option that transform a creature in some way. For example, you might create a new alien using the combatant array and the monstrous humanoid creature type graft, then turn it into a shambling, technological undead horror by adding the cybernetic zombie template graft.
Once you have these basics in place, you can start giving your monster special abilities. The monster's array and its CR determine how many special abilities it has. If a monster has a class graft, that class determines most, if not all, of its special abilities, but for non-classed monsters, you can add your own abilities or choose abilities from the list of Universal Creature Rules—those special abilities that appear in the stat blocks of the various creatures in the Alien Archive.
By this point, you're mostly done. Choose your monster's skills and determine a few other statistics like initiative, speed, and languages. If your monster has spells, you'll need to determine which spells it can cast, and you might need to outfit your monster with some armor, weapons, and other gear, but you should have all the statistics you need to use the monster in play.
In addition to dozens of fully detailed creatures, Starfinder Alien Archive provides GMs with tons of options to build and customize NPCs and monsters for Starfinder. Check out the full rules and keep your eyes on the blog for more Alien Archive previews!
Robert G. McCreary
Creative Director, Starfinder