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Dead Suns officially only runs from levels 1-12, according to the campaign outline in Part 1. However, the setting information near the back of each chapter gives a wealth of settings, plot hooks, and even characters to work with. With that in mind, I'm working on expanding the Adventure Path to run from level 1 all the way to level 20. First, I'll lay out my experience point roadmap. (I personally don't use exp when I run campaigns, but it's nice to gauge how many encounters to have at each level.)
Each chapter starts and ends assuming the PC's are a given level, and includes enough encounters of the starting CR so that the PC's will reach the starting level for the next chapter right at the end of the previous chapter. (Fun fact: This same math works in Pathfinder using the Fast exp track, since Starfinder uses the same exp amounts for levels and CR as Pathfinder!)
Chapter 1: Levels 1-4. 25 CR 1 encounters per PC.
Chapter 2: Levels 5-7. 15 CR 5 encounters per PC.
Chapter 3: Levels 8-10. 15 CR 8 encounters per PC.
Chapter 4: Levels 11-13. 15 CR 11 encounters per PC.
Chapter 5: Levels 14-16. 15 CR 14 encounters per PC.
Chapter 6: Levels 17-20. 15 CR 17 encounters per PC.
Assuming a team of 4 PC's, that's 100 encounters in Chapter 1 and 60 encounters in every chapter afterwards. (Using the lower CR's as a benchmark allows me to mix and match encounters more easily, and I don't have to worry as much about NPC's grouping up or calling for reinforcements, since the PC's can handle more of them without becoming overwhelmed.)
In addition, I can mostly follow the chapter's parts, simply placing encounters so the PC's gain roughly one level per part. (Chapter 1 needs an entire part added to it, but otherwise the structure is fine.)
So, my fellow GM's/worldbuilders/writers: What would you add to the Dead Suns AP to expand it? And how would you restructure what's already here? And the other challenge: Since the PC's baseline level will be far higher in each chapter, how would you boost the CR of existing encounters to compensate? I've already made a few basic notes myself, but I'm curious to hear what others think about it.
(Also, I've marked this thread as spoilers, not for any specific event, but because discussing each chapter would require talking about the specifics of characters/events/locations.)
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Hmm, very nice. I have a feeling that may run a bit "chunky" on the combat. I may just be inexperienced as a GM in that, but I had been planning on increasing story as opposed to just upping encounters.
Sorry, got distracted with the reason you don't start in the starport. Anyway, while you are waiting for your teammate, kreel starts explaining the society to you, and, then there are some "fixers" that start showing up, making hell for the society, and, while they aren't obviously trying to kill him, these fixers are aiming to take him down. I built him as an envoy. anyway, the main reason I originally added this: I wanted some real drama when he dies in the space port, so they actually had ties and really want revenge at that point. He dies right after they feel like theyre now in the clear, the hitmen/gangsters/fixers seem to be cleaned up but they don't find out that those fixers were puppets by the gangs to lure everyone out into the open to bring on the main initial combat where he dies. The other reason was: I wanted some vehicle chase scenes because it looked like a fun mechanic I didn't see in the main story much if at all.
The other main thing I wanted to do was chain the Aeon throne adventure path into the end of dead suns so, as soon as the PCs feel they can take a break, that whole series starts up in full swing and that brings everything to level 20 at the end. (yes, I know, I would have to scale up the enemies in that series by a large margin as it is made for level 1 characters at start.)
Anyway, that was some of my main ideas for increasing character levels.
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I have a feeling that may run a bit "chunky" on the combat.
Sorry, I forgot to mention: Not all of the CR's need to be combat. Don't be afraid to make some of those story rewards, or even other rewards, depending on your PC's. I'm just lumping them all together right now for ease of presentation.
As for Chapter 1, Part 1:
Nice, you also thought of having Duravor Kreel actually get a chance to do something before the shootout! My plan is to have Kreel meet the PC's at the Lorespire Complex, take them on a quick tour of the place, then head to the docking bays with the PC's to meet a returning Starfinder team, and have the shootout happen then.
Also, I won't have Kreel instantly die, and instead resolve the attacks/damage/dying as normal. I don't like using GM-fiat to kill NPC's, especially if there's no real plot reason to do so. Even if Kreel lives, the fact that he was targeted should be enough to warrant an investigation. Plus, he can help provide some leads on the Hardscrabble Collective, especially if the PC's went out of their way to save his life during the fight. (Story-reason, he's returning the favor. Gameplay-reason, it's a bonus reward for the PCs' helping him while fighting off the gangs.)
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Okay, after some reworking, I now have 4 basic rules for my overall AP design:
1) For this entire AP, I am assuming 20% Story Exp; this is exp given purely for goals completed and/or clues found, and is not associated with any CR or encounter. This isn't to say that all encounters must be combat ones; if the PC's overcome the encounter through other means (stealth/bribing/befriending/bypassing altogether), they still get exp.
2) In general, the PC's gain 1 level per part of each chapter. This means that there's enough exp in Chapter 1, Part 1 to take a party of 4 PC's up to level 2, and so on.
3) The baseline "CR unit" for each chapter is the CR equal to the lowest level the PC's are expected to be that chapter. That's CR 1/5/8/11/14/17 for Chapters 1/2/3/4/5/6.
4) Many lower-CR encounters are better than a few higher-CR encounters. I know that the AP has the opposite design philosophy (I'm looking at you, Chapter 3!), but in my opinion, splitting up the exp into more lower-CR encounters has a major benefit: Moving encounters. Instead of forcing each encounter to stay in its room, groups of creatures (especially intelligent ones) can have patrols, or just wander between rooms from time to time, and if they join an existing fight, the PC's are less likely to get overwhelmed. As always, as GM, you need to keep an eye on this, and not simply throw every monster in the building at the PC's at once. However, you don't need to simply have each encounter sit in its room, regardless of what's happening in the room over, simply because having them join the fight would make an already challenging encounter absurdly difficult.
If this is too rigid or formal for you, then I'm sorry, but I need some kind of framework to handle this.
I've already worked out how to modify or move the encounters for the first 4 chapters, but now I need some help filling in the blanks (or gaping holes, in most cases). I'll post my notes for one chapter at a time, so the posts aren't overwhelming. Let me know what you think, or what suggestions you have!
As for format: I'll first go over how I'd move around the existing encounters between parts, and then go through part by part with my notes and suggestions.
With all that said, let's get started!
Chapter 1: Incident at Absalom Station
CR 1 Base, 4 Parts
Existing Content: Part 1 can stay, it just needs some expanding. I'd combine Parts 2 and 3 together into the new Part 4. Also, although I don't like moving between chapters, I'd move the ship fight from the beginning of Chapter 2 to the end of Chapter 1. That way, Chapter 1 can end back at Absalom Station, giving the PC's a more natural downtime between chapters.
Overall: Expand Part 1 a little, create Parts 2 and 3 from scratch, make a few tweaks to the new Part 4. My plan is to have parts 1/2/3/4 be investigation/dungeon/investigation/dungeon, just for some changes of pace. Parts 2 and 3 are a great opportunity to show more of Absalom Station.
Part 1 (12 CR 1's)
First off, add exp for the rest of the initial gang fight. Even with the rest of the part, it's still 2.5 CR 1's short. I'd add in another two pairs of gangsters/scavengers and one lone one, either to one of the two existing gangs or as part of another group the PC's investigate. Maybe they look for leads in the bar called Drifter's End, or in Olensa?
Part 2 (16 CR 1's)
This is the first of several gaping holes: After moving the original Part 2 to Part 4, I don't have anything here. Just for variety, how about a dungeon? Maybe the PC's investigate an Armada flotilla that went mysteriously dark (Astral Extractions sabotage, or an extremist splinter of the Hardscrabble Collective?). Or, maybe they head into Botscrap, or Downlow, dealing with hostile scavengers and/or a monster infestation? (Putting some space goblins there may give some story connections to the foolhardy group that the PC's run into in Part 4.)
Part 3 (20 CR 1's)
Another blank slate. I'm thinking more investigation in another section of Absalom Station. Maybe some leads point to a theater in Kemanis, or talking to investigators at the Eyeswide Agency?
Part 4 (32 CR 1's)
Interestingly, simply combining the original Parts 2 and 3 results in almost all the exp you need here. My only tweaks would be to add one more space goblin (because what's one more?) and to make Hebiza CR 4 instead of 3 (again, if the PC's simply agree to her proposed plan, this just means more exp for them). Plus, since the PC's are probably level 4 before they even board the Acreon, this is where the main benefit of running with many low-CR encounters kicks in: The akatas don't have to stay in their rooms. For level 4 PC's, two akatas are a regular encounter, so you have a larger margin of error. The akatas are deaf, so the sounds of combat wouldn't reach them, but they still may check the halls from time to time. Maybe one or two of them sense the goblins hiding in the crew quarters, so when the PC's arrive, they see two akatas trying to break through the door. The only other major change is, at the end of the chapter, have the Iron Rictus attack happen at the end of this chapter, so that Chapter 1 can end with the PC's on Absalom Station, dealing with the impact of what they've found, rather than ending the chapter with them still on the Drift Rock. (Either that, or move the Iron Rictus attack to when they undock to head to Castrovel. Either way, I'm including the exp in this part.)
That's all I have for Chapter 1! What do you think?
Halonut: Yeah, I can see how it would remind you of the Star Forge! (Mild spoilers for Chapter 4, but that's not the last time this adventure path will remind me of KOTOR 1.) That being said, the Star Forge's main threat was its ability to create entire armies and armadas, while this superweapon just destroys suns themselves. Still a major threat, but in a different way.
So, anyone have any ideas of what to add into Chapter 1? I'm debating bumping the Story Exp up to 50%, so I only need 8/10/12/20 encounters for Parts 1/2/3/4 in each chapter. Would that work, or would each chapter be too sparse on encounters?
One easy addition to Chapter 1 would be to integrate The Commencement SFS scenario (or something very similar) -- run some of their membership into the Starfinder Society, instead of just assuming they immediately head offworld. Better still, the information that the PCs need to get for the Dataphiles...is evidence of impropriety on Astral Extractions' part, so instead of just Chiskisk waving them off as not being able to do anything about the company, they at least get to hit back against them, even if they can't necessarily prove that the company paid to have Kreel assassinated.