Dead suns too easy? (8 players)


Dead Suns


Hey all.

I've been GMing a game for 8 players, and although the beginning was a little rough around the edges (killed 1 player so far), since they became lvl 4 they have been cruising through every encounters easily, even when I manually upgrade the encounters based on Alien Archive arrays.

We are at book 2, and they just blasted through a CR7 Ksarik in 2 turns like it was nothing using Supercharged and pewpews.

I understand that 8 players gives them a massive advantage when fighting singular monsters (even upgraded for a better challenge), but I didn't want to just double the amount of creatures in every encounters, because it would still be incredibly easy for them (I mean, most of the encounters deal 1d6+8 or so damage at best, which is laughable when you have an Envoy and a Mystic healing everything easily.)

Their next encounter is at the Stargazer, I'm not sure what to do. I want them to have a challenge, and it's not fun for me if they plow through everything like it's nothing.


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For 8 players? The trick is going to be more monsters, and more liberal use of AoE abilities. Something to get the players doing things besides shooting a target down every round.

Boosting a single monster's cr to match that size i find makes a fight more likely to be frustrating as players will be missing more than they might handle.


SirShua wrote:

For 8 players? The trick is going to be more monsters, and more liberal use of AoE abilities. Something to get the players doing things besides shooting a target down every round.

Boosting a single monster's cr to match that size i find makes a fight more likely to be frustrating as players will be missing more than they might handle.

Well I actually only boosted their KAC and EAC by 1 CR to prevent those situations, but I upgraded its HP by 1 CR above to compensate being hit more.

But they deal so much damage in a turn with 2 techno casting supercharged that it's pretty much irrelevant. 2 Monsters instead would change nothing to that (I still want to keep the lvling up to par with the story, although I'm starting to think if it's such a good idea since I have to balance every encounter anyway.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

If you up the number of creatures in encounters it will make a big difference on the challenge level. Action economy is a powerful tool for GMs and it forces players to think more about how they handle combats. Sure they could nuke one enemy down in a round, but then the other enemy at full health gets essentially a free round of attacking, buffing, or to call even more reinforcements. If the players spread their damage they might end the fight quicker but they're more likely to use up extra resources. I know it doesn't seem like it makes much of a difference but it's much more effective than number boosting.

The other way to make things more difficult is to lean towards a more Tucker's Kobolds approach. Don't use the tactics in the book, make your creatures smart and mean. Have them set up traps and hit them with guerrilla attacks that chip away at your party's health and resources. Make things chaotic and don't allow the party too much breathing room.

Sovereign Court

Also a CR7 for a group of level 8s is super easy. It should be an easy encounter for 4-6 level 8s.


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So obviously we have adventures built for 4 players, and you have 8. This causes many issues, including encounter balance, loot, ship combat etc.

Getting the balance right is always going to be tricky. If you just bump around the existing encounter, it's a little hit or miss. One might be too easy, one too hard, and one spot on. If you redesign them all from scratch, ok that could work but it's a lot of work and still some guessing. How smart the players are also factors in a LOT. Massing fire can really help.

My primary suggestion (which you may or may not have done already) is first and foremost: Own it. Make sure every player realizes that they're not what the module expects. You've made adjustments, but sometimes you're going to be wrong. They should give you feedback. You should give them feedback. If it's too easy, that's not fun. If it's too hard, everyone should be prepared to back up a round, or suspend disbelief when an asteroid falls out of space and kills a monster. The goal for all of you is to have fun. If that means a few "adjustments" on the fly during combat, and everyone's ok with that for the sake of fun, then do it. But it's really important that everyone knows. Sometimes people feel "cheated" when the DM fudges things around, but if everyone knows you're doing your best to solve a tricky problem, it helps a lot.

(This also depends a lot on your group's tolerance for body counts)


Luke Spencer wrote:

If you up the number of creatures in encounters it will make a big difference on the challenge level. Action economy is a powerful tool for GMs and it forces players to think more about how they handle combats. Sure they could nuke one enemy down in a round, but then the other enemy at full health gets essentially a free round of attacking, buffing, or to call even more reinforcements. If the players spread their damage they might end the fight quicker but they're more likely to use up extra resources. I know it doesn't seem like it makes much of a difference but it's much more effective than number boosting.

The other way to make things more difficult is to lean towards a more Tucker's Kobolds approach. Don't use the tactics in the book, make your creatures smart and mean. Have them set up traps and hit them with guerrilla attacks that chip away at your party's health and resources. Make things chaotic and don't allow the party too much breathing room.

I have to be careful about increasing the number of ennemies since it leads to something very deadly: Boredom. Having to manage 8 players+creatures leaves you very little time to actually play your characters, and in some games it lead to cellphone browsing (which I absolutely hate), which is why I can't just double the number of enemies every time.

I like the Tucker's Kobolds, but I am still very new to Starfinder so my knowledge and options are still blurry on making the most out of every characters I have.

Wingblaze wrote:

So obviously we have adventures built for 4 players, and you have 8. This causes many issues, including encounter balance, loot, ship combat etc.

Getting the balance right is always going to be tricky. If you just bump around the existing encounter, it's a little hit or miss. One might be too easy, one too hard, and one spot on. If you redesign them all from scratch, ok that could work but it's a lot of work and still some guessing. How smart the players are also factors in a LOT. Massing fire can really help.

My primary suggestion (which you may or may not have done already) is first and foremost: Own it. Make sure every player realizes that they're not what the module expects. You've made adjustments, but sometimes you're going to be wrong. They should give you feedback. You should give them feedback. If it's too easy, that's not fun. If it's too hard, everyone should be prepared to back up a round, or suspend disbelief when an asteroid falls out of space and kills a monster. The goal for all of you is to have fun. If that means a few "adjustments" on the fly during combat, and everyone's ok with that for the sake of fun, then do it. But it's really important that everyone knows. Sometimes people feel "cheated" when the DM fudges things around, but if everyone knows you're doing your best to solve a tricky problem, it helps a lot.

(This also depends a lot on your group's tolerance for body counts)

We are a "If I die, I die" kind of group, so there's no problems on that point. It also helps the new guys to cycle through different playstyles and learn from their mistakes. They know me, I'm a Dark Souls kind of GM, and they expect to die every time, which is all good as long as everyone is happy. Playing the Dead Suns AP is pretty soft compared to what I usually do, and my players are aware of that. Its also fine, because we have 4 completely new players to the tabletop genre.

But GMing for 8 players is hard. Any regular NPC in the AP is a complete wimp, and doubling the number hasn't done anything but prolong fights.


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Ellias Aubec wrote:
Also a CR7 for a group of level 8s is super easy. It should be an easy encounter for 4-6 level 8s.

Sure, but he's got 8 players at level 4.

As for the problem at hand, other than adding more monsters (which, admittedly, is a little boring), or having the monsters fight smarter (which can be difficult), all I can suggest is add a complication to the battle, like tremors or falling debris or the like that gives a negative to hit. Giving the monster an extra special ability/attack could work, too. As in, maybe it's a mutant/special variety of whatever. (Think back to Clara-247 from part 1, and her Precise Shot ability.)


Maybe give your big solo encounters/the boss dude in other encounters something like the mythic initiative from pathfinder?

It goes twice, once at it's normal init, and again at -20 from it's normal? It's like having two monsters, but simpler to deal with.


Garretmander wrote:

Maybe give your big solo encounters/the boss dude in other encounters something like the mythic initiative from pathfinder?

It goes twice, once at it's normal init, and again at -20 from it's normal? It's like having two monsters, but simpler to deal with.

Yeah, it would make sense. I did think about giving it more actions but multiple turns per round would be great actually. I'll just need to be fair and not bash on the same player twice in a row.

It wouldn't fix the "blow it up with Supercharged out the ass" but it would give me manoeuverability around the field to place my creature in cover or behind soft covers.


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

I would actually expect that with a group that large, they will keep steamrolling pretty easily, if you don't bash the same player twice in a row. Because none of them will go down, and the monster will still be taking fire from 8 PCs.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I have a party of similar size (7 players) and I am running them through the exact same campaign right now. I can tell you from experience it doesn't get easier. I regularly do both options most people are suggesting. I increase the number of combatants and advance the CR of encounters to compensate and they still usually do quite well. Its very difficult to balance.

My group was level 3 when they hit the last boss of book one and despite increasing him to a CR7 the group mopped up the encounter disappointingly easy. In retrospect It would have been far better to throw in a few void zombies and only advanced him to a CR 6 or so as it would have divided the groups attention and given it a few more rounds to harass them.

In short if you want you challenge them your going to have to custom create each and every encounter. Add NPCs, upgrade single boss mobs and throw in mooks to boot. Single Boss NPCs are never going to be to much of a challenge to a group that large unless you up their CR dangerously high.


Vexies wrote:

I have a party of similar size (7 players) and I am running them through the exact same campaign right now. I can tell you from experience it doesn't get easier. I regularly do both options most people are suggesting. I increase the number of combatants and advance the CR of encounters to compensate and they still usually do quite well. Its very difficult to balance.

My group was level 3 when they hit the last boss of book one and despite increasing him to a CR7 the group mopped up the encounter disappointingly easy. In retrospect It would have been far better to throw in a few void zombies and only advanced him to a CR 6 or so as it would have divided the groups attention and given it a few more rounds to harass them.

In short if you want you challenge them your going to have to custom create each and every encounter. Add NPCs, upgrade single boss mobs and throw in mooks to boot. Single Boss NPCs are never going to be to much of a challenge to a group that large unless you up their CR dangerously high.

Yeah, they usually have more problems when tackling multiple enemies with 1 boss. I did add a bunch of Void Zombies with the Garraggakal and I was able to down one of them until they got lucky and crit him twice in a row (Didn't even get to drain life :D ).

The encounter that I killed a player was the Wraith+Void Zombies (I just packed them into one fight) where the operative decided to face tank all the zombies. With the wraith coming in and out of the tight tunnels, and their frontline blocking the way and unable to damage the wraith because of KAC weapons.

I don't really mind having to custom create every encounters, I guess I'm just a bit worried because half of them are veterans, and the other half are pretty new.

They are at the moldstorm now, 3 of them are affected by the Ksarik disease. I was thinking of skipping the Maddened beast to add more exp to the Stargazer encounter. For the sniper I thought about going full Tucker's Kobold on them, with pitfalls and traps and other annoying stuff like this.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Shahnaz wrote:
Vexies wrote:

I have a party of similar size (7 players) and I am running them through the exact same campaign right now. I can tell you from experience it doesn't get easier. I regularly do both options most people are suggesting. I increase the number of combatants and advance the CR of encounters to compensate and they still usually do quite well. Its very difficult to balance.

My group was level 3 when they hit the last boss of book one and despite increasing him to a CR7 the group mopped up the encounter disappointingly easy. In retrospect It would have been far better to throw in a few void zombies and only advanced him to a CR 6 or so as it would have divided the groups attention and given it a few more rounds to harass them.

In short if you want you challenge them your going to have to custom create each and every encounter. Add NPCs, upgrade single boss mobs and throw in mooks to boot. Single Boss NPCs are never going to be to much of a challenge to a group that large unless you up their CR dangerously high.

Yeah, they usually have more problems when tackling multiple enemies with 1 boss. I did add a bunch of Void Zombies with the Garraggakal and I was able to down one of them until they got lucky and crit him twice in a row (Didn't even get to drain life :D ).

The encounter that I killed a player was the Wraith+Void Zombies (I just packed them into one fight) where the operative decided to face tank all the zombies. With the wraith coming in and out of the tight tunnels, and their frontline blocking the way and unable to damage the wraith because of KAC weapons.

I don't really mind having to custom create every encounters, I guess I'm just a bit worried because half of them are veterans, and the other half are pretty new.

They are at the moldstorm now, 3 of them are affected by the Ksarik disease. I was thinking of skipping the Maddened beast to add more exp to the Stargazer encounter. For the sniper I thought about going full Tucker's Kobold on them, with pitfalls and...

while they engage the cultists in the statue, throw the follow up ksarik encounter at them from behind.

that way they have to face both the not insignificant threat ahead (add another sniper) with a deadly threat from behind. meanwhile they have to deal with the party being weakened from the extant diseases.

this might be a player killer, but man, it would be awesome to play.


Maybe it would be an idea not to double the monsters but give them a second initiative slot and a few more hp. The main issue I see is that he gets hit 8 times before he can hit again, instead of 4 times..


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A trick I have learned - always roll seperate initiative for each individual enemy. It might sound tedious but it smooths out the initiative and action economy disadvantages that npcs suffer against players. It gives a better chance of at least one or two of the enemy getting to act (and do some damage) before the entire party gets to unload.

If you just roll one initiative for all 4 void zombies or whatever, then there is a good chance that it will be lower than whatever the players get and that 3 of the zombies will be dead before they get to do anything.


You can do as the Sith do, there is always a Master and an Apprentice. If one of your players is inclined to GM, and you can function well without having to do everything yourself (you're less than a top-level control freak), you could perhaps recruit a player to be an assistant GM, reducing the number of players by 1 and making it easier to handle combats by dividing up GM duties.

The appeal to the assistant GM may be a chance for a different type of role-play, to really put flair into the evil creatures/NPCs (a nice change from being a PC, which typically requires some level of cooperation to succeed, usually by a combination of good or lawfulness). What really works well is if what you find to be GM drudgery is appealing to your assistant. Maybe they would enjoy running the tactics of a squad of (higher level than expected) space goblins, whereas you would like to focus on role-playing the desperate plight of the hostages or the overbearing commands from headquarters that don't have sympathy for why the party is being held up by a few space goblins. Or vice-versa. You can multi-task better if one of you enjoys keeping all the damage and spell effects straight while the other does a quick lookup of a rules question or final planning of when to best apply the special attacks your higher CR creatures tend to have.


Starfinder Superscriber

I'm running for 7 players, and I just double everything except the named encounters. Those I bump up by a CR or two or leave as is and add a mook to the fight. Between that and good tactics I'm able to easily challenge the party in every combat.

I hate to say this, but with 8 players, you're never going to be able to avoid phone surfing. That's just life in these modern times. Even with 4 players and 1 enemy, there's more than enough time between turns for people that care about such things to whip out their phone and check their facebook feed or what have you.


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We've been down to 3 PCs and an 8th level Pregen for parts 5 and 6. The DM is keeping us to L9 so far in the final book. It is a slog, but we only were in real danger once.

Edit: What I should add, a large party would need to have combat greatly upgraded in order to create any feelings of desperation. One pain point for our small party though was lack of skills in certain areas. So there is that.


I've been thinking some of how I can toughen up encounters in my own campaign when the players are taking down the bosses too easily. My situation is 6 players going through a published adventure path. I do let them win the little fights easily, because there should be some that are easy, but the bosses need that danger of being a real threat.

I've heard suggestions of giving the enemies better equipment, but then when the players (usually) win, the party now has the loot that makes them more formidable. I've been relying on better grenades, so the bad guys benefit from good equipment that is expendable. When the players win, I might let them have 1 of the better grenades, saying "too bad most of them got used up in the combat."

We also mark minis on the board with colored tokens with 75%, 50% and 25% hit points indicated by yellow, orange and red. I subtly let the bad guys go a little into the negative HPs before they actually die, but I can't push it too far, or the players will notice that the enemy has taken quite a bit of damage after getting to "red". This lets me dish out a few of the more interesting attacks when the players would otherwise wipe out the opponents too soon. In role-play terms "He looks horribly bloody, but ironically, his great hatred for living things makes him cling to life just a little bit longer in hopes of taking some of you with him!"

As a new GM I've found that studying up a bit more in advance helps. I make a reference sheet of the main boss stat block plus additional info like spell ranges, save DCs and effects, damage rolls, duration and rule book page numbers for full details. Some small tweaks, like adding or boosting fire resistance (which reduces damage from laser, plasma and flame weapons) is often effective without being as drastic as changing the level of the main bad guy in an adventure path.


Keep in mind too that the ship you get in the first book only has a crew compliment of 4 to 6. That means 4 characters minimum to operate the ship, with a maximum of six. You can fit more than six, but only six can do anything at any given time in a starship combat. If you have your crew operating above the ship's compliment, that will contribute to starship combats being easier.


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You're awfully brave taking on an eight-player group. The most I've GMed is six, and even that was too many. I don't think I'd go above five now. Was starting two groups of four not an option?

Sovereign Court

Player number is one of the biggest game-changers that you can think of. I've played with parties fro 3-7 and the differences are huge.

3 (with a pregen maybe in PFS/SFS): the party tends to become laser-focused. With only three people that need to coordinate and form a plan, they tend to cut through plots really efficiently. That can be hard work for a GM in an ongoing story. What they lack in power of numbers they make up for in actually knowing what the other players are doing. On the other hand, extremely vulnerable to one player not making it that night. I still wanna try a World of Darkness style RPG with three players to see how much deep character development you can do when the GM/player ratio allows a lot of attention per character. In D&D-style games, each character has to be very versatile because the party is stretching to cover all jobs. So see more gish classes like inquisitors or operatives.

4: the standard four food groups adventuring party. Quite sustainable in D&D-like RPGs. Not really my favorite for World of Darkness style RPGs [i.e. games with more low to mid intensity in-party conflict] because 2:2 standoffs make the game a bit static. I think a four-player party can be very stable, but makes it hard for someone who wants to try out a different niche because they're leaving a big gap on the role they're no longer filling, and have to push aside people from the new role they want. So if your character dies you'll come back as roughly the same role. You can switch your cleric for oracle but not for rogue.

5: another golden number for World of Darkness style RPGs because you can get a nice rotating 2:3 tension going in in-party squabbles. At this point the party definitely starts spending as much time talking among themselves as engaging with the world. As a GM sometimes you want to swat them with a rolled up newspaper to get a move on. For D&D style games this is where bard-like classes start becoming awesome because their "buff everyone" powers start working well. Deep character development becomes hard to fit in the schedule because if you want to give everyone screen time for their backstory stuff then you won't get around to having any adventures with the whole party.

6-7: at this point, just don't do World of Darkness style games. I tried, it's ugly. You just don't have time to do justice to the character development that's important to these games, not enough time for all players. D&D-style games are more sustainable but don't expect deep character development except when it opportunistically happens. You need to start rethinking combat because the normal challenge system is really built around a 4-PC action economy. On the plus side, even if some people cancel, you always have enough people to let the regular game happen. And when the game happens regardless, people tend to work harder to show up. A friend of mine remarked: "When I had a four people game, half the time, someone couldn't make it and we'd cancel. With seven people, people canceled almost never."

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