Halp! I've only got 3 Players!


Advice

Silver Crusade

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

I've recently volunteered to GM a campaign of the Dead Suns AP for a group consisting of one of my best friends and my two brothers. All three of them are excited and eager, but at the moment there's ONLY the three of them. Their characters are:

A Damaya Lashunta Icon Operative, specializing in sniping.

A Companion Android Ace Pilot Envoy, modelled after Han Solo.

An Uplifted Bear Mercenary Soldier, mostly interested in firing big guns and swinging big melee weapons and generally being bad news.

While all these characters are fun, most RPG parties need at least 4 people to be functional, and I'm struggling to find someone in my area whose schedule aligns with the rest of us. The lack of any spellcasters in the group is also concerning.

One of my brothers (the one playing the bear) has recommended I just make a GMPC to fill the spellcaster role and keep them out of the spotlight, that he trusts I'm responsible enough to not let a GMPC overshadow the other party members. I disagree, feeling that GMPCs are a #BADIDEA. The only other option, as I see it, would be adjusting every encounter in the game to accommodate the smaller party and add more serums in the loot to make up for the lack of a mystic to cast beneficial spells.

What should I do? This is my first time GMing Starfinder and I want to impress these guys, but I'm worried that I'll either accidentally TPK them or upstage them.


No DMPC: Run the AP without using milestones, instead advance the players based on the xp they get. They’ll have a hard time during first level (adjust the enemies’ CR down), but after they reach level 2 before they are supposed to - due to having less characters to divide up the experience - it kinda evens out.

Yes DMPC: I suggest a weird alien race without charisma skills and only buff spells. Also only weird weapons and gear. When I need to run DMPCs I actually try to switch them every book, so I can enjoy a bit the impressive catalogue of playable races.


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One of the things I had a lot of success with for a small party (especially in this AP) was bringing NPCs along as essentially guests with scenario specific skills and knowledges. It helped the PCs invest in the adventure a little more.

For instance I...

Minor Spoilers for Dead Suns:
Brought Whaloss along on the expedition to the ruins in the jungle. The party loved their space-dad Eagle Scout, who spent most of his money on traveling gear, good food, and was built as a support mystic.

Also I decided all Lashunta had Australian accents.

The party was still calling him to check in up to the final book.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Archpaladin Zousha wrote:

I've recently volunteered to GM a campaign of the Dead Suns AP for a group consisting of one of my best friends and my two brothers. All three of them are excited and eager, but at the moment there's ONLY the three of them. Their characters are:

A Damaya Lashunta Icon Operative, specializing in sniping.

A Companion Android Ace Pilot Envoy, modelled after Han Solo.

An Uplifted Bear Mercenary Soldier, mostly interested in firing big guns and swinging big melee weapons and generally being bad news.

While all these characters are fun, most RPG parties need at least 4 people to be functional, and I'm struggling to find someone in my area whose schedule aligns with the rest of us. The lack of any spellcasters in the group is also concerning.

One of my brothers (the one playing the bear) has recommended I just make a GMPC to fill the spellcaster role and keep them out of the spotlight, that he trusts I'm responsible enough to not let a GMPC overshadow the other party members. I disagree, feeling that GMPCs are a #BADIDEA. The only other option, as I see it, would be adjusting every encounter in the game to accommodate the smaller party and add more serums in the loot to make up for the lack of a mystic to cast beneficial spells.

What should I do? This is my first time GMing Starfinder and I want to impress these guys, but I'm worried that I'll either accidentally TPK them or upstage them.

Well you could use milestone leveling and start the party at level 2. When then AP says the party should be L2, make them L3. Doesn’t make up for action economy...but usually comes close.


I actually think you should make a GMPC spellcaster.

An older wiser type.

That way you can give the party the magic they need also while through the GMPC providing them advice and knowledge.

This would be very beneficial to a group new to Starfinder.

As for not upstaging them, play a reserved type and chip in when they are stuck.

As long as you GMPC does not do more than 25% of the heavy lifting it will be impossible for you to upstage the other 3.

Dark Archive

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Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I would run an npc. Have one of players run it for you and there is a ready made one to get from Starfinder Society Pregenrated CHARACTERS. I would go with the Mystic. He could do all the healing and has skills the party need. He does not say much since he is Telepathic.

Liberty's Edge

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Our group has one player run* two PCs if needed.

*:
I almost typed "ruin" instead of "run". Ruining PCs is the GM's job.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I have an easier time of this, since I write my own adventures. Thus, everything is already calibrated for the "Party Size: 3" challenge ratings. For a published adventure? Honestly, the only reasonable way I can imagine is by arranging for the PCs to be about a level ahead of the intended target. Anything else is going to require redesigning stuff encounter by encounter.


Since the party is down 25% from 4 players, you can also reduce the encounter enemy HP by a percentage and run 3 players (which is great for the players to not have to wait as long for their turn). You could drop the enemy HP by as much at 25%, but since most encounters aren't supposed to be overly tough, try starting opponents out at 85% HP and see how it goes. Adjust enemy HP more or less depending on how tough the first few combats seem. I'd award the same XP as recommended. This is one of the easier ways to scale difficulty without the hassle of changing numbers of opponents. My group was quite pleased that they estimated the number of enemies in the final battle of book 2 by paying attention to the number of the bad guys mentioned at the beginning of the jungle trek and counting bodies along the way. If you change numbers of opponents, then you risk throwing off the storyline unless you go through the whole adventure in advance and adjust the numbers.

Make sure they are meeting the expected level advancement track spelled out in the beginning of each book of Dead Suns. Don't tell them you are throwing reduced HP enemies at them so it still feels exciting. If they tend to track enemy HP closely and read the Alien Archive they may notice the enemies aren't at full health, but explain that their opponents aren't always fresh and well rested--then mix in different tactics to control the difficulty of future encounters.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I'd be leery of relying on HP reduction. An NPC intended for a full Level X party, is still going to do Level X amounts of damage with Level X amounts of accuracy, even if they only have Level X-1 hit points. Making them more fragile isn't going to change the action economy ( the players have one fewer full action per turn ) and target economy ( the players having one fewer target for enemies per turn ).

If you are dealing with groups of weaker enemies, I'd recommend reducing their number, instead. Groups of mooks rely on action economy for most of their strength anyway, cutting down the number scales that down proportionately.

Acquisitives

Currently running Attack of the Swarm with three players and it works fine. We are in at book three at the moment and while some encounters were a little bit hard, no character died yet.
For the first book I used milestone leveling, but as soon as they got into book two I changed to XP tracking.

I also added a AI with Avatar to their ship (think of Romy from Andromeda or EDI from Mass Effect).
I used the expert array with an CR equal to APL -1 for the stats.
I also added the drawback that (s)he can't move more then [Tier x 1000 ft.] away from the ship.
This way the crew still has four actions in ship combat and if needed can bring an additional character to close up missions.

Only thing which really bothers me is the high attack bonus and damage of the enemies, but this is more a SF problem :D


Wing it :)

Cut down enemy numbers a little, boost in a few healing serums - but most importantly, cheat a little :) Fudge a few die rolls in the players favour if they're getting hammered, let a monster go down before all its HPs are gone.

The game is supposed to be fun, your job is to give the players a good time. Make them feel like big damn heroes, don't sweat the numbers too much.

Shadow Lodge

Archpaladin Zousha wrote:

I've recently volunteered to GM a campaign of the Dead Suns AP for a group consisting of one of my best friends and my two brothers. All three of them are excited and eager, but at the moment there's ONLY the three of them. Their characters are:

A Damaya Lashunta Icon Operative, specializing in sniping.

A Companion Android Ace Pilot Envoy, modelled after Han Solo.

An Uplifted Bear Mercenary Soldier, mostly interested in firing big guns and swinging big melee weapons and generally being bad news.

While all these characters are fun, most RPG parties need at least 4 people to be functional, and I'm struggling to find someone in my area whose schedule aligns with the rest of us. The lack of any spellcasters in the group is also concerning.

One of my brothers (the one playing the bear) has recommended I just make a GMPC to fill the spellcaster role and keep them out of the spotlight, that he trusts I'm responsible enough to not let a GMPC overshadow the other party members. I disagree, feeling that GMPCs are a #BADIDEA. The only other option, as I see it, would be adjusting every encounter in the game to accommodate the smaller party and add more serums in the loot to make up for the lack of a mystic to cast beneficial spells.

What should I do? This is my first time GMing Starfinder and I want to impress these guys, but I'm worried that I'll either accidentally TPK them or upstage them.

If your located near South Central Wisconsin I would definitely be game to join in!


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Vo wrote:

Wing it :)

Cut down enemy numbers a little, boost in a few healing serums - but most importantly, cheat a little :) Fudge a few die rolls in the players favour if they're getting hammered, let a monster go down before all its HPs are gone.

The game is supposed to be fun, your job is to give the players a good time. Make them feel like big damn heroes, don't sweat the numbers too much.

yup. and have the bad guys run away when they are losing.

also, go get a fourth! someone you know is going to be down, even if they don't know it yet.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

The bad guys should be running away when they are losing, anyway. Morale shouldn't be only for short parties.

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