While the goal of the Starfinder Society is to provide an even, balanced experience to all players, doing so would require all PCs to be exactly the same and all GMs to be restricted to a stiflingly oppressive script. We understand that sometimes a Game Master has to make rules adjudications on the fly, deal with unexpected player choices, or even cope with extremely unlucky (or lucky) dice on both sides of the screen.
Scenarios are meant to be run as written, with no addition or subtraction to the number of creatures (unless indicated in the scenario), or changes to armor, feats, items, skills, spells, starships, statistics, or weapons. However, if the actions of the PCs before or during an encounter invalidate the provided tactics or starting locations, the GM should consider whether changing these would provide a more enjoyable play experience.
As a Starfinder Society GM, you have the right and responsibility to make whatever judgments, within the rules, that you feel are necessary at your table to ensure everyone has a fair and fun experience. This does not mean you can contradict rules or restrictions outlined in this document, a published Starfinder RPG source, errata document (for example, the FAQ and Errata), or official FAQ (for example, the SFS FAQ) on paizo.com. What it does mean is that only you can judge what is right for your table during cases that are not covered in these sources.
Additionally, the GM may consider utilizing terrain and environmental conditions when those effects have been written into the flavor of a scenario but the mechanics that are normally associated with them by the Starfinder Core Rulebook have not been added to the encounters. GMs are always encouraged to reward role-playing when adjudicating the reactions of NPCs or the outcome of in-game encounters.
GMs may use other Starfinder sources to add flavor to the scenario, but may not change the mechanics of encounters. Specifically, the mechanics of an encounter are the creatures presented, the number of opponents in the encounter, and the information written into the stat blocks for those opponents. If an encounter is a trap, or skill check that needs to be achieved to bypass a situation, then the listed DCs and results are not to be altered, as they are the mechanics of that encounter. Additionally, if an encounter already includes mechanical effects of terrain, weather, or hazards, please be aware that these things are also considered mechanics that may not be altered. GMs cannot ban legal character options at public events.
If an issue comes up repeatedly or causes a significant problem in one of your games, raise any questions or concerns on the Starfinder Society forums, and the campaign management staff will work to provide you with an answer to avoid confusion in the future. Even with unlimited time to address such concerns, however, there will always be slight table variation and Game Master fiat. The following sections provide advice on addressing some common table variations you should consider before running a game.
Sometimes during the course of a scenario, your players might surprise you with a creative solution to an encounter (or the entire scenario) that you didn’t see coming and that isn’t expressly covered in the scenario. If, for example, your players manage to roleplay their way through a combat and successfully accomplish the goal of that encounter without killing the antagonist, give the PCs the same reward they would have gained had they defeated their opponent in combat. If that scene specifically calls for the PCs to receive a credits reward based on the gear collected from the defeated combatants, instead allow the PCs to find a credstick (or something similar) that gives them the same rewards. Additionally, if the PCs miss an NPC who carries a specific weapon that the PCs might be granted access to on the scenario’s Chronicle Sheet, don’t cross that item off the sheet— instead, allow the PCs to find the item elsewhere as a reward for creatively resolving the encounter without resorting to combat.
The Starfinder Society never wants to give the impression that the only way to solve a problem is to kill it. Rewarding the creative use of skills and roleplaying not only make Society games more fun for the players, but it also gives the GM a level of flexibility in ensuring players receive the rewards they are due.
But what if your players accidentally or intentionally kill an important NPC who was supposed to give them a crucial piece of information that’s needed for the scenario to progress? This is a tough problem for the GM and requires improvisation. Don’t decide the scenario is over just because the old man with the letter was caught in a crossfire and roasted alive by laser rifles, destroying both him and the important letter. Reveal that the letter survived by some freakish miracle (it was in a fireproof augmentation in his arm!) or maybe that the old man had a lackey who was watching from a nearby alley and knows everything the old man did, or another similar explanation. Improvisation will keep your scenario moving forward and help you work around unforeseen obstacles.
Players are responsible for their characters’ actions. “That’s just what my character would do” is not a defense for behaving like a jerk.
Alignment infractions are a touchy subject. Killing an innocent, wanton destruction, and other acts that can be construed as evil might be considered alignment infractions. Ultimately, you are the final authority at the table, but you must warn any player whose character is deviating from his chosen alignment. This warning must be clear, and you must make sure that the player understands the warning and the actions that initiated the warning. The PC should be given the opportunity to correct the behavior, justify it, or face the consequences. You can issue a warning to the player through a “feeling” he receives from his deity, a vision he is given, his conscience talking to him, or some other similar roleplaying event.
Infamy: As Starfinder has no rules for magical atonement, alignment infractions are tracked by the application of Infamy. When a character expresses the intent to perform a wantonly evil or callously criminal action and you inform them that their action would be considered an evil action, if the character still persists in performing the action, you can apply a point of Infamy to the character. Because Starfinder Society characters cannot be evil, gaining Infamy does not mandate a change in the character’s alignment, but rather, represents a step towards becoming evil.
Beyond GM intervention, some scenarios and written products may present evil solutions to situations. These actions will be called out within the adventure text as being appropriate to give a character partaking in them a point of Infamy. Still, the GM is the final arbiter on what constitutes an alignment infraction and when Infamy is gained by a character at the table.
Every point of Infamy represents the PC’s reputation for performing evil actions. A character can have a maximum of 3 Infamy before that character must be retired; it is assumed characters with 3 points of Infamy become irrevocably evil and are no longer welcome to join standard Starfinder Society operations.
Effects of Infamy: A character can have an Infamy score between 0 and 3. Gained Infamy can be “bought off” by spending Fame (see the Basic Purchasing Plan boon on page ). The following summarizes the effects of Infamy based on the number of points accrued:
- 0: No effect. The character is considered in excellent moral standing with the Starfinder Society.
- 1: The character has earned a reputation for performing unseemly deeds. The character reduces the maximum item level of equipment he can purchase by 1. This typically means that the PC can purchase equipment from outside the Starfinder Core Rulebook with an item level equal to his level – 1, he can purchase only equipment from the Starfinder Core Rulebook equal to his level, and can purchase equipment listed on a Chronicle Sheet only if its level is at most 1 higher than his level.
- 2: The character is renowned for her evil exploits in the name of the Starfinder Society. The character reduces the maximum item level of equipment he can purchase by 2. This typically means the PCs can purchase equipment from outside the Starfinder Core Rulebook with an item level equal to her level – 2, or purchase equipment listed in the Starfinder Core Rulebook equal to her level – 1. A PC with this level of Infamy can purchase equipment listed on her Chronicle Sheets only if its level is equal to or less than her level.
- 3: The character has earned such a reputation that he is barred from participating in the Starfinder Society, unless he spends Fame to reduce his Infamy score at the end of the session. If the character lacks sufficient Fame to reduce his Infamy score by the end of the scenario, the character is permanently retired from play.
Major Infractions: Characters who become wantonly evil by performing vile actions deliberately and without motive or provocation are retired from the campaign when they reach 3 Infamy and cannot reduce the value by spending Fame. This measure is a last resort; players should endeavor to play their characters in ways that are within the constraints of acceptable alignments, even if their characters have gained some Infamy.
If a character is retired as defined above, you should escalate the report to the event coordinator, or the local venture-captain or regional venture-coordinator. If that venture-officer agrees with you, then the character is deemed wantonly evil and considered removed from the campaign. Again, these measures should be taken as a very last resort.
In the event of a wantonly evil character, record the character as “dead,” and the person who enters the tracking sheet should check that box as well. If the event coordinator, venture-captain, or regional venture-coordinator decides the character fits the criteria for being wantonly evil, she will then e-mail the Organized Play Manager to advise her of the situation, including the player’s name, organized play number, and e-mail address. A player must be advised of these actions and be provided with a chance to contact their RVC to present their side of the case.