During my holidays break I’ve been thinking about some different play styles you can bring to Starfinder, either in sessions or entire campaigns. I’m going to be exploring these over the next few weeks, and the first one I’ll talk about is The Doldrums.
Originally something experienced by sailors in periods on the ocean without wind, the concept of the doldrums has migrated to virtually every kind of travel that can be compared to sailing. The core idea is that for whatever reason the travelers are becalmed, and in this enforced period without progress must confront issues of resource management, loyalty, and interpersonal conflict. On the face of it, this doesn’t seem hard to implement in a session or multiple sessions of Starfinder – just strand the players somewhere and start tracking their UPB expenditure as they try to survive until they can find a way to get moving again. Unless your players are interested in a resource management subgame, I’d advise a more narrative approach.
Rather than charting daily expenditure and forcing the players to create their own conflicts (which could very likely lead to interplayer conflict) eschew the tracking entirely. Whatever situation that created The Doldrums happens, then figure out what your next story beats are going to be. Do the heroes need to venture out in the Drift to secure matter to feed to their onboard replicators? That’s one encounter there, that can incorporate environmental hazards from the multiplanar nature of the Drift, as well as encounters with strange natives or even stranger invaders to the plane. Maybe there is a stow away on the ship (doesn’t have to be physical either, could be an AI living in the systems, or a ghost or fey that tagged along) that the heroes have to detect and deal with now that their extended period on the ship has alerted them to the problem. Or you can have more abstract encounters – the party mystic, cut off from their connection by the Drift, has a crises of confidence and needs the rest of the heroes to face a series of skill checks to have their faith (and powers) restored. However you want it to play out, just have a plan for how many of these are going to comprise their time in the Doldrums, and have a scheduled end point for it. If you can find a way for this period to move the metaplot forward, even better!
Interspersed between these encounters, you might have everyone make some percentile roles to apply random effects from the cabin fever of being becalmed. Try to make these more fun than punitive, things that are going to temporarily change play at the table in interesting ways that add to everyone’s experience. Feel free to switch them up, or keep one going if the player is having a good time with it. For example:
SPACE MADNESS TABLE, ROLL PERCENTILE.
1-20 To Infinity, and Then Past That.
Prolonged inaction has lead you to try out a catch phrase. Come up with a pithy sentence. Your character (and you the player) must say this out loud each turn when they attack or cast a spell, and if they do they get a +2 circumstance bonus to the outcome, but if they don’t they take a -1 circumstance penalty.
21-40 Is That You Harvey?
The boredom has lead you to reconnect with a long lost friend, of the imaginary kind. Every turn you may take a swift action to reflect this imaginary friend ‘helping’ in combat. This has a 50/50 chance to make a random foe off-target, perhaps in an amusing manner. The more you succeed though, the more the imaginary friend begins to seem real…
41-60 My Ice Cream Sandwich.
You’ve developed an obsession with a specific piece of equipment, constantly cleaning it and making small adjustments. In combat, so long as you use that item every round you have a +2 circumstance bonus to attacks or spells, but if you don’t use it, or use some other item in it’s place, you take a -1 circumstance bonus.
61-80 Whispers from the Void.
You have started hearing voices, but sometimes they have good advice. Once per day you may spend a Resolve Point to recharge a daily ability or spell slot, based on the advice of the mysterious voices. Every time you do though, they get louder, and it seems like there might be some kind of price to pay later…
81-100 Hearts of Space, Volumes 6 through 39
You’ve been spending your downtime perfecting a playlist for every situation that is just right. As long as you take a move action to cue it up at the start of combat or other dangerous situation, you can reroll one d20 roll in that encounter. There is a 5% chance (a 1 on the rerolled d20) that the playlist will leave you fascinated that round instead.
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Until next time Starfinders!
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