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Starfinder – I Like Big Maps

One thing I see a lot of in Starfinder is small encounter maps. Some of that is a by product of fantasy games and the familiarity of that intimate combat space, and some of it is without a doubt the result of the 22×26 square battle map the GM likely has to work with. But there are a couple reasons why you should try to take yourself out of that comfort zone.

Mass Effect concept art of a Shoot Out

Cover is your friend

You might not know it from playing at the average table, but Starfinder was billed as a game where gun fights would revolve around cover and using distance and the environment to your advantage. While that promise is there, I can clearly remember a lot of encounters where the PCs just arranged themselves to get line of sight on their targets and started blasting like a line of redcoats in the Revolutionary War. And the thing is, that can work, but you are hamstringing your characters by doing that and ignoring a whole aspect of combat that can add interest and variety to the game. The cover rules are there for a reason, and not complicated to learn. Even if the environment doesn’t have much in the way of real cover, partial cover is just about anything a PC can hide part of themselves behind. As a GM just start having your enemies use cover to their advantage in fights and your players will pick up on the system very quickly.

Kia the sniper spartan from the Halo TV series

Starfinder is built for larger battlefields

Take a look at the ranged increments on long arms, heavy weapons, and sniper rifles. By 5th level the PCs have access to weapons that can have a range of up to 500 ft for their first range increment. When was the last time you had an encounter that used a scale where that was relevant? The thing is, there are a few encounters in Dead Suns that absolutely do use that kind of scale, forcing the PCs to deal with a battlefield where they are exposed to sniper fire and have to cross a possible killing field to close with their enemy. Given how frustrating that can be, of course the players are going to want to use something like that to their own advantage if they are ever in a situation where they get to choose the nature of an engagement. You should let them! Not every encounter needs to be a skin-of-the-teeth win, and I have no doubt the player who made an operative that is built around sniper rifles has been waiting for their moment to shine. Heck, spice it up, give the players the chance to set up their sniper trap, then have the enemy show up to the fight in a mech.  Suddenly that advantage becomes desperately important in what promises to be a tough battle.

Luke vs the First Order

Scale is more relevant in Sci-Fantasy

In a regular fantasy ttrpg the party might encounter a dragon or giant that is Huge, but rarely encounter big foes in a typical adventure arc. In the game world, unless it is specifically crafted for that purpose, such foes simply stand out too much to be common. For Starfinder there is no reason for that to be true. In encounters vs NPCs it is entirely possible the party only has to deal with medium or smaller opponents, but that isn’t true if they are facing a military force that has access to vehicles, combat robots, and/or mechs. Such things would be common, particularly as the PCs go up in level and take on foes with the resources to field private armies. Imagine if, by 12th level, the party has to stop a gigantic behemoth mech manned by a team of enemies. That’s not just an epic fight, its an encounter that could span multiple sessions.

I know the limitations of the typical game table make the logistics of larger, more complicated maps difficult, but I hope you’ll see they can be worth it. Give it a try, you might be surprised by your player’s response.


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Categories: Article Writing

Jeremy Corff

Artist and Writer