Being a Game Master

Running Starfinder Society games is similar to running a home campaign with a few house rules established by campaign leadership. In addition to this section, familiarize yourself with the other sections of the Guide. You need to know what players know, what their expectations are, and how their characters are created, played, and advanced.

Who Can Be a Game Master

Anyone with a valid Organized Play ID can run Starfinder Society adventures. Local Starfinder Society groups and the campaign as a whole benefit as the pool of Game Masters increases; the Venture-Officer network provides support and guidance for anyone who wants to GM.

Duties of a Game Master

As a Starfinder Society GM, you have the following duties:

  • Communicate with your local Event Organizer.
  • Prepare an adventure to offer to players, including gathering the necessary supplies such as maps, miniatures, and reference materials.
  • Provide a welcoming environment for players.
  • Deliver session results to the player via established recording mechanisms.
  • Report the results of the game:
    • Ask your Event Organizer what reporting process they use.
    • If you are also the Event Organizer, report games directly on the paizo.com My Organized Play page.

Where to Buy Adventures

Starfinder Society adventures, including scenarios and quests, are available for purchase at paizo.com. They are usually released during the last week of each month. Current production rates include one or two new scenarios each month, with additional Society content released periodically throughout the year. These adventures are written expressly for use in the Starfinder Society campaign.

Paizo also produces additional adventures written for more general use. See Additional Adventures for more about these products and how to use them in Paizo Organized Play.

Preparing an Adventure

Because adventures are written for a variable number of characters across a range of levels, GMs need to adjust the scenario to their table using the Average Party Level and Table Size Scaling.

Determining Average Party Level

If the adventure has multiple level ranges, the GM will need to calculate the group’s Average Party Level (APL) to determine which range to use.

APL = (sum of character levels) / (number of characters)

Divide the total number of character levels by the number of characters in the party, rounding to the nearest whole number. (This is an exception to the usual ‘round down’ rule.) If the result of the Average Party Level calculation ends with 0.5, the players decide whether to round up or down.

Adjusting the Adventure

Level Range: Nearly all encounters list two different sets of creature statistics, one for each of the two level ranges the adventure is designed for. The adventure often also refers to important skill checks and saving throws in room descriptions or during events, listing one DC for the lower level range and one for the higher level range. In each of these cases, use the numbers, creatures, and other information listed for the selected level range.

Scaling: Within a level range, the scenario will also contain instructions for adjusting the difficulty of the scenario based on the number of PCs. These scaling instructions are usually in “scaling sidebars” but might also be in the text of the room description or encounter.

Legal Table Size: Starfinder Society adventures are written for four to six PCs. However, a GM can run a table with two or three players in some situations. In those cases, all four-player adjustments written into the adventure still apply. Make the following adjustments:

  • Adventures with a minimum level of 8 or lower: can be run for a table of two or three players by adding pregenerated iconic characters at the appropriate level to meet the minimum table size of four PCs. The GM can either play these characters themselves or have one or more players play them, provided the player or players agree.

    Pregenerated iconic characters are available for 1st, 4th, and 8th level. Use the pregens closest in level to the party’s APL, then recalculate the APL including the pregens since adding them may change the APL.

  • Adventures with a minimum level of 9 or higher: can be run for a table of 3 players, but only if all players at the table agree. A “hard mode” playthrough like this is expected to be satisfying, but remember that adventures are designed for a minimum of four PCs. Players and GMs are cautioned that playthroughs on "hard mode" will be more difficult than normal.

  • All levels: If there are still not enough players even with these adjustments and there is a player available who has already played the adventure, they can join the table, playing for no credit.

Running an Adventure

GM Discretion

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 (including the requirement to Run As Written), a published Starfinder RPG source, errata document (like the Starfinder FAQ and Errata), or official FAQ (like the Starfinder Society FAQ) on paizo.com. What it does mean is that only you can judge what is right for your table for cases that are not covered in those sources.
Some examples of GM discretion include the following:

  • Creature tactics that have been invalidated by the players' actions.
  • Situations or player actions not covered by the rules.
  • Unclear rules.
  • Terrain or environmental conditions described by the scenario, but not given mechanics.
    • However, if mechanics are included, they cannot be altered.
  • Reactions of NPCs to good roleplaying, and the effect that has on the outcome of the encounter. Alternate or creative skills used to bypass or overcome traps and skill checks.
    • Note that DCs and results of the check are part of the mechanics and cannot be changed.
  • Aspects of the scenario’s description and story as appropriate for the players at the table as described in the section "Running the Game" (Starfinder Core Rulebook 392).
  • Changes required to comply with the Acceptable Content provision of the Community Standards and Expectations.
  • Creative solutions presented by players to overcome obstacles.
  • Moving plot points missed by players to encounterable areas.
    • This does not include moving missed treasure.

If a particular issue comes up repeatedly or causes a significant problem in one of your games, please raise any questions or concerns on the Organized Play forums where Venture-Officers, members of Paizo’s Organized Play team, or fellow GMs can help you resolve it.

Errata and Adventures

If an errata or clarification changes how an ability works in a Scenario, follow the current rules. If that means that the ability no longer works with how NPC tactics are written, modify the tactics as best you can to incorporate the changes.

Death and GM Discretion

Given the dangers characters face once they become Starfinders, character death is a very real possibility (and a necessary one to maintain a sense of risk and danger in the game). However, GMs are asked to consider the player's experience when deciding whether to use especially lethal tactics or target a character in extreme danger of death, especially when the player is new to the game.

Creative Solutions

Sometimes during a game, your players might surprise you with a creative solution that the adventure did not anticipate. Rewarding the creative use of skills and roleplaying makes Society games more fun for the players. If your players find a solution to successfully resolve or bypass an encounter, give the PCs the same reward they would have gained by resolving the encounter in the method anticipated in the scenario.

The Starfinder Society never wants to give the impression that the only way to solve a problem is to kill it.

It is also possible that the PCs will kill an NPC with an important piece of information or destroy a critical clue. Unless the scenario specifically instructs you to withhold that information, you are free to improvise an alternate way for the information to survive and reach the PCs.

Concluding an Adventure

Filling Out a Chronicle

The sections of a Chronicle are detailed below. Sections marked with an asterisk (*) include some element that GMs must address before players leave the table, either by filling it in themselves or asking the players to fill in the appropriate information. Players can fill out other sections between sessions.

Sample Chronicles

  • (A.) Adventure Name/Number: Preprinted on the form.
  • (B.) Character Name: Name of the hero who took part in this adventure.
  • (C.) Character Number:* Unique identifier for the character played, including the player's Organized Play ID and the character's number.
  • (D.) Partner Code: A unique code that identifies the Chronicle. May be used by third-parties to reference the Chronicle.
  • (E.) Adventure Summary: This may contain checkboxes to help remind you which choices you made during the adventure.
  • (F.) AcP Pointer: Where to find Achievement Point totals on paizo.com.
  • (G.) Treasure Access: Uncommon or high level items found during the adventure.
  • (H.) Variable quantities:* Quantities that depend on character’s level or successes during the adventure, such as credits earned, reputation, etc.
  • (I.) Event Name:* Name given to the event on paizo.com. This may be used when an event number is incorrect or illegible.
  • (J.) Event Number:* Unique identifier for the event where the game was played; provided by the Event Organizer.
  • (K.) Date:* Date the adventure was completed.
  • (L.) GM Number:* The GM's Organized Play ID.

GMs are no longer required to sign or initial any part of a Chronicle, even though earlier adventures include boxes for that.

GMs are encouraged to add notes to Chronicles about interesting events that occur during the adventure.

Treasure Access

GMs cross off the high level range items on the Chronicle if the party did not play in high level range.

Variable Quantities

Experience Points (XP): Each Scenario awards 1 XP. Each Quest or Bounty typically awards 0.25 XP.

Credits earned: Each Chronicle lists the "Max Credits" an adventure grants if the PCs complete all encounters and find all the treasure. PCs playing in their level range receive the amount listed for that level range. PCs playing outside their level range receive the amount listed for "Out of level range". Scenarios contain instructions for how to reduce these amounts if PCs do not complete an encounter successfully.

Reputation: Each adventure lists how much reputation to award. Scenarios typically award 1 Reputation for accomplishing the mission you were sent on and 1 more for going above and beyond expectations (for a total of 2 Reputation gained). If the player did not choose a Faction to represent, they gain those 1-2 Reputation with the Wayfinders. Scenarios with the Faction tag often award an additional 1 Reputation with the named Faction(s) for completing their goals.

Fame: Adventures in Seasons 1-3 granted Fame as a spendable and trackable currency. Fame was replaced with Achievement Points (AcP) for all games played after the beginning of Year 4 (May 2021)--including tables of Season 1-3 Scenarios. If the Chronicle has a section for fame, cross it off.

GM Chronicles

Game Masters earn GM table credits and Achievement Points each time they GM an adventure. GMs earn a Chronicle once per adventure (unless the adventure has the Repeatable tag), typically the first time they GM the adventure. Chronicles earned by GMing must be assigned to characters when received.

GMs have a few special rules for assigning and applying Chronicles:

  • Chronicles earned by GMing provide full rewards. This includes 100% of all credits, XP, Reputation (including any bonus reputation), Downtime, and access to items and Boons.
  • A GM's character receives credit for the level range they are in when the Chronicle is applied, regardless of the level at which the GM ran the adventure.
  • GMs can choose not to receive a Chronicle for any game they run, deferring it to a future run.
  • GMs can assign Chronicles to characters currently playing another adventure. In this case, apply the Chronicle after the character completes their current adventure.
  • Chronicles earned by GMing and playing count equally for the One Chronicle per Character rule.
  • When a chronicle is assigned to a character who is below the minimum level of the adventure, treat it as if the GM had played a pregenerated character at the minimum level of the adventure.
  • The GM’s character receives Downtime when the Chronicle is applied.

The GM can choose any combination of checkboxes / Boons / rewards that could have been earned by a player. The GM is not limited to the results of the players at any particular table; however, they must select rewards that could have been earned during a single play of the adventure. Boons for specific Faction members may only be selected if the character that is receiving credit also receives Reputation for that faction.

If the scenario requires players to choose among factions to receive bonus Reputation, the GM must also choose one; GMs do not earn Reputation with each faction that could be chosen. The GM's choice can be different from their players' choice.

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