Archives of Nethys

Pathfinder 1E | Pathfinder 2E | Starfinder

All Rules | Downtime Rules


Chapter 4: Running Starship Campaigns

Starship Adventure Seeds

Source Starship Operations Manual pg. 142
With their ability to transport characters nearly anywhere in the galaxy and their need for a multitalented crew, starships are a natural catalyst for adventure. These interstellar vehicles can serve a number of roles for campaigns in space, from providing a method of transportation for planet-hopping heroes, to inspiring villainous research and development, to being the focus of a mystery or heist. The following pages present ideas for GMs looking to create starship-focused adventures, organized by theme.

Secure the Assets

Source Starship Operations Manual pg. 142
The following adventure seeds involve the PCs using their starship—or another they’ve acquired—to chase down valuable research, retrieve a stolen luxury ship, or track down a dangerous bioweapon and ensure it’s never used on innocents.

A Looming Bioweapon

Source Starship Operations Manual pg. 142
While working in the archives of Healthworks Innovations Inc., a lashunta bioengineer named Fayae discovered a tiny capsule of a virulent disease known as stardust plague. A dangerous communicative disease spread through the air, stardust plague is a potent potential bioweapon and, as such, was contained and all but eradicated in the Pact Worlds centuries ago. As part of this public health initiative, the Pact Council confiscated all vials of the plague for safekeeping—except, apparently, for the one in the Healthworks archives. Upon discovering the capsule in his employers’ archives, Fayae panicked and pocketed it. Days later, high-level Healthworks inspectors discovered that the capsule was missing, along with the bioengineer. They began a quiet search for Fayae and the stolen vial, but months have passed without a lead.

When the engineer steals a starship from the PCs to escape a close call, they are put in a conundrum when they find out Fayae’s identity and his suspected crime. Do the PCs join forces with the authorities trying to track down the lashunta? Or do they acquire a new starship and pursue him on their own, giving them leeway to hear Fayae’s side of the story and sort out the consequences themselves? As the PCs look into why Healthworks Innovations even had the vial in the first place, information emerges that points toward a sinister corporate plot.

The Schematics Hold the Key

Source Starship Operations Manual pg. 142
A shirren drive specialist for Hyvonix Industries named Nyshele is on the run. Absalom Station officials believe a dispute involving a new Drift engine prototype has boiled over at Lucent Shipyards in the Burning Archipelago, and the young Nyshele is at its center. A junior member of the company’s prodigious research and development team, Nyshele is rumored to be developing a cleaner, more efficient engine for starship travel into and out of the Drift. Details are spotty, but anonymous sources within Hyvonix claim a breakthrough is coming—one that might very well revolutionize the efficiency of Drift engine technology and earn the company a fortune.

The reason for Nyshele’s disappearance remains unknown— perhaps she’s been threatened, or perhaps she simply decided to keep her work for personal gain. Regardless, Hyvonix officials believe that she has absconded with the digital schematics for the new Drift engine, possibly intending to float the data on the open market or defect to a rival manufacturer. Industry insiders aren’t so sure, however. The shirren engineer—known to be introverted but fiercely opposed to political hostilities in the Pact Worlds—may be trying to keep the game-changing technology out of the hands of those who might misuse it.

Nevertheless, nearly every major manufacturer is allegedly hiring fugitive hunters to retrieve Nyshele and the Drift engine schematics—with Sanjaval Spaceflight Systems offering the largest reward. It’s up to the PCs to find the shirren and her schematics, either to collect a hefty reward or to sell the plans back to Hyvonix or another manufacturer, or even making a deal with the elusive Nyshele herself.

Starship Bandits on the Loose

Source Starship Operations Manual pg. 142
Redshift Revolution executives are frantically searching for a speedy ship crew to retrieve some runaway merchandise. Two days ago, a band of goblins scuttled up from the seedy bowels of Absalom Station and commandeered one of the company’s Pleasure Sails, inexplicably avoiding detection as they launched the luxury starship into open space. Station security pursued the craft for almost 30 minutes until its transponder blinked off ship sensors, confusing those tracking the seemingly easy-to-retrieve craft. Some believe the vessel was destroyed, but Redshift insists these thieves are more sophisticated than the average goblin tinkerer.

The company suspects that a more powerful force is at play in this theft, especially because it’s still a mystery how the goblins managed to gain entry to a privately docked vessel. Three guards assigned to watch over the Pleasure Sail in Redshift’s hangars claim they were attacked by at least a dozen of the cackling creatures, but security feeds throughout the sector show nothing of the sort. In fact, the cameras don’t show anything out of the ordinary.

One of the thieves, the guards insisted, carried a crystalline object spitting with wild energy, possibly explaining this anomaly. The company doesn’t know what to make of the situation, and it has brought the PCs in to investigate—through a reward, by calling in favors with connections of the PCs, or other such incentives. Although wild speculation about the reason for the heist abounds—a Veskarium conspiracy, insurance fraud, or a full-fledged goblin uprising, among others—many stationers delight in the idea that the joyriding goblins are simply having the time of their lives.

Solve the Mystery

Source Starship Operations Manual pg. 143
The following adventure seeds involve embroiling the PCs in a central mystery that involves starships, whether it’s investigating a monstrous starship-scale creature, tracking down a famous ship from hundreds of years ago, investigating a strange crash, or unraveling a starship-focused pyramid scheme.

Murders Most Foul

Source Starship Operations Manual pg. 143
For years, interstellar archaeologists have debated the fate of the body of famed android and Drift explorer Aleksana Guryari. Some believe that her body never underwent the renewal process, while others believe that it is still in use with a new soul today. Two androids have recently come forth claiming to inhabit the former body of the famous pilot, one on Apostae’s Nightarch and one on Absalom Station. When both androids are murdered within a few days of each other, their bodies dismembered to prevent renewal, the public outcry to find the culprit is intense. The Pact Council offers a large reward to anyone who can gather information about the suspicious circumstances, and the PCs have their own reasons to want to find the killer—or killers. If the culprit is a lone murderer with a motive, the PCs may have to immerse themselves in the seedy underbelly of anti-android hate groups. If a government conspiracy is to blame, those seeking the truth might find themselves accused as scapegoats. Answers may be hidden on the remains of the Chaos Wyrm, Guryari’s original starship, though locating it could prove even more difficult than finding the androids’ killer.

The Swallowed Starship and an Alien Horror

Source Starship Operations Manual pg. 143
Spacefaring vessels passing by the Riven Shroud in Near Space have observed a ghoulish form lurking among the wreckage. Witnesses describe a mysterious-looking ship that’s been invariably described as alien. Estimates indicate the vessel is a behemoth, with a hulking skeletal frame and long, tendril-like phalanges that sweep behind the posterior vents. No visible thrusters can be seen, but the ship appears very much operational—moving under its own power, with a brilliant blue light pulsing beneath its hull. Speculation abounds. Is this ship an automated defense drone for the Shroud? A long-dormant entity suddenly awakened? Or something else?

Efforts to communicate with the ship have proven fruitless, save one: the Eoxian destroyer Venophage moved into the phantom’s path and was engulfed—and presumably vaporized—by a wave of blinding magical energy. Whispers of a shakeup on Eox are now spreading, as the heir of an influential bone sage was rumored to be aboard the Venophage, which transmitted one last broadcast into open space before it was swallowed whole. The Eternal Convocation also claims to be receiving strange transmissions from inside the Riven Shroud’s central star, fueling hope that the Venophage and its crew could be rescued. Days ago, Eoxian agents issued a lucrative open contract to any starship willing to investigate and, if possible, confront the mysterious alien craft. Between this reward and the PCs’ personal ties to Eox—or their need to learn more about the Riven Shroud—this is a prime mystery for them to solve.

A Starship without a Crew

Source Starship Operations Manual pg. 143
When a starship called the Nomaren crashes into a wealthy section of Absalom Station, a preliminary investigation finds no one on board. The team who once piloted the starship has gone missing, and all communications with them ceased near Aucturn. The PCs get involved as investigators working on behalf of the Pact Council or the Starfinder Society, and they must launch a mission to travel to Aucturn and find the missing crew or, at the very least, clues about what might have happened on the starship between Aucturn and Absalom Station.

When they arrive on Aucturn, it becomes clear to the PCs that cultists tied to the Dominion of the Black do not want their investigation to continue. The PCs must outsmart the cultists and find out what happened to the Nomaren on a planet where human experimentation, genetic manipulation, and twisted games played for sport are the norm.

A Tangled Pyramid Scheme

Source Starship Operations Manual pg. 144
Ten years ago, a young ysoki named Vrabel had an idea: designing proprietary starship modifications and selling them to a group of buyers who would then sell to others, over and over again. Soon, Vrabel ended up running an enormous pyramid scheme that spanned the Pact Worlds. Business boomed at first, as he designed modifications that were high-quality and often unique. Over time, however, the quality waned, and in the past year, over a dozen starships with Vrabel’s modifications installed have experienced fatal errors midflight. Representatives from Vrabel’s business—now styled Pinnacle Starship Innovations—blame user error, much to the dismay of those who have lost loved ones. These same representatives have disappeared without a trace, leaving no legal ties back to Vrabel himself and technically absolving the ysoki of blame. When a pushy seller low on the pyramid approaches the PCs, they begin the long climb to the top of the scheme in search of the original seller. Along the way, the PCs discover that the corruption runs deep, with devout worshippers of Lao Shu Po all clamoring to sell and connive and even more unscrupulous characters involved than they could have ever anticipated.

Take the Job

Source Starship Operations Manual pg. 144
Sometimes, money and fame are the best motivations. The following adventure seeds involve the PCs taking lucrative jobs to stop an immoral scientist’s experimentations, freeing hostages from a dangerous cult, or quietly tracking down an illegal fleet of racing starships.

The Case of the Missing Racing Ships

Source Starship Operations Manual pg. 144
Though starship drag racing is a nuisance to the Pact Worlds, authorities often overlook it in favor of investigating more serious crimes. When a gang’s fleet of racing starships goes missing on Absalom Station, law enforcement is happy to call it a total loss and close the case. One of the gang leaders is convinced that the disappearance was planned, however, and hires the PCs to look into it further—discreetly, of course. The PCs are tasked with going undercover as drag racers, but they find themselves in over their heads when they learn that the dangers of these starship races go well beyond what they bargained for. This new world is essentially a brutal professional sport, with harsh rules and terrible consequences when those rules are broken. Who stole the starships, and what has happened to them? Was it revenge enacted by a rival racing gang? Or is it all an elaborate ruse in order to trap the PCs in a compromising position?

Free the Cult’s Hostages

Source Starship Operations Manual pg. 144
A Vercite Drift Cruiser transporting wealthy sightseers to Bretheda has been hijacked. Members of the Cult of the Devourer have taken credit for the attack, calling for corporate ransoms and the immediate release of several cultists imprisoned throughout the Pact Worlds. The hijackers’ leader, a ryphorian calling herself Vash, has also declared war on the “rampant commercialism” that the cult believes corrupts the natural chaos lurking inside individuals, chaining them forever to a societal construct. If the cultists’ demands are not met, the hijackers have threatened to detonate the vessel in Bretheda’s volatile helium-hydrogen atmosphere.

Aside from a wealthy human palladium magnate from Castrovel named Reece Jorenby and his tiefling paramour Rylah Zee, the exact identity and number of hostages aboard are unknown. Efforts to pinpoint the Drift Cruiser’s location have been unsuccessful. Vercite officials also suspect a lashunta former Steward aided in the takeover of the ship. The Pact Council has pledged a strike team of Stewards to storm the vessel and neutralize the hijackers, but a swift recon crew is needed to make initial contact and help pinpoint its position (rumored to be somewhere in the Diaspora at present). However, several corporations with ties to the known hostages are refusing to meet ransom demands, instead banding together to hire the PCs (for a ludicrous amount of money) to retrieve the vessel and hostages.

Stop the Rogue Scientist

Source Starship Operations Manual pg. 144
Dr. Juvarn, a discredited osharu scientist, has reportedly gone into exile somewhere in the desert wastes of Akiton. Long accused of conducting prohibited genetic experiments (though he has always claimed innocence), Juvarn managed to escape justice by accepting early retirement from his employer, the multiplanetary corporation Zenith Solutions. Over the past two months, however, several residents near Hivemarket on Akiton have gone missing or died under mysterious circumstances. Others report that the native ikeshti have begun to behave strangely, feasting on dead flora and babbling like children. Even more unsettling, Eoxian Cairncarvers have taken to patrolling the Kaviri Plains, forming a tight blockade southeast of the Edaio Rift.

Akitonian representatives are pleading with the Pact Council to intervene, but word around Absalom Station is that available resources are spread thin and these disparate reports have yet to rise to the government’s attention. The peacekeeping Stewards, however, believe Dr. Juvarn might be developing a new xenobiological weapon for the Corpse Fleet and have secretly offered compensation to any starship crew able to skirt the no-fly zone and apprehend the fugitive for “procedural questioning.” A lucrative contract, sweetened with several bounties on Juvarn’s head, has just become available, and the PCs stand to gain much from accepting it.

Travel Into The Unknown

Source Starship Operations Manual pg. 144
The following adventure seeds revolve around the PCs boldly flying their starship into unknown territory, whether in search of knowledge lost to the Gap or to perform a daring rescue mission.

One Final Plea for Help

Source Starship Operations Manual pg. 145
Starships throughout the Pact Worlds system have received a strange message of distress from the Shamadis, a stranded Kevolari explorer floating somewhere between systems in Near Space. A recorded message from the vesk captain reports his vessel suffered a catastrophic power failure of unknown cause, endangering five lashunta scholars who had paid for safe passage to what they claimed was a research site at a classified location. The Shamadis has now disabled onboard comms, probably in hopes of conserving available power for life support. What appears to be a simple rescue operation, however, is anything but. Signal data eventually pinpoints the location of the stranded craft—a Venture-class explorer with ample cargo bays—near the shattered island cluster of Orry. Suspecting that the ship’s true purpose was a salvage mission—and no doubt dreaming of a bounty of ancient technomagical artifacts stowed inside—several dozen pirate convoys, smugglers, and other opportunists have mobilized and are preparing to jump to the Shamadis’s position. The PCs each have a personal reason to care about the Shamadis and its crew—whether it’s a personal tie to one of the researchers, an investment in the vessel’s mission, or a suspicion of a deep conspiracy at hand—and it’s up to them to rescue the ship, protect its crew and the researchers, and get some answers.

A Signal from the Dark

Source Starship Operations Manual pg. 145
Researchers in the employ of AbadarCorp recently discovered a faint, pulsing signal emanating far beyond the Pact Worlds system, deep in the Vast. Initially, researchers thought it to be a remnant broadcast long since silenced. But they soon discovered that not only is the signal still pulsing, its source is a low-frequency channel signature from an old Equoi-class cruiser—a group of early Drift-enabled ships used only briefly in the years immediately following the gift of Drift engine technology from Triune. A review of starship records revealed a likely candidate for the lost cruiser: a ship named the Durodal. Retrofitted with a rudimentary Drift engine, the Durodal had seemingly attempted to jump to a newly discovered adjacent star system, but never arrived. Records indicate no known final location for this long-lost ship, and the fate of the crew likewise remains a mystery.

Given the ship’s age, it could have operated during the Gap, and thus it could contain secrets lost to time, along with answers about the final fates of the crew. As such, Starfinder Society archaeologists are clamoring to secure funding for a recovery expedition. So far, the usual benefactors are unwilling to help retrieve the lost ship, pointing to the remoteness of the signal’s origin and the lack of substantiated evidence about the potential value of its cargo. Some Society agents believe that a larger conspiracy to cover up the Durodal’s clandestine agenda is at play, whereas others worry that signs of mystic radiation detected near the signal origin could mean that supernatural interference is afoot. Either way, it would be wise to take every precaution possible before exploring this mystery.