Archives of Nethys

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Chapter 4: Running Starship Campaigns / Starship Campaign Arcs


Source Starship Operations Manual pg. 148
In this campaign, the PCs are a starship crew from various Pact Worlds—but the story is set during the 5-year period between the Veskarian attack at the Battle of Aledra in 36 ag and the signing of the Absalom Pact in 41 ag. Without a treaty that unites them, the Pact Worlds are scattered and in disarray. It’s up to the PCs to lead the fight against the Veskarium—first as ragtag refugees, then as seasoned veterans, and eventually commanding the flagship of a Pact Worlds fleet.

A Thousand Fronts

Source Starship Operations Manual pg. 148
The campaign begins with the Veskarian invasion, culminating in a landing on Triaxus and the Battle of Aledra. The PCs come from worlds throughout the system and serve as crew on several different starships. Each of these ships is caught in the Veskarian attack, with the PCs crashing on Triaxus in escape pods. There they meet each other, fend off local wildlife and Veskarium troops, and salvage a wrecked starship. Once they get it working, they arrive at the Battle of Aledra in time to lead a counterattack that brings temporary peace to the planet.

But now there’s a war on, and every ship is pressed into service. The PCs might be drafted, but after losing everything to the Veskarium they’re likely volunteers. What’s notable about their ship and crew is its diversity; most other ships defending the system are crewed by citizens of a single planet. Bretheda, Absalom Station, and the rest each have their own fleets, but no single planet or organization is calling the shots. There are interplanetary organizations like the Knights of Golarion, but there’s no structure within which they can work. It’s every world for itself.

The early phase of this campaign highlights the chaos of war; the Veskarium enjoys early success and the future Pact Worlds are left reeling. Competing interests among the factions make cooperation difficult and unreliable. When Veskarian forces cut off an Eox fleet, for example, other worlds refuse to help. Even noble organizations like the Stewards refuse to send help when it means exposing their home world to Veskarian attacks. There’s no one telling the PCs what to do—even if there should be. Instead, they’re left on their own to intercept invasion plans, scout hidden bases, and conduct guerrilla actions that deprive the Veskarium of vital resources. As the PCs travel from one world to another, they forge alliances among many cultures, put aside the demands of their home worlds in order to focus on the larger threat, and inspire other locals to organize. When the PCs encounter Veskarian warships, one of them is led by a vesk captain who becomes a recurring nemesis; the PCs get a chance to capture this captain in a rematch that forms the climax for this phase of the campaign.

A New Uniform

Source Starship Operations Manual pg. 149
The PCs’ example leads to the creation of a war council staffed by admirals and generals from throughout the system. Some of these individuals represent planetary military forces, but others are civilian or ad-hoc groups—Free Captains and Golden League families share the table with Stewards and Hellknights. They elect a chairperson, but that individual has little authority and can’t keep meetings from breaking out into arguments or even physical violence. The war council can, however, begin to organize a coordinated defense. A small system-wide fleet is formed, and the PCs are asked to join. The tone of the campaign shifts. The PCs are no longer operating independently, striking the Veskarium wherever they can before fleeing. Instead, they’re part of a larger force; when they’re outnumbered, reinforcements appear, and when their allies are ambushed, the PCs are sent to aid them. The PCs cooperate with other captains in small groups of two or three ships, guarding supply convoys, protecting civilian settlements, and leading counterattacks on Veskarian bases and squadrons. Planetside, they assist civilian leaders, train local forces, and construct physical defenses. But the PCs have made enemies and rivals in the war council. These political enemies have their own ideas about how to stop the Veskarium, and they see the PCs as the chief obstacle to these plans. When a major Veskarium operation forces everyone to retreat towards Aballon, these political enemies assign the PCs to be rear guard. It’s a suicide mission, buying time for the allied navies to fall back and regroup. The PCs, however, are more resourceful than anyone expects, and captains they’ve befriended arrive to help. Eventually the PCs are cut off and thought dead, but if they can triumph in battle against the Veskarian flagship, they can return as heroes to the allied fleet.

Forging the Pact

Source Starship Operations Manual pg. 149
The PCs’ political enemies have been exposed or persuaded by the PCs’ success. They recant their opposition and join the cause of the PCs, who are now leaders in the war. Their new flagship is equipped with technology from throughout the star system: it has Akitonian armor, Aballonian engines, psychic shields from Castrovel, and a cutting-edge Barathu sensor package. People are talking about a pact to kick the invaders out and take the fight to the Veskarium. The PCs lead the allied fleet from Aballon back through the worlds of the system, fighting all the way. They take charge of planetary defenses, lead an assassination mission against a vesk general, rescue a vesk defector, and conduct vital diplomacy with potential pact members.

With information gleaned from vesk prisoners and the high-ranking defector, the stage is now set for a counterattack. Groundwork for this attack involves sneaking into the Veskarium, finding a safe place for counterattacking starships to gather, and recruiting allies among the vesk’s myriad subject populations. Finally, when the counterattack comes, the PCs split up, each taking command of a starship to lead the assault. Back home, the Absalom Pact is being prepared by diplomats and politicians, but everyone is holding their breath—it will take a victory in the Veskarium to convince all the signees to take this final, drastic step. If your campaign continues after the signing of the Absalom Pact, the PCs enter the Silent War (Core Rulebook 428).