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Sandbox Adventures / Campaign Design

Npcs In Sandbox Campaigns

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 136
Because the PCs are frequently on the move in sandbox adventures, it can be difficult to build a strong supporting cast. Every planet, region, or adventure locale has its own NPCs whom the PCs might only barely get to know before they’ve once again moved on. You have multiple ways to help build your setting’s supporting cast.
First, remember your home base. PCs in Starfinder regularly need to return to some kind of settlement where they can sell loot, upgrade their weapons and armor, and learn of new adventure sites to explore. You can create NPCs who initially simply offer these services and then gain additional connections to the PCs as the campaign proceeds. The shopkeeper who sells the soldier a new plasma rifle might be a veteran from past wars who needs a favor, or the sapient robot bartender who serves the PCs drinks might be on the run from a megacorporation that considers them to be property. Most home bases have an authority figure who quickly connects with the PCs and becomes one of the most important NPCs in your setting.
Recurring NPC factions and organizations can provide continuity across locations, even as their member NPCs come and go. A rival captain from another planet’s military might appear only once, but they’re just the temporary face of an evil empire represented by different enemies over the course of the campaign. Corporations, religious institutions, and schools all make excellent factions that can be represented by many different individuals on different worlds.
It’s important to remain flexible with your NPCs. Start by giving each NPC a distinguishing trait (see the NPC Toolbox on page 148); roleplay them the best you can on the PCs’ initial interaction with that NPC; pay attention to which NPCs the players engage with most, and then develop those NPCs in more detail.