Archives of Nethys

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Sandbox Adventures / Subgenres


Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 142
Related Media: Battlestar Galactica (TV series), David Weber’s Honorverse (novels), Elizabeth Moon’s Vatta’s War (novels), Metal Gear Solid (video game)
In a military campaign, the player characters are members of a military unit sent on missions around the galaxy. They might be mercenaries participating in the petty wars of border planets, on one side of a galactic civil war, or serving in the interplanetary defense forces of a unified civilization and defending their homes against a relentless invader.
Accord is high, except on the planets where the PCs see the most combat, where accord has broken down and is very low. Military structures tend to be lawful, but the army in which the PCs serve could be good, neutral, or evil—in any case, there should be clear opposition and obvious stakes. Every Starfinder class has a role in a military unit, especially if your setting is one that has medium or high magic. PCs serving together could also share a common background; they may be related, from the same hometown, or all enlisted at the same time.
Military campaigns give the PCs and your adventure a lot of structure. Rather than being in command, the PCs likely receive orders from superiors and carry out those orders with only the equipment and intelligence deemed necessary to complete the mission. But as the PCs rise in level (perhaps through promotion or as their superiors die in combat) some among the PCs might take on officer roles where they have more authority. The leadership system (page 100) is an excellent tool for modeling military forces for the PCs to command, and you can use the NPC and Settlement Toolboxes (pages 148–151) to generate the various subordinates that report to the heroes and the strategically important sites the PCs must protect from the enemy—or, if it’s too late for that, initiate a campaign to reclaim.
The nature of the antagonist is key to any military campaign, and you will want to devote time and effort to creating or adapting the enemy forces for the PCs to oppose. You will need various enemy creatures to ensure the PCs face a wide range of foes, as well as some recognizable and colorful enemy commanders whom PCs can love to hate.
Many military campaigns are based on an invasion timeline: First, the enemy appears unexpectedly and has a tremendous early victory. Then, as the PCs are forced to retreat, the enemy scores additional successes, and new enemies are introduced. In the third stage, the PCs rally, recruiting new allies or depriving the enemy of its primary strength to turn the tables on the enemy. Finally, the enemy wagers everything on a desperate plan to win the war, and only the PCs stand in the way. Through each of these stages, the PCs are moving from world to world, fighting in a variety of biomes and facing a diverse cast of foes. The war itself may seem unending, but the constant variety of unusual environments and strange creatures keeps the campaign feeling fresh.