Owen Explains It All – Musical Challenges for Starfinder

Before we get to any OGL content, an editorial aside:

First, this blog has spoilers for an animated series, so if you want to avoid those, don’t read this.

Second, you may be wondering why is this tagged as an “Owen Explains It All” post, when that’s very unlike my normal marketing tone? Well, because this links into a show from the BAMF podcast I’m on, titled “Owen Explains It All!“. We do an episode every two weeks, picking new things from the zeitgeek to use as inspiration for game material, specifically the Starfinder Roleplaying Game.

We have a logo and everything!

If you haven’t already gone and watched the September 27, 2021 episode, we talk about the Star Wars Visions animated shorts, and how one of them features a band that has to overcome challenge with their music, but NOT in a battle of the bands.

Which leads me to Musical Challenges, as OGL content

Musical Challenges

I already created a set of Battle of the Bands rules, designed to resolve a conflict between two or more musical groups, using a modification of the Starfinder chase rules. That’s great, as far as it goes, but what if you want a musical challenge that isn’t a direct competition among multiple groups? For example, what if a band of scifi musicians need to win over a crowd, and become so clearly popular a local gangster decides it’s more profitable to sponsor them than kill one of their members for a pervious misunderstanding?

Luckily, all you need to turn Battle of the Bands into any musical challenge is a way to create a set of statistics for a “Challenge Stat Block,” (CSB) that is decide that a given task requires the PCs to overcome a stat block with a Musical AC and Musical Item level, and an appropriate skill check. Once you do that, you can run each stage of the encounter as a 1-on-1 “battle of the bands” between the PC band and the challenge’s stat block.

Since those values are based on ranks, just decide the CSB has a number of ranks equal to the CR you want that stage of the challenge to be. So for 3rd level heroes, build the CSB off 3 ranks for a typcial challenge, or 5 ranks for a severe encounter. Then write up each stage of the Musical Challenge as a CSB, and run it like an opposing band.

If you need to have the Musical Challenge work with a specific existing NPC, use their CR for ranks if they have an appropriate master skill, or their CR -2 if they don’t. Similarly, for their own skill checks, use the total master skill bonus of an expert array creature of the same CR if they have appropriate master skills, and the god skills bonus of the array otherwise.

Here’s an example.

Our 3rd level scifi band of adventures, Heavy Sabre, is performing at a festival run by the gangster Massio, who plans to kill their drummer when they are done to enforce an old debt. The band needs to win the crowd over (Challenge Step 1), then convince Massio he’ll make more money promoting them than killing them (Challenge Step 2), which happens while his thugs are trying to get them off the stage.

Since Heavy Sabre is 3rd level, the Challenge Step 1 CSB is built using the 3 ranks as the assumed baseline. That gives “Winning Over the Crowd” a Musical Armor Class (MAC) of 13, and a Musical Item Level (MIL) of 13. When the “Winning Over the Crowd” CSB takes an action for relative positioning, it uses the master skill bonus of a 3rd level expert array (+10). Now run a battle of the bands between Heavy Sabre and the CSB, which gets one action a turn.

Once Heavy Sabre wins that, they must win over Massio. Massio is a 5th level gangster, so this will be much tougher. He has a MAC and MIL of 15. However, since he’s not an expert on music and is likely to be swayed by the crowd’s reaction, you can just use his good skill bonus of +11. Also, since there are thugs trying to get the band off the stage, the PCs will have to both fight a Battle of the Bands with this CSB, and fight off 2 thugs during the combat phase.

And that’s it! Any challenge that the GM decides can be overcome by musical expertise — winning over patrons, lulling savage monsters to sleep, putting ghosts of slain battle-drumming to rest–can now be handled by deciding how many steps it takes, and treating each as a Challenge Stat Block.

This is an Expanded Post, with some notes on how to adjust these rules to allow for ANY skill based challenge to be run available to my Patrons, who provide me with the support that makes these posts possible.


About Owen K.C. Stephens

Owen K.C. Stephens Owen Kirker Clifford Stephens is a full-time ttRPG Writer, designer, developer, publisher, and consultant. He's the publisher for Rogue Genius Games, and has served as the Starfinder Design Lead for Paizo Publishing, the Freeport and Pathfinder RPG developer for Green Ronin, a developer for Rite Publishing, and the Editor-in-Chief for Evil Genius Games. Owen has written game material for numerous other companies, including Wizards of the Coast, Kobold Press, White Wolf, Steve Jackson Games and Upper Deck. He also consults, freelances, and in the off season, sleeps. He has a Pateon which supports his online work. You can find it at https://www.patreon.com/OwenKCStephens

Posted on September 29, 2021, in Game Design, Starfinder Development and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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