The standard system for creation npc opponents in Starfinder is specifically designed to focus on making foes that can last through a fight and work well alone or in groups of 2 or so. It’s simple and easy–a typical encounter for a group of 5th level PCs is CR 5. If you want to combine lower-level challenges the rules cover that as well.
But what is doesn’t do well it let you throw 8-24 foes at the heroes, and have that be a typical encounter. Technical you can through 12 CR 1 creatures at an 8th level party, but truthfully they won’t actually pose any significant threat. And, of course, there are no CR -2 creatures to collect 12 of to challenge a group of 5th level heroes.
So, enter the Rowdy
(art by Warpaintcobra)
Designed specifically for the Really Wild West (and named to be appropriate for that pulp-fantasy-western 1891 setting, though just as usable in standard Starfinder, GammaFinder, or FreedomFinder campaign), Rowdies are creatures that are less dangerous, and much MUCH less durable, than the core creature they are based on. As a result while they have the game values to be an interesting challenge for PCs, you can use four times as many rowdies in an encounter as the core creature they are based on.
So if you need 4 members of a typical gang to attack the 4th PC’s train as a typical fight, you just add the Rowdy graft to a CR 4 foe and you are all set. If you want to let the 5th-level PCs fight their way past a hoard of 24 staggering undead, slap the Rowdy graft on a CR 0 monster (since 6 CR 0 monsters is a typical CR 5 encounter, 24 CR 0 Rowdies are also a typical encounter).
Rowdies are also useful for backup to a major foe, without overshadowing the foe. If you want a CR 6 encounter to challenge your 5th level heroes, a single CR 4 main foe, and 4 CR 4 rowdies neatly fits the bill.
The mechanical adjustments of the graft are fairly straightforward:
*Reduce initiative bonus by -5, -10, -15, and -20 for the 4 rowdies. (It’s best if they don’t all act at once, but if you need to simplify initiative, you can have them all go with a -12 penalty to their initiative modifier).
*Reduce all attack bonuses by 1.
*Reduce all save DCs by 3.
*Reduce average damage by 50%. (Or close to it. If it’s normally 1d8+7, taking it to 1d4+3 is close enough. Or, just roll normal damage and halve it for each attack).
*Reduce all ACs and saving throw bonuses by 3
*Reduce HP by 75% (round up).
*If the base creature has special attacks or spells with limited uses/day, only one of the four rowdies should use them. If that rowdy is dropped, any remaining uses can apply to a second rowdy (you can track resources in a single place for simplicity).
It’s also important to give PCs an opportunity to recognize a rowdy, since they may well use different tactics and resources when facing them. After all sine the game doesn’t promise players that encounters will be balanced, if you tell players there is a pack of 16 wolves surrounding their camp they may well think this is an encounter they are meant to flee or avoid at any cost.
By the same token, you want to be able to scare players now and then. 🙂
So, anytime PCs successfully make a skill check to identify a creature, and beat the DC by 5 or more, they automatically identify the creature is a Rowdy, in addition to the standard second piece of useful information.
(Editorial Design Note: I first ran into the concept with “Mooks,” from Feng Shui, and later examined some of oddities it could create in a d20 game with the “Minion” rules from 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons. The concept is absolutely not original to me, though I feel I have done my own take on the concept with this Starfinder-compatible versions.
This editorial is not part of the OGL content of this blog.)
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