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Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Quest: Into the Unknown PDF

***½( ) (based on 11 ratings)

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A series of five Starfinder Quests designed for 1st-level characters.

When a mysterious visitor comes to Absalom Station selling items belonging to a lost Starfinder, the Starfinder Society takes note. The PCs are dispatched to discover out how the recent arrival found these items, leading them on a series of quests beyond the Pact Worlds and into the stars.

"Into the Unknown" includes five, 1-hour adventures that take the PCs from exploring Absalom Station, to partaking in starship combat, to exploring an alien world. The fifth adventure in the series provides a stunning conclusion that takes the PC's previous accomplishments into account for a climactic final showdown against an enemy starship.

Written by Ron Lundeen.

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Product Reviews (11)
1 to 5 of 11 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | 3 | next > last >>

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***½( ) (based on 11 ratings)

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Solid, but Starship Combat Needs Work

****( )

NO SPOILERS

Into the Unknown is the first "Quest" for Starfinder Society. Quests are a little bit different than standard scenarios because they're a series of five 1-hour long encounters that can be played together to get a complete story or individually (even out of order) to get a taste of what the game is like. If you sit down and play through it from beginning to end, you won't notice any difference between a Quest and and a standard scenario. I ran this for three experienced players running their own characters. It's not a challenging adventure, but it has a great starting hook and a good understanding of science fantasy story beats. I think Into the Unknown does a nice job introducing players to some of the core concepts of Starfinder, such as the Starfinder Society, Absalom Station, space combat, exploring alien planets, and so forth. I can't quite recommend this whole-heartedly because of how easy it is (especially the starship combat), but overall it's a solid introduction to the system and its setting.

SPOILERS

The hook is solid: months ago, a Starfinder Society ship named the Unbounded Wayfarer was on a long-range exploration mission in the Vast when it suddenly ceased contact. Back on Absalom Station, the Society presumed the ship was lost forever until word arrived that someone was on the Station selling the crew's insignias at a local pawn shop! Obviously, someone knows something about the missing ship.

In the first quest, "Station," the PCs are dispatched to the pawnbroker to persuade him to divulge information about the seller of the insignias. The pawnbroker is given a classic "blustering tough-guy" personality, and this is a good role-playing scene for new players. From one perspective it's a bit silly in that, whether the PCs make or fail their Diplomacy/Intimidate checks, they get the information they need to continue to the next scene, but drafting non-railroady adventures is difficult in this context. The PCs then follow the information to an interesting setting that helps show why Absalom Station is unique: the "Vat Gardens", a place where impoverished locals are allowed to dump the bodies of their deceased loved ones for free (and, in return, the bodies serve as nutrients for the soil). Here, a disguised ghoul named Exegara is collecting skulls, protected by some recently-hired mercenaries. The PCs need to capture or destroy Exegara, because she's the one who sold the Starfinders' insignias. I like the encounter, because it has some elements that complicate things: walkways around the vat, issues with concealment, etc. When the PCs succeed, they discover that Exegara was part of the crew of a Corpse Fleet (undead separatists from the planet Eox) ship called the Endless Threnody that was damaged in a fight with space pirates and is floating in the Drift (Exegara was dispatched via shuttle to collect skulls to repair its necromantic generators). The undead crew recovered the Starfinder insignias from a crash site on a distant planet, but the planet's coordinates are in the computer databanks on board the Endless Threnody.

The second quest, "Adrift", has the PCs set off to find the Endless Threnody aboard their own vessel, the Loreseeker. A starship battle ensues immediately. The Corpse Fleet vessel doesn't have operative shields and is relatively lightly armed, so it shouldn't be a challenge, especially if the PCs have a decent pilot and the basic strategic awareness to stay out of the Endless Threnody's forward arc, where its only decent gun is mounted. The Quest writer, Ron Lundeen, kept this combat simple for brand-new players: there's only one enemy vessel and no obstacles or complications to the encounter. (GMs should note that the stats given for the Loreseeker in the PDF are incorrect, and that there's an important errata thread in the forums).

"Boarding" is the third quest, and it has some interesting elements. As the PCs explore the Corpse Fleet vessel, they realize it's suffused with necromantic energy and that the longer they stay aboard the more their life will be sapped. Anyone good with computers can mitigate or even completely shut down the effect, but I thought it was a clever hazard that fit the setting well. (Many GMs have had difficulty figuring out where the listed necromantic generators are because the included map is vague; the forums are helpful in this regard.) The combat encounter for this mission is against a crew of skeletons. Pretty standard stuff, and I wish the included picture had been more space-themed rather than "sailing crew" themed. After the battle, the PCs can try to access the coordinates of the planet where the missing Starfinder vessel crashed. I quite like that there were consequences for failed Computer checks (waves of necromantic energy), as skill checks can be boring if they can be retried with no penalties.

"Salvage", the fourth quest, takes place on a desert planet called Ulmarid. As the PCs walk to the crash site of the Unbounded Wayfarer, they suffer through a storm of poisonous crystals! The concept is a bit weird, but I like environmental hazards and a reason for PCs to be good at Survival. At the crash site, they're attacked by a scary, burrowing monster. The creature is described well and is probably the most dangerous thing in the entire quest pack. I only wish there was a picture, but perhaps imagination is better. I particularly liked that the writer added a salvageable anti-personnel starship weapon that the PCs could use. Encounters that have things the PCs can interact with are always fun and turn the mundane into the memorable. The crew of the Unbounded Wayfarer, alas, are all long dead. It's kind of a bummer that is realistic but could make some players think the adventure was pointless; perhaps a trail leading to a sole survivor holed up in a nearby cave would have been better, but I digress.

The last mission is "Lawblight", which is the name of the pirate vessel that the PCs have to fight once they leave Ulmarid. There's a bit about an asteroid field the PCs have to navigate when they enter and leave the planet, but the consequences of failing a Pilot check are so minor as to be laughable. As for the space battle itself, all I can speak to is my experience GMing it: the PC ship ran rings around the Lawblight and were barely scratched, but the encounter still took a long time to resolve. Successfully completing earlier quests gives the party "clues" that provide mechanical advantages during the battle. I think there are issues in Starfinder starship combat around the fact that critical hits don't do double damage, that critical hits aren't very meaningful or memorable (a "Glitched" system is minor and easily repaired), and that turret weapons reign supreme. None of those issues are the scenario writer's fault and it's early days, but I do think Starfinder Society will have to work hard to make starship combat fun, fast-paced, and challenging (while putting in workable contingency plans if the PC ship loses).

Overall, I thought Into the Unknown had a solid premise and an interesting story. Apart from the wrinkles with starship combat that need to be ironed out, I imagine new players will really enjoy playing it.


Functional

***( )( )

Into the Unknown exists for a very specific purpose at a very specific point in time, which means it's forgiven a lot of things that wouldn't fly in a proper module. It's function in the campaign is to serve as an introduction to the ruleset, which it does a decent job of, and apparently to also foreshadow a bunch of stuff, which it also accomplishes.

While I am generally a fan of the complex, the ambitious, and the outside-the-box, you first need to build the box before you can go outside. That's what Into the Unknown is doing. It's a simple railroad, but it does not need to be anything more than that. Though the quest format has felt off in many of the Pathfinder Society quests, this one makes it work. I can even forgive its crime of including what's essentially a random encounter, since that's more or less in service of exhibiting the hazards of exploring an uncharted planet.

If I had to find something to criticize, it's that the payoff at the climax feels a bit weak and Lawblight feels kinda distant as the ultimate villain. It might be that the amount of bonuses the the party can gather up against it over the previous quests makes the fight too easy. Both times I've played this, Lawblight didn't manage to so much as dent the heroes' shields.

There's also a memorable NPC, some nifty local colour for Absalom Station like the Vat Gardens, and four lines of text that ought to be good for a couple of seasons of storylines.

To sum up, Into the Unknown aims low but it hits its mark. It's eminently playable and replayable.


Star-ship comabt, again...

**( )( )( )

For the most part the adventure is good. The exception comes to star-ship combat, not once but twice in the scenario.

The star-ship mechanics in the game is clunky, slow and off putting. Giving a 1st level group a ship that is way too advance for them is bad.

Considering making a litmus test for if I play a scenario. Is there star-ship combat?, Yes, then just say no.


Not a fan of quests in general

****( )

I'm not a fan of the way quests are done. I understand that they are broken up in order to be presented in 1 hour sections but when a player plays them all together and in order, it feels super disjointed. With that said, this quest was done well and had more of a natural sort of flow to it then previous quests I have played or run (all of them)


Great introduction to Starfinder

*****

Last night was my first opportunity to run this quest at our local game store and the players really enjoyed their introduction to the Starfinder Society. Our table consisted of four veteran PFRPG players who were new to the Starfinder RPG. We got started a little slowly, reviewing the rules and explaining differences between the two systems, but the game eventually picked up and ended with a dramatic space-opera finish.
Unlike other Pathfinder Quests with six encounters, this quest has only five encounters which helped give the players an opportunity to work through the rule system in the four hours we had scheduled to play the game. The stages of the quest are best played in order so the plot makes sense. Each stage of the quest introduces the new concepts of the system in subtle ways without placing the players in mortal danger.

Pros: Good plot, good story, nicely developed characters. Even the hired guns in the first encounter have names! Most of the system mechanics are familiar but slightly different so it helped to remind veteran players to be flexible.

Cons: The maps do not identify the starting locations for any of the foes or the party. The GM should consider in their preparation where the PCs enter the map and where the NPCs are likely to be staged. Each new encounter introduces new system rules so the first few rounds of an event takes extra time. Space combat especially takes time to initially understand the process because of the unique rules (hexes?). Fortunately the pace of starship combat improved by round three and each round took only a few minutes after that (Engineering - Helm - Gunnery - Next round).

Recommendations:
-Buy the maps. John Compton’s post listed the maps in the Quest and printing them is expensive.
-Use the starship character sheet to help the players visualize and track the condition of the starship shield/weapon arcs and systems (http://paizo.com/download/starfinder/PZO7101-ShipSheet.zip)

Overall, this is a great adventure to introduce players to the system and setting, but be patient with your players and GMs!


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