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Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Scenario #1-05: The First Mandate PDF

****½ (based on 8 ratings)

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A Starfinder Society Scenario designed for levels 1-4.

With a new generation of Starfinders already accomplishing great deeds within the Pact Worlds and beyond, First Seeker Luwazi Elsebo is ready to announce the Starfinder Society's next initiative that will define her tenure. The PCs attend a gathering at the Lorespire Complex to socialize with several visiting dignitaries, each instrumental in the Society's survival following the Scoured Stars Incident. Nothing is as it seems, though, and when Radaszam, leader of the Acquisitives faction, uncovers a plot against the First Seeker, the PCs need to step in and ensure the Society's public event doesn't end in disaster!

Content in The First Mandate also contributes to the ongoing goals of the Acquisitives and Second Seekers (Luwazi Elsebo) factions. Content in this scenario also contributes to the ongoing Year of Scoured Stars storyline

Written by Lyz Liddell.

Starfinder Society Scenario Tags: Faction (Acquisitives), Faction (Second Seekers [Luwazi Elsebo])

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Product Reviews (8)
1 to 5 of 8 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | next > last >>

Average product rating:

****½ (based on 8 ratings)

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A Gala goes a little off course

***( )( )

<Played through this one at low-tier in a Play by Post, then reviewed the PDF from the perspective of a GM>

The First Mandate revolves around a gala event celebrating the successes of the Starfinder Society in the wake of the Scoured Stars event. The PCs are invited to take part and help impress the visitors, and of course, things at the gala take a turn for the worse. All in all its a tight concept with some fun interlinking parts, such as the way the people you manage to influence in turn have an effect on later parts of the scenario. On the other hand, it relies HEAVILY on having a good GM for not only the large degree of RP, but also to tie together a scenario whose events don't quite gel logically.

The Good (spoilers):
- Cool concept of finding and unraveling a plot to assassinate the First Seeker. There are a couple of moments that really feel like you're uncovering things yourself rather than being on rails (unlocking the computer and making sense of both the scale shine and hair styling products was the part that really stood out as fun).

- Lots of information in the scenario to help bring life to the NPCs. The variety of NPC dignitaries helped to attract different members of the party and give all the PCs a role to play.


The Bad (spoilers):
- One of my pet-peeves in PFS and SFS is what I call "skill-spam" encounters. Basically any part of the scenario that involves attempting skills over and over to satisfy some hidden counter, arbitrary target, or just to fill a set amount of time. There's something so mind-boggling soulless in the experience, no matter what kind of glue ties it together. This scenario has skill-spam in spades, as you have multiple rounds of roleplay and then skill checks by every single player. The roleplay is fun, rolling skills for an arbitrary number of rounds is not.

- There is precious little context to the gala other than "people are here to celebrate the Starfinder Society's return". The players get blurbs that help them guess how to suck up to each of the guests, but there's no larger goal in sight other than the suck up to them. It makes the whole thing feel kind of pointless. This is reinforced later by the First Seeker's announcement being almost nothing of importance.

- Risking the First Seeker's life in order to show off to some dignitaries makes little sense (especially ironic when considering the Scoured Stars), and full boons for the scenario rely on doing the flashy and stupid tactic rather than the safe one. This weirdness took me out of the story immediately.

- The whole disarming the bombs scenario makes little sense and assumes the PCs reach conclusions that they have little reason to reach. PCs have no reason to trust that there are only 5 bombs. They have no reason to believe that Triloteya would stick around. They have no way to know (in character) that distracting Triloteya is necessary unless they've already found her. And most of what counts as a distraction makes little to no sense... why would Triloteya spend any time paying attention to Zo! for example? All of these elements feel super arbitrary! In my run most of them had to be conveyed to us out of character.

- The combats are very plain, with open, unobstructed rooms and few targets. You can have a scenario that minimizes combat but still have fun encounters. These were very basic and pretty dull.


For the RP Enthusiasts

****( )

Note: I originally hand-wrote this review during a really boring meeting! It's probably a bit rough, but the essential theme should be there. I ran this scenario at low tier using the four-player adjustment.

NO SPOILERS

The First Mandate is a great scenario for Starfinder players who are looking for a role-play heavy experience. It's perfect for skill monkeys, with combat taking a backseat. There are some great, well-fleshed out NPCs, though admittedly the plot is pretty basic. I'd recommend it as an opportunity for non-combat oriented characters to shine.

SPOILERS

The centrepiece of The First Mandate is a major gala at Starfinder Society headquarters. First Seeker Luwazi Elsebo has invited several guests with powerful connections to hear a major announcement about the future direction of the organization. The PCs are asked to persuade some of these major players to lend their support (both moral and financial) to the SFS. In game terms, this takes the form of an RP-heavy skills challenge, where the PCs are given a set number of opportunities to influence five different NPCs. Each of the NPCs has an interesting and memorable personality with their own interests and ways of being persuaded. It's not all Diplomacy, as skills as diverse as Acrobatics to Medicine can be used to impress certain NPCs. (I appreciated the full-colour artwork of the NPCs, and recommend GMs use the pictures to help the players remember who they're interacting with each round.) I thought this "social encounter" was a really clever way to get everyone involved in the teamwork necessary for success, and it's always fun to role-play a fancy, formal gala when most PCs are going to be hulking vesks or carrying an armory's worth of weaponry. The coolest thing is that the particular NPCs that are influenced take part in events later in the scenario.

After this RP-intensive encounter, the PCs are approached by Radaszam, head of the Acquisitives faction, with news that a potential assassin has been traced to a warehouse in the Sparks neighborhood of Absalom Station. The PCs, of course, are sent to raid the warehouse. They won't find an assassin, but (after probably setting off a nasty trap) will do battle against a pair of creatures called "electrovores" and then find clues that point to the assassin being a shapechanger who plans to set explosives to kill Luwazi Elsebo! It's not the most creative encounter (the electrovores are kinda run-of-the-mill and are present more because combats are expected in scenarios), but it does advance the plot.

After the PCs rush back to the gala, a really fun and tense encounter begins. The PCs can play it safe by having Radaszam's mercenary outfit take care of finding/defusing the bombs or the PCs can take the riskier (but more impressive to the dignitaries) strategy of handling both the bombs and the assassin at the same time. It's a delicate balance, because one misstep leads to the assassin pressing that detonator button, and it would be quite easy for the PCs to fail magnificently. The group I ran this for succeeded as much through luck as strategy.

Assuming the PCs are successful in stopping the bombs and the assassin, the end of the scenario is a bit of a let-down. There's no explanation as to why Luwazi was targeted, whether the assassin was hired or acting alone, etc. And more, Luwazi's big announcement (that she's going to try to solve the "Scoured Stars" problem and recover the lost Starfinders) isn't exactly a big surprise. It comes off as anti-climactic given all the work put into supporting the effort and saving Luwazi's life.

All in all, though, I thought The First Mandate was a solid scenario. It's a nice change of pace, with a great social encounter and an original encounter combining skills and combat. It's not a scenario that will find great favour with the "combat combat combat" crowd, but for most others it should be a satisfying experience.


Top Notch concept, execution has opportunities for improvement

***( )( )

A fun adventure with excellent NPCs and story. The danger is overtuned for first level characters, who risk dying before initiative is rolled for the first time in the module. The first combat could result in a total team kill at first level.

Action economy on the role-playing encounter could have used some improvement, and small teams can have a very hard time achieving the objective.

Ideally: have six players, all of different classes, at second level, then the adventure will be fun, and you won't have a 25% chance of dying in the first combat encounter.


Space Sleuths

*****

Another great Starfinder scenario, that - like most of the others - picks up on other scenarios, and hints to others to come.

A very nice general multi-PC/NPC interaction, followed by investigation and a race against time fight.
Things to do for all.

Lots of fun!


A Strong Set-up, But a Weak Follow-through

****( )

I ran this scenario for SFS this evening and it was, overall, a fun experience. However, despite the scenario's strong opening scene and creative role-play opportunities, it falls flat in Acts II and III with awkward pacing, opaque motivations, and a confusing combat set-up.

Let me disclose, first of all, that I love party scenes. It lets me fill a room with interesting people and turn the PCs loose in a role-play interaction sandbox to learn all about the quirks and personalities of the guests. The gala scene in The First Mandate was no different, and the five NPCs the PCs had to influence were distinct and entertaining enough that each interaction felt memorable. The players certainly came up with unique ways to leverage their skills in conversations with the guests, from discussions of the ethical and geopolitical implications of First Contact events to pitching mining opportunities to an Aspis Consortium representative. Unfortunately, because we were playing with 3 players + 1 GMPC, the two sets of social rounds dragged out a little bit, but that may be more of a symptom of our table than the scenario.

After the PCs are called away from the gala is when the scenario's pacing seems to break down. First, asking the PCs to leave a party they have just finished winning friends at seems very strange. Their friends will wonder where they've gone, why they've gone, and what it is they could possibly be doing that's more important. Not only that, it seems a little strange to send the agents you're supposed to be showing-off to follow-up on a lead. You've got other agents who can handle that, these guys are assigned to the party.

Of course, the investigation scene is technically proficient and well-constructed. It is your typical obstacle-discovery set-up, with a great a-ha moment for the players who paid attention to the fluff text. I do wish one of the rewards weren't so hidden, and I worry other groups might miss the opportunity to collect it.

The weakest scene in the scenario is, sadly, the conclusion. While I did like that the NPCs mentioned in the first scene are made relevant again in the third scene (and can contribute meaningfully to its resolution), the entire organization and pacing of the whole event is, quite frankly, a mess. In fairness, most scenes involving a split party are, but that's no excuse. The scene should have decided whether it wanted to be a technical scene or a combat scene, but not both at the same time, especially with such a high CR enemy (I would've been in favor of combining the CRs of the enemy and the skill challenge if both are to play out at the same time).

Perhaps what frustrates me most about this scenario is that it goes about its script too closely. The plot unfolds not because of the actions of the PCs or their guests, but because it's what's supposed to happen next. Key characters say things because they need to same them, not because it necessarily makes sense. This makes the story feel forced, and threatens the sense of accomplishment the PCs are supposed to achieve from their successes.

For Example:
The First Seeker's quote about "people trying to kill her" to the audience makes no sense if the third scene were not out in the open (since it's assumed the PCs were surreptitiously disarming the bombs and therefore most attendees weren't even aware there was a threat).

In conclusion, The First Mandate is a fun scenario with a strong opening that is hampered by a weak middle and end. The scenario should have tried harder to keep events closer together, in such a way that the important NPCs the PCs spent nearly an hour interacting with remained relevant throughout, instead of only Acts I and III. That said, this is another scenario really had good ideas, and with some additional polish and editing, could've been a slam-dunk way to kick off the next round of SFS missions.

As something of a post-script, I really did appreciate the way the scenario dropped hints about upcoming scenarios. It was a clever detail, and one that went a long way to making the story of Season 1 feel more coherent.


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