Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Scenario #1-07: The Solar Sortie PDF

***½( ) (based on 10 ratings)

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A Starfinder Society Scenario designed for levels 1–4.

When Historia-7, the leader of the Dataphiles faction, uncovers the first hints of a conspiracy operating against the Starfinder Society, the PCs must assist her in uncovering the truth. Sent to a corporate space station orbiting the Pact Worlds' sun, the PCs must earn favor with the hedonist son of a corporate CEO to gain access to the confidential files Historia-7 needs. However, the PCs are stuck in the middle when this corrupt dilettante's proclivities and shady associations emerge to thwart the Starfinders' covert infiltration.

Content in The Solar Sortie also contributes to the ongoing goals of the Dataphiles faction.

Written by Jenny Jarzabski Cary

Starfinder Society Scenario Tags: Faction (Dataphiles), Starship

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***½( ) (based on 10 ratings)

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Enjoyable and challenging

****( )

I enjoyed the scenario for its scaling difficulty and use of mechanics.


Heist/Infiltration bait and switch

**( )( )( )

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

The PCs are hired to infiltrate a big Corporate research station, exploit and manipulate a foolish (and heavily drugged) scion of the company, secure critical data, and get out without getting their cover identities blown. Or at least, that's the idea based on the blurb and the briefing, given in authoritarian fashion by the frosty Historia-7. The fantasy being explored here is almost a futuristic space-heist, but the scenario fails utterly at fulfilling it, delivering a humdrum railroad of forced and contrived encounters. Players are not only given no agency in resolving the heist, but the specified sequence of events doesn't hit on any of the tense scenarios that one would expect out of a heist/infiltration.

A memorable NPC and some cool window dressing at the unique location redeem the scenario a little, providing some interesting things to look at as the players are shunted from encounter to encounter. Nevertheless, I have a hard time recommending this one. Any player interested in skullduggery and infiltration will likely be disappointed by the lack of depth here. While any other player looking for good social encounters will probably find this lacking as well.

The Good (spoilers):
Envar is a well-realized mix of narcissistic rich kid and incredibly deranged drug addict (a little reminiscent of the NPC you escort in PFS#13 Prince of Augustana) and it doesn't take long for him to become intolerable. That's a success in my mind. The scenario made me hate the dude in something like half a dozen lines of dialogue.

The Brilliance's unique location and internal features (Ilia Tamm corporate holograms were awesome to get you in the mode to smash some corp faces :>) were certainly both unusual and interesting. I got some Shadowrun vibes from portions of the scenario.

The Bad (spoilers):
The entire structure of the scenario is tremendously unsatisfying. You're hired to infiltrate a corp base, trick Envar into leaking corporate secrets, then stealing data and getting home without busting your cover. But the scenario is really about escorting around an intolerable man-child as he goes on a drug-fueled trip. This is literally 75% of the scenario. The players get to make no choices, not even fake choices where there's only one reasonable option. No, the scenario assumes that they will placidly follow around Envar until he leads them literally to the computer in his mother's office and tells them the password. *headdesk* It cannot get more railroady than this.

As an example of the insane railroading, if the party fails to impress Envar with showboating in the beginning, or if they fight and lose to the gladiatorial fight, he still decides to take them on a tour. If they fail the other options to impress him, he still takes them with him on the tour. If they mention NOTHING about Ilia Tamm's office, he SPECIFICALLY SUGGESTS THE PARTY GO THERE! OTOH, If the party wants to go to Ilia's office early (and honestly, what PC wants to hang out with this guy if they don't have to), well, tough luck, the office is only unoccupied for a set amount of time that only arrives if they entertain Envar. ARGHHHH!

The encounters are all totally meaningless when considering the task the PCs are hired to tackle. A gladiatorial fight should not be the only way to get Envar's attention, nor even the best way. Plus it stands out as bizarre that an orbital research station has a deathmatch arena.

A drug-dealer shows up to rough up Envar for money and you're tasked with helping Envar get out of a tight spot. So how do you do that? Well, if you don't want to fight, the ysoki dealer is satisfied if you play a game with it. Ie. arm wrestling or a video game. This scene was tonally deaf. Are we supposed to be intimidated by this ysoki or to laugh at it?

But perhaps the most unsatisfying element here is the token 'infiltration' aspect. The PCs set up secret identities by rolling Disguise or Computers checks at the beginning, but there's no other scene where they benefit from taking actions to conceal their identities. Barring GM circumstance bonuses, they can RP exactly like their normal character with no impact to the scenario. Furthermore, it seems statistically almost impossible to ensure that every character has a good enough disguise to avoid being pierced by one of the security staff on the station. Even if every PC has a +10 on their disguise or computers check (and they generally will not), every single PCs disguise has to get past TWO sets of perception checks. Playing around with some probability math, the chances of no PCs disguise being pierced across the 12 perception checks made in a 6 man party is 2.5% in Tier 1-2. With the chances that low, whats even the point of the GM tracking all this stuff?

Plus, the impact of the infiltration failing is practically non-existent. You still get access to the office, still get the data, and then only afterward do you have to deal with an easy space combat.


More silly than fun

***( )( )

Jhaeman's review below does a great job capturing my feelings on this scenario. Based on GMing and playing at my local gaming store, I thought this scenario was okay at best. Envar certainly makes a memorable character, but the scenario, frankly, doesn't feel appropriately epic from a story telling perspective. "The PCs baby sit a silly stoner" just isn't my cup of tea when it comes to a one sentence summary of the scenario plot. The railroad nature of the scenario and minor mechanical flubs (in particular those mentioned regarding the starship combat) make this one of my least favorite SFS scenarios so far, especially in terms of flavor.


Pedestrian

**( )( )( )

NO SPOILERS

I ran The Solar Sortie at Tier 1-2, using the four-player adjustment. It's a short and very straightforward scenario that could be good for new players, but the plotting is weak and the encounters are mediocre at best. It's definitely playable and there's a few fun elements, but on the whole I'd rank it near the bottom of the list.

SPOILERS

Historia-7, faction leader of the Dataphiles, provides the usual briefing this time around, and it's an interesting one: The Starfinder Society's data archives have been compromised! It turns out that Historia-7's predecessor had been investigating several corporations prior to the Scoured Stars Incident, but now all of that data is missing. However, a hacker identified in a previous scenario (Ceren from "The Commencement") has provided the SFS with links leading to one of the mysteriously-omitted corporations: Arch Energy. Arch Energy is a manufacturer of solar batteries and has their corporate HQ and research laboratories aboard a space station named Brilliance that orbits the sun. Historia-7 says a straight infiltration of Brilliance to find out what Arch Energy is really all about is doomed to fail because security is too tight, but that she's identified a weak link: the CEO's drug-addled son, Envar. The PCs are to travel to Brilliance and manipulate Envar into helping them gain access to the CEO's computer. The premise has an interesting tie-in to the Scoured Stars Incident meta-plot, and I'm looking forward to learning more.

On the way to Brilliance, the PCs are expected to disguise themselves as participants in gladiatorial combat games that Envar sponsors aboard the station. Oddly, the PCs are allowed to use a Computers skill check instead of Disguise to make their fake identities, which renders the latter skill rather superfluous. There is a nice bonus if one or more of the PCs have a particular boon from an earlier scenario ("Abadar Annoyance" from # 1-02), and I hope we continue to see plenty of occasions where these come into play.

Once the PCs arrive on Brilliance, they're ushered into an arena for a battle against a monster called a Crest-Eater. I frankly found the idea of blood-sports taking place in an otherwise normal corporate HQ rather odd, even if the CEO's son sponsors them. It'd be like if Google had dog-fighting matches in the lobby of their HQ. There is a nice little add-on that the PCs are expected to show off in the arena prior to the battle to gain Envar's interest, but the battle itself is pretty average because, although it looks cool, the Arena flip-mat doesn't actually provide much in the way of interesting terrain features for the PCs to take advantage of.

Win or lose, Envar approaches the PCs after the match and offers them a tour of Brilliance. I had fun role-playing him as a drug-addled stoner, and the scenario provides some fun descriptions of various hallucinations that he might have. He takes the PCs first to a nearby bar for a drink, and this is when the second encounter occurs. A ysoki drug-dealer named Razor, accompanied by two vesk bodyguards (something already becoming a meme in Starfinder), plans to rough Envar up for falling behind on his payments for the transdimensional pesh she provides him. Although my PCs ended up with the classic "laser gun and grenade battle in the middle of a bar" result, I liked how the scenario provided a couple of other good ways the situation could be resolved: paying off Razor, bluffing her that the money was on the way, or taking up her offer to resolve things through a battle of strength (arm-wrestling her goons) or wits (playing a video game). It's good encounter design to provide options. It is a bit ironic that the PCs are standing up for Envar only so they can completely take advantage of him later!

After the bar incident, Envar takes the PCs up to an observatory. In a really forced scripted event, he then spouts something about wanting to play a computer game before accidentally lowering the observatory's solar shielding, which just so coincidentally lets two feral "solar elementals" manifest. It's obviously combat just for the sake of combat. One of the odd things about the scenario is that Envar isn't given any stats at all, even though he's often placed directly in harm's way (from Razor and her goons, from the solar elementals, etc.). I guess the GM can just hand-wave that he survives no matter what, but many players will assume he needs to be protected, healed, etc. In addition, some (more unscrupulous) Starfinders may decide to get Envar's cooperation through more nefarious tactics, and, again, not having his stats hinders options (say, if the PCs decide to steal his keycard, intimidate him into taking them directly to the computer they need, charming him, etc.). And in another forced bit, Envar insists the PCs search the lab and nearby storage room and take anything they like (a.k.a., loot must be dropped somewhere!).

After the observatory, Envar takes the PCs to his mother's office. The PCs can either hack into the computer or simply yank out its data module, with the latter option setting off an alarm. Not much really hinges on the choice, as, either way, they'll make it off Brilliance with the information they need. The only way it could matter is that if the PCs pulled off the entire infiltration flawlessly (avoiding multiple opportunities for guards to pierce their disguises; noticing and avoiding an alarm trap on the door to the CEO's office; and hacking into the computer without any failures) they get to skip the final encounter of the scenario: an attack by two fighter starships. I think most groups will trigger this encounter, but it's nice to see at least the possibility of it being avoided and I think it's a good twist that the space combat occurs at the end of the scenario unlike all previous ones where it has happened near the beginning or middle. The encounter itself was interesting at first for my group because the fighter's missile batteries could actually do some damage; however, once the PCs realized their ship was faster than the fighters, they simply decided to flee. I imagine this was an oversight by the writer and developer, and it put me in a tough spot as the GM. Fleeing without consequences trivializes the encounter, but if the goal is to escape with the data that Historia-7 wants, what point is there in battling the fighters?

Once back on Absalom Station, the conclusion is better than in many other SFS scenarios. Historia-7 realizes there's a corporate conspiracy to hide the truth about the Scoured Stars Incident, and to unravel it she (and the PCs) are going to have to take Zigvigix up on his invitation to attend a Star Sugar Heartlove!! concert! It's a fun ending.

Overall though, I found The Solar Sortie pedestrian. It's as railroad-y as it gets, with the PCs following Envar by the coattails from encounter to encounter. The gladiatorial combat and fight against the solar elementals were examples of poor plotting, and the starship combat at the end, although a fun idea in theory, failed due to a mechanics oversight. I guess, in its favor, I can say that the scenario is a very short one to run (on par with "Fugitive on the Red Planet") and that it's pretty easy both RP and combat-wise. It might be a scenario to use for players new to gaming or to Starfinder, but otherwise it's not a good reflection of the type of story-telling that could be achieved with this system and this fictional setting.


Interesting Scenario

***( )( )

So the scenario starts off promising enough. You basically have to hang out with a completely coked-out drug-addled rich boy long enough to con him into doing something for you because his family might be up to some evil stuff. It starts off funnily enough, and interesting, but then it steadily becomes more and more tedious as you realize that you have to spend the entire scenario on rails going from plot point to plot point, and you aren't the conductor, this guy is who is stoned out of his gourd. Fun for a while if your GM plays it up, but not enough to carry an entire scenario.

That being said, it isn't BAD. Lots of intrigue, and since you are coning what is ostensibly an 'evil corporation,' even the most good-aligned characters shouldn't have too much of a problem with it.

Also, one of the fights was just brutal for us, and would have TPKed us if the GM didn't softball it. Just constant AOE damage all the time . . . no fun.

If you want to GM this one, make sure you play up the stoner angle, it's the only way your PCs will have fun.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber

This is going to be one of these "Can we just shoot this kid?" kind of missions

Dataphiles

Woot! Dataphiles mission!

Starfinder Society Developer

Closing in on finishing up this scenario, and wanted to let everyone know...

Maps Appearing in Starfinder Society Scenario #1–07: The Solar Sortie::

-Pathfinder Flip-Mat Classics: Arena
-Starfinder Flip-Mat: Basic Starfield
-Starfinder Flip-Mat: Cantina

Silver Crusade

Starfinder Superscriber

The order says it should be in my downloads, but it isn't. Is this just part of the process of it coming out?


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber

Same


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

Same issue here as well.

Silver Crusade

Starfinder Superscriber

Any updates on the issue? I know it has only been a day, but...


Starship tag... yet another. Looks like I won't be seeing how this one plays out.

Starfinder Society Developer

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Grimm Hrafn wrote:
Starship tag... yet another. Looks like I won't be seeing how this one plays out.

Our internal "goal" (not binding in any way) is to have roughly 1 out of every 4 scenarios include starship combat in one form or another. As a new system, it really does help us out for people to try it and get familiar with it—running the encounters faster due to knowledgeable GMs and players makes a HUGE difference. Similarly, some (but not all) of our major storyline scenarios will feature starship combat.

All that being said, I highly recommend you give this particular scenario a shot.

Minor spoilers for the scenario :
Of all the scenarios with starship combat, this one emphasizes it in a very unique and different way, and it's entirely possible to avoid the encounter altogether through skilled game play.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Thurston Hillman wrote:
Grimm Hrafn wrote:
Starship tag... yet another. Looks like I won't be seeing how this one plays out.

Our internal "goal" (not binding in any way) is to have roughly 1 out of every 4 scenarios include starship combat in one form or another. As a new system, it really does help us out for people to try it and get familiar with it—running the encounters faster due to knowledgeable GMs and players makes a HUGE difference. Similarly, some (but not all) of our major storyline scenarios will feature starship combat.

All that being said, I highly recommend you give this particular scenario a shot.

** spoiler omitted **

Does the bit in the spoiler

Spoiler:
involve throwing the smeghead out an airlock? :P
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