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Pathfinder Starfinder Society Subscriber. * Starfinder Society GM. 774 posts (9,526 including aliases). 30 reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 11 Organized Play characters. 22 aliases.

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A Psychic Catastrophe Looms


Fire Starters is a stunning start of the Dawn of Flame Starfinder Adventure Path. It packs two two seemingly unrelated scenarios - an exploration of a strange alien starship that emerged from the plane of fire, and a liberation of a town from fascist rebels that have seized power. How are these events connected? What is the source of the strange psychic rumblings emitting from the interior of the sun? And how will the PCs handle the weird and awesome challenges of the Burning Archipelago?

This AP book manages to bring a variety of interesting challenges, mysteries with just enough hints to get players wondering, prominent and colorful characters, and moral dilemmas to address. Despite its short length, it gives players a LOT to chew on, with serious variety. This is all fantastic and a big step up from some earlier Starfinder APs that felt shallow and one-dimensional.

There's not a lot of payoff on the mysteries established in this book, and the larger metaplot described in the beginning of the book is a bit vague and weak. But these elements can be tweaked by the GM to firm up the story and suit their particular party.

The Good (spoilers):
  • Colorful characters like Nib, Mims, and some of the antagonists, do a lot of good for the adventure. The relationship between Nib and Taeress is unusual for a tabletop adventure and can be emphasized or dropped to suit each GM or group. Trinipol is an eminently hateable antagonist, and the way he's built up over the latter half of the adventure is great.
  • There's a potential for real moral ambiguity in the second half of the adventure, depending on whether a GM wants to play up the degree to which the psychic signal from the sun is driving the Collective's actions. The strife within Asanatown feels true to life and serves as fantastic motivation for the party. And the adventure does a pretty good job of considering nonviolent solutions as viable. This is awesome.
  • The variety of encounters and situations is pretty good. Particularly memorable encounters were the invisible imp that joins other encounters at the Horizon House, the final clash with Trinipol (helped by a cool artwork), the con-shirren that tries to steal the PCs' starship, the whimsical protean in the Breath, and Mims the confused skittermander. The noncombat encounters and challenges all felt natural and logical.
  • The story of the latter chunk of the AP made a lot of sense and felt natural, allowing PCs to really engage in it. The first half with the starship exploration was a little game-y in comparison.
  • Really neat setting with some stellar art to show off.
  • There's enough detail in the Asanatown and Sarenrae articles for the GM to really expand the adventure and extrapolate when players take a different approach. This is really appreciated!

  • The Bad (spoilers):
  • The adventure doesn't lean into its unique setting well enough. It feels like it could have been set in many other places than inside the sun.
  • The overarching plot that gets foreshadowed and hinted at is quite weak. The Malikah and the General don't come off as compelling villains, and their goal of taking over the sun doesn't make a lot of sense. While this doesn't have much of an impact on this book (and remains out of view of the players), it means that the various hints given in this book are building up to nothing much. Not impossible to fix, but disappointing nonetheless. Additionally, some things happen in this adventure (like the Far Portal sinking into the sun) that don't get an explanation for the GM, leaving you in the dark as to their significance for further books. The storytelling style feels a little "Abrams Mystery Box".
  • Various minor plot holes dot the first half of the adventure. Most aren't glaring enough to be spotted by anything but the most inquisitive players, but they're clunky nonetheless. Particularly annoying is when the PCs are asked to physically take data from Far Station to the Burning Archipelago, as if there were no long-range comms in universe.

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    A Weird and Wonderful World of Undeath


    Splintered Worlds continues the uneven quality of the Dead Suns adventure path set by the last two books, but brings in some truly wonderfully weird, creepy and interesting settings and characters. There's a lot of writing to love here - from the eccentric undead of Eox to the spooky abandoned Cult base, to the blasted, hostile landscapes of bone and acid in the final confrontation. And on top of that, after two books of slow burning aimlessness, the plot kicks into gear and both stakes and enemies start becoming clear.

    But at the same time, the mechanical aspects of the adventure are lacking in a few glaring areas. From traps that auto-magically break the rules to frustrate PCs, to stat block errors, to multiple dramatic contradictions between maps and text. And the story - for all its evocative locales and fun characters - makes little sense, contradicting itself and hamfistedly requiring GM railroading or big plot adjustments to get players to follow the AP's content.

    Thankfully, those mechanical details are all fixable, and it doesn't take huge changes to the plot to make it logically consistent. But these are all things that the GM needs to realize ahead of time and fix (or not fix and deal with confused players mid-game). It does make the adventure more of an evocative framework to create your game, than an adventure that plays well if you just pick it up.

    The Good (spoilers):
  • The descriptions, maps and art for Eox are all absolutely amazing. Knocked out of the park on cool imagery. The cult base is similarly amazing art-wise.
  • Eoxian characters are unexpectedly kooky and weird, with an obvious undercurrent of possibly evil creepiness to them. The encounters in the Splice with "friendly" shopkeepers are a joy. Lots of character background and details to help flesh them out.
  • The Eox article in the back is great!
  • An excellent variety of novel encounters, from snipers, to getting dunked in acid pools, to apartment block brawls, to dodging laser grids, to giant radioactive behemoths, to skeletons crawling out of walls of bone! Much much better variety and more interesting fights in this one than the previous two books.

  • The Bad (spoilers):
  • Ugh. The plot make so little sense. Why does the Corpse Fleet lay such an overly convoluted trail of evidence to draw the PCs out into the countryside? Why are the Devourer Cult computers wiped clear of evidence so thoroughly that the PCs have no lead? Why are all the hazards the Corpse Fleet had to fight through to get into the Cult base still alive/active? Why are the controls to disable a base defense BEFORE the base defense, rendering it impotent? Why are the PCs expected to travel over land everywhere? Theres a 50ft tall ellicoth that's assumed to somehow sneak up on a party. etc etc.
  • So many mechanical issues:
    There's another trap (Mind Spores) that circumvents environmental protections for no reason. This is easily fixed by making it a purely magical, mind-affecting trap, but its something that seems to be a common pain point for other groups running the AP. (There's also some spoiled food on a table, in which sniffing it gives the sickened condition for 10 mins - but everyone's in environmental protection 100% of the time, so it can never do anything). There's a marrowblight later on whose multiattack ability is always worse than just full attacking. And so on.
  • Some maps on Eox are not sufficient for the given encounters. When the PCs are investigating the apartment, for example, the map scales are off and the map doesn't match the text. Or trying to use the little inset map for the Trampleram fight. Or the lack of an interior view to the Marrowblight hut. Or the general lack of elevation info on the Asteroid map.

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    Beware the Panacea for Weary Souls


    <GM'd in Play by Post>

    Survivor's Salvation suffers from a dreadfully wonky first act before it gets to its fun conclusion. The first act is narratively nonsensical, inconsistent in tone and content, and has multiple scenes that require GM intervention and interpretation to hold together. With a slightly inquisitive party, the GM will be hard pressed to deliver answers that make sense using the elements in the text. Other scenes in act 1 actively undermine player successes in an attempt to keep them firmly on the railroad. On the other hand, the final act delivers what I'd say is one of the most memorable series of encounters in SFS so far. Its a spotty experience, a 2 star scenario attached to a 4 star one.

    Despite the problems with this scenario, I'd still recommend it, if only for the fun of players' reactions when they hit the last act.

    The Good (spoilers):
  • Everything from the meetup with Hurondo onwards is great adventuring. Enough hints are dropped as to the true nature of the 'treatments' at the Open Collective that the PCs have their suspicions. And seeing those come to fruition is great!
  • The reactions from players when a slime sluuuuurps into the body of one of their allies. Awesome! And the sudden change in tactics needed is exciting and fun. Due to the damage threshold before the slime is kicked out, there's less risk of accidentally killing an ally than at first glance, but its still a big and scary moment.
  • Hurondo is a cool character, a kindly big brother to the others - even managing to pull one of his captors to his side. He gets some great characterization through the impressions of other NPCs, which feels very natural.
  • Fantastic set up for more bodysnatcher related adventures on Absalom Station.

  • The Bad (spoilers):
  • Wherein the adventure gets short circuited from minute 1: This adventure is up there as one of the least solidly plotted scenarios yet for SFS. In the briefing, the PCs are asked to talk to Jiwalla. So... why don't they just call her? She already has exactly the lead the PCs need to bypass the entire Respite complex and start heading down into the Spike to follow in Hurondo's footsteps. But, the adventure is absolutely not designed for this eventuality. The PCs miss a third of the adventure if they think to take advantage of modern technology. (Plus, why hasn't Ziggy given her a call?)
  • Where's the time pressure?: Hurondo is missing, but there's no urgency in looking for him. The adventure assumes you're happy to faff about around the Respite learning nothing of value and participating in activities.
  • Events in front of the Respite: As opposed to every other information gathering situation so far in SFS, here you're expected to arbitrarily head up to individual groups of people that you have no reason to believe know anything about Hurondo and ask questions. What happened to using Diplomacy to Gather Information? Furthermore, the Vesk 'argument' is incredibly obtuse in how its described. In essence, Razda is having some kind of mental episode and Svata is trying to convince him to go to the Respite. But there's nothing other than mechanical subtext to tell you that Razda doesn't want to go. Why wouldn't he want to? What exactly is the argument about anyway? The GM is left grasping at straws as the scene's underpinnings unravel.
  • Events inside the Respite: 1) It only gets worse inside the Respite as the character most concerned for Hurondo's well being intentionally delays the PCs to offer them to do some physical competitions rather than go looking for her missing friend (not to mention that they need a Diplomacy check to even get her to talk about Hurondo in the first place). Plus, Jiwalla only decides to help the party look for her best friend if they beat her at athletic competitions? Baffling. My players immediately assumed she was the villain with how little she seemed to care. 2) The scenario is silent on what Bygones-B might know of Hurondo's status. Instead, we're to believe that the PCs will sit down in the middle of their investigation to talk about their feelings and traumas? 3) Hurondo's office is a gigantic dead end where Jiwalla smacks the hands of any PCs trying to find critical information to locate her best friend. Because data privacy is a hot topic.
  • And none of the investigation matters: During the investigation, the PCs have gotten half a dozen copies of the same lead: that Hurondo was last seen investigating the homes of his patients in the Spike. BUT WAIT. Nothing in the Respite matters because, holy deus ex machina, the gang that kidnapped Hurondo literally shows up to lead the PCs back to their HQ.
  • Wherein Uniter recruits drive the locomotive railroading the plot: So the Uniter recruits are currently advertising for a new medical clinic. But when the PCs catch them, the adventure doesn't assume that the PCs will ask about the Clinic. No, that would, you know, make sense. Instead, the adventure assumes that the two recruits will, UNPROMPTED, blurt out that the Uniters have someone that the Society would want to trade for. Oh, and the recruits otherwise know absolutely nothing about the Uniters and its association with the Open Collective. Oh, and if the PCs fail to capture the Uniters recruits, the adventure has this to say: "If the PCs failed to obtain the necessary information, they can return to the Respite to continue questioning other visitors who will eventually reveal Hurondo’s location, though this takes more time." So, uh, someone just randomly remembers "Oh yeah, Hurondo was kidnapped by the Uniters".

  • Descriptive text is lacking: There are a number of places where the descriptive text or scene setting for an area misses key details. Hints as to who you can talk to outside the Respite are entirely absent. What does the Respite look like? Etc
  • Many many editing mistakes: So many that the adventure is difficult to read at times. Sentences cut off early, some paragraphs are duplicated with minor changes (see pg 4 and Razda's double explanation of the medical clinic in the Spike), the same info shows up in multiple places while other info is missing.
  • Maps are in the wrong places: Both are about two pages ahead of their associated text, requiring flipping around.

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    Steal that Data, Shadowrunner!


    <Played in Play-by-Post>

    Interested in a proper heist scenario? Not satisfied with the awkward 'not-quite-a-heist' of SFS 1-06? Well, Data Breach does a much better job of serving some high-tech futuristic heist goodness. In 1-33, the Society needs some data stored in a secure bunker on Verces, and its up to the Starfinders to interrogate an informant and then infiltrate a facility and defeat its various security measures to secure their prize.

    It hits all the right beats! Absolutely worth playing with your Hacker, Engineering expert or Spy character. It's a solid adventure - but the short duration leaves it feeling a little shallow. You're definitely left wanting more :)

    The Good (Spoilers):
  • Loved the integration with the ongoing plot! From Hira Lanzio being your informant to Historia-7 mysteriously being unavailable at the end, the plot certainly has thickened!
  • The interrogation was excellent - it felt like it mattered, you get real and useful information on a success, and there's real penalties for failure. Lanzio's motivations make sense and make this a wonderful RP opportunity.
  • The multi-layered defenses fit together logically, from the alarms that help prepare the defense drones deeper in the complex, to security cameras that record the PC's presence. I especially liked how every encounter has guidance on adjustments if the PCs are slower or clumsier in their explorations.
  • The most fully fleshed out hacking experience thus far! Computers with multiple layers of protection, lockouts, firewalls, and plenty of useful info to be gleaned.
  • The 'boss' is a cool set piece encounter.

  • The Bad (Spoilers):
  • The encounters, particularly the last one, are definitely on the easy side. For a low-tier group, defeating the 'boss' in a single round would not be unusual. The non-combat encounters are significantly more challenging.
  • The facility is very basic and mostly empty. This seems appropriate in retrospect, but it was a little disappointing on the way through.
  • There's disappointingly no time pressure to the scenario other than a vague implication that the bad guys will eventually notice. I would have loved a final fight with a security force if your group takes too long.
  • There's a secret passage mid way through that hurts more than it helps, as it causes you to bypass a lot of useful info and some scenario credits unless you backtrack later. While I don't like this normally, I particular hate it here, as you're inclined to get in and get out quickly.

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    All Aboard the Ukulam Express!


    Temple of the Twelve is an OK continuation of the Dead Suns Adventure Path. While it has a few neat scenes and characters, far too much of the adventure revolves around a railroaded string of encounters with no decisions being made by the PCs. Where other adventures present a problem and leave it up to the PCs to figure out how they're going to solve it, Temple of the Twelve guides players by the nose and substitutes player engagement with dozens of pointless skill checks.

    For those players happy to just roll dice and bash bad guys, its a fun romp (or maybe a guided tour) through a dangerous jungle setting with clear 'Jurassic Park' vibes. For other players, there's still some fun investigation and roleplay in the other sections of the book. And the larger plot of Dead Suns finally begins to swing into gear.

    The Good (Spoilers):
  • Fun Investigation The investigation and roleplaying in Qabarat University is a lot of fun, with some flexibility on how to approach the different scenes and places for different types of PCs to shine.
  • Memorable Locales Uilee's cafe is an awesome and memorable scene, with humor as PCs are served her bizarre creations and action as the PCs negotiate and/or clash with Twonas.
  • Moral Questions Ralkawi is given just enough background to give the PCs something to wrestle with morally. This setup gave the players something to engage with in the middle of the jungle encounters.
  • Panellier encounter offers cool lore and challenging combat Panellier is a cool encounter, especially if the PCs can converse with him first. There's a number of ways around him, but fighting through him is both deadly for the PCs and a tragic end for the ancient guardian.

  • The Bad (Spoilers):
  • Poor Motivators Much like Dead Suns Book 1, there's very little motivation for the player characters to pursue the adventure. The primary driver appears to be Chiskisk telling them they might become famous if they learn more about the Drift Rock. It relies on the PCs in the game being wide-eyed adventure-for-adventure's-sake types. This is a far cry from Pathfinder APs, where the AP often integrates PCs into the story and presents threats to both them and NPCs and locations they get attached to.
  • A Linear Romp Part 2 (the jungle trek) is a long linear segment with no significant choices for the PCs. There's no map for the trek, no real choices to be made regarding how the pursuit is attempted, and there's no narrative consequences to going quickly or slowly. Some groups might enjoy the Jurassic-parkian flavor just for the novelty, but its basically a couple of session's worth of turn-your-brain-off monster bashing and prompted skill checks.
  • Pointless Skill Checks Part 2 asks for dozens of skill checks to navigate the jungle, but provides no narrative consequences to success or failure. All those skill checks are pointless.
  • Brutal Diseases Diseases are brutal in Starfinder, and this adventure seems insistent on hitting you with as many as possible. Even prepared PCs may eventually succumb to one of them, after which there's nothing much to be done but cross your fingers and wait in game DAYS to elapse to get better. And while still suffering, the affected characters are close to useless - so heavily penalized that they practically don't get to act at all.
  • Insufficient Consideration for the Setting Several sections were written without consideration for how the new gameplay mechanics function. For example: It provides no guidance on how armor environmental protections can be maintained beyond the 24hr/level limit (if the PCs want to avoid the heat, for example). Nor does it give the GM any guidance on other travel relevant questions (can PCs hire animals? Rations weigh 1 bulk per person per week, so how do they transport them? etc)
  • Dull Combats So so combats. Most enemies are straight bruiser types, sometimes with poisons when attacking. Lots of minimally intelligent animal-type foes, and some cultists that fight to the death no matter what. None have particularly interesting tactics or motivation other than Panellier at the end.
  • Token Starship Combat The token starship combat comes out of the blue and has no relevance to this book.
  • Shallow Investigation The investigation in Qabarat (and the info dump in the Temple of the Twelve library) is far too obvious and unsubtle, not leaving room for players to engage their creative juices and speculate.
  • Silly Enemies The Devourer Cult are bland and uncompelling grunts whose suicidal nihilism is laughable rather than threatening. Tahomen is similarly bland, and the 'climactic' fight with him is a flash in the pan.

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    Everything's better down where its wetter, even for Starfinders!


    <Played in Play-by-Post>

    Sanctuary of Drowned Delight brings players to the home territory of a mysterious new alien race, then confronts them with a central mystery that develops over the course of the scenario. It drops them into a freeform exploration and interaction environment that provides plenty of investigation and roleplay. Very reminiscent of a particular stellar Pathfinder Society scenario!

    There's a lot to love here. While the mystery itself is fairly easy to catch on to, handling the fallout well is very tricky, and the conclusion is very very dramatic no matter how the events go. Its just a fantastic story to play through.

    The Good (spoilers):
  • The underwater setting adds extra challenge to the combats without being quite as punishing as Pathfinder. Asks you to think a little more with your preparations.
  • The characters are equal parts fascinatingly cute and terribly twisted, and there is enough context to the action for PCs to work out how the situation with the cult came to exist.
  • The plot is tragic in multiple ways without ever feeling like its trying too hard to be a tearjerker (the loss of the kalos and the subversion of the good-natured morlamaws is honestly quite well done).
  • The unique map is clear and interesting
  • Overall: Really engaging scenario that gets your role playing juices flowing.

  • The Bad (spoilers):
  • The layout in the PDF is a nightmare of page-flipping and simultaneous event + location entries. Very challenging to GM.
  • The pre-scheduled events make your confrontation with the 'big bad' annoyingly inflexible. It felt frustrating to be stonewalled after seemingly having cracked the mystery.

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    An infiltration that doesn't quite come together


    <Played in Play by Post>

    A Night in Nightarch is a really neat concept. The Starfinder Society has a weapons supplier on Apostae - they're buying weapons from the drow! When a scheduled delivery is interrupted, its up to the Starfinders to find out why, navigate the tangles of drow society, and secure the delivery. Of course, its not going to be that simple.

    After some information gathering, this scenario turns to full-blown infiltration, as the party heads to a drow base to complete their mission! Sadly, the actual infiltration part falls flat, at least partially because the scenario has to be technically completable by the Soldier-only party with no relevant skills. But also because the entire hind-part of the scenario turns out to not be designed to be infiltrated at all! (more details in spoilers)

    The Bad (spoilers):
  • The back half of this scenario is a drow base that ostensibly we should be trying to infiltrate. But wow does the scenario assume you'll want to slaughter every drow in the place. On the upper floor, there's no significant skulking about necessary- the enemies are spread about, don't meaningfully patrol, are easy to defeat, and there's little that we're even meant to secure or interact with up here to find the weapons cache. On the bottom floor, there's absolutely no way to complete your objective quietly. You HAVE to fight multiple waves of orcs no matter what you do.
  • Furthermore, despite the first half of the scenario being about prepping for your assault, no plans you make ahead of time matter. The location of the weapons is practically highlighted with a glowing beacon once you get to the right map, and completely unknown before then.
  • Once you reach the drow base, getting full rewards expects you to search every room and beat every guard, a strategy that stands in direct opposition to your stated goal of 'get the weapons cache and split'.
  • Really obvious logical issues, like: 'This is a whole shipment of weapons, how are we going to get it out when I can't carry that much bulk?' The scenario actually solves this FOR you by giving you a forklift in the final room, but there's no way to know this exists while you're outside and planning.
  • For a Drow scenario, disappointingly no one betrays you! In comparison to how the drow are portrayed in PF1E and older fantasy games, there's a distinct lack of evilness to the ones in this scenario.
  • The plot never really goes anywhere - you go in, find the weapons right away, fight some guards and a pathetic party kid, and you're done.

  • The Good (spoilers):
  • There's a lengthy skill check portion in the beginning that helps you accrue advantages for your inevitable assault on the drow warehouse base. Some of these seem pointless, but others are pretty neat.
  • Fun drow flavor, like the fleshwarping lab and drow heavy metal music.
  • Some fun, fairly challenging encounters in closely chained string. The warehouse makes for a good battle map: elevation changes, traps, obstacles, and plenty of room to maneuver. The auto-forklift as a moving hazard was excellent.

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    I do like myself some Babymetal, but...


    <Played in low-tier in Play-by-post>

    Star Sugar Heartlove is a weird scenario. On one hand, its a whimsical exploration of a concert for a fictional far-future pop group, having your team contend with (and assist) zealous fans and their unique problems. On the other hand, its kind of a conspiracy thriller where your team is trying to interrogate bad guys and avert a terrible catastrophe. And these two halves fit together awkwardly at the best of times, and sometimes not at all.

    Goofy, silly, and cute! But also tone-deaf, cringey, and awkward. Let's just say this scenario brings a very different take to the Starfinder Society, for both good and ill!

    The Good (Spoilers):
  • It's uniquely light-hearted, especially regarding the mini tasks you accomplish. Particularly fun if your own character is an SMC fan!
  • The final set piece, fighting a giant mech while the pop group sings to inspire you, is an awesome and memorable moment.
  • The final encounter also has cool and unique attacks and powers.

  • The Bad (Spoilers):
  • Tonally deaf, 1-14 introduces a Station-ending supervirus that'll kill everyone on the Station unless something is done about it in one scene, and then has you stop to help repair a goofy robot or trade merch with a superfan in the next. Damoritosh forbid you actually want to save the Station, because the adventure is written assuming you want to engage in all this faffing about even after you learn that everyone is going to die.
  • There's no sense of actually investigating. Historia's initial briefing is just that there's a bad guy called Lanzio on the station somewhere, and you're given absolutely nothing that would help you find him. Locating him is a complete coincidence that stretches credulity.
  • Ziggy, despite being the leader of the Exo-Guardians, the branch of the Society dedicated to the protection of the Pact Worlds, continues to come off as effete and incompetent. His sole contribution to this scenario is to be really hyped, dance a bit, and then get trapped inside a hallway (where incidentally the party is expected to leave him).
  • With so many pages dedicated to the various concert ambiance scenes, Lanzio's encounter is empty. He immediately attacks, knows nothing useful, has nothing useful, and contributes in no way to the plot (his meager info is redundant with that gleaned from the reactor).
  • The set piece at the end is awesome, but its also incredibly handwavy. Historia is able to manifest an alien computer virus into corporeal form so you can fight it??? I mean, yeah, cool! But this is a concept that really requires you to suspend your disbelief for the sake of a set piece.
  • Although the day is saved at the end, nothing interesting is learned about the shadow-y corporate cabal that Historia is after, not even a teaser about their ultimate goals. Its pretty unsatisfying.

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    Fly Me to the Moon


    <GM'd and played this in Play by Post>

    Live Exploration Extreme! is an awesome, zany concept with fantastic potential... but one that relies on PCs and a GM that are willing to lean into the absurdity and let loose!

    The PCs are off to investigate the mysterious moon of Salvation's End once more, but this time with a live studio audience in tow! Turns out Zo! has gotten the rights to televise the next Starfinder Society mission into the interior of the moon and he's determined to make it as dramatic as possible. The PCs descend into the moon, but what awaits them there... and is it real, or just part of the show?

    Obviously, it's not perfect. It relies more than most scenarios on having a skilled GM that is good at improvising. The PDF has errors and layout issues that make an already complex scenario more challenging to run. But even considering these issues, its simply a funny and memorable romp that I'd definitely recommend.

    Just make sure to bring a character that isn't *too* serious. If the scenario has any weaknesses, one is certainly that it doesn't gel well with characters who want to stick to the mission and avoid the limelight.

    The Good (spoilers):
  • The concept is absolutely zany. Undead crew members toting cameras! A live twitter feed commenting on the PC's adventure! The Booth! This is nothing like any other SFS mission.
  • The pre-Gap dwarves are a real mystery, intriguing the players.
  • Lots of opportunity to RP, both with fellow PCs and with the NPCs.

  • The Bad (spoilers):
  • The layout of the PDF is a nightmare. Information is all over the place. Maps and character portraits are nowhere near the related text.
  • The fan favor mechanics are really complicated to understand, to adjudicate fairly, and they ultimately don't amount to much. Tracking them on a per-character basis along with each character's persona, while running a bunch more stuff is tricky for the GM.
  • There's a lot of 'reactive' content, which asks GMs to improv based on the PCs actions thus far. Great if you have an inventive, experienced and engaged GM, terrible if you don't. A GM that half-asses the Booth, doesn't have anything interesting on the twitter feed, and never does anything with the camera crew will inadvertently cut out half the fun of the scenario. In more structured scenarios, this doesn't happen nearly as much or as severely.
  • Railroady. Out of necessity, but the chain of events here doesn't leave almost anything up to PCs despite this being a very open ended seeming scenario. Wazasha is set to keep PCs in line.

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    Nightclubs, Nightmares, and Naughty Ysoki :)


    <GM'd this in play-by-post>

    Dreaming of the Future is a tidy collection of four quests that work excellently as a full 4-part scenario. The set up is fairly mundane: go find three MacGuffins that'll take you to the final MacGuffin, but the individual quests are interesting and engaging (Particularly 'Bad Chameleon' and 'Nightmare'), and you forget about the mundane structure soon enough. The writing talent behind these quests is really strong, and they manage to get a lot of engaging content squeezed into very few pages!

    Of course, that doesn't mean that they're flawless. I have some issues with the first quest ('Megaplex') and there's a disappointing number of errors or flaws that could have been caught in editing throughout. Furthermore, the final conclusion is very weak (almost missing entirely), and desperately needs a GM to flesh it out into something more satisfying.

    Overall though, some really awesome elements in here, and I'd definitely recommend this set of quests to any group, new or experienced with Starfinder.

    Some Negatives (spoilers):
  • The Megaplex quest suffers from being nonsensical in setup: 'All we know is there's an android in legal trouble somewhere in this general region of this planet, go find them'. Players were confused and taken out of the story.
  • Megaplex also lacks basic detail required to explain why the events are occurring: What do the PCs learn that reveals Lerecti's location to them? Why do they find them at a convenience store? What other options do they have for getting the tablet? Etc etc.
  • Megaplex's organization leaves the GM bouncing around the section to try to figure out character motivations.
  • Megaplex's setup and story suggest that multiple approaches might be reasonable, but the adventure forces a non-intuitive series of events, where skill checks have little to no visible effect for the PCs.
  • River Rat's rules for keeping Mr Smiles talking are unclear, as are the rules for identifying the turrets.
  • In Nightmare, the first battery of skill checks to cover the external hike are almost impossible to fail. Additionally, it was difficult to explain why being good at balancing was helping the whole team avoid being blown away in the icestorm.
  • In Nightmare, nothing pressing seems to stop the PCs from taking 8 hours to recover from any fatigue, nor does the sickened condition from the missile trap seem to have any effect. This makes all the skill checks at least somewhat meaningless.
  • In Nightmare, the time to enter and leave the moon is undefined by the scenario. My PCs really wanted to know these things because they were concerned about the limited environmental seal uptime on their armor!
  • More generally, the combats, barring the last one, were far too easy. These are 1/day encounters where parties have full resources and could stand to be more challenging.
  • The River Rat encounter, particularly if the turrets are dealt with, is very easy, but rather time consuming. Little tension or engagement.
  • The use of 'key tablets' as a MacGuffin was rather uninspired, considering the theming of the overall mission. Additionally, the final reward of vaguely defined 'dreaming tools' was a real loss of potential lore and engagement! The ending in general is extremely abrupt and unsatisfying.

  • Some Positives (spoilers):
  • The River Rat's turret mechanics and terrain-filled arena both made sense for the scenario and added an extra dimension to the combat! I was very impressed that a simple, introductory starship combat was given cool gimmicks this way. Unfortunately, as mentioned above, the combat was a bit too easy despite these bits.
  • Everything in Bad Chameleon was awesome. From the descriptions of the streets of Vanos, to the freeform structure of investigating the club, to the various options for influencing the final encounter with Bogdin. Androids in my group loved the chance to free some fellow androids! And some very simple things (like the two bartender androids being named after the club rather than anything else) really made the setting hit home. There's a lot of juicy detail in very few pages! (Though the fight vs. Bogdin and his bouncers could stand to be harder, considering how many advantages the PCs can accrue).
  • While I wasn't sold on the mechanics behind traversing the moon, Preahan, my players liked the atmosphere and presentation.
  • The whole Nightmare Dragon concept was unexpected and well received by my group. The dragonblood-theme character was psyched to get some use out of their theme feature.
  • The fight with Kanavu's shade is suitably epic for a low level encounter and a cool way to cap things off.

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    Meaty with plenty of player options


    This is the book that fills in SO many weapon, armor, and utility holes in the CRB.

    Juicy equipment for everyone! Low level energy damage weapons! Cool weapons for grappling! Special weapons for different professions! Power Armors with nifty abilities! Grenade scramblers, mimic imagers, holoshrouds, hoverskates, personal phase shifters, hi-tech scopes... it goes on and on and on!

    When you get this book you realize just how basic and limiting the equipment section in the CRB was.

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    A Big Step Down from Pathfinder APs


    Incident at Absalom Station can best be summed up as serviceable but dry. All the necessary bits and pieces are in place and the adventure does a good job of providing a variety of both combat and skill challenges. But the adventure as written lacks the vibrant characters, varied combat scenarios and absorbing plots that I've come to appreciate and expect from Paizo's Pathfinder AP line.

    Some Negatives (includes spoilers):
  • Poor motivation in-character: PCs are often doing things for purely mercenary reasons rather than in response to a dramatic event that motivates them both in and out of character. PCs have no attachment to Duravor (he dies before they know him), subsequent events are all just 'jobs' the party agrees to do. Relies heavily on PCs wanting to join the Starfinder Society in part 1, but the Society is hardly involved in parts 2 and 3. It also does a poor job of showing in-setting why it would be worth joining the Society.
  • No Player Guide means poor context: Without a Player's Guide, Player Characters are not well integrated into the setting. Players don't have background knowledge/context necessary to interact richly with the melting pot that is Absalom Station. This is a new setting and one without traditional fantasy elements to fall back on to do the heavy lifting. It REALLY needs to provide background info to the players so that they know what is and isn't normal (and what options might be out there).
  • Lack of depth to Non-player characters: Most Pathfinder APs have some NPCs that are richly fleshed out in the book, are given enough of a background that the GM can breathe life into them with ease. In Dead Suns, none of the NPCs are given that kind of write-up. The GM has no context for why the Ambassador is doing what he's doing, or why Eskolar is where she is, or what kind of person Chiskisk is. The shorter length to the book is certainly partly to blame, but it also suffers from having to carry a lot of Absalom Station background instead of adventure-specific background.
  • The adventure doesn't stand on its own: The players tackle disparate tasks that lead them to discovering that the drift rock has mysterious alien technology inside. The discovery plays no role in the resolution of the adventure, its effectively just there for flavor. As a result, there isn't much of an arc to the story here and there's no big villain. The players are left with a few mysteries, but very little to engage with until Book 2.
  • The combats are dry: There are many encounters in this book, but almost all of them are straight-forward brawls: PCs and one to two enemies in an empty room or hallway, trading blows until one of them falls. The enemies fought are all simple (and most are unintelligent), with a single attack and very basic tactics. The environments are not conducive to interesting movement or positioning either.

  • Some Positives (Includes spoilers):
  • As an intro to the Starfinder system, its a good package. A simple adventure that manages to hit a broad assortment of the system's mechanics. Zero-G combat, starship combat, skill challenges, ranged and melee combat, diseases, etc. It covers a lot of ground!
  • Laying the groundwork well. It does a good job of setting up the core concerns of the AP, though PCs probably won't realize it for a while. The Eoxian role in things, the corpse fleet, the Stellar Degenerator. All of these are teased or interacted with in this adventure.
  • A good intro to the Setting: It keeps things basic, but provides the GM with enough useful information about Absalom Station to flesh out the world.

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    Storm Chasers - SFS Edition


    <GM'd in both tiers in Play-by-Post>

    Ashes of Discovery is an odd scenario when compared to most SFS offerings. It has PCs sent to a randomly generated planet to learn the fate of an outpost from a randomly chosen organization, while meeting randomly generated aliens and dealing with randomly flavored hazards. Each time you play it, you're going to be in for a new mission of first contact. That's pretty exciting! Unfortunately, printed space limitations mean that all these variations only affect the "window dressing". The mechanical elements of the scenario vary almost not-at-all, leaving this scenario somewhat unimpressive on repeat playthroughs.

    Nevertheless, Ashes is a decent scenario that sends PCs on a journey to do some of the most Starfinder-y things they could be doing: Exploring distant worlds, meeting new aliens, undertaking archeological data-gathering, and more. Its a great introduction to SFS and with a GM willing to put the extra effort in, a great RP and exploration experience. On the other hand, it also has an unsatisfying story (with many unexplained holes), some frustrating railroading and lack of player agency, and it suffers from being incredibly easy (particularly at high tier), so your own mileage may vary.

    The Good (Spoilers):
    The first living spaceship encounter is not very threatening to the PCs, but its certainly flavorful!

    Randomly generated aliens are a joy, letting the GM customize and bring unique RP to every randomly generated adventure. I particularly appreciated the encouragement to customize the aliens to match your group!

    The Bad (Spoilers):
    Some of the random generated elements can be cumbersome for a GM to prepare for. A high gravity planet with an atmosphere that interferes with technology, or a low gravity planet with a thick atmosphere. Each of these customizations requires you to dig out your CRB and work out the exact effects in the environment chapter, then apply those effects where relevant in the adventure.

    The rules for applying summon grafts are missing here despite including all the needed information for the grafts themselves. Frustrating.

    The adventure is so customizable that it leaves the GM with a LOT of loose ends if they want to deliver a satisfying story. Each possible fate for the outpost is given only a single line of detail. This leaves integrating that reason into the latter half of the adventure entirely in the GMs hands.

    The Storm, as mentioned by some other reviews, is somewhat illogical as presented (not enough of a reason for why it endlessly stays in place) and frustrating for PCs to deal with. Making 3 FORT saves and then a whole bunch more FORT saves during the final traversal without any way to influence events is not much fun for the PCs, and is only OK here because the damage amounts are totally non-threatening.

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    Absalom Station's FDA probably had an aneurysm over this one.


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

    This investigation-style adventure starts off innocently enough. The PCs are tasked with tracking down the source of a seemingly wondrous biotech prosthetic, given a couple of hints as to its circumstances, and then set loose in the riotous Freemarkets of Absalom Station. Free-form exploration and RP (with a driving purpose) eventually lead to some critical clues and an increasingly creepy trail of evidence. This new biotech is not all it seems to be, and before long things are well out of hand!

    This scenario is surprisingly creepy, tragic, and stomach-turning, with fantastic investigation elements that feel quite organic despite being relatively linear in the second half of the scenario. The NPCs are a pleasure to roleplay with, from the quirky shopkeepers of the Freemarket to the villains behind the tragedy. And perhaps most importantly for an investigation, the plot and the motivations of the characters involved are all very solidly written.

    Thoroughly enjoyable, though it would be even better if it could be expanded into a module with even more rigorous of an investigation. Scenarios of this quality are exactly what I'd like to see more of!

    The Good (spoilers):
  • The Freemarkets are executed very well for how little page space they take up. Each location and individual has a bit of useful information for the PCs, and the presence of Mr. Philt feels like a totally natural call back to an earlier scenario. This part is satisfyingly free-form.
  • There's a natural progression to meeting the halflings and winning them over by helping Maija. The detailed circumstances behind Maija's illness give the party plenty of information to chew on.
  • The roleplay opportunities are everywhere!
  • Great use of Abadarcorp Respect boon. Having an ally in the final few fights was unexpected but felt appropriate when considering the stakes here for Abadarcorp.
  • The full story can be uncovered by the PCs by the end if they're willing to accept the surrender of the two shirren. I find this fantastic, as curious or law abiding PCs will want to understand what happened, and there's ample opportunity for it. The backstory is kind of horrifying, but the villains are the best kind of villain: one whose motivations seem irrational, but who otherwise could easily be normal people.
  • Interesting terrain in the key fights. Unusual creatures with abilities that matter. And some flexibility in what needs to be fought. All these factors make the combats quite enjoyable.

  • The Bad (spoilers):
  • There's a trap that makes little to no sense: Shenge's apartment door in a poor district is ridiculously well defended. The PCs have no real reason to suspect that might be the case beforehand, almost guaranteeing an explosion without warning.
  • A player without bad intentions may get infamy in this scenario fairly easily simply by taking a harder line with the halflings. I can imagine a priest of Abadar PC would want payment in exchange for aiding Maija, simply because that's what their faith dictates is fair.

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    A gripping atmosphere covers minor flaws in this spooky dungeon adventure


    <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 brought in to locate the source of a distress beacon sent from a ship from Sangoro's Bulwark, the lost headquarters of the Exo-Guardians. The premise is straightforward: something must've gone terribly wrong with this ship, so you'll need to secure the distress beacon, use it to find the ship, and investigate.

    With a unique space combat and an atmospheric and spooky dungeon crawl with cool encounters, this scenario just brings a really high quality experience. The mysteries on the ship are also well designed to give players just enough information to tease out what happened to the Struggle's Scholar while keeping things surprising.

    The last third of the scenario does suffer from some issues with just being too transparently linear. But as opposed to some other reviewers, I feel that can be excused for the sake of maintaining a good narrative arc (and this one nails that arc well, concluding in an unexpected and exciting encounter).

    The Good (spoilers):
  • The veskarium ship and its captain are a breath of fresh air. Clear, solid motives and an unyielding commitment to honor give the PCs a political and social dilemma. Risk the loss of the beacon by accepting the Honorbound's terms for a 'ship duel', or risk making the already tense relationship between the Pact and the Veskarium worse by ignoring them. While ultimately it doesn't matter too much in this scenario, this is the kind of dilemma that gets players of all sorts engaged in the narrative.
  • Losing the duel has real consequences to the rest of the scenario, other than just 'you-fail', and they're well thought out ones too.
  • The atmosphere on the ship, from the dim and flickering lighting, to the increasingly malfunctioning turret, to the horrid fates of the creatures within, is uniformly excellent.
  • The map for the ship is unique and well detailed, and the handouts and "video recording" both did a good job of reinforcing the atmosphere and getting speculation going within the group.
  • The scenario provides a unique and uniquely useful tool for fighting the driftdead that appears near the end: a force baton that acts as a force effect vs. incorporeals. Very good from an adventure balance standpoint and a cool item to have access to after the scenario.
  • There's some attention given here to not only terrain but environmental effects. Dim lighting, the etheric storm messing with powered gear, obstacles for cover in the bridge room, etc. Add in monsters that also have unique powers to throw at you and it all helps to make the encounters more interesting.

  • The Bad (spoilers):
  • Another adventure, another space combat that drags on way past its welcome. While the unique elements (special honorable rules, asteroid field) add a bit of interest to the fight, by the time we were in round 8 and out of missiles we were more than ready for it to be over. Mercifully our GM 'called' the combat once it was clear that our ship was well in the lead. I wish space combats were rebalanced across the board, lowering either ship HP totals or reducing shield repair rates.
  • By the time we had picked up the second battery and were bringing it back to the engine room, the linear nature of the adventure had become glaringly obvious. This is especially disappointing after the first portion of the ship, which lets you explore freely.
  • The ending is somewhat unsatisfying, as the data you went to retrieve from the ship is not decoded as part of the scenario, so you never find out what was going on with the Bulwark. You just get a pat on the back! After all the build up and possible close calls against the xill and driftdead, it'd be nice to also have a solid meta-plot revelation as a reward.

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    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 doesn't really involve that kind of espionage at all. Instead, you escort around an intolerable man-child as he goes on a drug-fueled trip until he eventually leads you directly to his mom's office and tells you the password to her computer with no prompting what so ever. The players have no agency in the events here. They 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 the railroad of encounters is exhausted and deus ex machina puts them exactly where they needed to get to.

    The illustrate the high degree of railroading: Whether or not the party succeed at impressing Envar in the arena encounter, and whether or not they successfully win in the arena, Envar suggests they join him for a tour. If they fail the other options to impress him, he still takes them with him on the tour. Once on the tour, if they mention NOTHING about Ilia Tamm's office, the adventure tells the GM to have Envar bring it up and offer to take them there out of nowhere! 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. And until that time the party *must* entertain Envar, no other choices or options are possible.

    The encounters are all unrelated to the mission at hand. 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. The elementals make no sense ('whoops clumsy Envar lowered the shield that stops deadly elementals from infiltrating the station!!!'), and the drug dealer is 'defeated' by having fun with them.

    On that topic: 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, you can fight them of course. But the story assumes that instead of fighting, or tricking, or escaping, or anything normal, you'll want to play a game with them. Indeed, the drug dealer is satisfied regarding the debts if you beat them at a video game. This felt like nonsense.

    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 +9 on their disguise or computers check (and they generally will not), every single PC's disguise must beat a DC of 13 on the first security checkpoint and DC 15 at the second. Even with this degree of optimization, the chance that every PC's disguise will be good enough to pass inspection is only 18% in Tier 1-2. And that's a party OPTIMIZED around these checks.

    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.

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    A Gala goes a little off course


    EDIT: Updated to include GMing impressions.
    <Played and GM'd this one at low-tier in PbP>

    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. This is very cute, and satisfying from a player angle.

    On the other hand, this scenario really is a test for the GM. If the GM is either not into roleplaying their NPCs, or not capable of handling 5+ different unique personalities simultaneously, a large portion of this scenario can come off as hollow and unimpressive. The write-up provides a lot of useful detail to help the GM, but it really comes down to their RP chops.

    Furthermore, the latter parts of the scenario are... wonky at best. The events as described don't make much sense and require the group to accept some illogical stuff in order for (cool and dramatic) things to happen as written. Its awkward to execute from the GM's side, and can feel weird and nonsensical from the players' side.

    The Good (spoilers):
  • Well fleshed out NPC dignitaries for the PCs to interact with. Enough depth to really get some tasty RP going. Each of the NPCs feel distinct and interesting. There's a couple pages *just* devoted to these NPCs in the pdf.

  • 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).

  • The "Cinematic" approach can lead to some memorable scenes, with PCs defusing bombs against what feels like a time-limit, or unmasking the culprit! Or even the Obsidian Spider's sweeping Luwazi off an exploding stage if things go wrong!

  • The Bad (spoilers):
  • One of my pet-peeves in PFS and SFS is what I call "skill-spam" encounters. The kinds of encounters where what you choose to do almost doesn't matter, but rather you're expected to execute some arbitrary number of skill checks to succeed. There's something soulless in that experience, no matter what kind of narrative glue ties it together. Unfortunately, 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. (GMs who have read or experienced 1-11, 1-13, 1-17, or 1-99 will be able to adlib some additional teasers about future content in the wrap-up to this scenario!)

  • 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. Well meaning players may not realize what they're missing out on by taking the safe option!

  • This is the big problem: As written, simultaneously finding the bombs and uncovering Triloteya makes no sense. As written, there are no mechanics for actually finding Triloteya. If they know she looks like Sanivvi, do they just automatically spot her in round 1 if they head to the AV room? How would they know to head to the AV room, over, say, the kitchens? Can they ask around to identify her? Why would they even assume she's still nearby? There's no guidance on any of this.
    Furthermore, if the PCs don't identify her as taking on Sanivvi's appearance (by failing the earlier hacking challenge), there's no guidance in the pdf on how things are different. On top of that, what's the time scale for Luwazi's appearance? If the PCs decide not to touch the bombs at all and search for Triloteya first, there's no tension. Being certain there are only 5 bombs requires OOC information.
    The whole disarming the bombs scenario makes little sense and assumes the PCs reach conclusions that they have little reason to reach. 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.
    Both when I played this and when I ran this, this scene involved a lot of fudging, a lot of OOC "It's just this way because that's how it's written", and a lot of GM improvising to guide PCs back on track.

  • 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.

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    Unnerving and Brilliant


    <Played through this scenario at low tier in a Play by Post.>

    What a cool scenario! After a mission briefing that can essentially be summarized as 'go explore this place and report back' the PCs really do get to explore a very odd and frankly unnerving location. They get free reign to check things in whichever order they like, and the revelations come directly from their investigation rather than being fed to them. This is so refreshing in comparison to most of the speedy on-rails scenarios out there. And unlike other more sandboxy adventures, there is something relevant and interesting around most every corner.

    Some spoilers for the scenario ahead...

    The Good:
    Piecing together the state of the temple and its devotees is incredibly organic. You come across people behaving oddly and can't help but want to figure out why. The hints are doled out room-by-room, and the more explicit ones are deeper within the temple, so there's still some narrative progression to things. And wow can a GM make the worshipers really creepy with little effort.

    The infiltration & corruption of the temple make proper sense. Players for once get a clear picture of the backstory and tragedy, as opposed to most scenarios where most of the story stays stuck with the GM.

    The ambiance is awesome, with the pure white marble of the map contrasting the corruption.

    The Bad:
    My GM for this one fumbled on some of the NPCs, in part because they aren't given enough background and GM guidance. The RP interactions with them can come off as unsatisfying unless the GM really brings them to life on their own. This is a roleplay heavy scenario, so this could be a problem.

    Most of the combat encounters feel like token inclusions.

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    Face down a charlatan with a "philosopher's stone" in the deserts of Akiton


    Recently played through this scenario on low tier as a Play by Post, and then went back with my GM glasses to look at the PDF. Fugitive on the Red Planet is decent, with the story and setting as its strongest elements and a number of minor weaknesses in the actual content. No critical problems in my eyes, but enough to keep it out of the group of truly excellent scenarios.

    It's biggest weaknesses: Its just too straightforward, and awfully short. Furthermore:

    Negatives (spoilers within):
  • The city of Maro is totally glossed over after a quick intro. Gathering information there is a matter of a single skill check and then you're off to Tasch. Think 1-2 minutes of table time. Very disappointing!
  • Gathering info in Tasch is also nigh-immediate. Information about Talbot flows so freely that it feels like the adventure is on rails (especially after the easy time you had at Maro). If not for the forced encounters in the bar (social vs. Philt and combat vs. Maarbadvae) players would be able to zip straight to the mine. Both of these encounters feel like distractions from the goal anyway, like they should be something you could skip (even though the scenario makes it clear you should force players into both of them).
  • Encounters in the bar seem way too trigger happy, it makes little sense that both Philt and Maarbadvae would resort to killing a group of armed strangers before trying other tactics. Philt's actions are particularly odd ('Because I suspect you might make the job of my law abiding corporation more difficult, I'll kill you right now.')
  • The mine feels sparse and generic. There's not much to see or do there other than go right to Talbot.
  • There is a total of 1 quickly resolved social encounter (typically), and two combat encounters, making this an extremely short scenario. It doesn't help that there isn't much exploration and the ready flow of information limits the amount of RP a typical group might end up doing.
  • This is another adventure where the macguffin has no mechanical role. This is a PHILOSOPHERS STONE (fake), the final encounter could have been incredibly memorable, with Talbot using the stone to transmute walls to acid, ceilings to mud, and more. Instead, it plays no role. Very disappointing!
  • The short length of this scenario and the lack of memorable mechanical elements means that this scenario lives and dies by how well the GM can present the story and setting and entice players to engage with the roleplay. The themes here are evocative, and there's a bit of a moral quandary as well to get players engaged. Whether your group of players sinks their teeth into this quandary is probably the biggest factor in whether this scenario will seem like a cool one, or a forgettable one.

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    Setting the Scene for Starfinder Society


    Recently played through this scenario (by PbP on the forums, for what its worth) and then went back with my GM glasses on to take a look at the scenario write up. This scenario is great fun and more than a little bit silly & lighthearted. The stakes are low (for the most part) and there are colorful and ridiculous NPCs wherever you turn. As an introduction to Starfinder Society it falls a bit flat, only providing the vaguest of outlines about each of the factions. It also has some issues for tone, perhaps an over-reliance on skill checks, and a lack of unifying narrative. As a result, I don't think this is the best scenario to introduce a new player to Starfinder Organized Play, though its certainly a very fun scenario on its own merits.

    The Good:
    There are some great and varied mini-quests here. The junk race is a subsystem done incredibly right. Its well tuned to provide a decent chance of success if the players prep well, while also allowing for plenty of suspense as the dice can spell doom for the PCs efforts. The scenario write-up manages to provide a lot of hooks and advice for the GM in a fairly small space, covering most of the approaches the PCs might attempt: social, skills, trickery, and more.

    The Exo-guardians pit players against a very bizarre alien, and while its unlikely to down any players, it can feel pretty threatening at first level! At the same time the PCs get a juxtaposition against buying an album for a diehard fan. This scenario does an amazing job of characterizing Ziggy as an eccentric to match some of the colorful VCs we met back in Pathfinder.

    The Bad:
    The Wayfinders mission feels like it was crunched for page space. There is almost nothing to subduing the alien. Not enough detail about the creature and environment is provided to allow for RP-ing a solution that makes sense. Instead, skill-checks stand in for narrative development in a terribly awkward way. This is one of my pet peeves in PFS scenarios (when what could be interesting encounters/tasks are reduced to a series of skill checks), so I'm sad to see it here.

    The worst is probably the Dataphiles mission though. Some of my issues with it:

  • The mission requires you to steal previously stolen data, and then rather than returning it to its rightful owner, you need to hand it over for the personal enrichment of the Dataphiles faction leader. Lawfully aligned characters will likely have an issue with such an act, and even chaotic characters may balk (as it seems suicidal to go up against a giant corp for such a vague benefit).

  • While the briefing prioritizes recovery of the data, with recruitment of the hacker as a secondary objective, the write-up focuses almost entirely on helping the hacker. There isn't even any information on where the data (the contents of which is never explained) might reside for players that want to prioritize the stated objective! This mission presupposes that the players will follow a very narrow track and provides little to no detail on alternative solutions (literally the only alternative suggested is what happens if the PCs kill Ceren, even though there should be plenty of other options).

  • Furthermore managing to fool a giant corporation and all its resources is thematically out of line with what a 1st level character should be able to accomplish. If the players (seemingly rightly) assume they don't stand a chance of forging Ceren's death and new identity, they are likely to try a different strategy. There is simply not enough structure or information here for the GM to resolve alternative solutions without creating things entirely from scratch. On top of that, a PC group that invents their own method of helping Ceren and/or retrieving the data is explicitly rewarded with 0 bonus rewards (the scenario only grants the bonus if the death certificate / new identity are well prepared).

  • This is another mission where things boil down to out-of-character GM prodding and skill checks (especially if you want to do your players a solid and not let them miss out on rewards). Ugh!
  • Despite a few issues, there is a lot room here for both fun RP and interesting encounters. With the junk race as a highlight, I can absolutely recommend this scenario to existing PFS/SFS players!

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    Investigation Rich intro to PFS


    Recently finished going through this one as a player in a PbP (Play by Post).

    When I think about what makes for a good PFS session, I think:
    - Varied encounters (this one has them)
    - Enough information for the players to both speculate and investigate the plot (6-10 has just enough to be interesting)
    - Needs to have a satisfying narrative arc for the players (yep! The newbie party goes from errand boys to recovering something important on their own initiative)
    - A mix of combat, non-combat and RP (check on all three counts!)
    - Memorable NPCs (Janira is back!)
    - Cool twists (yeah, quite a bit of intrigue to be had here!)

    Wounded Wisp succeeds on all these fronts, delivering an interesting and well-rounded adventure that is likely to be memorable for some time. Top it off with handy boons and chronicle purchases and its no wonder that people like it as well as they do.

    There are still a couple of areas that feel weak:

    Spoilers for the scenario:
    The encounter under the Wounded Wisp is really out of place, so close to a safe area. Also, law abiding characters don't have a good excuse to break into Fimbrik's house, potentially stalling the scenario.
    Other than those two, everything else worked well.

    This scenario also stands out as one of the few that gives a good sense of accomplishment and meaning at the end. This is reinforced by the handout recieved after the completion of the scenario, that details the impact of your actions. Its really satisfying to have something like this!

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    An intro that's big on heart, light on substance


    Played in a PbP game, coming at it from the perspective of a first "real PFS" experience (PFS rules, random group of players).

    I loved this scenario from the perspective of introducing us to being a Pathfinder. There were ample reminders to take notes and be prepared for anything, and the bonus free consumables gave us a toolbag of tricks to use when we needed them. Janira is a fun character. The guidance from her is likely invaluable to players new to Pathfinder, and her enthusiasm is written so strongly that you can't help but RP along with her.

    The concept behind the adventure seems interesting. Not only are you becoming confirmed Pathfinders, but there are mysterious gillmen hiding out in caves and conducting rituals.

    Unfortunately, the meat of the adventure inside the cave is ruined because...

    Adventure spoilers:
    The plot pans out into nothing much.
    The gillman you locate can be RP'd with, but doesn't reveal anything exciting. The cave is just a place some gillmen come to chill. Heck, the source of the recent safety problems has been dealt with before the party even gets there. Plus, along the way you deal with bland and unmotivating threats that reveal next to nothing about the cave or the story behind the necromancer. Its like the internal part of the cave is one big handwave to say: "I guess you had an adventure in there?"

    The Aroden bit went over most of our heads and didn't really feel like a revelation or important in any way. Just another piece of vaguely notable scenery that we dutifully took notes on and had no reason to spare any more thoughts on.

    Of course, the encounter after leaving the cave was awesome. Swingy, but with just enough opportunities to play tactically (at least in our group that lacked a 2-hander wielder). Our Janira went down early and we had a bit of nailbiting with if she had managed to stabilize. That the writing manages to draw you in to care about her in such a short time is a testament to the author. :>

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    No-good rogues in backwater Taldor


    I played this in a home game with an APL5 party playing low tier. We threw the faction missions back in for fun.

    The Jester's Fraud is surprisingly excellent. Coming off of the back of a bunch of very linear and restricted scenarios in season one, we really enjoyed being able to stretch our wings in this more sandboxy environment. Chatting with NPCs, pursuing faction missions, and holding party strategy meetings to determine our plan of action was really fun, but also really time consuming. Our approach to PFS scenarios generally requires us to take 4-6 hours per scenario, but this one took much closer to 9 or 10. Since it was a home game we did not have a strict time limit (our DM didn't need to prod us along) but I can imagine that would have a hard time fitting in a fixed time-slot.

    Some spoilers for the story and encounters are below.

    The Good:
    The auction at the end of the scenario was a delight, with different factions balanced against each other and plenty of ways for the PCs to gain the item they seek. After some back and forth we settled on ambushing the auction's winner after they left the town, which apparently allowed us to skip a lot of potential combat encounters including one against the titular Jester himself. The terrain and situation is rich enough to allow for tons of different strategies.

    Finding the name of Bourtze's heir turned into a mini-adventure of its own as we uncovered secret affairs and intimidated household servants.

    The Taldor flavor is strong here, with warring houses and enough intrigue to serve as a solid (and relevant) backdrop. The plot is also solid with only a couple of loose ends and plenty of actors with their own fleshed out parts.

    The scenario supports a partially nonlethal approach if desired. Only one combat encounter is truly mandatory.

    The entire thing is very RP friendly with tons of non-hostile (or potentially non-hostile) NPCs to interact with.

    The Bad:
    The combat encounters are a bit all over the place. Multiple encounters with CR1 bandits are too easy by this point, but low tier also has some pretty deadly ones like the first against the hags and the third against the slug. The hags generally get the ambush, have tools to deal with dangerous PCs (grab and fog cloud) and have solid defenses. The average damage of a hag that lands all three of its natural attacks is also really high: 48! This is enough to knock most level 5 PCs down from full to unconscious in one go and their reach in such an enclosed environment means that spellcasters can easily be at risk. We only survived by blowing tons of resources and still did it by the skin of our teeth (and perhaps with some DM favor).

    The leads coming out of Evondemor are pretty loose. Picking up the trail with survival is almost impossible (DC40) and there's little reason to believe any of the townsfolk would know where the thief is going (The written scenario offers this as the only other option for finding the trail... but its night and all the guards other than Bourtze himself were killed so who would have spotted him?). After struggling for a bit we proceeded via DM mercy, and this continued as we followed the trail after encounter 2. This was pretty unsatisfying.

    For lack of a better term, the scenario isn't "tight". By opening up the possibilities it also opens up parties to decision paralysis and feeling lost. We largely enjoyed this aspect, but I can see other parties having a problem.

    Overall, we had a lot of fun! I hope we'll see more scenarios like this one as we continue through season 1.

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    A thankless slog in the Flotsam Graveyard


    Played in a home game in low tier with an APL 5 party. We added the faction missions back in for flavor. After playing, I reviewed the scenario pdf with my GM glasses on.

    Sniper of the Deep serves as a great example of some of the mediocre, awkward scenario design in season 1. Its story is uninteresting, its flow and pacing uneven, it has the potential to stall out without leads for the players to pursue, its difficulty is unusually out of line, and ultimately it culminates without much fanfare.

    Its positive aspects are probably its varied encounters and the unusually testing environments. The players really are challenged to be prepared or face the consequences.

    Barring the other issues with this scenario, I think this is one of the most badly presented stories in season 1:

    At its core, its the old "missing pathfinder + get the macguffin" worn out trope. The scenario only provides the barest bones of motivation for anything happening. The beginning provides no interesting lore or background, no reason to believe that the pathfinder or the macguffin are actually important, or any indication of what may have happened. The VC is specifically designed to tell you nothing. If the party is smart enough to interrogate the antagonists at the Lusty Mermaid, they get very little else to go on: just that Airk is dead and he had some notes to the location of the macguffin.

    Even the DM background information provides no interesting motivations for any of the action. Dargo seems to want the macguffin just to sell it (it is solid gold after all), and all the other antagonists seem to be motivated by gold. The titular Sniper may as well be a stash of gold bricks for all it matters.

    All this lack of story makes the whole scenario dry and flavorless.

    The combats also leave a lot to be desired:

    The underwater environment of the second half, as well as the defenses of the swarm and incorporeal encounters, make everything drag on forever. By today's standards, none of the encounters are extremely deadly in low tier, but they do take a lot of rounds to resolve as the players do half damage or less due to the crippling environment. And those rounds lack any dynamic element, as the movement difficulties make every fight a stand-in-place slugfest. As a result, some encounters went on for half a dozen rounds or more. I wasn't the only player that got fatigued (or even bored) by the proceedings.

    And finally, the entire scenario is written in a very adversarial way:

    There's a clear preoccupation in the writeup on penalizing the players for their mistakes rather than rewarding them for their successes. NPCs are written to be uncommunicative at best, but actively adversarial if players misstep. For example: mentioning Airk or Dargo at the Lusty Mermaid immediately gives a -4 penalty on diplomacy checks, despite it being the first thing a party is likely to do. Even if players are successful on negotiating with or diplomacy-ing Larro, he attacks them anyway. The entire side-branch involving retrieving Airk's body is pointless, providing additional peril to the players while giving them nothing in terms of story, hints on how to proceed, or even loot.
    The fights on the ship are in a light fog + the slanted deck is difficult terrain + half the fights are underwater + the enemies mostly ignore these penalties. Players that are smart enough to enter the ship from the outside and underwater are rewarded with the Skum fight and the undead fight combining with each other.

    It just sums up into a general feeling that the whole adventure is needlessly grueling. This feeling is inconsistent with the importance of the scenario. I'd understand a grueling scenario if it was an infiltration of Geb, or a back-and-forth campaign at the Worldwound, but these are just some common thugs and thieves trying to get their hands on a hunk of gold. It's just not narratively "worth it".

    As a GM, I likely will not want to run this scenario and I will likely recommend players stay away from it. Its a very poor example of what PFS is capable of and generally just isn't much fun.

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    A linear adventure with a bit of everything


    I recently had a chance to play through this scenario in a home game. We had an APL4 party in the 3-4 tier. We also added the faction missions in for fun.

    The Infernal Vault is a surprisingly solid scenario, held together by varied encounters, a little bit of puzzling, some well built enemies (with surprisingly competent selection of feats/spells), and interesting faction missions that promote non-smash-and-grab gameplay. Sure its totally and unashamedly linear. The great design along the way makes up for the railroading.

    The Good:

    - There are two interesting "think before you act" encounters, and while neither of them are difficult, they give you the satisfaction of having correctly read the situation. The disk puzzle was a bit contrived, and the prestacked disks matching the correct combination was anticlimactic. The trapped hallway with a single enemy as a lure was great though. The enemy's tactics made sense and the players could read into the enemy's actions along with the layout of the environment to draw logical conclusions. This kind of design is way above the typical level of quality in season 1.

    - There are multiple encounters (Imps, Skeletons, Dretch) that reward good knowledge checks and being prepared for a variety of DR.

    - Half the encounters are in challenging terrain situations, with narrow corridors and elevation changes. Very rewarding for good tactical play.

    - Other half of the encounters include some diplomacy element to them, or at least allow for diplomatic solutions. This is pretty out of the ordinary for season 1.

    - Faction missions all seemed to include some kind of nonlethal element, letting all players get into the right frame of mind for an adventure with multiple valid tactics.

    - Enemies have much more solid builds than is typical in season 1. Celeena in particular is very solid, with choices on par with an average player character build (but with reduced wealth). She made for a pretty dangerous final encounter, though her relatively mediocre damage output and the tight quarters mean that she can't absolutely dominate.

    The Bad:

    - The concept of the scenario was rather unexciting. While the individual elements were thematically good and logical (Chelaxian family has devils and traps guarding their wealth), the overall goal of the scenario was pretty dull. Mysterious plans to Absalom have been left around and the bad lady wants to get them. Feels like so many other scenarios.

    - Very linear. Every room has one door in and one out and exactly one encounter. It doesn't even attempt to obscure the linearity of it all.

    Overall, our group really enjoyed it. The writer clearly put a lot of care into making a solid adventure under the constraints of PFS, both from a thematic and gameplay standpoint.

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