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* Starfinder Society GM. 1,112 posts (18,260 including aliases). 41 reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 12 Organized Play characters. 30 aliases.



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We're Heroes, I guess.

3/5

Professional Courtesy is quite the odd duck AP volume. After the first two volumes, the PCs are established as rogue traders, thieves and opportunists, who may or may not be driven by higher ideals. They may or may not be willing to stick their necks out for others if there isn't a payout on the other end. In this volume however, they are all but required to be selfless heroes rising to the occasion. While the adventure offers several places to still engage in petty theft (or outright petty meanness), which does allow for some moral differentiation, the core thrust of the plot is a non-negotiable odyssey into becoming political and ecological activists at high personal cost and little personal reward. Not engaging with this concept more or less requires you to skip the book. It's just a weird hard sell, and that context spoils what might've been a very entertaining adventure in another AP.

As far as the content is concerned, the adventure is fun enough, with some interesting and varied encounters and flashy set pieces. I have quite a few gripes with the individual encounters, many of which were ambitious, but fell flat with our group to some degree. Even so, I certainly admire that this book is more adventurous in what it tries to deliver! I would love to see something like this, but better considered as part of a larger AP and with more playtesting. Beyond the written content, the maps and art were excellent, with the map for Terra-4 and the Aglian swarm as highlights.

Overall, this adventure is hard to recommend as part of Fly Free or Die. It has some good ideas, but it's not a great fit for the AP. It would probably make for a fine standalone adventure though, so I still rate it decently high on that basis.

Specific Gripes:
  • The golden league ambush is just staggeringly undertuned, and there's no consideration for if the PCs want to investigate where they came from or to follow up on this at all.
  • The hugbot encounter is just... so weird. Like, the warehouse needs to be visited constantly by people looking to pick up shipments (per Skix) and yet it has malfunctioning and hostile robots roaming it that no one warns you about. It has complicated rules for containers moving about, but there's zero reason to engage with them because the encounter is incredibly easy. It feels like the writer just went wild with making stuff without consideration for the experience of playing or running it.
  • The Wintermourn crew are disappointing. They're not fun enough to be interesting, or unpleasant enough to be hateable, or competent enough to really feel like rivals. At this point you've already beaten or rescued them several times, so it's hard to take them seriously. Their presence here seems incidental, and they just have no real role to play except to potentially cause trouble for the party right at the end.
  • The flooding of Terra 5 is an incredible cinematic encounter absolutely crippled by fiddly mechanics and unclear requirements from the player perspective. The expansive facility has to be explored round by round due to the rate of flooding, slowing the experience to a crawl. The lack of intel on the player side means you have no real understanding of what you need to accomplish (or if you're on a short or medium term timer). Due to the movement restrictions and expansive complex, you can easily have a 20, 30 or even 50 round encounter with flooding tracked round by round.
  • Getting sucked into Shan's Aglian-saving mission is strange. There's a timer hanging over the PCs heads to leave the planet, they expect it to be highly dangerous to stay, and they're here to rescue Shan, not take her into more danger. Shan offers only bleeding heart type reasons to act. There's zero consideration in the AP to what happens if the crew skips this.
  • The interactions with the aglians are mainly around them resisting help, despite the dire and insurmountable nature of the threat against them. The PCs have to go through a series of trials to gain enough trust to be *allowed* to help them. For a group that has mixed morals, this is a ridiculous ask, and yet again there's no real alternative approach provided in the text. The only morally grey or repugnant actions covered by the AP is what happens if you engage in some petty theft.
  • Perhaps the most grievous problem after all the trials with the aglians is the pinkstone. It's been hyped up as the tool to defeat the harvester, but in the actual fight, it's terrible. It provides no benefit that jamming the gears or hacking the mainframe can't accomplish (the DC is ever so slightly lower) and it has by far the worst "fail by more than 5" effect of any of the sabotage options. Using it is an enormous risk, and leaving it behind is probably the right choice for any party that doesn't have a dedicated mystic. This uselessness completely undercuts the last half of the book, making all the painstaking effort to convince the aglians feel totally wasted.
  • The moral judgement at the end feels pointless and incongruous with the mandatory main path of the adventure, which requires the party to engage in selfless heroics or skip the book entirely.

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    Fighting for Freedom!

    4/5

    Solar Strike brings the primary plot of Dawn of Flame back into direct focus in an urgent way. At the end of the last book, the PCs got a psychic plea for help directing them to Khalannal, the deep-Sun city of the Anassanoi, an alien species that has not yet gotten into direct contact with the Pact Worlds. This mission of aid brings them back into face-to-face conflict with the main antagonists of the adventure path, the disciplined and militaristic forces of General Khaim's legion. The book follows directly on from hints and set up from books 1, 2 and 3, and brings the threat of invasion from Khaim's forces into crystal clear relief. It's a payoff that's been waiting for several books, and it largely sticks the landing.

    Though I do have some complaints about the book and many of its encounters, it serves as a great way to tie the plot together, and the "against the odds" rebellion against an occupying military force is a solid adventure structure. There's a lot of good stuff to like here, and there is enough supportive material to build it out as a GM to enhance the parts your group particularly has interest in. Not many Starfinder adventures/settings are built robustly enough for that, so it's a pleasure to have it here!

    Ultimately, it was a crowd pleaser, and a welcome improvement from the previous book.

    The Good:
  • Missions Feel Important - The PCs are provided a variety of self-directed missions as suggestions to weaken the efreeti occupation. These generally seemed logical, had a good integration with the city's layout, and had enough freedom for the PCs to feel in control. I only wish there were more direct perks and mechanics associated with their completion, something the players can really see in action.
  • The Spire Assault Sequence - This sequence felt great. There's some variety in the encounters as you climb, there's cool descriptions of the fights outside while you ride the elevator up, and there's really punchy fights once you get up to the top. The time pressure is clear, and the encounter difficulty felt sensibly balanced until the top floor. Linear but cinematic.
  • Anassanoi Internal Conflict - There's a good internal societal conflict in Khalannal between isolationists/traditionalists and their political opposites. While normally isolationism would be obviously a poor choice, the efreeti invasion has brought new reasons to support the isolationists. It's a juicy and multifaceted conflict, something incredibly rare in the oftentimes shallow feeling Starfinder setting. The nature of the plot of this books brings the PCs into the midst of this, and it's quite fun to explore.

  • The Bad:
  • The Maps - The maps for this one are really surprisingly flawed. They're not ugly by any means (in fact, they look great!), but there are things like missing walls, missing sections of the grid overlay, and the depictions of many objects are are hard to reconcile with the descriptions. I was particularly confused by one building that appeared to lack an exterior wall, as well as a section where elevators are depicted as bubble-like spheres with no indication for doors or way to access any rooms from them. It's fixable with some photoshop editing, but it did lead to some player confusion.
  • Combat Tuning and Enemy Reuse - There's a lot of the same foes getting reused here, particularly the ifrit and azer footsoldiers. It does lead to some samey encounters, but it's not too difficult to make a few substitutions to get more variety. The bigger criticism is that these two statblocks are reused many times and they aren't near each other, leading to a lot of page flipping and bookmarks every combat they show up in. There's also several underwhelming encounters vs. solo casters or ranged foes in small rooms where the foes have no coherent plan to win or escape. Finally, the final encounter vs. the dragon is very overtuned. I actually downscaled it for my 5-man group and they barely scraped through. The combination of top-quality spells, blinding aura, incredible speed, and an above-average melee attack routine all add up to a devastating threat. It also comes at the end of a gauntlet in the Spire, which doesn't help!
  • Poor Utilization of Side Characters - This adventure brings in a lot of side characters, from the Anassanoi rebels, to the DCI friends. However beyond bringing them in, it completely fails to make any use of them within the adventure. It's a fine hook for the GM (and I certainly expanded their roles manyfold) but it would have been nice to have more to work with.

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    Like a stone skipping across a pond

    3/5

    Merchants of the Void sends the PCs on a smattering of smaller deliveries and missions of pretty uneven quality, then builds up to a bewildering finale that left me scratching my head more than enjoying myself. There's not much of a through line here, with unrelated mishaps and challenges showing up at every turn and with a consistency and density that feels unrealistic. The PCs can't turn around without hitting someone or something trying to kill them.

    The strongest elements here are some of the fun individual NPCs and missions, like the skittermander ranch, or the vesk black ops group and their above-board counterpart. These bits were great fun for both roleplay and gameplay. Unfortunately, none stuck around for very long, so I was left somewhat unsatisfied. Uncovering the vesk secret organization in particular left me wanting more, as there seemed like there should be so much more to explore and learn, but the mission ended before even scratching the surface.

    The worst part was probably the ending, which had some of the worst bits of "fantasy-logical friction" I've experienced recently in a TTRPG. The vesk secret society is back, and rather than trying to get revenge on the PCs directly, they start kidnapping random people the PCs have met and sending them to a secret reeducation camp. The PCs are expected to A) Care enough to do something about it, and B) Be willing to jump into an obvious trap from a giant secret organization that spans the entire vesk government and which is in charge of various false flag incidents, C) Break into and out of a prison as 4th level characters. Simply put, this was difficult for our group to swallow for a variety of reasons and we were left spinning our wheels for a while until GM just gave it to us straight that we were supposed to go there to finish the book.

    As a final note, this serves as the introduction to the (unfortunately) forgettable rival crew, who are as a whole neither developed enough to be interesting, nor antagonistic enough to be good villains, nor friendly enough to be fun allies. The way they are jammed into this book and the next feels entirely superfluous.

    Overall, this book has some fun to be had and some minor moral decisions to discuss with your party, but many of its actual mini-adventures are unsatisfying short and poorly thought out, at least for our particular table.


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    Sort of a Playable Movie, I Guess

    3/5

    We're No Heroes is a frustrating start to the Fly Free or Die AP. It sets a great tone and has a very cool core concept, but it quickly reveals itself to be very narrow in scope and very determined to deliver a "playable movie" sort of story. I went through it as a player and had a good time leaning into the concept, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't frustrated and emotionally disconnected from the events to a degree that I haven't experienced with other APs.

    If I had to characterize We're No Heroes, its as a playable series of improbably persistent no win scenarios, crossed with the typical Starfinder writing and encounter design. Each of the scenarios involve the PCs being given a job, some improbable event causing the job to go bad, the PCs having to do some easy skill checks or combat to salvage the remains, getting some sort of moral choice, and then there being essentially no meaningful consequence for any choice made. The events are written such that there's no way to avoid things "going bad", and no way to turn them around.

    It leads to an odd feeling in play. The amount of "things going wrong" is oppressive, but they're never all that hard to resolve. Narratively, the PCs are always down on their luck, but mechanically, you're getting credits and leveling up just fine. You're never in a position where you're really, truly, put on the back foot, and none of the bad twists are a result of your own mistakes - just the author's narrative chugging along. It's a format that delivers the right "feel" but only on a surface level.

    Some specific annoyances:

    Berry Selling:
    Nothing about this scenario makes much sense, from the berries being completely unwanted in the market, to a criminal intermediary sending enforcers to attack the PCs for berries she doesn't even want. It smells like a sandbox of possibilities to establish merchant connections and leverage your social skills, but everything is just a dead end. It actively resists PC problem solving in order to leave them with the moral dilemma at the end.

    The Stealing of the Ship:
    Level 1 or 2 characters slickly stealing a high value super special experimental ship from right under the noses of a big corporation's highest security is an enormous stretch that requires exceedingly weak foes, humble security measures and incongruously low DCs. However, it's especially baffling in the context of this adventure, which has so far presented nothing but partial failures for even the most innocuous of tasks. It shatters any illusion that there's consistency and fantastical-realism to the world. These tasks are doable for low level PCs because the authors wanted to PCs to get the Oliphaunt, and they thought this would be a fun set piece to give it to them.

    -----------

    All these complaints said, the adventure definitely establishes that scrappy "feel", that the PCs are nobodies in an unfair universe and rolling with the punches. For a group willing to go along for the ride without thinking too hard, its quite the romp with some fun moral dilemmas to argue about and ponder in character. It has some great art and a wide variety of encounters and challenges.

    All in all, a unique adventure, but with some irritations that are likely to break it for some groups.


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    Dark and Light and a Muddled Story

    2/5

    In The Blind City, the PCs have just returned from a mysterious and enigmatic intrastellar location with (likely) more questions than answers. They've also come back with a mysterious tablet inscribed with multi-dimensional living Aklo script. It's more than a little creepy. Over the course of the adventure they learn more about the tablet and journey to the prison of an ancient eldritch entity to... explore? loot it for all its worth? go there just because they can?

    All told, this adventure has some really interesting concepts, but it suffers from two critical problems: one is that the story is confusing and rather odd in its motivations and conclusions, and two is that the contents are surprisingly rote and video-gamey in their structure. It also suffers from the problem most of the Dawn of Flame books have had - the larger plot of the AP is nowhere to be found, leaving this book to entertain and entice on its own merits.

    Although there's some fun to be had here, personally, I found it very flawed. Despite my best efforts to present things as clearly and engagingly as I could, my players started dragging their feet. It just wasn't hooking them in the same way as other adventures. I'd skip this one in the future.

    The Good:
  • There's some good atmosphere to be had here. Evocative art, a really creepy setting, and the core concept of being corrupted while in the dark is perfectly spooky.
  • Encounters are basically pretty balanced.
  • Otlo is a fun and delightfully strange character.

  • The Bad:
  • Thematic Incoherence: The Eshtayiv is an eldritch maybe-god of corrupting light. It gets sealed in a prison made of utter darkness to trap it. However, when the players get into the prison, it's the darkness they need to be afraid of, because it afflicts them with the Eshtayiv's touch. Now suddenly light is good and darkness bad. The prison was presumably maintained by Azathoth cultists (given the opening scenes), but apparently Azathoth is all about light and solar energy in this story, rather than formless chaos. So now there are two light-aligned entities against one another? Add in solar keys that give off light (placed by the original builders? Why do they even need to play accessible keys in the prison?) and how the Eshtayiv's own corrupted creatures, the pyric undead, give off light that makes it so the Eshtayiv *can't* corrupt people it's minions are fighting! There's some serious mixed messages here. Ultimately, you have themes and plot that are very hard to grok.
  • Puzzling Plot Beats: There's a heck of a lot of them, from how Ilvatri just seems to be totally independent, to why the PCs would *EVER* choose to take the only thing keeping the Eshtayiv trapped here (releasing the eldritch being trying to kill them), to why they'd even take the risk of opening Ezorod in the first place with the tablet, to how much of a coincidence it is that several people recently got into Ezorod when the party needed a super exotic key tablet to do so, and so on and so on. These aren't always plot holes, but none have satisfying answers.
  • Motivation: As mentioned earlier, the PCs are assumed to want to open up the prison of an eldritch being that they *KNOW* is dangerous. Not because they have to. But because maybe there's something interesting inside. Because getting a chance at sweet solar bubble technology is worth opening Pandora's Box. Understandably, my players were like "UHH, NO?". No one was on board with this in character, and honestly, it's a bit of a hard sell out of character too. We eventually forged ahead with the understanding that that was how the adventure was written and we wanted to play it.
  • Video Game-like Design: I DETEST the fact that there's a weird door that requires three specially shaped keys to open, found at the end of three paths. All of Ezorod in fact is full of dangers and trials - but who are these trials supposed to stop? Most don't threaten the pyric creatures in any way. It's all such an artificial contrivance that adds nothing to the story at hand. Another artificial contrivance is how Otlo sends the party on a weird errand early on - fighting robots in his own workplace - to get them out of the picture for a moment so that Azathoth cultists can raid the building, but then Nib insists they take the tablet with them so they have it when the cultists arrive.
  • Samey Enemies: The pyric foes are basically just slightly fiery versions of normal undead, and there's a whole bunch of them here, repeated several times. Since their fire damage just gets to ignore fire resistance, they even add a feel-bad for the players that have specifically prepared to face fiery creatures by this point. Their "curse" is just the normal burning condition with a slightly higher DC in some cases. They don't have anything tactically interesting to do either, and their design lends itself to drawn out encounters (especially the wraiths that are incorporeal and heal themselves automatically every turn).
  • Long-ish dungeons: Ezorod suffers from being a fairly long dungeon with a lot of encounters, but without a lot of non-combat interest to break up the monotony. The minor mystery of the previous explorers is just set dressing, leaving only maybe the color-blighted remaining members as the only encounters that aren't solely either "roll skill checks until you succeed" or "fight a purely hostile foe without any personality". It's not particularly fun design.
  • Where the heck is the overarching plot of the AP? OK, it's book 4 at this point, and this is getting pretty ridiculous. Ezorod is one giant distraction from the larger plot of the AP, barely tied to the previous book and barely tied to the following one. In fact, by this point it's pretty clear that there really *isn't* a larger plot to this AP. The story set up from book 1 about Khaim and the legion has barely had any new information - just a couple of skirmishes with Khaim's agents that the PCs might not even recognize the importance of. I went out of my way to add more references and information about the Legion across the previous books, but even so, a proper introduction to the big bad is well past overdue. (Thankfully, the next book has exactly that!)

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    With more rails than a Grav Train and more explosions than a Bay film.

    4/5

    In the conclusion to the Dead Suns AP, Empire of Bones, the PCs are off to stop the Corpse Fleet from seizing the Death Star Stellar Degenerator and using it to extinguish life wherever they see fit. It's a big, flashy climax to the AP - filled with the kind of energy that you'd expect out of your favorite Sci-Fi action movie. With stellar set pieces and some flashy, high level encounters, it really leaves a strong and exciting impression. At the same time, the railroading comes in HEAVY, and it'll take some serious GM rewriting to get it to feel more natural. For groups that like to have personal agency, this adventure is likely to leave a bad taste in their mouth. But for those in it to clash energy blades with big bads over a weapon that could end the universe, and who don't much care how it happens, this has plenty to love.

    Overall, it's one of the stronger books of the Dead Suns AP on virtue of its set pieces and encounters, but there's so much more it could have been.

    The Good:
  • Great and Memorable Encounters There are a lot of interesting, novel, and challenging encounters to be had here, from fighting a starship while on foot, to shooting from a speeding grav train, to the final climactic encounter on the starship's bridge. The new enemies introduced are tough for their CR, which is an appropriate spike in difficulty for the last mission. The starship encounter at the end is outrageously easy, but super satisfying.
  • Desperate mission energy There's some really great vibes here as the PCs delve into the flagship - something between Star Wars and Independence Day, maybe. The PCs really feel like elite operatives taking down things from the inside.
  • Great art and maps Though the maps have fairly simple layouts, the theme and feel of the Corpse Fleet comes through clearly. Lots of interesting detail in them. The art is also of great quality - I especially liked the Stellar Degenerator peeking out of the demiplane, and the cybernetic zombie control room.
  • Very cool artifacts Gained at the 11th hour. Creepy and powerful.

  • The Bad:
  • Railroading Its been said to death already, but this adventure asks you to railroad PCs in a really unintuitive way. The Corpse Fleet arrives just in time to contest the Degenerator, but then gets delayed by convenient defenses. Rather than close the demiplane, board the Degenerator, or any other more logical approach, the adventure wants the party to board the Empire of Bones and use the ship to ram the Degenerator to destroy both ships. To say its a stretch is putting it lightly. A hardworking GM can alter the scenario to make this more palatable -- for me, I had the Pact Fleet follow the PCs to the system and then engage the Corpse Fleet in battle. Chiskisk and Ambassador Nor then served as mouth pieces to suggest a way forward, with Nor having a "man on the inside" to make boarding the Empire of Bones more practical.
  • Baykoks are quite overtuned Even with a fairly low save DC, 1d3 rounds of paralysis is far too long to be delivered on every successful attack. I reduced it to 1 round and still found the baykok's combination of high accuracy, flight, solid damage, and control effects to easily let them punch up against higher level PCs.
  • With a few exceptions, its too stingy with loot Thanks to the lack of opportunity to buy and resupply, the PCs are likely equipped with outdated armor and weapons by the time they hit this book. There's a feel-bad sense that you're underequipped to handle the increasingly difficult encounters. A more generous selection of loot would help with that.

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    Diving to the Core

    4/5

    Sun Divers continues the Dawn of Flame adventure path into its 3rd installment, finally bringing the heroes deep into the interior of the sun itself to see the strange and wonderful things hiding within! Criminal cartels! Ancient aliens! Robotic life!

    Sun Divers is a strange volume for this AP. At the conclusion of the previous volume, the PCs gained a vague name-drop and some coordinates to an intra-stellar location. Here, the PCs follow up on that loose lead, only to get an even looser one to another location at the end. It's an adventure that - as written - really requires PCs that are passionate about exploring the Sun for its own merits rather than any other reason, and the tie in to the greater plot at large is awkwardly light.

    This is an adventure full of cool set-pieces, evocative locations, some very neat encounters, and some actually fascinating world-building that the players get to experience close up. On the other hand, it has noticeable mechanical clunkiness, unexplained (even to the GM) mysteries, and a weak (almost non-existent) tie in to the larger plot of the AP. There's still a lot to like here, but it would benefit greatly from some GM polish before being run. In some ways, its almost the opposite of Book 2 of this same AP. Where book 2 was tidily written with solid mechanics, it lacked a certain WOW factor that this adventure has in spades.

    Overall, the problems here are fixable - the most challenging of which is probably improving its integration into the larger plot of the AP - and the material you DO get to use is wonderful. It's a great adventure to build on and expand.

    The Good:
  • The presentation of Noma, from the descriptions, to the art and visuals, to the "ambient storytelling" of the strange structures you come across, is all really strong. Plenty for PCs and players alike to get curious over.
  • Great variety in encounters and set pieces. The adventure really tries to present a lot of different types of content, from investigations, to side activities, to chases, to starship combat, to traditional dungeon crawls.
  • An interesting background behind Noma and its residents, which the PCs can naturally learn over the course of the adventure there.
  • Novel creatures to fight that have some interesting abilities. I particularly like the Protocite Reclaimers - a grab ability with reach is quite the tactical conundrum for the PCs, and the Grind ability makes for incredibly worrying moments.
  • The Cults article in the back was fascinating. So many interesting ideas! Especially that "Sarenite" cult. Wow.

  • The Bad:
  • Part 1 Formatting and Organization The order and layout of Part 1 of the adventure leaves a lot to be desired, and I ended up spending a LOT of time flipping back and forth. The Vestrani Gaming Complex is not written in a way that makes it clear to the GM how PCs could approach their goal of finding Lurian and gaining the Sun Diver. Instead, the book presents (in order) interactions with two characters (Taza and Lurian), general information about the complex, information about specific areas in the complex (one of which contains the Sun Diver, which has, until now, not been hinted at being there), information about how to run each of the games available in the complex, information about a side mission that Taza offers, and only then a section that talks about how to acquire the Sun Diver. It's confusing to parse, and it took me many re-reads before I understood what the objectives were and the various paths the PCs could take.
  • Assumes very passive players The whole Sun Diver Retrieval section presents a lot of information, but not the kinds of information that PCs are interested in learning - leaving that entirely up to the GM. The book presents finding Luwazi as a simple "roll a d% each day you are at the Complex" rather than providing any information about where she is and how you might otherwise find her. The many games presented turn out to be a distraction, because Taza's side quest provides basically all the chips the party needs. No one in the Complex has any useful or interesting information about Lurian or the Sun Diver - there isn't even a Gather Information table. As written, this part of the adventure assumes PCs are very passive - if they just hang around, eventually solutions will be served to them. There is very little info that might help a GM handle a proactive party that wants to investigate on their own.
  • Motives and Background aren't coherent The Background about Lurian's debt and how she built the Sun Diver with Vestrani money make little sense when considering the relative ease with which the Vestrani part with her and the starship. They even accept their own casino's chips as payment! The motives of the Vestrani really deserve better consideration by the GM.
  • Chips and Gambling are overcomplicated In order to prevent the PCs from rapidly amassing a lot of credits, the rules are cumbersome and complicated.
  • Editing errors Several minor errors throughout, though the most interesting is the mention of making an "Insight" check during the conversation with SOL-653.
  • Weak integration into the larger plot Although the quest for Noma was triggered by info originating with Khaim's Legion, there's surprisingly little integration between Noma and the overall plot. Sulphurax took some vaguely described objects from the Core, then returned some time later to pick up the "Next-Adventure-Part-MacGuffin", just in time to fight the PCs. The importance of the tablet, why the Legion wants it, why they stole other things from Noma, what Sulphurax knows about Khaim's plans, and many more details that are very important to the larger plot are unexplained and unexplored. The tablet similarly is no more than a MacGuffin to spur the next book's story into motion, and which doesn't have much relevance beyond that.
  • Noma's unclear story Noma is an exciting location with a lot of mystery to it. Unfortunately, the information presented to the GM about the city is sparse on some key details about the city's history and origin. This is particularly a problem because of the visions that the PCs get in the Core cover these topics. The GM has little way to flesh them out without making up new background whole cloth - background which they may worry will contradict later books.

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    Enemy at the Gate

    3/5

    In The Thirteenth Gate, the long and perilous trail to find the location of the Death Star Stellar Degenerator is finally over, and the PCs arrive to secure the megaweapon before anyone else can. This adventure seems like the beginning of the action movie climax in terms of scope, but the content is surprisingly basic. Two unremarkable "modern dungeons" in the form of two facilities that the PCs explore, the requisite starship combat, and a dud of a boss. That's not to say its all humdrum, but its an odd and frankly disappointing way to cap off the Devourer Cult's involvement in the story.

    The Good:
  • Previously the Devourer Cult didn't have much personality. But between the Jangly Man, Xix and Zaz, there's a bit more spunk and more fun to be had interacting with enemies. Sure they're all quite insane, but they're given more quirks than most of the previous raving psychos the party has crossed energy blades with.
  • The Gate system itself gets some cool art and some cool sci-fantasy descriptions that really give the whole thing an epic feeling.
  • The plot definitely serves to fill in some of the gaps in player understanding and flesh out the Stellar Degenerator.

  • The Bad:
  • There's many boring foes to fight in here, especially the oblivion shade spawn that do little more than tickle the SP of your heroes while taking tons of focused fire to bring down. Devourer cultists with swords and pistols similarly seem to have a lot of HP without being very threatening.
  • The two mini-dungeons are just a bit dull, especially for high level play. A lot of fairly clear rooms without hazards or interactive elements. A lot of clearing room-to-room for the PCs. The environments themselves are just mundane "office-building-ish/factory-ish" without any features that wow the GM or the players. Its all perfectly functional and playable; there's no significant problems (except for a grid/scale issue with the second dungeon), but it could have been a lot more.
  • There's an enormous info-dump delivered in the middle of the adventure that clues PCs in to the background of the Stellar Degenerator. While its good to have the PCs less in the dark regarding the primary plot point, the way this comes in all at once out of an NPCs mouth feels like a missed opportunity. Imagine instead if each room in the control facility had info that the PCs could glean themselves, piecing together the background and function of the facility and the Degenerator?
  • Dead Suns in general has a very railroady plot and it continues with gusto in this volume. The plot intends that the PCs hop moons to fight the cultists and get the MacGuffin control circuit. After a brief bit of self-determinism, they meet an NPC that directs them on exactly what to do next. There's very little flexibility built into the descriptive material to allow for PCs to deviate from the intended path, and the intended path feels unintuitive in a way that both times I've run this players have noticed.
  • Despite capping off the Devourer Cult's involvement with the AP, the final clash with them feels like you're tangling with random nobodies in their organization. My PCs asked "How long do we have before the main part of the cult gets here?" mid way through the adventure, which really highlighted that feeling. There's been so little detail about the Cult thus far that the players have no context for who Null-9 is or what scale of threat the cult poses. Its all left kind of vague.
  • There are several mandatory filler encounters (jubsnuth, atrocite) and several non-mandatory encounters (swarm threshers, marooned one) that feel incredibly out of place.
  • The adventure feels weirdly short. Perhaps its the somewhat shallow interaction with the two brief dungeons? Or the lack of narrative build-up around the boss?

  • A Rant about Railroading:
    This book and the next book suffer from some seriously blatant railroading. Railroading on its own is often fine - especially when the reasons the PCs have for taking the intended actions are natural and logical - but it feels outright bad in this book and even worse in the next.

    The biggest sin in this book is that it fails to provide a really compelling reason why destroying the Gate or the Moons wouldn't work. There's some lip service that only destroying the degenerator itself would be a "permanent solution", so you have to activate the gate and get the Degenerator out. But every group I've played with or GM'd for has scratched their heads at this point. "Surely there's a better way?" is the most common comment. The problem is that there's one more adventure here, and that adventure absolutely HAS to have the gate open and the weapon at risk, so this one bends over backwards to make that happen.


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    They were just like us!

    3/5

    The Ruined Clouds continues the Dead Suns AP into its latter half, where the PCs are hot on the trail of cultists looking for a Death Star Mysterious Ancient Superweapon. To that end, the PCs head for a planet out in the Vast that once belonged to a galactic superpower that has long since met its downfall. The remnants of its people are tribes living within the crumbling ruins of one of its cities. Its an evocative concept for certain, but the adventure's actual contents prove much more mundane in scope and execution.

    The Good:
  • Fun, free roaming exploration of the city of Istamak with a fantastic map of the city filled with odd structures that players will want to check out. The gazetteer in the back has a lot of goodies.
  • Very cool set pieces like the final fight with Xavra and the collapsing Securitech Offices.

  • The Bad:
  • Kish society, tech and history is surprisingly and disappointingly very human. This is a race with office buildings that look like modern day office buildings, hospital waiting rooms that look like hospital waiting rooms, and museums with gift shops. These aliens are just like us, and not only that, but much like the modern day United States. This ends up being cute for a little bit, but robs the adventure of the chance to explore a cool and unique culture and society.
  • Encounters in this book were all over the place. Most kish posed zero danger, considering how they used archaic weapons. On the other hand, a swarm in the middle of the adventure and the final boss felt much too strong. The boss in particular is known to have the incorrect stats as written (AC about 6 points too high for example), and is likely a TPK waiting to happen without adjustment.
  • The token starship combat was even more token than usual, against a foe that isn't relevant to the adventure and which comes completely out of nowhere.
  • The entire plot boils down to "Your princess is in another castle". The Cult is long gone and the PCs are given their location at the end of the Book. It leaves the adventure feeling like a bit of a sideshow to the main plot.
  • The book's entire contents hinges on various contrivances. From the hostile attitude of the Xavra-following kish, which are completely unwilling to listen to reason, to the way the super important information the party needs just happens to be in the middle of a complex the kish are guarding but don't understand, to ancient alien tech being mysteriously compatible with today's hacking kits.
  • Speaking of the enemy kish... there's a big wasted opportunity for diplomatic solutions that gets no page space. Its more than a bit awkward to have the PCs follow in the footsteps of genocidal maniacs, only to be genocidal maniacs themselves simply because the adventure is written to give them no choice.

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    Worst Start to an AP I've Ever Seen is Right

    2/5

    As of writing this review, Book 1 of Hell's Vengeance has the lowest average review score of any Book 1 for Pathfinder 1st Edition APs. This isn't by chance or by a particular subset of players bandwagoning to drop its score. The adventure fundamentally has some issues that make it not very fun to play.

    Spoilers for the Adventure:
  • The opening scene of this adventure is not directly hinted by the player's guide and assumes that PCs are willing to be common thugs sent to rough someone up for their overdue taxes. It starts in medias res and can annoy players who have to struggle to reconcile their character's personality with this job.
  • The remainder of the first book assumes that the PCs are willing to act as LAWFUL (but not necessarily evil) sheriffs. Take orders from above. Execute orders. The Rebellion Points system incentivizes a peaceful resolution to every problem that appears. Despite having evil PCs, it really wants PCs that are LESS bloodthirsty than your typical heroic bunch, not MORE bloodthirsty. This is very likely to be contradictory to people's expectations.
  • The only motivations allowed are either purely mercenary (I want that Cheliax gold), or for personal advancement (I want to climb the political ladder). Any other characters will struggle to reconcile personal motivations with humdrum servitude toward a tyrannical figure.
  • If the PCs take initiative into their own hands, meting out their dark justice, the book actively has the antagonists' side seem to grow stronger - essentially, players quickly feel they are being punished for having fun. On the flip side, if they do everything by the book, the rebellion STILL HAPPENS and it can feel like there was no point to any of the things they did.
  • The "schedule" that the rebellion runs on denies PCs of all agency. The PCs are given no clear overarching goal that they're allowed to actually work toward. Instead, they're left playing the part of bad cops, dealing with small incidents and scenes as they happen. If they decide they want to try to behead the brewing rebellion before it happens, there is absolutely nothing written in the text to help GMs work out how that might play out.
  • If you run this adventure and want it to take off, you will almost definitely need to do a lot of legwork to get it working and working well. You need to set crystal clear expectations for the players. If I were to run it, I'd consider keeping only the town and its characters and entirely rebuilding it from the ground up so that the PCs have more agency to defeat the rebellion BEFORE it becomes a problem.


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    Tussling with Gangs and Mercs

    4/5

    Soldiers of Brass continues the Dawn of Flame adventure path by taking it into the colorful, grungy streets of the Brass Bazaar. The PCs are pitted against gangs, shady salespeople, and solar dangers before crossing paths once more with the shady group of mercenaries they faced during the events of the previous book.

    Soldiers of Brass feels like a bit of a filler arc of a TV show. The PCs are tasked with chasing after a MacGuffin and by the end of the adventure they've secured it without any big changes or developments in the larger plot. The journey to get to that point involves some light investigation and dungeon diving, and its certainly a good time, but it doesn't have the depth and interesting situations that were common in the previous book of the AP.

    The setting for this adventure - the Brass Bazaar - is given some fantastic scenes and color. It's a memorable locale, and between the semi-random encounters within it and the extensive back-matter regarding places within it, there's a lot of great flavor and detail to help GMs bring it to life.

    Overall, this is a solid second part to the Dawn of Flame AP. Not as engrossing as the first book, certainly, but a well-built adventure with some great individual scenes, locations and characters. The setting detail brings it up from an average (3/5) score to 4 stars.

    The Good:
  • The Maps are absolutely excellent. There's maps for all the encounters and they're beautifully detailed, even more so than normal for Paizo. The upper level of the Eos club was a particular standout for me, with how it abuts the solar plasma, casting an orange tint across some rooms.
  • The Brass Bazaar backmatter is jam packed with interesting characters and locales. The Grandmaster's kitchen got a whole scene in my game and I got to use the magical drinks to excellent effect. Some of my favorite magic items, like the radiant ensemble or phase twin generator, are also here.
  • The investigation into the theft of the DCI's data flows pretty naturally. The scene immediately after the fight in the museum is done is particularly solid in terms of giving PCs a lot of different methods to investigate. Chasing the trail into Corona also feels very natural.
  • Internal logic for the actions of NPC characters and the flow from scene to scene is really good for the most part. This has previously been a problem in the Dead Suns AP, which often required the GM's heavy handed intervention to have the plot make sense and for the players to feel like they have freedom to act.

  • The Bad:
  • Heat and Cold Dangers are given a lot of book space in this adventure, with a new piece of equipment for lessening them as well as frequent mention of the temperature of places. Unfortunately, none of these end up mattering because PCs immediately activate environmental protections on their armor and get to ignore them. Since this is a big populated area, there's no need to conserve environmental protections even for item level 1 armor (PCs can recharge them every day as needed). Pretty disappointing how easily these environmental elements get circumvented, but that's just the rules of the system.
  • Practical Prestine is a wonderful character, but her scene is buried under unintuitive mechanics and a punitive curse that feels arbitrary and unfair to players.
  • The Plot of this book is fairly unexciting as a standalone story. The villains hired some other villains to steal a Macguffin. The PCs fight through all of them and bring it back. While the gang members have some interesting relationships, revealed should the PCs be willing to banter and bargain, the Brass Dragons are disciplined mercenaries without a whole lot of depth. The few surprises in this book feel like little more than tying up loose threads from book 1 or teasing future books.
  • The DCI data is used as the lead-in to the next book in a way that makes next to no sense. The Brass Dragons are storing the data on their computers, an unknown third party accesses the data, and that third party makes a bunch of annotations on the data? Why? Why not copy the data and delete it from the Brass Dragons machines? Why share these annotations? Why even annotate it in the first place? What do these annotations have to say about Noma? None of this is discussed because this is a flimsy tie-in to the next adventure rather than a strong plot element.
  • The fights are definitely on the too easy side, barring a couple of very specific encounters. Brass Dragons or gang members of CR1/2 just aren't relevant threats to a 3rd or 4th level group, leaving the book sometimes feeling unexciting.

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    A Psychic Catastrophe Looms

    5/5

    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

    4/5

    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

    3/5

    <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!

    4/5

    <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!

    3/5

    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!

    5/5

    <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

    3/5

    <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...

    3/5

    <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

    4/5

    <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 :)

    4/5

    <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

    5/5

    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

    3/5

    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

    3/5

    <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.

    5/5

    <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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