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Starfinder Adventure Path #1: Incident at Absalom Station (Dead Suns 1 of 6)Paizo Inc.
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Stellar Introduction to Starfinder: Don't Listen to the NaysayersJames Hunnicutt —
Wow, I'm really blown away by the negative reviews of this adventure. I've run it twice now as the GM, and everyone -- players and GM alike -- had a great time. And both groups approached the adventure in different ways. I really agree with the other reviewer who said that it's well structured. It's a fun introduction to the new mechanics of the Starfinder game as well as to the flavor and backstory of the game world, starting with the "Grand Central Station" of the Starfinder universe.
If you're going to be a player, avoid reading:
The adventure was well structured into 5 parts: (2) start off with a bang in a combat with two evil sets of gang members, (2) murder mystery while getting to know the space station, (3) small, introductory spaceship battle, (4) explore the derelict spaceship, then (5) explore the mysterious "asteroid." One negative review said this adventure was a "dungeon crawl" but that ignores 60% of the adventure because, if anything, only parts 4 and 5 could possibly feel like a dungeon crawl.
I thought it was really smart to start with a chaotic battle, then quickly shift to a murder mystery requiring ROLE PLAYING. To the negative reviewer complaining that no one in the party had ranks in Diplomacy, you get no sympathy here. RPGs are not just about shooting aliens. The GM definitely should read up on the gazetteer in the back of the book about Absalom Station, and let the players explore the space station. After the first fight, the players just kept investigating and exploring Absalom Station. For instance at one point, the "xenoseeker" insisted on going into a nightclub and just chatting up aliens. I pulled out the Alien Archive and described for the PCs skittermanders dancing it up, a shobhad lurking in a corner, the alien guys who have 7 sexes, etc. etc.
One suggestion for GMs in the first fight: I just said each gang accidentally shot one PC: that way the PCs could feel motivated to attack one or both sides, shrug it off as merely inadvertent and try to take cover, focus on helping the dwarf, focus on helping innocent bystanders, etc. In one of my games, the lashunta used his detect thoughts racial power to figure out which gang was "more evil" and then the PCs focused on killing them.
One negative reviewer said there is no villain on the asteroid, which I really don't understand. There are two key villains: a big nasty monster (BBEG) lurking in the cave complex, and the assassin against whom they had a space battle prior to landing on the asteroid. If the PCs win the space battle, the assassin crash lands on the asteroid to hunt them down. If the PCs lose the space battle (unlikely) they can still limp to the spaceship and asteroid, and the assassin still can track them down to get them. I liked how the adventure left how you ran the assassin pretty open-ended because, hey, she isn't even straight up evil.
I listened to the Roll for Combat podcast too. They're playing the whole adventure, and I learned some tips and insights from that too.
Excellent Module with Cthulhu FlavorJames Hunnicutt —
A very fun adventure, for both GM and player. An atypical blend of exploration, NPC interaction, and dungeon crawl (if you consider a ruined city shrouded with green fog and horrible monsters a "dungeon", which I think you can). The module provides a lot of details, and a lot of gaps, which I view as ideal for any adventure: There is plenty of structure and pre-planned encounters, but endless opportunity for the GM to make up anything. For example, the city can be hidden pretty much anywhere, and I made it a fairly epic wilderness adventure just to find the place. The module gives details for only so many city buildings, meaning the GM can concoct additional adventures around all of the other countless buildings, if desired. There are Lovecraft flavors peppered here and there that boost the fun. My experienced group of players really embraced and enjoyed the mysteries of the remarkably unusual city.
I agree with the other reviewer about the "Return of the Eaten" optional ending. To me, the notion of a few high-ranking Shory citizens consumed by a shoggoth 6,000 years ago suddenly coming back to life when you kill the shoggoth was too much to swallow (pun intended). That just didn't make a lot of sense to me: once a shoggoth eats you, nothing short of a true resurrection can help you. At the same time, I like the idea of that optional ending: a few knowledgeable people of the Shory culture showing up who could really help get the city back to full operational capacity. So I tinkered with this piece of the adventure, and added deposits of magic amber here and there. The idea was that when chaos magic overran the city six millennia ago, some of that manifested as random blasts of amber goo that froze -- and preserved in stasis -- some of the citizenry. I also added a few traps that blasted PCs with the amber. That seemed to work well: the PCs found someone trapped in amber whom they broke free, the NPC didn't experience the passage of 6,000 years, and he eventually turned into a replacement PC when another PC died. At the very end, there was an amber pocket under the "Shoggoth Stone" where there were a couple of the named NPCs described in the "Return of the Eaten" segment. So, the ultimate plot point was preserved: knowledgeable NPCs showing up at the end.
Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Occult Mysteries (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
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Unspeakable DreadJames Hunnicutt —
Wonderful book devoted to secret societies & mysterious cults. This offers lots of adventure hooks and ideas that will feed PC paranoia. The astrology segment was welcome, offering a new set of traits based on constellations. The elaboration on the Night Heralds and Veiled Masters is a particular treat. There are a few new spells and haunts that appears useful, and the detailed description of several arcane tomes is incredible -- I only wish that reading them drove the reader a bit insane, a la Call of Cthulhu. (I house rule in insanity, no save, usually in the form of a simple phobia that is as fun to role-play as it is frustrating). If you enjoy Call of Cthulhu, you'll like this.
Labor of LoveJames Hunnicutt —
You can really tell that the authors and others involved invested untold quantities of love into this ambitious product. Rarely do I get much out of the "From the Authors" intro at the start of a book, but I really appreciated their comments here, which conveyed true love for the material and the medium. There is a sense of enthusiasm that permeates this massive tome.
This book is very dense. There is a lot of material here. Pretty much any kind of psi-related thing you might want to put in your campaign has something here, esp for PC options. The "thunderjarl" sounds like the coolest class to play, and I will the next time I'm taking on a PC role. The new races and other new things seem innovative and fun, but I'm equally pleased with the continuation of what came before, like most of the 3.5 book, which of course built on what came before, like Dark Sun. This provides several psi-related options for the core and base classes and races, so you can have fun dabbling in psionics without jumping in all the way with a psionic class/race.
I'm not much of a numbers-cruncher, so I can't comment on how well-balanced the mechanics are, but so far nothing has jumped out at me as broken. It feels right. Some of the art is hit-or-miss, but most of it was great, and the full color layout is gorgeous. Unlike Psionics Unleashed, Dreamscarred Press has worked hard to make Ultimate Psionics somewhat resemble and feel like a Paizo Pathfinder book, which I think was a wise decision. It flows well with the rest of the PF library, and looks great. I really enjoyed the art and flavor text for the pages that introduce each chapter, in the same vein as how Paizo does it.
This book is fantastic. Unreserved 5 stars.
Fantastic!James Hunnicutt —
I really loved this module. The content and art meshed perfectly, which you don't always get in a module. The background story and creative elements are stellar. As the DM, I greatly appreciated the fact that just about every encounter did not need to be resolved through combat if the PCs came at it from a different angle. You would be shooting yourself in the foot if you play this without a Harrow card deck, so be sure you have that before you get started. The players really enjoyed having those cards in front of them and trying to figure out when and how to use them during the adventure, which is a keen "game within a game" explained in the adventure. I recommend explaining that to the players, even if that takes things a little out of character at first, otherwise they "miss" how the game works for the first bit and can waste some of their opportunities to play the right cards. The theater flip-map would be handy too for one of the encounters. (I substituted the cathedral flip-map which worked well too.) Some of the NPCs are super cool: the personality and stats for the rabbit prince combine to make him a terribly fun character. The strangeness of the realm prompted the players to get really engaged and come up with some innovative and wacky solutions to the encounters. Plus, this module was just a delight to read. I read the module on a flight, and kept annoying the other nearby passengers with little giggles and hoots. If you do play this adventure, afterward listen to the Pathfinder podcast where they interview the author, which I found really insightful. Eventually, Paizo should re-publish this fine adventure with expanded content.
Pathfinder Player Companion: Adventurer's Armory (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
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Good stuffJames Hunnicutt —
The first 20 pages of this book are mundane equipment, weapons and armor, a lot of which is fairly useful esp for low level parties. Players into clever roleplaying can find a lot of fun here: false-bottomed cups, skeleton keys, marbles, sneezing powder, tethers for your weapons etc. This section reminds me of Aurora's Whole Realms Catalog from 2nd ed. Then there are 2 pages with 2 feats centered on your scabbard or shield, each of which allows you to use multiple tricks if you have certain requisite skill ranks. The next 2 pages are mundane religious items that a cleric can use as a focus for channeling energy, which can grant some minor bonuses. The next 2 pages have rules for using alchemical items to supplement the material components of certain spells - I quite liked these rules. For example, you can use a tanglefoot bag to boost your black tentacles spell. The next 2 pages are descriptions of some NPCs; I would've preferred more of the alchemical substances. The final 2 pages are a couple feats and some equipment relating to social interactions, like disguise stuff. The whole book is full color of course. The inside front & back covers is a weapons chart. Overall, I really like it.
Pathfinder Chronicles: Classic Monsters Revisited (OGL)Paizo Inc.
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Print Edition Unavailable
Joy to readJames Hunnicutt —
I love it. If you only want crunch, stay away, because it's very crunch-lite.
Love the softcover print editionJames Hunnicutt —
My group has been relying on black-and-white printouts of the PDF or having it open on laptops, and I decided it was high time to invest the cash and procure the print edition. I'm so glad I did! It's a fantastic revision to 3.5, and I love the quality of the softcover book. I figure it will stand up to abuse for at least another 12 months, when I can buy the hardcover!
Dungeons & Dragons: The Dragon Compendium, Volume 1 HardcoverPaizo Inc.
Our Price: $39.95
Great book!James Hunnicutt —
This is a great collection of useful and interesting stuff. I use a lot of the feats and items.