website ate my first review; let's try and recreate the magic
My reaction after the initial read through was that of a classic spy story; there is a compromised person that can be manipulated by a smart and savvy person/team. Good pacing, developed NPCs, and little touches here and there that give a grounding to the scenario's environment. I recommend people play this one. So why only three stars?
Well... there are a few flaws.
The first is the method of infiltration.
problem number one:
The first encounter felt like combat for combat's sake. This event does nothing to move the plot along and felt like a rushed way of "How do we get the PCs to the station?" Since we know about the Target and a significant encounter happens in a nightclub, why not have the team pose as advanced location scouts, or something similar? The Target is still the best person to use and you can still have the "Impress person X number of times" mechanic.
This also solves the "Iconic Problem"; why wouldn't the Target recognize any iconic Starfinders? The scenario already mentions the Target latches on to any iconics. "I'm flattered you follow me, Target; I'm thinking of opening a new venture here after dining with my very good, dear, personal friend Chef GK. He told me all about this place." If the Target's infosphere activities are monitored, the PCs should be discovered. This just doesn't work.
The second is the end.
problem number two:
The PCs make every check. The PCs make every right decision. The PCs do everything the mission asks of them.
And they are punished for it.
There is no reason to think otherwise! The Target was rock solid all scenario so why would the PCs think that right now, at that moment something was amiss? The "means and paranoia" throwaway line in the mission briefing, two to three hours prior, is not enough to give any clue to behave in a certain way. You haven't all scenario; why start now? The holograms that pop up at various points in the story? Flavor, and the one germane to the topic is the very first one you encounter. Ugh.
I did like the aid another mechanic in the nightclub.
I do wish to see more Dataphile scenarios like this going forward. I may have to start referring to Historia-7 as Control.
I ran this a bunch of times at Paizocon 2014. The first table was a bit clunky; my grasp of the rules was not strong and the table and I learned how the rules worked together. While not intuitive, the mechanics do become second nature by the end of the first combat encounter.
Having handouts for the armies is a must. Having copies of the mass combat rules for the table is also a must. Instead of waiting until after the intro text, I handed out the rules appendices and explained how the mechanics worked. I went over the changes to initiative, how each phase worked, what you could and could not do, and how to resolve combat. I told the players that near the end of the first encounter they will have the rules down. To a table, they all did.
Charisma is important in a leader. Your ability to get people to move and fight together is important. An 8 charisma fighter is great at slaughtering goblins by himself, but will others listen to him? Or even want to fight for him? The high charisma sorcerer might not understand tactics but will inspire courage and spirit through words and deeds. It is not that difficult a concept to grasp and one not worth complaining about.
This scenario will take a full five hours the first time you gm it. As I progressed, my opening speech about "Here's how mass combat works" went from about 45-50 minutes to 20. For those worried about not finishing in five hour slots, none of my tables went long. In fact, most finished early.
The only real complaint I have is the inclusion of the Troop subtype. It felt out of place and at tier 6-7, the map is too small to accommodate the critters and players.
This is almost a perfect scenario; it has exploration, role-playing, problem solving, and a bit of action that will test any party make-up. I dislike scenarios that are nothing but combat and do nothing to reward non-combatant PC, or rather non-combat oriented characters. The Temple of Empyreal Enlightenment scratches both itches.
The exploration is fantastic. Instead of a traditional crawl through a deserted complex, this one lives and has its own rhythms. The interaction between players and inhabitants was a lot of fun; I had the players pantomime what they wanted, and used basic first day foreign language class exercises with them.
No one at my table spoke Tian. They also did not ask about the temple before going into the tapestry. Since one of the tasks is to catalog a library, I asked what languages people spoke. When no one said Tian, I suggested they invest in a few comprehend language scrolls. This proved to be a bit worse than I expected. The lack of languages spoken correlated to a severe lack of knowledge skills.
The mystery aspect is a slow burn of discovery, very well done. This scenario drills into the players why it is a good idea to have a few ranks in a knowledge skill. You can succeed in this scenario with out a lot of knowledge skills, but the mystery is that much harder to unravel.
If I had one minor complaint, it would be the lack of items that could help the party succeed. Yes they can come and go as they please, but a few items to help overcome the language barrier or with the combats within the temple would be nice.