Survivor

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Well-written, but look over character equipment beforehand

****( )

In The Protectorate Petition, a planet called Tabrid Minor has requested protectorate status with the Pact Worlds. Your player characters are tasked to visit the planet and visit one of its archaeological sites, gather data on the planet, and from there weigh in on whether the planet deserves inclusion in the Pact Worlds. All of this is done while under the scrutiny of some of the planet’s natives.

There are several things the author of the scenario has to be commended for, starting with the unique culture and race created for Tabrid Minor. Along with the ecosystem of the planet, it is unlike anything I’ve seen in science-fantasy gaming, and they’ve done a good job of creating a unique world while explaining why this scenario doesn’t have a dozen pages of unique rules to cover the society of Tabrid Minor.

Another nice touch is that, while not providing unique rules for Tabrid Minor, its backstory does give a chance for Solarians to shine, no pun intended. Such characters will find themselves with an advantage at one point in the scenario, said advantage increasing based upon the abilities they have picked. I enjoy when scenarios give a character class a chance to excel without overshadowing other characters, and this adventure achieves that.

Also, the scenario has a set of rules for tracking the effects the PCs actions have on the results of the scenario, which is very well done, and it is very much written so characters whose focus is on skills will shine as much as those who are combat-focused. This tracking also affects the flow of information the PCs receive during the course of the adventure. When I ran the scenario my players missed certain bits due to their actions, leaving them with a…unique view of the planet that I’m sure the writer didn’t intend, but which added to the fun of the scenario.

However, while the adventure has all of those good points, it is not without flaws. The main issue with the scenario comes with one of the success points in the scenario. It presupposes that at least one of the Starfinders will have a relatively common and cheap piece of gear. As written there is no way for the player characters to be aware of the need of the piece of gear beforehand, and there is no way to acquire it in the scenario. Lacking the item will result in the PCs being unable to achieve one of the success points for the adventure, and they’ll lose credits for it. It was just dumb luck that one of my players decided to buy the gear before they started the adventure, or else they would have had no chance to succeed. There’s also a bit of software given to the PCs at the beginning, and if you happen to have a tech-deficient party, it could result in them having to hit major numbers on Culture checks at certain points in the adventure to get clues to what is going on.

There is also a portion of the adventure where PCs may encounter individuals who will request money so they can achieve their goal. At the end of the adventure the main NPC of the scenario will make a request of the PCs that is exactly the same as the folks who wanted money to do the same thing. The author didn’t consider PCs might just offer the first group exactly what they want in lieu of giving them money.

A minor editing issue exists, with reference made to “Deception” being a skill all its own. The scenario also contains a nod to Transformers and a nod to Harry Potter, so you may encounter a breaking of immersion if players pick up on them.

Finally, the way the scenario deals with the PCs uncovering the history of a planet and choosing how to act on it is reminiscent of Yesteryear’s Truth. That having been the last Starfinder scenario I played, running this one had a bit of déjà vu about it.

Despite the length of my list of gripes, I honestly do recommend the scenario. The good outweighs the bad in it by a good margin. A GM would want to look over character sheets to make certain the players’ characters meet the tech and gear requirement for running it. It’s worth having in your collection, especially if you’re looking for a less combat-focused adventure.


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Good Role-Play Elements, Very Hard Combats

***( )( )

Yesteryear’s Truth was my second adventure in the land of Starfinder. I’m writing this from the perspective of a player from actual play experiences. If I had to summarize the scenario I would label it as having an interesting premise and setting, along with fun interactions with NPCs, but hampered by some of its combat set pieces.

In the scenario the player characters are tasked to investigate a newly-discovered world, those who discovered it having been driven off from it by an orbital defense grid. Rather than considering that maybe the planet wants to be left alone and respect their sovereignty, Venture Captain Arvin explains the last ship just didn’t have enough firepower to deal with it, and sends you to investigate. Oh, and you’re told to make “peaceful contact” with them, which seems dubious if you’re destroying their defense systems so you can stop by and say hello. But I digress.

After reaching the planet and dealing with the problem waiting in its orbit, you head on down to the planet. There is some unpleasantness, but then you make contact with some of the natives of the planet. What follows is some great interactions with the inhabitants, and an investigation into their past, and a decision on the part of the PCs that will affect the planet’s inhabitants one way or another.

The non-combat parts of this adventure are great. The player characters get to interact with an all-new culture, and their can be a great deal of ethical dilemmas within the party based on people picking different sides on what should be done. If I were rating this scenario on the RP aspect alone it would get a four from me. As it is, however, the combats drag it down to a three.

Yesteryear’s Truth has three combats, two land-based and one spaceship battle. I have to commend the author for how good the final battle is, as it felt like an even battle that neither side had an advantage on due to base power level, and that smart thinking was just as important as the luck of the dice. It’s not often that I find such in scenarios in recent times, and it was a very welcome change.

The other two battles, however, were very problematic. In the case of the space battle, we went before our opponent on the first round, and I managed to score a critical hit for near-maximum damage, disabling the main schtick of our opponent. Two rounds later I scored another critical, and did a respectable amount of damage. With two criticals so early on it would seem like the battle would have gone fairly quickly. Instead the battle dragged on for around an hour, with our foe seemingly refusing to go down, and our success coming after we sustained significant damage. I was honestly left wondering how we would have ever managed to defeat our opponent without those two crits, given how we barely got by with them. I noted earlier Venture Captain Arvin comments the last ship didn’t have enough firepower to get by the orbital defenses, and I really don’t think the ship they send you in does, either.

As for the other land-based battle, I was in a party consisting of a second-level envoy, technomancer and mechanic, and I was playing a first-level soldier. Our envoy went down in the first round of combat from our foe’s first attack, and I could plainly put the blame on that player’s decision to go in for meele. However, our opponent had such a high attack bonus that the only time he failed to hit us was on the sole occasion he rolled a “one” to hit. Aside from that he hit every time. Our mechanic quickly went down and I only managed to stay up because Constitution is my highest stat. I ended up having to flee, our foe chasing behind me like a reenactment of a Benny Hill chase scene, until our technomancer was able to take it down with shots and spells from a long distance. When our GM later told us he was attacking with penalities as part of the adventure’s adjustment for Tier 1-2, we were all looking at one another with disbelief that it had been penalized at all while we fought.

If these two combats weren’t such a death zone, I would gladly give this adventure a 4. As it is I’m giving it a 3, and suggesting that GMs refrain from running the scenario for characters who are first level or not combat focused.