Legendary Planet: The Assimilation Strain (PFRPG)

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There is Madness in the Stars Tonight

A strange sickness afflicts the frontier settlement of Holver's Ferry, threatening to overwhelm its citizens with an alien madness. Already the town has nearly torn itself apart, and the local sheriff is missing. When the PCs brave the surrounding wilderness as the village's latest newcomers, the beleaguered townsfolk desperately turn to them for assistance. But can these erstwhile heroes trace the diseased carrier to its source and solve the mystery before they, too, succumb to "The Assimilation Strain?"

"The Assimilation Strain" is an introductory adventure for 1st-level characters which can be played as a standalone adventure or as a prelude to the Legendary Planet Adventure Path, introducing heroes from any fantasy world to the cosmic threat of alien invaders from beyond. The interplanetary adventure continues in "To Worlds Unknown," launching your heroes into a fantastic universe of exotic pulp adventure! The sword and planet genre comes to life on Legendary Planet!

This 42-page adventure also includes a bonus 12-page PDF art and map folio with both keyed and unkeyed maps.

The Legendary Planet Adventure Path includes the 1st-level prequel adventure The Assimilation Strain and the following adventures:

#1: To Worlds Unknown (2nd to 5th level)
#2: The Scavenged Codex (5th to 7th level)
#3: Dead Vault Descent (8th to 10th level)
#4: Confederates of the Shattered Zone (11th to 14th level)
#5: The Depths of Desperation (15th to 16th level)
#6: Mind Tyrants of the Merciless Moons (17th to 18th level)
#7: To Kill a Star (19th to 20th level)

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4.80/5 (based on 5 ratings)

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A solid Prequel to the LP AP featuring an Unforgettable Encounter

4/5

The Assimilation Strain is a 1st level module which serves two purposes:

Firstly, it is a generic 1st level adventure, playing up on aspects of Cthulhuessque terror in a typical pseudo medieval era small village.

Secondly, same as the First, except now the adventure requires slight modification to use it as the introductory scenario to Legendary Games’ Legendary Planet Adventure Path.
As for the adventure itself, I enjoyed it. It isn’t a great adventure, but it is a memorable one, largely due to one exceptionally creepy encounter in the opening session. The PCs come upon a middle aged woman at the top of a grain silo, dressed in an old, tight-fitting white dress with lace at the cuffs and collars. It’s a wedding dress. The woman who is singing to herself – sobbing to herself – dumps a ewer of liquid upon her head. The PCs gaze on in dawning horror as they realize that the liquid wasn’t water – it’s oil. The maddened woman tries to kindle a fire – her ghastly intentions now becoming clear….

There are a number of other encounters in the adventure which are entertaining, but there is nothing that comes as close to OMG!! as the above noted creeptastic encounter. You could play RPGs for 20, 30 or 40 years plus and you will still remember the above encounter.

In terms of product features, the art to The Assimilation Strain is generally iffy and the maps are similarly iffy. To their credit, Legendary Games does provide two version of the maps, one with a map key and the other without one; however, the great frustration is that the image sizes are pf relatively low resolution. I would have liked much higher resolution .jpg and .png files to work with. Legendary Games addresses this oversight in the balance of the LP AP – but the problem with the digital files for The Assimilation Strain is an issue.

The Elephant in the Room is that there are no explicit guidelines on how, exactly, to use the adventure as the lead in to Volume 1 of the Legendary Planet AP. Different GM’s will have different opinions on how best to do that. I arrived at a straight-forward solution for use in my campaign: I had the encounter with the BBEG result in what amounts to a TPK. The party members are all knocked out from a colorless odorless gas (or knocked unconscious by the BBEG’s melee attacks). During the initiative count as the combat round progresses, as a PC who failed his or her save is called upon in the initiative order, they “wake up” in their containment pod in a manner very similar to what Neo experiences when he “wakes up” from his containment pod in The Matrix. The waking in the pod scene is the entry point to Vol 1 of the LP AP. This waking up occurs at the same time as the rest of the party still playing The Assimilation Strain strive in vain in their combat encounter against the BBEG. In this way, the split timeline acts as a scene in which all of the PCs come to remember how they got to where they will all, ultimately, be going.

I enjoyed The Assimilation Strain, although in retrospect it is one of the weaker elements in the LP AP.That says more about the very high quality of the balance of the LP AP adventures than it says about The Assimilation Strain, which is still pretty good. You could skip The Assimilation Strain it if you wanted to; however, I think in terms of rooting the scenario in the PCs homeworld (especially if that is Golarion) it is a necessary introduction and grounding of your campaign before Vol 1 of the LP AP begins in earnest with To Worlds Unknown.

- Steel_Wind


One of the best, if not the best 1st level adventuer ever.

5/5

First of all, I agree with all the above comments. I also was a Kickstarter backer so I have had the PDF for a while, and have thoroughly read thru it. Other than a couple of minor typos, which were corrected before it went to print, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this adventure.

Role playing, Roll playing, Investigation, this prequel has it all. While the "meat" of the Legendary Planet Adventure Path does not really start till Chapter 1 (book 2 of the 8 books), this sets up the chapter 1 perfectly.

I received my print copy of this a few days ago. From just a physical point of view, the Legendary Games folks out did themselves. Very nice paper. Great formatting and the editing and layout are superb.

-- david


Reminds me of my favourite introductory adventures

5/5

"The Assimilation Strain" is a 1st-level adventure which serves as an optional introduction to the Legendary Planet Adventure Path.

It's a visually appealing product. The art is reminiscent of pulp sf books, with an added touch of early RPG products. I like the added touches of the starscape headers and otherworldly footers, along with the planetary symbol around the page numbers. Layout and font are attractive and easy to read. I was impressed that I only noticed one typo, considering how fast this was produced to get it out for Gen Con. And the extra pdf of all of the maps and art, including player-friendly versions of the maps, is a fantastic bonus.

Among my all-time favourite beginner adventures are "The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh", "Against the Cult of the Reptile God", and "Burnt Offerings". While I don't believe "The Assimilation Strain" will supplant any of those, it's not far off. And it has a lot in common with those great adventures: a well-written investigative adventure with multiple layers of adversaries, taking place in a small town populated by three-dimensional NPC's.
I don't believe that I've been this excited to start a campaign since I picked up a book with Karzoug on the cover 8 years ago.

Well done, Legendary! I'm eagerly awaiting "To Worlds Unknown"!


An Endzeitgeist.com review

5/5

This was moved up on my queue at the request of my players.

The prologue-adventure for Legendary Games' Sword and Planet-AP clocks in at 42 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial introduction leaving us with 32 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?

While this module is designed to act as a prequel for the massive Legendary Planet AP, it also easily works on its own. The following being a review of an adventure, the following does contain SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, still here? Whether to reclaim family property, at the behest of a seer or due to some other hook, the PCs find that their first journey has brought them to the otherwise pretty unremarkable village of Holver's Ferry (fully mapped, btw.) - but even at the ferry leading into the town, across a swift river leading into lake Shimmermere - alas, the drunken ferryman has no good fate in store: While he tried to quarantine the village, he failed - and he is about to pay the price, as psychotic villagers hack him apart. Oh yes, enter the PCs. Unresponsive and clearly driven mad, the PCs have to defeat the bloodthirsty villagers in a thematic callback that made me remember Resident Evil 4 - in all the right ways. Crossing the river one way or another, the impression that Holver's Ferry has been hit by some tragedy pretty much becomes apparent.

A sense of apocalyptic dread, piece by piece, encounter by encounter, will slowly seep into the consciousness of PCs and players alike, as a depressed widow endeavors to commit suicide, as they explore abandoned houses that look like their inhabitants have simply evaporated - something is odd. Hanged people dangle from the town's sacred oak and child survivors hide from anyone out there. The local inn shows signs of struggle, of desperate defense - and a man who had locked himself in, now just as bloodthirsty and dangerous as the first farmers encounetred. Things have become so bad that even goblinoids have entered the village. The priest is insane and burning undead can be found among the village's houses - a sense of grim doom has come to Holver's Ferry, and as the PCs find the halfling berserker (berserker Zimm - boy did I laugh when reading that one!), the gnome apothecary who retained his wits or draw the conclusions due to the hints left in the sheriff's office - the dread mystery needs to be solved.

This sandboxy horror section is well-presented and offer multiple means to draw the PCs further into the topics, whereafter the trail leads towards the Orphanage of mother Oddle. You see, what has happened here is an unlikely and far-out scenario: An invader from another world has engineered a mind-reprogramming bio weapon, the eponymous assimilation strain. Alas, the targeted viral strain's first iteration proved to yield a temporary, highly infectious burn-out rate and chaotic, terrible symptoms - the ones the PCs have witnessed firsthand in the horror at the town. The dread invader, a vanguard of the planned invasion, has since perfected a better strain of the virus and infected one powerful lumberjack, Silam Oddle - controlled by a disgusting, black tumor-like lump at the back of his neck, the PCs can save him, yes - but perhaps they have to take the poor man down. Beyond that, have I mentioned that his mother's mummified remains still remain in her room? Yes, creepy.

Rexel, the gnome alchemist, in the meanwhile, has probably gone missing, abducted by an adherer made from the remains of the town's erstwhile, missing sheriff. The trail leads towards Arvarenhode Manor's ruins, where the catacombs await under the rubble - provided the PCs can best the deadly creatures inhabiting the upper part of the ruins. In the catacombs, the PCs may save Rexel, battle the adherer and navigate a complex inhabited by a cool, uncommon selection of adversaries, with thematically-awesome descriptions and rooms. Finally, defeating the xoraphond creature behind the dread conflict ends the jagladine empire's invasion plan, while also providing a first taste of the things to come. The pdf concludes with alien technology (Technology Guide-compatible) and the new creature and two templates provided.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch - the book has been further streamlined from its original inception. Layout adheres to a beautiful two-column standard that is still pretty printer-friendly, with copious amounts of full-color high-quality artworks for each major player in the storyline. It should also be noted that the layout does not try to generate more pages by wide margins - there is a lot of information on each page, making the module more detailed and longer than you'd expect from most modules of this page-count - in my playtest, it took my exceedingly fast group 2 sessions to clear this module. About 90% of 32-page modules tend to be finished in 1 session, so yeah - quite a bunch of content. Cartography is beautiful and plentiful - and a massive art and map folio constitutes a huge array of handouts and options to directly show your players the maps or cut them up and use them as handouts. I hate being a complaining whiner, but one thing does become obvious with this art and map folio, though: A tad bit higher resolutions would have been appreciated for the maps etc. - you can see some pixels. The adventure comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Tom Phillips has, slowly but surely, become one of my go-to authors regarding any scenario that provides horror, challenge and mystery - he knows his craft. Add Neil Spicer and the duo has created one awesome, damn cool low-level module that is challenging, potentially a bit disturbing and interesting. With a diverse, uncommon array of enemies that never falls into the bland 1st level routines, a mix of sandbox and dungeon-exploration, this module provides quite a bunch of cool ideas. The best component of this module, to me, is a more ephemeral one, though: The pacing of this module is impeccable. Horror and mystery, both as genres, hinge on timing and means of creating suspense, of build-ups and gradual escalation -and this module gets this component perfectly.

As a GM, you can obviously just spoon-feed the information to your PCs via various proxies, but not only are there multiple ways of unearthing the truth, there are several red herrings - and in my playtest, I kept as much information as possible opaque, making my players draw the conclusions themselves. Now if the players get stumped, you still have several means of putting them on track within the logic of the module. Furthermore, the module has ample instances wherein heroes can be heroes and actually save lives - an approach I always welcome in modules.

I honestly did not expect the prologue to Legendary Planet to be a mystery, much less one that is this good; whether played for weirdness or downright horror, this module makes clear from the get-go that it's not your standard fantasy fare. But only in hindsight. As a piece of advice: Don't tell your players necessarily that this will be a sword & planet module. There are several themes that make for delightful red herrings in the hands of a capable GM, making the realization of what is truly going on have even more of an impact.

The assimilation strain is an excellent module and a furious first in the series, one that makes me very happy I've been able to back the kickstarter. With great production values and content that must be considered awesome, this module is a great way to kick off the AP, one that has me stoked to see what's in store for us. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.


An Outstanding Introductory Adventure

5/5

All right, a little bit of background before we begin - I was one of the Kickstarter backers for the Legendary Planet Adventure Path, so I got this adventure quite some time before the public release here. What you're looking at is an adventure serving as an introduction to the themes and stories of Legendary Planet, enough to bring characters to Level 2 (where the main adventure begins).

Of course, it's perfectly serviceable as an independent adventure - you don't need the full AP in order to run and enjoy this module.

At its core, The Assimilation Strain is a mystery - the PCs arrive in the aftermath of something going horribly wrong in a distant town, and with little information to go on, they have to investigate and try to find out what happened... and what might be coming next.

This is the kind of adventure I truly enjoy running. It's not just a series of fights from beginning to end - there are many different types of situations to challenge the players, so everyone has a chance to shine. In fact, this might even be a good adventure to run for new players (but experienced gamers probably won't be bored, either!).

All-in-all, The Assimilation Strain is an outstanding adventure. Whether it's for one night of fun or serving as the start of a much larger campaign, this is an adventure worth picking up.


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Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Well hello there...

The Exchange

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I'm quite excited for this


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Now that it's out for the public, I can review it properly. XD Bottom-line? This is an EXCELLENT first-level adventure, and I'm looking forward to seeing everyone else's thoughts on it!

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, 2011 Top 32, 2012 Top 4

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GM Rednal wrote:
Now that it's out for the public, I can review it properly. XD Bottom-line? This is an EXCELLENT first-level adventure, and I'm looking forward to seeing everyone else's thoughts on it!

Thank you for the kind review, Rednal!

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

3 people marked this as a favorite.

I'm glad you guys are both enjoying and/or eager to acquire The Assimilation Strain. Just hold still. The infection should take hold very soon, and it won't hurt a bit. ;)

I actually ran this module at PaizoCon earlier this year, and then twice more just this weekend at a local convention called MACE here in Charlotte. So far, everyone has been really impressed with its "creepiness," unique adversaries, and overall storyline.

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4; Contributor; Publisher, Legendary Games

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I ran this at PaizoCon and as a Roll20 game this weekend for AetherCon, plus with a group of local players. One thing that's been interesting is that each group has taken a very different approach to the first half of the adventure and the way they explore the town and the various challenges it presents. I think it speaks well to the versatility in the design that there are so many paths to successfully completing the adventure.


Just bought the pdf and on a quick read through it looks very cool, but I have a few spoilery type questions.

SPOILERY QUESTIONS:
1.)Does the Con damage on the infected villagers from the virus or another source? I didn't see Con dmg in the viral description.
2.)I would assume that the players leave the rescued children with the gnome, but then in part 3 we see that the gnome has been abducted. Won't someone think about the children?
3.)How do the events of this tie into the Legendary Planet AP proper? The player's guide seems to suggest that players would already be interplanetary type characters, but the Assimilation Strain seems written for core-type characters. Will there be suggestions for this in the first book of the AP?

All in all though, a really cool little adventure. Looking forward to the rest of the series.


Spoilery Stuff!:

1) Don't forget that the villagers at the start have the flawed version of the virus, which is now what the players can contract.

2) Horrible thought, innit? *Cheerful* I think that's something for GMs to adjust as necessary. Not everyone will take that course of action, after all.

3) The main AP assumes that the characters are from the same homeworld (although it is possible to play with them coming from different homeworlds, too). If you play this module, the general assumption is the characters experience this, and probably expect that the situation was resolved when they put a stop to what's going on. To Worlds Unknown, the first part of the AP, shows them the error of those thoughts. It's probably best to have the players not choose campaign traits until after The Assimilation Strain is over with, but have them do it before you begin To Worlds Unknown.

Alternately, you can run them as fully separate. Tell the players to make 1st-level PCs on your normal game world, but that they're only going to be around for one mission. Then start running Legendary Planet in full, maybe with an info drop somewhere referencing what the original PCs did and how it factored into what's going on in the main campaign.

BTW, I'm a KS backer, so I already have To Worlds Unknown. XD It actually ties in pretty well. The Assimilation Strain isn't critical for what's going on - because it's optional - but the connections are nice.


Modified my review to reflect the latest iteration and posted it now also here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.


I think it would be fun to "twist" the narrative with the interplanetary connection. Then with the actual 1st part of the AP, the characters can choose to bring those Assimilation characters along, or then make up new characters/races drawing from the interplanetary setting.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Devastation Bob wrote:
I think it would be fun to "twist" the narrative with the interplanetary connection. Then with the actual 1st part of the AP, the characters can choose to bring those Assimilation characters along, or then make up new characters/races drawing from the interplanetary setting.

We may or may not have called that out specifically (hard to remember since I'm knee-deep in later chapters of the AP right now)...but GMs would most certainly have the leeway to do exactly that given how we crafted things.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

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Endzeitgeist wrote:
Modified my review to reflect the latest iteration and posted it now also here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.

Much obliged, Thilo. I believe Jason and the team cleaned up the missing map situation you cited. Also, I'd heard (from one of the other Kickstarter backers) that the high-resolution maps were also introduced in the map folio. So, as always, we took note and revisited things to make the final product even more awesome!

P.S. I'll be curious to know your thoughts on To Worlds Unknown now that it's available to the Kickstarter backers.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Devastation Bob wrote:
Just bought the pdf and on a quick read through it looks very cool, but I have a few spoilery type questions.

Hey, Bob...I'll do my best to answer, but I think Rednal hit on most of them already.

Spoiler:
Devastation Bob wrote:
1.)Does the Con damage on the infected villagers from the virus or another source? I didn't see Con dmg in the viral description.

This stems from the flawed version of the assimilation strain which induced madness in the villagers.

Devastation Bob wrote:
2.)I would assume that the players leave the rescued children with the gnome, but then in part 3 we see that the gnome has been abducted. Won't someone think about the children?

This is an outcome each GM will have to adjudicate, but yes...it's possible the children are there when Rexel is abducted. You could handle that in many different ways. Rexel could have been abducted in his sleep with the children none the wiser. Or, Rexel could have defended the children, directing them to flee before he eventually succumbs to his attacker. Or, the children could have ventured away from the treehouse to retrieve something important from the Mulnarin farm and been entirely absent when Rexel's abductor appears. Lots of ways to go with that which don't involve violence against the children. But, if you want to include them as part of the abduction, too, that's entirely possible, as well. They could show up in Part 3 alongside Rexel and give the PCs an even greater moral dilemma to face.

Devastation Bob wrote:
3.)How do the events of this tie into the Legendary Planet AP proper? The player's guide seems to suggest that players would already be interplanetary type characters, but the Assimilation Strain seems written for core-type characters. Will there be suggestions for this in the first book of the AP?

The Player's Guide is meant to support the AP moreso than the prequel adventure (which is entirely optional). So, starting with interplanetary characters isn't your best bet if you're going to run The Assimilation Strain, because it's meant to invoke a sense of mystery and wonder about the larger multiverse. Whereas, if the PCs originated from off-world, the mystery is mostly absent from The Assimilation Strain.

That said, we did our best to layer in as many different options as we could. So, you certainly can run TAS with interplanetary characters. The GM will just have to engineer some greater explanations for it. Meanwhile, if you start interplanetary characters out with To Worlds Unknown, that'll work far more easily. Bottom line, you can go either direction with it. And, yes, we do spend a bit of text in TWU discussing how TAS can fit into the AP.

Devastation Bob wrote:
All in all though, a really cool little adventure. Looking forward to the rest of the series.

Awesome. Glad you're enjoying it.

--Neil


@Neil: I downloaded the map folio as per the link I was sent before I checked the module and revised the review - hence the shout out to the map-folio in the first place. The map-folio's maps, at least in the version of the pdf I got, do show noticeable pixels. This is complaining at a high level, but if something went wrong, you'll at least now know about it! TWU is scheduled for playtest, btw., but the Player's Guide will be reviewed before that one. :)

Shadow Lodge

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And on the wishlist it goes...

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4; Contributor; Publisher, Legendary Games

Thanks for the reviews, guys. If you have a minute, we would also appreciate it if you could post your reviews on Amazon.com!

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I'm glad that everybody who didn't back this is now lucky enough to have it available for them.

A terrific adventure, and I'm now digging into "To Worlds Unknown"

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4; Contributor; Publisher, Legendary Games

Glad you are enjoying them!

Liberty's Edge

I skimmed through this last night and had two quick questions. (didn't see the answer at first glance) looks great so far.

Potential spoiler:

1.Is there a gate on the planet? I wanted to be able to have the players use characters from other planets as a lead into part two.

2. what's the planets name?

Also I got part 2 as well. I didn't see planetary maps in either. It might be helpful to have a one page map of each planet in the AP. Thanks


Answers:
1. The assumption is that yes, there is a Gate somewhere on the planet, although it's not covered in this adventure. (Don't worry, the first main chapter - To Worlds Unknown - makes it quite simple to have characters from other planets. XD)

2. The world where this adventure takes place is deliberately undefined, so it can be set basically anywhere you want.

Maps are given of the places that are most relevant for the adventure. The 'world' in To Worlds Unknown is described, but not drawn. Assume they'll show you the relevant parts. ^^ Rather like Golarion, really...

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Rednal has the right of it...

Spoiler:

1. We left the "world" in The Assimilation Strain undefined, because we wanted the prequel to serve as a gateway adventure that could be slipped into any ongoing campaign setting. Thus, the planet where the initial outbreak occurs could be Golarion, Oerth, Faerun, Midgard, or even your own homebrew setting. Each GM gets to define it for their game, and then both The Assimilation Strain and To Worlds Unknown help to bridge your campaign into our larger multiverse. As for a "gate" being on the world where The Assimilation Strain takes place, it is assumed that one exists...somewhere. But, it's intentionally left undefined, because we don't want the discovery of that particularly gate to play a role in the storyline for The Assimilation Strain. Even the gate to the PCs' world that gets described in To Worlds Unknown is purposefully destroyed as part of the adventure's background, because that lets us push the PCs into the broader multiverse via their escape from the jagladine prison and emergence on the "hub" planet Argosa. From there, the entire AP carries a "Lost in Space" theme as the PCs are continuously trying to find their way home again.

2. Again, the planet's name in The Assimilation Strain is up to you. The expectation is that you define your own game world and campaign setting, so it should be whatever planet the PCs are from. If you want to include characters that are already from other planets, you'll need to build in a reason for why they're on the particular planet where the assimilation strain is released...i.e., they could have been stranded there...they could have been born there as a result of a handful of explorers or cataclysm survivors stumbling through the gate before the jagladine seize control of it in To Worlds Unknown...and so on. But, you'll need to be very careful in granting alien PCs too much knowledge about the broader multiverse. Otherwise, it'll undo some of the mystery and wonder of everything being "new" to the PCs as they go through the full adventure path. In my opinion, it'll work best if you afflict any alien PCs with "temporary memory loss" (if they're recent arrivers on the PCs' planet) or an "alien raised on another planet" situation (if they've been living on the PCs' planet for awhile already). Regardless, it's best if the alien PCs on the world that's featured in The Assimilation Strain don't know anything about the broader multiverse yet. Or, at least, they don't know much (if anything) about the jagladine or the Ultari Hegemony, etc. The AP's story will serve you better if you hold back some of that in-character knowledge from them and just say that their alien species is an offshoot or a stranded sect, and so on.


But that's just my two cents,
--Neil

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