Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Scenario #1-04: Cries From the Drift PDF

****( ) (based on 13 ratings)

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A Starfinder Society Scenario designed for levels 1-4.

A missing Starfinder ship's distress signal would have gone unnoticed were it not for a passerby detecting it and selling the information to the Society. The PCs are to travel to the crippled starship, and once aboard, reach the bridge in order to piece together the tragic story of the vessel's lost crew. Only by unraveling the mysteries of the drifting starship can the PCs hope to uncover information critical to the Exo-Guardians future operations.

Content in Cries From the Drift also contributes to the ongoing goals of the Exo-Guardians faction.

Written by Joe Pasini.

Starfinder Society Scenario Tags: Faction (Exo-Guardians), Starship

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****( ) (based on 13 ratings)

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A gripping atmosphere covers minor flaws in this spooky dungeon adventure

****( )

<Played through this one at low-tier in a Play by Post, then reviewed the PDF from the perspective of a GM>

The PCs are brought in to locate the source of a distress beacon sent from a ship from Sangoro's Bulwark, the lost headquarters of the Exo-Guardians. The premise is straightforward: something must've gone terribly wrong with this ship, so you'll need to secure the distress beacon, use it to find the ship, and investigate.

With a unique space combat and an atmospheric and spooky dungeon crawl with cool encounters, this scenario just brings a really high quality experience. The mysteries on the ship are also well designed to give players just enough information to tease out what happened to the Struggle's Scholar while keeping things surprising.

The last third of the scenario does suffer from some issues with just being too transparently linear. But as opposed to some other reviewers, I feel that can be excused for the sake of maintaining a good narrative arc (and this one nails that arc well, concluding in an unexpected and exciting encounter).

The Good (spoilers):
  • The veskarium ship and its captain are a breath of fresh air. Clear, solid motives and an unyielding commitment to honor give the PCs a political and social dilemma. Risk the loss of the beacon by accepting the Honorbound's terms for a 'ship duel', or risk making the already tense relationship between the Pact and the Veskarium worse by ignoring them. While ultimately it doesn't matter too much in this scenario, this is the kind of dilemma that gets players of all sorts engaged in the narrative.
  • Losing the duel has real consequences to the rest of the scenario, other than just 'you-fail', and they're well thought out ones too.
  • The atmosphere on the ship, from the dim and flickering lighting, to the increasingly malfunctioning turret, to the horrid fates of the creatures within, is uniformly excellent.
  • The map for the ship is unique and well detailed, and the handouts and "video recording" both did a good job of reinforcing the atmosphere and getting speculation going within the group.
  • The scenario provides a unique and uniquely useful tool for fighting the driftdead that appears near the end: a force baton that acts as a force effect vs. incorporeals. Very good from an adventure balance standpoint and a cool item to have access to after the scenario.
  • There's some attention given here to not only terrain but environmental effects. Dim lighting, the etheric storm messing with powered gear, obstacles for cover in the bridge room, etc. Add in monsters that also have unique powers to throw at you and it all helps to make the encounters more interesting.

  • The Bad (spoilers):
  • Another adventure, another space combat that drags on way past its welcome. While the unique elements (special honorable rules, asteroid field) add a bit of interest to the fight, by the time we were in round 8 and out of missiles we were more than ready for it to be over. Mercifully our GM 'called' the combat once it was clear that our ship was well in the lead. I wish space combats were rebalanced across the board, lowering either ship HP totals or reducing shield repair rates.
  • By the time we had picked up the second battery and were bringing it back to the engine room, the linear nature of the adventure had become glaringly obvious. This is especially disappointing after the first portion of the ship, which lets you explore freely.
  • The ending is somewhat unsatisfying, as the data you went to retrieve from the ship is not decoded as part of the scenario, so you never find out what was going on with the Bulwark. You just get a pat on the back! After all the build up and possible close calls against the xill and driftdead, it'd be nice to also have a solid meta-plot revelation as a reward.

  • Enjoyable and challenging

    *****

    The scenario with some horror/suspense music makes for an enjoyable experience. The difficulty compared to other Starfinder scenarios is higher.


    Probably my favourite SFS scenario so far..

    *****

    While mileage of this adventure will drastically vary depending on your GM - but in the right hands this shapes up to be a very suspenseful and chilling scenario that leave the players on edge and immersed.


    Solid Tale of Horror in Space

    ***( )( )

    NO SPOILERS

    I ran this recently at Tier 1-2, and tend to think of Cries From the Drift as a fairly average Starfinder Society scenario in terms of quality. There's an interesting backstory to the plot, but the players may or may not find out about it (depending on their PCs' actions). Classic dungeon-crawling (in space!) dominates the scenario, with very little opportunity for role-playing. The starship combat has an original premise, although, like most starship combats so far, it wasn't particularly challenging for the PCs in the session I ran. This is all sounding more negative than it should! I had fun with Cries From the Drift and it's a worthwhile addition to the season even if it doesn't reach the top rank.

    SPOILERS

    If past Starfinder Society scenarios have drawn inspiration from Firefly ("Fugitive on the Red Planet") and Star Trek ("Yesteryear's Truth"), Cries From the Drift is clearly inspired by Alien. It's a horror movie in space, complete with chest-bursting extraterrestrial.

    The scenario starts, as they all do (unfortunately, in my opinion), with a briefing on Absalom Station. Fan-favourite Zigvigix does the duty this time, and he does have a fun personality to role-play as the GM. (Players who have gone through the Commencement may be in for a little bonus reference to Strawberry Machine Cake.) Anyway, Zigvigix explains that a salvage ship has come across a distress beacon sent by an Idaran ship named Struggle's Scholar. This is exciting news, as the ship (thought to be lost) was returning from the Exo-Guardian's original headquarters, Sangoro's Bulwark. After the Scoured Stars incident, the location to Sangoro's Bulwark was lost (its coordinates were top secret), but now there's a chance that recovering data from the Struggle's Scholar will provide a clue as to the whereabouts of the hidden base. It's a solid hook that should get players interested in seeing what happens next.

    The PCs get a choice of two different ships to take to the distress beacon, and I like how the choice matters for more than just starship combat (the scenario explicitly provides additional information if the weaker ship is chosen because it has better sensors). There's an interlude during Drift travel where the GM is supposed to introduce another team of Starfinder Society agents as a seed for a future scenario, but I thought it was awkwardly presented. Anyway, the requisite starship combat takes place once the PCs' ship arrives at the location of the distress beacon. A vesk salvager claims the rights to take the Idaran vessel. In a nice twist, however, the captain of the vesk ship offers to resolve the stand-off through an honourable duel with rules that make sense (no targeting the other ship's life support, no firing at the rear arc, etc.). Having a set of "rules" to follow (and sometimes take advantage of), plus the presence of combustible asteroids, gives this starship combat some clever features that makes it memorable. I still have issues with the underlying starship combat system and how long it takes to resolve, but I liked the creativity that's demonstrated here.

    Whether they win or lose the "duel," the PCs ship will get a chance to explore the Idaran vessel. Yes, it's railroading, but it's organized play and I can't blame the developers too much. There are some real consequences to losing the duel, as the situation on board the derelict vessel changes (for the worse) since the vesk get there first. Getting this alternative possibility ready required some additional prep time as the GM, but I'm glad it was accounted for and integrated into the story.

    The rest of the scenario takes place on the Idaran vessel. To make a long story short, the vessel faced several tragedies that led to the death of all aboard: first, it entered an "etheric storm" that killed one of the crew members who reanimated as a "driftdead", an incorporeal, ravenous killer. Then, as the storm knocked the ship out of the Drift, chunks of the Ethereal Plane were pulled with it, including extraplanar marauders: xill! The PCs have to deal with both the driftdead and the xill in order to recover the data they need from the ship's bridge. The tricky thing with writing a dungeon-crawl is that if you set it up so each room has to be entered in order, it really feels like it's on rails. But, if you don't, the PCs might accidentally hit the big "climactic" battle first, which leaves the rest of the scenario feeling like mop-up duty (see PFS' "Mists of the Mwangi" for an example of this dilemma). Joe Pasini, the writer of Cries From the Drift, chose a middle ground. Some of the chambers on board the starship can be entered in any order, but the most important ones require something from another room in order to enter (batteries to power defunct doors and a key card, respectively). It's not a bad idea. But, players being players, some groups will figure out ways to get through the "sealed" doors earlier then intended (in my case, for example, a Level 2 PC made a DC 30 Computers check to bypass the locked chamber of the driftdead without ever finding the key card).

    As I mentioned earlier, there's a lot of excellent detail provided to make the tragedy of this ship come alive: blood trails, body parts, recorded farewells, etc. The map of the ship is really well done both in design and labelling, even if it was hard to draw out for miniatures (it's larger than a normal flip-map). Putting together what happened could be a very sad but satisfying aspect of the scenario for some groups (mine was more of the "let's kill the bad guys and get out of here" mentality, but that's okay too). As for the two major battles, the driftdead can be extremely challenging because most PCs will have limited ability to harm an incorporeal creature and they may or may not realize that the force batons they (hopefully) found earlier are a major help. The xill is the most fun at the beginning of the encounter if it can get the drop on a PC and implant its eggs into them, but otherwise will fall pretty quickly due to the well-known inherent action economy problem of 1 boss vs. 4/5/6 PCs.

    The premise of characters being sent to explore a ship drifting in space is such a pervasive one in science-fiction that it had to come to Starfinder sooner or later. The writer clearly worked hard to develop an atmosphere of growing dread and lurking threat, which I appreciate. How much of that mood carries through to the gaming table is going to vary widely by group and setting, but if it can be achieved it's worthwhile. The scenario also adds some very interesting lore to the history of the Exo-Guardian faction, and I'm sure these story threads will be picked up later on. Overall, this is a solid (if unspectacular) scenario and another excellent example of the range of stories that Starfinder can tell.


    Space Horror!

    *****

    A fun beginning, and another interesting and original space combat, before you step into a great creepy scary Space Horror situation (with a lot of emotions and feelings for the victims).
    A great scenario.

    re. certain things said below about combat being too lethal, and possible TPKs.
    My feeling is that a lot of those reactions are due to the difference between PFS and SFS. SFS hits a lot harder, and does damage, and is more brutal... but you can heal up at least partially and move on.

    Scary strong enemies are great... especially when the TPKs are only possible: the challenges make for good memories.


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    Sovereign Court

    I blame the Corpse Fleet

    Liberty's Edge

    Starfinder Charter Superscriber

    What maps will this scenario call for?

    Starfinder Society Developer

    Maps Appearing in Starfinder Society Scenario #1–04: Cries From the Drift:

    •Starfinder Flip-Mat: Basic Starfield

    Grand Lodge

    Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

    Scenario Tags:


    • Faction
    • Starship Combat


    Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber

    Is there a reason this scenario is still listed as "(Pending)" on my Starfinder subscription? I've already received the next two.


    Pathfinder Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
    caps wrote:
    Is there a reason this scenario is still listed as "(Pending)" on my Starfinder subscription? I've already received the next two.

    You should contact Customer Service about that. Something went wrong. They should be able to fix it after they get back to the office on Monday.


    This adventure, when I played it, was completely boring.

    I played it in Starfinder and there is such a high emphasis on Engineering and Computers that I just didn't have. As a Solarian I felt completely worthless and useless in this game. The Space Combat was interesting, everything else was a complete snooze. I seriously felt like I could have left the table and had no impact on the game. That is bad adventure design.

    There should always be significant things for any type of character. Not just those who chose to be "Skill Monkeys" which we had. So the rest of us sat back useless as one character had a +10 to +12 in every skill. It was not fun and I just wanted it to end.


    Starfinder Charter Superscriber

    Sorry you felt that way. There are fewer skills in Starfinder, and some classes (like the Operative) that gets so many skill points and inherent bonuses to skills that it is easy for them to be good at pretty much everything. Still, that being said, I've run this adventure and there's lot of role-playing to be had in figuring out what to do next (and how to do it), not to mention some really exciting combats.


    Jhaeman wrote:
    Sorry you felt that way. There are fewer skills in Starfinder, and some classes (like the Operative) that gets so many skill points and inherent bonuses to skills that it is easy for them to be good at pretty much everything. Still, that being said, I've run this adventure and there's lot of role-playing to be had in figuring out what to do next (and how to do it), not to mention some really exciting combats.

    The fight against the "big threat" lasted 1 round. Literally it died before acting.

    The other one took 3 rounds.

    There wasn't much room for roleplaying because the skill monkeys just rolled to know *everything* and thus... Well aside from the brief conversation with the Vesk... Nothing for me to do.

    My recommendations would be for there to have been damaged portions of the ship where physical things such as Strength checks and Athletics checks would have been useful.

    Maybe have a tear in the hull, or something where characters have to jump it? Or a door that can only be opened via strength? Something so more physical characters don't go for 2+ hours without being able to do any rolls aside from "assist" all the time.

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