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

****( ) (based on 10 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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Product Reviews (10)
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Average product rating:

****( ) (based on 10 ratings)

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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.


Good Module - Fun Horror - Bad Balance

**( )( )( )

The Horror is great fun, but there are big issues with how it's formated

1) Any item that can be used by a player in loot please make bold
2) revisit mobs some are rediculas

Spoiler:
the incorporal ghost plus the storm meant my solarian never landed a punch

3) The scenario was railroading us - it was literally do things in this order, do this then this then this - no fun there.
4) TPK highly probable due to how you have built the mobbs and fights
Spoiler:
The final boss has a +12 to hit - come on that harsh, I have an AC of 16 my friend AC 17 - thats high and yet he was hitting us no problems, with a fort save every time.

The Storm plus incorporial on Captains quarters - meant our damage dealers could not deal damage

all in all fun but needs major editing - hence 2 stars

oh and the secondary successes - rediculas to try and get especially the android stuff.


Lovely creepy adventure

*****

Played this and GM'd it in Tier 1-2.

Player:
I spent the entire time expecting one thing, only to have the scenario surprise me by going against my expectations. I loved the creepy vibe of the investigation and felt the combats were well designed.

GM:
Please, please, please include tactics for starship combat roles like this in every scenario. As the GM having to run all of the starship roles, this little bit of guidance is hugely helpful.

Spoiler:
The whole scenario seems like a setup for an encounter with an Aliens style xenomorph, only to have the rug pulled from under you when it's actually an undead. Then, once you think you have it figured out, the Xorn is another twist. I appreciate the author's inclusion of the force batons as most 1-2 characters are unlikely to have a weapon fusion yet. That said, a Technomancer with magic missile will be the MVP in the drift dead fight.

I look forward to discovering future info on the Bulwark.


Superb spooky space scenario!

****( )

From my experiences as a player on roll20 and running at my local gaming shop...

I really enjoyed Cries from the Drift. Some details (and some minor spoilers) below.

First, the story. I thought the atmosphere for the scenario was great, with PCs exploring an "abandoned" ship as a strange storm approaches, dim lights flickering... all in all excellent execution.

Second, the game play. This was my group's favorite starship combat yet. It might be that we're getting more experienced with the medium, but a one vs. one fight with an interesting environmental twist kept everybody engaged and thinking. Once everybody got to the ship the story was engaging, and the PCs were totally in the dark about the second half of what had gone on until the very end.

Last, some minor gripes that kept this from being a 5/5 for me.

Starship combat:

Spoiler:
First, in the starship combat, the given the rules of the “honorable” duel the PCs (who, to their credit, kept winning piloting checks) would just position their ship so the Honorbound was always firing into their rear arc. Rather than break his own rules, I had the Honorbound refuse to fire, which led to the PCs never being in any real danger once they figured out that trick to the combat.

On the ship:

Spoiler:
Second, regarding the doors on the ship, the PCs (naturally) wanted to pick the lock into area B6 where the spooky undead was. The scenario didn’t give the door stats or give any DC for opening the lock other than via the plot device (aka the key card in B9). At one point one of my players said “this feels like a video game where you can only do everything in a certain order”. Additionally, when trying to get to the bridge, the PCs were planning on having one member of the party stay back in B7 and switch out the one battery they got from B3 to open the door from B9 to B10 – and thus bypass the entire final combat with the undead if they had wanted to after they recovered the log (they went out of a sense of completionism, which is good because it netted them the scenario’s secondary objective).

All in all a very good scenario, especially the starship combat and flavor, but there were just a few weird things on the ship that didn’t quite add up. Still very good and highly recommended!


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