Starfinder Adventure Path #7: The Reach of Empire

****½ (based on 2 ratings)
Starfinder Adventure Path #7: The Reach of Empire

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Guerrillas in the Mist

Hired to transport supplies to a fog-shrouded world in the Vast, the heroes discover that a small military force from the Azlanti Star Empire has invaded and occupied the Pact Worlds colony there. The heroes must liberate the settlement from its merciless oppressors, but when they do, they learn that the Azlanti have taken both an experimental starship drive discovered on the planet and one of the colonists—an old friend of the heroes—back to the Star Empire!

This volume of Starfinder Adventure Path launches the Against the Aeon Throne Adventure Path and includes:

  • "The Reach of Empire," a Starfinder adventure for 1st-level characters, by Ron Lundeen.
  • A gazetteer and brief history of the Pact Worlds colony on Nakondis and its main settlement of Madelon's Landing, as well as a new colonist theme for player characters, by Ron Lundeen.
  • A collection of advanced starships built and flown within the Azlanti Star Empire, by Lyz Liddell.
  • An archive of fascinating new creatures, from beasts of living magma to massive clouds of devouring ooze, by Patrick Brennan, Ron Lundeen, Joe Pasini, and Owen K.C. Stephens.
  • Statistics and deck plans for an exploratory vessel of the Azlanti Star Empire, plus an overview of the forest planet of Nakondis, by Ron Lundeen.

ISBN-13: 978-1-64078-061-3

Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Sanctioned Content

The Reach of Empire is sanctioned for use in Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild.
Download the Against the Aeon Throne Adventure Path rules and Chronicle sheets — (445 kb zip/PDF)

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Showing Promise but Lacking Substance

****( )

On the surface, the first installment of Against the Aeon Throne, "The Reach of Empire," hits a lot of notes that I look for as a GM. A routine mission with an established cast runs afoul of an unexpected development, and cad and crusader alike find themselves thrust into a battle against a ruthless and unknown foe. It is only after you look past the polished exterior to the AP's finer details that the flaws begin to become apparent.

The AP begins with a cast of level 1 characters who are all presumed to know and work with each other traveling to a colony in the Vast on a routine supply mission. Each PC has their own connection to the colony through a plot-critical character, as outlined by the PC's chosen theme. In a way, this serves to provide each character with a personal stake much in the same way Campaign Traits did for Pathfinder APs. Unfortunately, unless the GM shares the first few pages of the AP with the players, they have no way of knowing about this connection ahead of time when building characters, so it almost feels like the players are ambushed with a connection to the story they did not have a hand in crafting. In my experience, this means players will be less likely to act on that roleplaying hook, since it was not a decision they made and therefore they have little emotional investment in it. Nonetheless, the effort to ground the PCs within the story is appreciated, and I hope to see more elements like this in subsequent Starfinder APs (perhaps even AP-specific themes, or a Players' Guide that explains the significance of each theme and its connection to the story).

After the inciting action, an artfully-done encounter that plays up the threat of a mysterious foe, the PCs transition into the main action of the book, and into a sandbox-style adventure for them to investigate and explore. The AP does a good job taking into account the various actions the PCs might take, and also takes care to provide bits and clues about the PCs' enemies that builds a more complete picture over time. The sandbox section culminates in a daring raid on the enemy stronghold, which, while still somewhat a dungeon crawl (albeit a brief one), provides the PCs with various options on how to proceed through it.

The final part of the AP sits on somewhat shakier ground. A proper dungeon crawl this time (again, brief), the dramatic action culminates in an explosive finale that bookends the adventure rather well. Unfortunately, there are a few plot holes in this final part, and particularly astute players might raise questions about the strange decisions their foes make at this point in the story. Despite this however, the overall flow of the narrative is solid, and leaves the players (likely) satisfied and eager to continue on to part 2.

Further Explanation:
The AP offers no explanation as to why the enemy, when faced with dwindling forces and vastly outnumbered by rearmed and angry colonists, would continue to fight to the death. Indeed, there seems to be no consideration that the PCs might lead an army of one-hundred or so angry colonists to confront the final, token occupation force.

So, I have just spent most of my ink praising the AP for its content. Why then does my title allege differently? It all comes down to the details of the AP itself. "The Reach of Empire" does little in the way to introduce the principal villain or their motivations, raises questions about the villain's competency and plan, and only teases a plot-critical character without developing it further. In other words, very little of the actual plot gets developed in this book. The only thing that the players know by the end is something they learned relatively close to the beginning, with the addition of one or two facts that aren't really relevant because they already had a personal stake in the story anyway.

The Villain:
The adventure background tells us that the ultimate villain of the campaign is a minor Azlanti noble who overstepped his authority in pursuit of a secret project in order to improve his political standing within the Empire. While all of this is plausible and makes for really good television, the players have no notion of who is ultimately responsible for the invasion of the colony. There are ways that this can be handled, such as communications from the noble to his minions in the colony, or even just foreshadowing who the villain might be. For example, "Rise of the Runelords" introduced Karzoug in the first book, although the PCs would not learn who he was until at least the fourth book. Without this connection, "The Reach of Empire" feels somewhat isolated from the next two parts of the AP.

The Plan:
The villain's plan involves occupying a colony with effectively twenty-four high school students and two Aeon Guard soldiers. While it makes sense that the villain wants to keep the head count low in order to maximize secrecy, one can only imagine the political scandal a headline like "Local Lord Loses Entire Academy Class on School Field Trip" might cause--which is essentially what happens by the end of the first book.

Overall, "The Reach of Empire" is a good start and a good skeleton to work off of, but definitely requires the GM to write additional content to fully flesh it out. Vignettes exploring each PC's relationship with a plot-centric NPC, and asides or scenes that foreshadow the main villain, are both needed in order to really make the story substantial, and connect it to the AP's overarching plot. If this is not done, players are mostly left to assume the dramatic stakes of the story based on a few sentences at the front of the book telling them "you like this person and want to save them."

In the end, I would give "The Reach of Empire" 3.5 stars, but since fractions are impossible I'll round up to 4 because I like the ideas presented within, even if they needed a little more time to develop.


THE PERFECT STARFINDER ADVENTURE!

*****

GOOD:
The developers & Ron Lundeen seem to have thought about everything the players could do in this perfect little gem. The adventure reads like a great mix between railroad & sandbox. Everything is structured perfectly, every character theme gets a different reason for being on the mission. The bad guys act really believable and as logical as a military unit would. Nakondis is a colony that seems to be real enough to exist somewhere in the Vast of space.
The amount of information about the Azlanti space empire in this book alone would suffice to build a campaign in their empire.

BAD:
The fact that a lot of things can only reasonably achieved if

:
the characters kill Azlanti soldiers and use their armor to impersonate them
should have been advertized in a players guide, as it makes chosing certain races like Ysoki, Vesk or Kasatha less ideal than humans, androids or lashunta.
It is possible to play those, but some things won't work.

UGLY:
Having no dice from Q-works yet and seemingly having to wait until march 2019 for the pawns.

The first "short AP" begins so great, that i am curious if the other parts can keep up. There are no lenghts in this volume, it reads like a 90 minutes nonstop action movie!


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Scarab Sages

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

The change in frequency is welcome, and I will reserve judgement on the change in length. The opposition sounds interesting!

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

Only three installments?


1 person marked this as a favorite.

So, you're saying we get to fight the empire!

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

1 person marked this as a favorite.
C.Yesterday, Super Jedi Warrior wrote:
So, you're saying we get to fight the empire!

No, we will serve the Empire!


Sounds interesting.


7 people marked this as a favorite.
Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Please stop doing cool things! It’s taking up all of my free time and (just between us) some of my work time!

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

Jhaeman wrote:
Please stop doing cool things! It’s taking up all of my free time and (just between us) some of my work time!

Bigger problem ... Rent or Paizo?

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

This is an interesting change, a 3-Part AP on Monthly schedule, still a 64 page-count though.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

This looks exciting! I have thought that the Azlanti were the coolest sounding badguys in the setting from day one.
Super pumped about the accelerated production schedule!
Just curious, could we get a level range for each installment? Thanks in advance!

AtD


First AP was pretty dull.

This sounds more like it and the shorter duration means less filler. The Star Empire about the most exciting snippets from the core rules / archive

Now we need an AP that starts above 1st level so more than just novices can apply

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Bit too early to say first AP was dull considering only half of it is released, though to be honest I have to agree it feels more like Council of Thieves in scope while I was hoping first AP of Starfinder would be like Rise of the Runelords aka starting new setting with a bang.


Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Legends Subscriber; Pathfinder Tales Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Hm, only 3 installments, now that's a change. So I guess this ends at, what, level 7 to 8?

Dark Archive

Zaister wrote:
Hm, only 3 installments, now that's a change. So I guess this ends at, what, level 7 to 8?

If the first AP is any indicator, at level 7 (that´s what AP #3 ends with).

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Is this because there’s no modules?

Need more low-level adventures and options to play.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

GeraintElberion wrote:

Is this because there’s no modules?

Need more low-level adventures and options to play.

I was really hoping that 3PP would have filled this void. :(


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber

I was sort of hoping we could slow walk our way to the Azlanti because they seem like a massive threat.


I'm really sad these don't get into higher level stuff. I want to play some higher level Starfinder, to see what it's like, but Starfinder APs don't seem to want to support that.


thecursor wrote:
I was sort of hoping we could slow walk our way to the Azlanti because they seem like a massive threat.

I’m sure there will be a bigger AP involving them some day. This is a minor peripheral system you’re saving.


Starfinder's been out for less than a year. I'm sure there will be plenty of 3PP support, just give them time. Pathfinder's had nine years to grow into it.

Paizo Employee Managing Developer

3 people marked this as a favorite.

... And the Adventure Paths already had a multi-year lead on the Pathfinder RPG.

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
Adam Daigle wrote:
... And the Adventure Paths already had a multi-year lead on the Pathfinder RPG.

So, while we are all just speculating, would you tell us what is the rationale for a three part AP here?

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Hmm, considering that summary mentions "old friend of the heroes" being kidnapped, I hope this AP actually has player's guide so players can be easily briefed on that :P

Paizo Employee Managing Developer

6 people marked this as a favorite.
GeraintElberion wrote:
Adam Daigle wrote:
... And the Adventure Paths already had a multi-year lead on the Pathfinder RPG.
So, while we are all just speculating, would you tell us what is the rationale for a three part AP here?

Since Rob is the creative director for Starfinder, he'd be a better person for more details, but I can say that since we have a new line of Adventure Paths for a new game system, it seemed like a good time to experiment with how we present Adventure Paths. I'm curious to see how readers like or dislike this small change.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Adam Daigle wrote:
GeraintElberion wrote:
Adam Daigle wrote:
... And the Adventure Paths already had a multi-year lead on the Pathfinder RPG.
So, while we are all just speculating, would you tell us what is the rationale for a three part AP here?
Since Rob is the creative director for Starfinder, he'd be a better person for more details, but I can say that since we have a new line of Adventure Paths for a new game system, it seemed like a good time to experiment with how we present Adventure Paths. I'm curious to see how readers like or dislike this small change.

I'm interested to see more of this mini adventure path. Increased frequency to monthly is very welcome. If the page count is brought up to the same as their Pathfinder I'd be very interested to see something like alternating between a three part adventure path like this and then a six part adventure path. Something like that would be very nice, you don't always want to launch into a huge long adventure path but would still like a hand to get the game going.

But I do enjoy the longer adventure paths, so although a bit of variance like this is something I'm receptive to I'd be disappointed if it led to a loss of the nice long epic ones.


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Hmm though I really hope to see some expanded adventure paths that go up to if not close to 20. More is more. Curious why its only three installments. I can see my players not really wanting to start over so soon with their characters only 12-13ish level at the end of the first path but I do love that we are getting some info on the Azlanti Empire!


1 person marked this as a favorite.

one rationale could be that part 6 of an AP never sells as well as a Part 1. They certainly get played a lot less. It will be cool to get the story completed with less padding needed. For myself I have completed 3 AP and partially 6 more.
This AP also appeals as it seems to have nothing to do with any soiety connection.

Dark Archive

3 people marked this as a favorite.

I actually like the concept of a 3 part adventure path. Maybe not always, but I could see value in having a variety of 3 part paths at various starting levels so you can chain them together as appropriate for your group.


Pathfinder Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

I will have to look at stealing the plot of this adventure path and scaling it up for this fall. A mini-campaign against the Azlanti Star Empire would fit into my campaign well by that point.

Dark Archive

David knott 242 wrote:

I will have to look at stealing the plot of this adventure path and scaling it up for this fall. A mini-campaign against the Azlanti Star Empire would fit into my campaign well by that point.

I've considered putting together some charts for adjusting CR on the fly. Seems like this would be a good place to potentially test it as a theory

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I agree that I like the idea of a 3-part adventure path, but they took out the wrong part. They left in the frustrating low levels, and took out the levels where it starts to get fun. Although, I will admit I don't know where that line is in Starfinder yet. In Pathfinder, I tend to think the fun begins about level 5 (third level spells for casters, first iterative for full BAB characters). Things get really fun about level 11, and I have yet to play enough in the 16-20 range to have an opinion.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Well...

If the lower tier sells well enough, then there will be a huge demand for higher tier APs.

Which means they might be able to build APs that take characters to 20 without exceeding the 6 chapter AP concept?

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Wei Ji the Learner wrote:


Well...

If the lower tier sells well enough, then there will be a huge demand for higher tier APs.

Which means they might be able to build APs that take characters to 20 without exceeding the 6 chapter AP concept?

Return of the Runelords goes 1-20. All you need to fit 20 levels into 6 adventures is use the fast XP progression instead of the default medium.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

However, that requires quite a bit more work by the GM.

Having it a 'solid' path to 20 versus a 'GM needs to make a lot of work to keep it challenging' could be a good selling point.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

How does it require more work by GM? It's exactly the same AP, you just need less XP to level.

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

...The encounters are aimed and tuned at a L15-17 party in most cases in the Part 6. ((At least in PFS, not sure how SFS APs have been looking))

If L18-19 powers/items/wealth/equipment is allowed, then the GM needs to modify the scenario to compensate for the additional power increase.

...otherwise there's no challenge to the party.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Wei Ji the Learner wrote:


...The encounters are aimed and tuned at a L15-17 party in most cases in the Part 6. ((At least in PFS, not sure how SFS APs have been looking))

If L18-19 powers/items/wealth/equipment is allowed, then the GM needs to modify the scenario to compensate for the additional power increase.

...otherwise there's no challenge to the party.

I am talking about the upcoming Return of the Runelords, which is 1-20. As written. You won't have to modify it.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

That's an outlier, I think?

Most APs end around the 15-17 range, if memory serves?

There was a post somewhere where the developers and/or design team were talking about the amount of work involved with a 1-20 vs. a 1-16/17 and why the 1-20s were rare, but I can't remember where it is.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Wei Ji the Learner wrote:


That's an outlier, I think?

Most APs end around the 15-17 range, if memory serves?

There was a post somewhere where the developers and/or design team were talking about the amount of work involved with a 1-20 vs. a 1-16/17 and why the 1-20s were rare, but I can't remember where it is.

The reason 1-20s are rare is because, according to various posts made over the years:

a) high level statblocks take obscene amount of space. It's likely only now with enough high level foes in Bestiaries/Codexes that Paizo can cut the space by simply referencing other books and fit all the required statblocks into the final book;

b) later volumes of APs don't sell as well as lower level ones, which kind of discourages investing in high level stuff if your lower level stuff simply outsells it;

c) level 20 requires CR 20+ foes, which again, is only recently that Paizo has ample amount of in existing print.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I am distinctly less likely to buy this AP as for me a campaign needs to get to higher levels to be interesting for me to run. This is both because I enjoy high level play and because for this sort of game I want to have an epic conclusion and to me world changing events are not casued by 8th level characters. This means that this AP would not be worth me running and so I am less likely to buy it
I am sure others will be happy with it , but the trend for low level starfinder is disappointing for me.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

The shorter length, and lower ending level, makes sense if this AP is but the first part of a two or three part campaign.

Silver Crusade

2 people marked this as a favorite.

While I'm excited that the adventure involves Azlanti Star Empire--one of the cooler potential enemies from the Core book--they seem like a more epic-tier threat than levels 1-(7?) implies.

I'm okay with giving a 3-book campaign a shot as well. My groups typically meet weekly for 3-5 hours a pop and it can still take us months to get through an AP book (admittedly that's at Paizo's medium track) and life always seems to get in the way of completing a path. Maybe a smaller, more focused adventure path makes more sense.

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Do we know for sure all 3 part aps will be starting at level 1 though? I mean, 3 part ap could serve as "hey, you want to run something after ap that ends on level 12? Well good news!"


Pathfinder Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
CorvusMask wrote:
Do we know for sure all 3 part aps will be starting at level 1 though? I mean, 3 part ap could serve as "hey, you want to run something after ap that ends on level 12? Well good news!"

I don't think we know anything for certain about the planned level ranges of any of these adventure paths. I would imagine that they will stick with low level adventure paths until the game system matures a bit, but later on, who knows?

Silver Crusade

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

We know the first three-part AP starts at level 1, but nothing beyond that.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

It's funny how these things go, I'm so used to hearing people talk about how much they don't enjoy high level play when it comes later modules of an AP, or goodness forbid going from level 1-20. This is really refreshing. I'm just enjoying the opportunity to have both.

Paizo Employee Developer

5 people marked this as a favorite.
CrusaderWolf wrote:
While I'm excited that the adventure involves Azlanti Star Empire--one of the cooler potential enemies from the Core book--they seem like a more epic-tier threat than levels 1-(7?) implies.

That would probably be the case if this adventure path were "Destroy the Aeon Throne." But it's about working against its machinations. That can start small, but blossom into much bigger things. Here, it starts with liberating a colony in the Vast from the oppressive control of the Azlanti Star Empire--you get to be the rebels, and that's really fun and totally appropriate for low-level heroes. But why have the Azlanti reached out so far into the Vast? Finding that answer is what unfolds into the bigger things.

As an aside, now that I'm a developer here and privy to super-secret secrets, I'm excited for the next 2 adventures in this AP to be announced--because they really ramp up the awesome from the already-awesome "rebels against tyranny" beginning!


Ron Lundeen wrote:
But why have the Azlanti reached out so far into the Vast?

Because the Azlanti empire is entirely in the Vast, and their peer competitors are not, so it makes sense for them to pick off systems out there rather than push towards the Pact Worlds and risk fights they can't easily win for the questionable prize of still having a really long trip to get back to their homeworld?

Dark Archive

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Squeakmaan wrote:
It's funny how these things go, I'm so used to hearing people talk about how much they don't enjoy high level play when it comes later modules of an AP, or goodness forbid going from level 1-20. This is really refreshing. I'm just enjoying the opportunity to have both.

People always get louder when they want to comment on what they don't like rather than on what they like


Personally I'm very interested in single adventures and shorter adventure paths that can highlight different areas and aspects of the setting (need some adventures that revolve fully around the Pact Worlds).

The gaming groups I game with only play campaigns lasting up to a dozen sessions and up to around 11th level so Dead Suns suits the group much better than Pathfinder adventure paths. We also tend to some of these books more for inspiration, using maps and characters/setting areas but not the adventure itself. This is where the Golarion setting books for different countries are excellent and I really hope there will be equivalent books for areas of the Pact Worlds.

If enough people are interested that I'm certainly fine with Paizo putting out some longer adventure paths going up to higher levels (even though I wouldn't buy or play them) - diversity to cater for different customers is welcome. But I hope the shorter AP is popular enough that we see more of that format!


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I'm fine with a shorter AP. Variety is the spice of life.

My question is, will this be Starfinder AP #7, or will the numbering start over for each Starfinder AP?

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