Starfinder Adventure Path #7: The Reach of Empire (Against the Aeon Throne 1 of 3)

4.30/5 (based on 7 ratings)
Starfinder Adventure Path #7: The Reach of Empire (Against the Aeon Throne 1 of 3)
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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

The Against the Aeon Throne Adventure Path is sanctioned for use in Starfinder Society Organized Play. The rules for running this Adventure Path and Chronicle sheet are available as a free download (1.0 MB PDF).

Other Resources: This product is also available on the following platforms:

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Fantasy Grounds Virtual Tabletop
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The BEST way to introduce people to Starfinder

5/5

I think this 3 part AP has everything you want in an intro AP to Starfinder -

1. Star Warsy plot, you against the Empire, a roguish ragtag band of miscreants

2. Limited access to items. Useful to prevent decision paralysis among new players overwhelmed with choice.

3. A straight forward uncomplicated BAD guy to work against.

The backmatter was also useful, moreso the 2nd AP but the 1st was also of great utility.


Adventuring distilled and served!

4/5

I loved this first book of Against the Aeon Throne! I ran it for 5 friends of mine from Spain and we had a really great time with it.
This module has quite a bit of combat but it's all well blended within the scenario of reclaiming an invaded colony from within, guerrilla-style! The setting, far out mist-covered forest of the planet Nakondis, is one of the best parts of it. The maps are also outstanding. The hook is pretty good, but the possibility of expanding the players' stay in case they want to dive into the forest looking for trouble is much appreciated.

I'm not giving it 5 stars just because it seems forced to me that 1st level characters could go against the Azlanti Star Empire, even if it's mostly cadets. I would have preferred it if the adventure at least hinted at their reputation being somewhat exaggerated, or found some other way to justify how easy it is to kill these baddies. Also I had to add quite a bit of stuff to make the occupation more credible to my players, namely patrols, signal jamming devices, curfew rules and pump up the general power of the baddies, in order to incentivate creative play versus outright "let's frontal assault everything" :D


A fun Good vs Evil Romp

5/5

I have run this book of the AP four times now as a longer-play option at conventions and via play by post and I have to say I just adore it.

The PCs get to come in and play liberators in an ongoing hostage situation. As soon as the PCs realize they get to be John McClane in this Space Die Hard they all get super into it and play along.

Along the way there are some very memorable set pieces and lots of toys in the toybox that the PCs can use to solve the adventure's key obstacles.

If you want to stretch this out to be a slightly longer experience there are a lot of logical setbacks you can toss the player's way such as the confiscation of their starship or the capture of their friends but if you want to streamline it there are easy options for doing that too.

Excellent work all around, my ONLY complaint is that the book (and AP) main villains arent built up nearly enough but oh well.


Space Baddies

5/5

A very nice opening book!
I played and GMed it.
A great set up, and very nice sandbox feeling yet rather directed storyline, with a rich place to play in, and then a nice rich background for the Azlanti part that will continue.
Fun and tough fights.
Many ways to do things.
Very nice.


Strong opening and closing acts, but struggles greatly in the middle

2/5

The Reach of Empire is an adventure with strong opening and closing acts, but one that struggles greatly in the middle with old-fashioned RPG design problems.

Spoilers ahead, so player don't proceed farther...

Part 1 does a terrific job of establishing the “why” for the PCs mission to Nakondis. Positioning Cedona as an old friend of the PCs but varying the circumstances by Theme provides great role-playing fodder out of the gate and goes a long way towards discouraging “we’ll run and get help” tactics once the colony’s situation is revealed. True to space opera sensibilities, part 1 rightly wastes little time before throwing the PCs into the action as their milk run for AbadarCorp is suddenly transformed by a space battle.

Groundside, three decent encounters await the PCs but none particularly stand out. Unfortunately, this is also where problems in story logic and adventure structure begin to emerge as foreshadowing for Part 2 where they will go full-blown. Specifically, the adventure assumes 3 encounters taking place less than an hour from the colony of Madelon’s Landing. Can’t people hear gunfire in Starfinder? PCs will presumably have fights with 2 Azlanti patrols and, if successful, likely have dead soldiers’ communications gear. Yet Azlanti communications aren’t fully explained until the Command Center entry in Part 2. The ground-based encounters foreshadow Part 2 problems.

Part 2 takes up most of the adventure as it is set wholly within Madelon’s Colony. Here the adventure structural and story logic problems manifest in full force. Nakondis is a forest planet perpetually shrouded by fog. Apparently, this is so that dungeon design logic can be applied to encounters in an otherwise open settlement. The fog is used as a pretense for limited vision and isolation, but it only applies for the sake of enforcing cliché fantasy adventure design. Examples of such include:
1. The PCs’ ship is parked only an hour away. Why don’t the Azlanti try to capture it?
2. The free-the-colony efforts fails to utilize rich wilderness setting detailed in the colony’s backmatter writeup in order to force a dungeon-room feel.
3. Cliché RPG-trope-style “why can’t the locals do this?” quests. The PCs would attract more attention. Oh yeah, the fog...
4. The Azlanti won’t realize water rationing isn’t happening once the water elemental is dealt with? Also, who among the Azlanti summoned and bound the creature? Olaraja is a technomancer, so he could possibly have cast the spell but lacks the power to bind it. Note to Paizo – when people complain about NPCs not playing by PCs rules, this kind of stuff is why.

There are good nods to some things (Azlanti language, counting the # of guards, if the PCs attack the garrison “early”) foiled by head-scratching omissions on others (Azlanti leadership/coordination; communications; colonists out-sourcing resistance to strangers).

Lisa Steven’s love of Star Wars is well known. So it should come as little surprise that Paizo’s own science fantasy would have an evil empire to contend with. In The Rise of Empire, however, the Azlanti Star Empire seems to take its inspiration from the worst incompetent-stormtrooper tropes. While the villains are primarily cadets and don't have great numbers, we are repeatedly told about their discipline and training which unfortunately seems to only enable the Azlanti to make stupid tactical decisions rather than operate as a training military unit. The Azlanti Empire as presented here isn’t worth fearing. They fail to apply force effectively. They are always in groups smaller than the typical 4-adventurer party. Who performs an execution with only 2 guards? When their garrison gets breached the Azlanti all stay at their posts rather than coordinating a combined defense? And this is explained by “years of discipline”! Why the hell does the guy left in charge NOT lead from the command center (aside from the need to keep him separate for CR-appropriate shenanigans? Azlanti leadership is non-existent. The Pact Worlds have little to fear from these fools.

Things begin to improve in Part 3 but easily-avoided gaffes remain. The crashed starship’s power was offline until restored by the Azlanti. Yet, the adjutant robot has been online/powered for several centuries. This leads to the robot’s “chronology circuits” being damaged so that the robot thinks it’s only been a few days. This overly complicated and ham-fisted solution could be better explained by the robot being forced into dormancy when the crashed ship’s power failed and the robot only coming back online once power was restored. To the robot, it’s still a matter of days without the overwrought hoop-jumping. It also would allow for precious word-count to be better used elsewhere.

Azlanti who, for various reasons, always fight to the death is fine. However, non-lethal weapons are readily available in Starfinder and my group captured several Azlanti this way. If having the Azlanti always fight to the death was intended to keep the PCs from interrogating the enemy, adventure authors need to be aware of Starfinder nonlethal weapons.

Those issues aside, the wreckage of the Royal Venture makes for an interesting and effective dungeon-crawl. Part 3 concludes with an exciting starship combat finale and does a good job of setting up the next installment.

Backmatter
Excellent articles on Nakondis, Nakondis Colony, Madelon’s Landing, a cool colonist theme, and starships of the Azlanti Empire, as well as new Alien Archive entries.

Conclusion
The Rise of Empire opens and closes on strong story beats but flounders greatly through the middle. The story, setup, and setting are all great conceptually but flawed in execution. Standard fantasy adventure quests and ‘monsters stay in their room’ logic are on full display and most lack a creative spark or differentiator to make them memorable.

This standard fantasy rpg adventure design also prevents effective utilization of both the setting and the Starfinder rules. The colony writeup discusses mining operations and science stations outside of the main colony. Nakondis could have been a more realized setting if some of the resistance missions had leveraged these locations. Also, a fair bit of word count is spent on hovertrikes. Rather than utilize the larger setting and having vehicle combat encounters, their inclusion is relegated to a weak Return of the Jedi hoverbike homage.

It’s hard to say why an adventure with great concepts and tools has such a flawed execution. With over 100+ adventure path installments, Paizo is the undisputed king of adventure path writing. They are also riffing off one of the cornerstones of modern pop culture that is loved by many of Paizo’s staff. This leads me to conclude that The Reach of Empire suffers due to Starfinder AP’s significantly lower page count than their Pathfinder counterparts receive.

Reach of Empire is a 4-star story that fails to utilize the tools of its genre and rpg system to its fullest (vehicles, scope, tactics, etc.). It falls back on tired tropes of its FRPG predecessors that don’t work in the scope that science fantasy affords. The result, unfortunately, is a 2-star execution.


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Scarab Sages

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, PF Special Edition Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

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.


8 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, Starfinder Adventure Path 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

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 Companion, Pathfinder Accessories 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

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.

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

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.

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 Companion, Maps, Pawns, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game 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.


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!


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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, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game 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

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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.
Pathfinder Lost Omens, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

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.

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, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game 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.

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


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook 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.

Developer

6 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.
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, 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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