Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Scenario #1-14: Star Sugar Heartlove!!!

****½ (based on 6 ratings)

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A Starfinder Society Scenario designed for levels 3-6.

It's finally here; the sugar-pop band sensation, Strawberry Machine Cake, is starting its Pact Worlds tour. Thanks to the Exo-Guardians' leader, Zigvigix, the PCs and Historia-7 have tickets to attend the holo-concert event of the year. As Zigvigix hopes to celebrate and mourn friends lost in the Scoured Stars, Historia-7 enlists the PCs to track down an attendee associated with a conspiracy against the Society. When a stunning revelation endangers the concert, it falls to the PCs to step in and save one of the most hotly anticipated concerts in Pact Worlds history.

Content in Star Sugar Heartlove!!! also contributes to the ongoing goals of the Dataphiles and Exo-Guardians faction.

Written by Eleanor Ferron

Scenario Tags: Faction (Dataphiles), Faction (Exo-Guardians)

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PZOSFS0114E


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****½ (based on 6 ratings)

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Unforgettable, Light-hearted Fun

*****

NO SPOILERS

I think it’s safe to say you’ve never played anything quite like Star Sugar Heartlove!!! before. It’s a really clever, light-hearted scenario that has a memorable climax players won’t soon forget. I ran this at Subtier 3-4 (with the four-player adjustment) and found that, although it was probably too easy and had a couple of technical flaws, the storyline was so much fun that any flaws could be overlooked. Admittedly, it won’t be to everyone’s taste and I wouldn’t want every scenario to be like this, but I’m really glad to see Starfinder Society trying out the wide-variety of tones available in the setting. This one alternated between hilarious and beautifully bittersweet, something I can’t think of adventures doing before. Try it so you know what everyone’s talking about!

SPOILERS

The gist of Star Sugar Heartlove!!! is that the PCs are attending a massive concert by the “sugar-pop” band Strawberry Machine Cake. When a secret agent working for a malevolent conspiracy linked to the Scoured Stars incident uploads a computer virus to kill everyone at the concert, it’s up to the PCs to uncover what’s going on before, in a dramatic finale, taking the stage to do battle with a holographic transforming mecha!

The scenario starts with something I’ve asked for in previous reviews, and I’m glad to see implemented here: a briefing that’s more than the run-of-the-mill info dump. The PCs are on board a shuttle headed towards Songbird Station, the asteroid-temple devoted to Shelyn where the concert will take place, along with faction leaders Historia-7 and Zigvigix whose budding . . . something has been developing subtly for several scenarios now. Zigvigix is stoked about the concert and exited that the PCs are there to enjoy it with him, especially since too many of the friends he originally invited have disappeared within the Scoured Stars system. When Zigvigix heads into the shuttle’s cockpit to make final preparations, Historia-7 lets the PCs in on her ulterior motive for coming on the journey. She’s identified one member of the conspiracy linked to the Scoured Stars debacle and has tracked him to the concert. Because the conspirator, a man named Hira Lanzio, will be without his security entourage, it’s the perfect opportunity to kidnap him and pump him for information! Historia-7 doesn’t want Zigvigix to know about the secret mission, and only if the PCs press will she reveal that he’s been suffering from degenerative injuries and really shouldn’t be in the field at all. It’s all a really nicely done progression of subplots that rewards people who have been following along with the scenarios in order from the beginning.

When the PCs get into the concert hall itself, their search for Lanzio is structured in a really interesting way. In essence, there are six mini non-combat encounters that they can experience, each of which might just be a fun role-playing opportunity, a chance to earn a boon, or a chance to get information about Lanzio’s whereabouts. My favourites include a couple of vesk teenagers who are outwardly haters of Strawberry Machine Cake (because they think hating whatever is popular makes them cooler) but secretly love the band; an “uber-fan” who has every piece of SMC merchandise except for the one thing a PC might have and trade them (a great pay-off of an earlier boon); and, perhaps my favourite, a security guard whose job is so completely redundant that he's depressed because of it. The idea with this last part is that the guard’s job is to check concert patrons for weapons and ask them to turn them over; but he has no legal authority to search or detain anyone, and is routinely ignored. To further his misery, there’s a magical field that prevents lethal violence being done within the concert hall, so even if he does collect any weapons, it’s probably unnecessary. And finally, he has merciful fusion seals to give out--but because of the magical field already in place, they won’t do anything! (and even if they did, they can be turned off and on easily!) GMs who play the guard as the saddest sad sack in the world should have a good time. (the one bit about this that I’m not sure was intentional or not is that, by the book, fusion seals take 24 hours to activate; there’s a big debate in the forums and I think clarification is necessary; if they don’t even activate in time for the concert to start, then the guard’s job is even more hilariously useless.) Anyway, these little encounters should end up with the PCs getting two crucial bits of information: Lanzio’s address (in the residential section of Songbird Station) and the fact that the station’s reactor cores are glitching and need to be stabilized or the concert might have to be cancelled.

The take-down of Lanzio is pretty easy, as he’s a low-level Envoy guarded by one (or two) security robots. The PCs will probably be at full health and outnumber him and his entourage. There’s a bit of drama with him setting his computer to self-destruct and the PCs trying to stop the countdown in time (which, oddly, allows for Engineering, Computers, or *Mysticism* skill checks to stop), but unless they’re really negligent at adventuring, they shouldn’t have any trouble. Lanzio doesn’t say much, but does admit to putting a magical virus in the reactor core.

PCs investigating the reactor core (before or after encountering Lanzio) discover that it’s infested with hespers. Hespers are fey who congregate near major power sources for motives that are as mysterious and alien as their origins; sometimes they help maintain and improve the sources, but sometimes they’ve been known to sabotage them to cause drama. This was an interesting encounter because the PCs could easily assume the hespers are to blame for the reactor glitches and go in guns blazing, and, even if they don’t, the hespers may try to mess with them in an ultimately non-harmful way (through their “mutating touch”) that might be interpreted as hostile by the PCs. Through either violence, diplomacy, or (in my PCs’ case) distraction and speed, the Starfinders have to extract a sample of the alien virus so that Historia-7 can analyse it and figure out what’s going on. I liked that the encounter had multiple ways of resolution.

Once Historia-7 has information from Lanzio and a sample of the virus from the reactor, she realizes that Songbird Station is under threat and will have to be evacuated unless a plan (so crazy it might just work!) can be implemented: using Strawberry Machine Cake’s holographic concert projectors, she can temporarily give the magical virus physical form on stage so that the PCs can battle it! It’s really technobabble hogwash, of course, but plot-wise it succeeds in setting up a great final encounter. First, so as not to alarm the audience, the PCs have to dress up in costumes appropriate for SMC “background performers”: the four choices are hilarious (like a heavy metal one, a glam one, etc.) and it was really fun to imagine each PC dressed up in their choice. Once on stage, Historia-7 makes the virus manifest, but it takes the form of a massive mecha that can transform into a freaking (pink) tank! My one regret is that I didn’t have it transform into tank mode because it would have been tactically disadvantageous. The PCs’ chosen costumes given them particular bonuses in certain rounds depending on what riffs SMC is playing, which adds to the effect. This, more than any other scenario I can think of, is one in which the GM should find some good music to play during the final encounter. (BabyMetal’s “Chocolate” was a consensus favourite on the forums, and I agree.)

Assuming the PCs are successful, they’ll each get a chance for the spotlight and a shout-out while on stage. Holograms of Zigvigix’s missing friends are displayed, and there’s a really well-written wistfulness to the moment. I don’t know what’s going to happen next in the storyline, and I’m invested in finding out! Overall, there are a couple of nit-picky things that could have been improved (like the whole fusion seal confusion) but I wouldn’t let it detract from an awesome experience. If your players don’t get a kick out of this scenario, they are made of stone.


SBMC Love, But Some Issues

***( )( )

Based on my experiences as a player at PaizoCon 2018 and GMing twice for local groups…

At last, the Strawberry Machine Cake concert we’ve been waiting months for! First, as another review put it, along with Live Exploration Extreme! this scenario was probably one of the most fun to roleplay. The flavor is on point, and the scenario actually has a somewhat difficult premise – how to turn “going to a concert” into an actual SFS mission? This scenario pulls it off, but I’m doesn’t do so nearly as seamlessly as LEE! Some thoughts on what goes down:

Zigvigix

Spoiler:
As another review put it quite eloquently, Historia-7 is the star of the show here. Ziggy’s left in this awkward situation of dancing outside the concert hall (should the PCs watch them? Ignore them?) If the PCs decide not to check out the reactor they show up there, but even after reading the scenario multiple times I’m still not sure how they’re supposed to end up there. I had the pleasure of playing at author Elanor Ferron’s table, and her running Ziggy didn’t make it to the reactor – which was fine, because the scenario ran much smoother without it.

Lanzio

Spoiler:
So Historia-7 has determined that a member of the conspiracy hinted at in a previous scenario is coming to the SBMC concert, and it’s up to the PCs to find him and… ask him a few questions. There are a couple problems with this.

Spoiler:
First, every group I played with asked Historia-7 the basic questions – what this guy looks like, where are we most likely to find him at the concert, etc. Historia-7 has zero info for us – no description, no associates, no leads, nothing. The PCs are expected to walk around the concert asking random people if they’ve seen this secretive hitman/hacker/conspiracy member – and, perhaps even more strange, it works? The idea of wandering around a sold-out concert asking for a random guy (who almost certainly wouldn’t want to be found) borders on ludicrous.

Spoiler:
Second, after capturing Lanzio the PCs are supposed to make him talk. There are three problems here. First, Lanzio doesn’t actually know anything. To me 1-14, like 1-13, makes the mistake of having something that will undoubtedly be meaningful in future scenarios, but for the scenario to basically be about the thing (Lanzio’s information in 1-14 and the artifact in 1-13) the thing and really almost any information regarding it, isn’t anywhere to be found. Seriously, it’s actually surprising how little information the PCs can get out of him, which means the GM is left in this awkward position of, almost out-of-character, saying “no guys, you got it” or leaving the PCs to possibly torture/execute Lanzio because they don’t think he’s talking. Second, and related, the torture/execute situation (which arose in two of the three groups I was involved in) really broke my out of the flavor of the scenario for me. SBMC has this fun, silly, almost goofy feel to it, into which we have “enhanced interrogation techniques” being mixed in in the (VIP?) housing section of the concert. It felt really off to me. Third, Historia-7 instantly figuring out the most important thing on the wiped computer also strains the scenario’s believability. I get Historia-7 is amazing with all things technological, but come on – at least in other scenarios where the faction leaders do technological things outside of the PCs capabilities it takes place off screen in between scenarios, not instantly.

Before the concert

Spoiler:
I thought this part was a little bit confusing – the guard checking weapons is (unless I’ve misread it multiple times) outside of the reactor, which doesn’t make any sense because concert goers should be going into the reactor. When Eleanor ran this she put him outside of the housing section – which makes me think putting him in in front of the reactor is an error.

The final fight

Spoiler:
Although I played all three games at subtier 3-4, the final boss went down surprisingly easy each time. In two of the three scenarios the boss got two turns, with it only getting to turn 3 on the third. Having not played at subtier 5-6 the difficulty could increase, but I was a little bit disappointed the final fight (or really any of the fights in the scenario) posed much of a challenge to any of the groups. To be fair, though, in all three of the groups I played with they were high subtier 3-4, with at least one, and sometimes multiple, party members playing out-of-subtier.

Conclusion

Despite the complaints above, I love that there’s a SBMC scenario and had fun playing it. For the reasons above in the spoilers, though, I had a hard time really loving the scenario as much as I wanted.


Fun, but enough with Historia-7 already.

***( )( )

Alright, let’s break this down.

The good: Flavor, SSHL, Characters

Star Sugar Heartlove!!! and Strawberry Machine Cake (SMBC) Is something of an SFS phenomenon. When SFS 1-01 came out, we, the people, really attached ourselves to SMBC. We even had a thread about how cool that paragraph-long descripted fictional space band was. That’s how much we wanted to see more of them. And Thursy listened, and we got this game. So from the start, we have a lot going for this scenario in its flavor.

But that’s not to discount what else it does well, which is the characterization of all it’s minor players. From the damage vid-robot to the crazed collector looking for original disks of an SSHL (that you might have picked up in 1-01), I felt that all these characters were well acted. The scenario gave our GM the tools to bring them to life and he did a great job it; the RP in this scenario was a 5/5.

The combats also felt unique. We had a techie and his robots, some radiation-mutation fey that just wanted to chill, and a final fight against a giant, shape shifting holo-mech (someone’s been watching Yu-Gi-Oh).

And that’s all great. But how did we get there?

The bad: GM NPC is better than our PCs; what to do with all these hooks?

Unfortunately, this is where the scenario has some flaws. You might not have noticed yet, but we’re not actually the main characters here. Histora-7 is. She’s the ultimate GM NPC.

She’s the one that sent us out to get her info. She’s the one that recovered the plot thread off the Deus Ex Machina’d sundered datapad. She’s also the one that figures out how to eliminate the virus. The entire scenario, when you look at it from this perspective, really becomes a game of “well GM, where does our main character, Histora-7 want us do next?” And that’s not how you make your players feel like they have agency.

Now obviously, this is a 4 hour scenario. We can’t account for every eventuality and players need to have some guidance. But why not let them discover the plot threads with all those Computer checks instead of having the result of a 40+ be “uhh, better ask Historia-7 what to do next?”

And that’s a real problem. Especially when the scenario is asking us to give it the benefit of the doubt with the other problem—why was this concert hacked?

This is my second main problem. We have no way of finding out anything about the true mastermind here, their purpose, or how they developed this mutable, alien/magic AI. It seems like Historia-7 probably knows, but she doesn’t need to tell us. We’re just the tool. Also that hacker we took alive from the first combat? He doesn’t know anything. No info, whatsoever. We don’t even get a breadcrumb to tease our appetite.

So what are we left with? What’s up with this sabotage? Why do we care? We have to give this scenario the benefit of the doubt that an explanation is coming in a future game. And that’s a dicey proposition. Because there’s only two ways this can go.

To that end, I have two examples that illustrate this point.

The first is the story of Scheherazade. The story goes the unfaithful wife of a cruel king would tell more and more of a story each night but never finish it, thus postponing her execution. For when the story ended, so did she. By the end, she never finished the story, but had convinced the king to love her once more and her life was spared. This is an example of telling a story for the sake of taking up time. Her goal in doing this was to keep the king distracted over and over again without really getting anywhere in the story. Objectively—this is really crappy storytelling. We never end the story, we just keep going till people get bored enough to change the subject.

The second is the Count of Monte Cristo. These were a series of serials written by Alexandre Dumas that told the lengthy tale of a man (Edmond Dantes) being betrayed, and slowly, methodically, taking his revenge on those that betrayed him. Now the author, Dumas, was getting paid by the chapter to do this (and as a notorious drunk probably needed the coin). So his goal was also been to make the arrangement last as long as possible. However, when Dumas finished his story, it was finished beautifully, and the book is widely considered a literary masterpiece as a result. This is phenomenal storytelling.

So are we going to get more scenarios that leave us feeling satisfied (Dumas), as if everything was leading to this? Or scenarios that leave us wanting more (Scheherazade), wondering where it’s all heading towards? And that’s where we have to take this on faith.

Now that’s a lot to take in, and a lot of onus to put on just this one scenario. But it’s a trend that I’ve been seeing lately and it’s worth pointing out.

Final thoughts

All that said, I think 1-14 is a great romp for any SFS enthusiasts—or even new players. The writing shows some real potential from the author, and I look forward to seeing what they can do next. The only downsides are design related and the overbearing handholding of Historia-7, which can be downplayed by a GM ready to give the PCs some of the spotlight back. Otherwise, enjoy your rails folks.


Can I give this six out of five stars?

*****

I thought that no scenario could top Live Exploration Extreme! But I think I'm wrong. This scenario, if it doesn't surpass it, at least gets to the same level. Hilarious, good-natured romp all around, with tons of super fun tongue-in-cheek scenes. It's got challenging combats, really fun role-play elements, a thrilling cyber-mystery plot, and so much more! It's just really . . . the best. Top tier. Words cannot do it justice, it is super fun.

I will say that even more than 1-09 (Live Exploration Extreme), the the players need to be on board and the GM needs to be prepped. Preferably with a playlist of K/J-pop songs because it really adds to the concert atmosphere.

And, also like 1-09, the players really need to be willing to go along whole-hog with the scenario. That doesn't mean you have to be a Strawberry Machine Cake superfan, but you do need to get into the spirit of things. A murderhobo who is just sitting around waiting for the next fight is going to miss out on a lot of the atmosphere and fun of the session.

In short. Gms, prep it. Players, Role-play it. If your character hates going to concerts, play up that angle (we had a player who did, he still had tons of fun!) If your character is a Strawberry Machine Cake fan, ham it up! (My Character bought Strawberry Machine Cake Formal Attire!)


Over the top in all the right ways!

*****

I have now both GMed and played this scenario and it is fun on both sides. It has a fantastic cast of characters, both new and regularly appearing. As previously mentioned it offers combat, skill checks, and a load of rp opportunities, with all fitting beautifully so that the play doesn't have to skip a beat.

I would zealously recommend this to everyone, however playing the 1-01(The Commencement), 1-04 (Cries from the Drift), and 1-07 (The Solar Sortie) are suggested as pre-plays.

P.S. GMs, get a playlist for running this scenario.


1 to 5 of 6 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | next > last >>
Liberty's Edge

5 people marked this as a favorite.
Starfinder Charter Superscriber

I feel like this warrants the addition of a Strawberry Machine Cake scenario tag. Just kidding. Maybe.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Does it come with MP3s?

Exo-Guardians

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I sold the single...

*turns Apostaen drow death-grind up to 11*

...for more guns!

But I'm always ready for more exo-guarding.

Shadow Lodge

3 people marked this as a favorite.

squeeeeeee

Shadow Lodge

Sweet Christmas...

Silver Crusade RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16

I'm all in on this one. :-D

Second Seekers (Luwazi Elsbo)

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Eeee! Been waiting for this tour since the release! Even though getting a VIP pass would be easy, it'll be nice to be able to enjoy the concert with friends. Don't worry Hissy, we won't let that conspirator ruin this grand occasion!

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Yes

Starfinder Society Developer

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Maps!

Maps Appearing in Starfinder Society Scenario #1–14: Star Sugar Heartlove!!!:
-Pathfinder Map Pack: Starship Decks
-Starfinder Flip-Mat: Urban Sprawl
-Half-Page Custom Map


Thurston Hillman wrote:
Maps!

maps:

- Half-Page Custom Map

Is it a performance stage? I hope it's a performance stage.


I LoL'd at both "Strawberry Machine Cake" and "Star Sugar Heartlove!!!". Cannot wait to see artwork for this. :)

Starfinder Society Developer

Distant Scholar wrote:
Thurston Hillman wrote:
Maps!
** spoiler omitted **

Hmmmmmmm....

Well...:

Of course it is.


Imma just bust out my old Theater flip mat. :P

Second Seekers (Luwazi Elsbo)

Distant Scholar wrote:
Does it come with MP3s?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJdj9BmabyY


App-L wrote:
Distant Scholar wrote:
Does it come with MP3s?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJdj9BmabyY

Also, https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=yQ52BW8hW70

Second Seekers (Luwazi Elsbo)

"... of Tian ancestry..."

Definitely had the right idea musically.


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

:o

That cover artwork! SMC are officially confirmed to be sci-fi Babymetal?


7 people marked this as a favorite.
Cellion wrote:

:o

That cover artwork! SMC are officially confirmed to be sci-fi Babymetal?

Oh hey I was the Illustrator for this particular piece... and I may or may not have had their tunes on repeat while working on this ;)

Paizo Employee Organized Play Lead Developer

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Sporkfiend wrote:
Cellion wrote:

:o

That cover artwork! SMC are officially confirmed to be sci-fi Babymetal?

Oh hey I was the Illustrator for this particular piece... and I may or may not have had their tunes on repeat while working on this ;)

It's an excellent image that we excitedly passed around the office when we saw it. Nicely done!


I wonder if Abysshead is mentioned in the scenario.

Liberty's Edge

Starfinder Superscriber

I smell potential for a sequel where Abysshead and SMC perform together

Grand Lodge

Rumor has it Strawberry Machine Cake does neo-psy-punk covers of the band A-ha.

At least in my game setting they do...

Shadow Lodge

*preheats the roll 20 table*

Shadow Lodge

yawwwn.. wake up. Poke. Nom nom nom. Grumble. zzzz

Scarab Sages

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Just skimmed through this scenario, I'm incredibly hyped to run it. I would love it if Paizo made an official Strawberry Machine Cake shirt!


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

It seems that from running this scenario for my home group I got the group extremely interested in

Spoiler:
tracking down the Scoured Stars conspirators mentioned in this scenario. They picked up on the fact that the computer virus potentially endangered the people on Songbird Station, including many innocent children, and are really eager to find out who these people are and bring them to justice (probably of the vigilante kind).


David knott 242 wrote:
It seems that from running this scenario for my home group I got the group extremely interested in...

Spoilers, man! This isn't a GM-only forum!


I totally love it that the name of one SMC member is clearly based on Babymetal girls' names. That was a great touch!

Paizo Employee Customer Service & Community Manager

Added spoiler tags.


Starfinder Charter Superscriber

I'll write a real review after I run it, but for now I just have to say how much fun I had reading it. It made me laugh and and feel a bit sad at different moments, which isn't easy for a game scenario to do!

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