Starfinder Society Scenario #1-22: The Protectorate Petition

4.40/5 (based on 8 ratings)

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A Starfinder Society Scenario designed for levels 1-4.

The alien copaxis have long inhabited their world in Near Space but only recently petitioned the Pact Wolds for protectorate status. Sent as part of a delegation to review the petition's virtues and validity, the PCs must explore the ancient copaxi ruins and learn about this applicant species' history. Will the PCs decide to vouch for the copaxis, or will the PCs discover something that casts the copaxis' petition into doubt?

Written by Mike Kimmel

Scenario Tags: None

Note: This product is part of the Starfinder Society Scenario Subscription.

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4.40/5 (based on 8 ratings)

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Cool Scenario

5/5

Fun scenario, good story, interesting NPCs. Five stars!

I'm tempted to ding it a star because the maps have a half square right in the middle. WTF???? If you print out maps, this raises questions. If you play online with Roll20, the grid on the maps can't line up with the software grid.


Great Introduction to Starfinding

5/5

This is exactly the sort of scenario we need to establish what it is exactly that this group of ours does. I think pretty often it gets lost in the shuffle what exactly the Starfinder Society is or does and scenarios like this where you are doing history on behalf of a power organization to help make cultural determinations about the nature of a species is pretty interesting.

I also think the culture and lore of the Copaxi was VERY well realized and detailed here. Several of my players had multiple full pages full of notes as they simply encountered that many details that interested them.

My one quibble would be that the initial instructions are pretty vague here. I have run this a few times here and the Steward's request is pretty open ended and each time the layer groups conversations and decisions came down to criteria that were a bit outside what was asked for. I think this is fine because it has made each run different and interesting for me as a GM, but I do wonder how useful our feedback is going to be when we have thousands of different value systems being applied to the same decision.


Not Great, but Good

3/5

NO SPOILERS

I ran this at high-tier using the four-player adjustment. It's a solid, standalone scenario that captures the sort of mission one would expect the Starfinder Society to go on. It's not particularly challenging, and would be suitable for a non-optimized or new group.

SPOILERS!:
The general plot of The Protectorate Petition is that the PCs are sent to a planet in Near Space on a contract mission to evaluate whether it's ready to become a protectorate of the Pact Worlds. While there, they can investigate several sites of interest in any order, and (probably) come to realise that the planet's government has covered up a disturbing history of violence and genocide. But the decision isn't an easy one, as the events happened centuries ago and the current leaders aren't directly responsible. The PCs are faced with an interesting moral decision on whether or not to recommend that protectorate status be granted.

The scenario starts with a briefing from the always-forgettable Venture-Captain Arvin and a much more memorable presence: an eight-foot-tall android officer of the Stewards, Major Tower-9. Together, the two explain that the PCs are being sent to a planet called Tabrid Minor, a planet whose native inhabitants, the copaxis, are humanoids composed of sentient colonies of coral-like organisms. The Stewards are considering an application from Tabrid Minor for protectorate status (which is like being a full member of the Pact Worlds but without voting rights) and have contracted the Starfinder Society to undertake an evaluation and issue a recommendation on whether the petition should be granted (each member of the survey team will be lodging an independent "yes" or "no"). It's an excellent premise for an adventure and a plausible use of the Society. I really liked Major Tower-9, and hope to see her again soon.

The journey to Tabrid Minor is uneventful and the PCs land on one of the planet's abandoned floating cities, which the copaxis only recently re-developed the technology to explore. A copaxi archaeological team is waiting. Most of the members of the team are legit scientists, but one, Therseis, is really a government agent whose mission is to steer the PCs away from discovering anything potentially damaging to the petition. Based on some hints in the text, I had a lot of fun role-playing him as someone who describes everything in too many words. The initial meet-and-greet has a fun little bit of testing the Starfinders' ability to adapt to new customs, and it's the first opportunity to gain a point in an Influence score that is tracked throughout the scenario. So far, so good.

At this point, the PCs are presented with a map of the floating city with potential locations of interest marked, some with warnings that the archaeological team found them too dangerous to approach. There are seven different locations, and the PCs can explore any or all of them in any order.

Three of the locations are perfectly safe (a market, a university campus, and a transport station). Each allows the PCs to make a skill check or two to start to get the sense that they're being manipulated (such as by finding "ancient" coins that were minted recently, or books on magic written by a poseur, etc.).

Each of the other four locations, however, leads to an encounter.

1) At memorial gardens, the PCs realize that there was a massive war in the city about three hundred years ago, and that, despite the government claiming to have only recently deciphered it, the copaxis understood the Signal that gave the secret of Drift travel at least since then. The encounter is against a couple of undead (skeleton) copaxis and is pretty forgettable.

2) In a gaping hole in an otherwise residential neighbourhood, the PCs may start to realize that the coral-like substance that composes the copaxis' body was the subject of extensive mining because it has innate magical properties. Entering the hole leads to a battle against a "corchaaz" (essentially, a giant crab-like monster with huge pincers). Past that, the PCs find a shrine to Triune occupied by several defunct robots. They might manage to reactivate one in order to learn that, in the past, the copaxi used robots widely as servants but when they started to develop sentience, they were, to a one, destroyed or deactivated. Robo-genocide!

3) An old observation tower is currently occupied by a couple of stowaway drifter copaxis. There's a fair opportunity for the PCs to bribe them into leaving peacefully, or (as my group did) behave like jerks and go in guns-blazing. I think I actually liked this combat encounter the best, as the copaxis have some abilities to negate gravity and (especially with the Jet Dash feat) can jump all over the place in cool, cinematic ways. One way or another, the PCs will likely recover a journal written by a member of the city's magical aristocracy and read about how they were slaughtered after receiving the revelation of Drift travel.

4) Above, I casually dropped in the fact that the copaxis can partially negate gravity! This was used in their past to play a sport called Parabolas. If the PCs explore an old stadium, they'll see some useful items (like books and weapons) floating in the center of the arena which has had its gravitation field permanently altered. Retrieving the items requires successful completion of a skills challenge, and I liked how there was some flexibility in the acceptable means used and real consequences (destruction of everything in a chain-reaction) for too many failures.

None of the encounters are particularly difficult (the PCs always drastically outnumber their foes), and since there's no looming deadline, the PCs can fully rest and heal between them. I guess since this is more of an exploration-themed scenario than a survival-themed one it's okay, but I think more attention needs to be given to the role of the presence or absence of time-pressure in adjusting encounter difficulty (especially in Starfinder with the 10 minute rest option).

After each encounter, Therseis checks in and the PCs have a chance to gain an Influence point. I found the Influence mechanic a bit weird, as it's still not clear to me how/why the PCs (in-character) know that they should be trying to influence him (whereas his interest in influencing them is obvious). In any event, the more Influence points they accumulate, the more likely Therseis is to confess his role in misleading the investigators. It becomes clear that he's not really evil and doesn't even fully understand himself what has transpired in Tabrid Minor's past.

After the PCs have explored as much as they want, they'll probably have won Therseis over. He'll basically go along with the PCs' decision, expressing a desire to join the Starfinder Society someday. It's a bit anti-climactic of an ending, so I took the advice in the forums to really play up the significance of the PCs' decision and encouraging the role-playing of their deliberations on whether to recommend entry or not (the actual voting was done by secret ballot and then I revealed the results after the scenario was over). If at least half of the PCs approve of protectorate status, the players earn a boon allowing them to play copaxis in the future, which is cool but means that those groups who voted the other way get kind of shafted (unless they earn a certain number of Influence points).

On the whole, I like the premise and structure of the scenario a lot. It feels open-ended, there's enough combat to keep things interesting, and the PCs have a good moral decision to make at the end. My criticisms are twofold: 1) it's really easy (that is, the combats are pushovers and it'd be *really* hard for a team not to get the requisite amount of Influence) and 2) the history of Tabrid Minor is overwritten with too much going on (a failed coup, a successful coup, a robot apocalypse, Signal/Drift drama, the coral-stuff is magical!, a cover-up, etc.) to be digested by most players in a single session. I'd suggest a better plan would have been one or two big revelations, but more carefully seeded via gradually-building clues throughout the scenario. Still, Tabrid Minor and the copaxis are an excellent piece of world-building, and I'd gladly go back there someday on a follow-up mission. The Protectorate Petition isn't perfect, but it's a solid, enjoyable scenario.


4/5

This scenario is a lot of fun, with some locations you get to explore already excavated and safe, and others still dangerous. There’s opportunities to glean interesting information at both types of locations, as well as copaxis researchers you can turn to for context and advice if desired. Although I don’t want to give away anything about your discoveries, I will say that things are more… complex that they seem. It’s wonderfully handled.

There’s some fun battles in this scenario, all of which can provide the PCs with some information.

Creature Spoiler:
I particularly enjoyed the new crab-like creature known as the corchaaz which can alter gravity and even use some solarian powers! Very cool.

Solarians will have some interesting options in this scenario, so if you've got one now is a good time to take them for a spin.


Probably the best so far

5/5

Done a few PFS reviews (probably should do more with the lack of free time I have), but this is my first SFS review. I will promise myself to get SFS reviews done though!

Too long, don't care about analysis review:
This scenario....it is what I was hoping SFS would be. A mystery that included exploration of ruins, talking to a new species, and just a LITTLE combat. It pulled all the strings I want in a scenario. A scenario for people who like puzzles (but not those "do this as a player so that you are pretending to be your character manipulating a Rubiks cube, more a mystery), not a scenario for people who are "shoot first, kill everything, THEN Loot the bodies".

It also helped that CanisDirus ran it. His ability to prep, and tell a good story helped, especially when we go slightly off script :-)

With that said, semi spoiler (and longer review) below under the spoiler tag.

Now for full review::

Ranking
Story 5/5

At first I thought the story was going to be straight forward. Kinda a partial "first contact" scenario with most of the hard part done--i.e. trying to communicate. When we landed (which BTW luckily we had not space combat--none of us were pilots, though some of us had decent piloting scores) safely, we were met by a Coral type creatures. Since we all were more interested to learn about them, we decided to follow their lead (which we found out helped in game, great writing for the writer for that).
The story seemed to be kinda what we were expecting...a new race wanting protectorate status because of the distance it is from anywhere deemed "safe", and an unusual power/item source of their tech. What we didn't expect was the actual history involved in how this power source was first seen as, and how it developed, and now how it was being mined into extinction (again, great writing!). After looking at a few of the places that the local exploration team looked at, we went right into an area our Triune priest was designed for. We were able to activate <3 (less than 3....heart references were made...) and the priest and my augmented nuar were going to have none of this, and worried that they would kill/steal <3 smuggled him out (again...great writing on actually figuring people would want to do that).
As we started to get worried that the government (and possibly our exploration copaxi "allies") seemed to be doing some kind of cover up, we were starting to wonder what all was being held. We kinda figured out about 90% of the "what happened" by the time we befriended our copaxi ally and it revealed itself and told the rest that we hadn't figured out.
All in all...it had a story that was gripping, and well thought out.

Setting 5/5
As a bit of the Story above explained, it had a setting that was gripping, and because of the GM and his storytelling abilities, was gripping enough for us to understand what currently was happening, and even the history of the planet in less than 5 hours.
This scenario had a slight feeling of a Stargate SG-1 episode, where the team went into a bunker thinking they were going to help this one side against what they were told was the bad side, when in truth the whole thing wasn't as clear as it was made out to be, and the side they were helping was actually more in the wrong....I need to go back to watching the episodes to remember exactly which it is.

Role-play-ability 5/5
Again, Story above kinda showed that it had this in spades. Lots of talking, and a lot of "explore your environment" and "talk to the locals" to try to understand what is happening. And also THANK YOU for having at least one "encounter" you could intimidate/bluff/diplomacy yourself out of. Shoot first and loot the bodies is not the way to do things in SFS I feel.

Combat 3.5/5
This is low, because I know that it is not a combat type scenario, but had to put some of those in. I am thinking that SFS is starting to get a little into the trope of "lets used mindless undead as a combat encounter" rut. That part of the fight was not really explained "why" there were undead there, and felt a bit staged for the "shoot first and ask questions later" player base. The other main combat (giant crab...and I am glad I wasn't at the table with our Mystic of Urgathoa who wants to eat any new unusual non sentient) had a little fun.
One thing I would have to say is that I know it is a new system, but I do feel some of the fight encounters are not challenging enough. Especially with a 5-6 player table with multiple different sub-tiers present. Action economy is better, and less clunky than PF, but 1 big bad vs. 3-4 players can be challenging, but usually 1 big bad vs. 5-6 players isn't. This is something that I am certain the developers will continue to adjust to make things more challenging.
And again, thank you for having a "combat encounter" you could talk your way out of...sentient creatures shouldn't be always fight first.

Over all. I give a 5/5 for this scenario--even with the lower combat issue. This is because it was a scenario I wanted...lower combat with a great story. I haven't ran it yet (will be doing so sometime soonish), but I can also see a decent amount of prep for the roleplaying and telling of the history/story to keep the players engaged.


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Paizo Employee Starfinder Society Developer

Maps Appearing in Starfinder Society Scenario #1–22: The Protectorate Petition:
-Pathfinder Map Pack: Ruined Village
-Pathfinder Map Pack: Secret Rooms
-Half-page Custom Map


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Calling it now: The Copaxi turn out to be a classic pathfinder race that we haven't seen in Starfinder

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32

6 people marked this as a favorite.
thecursor wrote:
Calling it now: The Copaxi turn out to be a classic pathfinder race that we haven't seen in Starfinder

The following is a complete list of everything I can tell you about the copaxis at this time.

Spoiler:
1.


Starfinder Superscriber

Nicely done. I'm looking forward to this one.


Half square. In the middle of the mapS.

FIFTY DKP MINUS. DON"T DO THAT

and going down the midline....


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

played this last night. it was a fun, strange, delightful scenario.

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