Starfinder Adventure Path #14: Soldiers of Brass (Dawn of Flame 2 of 6)

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Starfinder Adventure Path #14: Soldiers of Brass (Dawn of Flame 2 of 6)
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Hired Guns

Now employees of the Deep Cultures Institute, the heroes are set to investigate what's happening in the sun. Burglars in the DCI museum throw that plan askew by stealing the institute's data. The missing files are compiled and cross-referenced rumors on potential intelligent life inside the Pact Worlds' star, none of them substantiated. Who might want such speculation, and why? Following the robbers' path takes the heroes to the bubble-city of Corona and the infamous, unstable Brass Bazaar, where they learn the thieves weren't the only ones interested in the DCI's guesswork. The heroes must uncover who has the stolen data, find out where it's stored, and extract it. In the process, they discover more than they bargained for!

This volume of Starfinder Adventure Path continues the Dawn of Flame Adventure Path and includes:

  • "Soldiers of Brass," a Starfinder adventure for 3rd-level characters, by Crystal Frasier.
  • An array of quirky locations in the Brass Bazaar, along with the people and items found in them, by Adrian Ng.
  • A tourists' survey of the Burning Archipelago, by Kate Baker.
  • An archive of elemental creatures, from mischievous mephits to cruel salamanders, by Crystal Frasier and Owen K.C. Stephens.
  • Statistics and deck plans for an efreeti starship, by Thurston Hillman, and a vignette of a desert world that serves as a haven for damaged starships, by Christopher Carey.

ISBN-13: 978-1-64078-117-7

The Dawn of Flame 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 (1.2 MB PDF).

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

Fantasy Grounds Virtual Tabletop
Archives of Nethys

Note: This product is part of the Starfinder Adventure Path Subscription.

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Fine but Forgettable

3/5

NO SPOILERS

Here we go with Soldiers of Brass, the second chapter in the Dawn of Flame adventure path. I ran this online via play-by-post with a fantastic group of players. I'm glad they've been a patient and tolerant group, because just like with Chapter 1, Chapter 2 isn't exactly spectacular. One might even say it's more of the same, just in a slightly different context. Just as I was surprised that James Sutter wrote Chapter 1 and it turned out kinda bland, I'm surprised Crystal Frasier wrote this forgettable adventure. But I'll get to all of that in the Spoilers! section below, and instead talk here about the non-spoilerly back-matter.

The art design continues to be stellar (pun intended), and the cover is fine. The artwork of that NPC on the cover pops, and the background of Iconics facing off against foes in what looks like a museum is pretty neat. The inside front- and back- covers detail the "Excoriation Combine Jezail", a Tier 6 efreet destroyer from the Elemental Plane of Fire. The schematic makes it look like a Romulan Bird of Prey, but there's nothing particularly interesting or memorable about the ship itself, and its equipment is a good example of why starship combat is a slog--its biggest weapon does 3d8 damage, and its shields have 25 points in each quadrant. If multiple attacks manage to hit the same quadrant in the same round, it's *just* possible you'll scratch the hull a bit before those shields get rebalanced and you have to start all over again.

The back matter consists of "Merchants of the Brass Bazaar", "Touring the Archipelago", "Alien Archives", and "Codex of Worlds".

"Merchants of the Brass Bazaar" is an interesting and detailed overview of the sprawling marketplace in the bubble-city of Corona. There's (secretly) a solar dragon running a kitchen! I wish I would have had time to incorporate more of it for the PCs, though I did manage to get the lazy Drow merchant Berdac Zeizerer into a brief scene. Several new pieces of tech are scattered about, but I'd avoid the solar flare grenades--a lot of effort for very little payoff.

My favourite piece of back matter is "Touring the Archipelago". Written as a "real" travel guide for newcomers to the Burning Archipelago, this would have been *perfect* as a Player's Guide to give players before they started Dawn of Flame. It's full of great flavour and is also really use for the GM in understanding the setting better.

This issue's "Alien Archive" has six entries. There are two new playable races (sulis and sylphs). Mephits are introduced with grafts for various types--some will be familiar (dust or fire mephits, for example), while others are unique to Starfinder (pollution, tech, and radiation mephits). I would like to make friends with a janni--useful pals for CR 4 creatures! Salamanders and thoqqua (fire worms) round out the list. There's nothing spectacular in the entry, but some useful additions to the game.

The "Codex of Worlds" covers Topheki b, a mysterious haven in the Vast for damaged ships. It's an interesting concept, but the mechanics of Starfinder mean that it's hard to conceptualise why PCs would ever go there--if they don't have a working Drift engine, they won't get anywhere, and if they do have a working Drift engine, they'd surely head back to Absalom Station.

Now, onto the adventure.

SPOILERS!:

In Chapter 1 of Dawn of Flame, the PCs put down a rebellion in Asanatown. There, the PCs learned that the local lashunta rebels had surprisingly managed to hire an expensive mercenary group called the Brass Dragons to lend a hand. Here in Chapter 2, we (though not the players) learn that the Brass Dragons undertook that operation because their leader, an ifrit from the City of Brass named Jalusann, is an agent of General Khaim! Jalusann has been ordered to soften up the Burning Archipelago by destabilising it, while also suppressing any signs that an invasion is imminent. Although the coup in Asanatown didn't work out as planned, Jalusann and the Brass Dragons have a new operation: they plan to hire a local street gang to break into the Deep Cultures Institute and steal data from surveys that could reveal the impending danger to the Pact Worlds. With this background out of the way, the adventure proper is structured in three parts.

Part 1 is the robbery at the DCI. The adventure assumes the PCs are staying at the DCI's Museum of Endosolar Sciences, but it doesn't give any NPCs or other background on the DCI to help integrate this concept into the campaign. (the PCs know Nib from the DCI, but that's it). The adventure also doesn't provide much information on Stellacuna, the bubble-city where the DCI is located. One of the things that the reduced page count of Starfinder AP issues from their Pathfinder 1E cousins affects is how much supporting information GMs receive. Here, GMs have to do a lot of the legwork themselves to make everything fit together. Anyway, the PCs will be asleep in the museum when they realise intruders are inside. The street gang doing the breaking-and-entering are the Bloodshots, a group of fairly generic ikeshti thugs. The plus side is that the action starts quickly. Afterward, there are some good avenues of investigation for the PCs to start tracking the Bloodshots back to their headquarters (because the stolen data has already been transmitted somewhere, and the DCI wants it back).

Part 2 really has three different parts within it. First, the PCs need to travel through Corona, a bubble-city notorious for solar shields that often flicker, letting in solar flares. This was fun, and definitely got my players' attention! (they became a bit paranoid to even walk around) There are a couple of events that can be ran at the GM's discretion (something I always like), my favourite of which is an encounter with a huckster named Practical Prestine. Second, the PCs can investigate a business called Cryo-Generics which is linked to the Bloodshots. The gang has an ambush set up for the PCs here. Third, there's the Meltdown, a scrapyard in which the Bloodshots' leader, Mama Throsh, resides. She's a good NPC and will 'fess up about the gang having been hired by the Brass Dragons.

Part 3 has the PCs attacking the Eos Athletics Club, the two-level headquarters of the Brass Dragons. A bit of fun can be had with thoqqua tunnels for surprise attacks and with the vehicles in the motor pool, but Jalusann is not particularly interesting for a "boss battle" because she's built around mobile hit-and-run attacks but there's just not enough room on the map to make that feasible (though I gave my players a surprisingly hard time with a couple of grease spells.) Assuming the PCs win, they'll recover the data and might even pick up a few hints that the Brass Dragons are part of something bigger and even more dangerous. The data is pretty scattered, however, and I don't think my players have really put anything together yet.

The epilogue has Nib telling the PCs that the recovered data points to a location somewhere deep in the sun--a place called Noma. That's a good set up for Chapter Three, when Dawn of Flame really starts to shine. Yes, another pun.

Overall, the problem with Soldiers of Brass is that it's almost all space dungeon crawl--a room-by-room battle against gang members and mercenaries. The crawl might take place in a museum (Part 1), a warehouse and a scrapyard (Part 2), or an abandoned gym (Part 3), but it all has pretty much the same feel. The enemies are fine but forgettable, and there's little that really shouts out "we're having adventures near the freaking sun!" The problem is magnified because Chapter 1 of the AP was pretty much the same thing just with terrorists and mercenaries instead of gang members and mercenaries. For a role-playing game, the adventure just doesn't involve much role-playing.


Tussling with Gangs and Mercs

4/5

Soldiers of Brass continues the Dawn of Flame adventure path by taking it into the colorful, grungy streets of the Brass Bazaar. The PCs are pitted against gangs, shady salespeople, and solar dangers before crossing paths once more with the shady group of mercenaries they faced during the events of the previous book.

Soldiers of Brass feels like a bit of a filler arc of a TV show. The PCs are tasked with chasing after a MacGuffin and by the end of the adventure they've secured it without any big changes or developments in the larger plot. The journey to get to that point involves some light investigation and dungeon diving, and its certainly a good time, but it doesn't have the depth and interesting situations that were common in the previous book of the AP.

The setting for this adventure - the Brass Bazaar - is given some fantastic scenes and color. It's a memorable locale, and between the semi-random encounters within it and the extensive back-matter regarding places within it, there's a lot of great flavor and detail to help GMs bring it to life.

Overall, this is a solid second part to the Dawn of Flame AP. Not as engrossing as the first book, certainly, but a well-built adventure with some great individual scenes, locations and characters. The setting detail brings it up from an average (3/5) score to 4 stars.

The Good:
  • The Maps are absolutely excellent. There's maps for all the encounters and they're beautifully detailed, even more so than normal for Paizo. The upper level of the Eos club was a particular standout for me, with how it abuts the solar plasma, casting an orange tint across some rooms.
  • The Brass Bazaar backmatter is jam packed with interesting characters and locales. The Grandmaster's kitchen got a whole scene in my game and I got to use the magical drinks to excellent effect. Some of my favorite magic items, like the radiant ensemble or phase twin generator, are also here.
  • The investigation into the theft of the DCI's data flows pretty naturally. The scene immediately after the fight in the museum is done is particularly solid in terms of giving PCs a lot of different methods to investigate. Chasing the trail into Corona also feels very natural.
  • Internal logic for the actions of NPC characters and the flow from scene to scene is really good for the most part. This has previously been a problem in the Dead Suns AP, which often required the GM's heavy handed intervention to have the plot make sense and for the players to feel like they have freedom to act.

  • The Bad:
  • Heat and Cold Dangers are given a lot of book space in this adventure, with a new piece of equipment for lessening them as well as frequent mention of the temperature of places. Unfortunately, none of these end up mattering because PCs immediately activate environmental protections on their armor and get to ignore them. Since this is a big populated area, there's no need to conserve environmental protections even for item level 1 armor (PCs can recharge them every day as needed). Pretty disappointing how easily these environmental elements get circumvented, but that's just the rules of the system.
  • Practical Prestine is a wonderful character, but her scene is buried under unintuitive mechanics and a punitive curse that feels arbitrary and unfair to players.
  • The Plot of this book is fairly unexciting as a standalone story. The villains hired some other villains to steal a Macguffin. The PCs fight through all of them and bring it back. While the gang members have some interesting relationships, revealed should the PCs be willing to banter and bargain, the Brass Dragons are disciplined mercenaries without a whole lot of depth. The few surprises in this book feel like little more than tying up loose threads from book 1 or teasing future books.
  • The DCI data is used as the lead-in to the next book in a way that makes next to no sense. The Brass Dragons are storing the data on their computers, an unknown third party accesses the data, and that third party makes a bunch of annotations on the data? Why? Why not copy the data and delete it from the Brass Dragons machines? Why share these annotations? Why even annotate it in the first place? What do these annotations have to say about Noma? None of this is discussed because this is a flimsy tie-in to the next adventure rather than a strong plot element.
  • The fights are definitely on the too easy side, barring a couple of very specific encounters. Brass Dragons or gang members of CR1/2 just aren't relevant threats to a 3rd or 4th level group, leaving the book sometimes feeling unexciting.


  • 1 person marked this as a favorite.

    First Smurf to crash the message board Hahahaha!

    In all seriousness, though, this AP seems legit from the descriptions


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

    Where is the cover image? Issue 4 of this AP already has a cover.

    Dark Archive

    1 person marked this as a favorite.
    Poison Pie wrote:
    Where is the cover image? Issue 4 of this AP already has a cover.

    Issue 1 & 4 at least have placeholder covers, this & issue 3 & 5 have nothing yet.

    I guess Starfinder is priority #3 after PF 2.0 & PF 1.0, as there is no hardcover announced for the first half of 2019 & the Starfinder Beginner Box wasn't heard from ever again since it's initial announcement... ;-(


    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    What are the articles in this issue? Each of the rest of the AP has a sentence listing what articles are in them, but not this one. Also, what race/species is the lady on the cover? Tiefling? I'm very curious about her and her species, especially if she is not a tiefling.


    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    I'm guessing she's an Efreeti.


    1 person marked this as a favorite.
    Rysky the Dark Solarion wrote:
    I'm guessing she's an Efreeti.

    A white haired one? Maybe, but she would be a first. She looks like a tiefling too, an oni blooded one. But she could indeed be an Efreeti or an Ifrit.


    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    Possibly, but Efreeti have never had designated hair colors to my knowledge.


    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    She took a Serum of Appearance Change.


    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    I'm curious if we'll be getting one of the other mainline genie-kin in the alien archive for this or one of the different flavors of ifrit from the Plane-Hopper's Handbook(Sunsoul seems particularly appropriate for the AP).

    That's assuming we get a new playable species at all, of course.


    3 people marked this as a favorite.
    FormerFiend wrote:

    I'm curious if we'll be getting one of the other mainline genie-kin in the alien archive for this or one of the different flavors of ifrit from the Plane-Hopper's Handbook(Sunsoul seems particularly appropriate for the AP).

    That's assuming we get a new playable species at all, of course.

    They confirmed that we're getting all 5 of genie-kin races on one of the SF Wednesday streams, but they'll be spread throughout the AP.

    I really hope we get PC race stats for Salamanders, considering the lack of serpentine races so far (besides Ilthisarian).


    1 person marked this as a favorite.
    Sparrowhawk_92 wrote:


    I really hope we get PC race stats for Salamanders, considering the lack of serpentine races so far (besides Ilthisarian).

    I was kind of hoping for Playable Efreeti and Azer but nope! Playable Salamanders would satisfy my planar race urge.


    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    Has anyone received your subscriber PDFs yet?


    1 person marked this as a favorite.
    Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
    HTD wrote:
    Has anyone received your subscriber PDFs yet?

    I am fortunate enough to have my copy! I'll do what I can to answer questions but I haven't had much more than a skim through so far.

    Scarab Sages Contributor

    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    Are salamanders playable? Regardless, what geniekin (or other playable race) is in this book, if any?

    What's your favorite aspect of the Brass Bazaar?


    3 people marked this as a favorite.
    Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
    UllarWarlord wrote:

    Are salamanders playable? Regardless, what geniekin (or other playable race) is in this book, if any?

    What's your favorite aspect of the Brass Bazaar?

    Spoiler:
    Salamanders aren't playable unfortunately, however we do get both Suli and Sylph instead.

    I haven't finished reading the Brass Bazaar section just yet, but there is an Anacite-run shop which sells robotic toys that is quite entertaining.


    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    What are the other monsters in the bestiary (name, type, subtypes, size and CR)?


    6 people marked this as a favorite.

    I got my pdf today! I always skim through the art and the articles at the back first, and I must say I'm a fan of the "Touring the Archipelago" article. It's a fun angle for examining a location. And who wouldn't like to take a tourist jaunt to the Sun?

    Alien Archive creatures:

    Janni, medium outsider (native) CR 4
    Mephit, small outsider (extraplanar, variety of grafts with different subtypes) CR 3
    Suli, medium outsider (native) CR 1 + playable race
    Sylph, medium outsider (native) CR 2 + playable race
    Salamander, medium outsider (extraplanar, fire) CR 6
    Thoqqua, medium outsider (earth, elemental, extraplanar, fire) CR 2

    Contributor

    5 people marked this as a favorite.

    I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Elinnea! I think that’s one of the most creatively challenging thingsI’ve worked on so far!


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

    Is it just me or are the maps in the PDF, lower rez than usual?

    Especially the ship interior in the back of the PDF is low-rez for me. I can barely make out any details.


    2 people marked this as a favorite.
    Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

    I just wanted to personally thank Crystal Frasier for the trap in A4.

    Absolutely brilliant, thank you!

    Dark Archive

    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    Book 1 had a map of Asanatown, Book 2 sadly hasn't a map of Corona.

    I would like a map folio for Starfinder Adventure Paths.

    I know "Pact Worlds" has a map, but it's not very detailed.


    1 person marked this as a favorite.
    Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
    Athenos wrote:

    Is it just me or are the maps in the PDF, lower rez than usual?

    Especially the ship interior in the back of the PDF is low-rez for me. I can barely make out any details.

    I am seeing the same thing, too. It's not just you. Why are they so low-rez?


    1 person marked this as a favorite.
    Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
    th3razzer wrote:
    Athenos wrote:

    Is it just me or are the maps in the PDF, lower rez than usual?

    Especially the ship interior in the back of the PDF is low-rez for me. I can barely make out any details.

    I am seeing the same thing, too. It's not just you. Why are they so low-rez?

    It looks like they had an issue with the maps in the PDF this time, because I just bought the PDF and have the same problem. And some people in the Costumer Service forums also has it.

    I'll hope they upload a better version soon :)

    Dark Archive

    So any funny items in the bazaar?


    Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

    No, nothing funny.

    Paizo Employee Developer

    3 people marked this as a favorite.

    Just wait for the "Strange Gear" article in #16!


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

    I've noticed that the PDF was updated to fix the over-compressed images (Thanks!), but the inside cover map of the starship is still undersized. (It's the only undersized image left at this point.)

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