Starfinder Society Scenario #1-25: The Beacon Code Dilemma

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A Starfinder Society Scenario designed for levels 3-6.

The Church of Triune approaches the Starfinder Society with a stunning discovery: a centuries old Society starship has been found in the Drift! The PCs must search the Lorespire Complex for all the information they can on this starship before heading into the Drift and uncovering what befell the lost vessel.

The Beacon Code Dilemma is a replayable scenario designed to help introduce players to threats and terrain that trained Starfinders regularly contend with. With randomized mechanical and story elements, when you play this scenario, you'll never play the same scenario twice.

Written by Adrian Ng

Scenario Tags: Repeatable

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

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4.00/5 (based on 3 ratings)

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Story Falls Flat

3/5

NO SPOILERS

The Beacon Code Dilemma is a replayable scenario. There are several tables of randomised features that the GM rolls on before beginning play, in order to change up some of the details of the story. There are some original elements here that I quite liked, but (perhaps because of its randomised nature) the overall story falls flat. I think the scenario was a good try, but there's a reason why MadLibs are not the basis good storytelling.

I played through this with my chronic self-medicating Solarion, and things did not go well--but that's not the scenario's fault.

SPOILERS!:

The Beacon Code Dilemma has an interesting backstory that makes excellent use of (and perhaps adds to) the lore around Triune and the concept of Drift beacons. The PCs receive a briefing from the usually-dour Venture-Captain Niaaj and a SRO priest of Triune named MP-8 (with a cool illustration). The gist of the matter is that, almost two centuries ago, a Starfinder Society ship named the Amber Reconnoiter went missing while in the Drift on a mission to study the Gap. But recently, MP-8 had a vision direct from Triune providing the location of the missing ship, an event that means it must be significant in some way to the Church or its mission. However, the ship's automated defences engaged when MP-8's salvage vessel approached, so the priests retreated and called in the Starfinder Society to investigate. The premise of investigating a suddenly-returned missing ship is classic Star Trek, but the added angle of the Triune connection nicely situates the plot in the campaign setting.

In a fun departure from the norm, the PCs' first task takes place within the Lorespire Complex itself. They must find information on the Amber Reconnoiter in the Society's archives, and (hopefully) see if a code can be transmitted to remotely shut down its defences. The replayable nature of the scenario starts here, as four leads are outlined, but only two (randomly-determined) ones are presented to the PCs. Each of these leads involves a little role-playing and problem-solving, and ends up with the PCs finding out some information about the missing ship's mission and crew (determined prior to the scenario from a random table) and part of the access code needed to shut down the ship's weaponry. I'll go over the four briefly:

1) "The Archives" sees the PCs sent down to the Society's pre-digital(!) archives, full of towering bookshelves. An NPC I really like, the librarian Royo, is present. PCs who have his High Society Influence boon slotted receive some extra help from him, but overall their task requires little more than a Perception check or two to find some information on the Amber Reconnoiter's mission and crew.

2) "Communion Vaults" has the PCs descend to where the Liavaran Dreamer named Whisperer of Solar Winds resides. The Dreamers are giant, jellyfish-like creatures with powerful telepathic and precognitive abilities. Their role in the Starfinder Society was first introduced in an earlier scenario that didn't handle them well. Here, it's much better. Assuming the PCs can activate a particular relic, they'll receive a transmitted vision of a mundane scene from a day in the life of the Amber Reconnoiter's crew. In order to be effective, the GM needs to have prepared this separately, or it's likely to fall flat, however.

3. "First Seeker Ilyastre Memorial Museum" has the PCs meet Chiskisk from Dead Suns! I really like little crossovers between SFS and the APs like this, and there's even a little bonus if a PC has a Chronicle sheet from AP # 1. With some skill at using museum database terminals, the PCs can find a holoprojector to get a visual on the missing ship and its crew (something that would have been much better if the scenario included images of either).

4. "Halls of Discovery" asks the PCs to recover some historical records from a very by-the-book robot who threatens to delay everything unless the PCs can figure out a way around its bureaucratic regulations. When my group played this scenario, the group split up and my PC and another handled this aspect of the investigation. We were really stymied for a long time as our PCs lacked the skills and personalities necessary to get past it (and violence almost erupted!). It was a fun if mildly-frustrating scene.

After the investigation, the PCs are off into the Drift. When they reach the coordinates that MP-8 gave them, there's a series of hazards derived from chaotic planar energies. PCs at every station on the ship have a role to play in trying to get the ship safely through the dangers, which could do damage directly to the hull (bypassing shields) and even to the crew! It really boils down to a skills challenge, but the number of successes have a meaningful impact on other elements of the scenario. I thought it was a fast, fun, and exciting way to have some of the thrill of starship combat without the turgid slog that actual ship vs. ship battles usually become. I'd like to see more of this sort of thing.

When the PCs' ship has gotten as close as it can through the planar debris field to the Amber Reconnoiter, a spacewalk is needed to traverse the remaining distance. This encounter takes place using the zero-G rules, as the PCs glide from debris to debris while fending off some interstellar monsters called "Drift Cuttles." Although the creatures have slightly different abilities based on random rolls, I don't think this encounter would be memorably different on repeat play. It's one of those encounters that I like the idea of, but the zero-G rules are (perhaps necessarily) too cumbersome to make it really enjoyable.

The final phase of the scenario takes place once the PCs board the Amber Reconnoiter (making excellent use of the Ghost Ship flip-mat). The missing ship has already been boarded by a crew of bad guys, who are randomly-determined to be pirates, cultists, gangsters, or mercenaries. As far as I can tell, the result makes little to no difference in what comes next. They do pose a major threat, however, with an Uplifted Bear Soldier verging on unfair (and the 4-player adjustments didn't sufficiently equalize things). Due to internal disfunction, my group failed in this part of the scenario and a couple of us died. Groups with better teamwork should have better luck, but still a real fight on their hands. As for the big mystery of what happened to the ship, I think the repeatable nature of the scenario really caused the story to fall flat. There are some little bits of the backstory to be found here and there in the form of crew logs, but unless a GM works really hard to play up the storytelling, it all comes across as very bland and forgettable. There's even some sort of relic that the crew recovered, but there's no real use or meaning attributable to it, and nor do we find out what significance the ship's discovery has for Triune.

To sum up, I guess I'd say The Beacon Code Dilemma is a real mixed bag. I liked the investigation phase, as it made good use of NPCs and has some good randomization. The starship hazards were fun. The combat encounters turned out to be long and perhaps a bit too hard (though, to be fair, many SFS scenarios have had way-too-easy combats). I would say the big letdown with the scenario is a failure to satisfactorily resolve the premise of the plot. A paint-by-numbers approach makes replayable scenarios more manageable logistically, but less interesting when it comes to story-telling.



This is a fun scenario that features a lot of great NPC cameos, fun locations, and cool fights.

As this scenario is repeatable, a lot of aspects are determined randomly. Although the core mission is always the same -- research a derelict ship, find it, explore it, and fetch a certain item from it -- the rest is surprisingly varied. Where you need to do your research, who you interact with, the crew of the ship, the ship’s purpose, and how they met their end (and therefore which handouts you receive), are all obvious examples of randomized aspects. In addition, there’s a wide variety of environmental factors and enemy abilities that are also determined randomly. I absolutely loved this, and was surprised how thorough it was. Really well done!

I love that this scenario gives you a chance to explore some locations within the Lorespire Complex and actually research something — which should be an important part of being a Starfinder! I loved that we got to engage in some of the hazards of Drift travel. And finally, I loved the how the purpose and fate of the ship changes in each playthrough, along with the wonderful player handouts that come with each of those options.

One of my only pet peeves:

One of my only pet peeves was that some of the interactions on the ship mention sound when the ship does not currently have artifical atmosphere. It is mentioned that the PCs can repair the power core enough to restore atmosphere (and therefore let sound travel), but many of the things that happen before you’ll have a chance to do so (including enemy tactics) mentions or presupposes sound travelling through the ship. I found it odd. Still, it’s a small quibble that GMs should make note of before running it. Visual cues can easily be used in place of audible ones until atmosphere is restored. In addition, this would have been a great place to have a zero-g battle. It feels like a missed opportunity to me.


Solid repeatable, could have been a skosh more.

4/5

By far one of the best repeatable out there. There is a randomized investigation section in the beginning which can vary from game to game, the crew of the ship you find is randomized, the threats are randomized, all in all, a lot of good elements for a repeatable.

The only nitpick, and it is a minor nitpick, is that the story beats are always the same. Unlike PFS scenarios ‘Tome of Righteous Repose’ and ‘Down the Half-light Path,’ the story is always roughly the same. If only they had included different story elements with the amount of choice in this scenario, then itwould have been five stars for sure. But then that might have been too tough on GM prep maybe? Still, solid, solid repeatable.


In space

5/5

I very much enjoyed playing through this scenario. For a repeatable it felt very much like a stand alone scenario.

As a GM as well, I appreciate the easy to use variability.

Spoiler:

Having part of the scenario in actual space, going from your ship to the dilapidated ship was what tipped it into 5 stars for me. Though it adds complication to the combat, having such combats in zero g makes for a holistic space (sic-fi) feel.

Personally, it did bother me that the whole space ship exploration wasn't in zero g, especially for a wrecked starship.



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

Welp, I'm looking forward to this one. Guess I'll have to re-watch Event Horizon before hand...

The Exchange

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Maps on this one?

Paizo Employee Organized Play Lead Developer

Maps appearing in Starfinder Society Scenario #1-25:

  • Starfinder Flip-Mat: Ghost Ship
  • Half-page custom map
  • Wayfinders

    Thanks for this information, John!

    Grand Lodge

    Spoiler:
    I made the first map with liquid chalk on black! And making Space Debris map with foam!

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