Starfinder Society Scenario #1-30: Survivor's Salvation

4.10/5 (based on 7 ratings)

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A Starfinder Society Scenario designed for levels 1-4.

When a recently returned Exo-Guardian goes missing from their regular meetings at a survivor's clinic, the PCs get called in to assist. What begins as a routine investigation quickly leads into the depths of Absalom Station, where the PCs learn that there's much more than criminals to be afraid of.

Content in Survivor's Salvation also contributes to the ongoing goals of the Exo-Guardians faction.

Written by Kiel Howell

Scenario Tags: Faction (Exo-Guardians)

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

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PZOSFS0130E


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4.10/5 (based on 7 ratings)

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Good premise and setting, some clunky bits

4/5

NO SPOILERS

I played through Survivor's Salvation with my skittermander Steward character, and it was right in her investigatory wheelhouse. There's a mystery to solve in this scenario, though it's a pretty straightforward one despite a twist here and there. I really liked the premise and how it builds organically into the events of the Season 1 interactive special. I guess I'd say that, all in all, some clunky writing distracts from an otherwise potentially excellent scenario. It's definitely very playable, however.

SPOILERS!:

The scenario starts out at the Exo-Guardians' headquarters, and it's fun to see the base coming along after getting a chance to help the warehouse's procurement in The Commencement. Fan-favourite faction leader Zigvigix delivers the briefing, and he's his usual quirky-cool self despite having some heavy news to drop on the PCs. In the wake of the Society's expedition to the Scoured Stars System (in # 1-99), many of the Starfinders who returned suffered from what (in the real world) would be called PTSD and have had difficulty returning to normal life. A shobhad member of the Society named Hurondo started up a clinic for returnees like himself. The clinic is called the Respite, and has helped dozens of agents who suffered trauma. But just a week ago, Hurondo didn't turn up for work--and people are concerned. Zigvigix assigns the PCs to walk over to the Respite, talk to Hurondo's business partner Jiwalla Zarvim, and see if they can figure out where Hurondo is. As an adventure hook, it's a classic missing-persons case, but works especially well because it's integrated nicely into the season metaplot and takes place in an interesting and unusual setting.

When the PCs reach the Respite, things get pretty complicated for the GM. This section is structured as seven different events that progress in different orders depending on what the PCs do. In other words, there's a lot of "if/then" statements to interpret on the fly quickly, and I think it's probably over-complicated. Anyway, most of the events involve interaction with former Starfinders who have come to the Respite for counselling. Questioning them about Hurondo brings clues to the surface, and although each one is interesting on its own, they all point quite obviously to the Spike and a mysterious memory-modification clinic that has been set up there. When the PCs get a chance to speak to Jiwalla (co-operator of the clinic), she has surprisingly little information about Hurondo but immediately asks the PCs to participate in a series of physical exercises (for their mental health) that include endurance rowing, a sprinting race, and weight-lifting! It's laughably bizarre given the context, as is the result that Jiwalla is more willing to help in investigating Hurondo's disappearance if the PCs win the competitions. Similarly bizarre is how many people at the clinic want to give the PCs extremely valuable pieces of technology or even credits. The writers of these scenarios really need to figure out a more organic way to satisfy loot expectations in ways that don't take the players out of the story.

When the PCs leave the Respite, they'll encounter a pair of street gang members distributing flyers for the mysterious new medical clinic in the Spike. If persuaded to talk, the gang members say that they're part of the Uniters gang which is actually holding Hurondo captive at the Uniters' headquarters in the Spike! The clinic they're passing out flyers for is called the Open Collective clinic, and it seems the Uniters often take on odd jobs for local concerns. Having the gang members appear conveniently right after the PCs leave the clinic is clunky story-telling, and I guess it was a "belt-and-suspenders" way to get the PCs to head to the Spike and start poking around for a kidnapped shobhad. It cool that both my PC and another PC at the table happened to have the special boon from Incident at Absalom Station that gives bonuses when dealing with street gangs.

The Uniters gang is run by (I think) one of the first Vlakas to appear in an SFS scenario. Bargai is joined by two other gang members, and although she doesn't put up much of a fight, the interesting thing is that she can be persuaded to join the SFS later on. Another interesting twist is that Hurondo is there, perfectly healthy, and busy talking to his "captor", a nuar named Orghuun who has just been persuaded to quit the Uniters and go to the Respite for treatment! It turns out that what happened is Hurondo originally came down to this area of the Spike to investigate missing patients from the Respite who might have gone to a mysterious clinic in the area, heard it was affiliated with the Uniters, stumbled into their HQ and got captured, and then the Uniters decided they might hold him for some sort of ransom but hadn't figured out what yet. Hurondo can head back up to the Respite, but implores the PCs to investigate the Open Collective clinic. The PCs, having nothing better to do with their lives than impersonate Stewards, decide to agree.

So as not to bury the lede, the twist with the Open Collective is that it's a front for a group of "bodysnatcher slimes" that are exactly what their name implies. They're malevolent creatures that have been taking over the bodies of patients at the clinic in order to steal their memories so they can eventually assimilate everyone on Absalom Station and the Pact Worlds! The combats here are really easy, with the tricky part being keeping the innocent hosts alive while destroying the bodysnatcher slimes. Once the slimes are defeated, the scenario concludes with the ominous possibility that other bodysnatcher slimes are still operating somewhere on the station.

Overall, the plot and setting of Survivor's Salvation are solid. It's a logical progression from the Scoured Stars Invasion to have agents suffering from their ordeal. The actual execution of the adventure is a bit clunky in places for the reasons outlined above. It's also surprisingly easy from a combat perspective. So I can't give it top marks, but it was fun nonetheless.


Had lot of fun running this

4/5

So hmm, what to say about the scenario... Well, it handles mental health issues much better than 1e scenarios, did that for sure. This scenario also provided lots of good serious and less serious roleplaying opportunities for the party :D Twist was also fun, though I guess it comes bit out of nowhere... Though it kinda has to do that.

On the twist...:
Plot is essentially about how mental health clinic's patients are being poached by shady illegal scam clinic, except it turns out scam was that scam was run by bodysnatchers. It was really big surprise for the party, in the fun and creepy way, especially the knowledge that the bodysnatchers are still out there...

Oh and I hope enough parties left Bargai alive, I think that npc has potential since deaf recurring npcs are really rare. Either way, Hurondo is definitely great npc, love his introduction scene when PCs finally meet him :D


Beware the Panacea for Weary Souls

3/5

<GM'd in Play by Post>

Survivor's Salvation suffers from a dreadfully wonky first act before it gets to its fun conclusion. The first act is narratively nonsensical, inconsistent in tone and content, and has multiple scenes that require GM intervention and interpretation to hold together. With a slightly inquisitive party, the GM will be hard pressed to deliver answers that make sense using the elements in the text. Other scenes in act 1 actively undermine player successes in an attempt to keep them firmly on the railroad. On the other hand, the final act delivers what I'd say is one of the most memorable series of encounters in SFS so far. Its a spotty experience, a 2 star scenario attached to a 4 star one.

Despite the problems with this scenario, I'd still recommend it, if only for the fun of players' reactions when they hit the last act.

The Good (spoilers):
  • Everything from the meetup with Hurondo onwards is great adventuring. Enough hints are dropped as to the true nature of the 'treatments' at the Open Collective that the PCs have their suspicions. And seeing those come to fruition is great!
  • The reactions from players when a slime sluuuuurps into the body of one of their allies. Awesome! And the sudden change in tactics needed is exciting and fun. Due to the damage threshold before the slime is kicked out, there's less risk of accidentally killing an ally than at first glance, but its still a big and scary moment.
  • Hurondo is a cool character, a kindly big brother to the others - even managing to pull one of his captors to his side. He gets some great characterization through the impressions of other NPCs, which feels very natural.
  • Fantastic set up for more bodysnatcher related adventures on Absalom Station.

  • The Bad (spoilers):
  • Wherein the adventure gets short circuited from minute 1: This adventure is up there as one of the least solidly plotted scenarios yet for SFS. In the briefing, the PCs are asked to talk to Jiwalla. So... why don't they just call her? She already has exactly the lead the PCs need to bypass the entire Respite complex and start heading down into the Spike to follow in Hurondo's footsteps. But, the adventure is absolutely not designed for this eventuality. The PCs miss a third of the adventure if they think to take advantage of modern technology. (Plus, why hasn't Ziggy given her a call?)
  • Where's the time pressure?: Hurondo is missing, but there's no urgency in looking for him. The adventure assumes you're happy to faff about around the Respite learning nothing of value and participating in activities.
  • Events in front of the Respite: As opposed to every other information gathering situation so far in SFS, here you're expected to arbitrarily head up to individual groups of people that you have no reason to believe know anything about Hurondo and ask questions. What happened to using Diplomacy to Gather Information? Furthermore, the Vesk 'argument' is incredibly obtuse in how its described. In essence, Razda is having some kind of mental episode and Svata is trying to convince him to go to the Respite. But there's nothing other than mechanical subtext to tell you that Razda doesn't want to go. Why wouldn't he want to? What exactly is the argument about anyway? The GM is left grasping at straws as the scene's underpinnings unravel.
  • Events inside the Respite: 1) It only gets worse inside the Respite as the character most concerned for Hurondo's well being intentionally delays the PCs to offer them to do some physical competitions rather than go looking for her missing friend (not to mention that they need a Diplomacy check to even get her to talk about Hurondo in the first place). Plus, Jiwalla only decides to help the party look for her best friend if they beat her at athletic competitions? Baffling. My players immediately assumed she was the villain with how little she seemed to care. 2) The scenario is silent on what Bygones-B might know of Hurondo's status. Instead, we're to believe that the PCs will sit down in the middle of their investigation to talk about their feelings and traumas? 3) Hurondo's office is a gigantic dead end where Jiwalla smacks the hands of any PCs trying to find critical information to locate her best friend. Because data privacy is a hot topic.
  • And none of the investigation matters: During the investigation, the PCs have gotten half a dozen copies of the same lead: that Hurondo was last seen investigating the homes of his patients in the Spike. BUT WAIT. Nothing in the Respite matters because, holy deus ex machina, the gang that kidnapped Hurondo literally shows up to lead the PCs back to their HQ.
  • Wherein Uniter recruits drive the locomotive railroading the plot: So the Uniter recruits are currently advertising for a new medical clinic. But when the PCs catch them, the adventure doesn't assume that the PCs will ask about the Clinic. No, that would, you know, make sense. Instead, the adventure assumes that the two recruits will, UNPROMPTED, blurt out that the Uniters have someone that the Society would want to trade for. Oh, and the recruits otherwise know absolutely nothing about the Uniters and its association with the Open Collective. Oh, and if the PCs fail to capture the Uniters recruits, the adventure has this to say: "If the PCs failed to obtain the necessary information, they can return to the Respite to continue questioning other visitors who will eventually reveal Hurondo’s location, though this takes more time." So, uh, someone just randomly remembers "Oh yeah, Hurondo was kidnapped by the Uniters".

  • Descriptive text is lacking: There are a number of places where the descriptive text or scene setting for an area misses key details. Hints as to who you can talk to outside the Respite are entirely absent. What does the Respite look like? Etc
  • Many many editing mistakes: So many that the adventure is difficult to read at times. Sentences cut off early, some paragraphs are duplicated with minor changes (see pg 4 and Razda's double explanation of the medical clinic in the Spike), the same info shows up in multiple places while other info is missing.
  • Maps are in the wrong places: Both are about two pages ahead of their associated text, requiring flipping around.

  • Space Slime

    5/5

    Great scenario!
    Nice encounters, where the bad guys might not be, and the person you are seeking is seeking himself and changing... and then a creepy end exploration/fight.
    Quite "different" and original.
    I liked it a lot (both as player and GM).


    Good Effort but a major bummer

    3/5

    This is another of the scenarios in the recent realm of scenarios exploring serious ideas like Post Traumatic Stress disorder.

    My issue with this is that the issues at play are largely played for laughs and the main character of interest here has a very thin story that is on rails and it's sort of dissatisfying.

    The plot ends up feeling a bit chunky as it starts off sort of dark and goes I think far too light by the end only for the epilogue to bring things back down. This scenario is just sort of a bummer for that reason.

    There is a fun fight scenario towards the end but the investigation was a bit difficult to portray in ways that were engaging for the players - especially in my case I ran it for a few players who had no real frame of reference for psychology and therapy and had true difficulty trying to figure out how to engage with the material. This made the material educational but -- it turned the whole issue of Post Traumatic Stress into funny material for those players and that strikes me as tricky.


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    RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32

    Hey its releasing on my birthday no less!

    Paizo Employee Starfinder Society Developer

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    Maps appearing in this adventure:

    Two custom half-page maps.


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    Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Society Subscriber

    A missing vet, a tour of the city's underworld, a long trip into seedy darkness? Did Kiel Howell watch a bunch of Film Noir before writing this?

    RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32

    thecursor wrote:

    A missing vet, a tour of the city's underworld, a long trip into seedy darkness? Did Kiel Howell watch a bunch of Film Noir before writing this?

    I definitely have an appreciation for the genre!

    RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32

    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    First review 5 stars?! Hooray!

    Sovereign Court

    1 person marked this as a favorite.
    theheadkase wrote:
    First review 5 stars?! Hooray!

    Nicely done!

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