A Starfinder Society Scenario designed for levels 5-8.
The Wayfinders' flagship, the Master of Stars, is almost ready to return to active duty within the Starfinder fleet, however one integral component is missing. In order to gather necessary technological expertise to complete the missing piece, the PCs must join the Wayfinders' faction leader on a diplomatic mission into the heavily militarized Gideron Authority Republic in Near Space. How the PCs comport themselves will determine if the Society can establish peaceful ties and possibly affect the ongoing saga of the brewing conflict between the Authority and the peaceful Marixah Republic.
Content in Siege of Civility also contributes to the ongoing goals of the Wayfinders faction. It also builds on events in Starfinder Society #1-24: Siege of Enlightenment, though playing that scenario is not necessary to enjoy this product.
But yeah, I like the scenario and concept of it, even if I think the starfinder society has habit of befriending militaristic/aggressive/fascist/imperialistic states too much lately for their personal benefit, but it has the usual problem of "high tier dcs are insane in society scenarios" problem.
Like it just feels really bad when party who would have succeeded at secondary success condition fails the primary condition by one roll :'D
I do think later versions of influence encounters did improve on this by allowing more skills to be used, but I really dislike the cumulative skill penalty because its really punishing for characters who don't have as high skill bonus and that aspect wasn't gotten away with in later iterations of same system.
I played Siege of Civility with the Iconic Witchwarper. Perhaps ironically given where the scenario takes place, this one is *heavy* on the role-playing. There's potentially a little combat, but depending on what the PCs do, it may not happen at all. This isn't a complaint, just an observation. If you're expecting a thrilling guns-blazing adventure, I'd pick another scenario. But if you're looking for a scenario with plenty of opportunities for quality role-playing, then this one would be a good choice.
Siege of Civility continues a minor storyline began in # 1-24 (Siege of Enlightenment), which introduced two rival starfaring nations in Near Space: the Marixah Republic and the Gideron Authority. As their very names imply, one's a multicultural democracy while the other is an expansionist military aggressor. Perhaps surprisingly, but not necessarily wrongly, the Starfinder Society has remained strictly neutral and is willing to make deals with either one if it aids in exploration and historical investigation. At stake in this scenario, however, is something less lofty: the Society's flagship, Master of Stars, is almost complete but needs Drift technology that only the Gideron Authority possesses. Thus, the PCs are asked to travel to an Authority military fortress and take part in diplomatic negotiations with several of their high-ranking leaders to persuade them to part with the technology. The briefing is delivered by Venture-Captain Fitch, and although I sometimes complain about briefers not having much personality, she's a good counter-example: as a working parent, Fitch is grateful for a vacation from her kids and will accompany the Starfinders on the mission!
The scenario has three main parts.
The first part consists of diplomatic negotiations with the Authority leaders. The way this is done will be familiar to most SFS/PFS players, as each NPC is susceptible to persuasion by a particular set of skill checks and types of arguments, each PC gets a certain number of skill checks (with a bonus for good role-playing), and success is determined by winning over a certain number of the NPCs. I think Siege of Civility does a fairly good job fleshing out the NPCs, as each receives artwork, a background, and some personality.
The second part is an optional combat, and it's the only combat in the scenario! The PCs are invited to take part in a tactical combat exercise against an elite Authority battle squad. The combat takes place in a special arena with some fun features, such as walkways that speed movement in one direction but slow it in another, random bursts of energy attacks, and so forth. The arena is also ensorcelled to prevent anyone from dying, so it's a risk-free event. I remember having a blast with the Iconic Witchwarper during the fight. The PCs don't have to agree to take part--they receive both some bonuses and some penalties on persuasion checks in the next part of the scenario if they do, but there are a lot of credits on the line in the Chronicle for participating (and winning), so the choice isn't completely unconstrained.
The third part is another round of negotiations, played out in identical fashion to the first part.
There's a little subplot with a spy from the Marixah Republic disguised as a waiter. The PCs can flush out the spy (or report her to the Authority's intelligence chief) and gain an advantage in the negotiations. I'm surprised there's no repercussions or blowback from Society agents interceding in the on-going rivalry/war and, probably, getting someone executed. This bit could have been thought through more carefully in terms of its political and moral implications (and potentially used to add some more intrigue and depth to the scenario).
Obviously, this is a heavy RP-oriented scenario. It's a type of story that *really* depends on having a good GM to bring the various NPCs to life and draw out some good interaction from the players. I love me some role-playing, but frankly I got a bit bored during the second phase of negotiations when I realised it was exactly the same set-up as the first phase. It's also probably not a good type of scenario for new players, as they may be expecting some fast-paced slam-bang adventure in space, only to find more of a "chat with business associates at a cocktail party" type of session. (I don't think the two new players we had at the session came back). On the other hand, I definitely respect the effort to have a scenario that can be legitimately completed with absolutely no violence (and even pacifist characters could probably have fun with the demonstration match). The writer also does a good job describing the Authority's military headquarters and its leading personalities, thus helping to flesh out some more setting lore.
Overall, I'd say this falls in the "know your GM, know your players" territory. Some groups are going to bliss out on the great role-playing that can emerge, where others will be disappointed that there aren't more doors to kick down and monsters to blast.
I ran this for a low-tier table where everyone was neatly in-tier. That made the skill checks doable, but still tough. The players managed to wrangle a complete success out of it at the last moment. Level 5-6 seems to be where Starfinder DCs still work okay, beyond that the differences between skill-heavy and skill-poor classes really start to grate. Also, given how steeply skill DCs scale, playing up in a skill-heavy Starfinder scenario is not recommended. So, it was happy that my party was all of the same subtier.
I think you get out of this scenario what you put into it as GM. It's more a mood piece than a gauntlet of combats. You talk to a lot of people, and if that's just some dice rolls, then it won't be very interesting. If as the GM you're prepared to go a bit deeper than that and have a conversation, then it works nicely. As players, you don't have to like the people that you're talking to; the GM should have made it clear why you badly need something they have. So yeah, you might get a bit squicky feeling about it, which I don't think is a bad thing.
The combat is a bit too easy, because it dilutes its CR budget too much over too many enemies. But it gives a good "intermission" to break up the talk talk talk.
It bugs me a bit that the scenario doesn't have reporting conditions, because I would have liked to see the choices and promises the PCs make have more long-lasting consequences.
Overall I think it's good in the hands of a GM who can handle it, but you do need to invest some extra RP effort into it.
I played through the first part of this adventure with a 5th level character in the 7-8 subtier. I left the table about an hour into the adventure.
This review won't be able to gauge at all the quality of the combat encounters or the overall adventure, but the elements that I were presented with were so intolerable that leaving the game (with the general permission of the GM and the rest of the party) was the only option to enjoy myself.
Normally I'm the one of the strongest advocates for any social scenario or any scenario that has a stronger emphasis on skill checks and roleplay rather than combat. This scenario made design choices that made it completely unpalatable for me.
There are two adventure design elements that made me leave the table. The first was that the DCs felt outrageous. The second, and the more major reason, was that failing checks made skill checks harder for the party and would lock out attempts from everyone else.
After commentary the GM revealed that within this 7-8 subtier that the DCs for success started around 27. Even though I had a 5th level character in this high level table, coming in I felt like I would be able to contribute as I had an 18 dexterity/18 intelligence technomancer with a number of maxed out skills. However, even this only put me at +12 or +13 on my best skills. Although I would have been a better match for these skills with a few more levels, I know that my higher level Soldier character would have a had an incredibly difficult time hitting this high DCs even with any roleplay bonuses. In addition, 27 was about the lowest interaction DCs the scenario offered. Some characters were harder to interact with and DCs scaled up even higher as attempts were made. My biggest contribution during this was to make untrained Sense Motive checks against various characters, roll high, and get more information for other party members.
The worst part about this encounter though was that skill check failures affected the entire party. After a few attempts a character would refuse to allow other PCs to interact with them. I very quickly realized that, if I was doing more than aiding another, I was liability to the party would make the mission harder rather than help the group.
As a GM I worked very hard over the years to get players playing non skill based characters to interact with NPCs in this events with the message that all they could do is help. This adventure flips that on it's head and I would argue it is toxic just because of that.
This might have been an attempt to make a harder social scenario, but this fell entirely flat to me and I would encourage others to avoid this scenario.