A Starfinder Society Scenario designed for levels 7-10.
Having claimed the Scoured Stars system at their own, the dreaded and xenophobic jinsuls have declared a war of hostile reclamation against the other surviving species that fled the Scoured Stars long ago.
Led by First Seekers Jadnura and Luwazi Elsebo, the Starfinder Society rallies its fleet in defense of the jinsuls' primary target: the people of the Kreiholm Freehold. As part of the initial counterattack, the PCs find themselves in a key position to strike at the jinsuls' leader, change the course of the war, and set the stage for the final climactic showdown with the jinsuls.
Content in The Herald's War follows up on the events of Starfinder Society #1-99: The Scoured Stars Invasion, though playing the previous scenario is not required. Content in this scenario also contributes to the ongoing goals of the Second Seekers (Jadnura) faction, the Second Seeker (Luwazi Elsebo) faction, and to the ongoing year of the Scoured Stars storyline.
The Herald's War is an exciting, cinematic scenario that definitely evokes some big-action Star Wars vibes. It serves well as a lead-in to the big capstone special (# 2-00: "Fate of the Scoured God") that provides a conclusion to the long-running Season 1 story-arc. No one can complain that this one moves at too sedate a pace!
Major events are afoot when the briefing aboard a Starfinder battleship (with First Seekers Jadnura and Luwazi Elsebo) begins. A full jinsul battle fleet, led by a commander named Hierarch Kraaton, has arrived in the Saruuq-Ruaan system to invade the Kreiholm Freehold! The Kreiholm Freehold was introduced in # 1-29, and it's a federation of various alien cultures that fled the Scoured Stars. As the Starfinder Society is assembling a fleet to strike deep in the Scoured Stars system to end the threat of the jinsul, they want the PCs to help turn back the invasion and persuade the Kreiholm to join an alliance to later take the offensive.
When the Starfinder fleet (and the PCs) emerge from the Drift, they arrive in the midst of a massive space battle! Given their usual Pegasus or Drake, the PCs are charged with handling a pair of new jinsul starfighters that have proved especially problematic to contain. This plays out as a 1 vs 2 starship combat, with a twist in that several hexes of the flip-mat represent dangerous zones of engagement between allied and jinsul battle cruisers--if the PCs' vessel enters one of these hexes, they risk taking damage. I liked the concept here (making the battlefield more interesting), though when I played, we just stayed away from those threatened zones and they didn't really matter. My views on starship combat in general are pretty well known (hate it!), but this one's probably a little better than most.
The jinsul fleet withdraws to regroup, allowing the PCs to undertake their next task: meeting with the Kreiholm Freehold council and persuading them to join a full alliance with the Starfinder Society. This takes the form of the usual "persuade a certain number of NPCs by using various skill checks" system, but I liked how this one was handled. There's no time (in-story) for everyone to chat with everyone, so each PC has to pick one council member and give it their best try. That means no hiding between a party face, there's room for everyone to role-play, the process moves quickly, and everyone's contribution is valuable. The various council members are given interesting personalities and a variety of skill checks are useful for each one. The only thing I would have *really* liked here was a visual line-up of all five council members--instead, we only get a headshot of one and a recycled picture of another. When dealing with all sorts of strange alien races, it's much better if the GM can point to which alien is talking and even set a PC's token to indicate who is talking to whom.
After the meeting, the PCs have a quick debriefing with Jadnura and Luwazi Elsebo to discuss strategy. The plan is for the Starfinder fleet (hopefully aided by the Kreiholm fleet) to attack the nearby jinsul fleet and provide enough of a distraction for the PCs to board the jinsul flagship. There, they need to effectively assassinate the jinsul fleet commander, Hierarch Kraaton. The approach to the jinsul flagship is handled in a good way through several quick hazards (and associated skill checks)--though, to be honest, whether the PCs do well or poorly doesn't really impact the rest of the scenario very much.
After landing in the flagship's hangar bay, the PCs then need to battle several jinsul engineers and a "praetorian" who has the cool ability to negate an envoy's improvisation abilities. The mission is on a timer though (thirty in-game minutes), so afterwards the PCs need to figure the fastest but safest route to the bridge. Three different options (and associated skill checks are presented), but, reading through, it really doesn't make much of a difference which is chosen. Even if the PCs choose the slowest route and fail all the associated skill checks, they still arrive with 5 minutes to spare. If PCs do really well and finish with at least 10 minutes to spare, I guess they could take a rest to recover some stamina, but that's about it. One nice touch during the approach, hangar battle, and journey to the bridge is that the scenario provides all sorts of "radio chatter" to help describe what's going on with the huge space battle outside--with most of the different SFS venture-captains represented. I thought it was a really fun way to help add to the drama and tension (if a GM remembers to use it!).
The big finish on the bridge of the jinsul ship is great. My favourite moment was being genuinely shocked that after defeating the hierarch (who's no slouch!), his body becomes possessed by a divine herald Kadrical (Dhurus) for another (extremely nasty) fight! It was a great "oh, crap" moment, and a good reminder that even when you think you've seen it all in PFS/SFS, the scenarios can still surprise you. Assuming the PCs survive, they're able to depart the flagship and the Starfinder/Kreiholm fleet succeed in driving the jinsuls into a disorganized retreat. A perfect lead-in to the events of # 2-00.
That would be the natural place to end the scenario, but instead there's more! There's a long scene where Iteration-177 appears and confesses his secret: he's also one of the divine heralds of Kadrical, named Ailuros. It's a cool reveal, and I have to give the writers and developers credit for nicely integrating several season-long threads (the jinsuls, the Kreiholm Freehold, Iteration-177, and more) into a satisfying story. I might suggest the timing of Iteration-177's reveal isn't ideal (everyone thinks the scenario is over and is wrapping up), but the concept is sound.
Overall, although there are some flaws, this was a thrilling, well-done scenario. It might be one I'll spend a carefully-hoarded replay on.
This scenario really does a good job of showing the high stakes of the Society's impending showdown with the Jinsuls. I liked just about everything in the scenario. I think for the influence scene I would have liked a handout/overview of the people present though, because it's a bit of an avalanche of information. That presentation could be improved.
This is a terrific scenario to finish out season 1. There is a nice balance of starship combat, regular combats, social skills, and other skills. This scenario has it all. We played low-tier with a strong combat party (3 9th level, 3 8th level, and 1 7th level); 3 operatives, 2 soldiers, melee mystic, and technomancer.
The starship combat has the potential to be really challenging for the players if they roll poorly and the GM rolls well. I can see some tables losing this combat.
Details on Starship Combat:
If the player starship is caught in the forward arc of both jinsul starships, the jinsul could conceivably do a lot of damage in a single round. The jinsul gunners are competent and, if they use the computer bonuses, will hit at least 50% of the time. The jinsul have the potential to fire three weapons in their forward arc (with the captain acting as a gunner). Let’s assume that both masers hit (with above average luck), one linked coilgun hits, and one coilgun hit, that works out to 2*33 + 20 + 10 = 96 damage. That will punch through the 40 point shield and 56 of 100 hull points (for the tier 8 Drake).
The social encounter works well since it is a single round, although success seems to rely heavily on successful Sense Motive checks by the PCs. (My players were quite relieved that this social encounter wasn’t going to be like Siege of Civility.)
The section for approaching the command carrier was a lot of fun. The players spent a fair amount of time deciding on how best to allocate the PCs against each series of skill checks. Once they got the hang of it, this went smoothly. The only thing I would change is to lower the DCs for the gunnery checks; PCs can’t improve gunnery like they can other skills.
The first combat was really easy for the PCs (in part because my dice were cold). The PCs could have won even more quickly if the technomancer had dropped explosive blast spells on the grouped-up jinsul. This combat seemed designed for an easy victory by the PCs.
The various options for navigating to the command center were nicely set up. The group quickly decided on the stealthy option and then cast 5 invisibility spells.
Unfortunately, the command center room description doesn’t include the height of the platform; I assumed a height of 5 feet to allow the hierarch to see the PCs enter the room. (In the GM thread, the author stated a height of 15 feet, but then positions need to be modified so that the hierarch can see the PCs.)
The combat was entertaining, though the PCs easily won:
The PCs arrived at the command center with invisibility still up. I gave the PCs one round to move the invisible creatures and then gave the hierarch and his allies a Perception check. The hierarch easily recognized what was happening and combat was initiated.
The hierarch, unfortunately, went last in the initiative order and was killed before acting by 3 operative trick attacks and arcing surge from the technomancer. The praetorians were quickly dispatched as well. The players really enjoyed the fact that the encounter wasn’t over with the rise of Dhurus. That battle was slightly more challenging as Dhurus is fairly well built and can do a lot of damage.
Dhurus won initiative and opened with the ichor spray catching three PCs in the attack. The PCs responded by inflicting over half of Dhurus’s hit points in their first round. Then Dhurus used his bonus action to bite one melee combatant and reposition her away (negating that character’s ability to full attack) and then used multiattack on the remaining melee combatant. The multiattack could really do serious damage and take PCs out of the fight (a nice touch in a boss fight), but my dice went cold again. Dhurus was then easily killed before acting again.
The players enjoyed the wrap-up. The arrival of reinforcements played out well and is a wonder lead-in to the season 2 special.
pg.18 Action Boost (Su) Dhurus can spend 1 Resolve Point to take an additional move action, standard action, or swift action at its initiative count –10.
Question is: can he spent all his 6 RPs in one turn to take 6 Action Boost standard action (attacks) in one go?