My favourite part of Truth Keepers, and what makes it stand out from every other PFS and SFS scenario I’ve played or run, is that it doesn’t start with a briefing. Instead, as I’ve often advocated, it departs from the conventional format and tries something different. The PCs begin in a bar on Absalom Station called Seeker’s Respite. The idea is that this is a favourite spot for Starfinders between missions to socialise with their fellow agents. Adding such a location to the setting makes the idea of the Starfinder Society seem more “real,” and is surely a place that can be utilised in future stories. The scenario provides an interesting bartender for the place (a witchwyrd) and several different brief role-playing/skill check scenes (only a few of which are used in each run) to get the PCs socialising. In a fun addition, two of the scenes involve NPCs who were the “losing” candidates in the election for First Seeker in # 2-07 Four for the First (glad to see they haven’t been forgotten!).
Suddenly, there’s an explosion and the sound of gunfire outside! Rushing out to the street, the PCs see a Starfinder Society cargo escort team under attack from several unknown assailants. Once the PCs intervene to save the day (with the help of one of three randomly-chosen NPC agents), Venture-Captain Naiaj contacts them and explains what’s going on. The attackers were members of a secret society in the Veskarium called the Keepers of the Lie—-a group that believe the “Gap” is a hoax or conspiracy, and that there was never anything before it. The attack the PCs witnessed was just a distraction, as the Keepers have actually succeeded in stealing a (randomly determined) recently acquired, pre-Gap magical artifact from a docked SFS vessel. As the Keepers have already made it into the Drift, Naiaj says she’s sending the PCs to Vesk Prime to track them down before they can figure out how to destroy it (magical artifacts being pretty much indestructible by definition, after all). In an interesting addition, if there are four or fewer PCs in the group, Naiaj assigns the NPC that helped the group in the battle to come with them for the duration of the scenario. It all comes together nicely to make the scenario start out with a bang instead of the conventional “sit through some exposition” opening for scenarios. Free idea to Paizo writers: have a SFS scenario start in media res as the PCs’ ship is crash-landing on an unknown planet; the scenario can skip the mission briefing altogether, since the mission is obvious: survive until rescue!
The journey through the drift is uneventful, apart from a little tidbit referencing the brass dragon Zafeldrin of Triaxus from a memorable past scenario. When the PCs’ starship arrives on Vesk Prime, there are some meaningless skill checks to get through security and then they meet Paxel, the memorable vesk commander of the Veskarium’s Division of Disloyal Organizations. The repeatable nature of the scenario works well here, as Paxel presents the group with a randomised selection of leads (3 out of a group of 6) for tracking down the Keepers of the Lie. Each of these leads involves some role-playing and a few skill checks, and the scenario does an excellent job incorporating and expanding on what we know about Vesk Prime and the organisational structure of the Veskarium. I particularly liked the “skitteracracy” (skittermander bureaucracy) in one of the investigations. Again, there are little bits of previous SFS lore dropped into the scenario, such as one of the NPCs being the pawnbroker Julzakama’s cousin; Truth Keepers was obviously written by someone who paid attention to previous stories! The PCs need to return to Paxel after completing each of the three leads, and at one point they’re ambushed by Keeper of the Lie agents.
Although the first part of the scenario is really innovative, the second half is pretty pedestrian. The leads point to an “abandoned military research station” that the Keepers of the Lie are holed up in. This is the Starfinder equivalent of a dungeon crawl (just trudging through a complex instead of a cave network). There’s nothing particularly wrong with it, but it’s fairly forgettable (and the randomised elements here are just the different mix of Keeper agents that are encountered). As an aside, I wish the awkward treasure drops could be avoided--they’re really not necessary and always appear forced. Once the PCs reach the final room and fight off some more Keeper agents, they’ll find the purely Macguffin artifact and can head home.
I wish the second half of Truth Keepers could have been as strong as the first half. I do appreciate the attention to setting detail and past SFS adventures. I’m not confident it succeeds entirely as a repeatable scenario. Overall, the scenario mixes some really clever elements with some uninspired choices, but I’d say it’s still worth playing.