Starfinder Society Scenario #2-24: Cornered Rat

4.20/5 (based on 5 ratings)

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A Starfinder Society Quest designed for levels 9-12 (subtiers 9-10 & 11-12).

Beginning to glean the full insidious scheme enacted by its current foe, the Starfinder Society mounts a full-scale offensive against a recently discovered outpost in the Diaspora asteroid belt. Sending a powerful fleet and scores of experienced agents, the Society strikes out to learn the truth of its year-long foe: the mysterious and charismatic ysoki known as Datch. Within the Diasporan facility, the secrets of Datch's dastardly plan are laid bare and its full threat to the Starfinder Society and Pact Worlds will be revealed!

Written by: Mikko Kallio

Scenario tags: Faction (Second Seekers [Luwazi Elsebo]), Starship

[Scenario Maps spoiler - click to reveal]

The following maps used in this scenario are also available for purchase here on paizo.com:

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

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Average product rating:

4.20/5 (based on 5 ratings)

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Solid outing, good combat, great encounters, but definitely not perfect

3/5

Cornered Rat was a lot of fun to run. I think my players had a good time. My prep process, though, wasn't a lot of fun

Strong points

First, I think you have to mention the combats. There are two: one is solid (or a little better), and the second is excellent. A single boss with excellent tactical options and lots of variety! These are the kinds of combat encounters I want to see more of.

I'm not a fan of starship combat in general, but even I can say the starship combat was just fine. That probably means it's pretty good!

The exploration mechanics, both on the way in and on the way through, were really well done. Just enough there to keep people guessing.

Weak points
The plot tries to tie a lot together into a nice shiny bow. It's not easy, and when you've got a storyline that's been going on as long as this one it's really hard to do well. The scenario does make the attempt, and I'd call it average, but not a particularly wonderful success. Rather than naturally developing answers, there's a lot of "narrative in a can" style reveals. (You surmount challenges and then you encounter a "narrative can" that you open up to get narrative!) It's not particularly engaging or anything, and it relies on the players to bring their own enthusiasm around the importance of the reveal. That said, with so many threads to weave into a coherent whole, this wasn't an easy task. The scenario doesn't fail--it's fine--it's just not better than fine.

Preparing the adventure, I saw that the development was also really solid right up until it fell down in one specific place.

Spoiler:
That maze! Ugh!

Okay, so: the maze was very well-conceived. The mechanics are fine. Forgetting to communicate the things on the map that only were supposed to exist on the map was kind of a problem. There are labels, one of which is missing, many more of which are clearly not in the right place. The intersections, supposedly labeled, were never added to the map. That leaves it up to the GM to solve the maze during prep, identify their own intersections (that have implications because of the timer the players are on!) and so forth.

It doesn't even have to be on the map, because if the text had simply stated how many intersections there were between each of the defined challenges we could have made it work anyway. The rules for moving through the maze are really good in that sense!

Since I'm on the topic of the maze: outside of the map situation, things were good. One possible improvement is that I thought asking the players for a direction at each intersection was really awkward in the absence of information. Ideally, there's no real information about either turn. This could lead to the party choosing correctly, completely randomly, and then missing out on loot the way some of the loot appeared in dead-ends. I think there are two possible avenues to go: first, get rid of the interactive asking of directions portion and force the PCs down dead-end paths in narrative, then allow checks for them to avoid the time penalties. Second, we could write some box text for major intersections to at least make the PC choices at least somewhat informed. Since this maze was only a portion of the adventure, it doesn't make sense to develop any particularly heavy systems to support a lot of classic maze-resolution strategy IMO, but it also felt wrong to make the players make completely arbitrary decisions.

Overall
This is a really solid adventure. I'd normally rate it 4 stars. Due to the... "complication" referenced in the spoiler, I think this is probably a 3-star scenario for me. Of course, once you do the work to address the spoiler, it's 4 stars worth of enjoyment.


A swiss watch of a big story beat

5/5

Overall, the metaplot of year 2 developed far far too slowly for my taste and the time taken to reveal the obvious led me to believe I was going to regard the entire experiment as something of a failure, especially after Shades of Spite just sort of...existed.

This one however really worked overtime to correct that. The subtle references to current events made this scenario feel like an episode of Homeland crossed with the sort of epic science fantasy adventure you've come to expect from Starfinder.

This scenario even made masterful use of elements that usually bring a scenario grinding to a halt - skill challenge "chase" sequences, starship combat, even freeform GM-improvised maze-crawling all used well in spite of player expectations to the contrary.

Overall very well done - did as well as it could to salvage a poorly realized meta-plot in the 11th hour headed into the special.


5/5

Player review:
This scenario was great. It served as a great finisher of the dispassion storyline and delivered good background on Datch.
Mechanically it has one of the best spaceshipcombats and a very interesting boss encounter. The skill challenges fest fair, but the scaling of the saves in that challenge was weird as they used the same table as the skills.


Out With A Whisper

3/5

I GMed this for 9-10 subtier.

With a title like “Cornered Rat,” you would expect the final scenario of Season 2: Year of a Thousand Bites to be a bombastic and explosive affair that sends First Seeker Luwazi Elsebo off with applause. However, despite the scenario’s drama and panache, written by Starfinder veteran Mikko Kallio, it fails to make a lasting impact.

Mechanically, Cornered Rat is a serviceable scenario. Nothing is particularly noteworthy or impressive, but the various encounters flow into each other well, and the challenges are varied and interesting. The starship combat includes elements of tactical interest, the time pressure on the base raid adds an element of narrative urgency, and the final encounter has an appropriate grandiosity to it. Indeed, the final fight is rather fun on both sides of the screen, and the foes have a number of unique and interesting mechanics. The scenario’s mechanics are not without their faults, however, and I found the middle section rather confusing and difficult to understand. Navigating the enemy’s base could have been explained more clearly, and aided by a map that wasn’t so zoomed out or difficult to read.

Where Cornered Rat really encounters issues, however, is its storytelling. Cornered Rat is intended to be the final mission for First Seeker Luwazi Elsebo, the last hooray to vanquish the foe that threatens the Starfinder Society that she and her allies rescued from the brink of destruction. However, barring a few dramatic flourishes at the beginning and the end, very little of Elsebo or her quarry makes an appearance in Cornered Rat. Indeed, the scenario doesn’t even end with the PCs thwarting their foe, which feels like it deprives characters deeply invested in the Season 2 storyline a substantial story opportunity.

Unfortunately for Cornered Rat, it endeavors to tie up a weak storyline, so its narrative suffers as a result. Season 2 began with an interesting premise, but too much of the mystery lay unrevealed until the final act. It is somewhat disappointing that we only now learn the shape of Datch’s plan and her motivations, when such narrative elements might have been hinted at or referenced throughout the Season 2 story.

In-Depth Story Critique:
It may seem unfair of me to include a critique of the Season 2 metaplot in the review of Cornered Rat, but the scenario is meant to be a conclusion for both the regular season’s story, as well as Luwazi Elsebo’s story, and must be considered in that context. Season 2 raised a few interesting ideas regarding the differences between how the Starfinder Society conducts and perceives itself, and how the general public views its conduct. Unfortunately the missions often boiled down to “generate some good PR,” rather than really reflecting on some of the more interesting questions raised by Datch’s media blitz.

What’s more, the important questions answered in Cornered Rat don’t satisfy. That Datch chose to cast herself as a hero against the Starfinder Society comes somewhat out of left field, as Datch is never really set up in that position. While Datch’s demonization of the Starfinder Society is apparent throughout Season 2, we never see the other part--arguably the more important part--where Datch attempts to play off the negative public perception to bolster her status in AbadarCorp. A few scenes of Datch endorsing the need for increased security within the Pact World in response to the Starfinder Society’s military build-up would not have gone amiss. Furthermore, if Datch’s pettiness was supposed to inform her decision to make the Starfinder Society the villain to her Heroics, that pettiness could have been shown elsewhere in the storyline (and while it may be possible to read her interactions and taunts as pettiness after-the-fact, at the time she often seemed to be more the role of the David Xanatos-style villain--overconfident and assured of her victory).

My largest criticism of Cornered Rat and its position within the Season 2 storyline is that the characters who are conducting this raid, and are arguably invested in concluding both the Season 2 storyline and Luwazi Elsebo’s storyline, don’t actually get a satisfying ending. There is no farewell speech at the end, or really much of the First Seeker at all beyond the mission briefing and a rather forced appearance in the dramatic escape sequence. Luwazi, unless she gets some grand speech in 3-00 The Last Bite, simply shuffles off the stage and into history. While I might forgive the lack of a conclusion in Cornered Rat should I know one is coming in the Season 3 special, the player characters who participated in Cornered Rat cannot also participate in that special for reasons only given in a throwaway line in the scenario’s conclusion section. These characters don’t get the satisfaction of defeating their foe and thwarting her plans, either here or in the special, so there is no actual closure to be had in either the metaplot or the characters’ individual storylines.

Had the plot turned out differently the inability for the senior agents to participate in The Last Bite would be more understandable. Perhaps Datch is captured or defeated in her secret base, only to reveal that she has already launched her masterstroke and that the agents present won’t make it back in time and the Society must rely on their agents back at Absalom Station to put a stop to it. Perhaps Dispassion’s deceptions cripples Luwazi’s war fleet, meaning that she cannot return with her agents in time to stop Datch’s machinations. There are a number of possible conclusions that would make the PCs feel as though they accomplished something while still keeping them out of The Last Bite. But the conclusion written in to Cornered Rat isn’t it, and instead relegates the PCs’ success on the mission to a footnote about how Datch must still be stopped.

Here’s the thing: Had Cornered Rat simply been a standalone scenario, it would be fine. Had it been the conclusion to a short metaplot where the foe was set-up, revealed, and thwarted, it would be fine. However, it is the conclusion of not one, but two storylines, and the lack of a strong resolution for either of them causes the emotional impact of the scenario to land with a thud. Overall Cornered Rat is a middle-of-the road scenario. It's no Bluerise Breakout, but it's not Many Minds of Historia, either. If you like interesting combat, I'd definitely give it a whirl. If story's more your thing, I wouldn't recommend it.


Lots of crunchy flavor

5/5

The starship combat is... as good as starship combat can be. There's terrain and positioning, and the thing thats normally a pain to do is made rather easy to do by avoiding a subsystem

Spoiler:
Not having to track the critical hit effects makes having two starship less brain occupying

The skill challenges are great for getting large numbers of people involved instead of everyone hiding behind the face or someones +26 engineering being nothing more than a masterwork tool because someone else has a +27. It doesn't take up TOO much time if you keep the party moving and running because.. well it IS a raid after all.

The scaling however is NOT good for small parties.

Spoiler:
The combined skill DC and saving throw DC makes the save DCs really out of hand

The you know what is an absolute must in a Rat based dungeon. The Big Bad is a LOT of fun to play, has some really good flavor and abilities that match.

What really makes this fun is all the little bits and parts for your party to interact with and make their own. Along with the deepest and darkest of secrets....


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Announced for May!

Dataphiles

Yuss!


Pathfinder Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Ummm...this looks AWESOME! But, there's no way any of my PCs will have a level 9 character before the special happens this summer. Is there any plan to have a higher level pre-gen for this scenario?


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The special is level 1-8. Head cannon is this is what the high level PCs are doing during the special.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
BigNorseWolf wrote:
The special is level 1-8. Head cannon is this is what the high level PCs are doing during the special.

I.E., they're the Iron Man/Spidey/Strange/Guardians team-up.

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