Starfinder Society Intro #1: The First Test

3.70/5 (based on 3 ratings)

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A Starfinder Society Scenario designed for levels 1-2.

The newest batch of hopeful Starfinders have finished with their training, and are ready to join the organization as full-fledged agents—if they can impress Guidance!

Written by: Jason Keeley

Scenario tags: Repeatable

[Scenario Maps spoiler - click to reveal]

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

  • Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Tech Dungeon
  • Note: This product is part of the Starfinder Society Scenario Subscription.

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    3.70/5 (based on 3 ratings)

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    Poor Plotting and Anti-Climactic

    2/5

    NO SPOILERS

    Last year, Paizo published two "Intro Scenarios" for Starfinder Society. Although oddly the scenarios themselves don't explain it, these are designed as first experiences for new players to Starfinder and the organised play campaign. I ran Intro Scenario # 1, The First Test, for a group of four players (three of whom had never played Starfinder before, and one of whom had never played an RPG at all). Frankly, I just didn't think it was a very good introductory adventure. There's little exposition on what the Starfinder Society is, what its agents do, or the different types of adventures they may have. The particular adventure in the scenario is pretty forgettable, and ends just as most players would expect it to start getting interesting. And although ostensibly containing random elements for replayability, those elements are so small that the scenario wouldn't feel very different the second time around. I would strongly suggest GMs stick with The Commencement for new players.

    SPOILERS!:

    The premise of The First Test is that the PCs have completed their training to become Starfinder Society members, and have one final test to complete before officially graduating. Guidance provides the briefing that lays out the group's mission: travel to the source of a strange, garbled transmission in the Vast and make first contact with any sapient life that is there. From the very get go, this seems like a dubious idea. The background to the scenario takes a little dig at The Commencement by saying that under its new leadership, recruits will no longer be tested "in small missions around Absalom Station", which is fine, but one would think that first contact with an alien race would be a pretty big deal, something best not left to a random group of unsupervised near-graduates. On the other hand, I do see the value in setting sense aside and getting the PCs out into space in a game called Starfinder. Regardless, I find it really odd that seemingly-vital information about the transmission is left to the randomness of Culture/Diplomacy checks rather than being conveyed by Guidance, who would by necessity have all of the information already.

    Before the PCs depart Absalom Station, they learn that their vessel isn't quite ready. They're able to speed up the departure time by taking part in several tasks like negotiating a launch window or repairing the ship's landing gear. Each of these tasks can be accomplished through role-playing or skill checks, and they reminded me of the little mustering activities that the PFS/SFS specials often have for players while they wait for the table to be filled. I think they work really well here, as they give new players an introduction to a part of the game (skill checks) and an early chance to feel that they've accomplished something.

    Although I often say that scenario writers should make better use of the long journeys through the Drift that stories in Starfinder often require, I can see from The First Test why that can be problematic. There's a random list of Drift events that the PCs will encounter on the way to the source of the transmission--some interesting things, like an enormous wormlike creature wriggling through the void or a transparent bubble containing an idyllic field of green grass and an ancient-looking white marble pergola. But although they're really intriguing, the scenario can't provide any real depth or detail about them without getting the story derailed. It then sort of boils down to "hey, there's something cool out the window! I guess we better keep going though".

    When the PCs arrive at the source of the transmission, they see it's emanating from an unknown planet. The particular point on the planet's surface is in a randomised biome, but the randomisation doesn't matter beyond whatever brief flavour the GM can add and a change to the special ability of a creature encountered later in the scenario. The PCs will instantly discover that the signal is coming from a seemingly-abandoned underground complex. In game terms, this means we're in dungeon crawl territory, as each room contains one (randomly selected) clue that PCs might find to help them figure out what this place is/was, along with a couple of traps and monsters. There's one encounter with undead that forced my group to flee--DR 2 seems trivial, but when weapons do 1d4 damage at Level 1, it can be a real problem!

    To my mind, the clues were poorly chosen because they quickly dispel any sense of spookiness or mystery in pouring over the exotic remnants of a lost alien civilisation, and instead are almost downright silly, mundane things all too familiar in the real world: a stuffed toy, a faded brochure, a datapad with a tourist's map, etc. The long and short of the situation is that this complex was a small tourist destination for spelunking adventures among a species called the Kyyros. After several seismic events, the Khyyros abandoned the station, but their civilisation still thrives unhindered on the planet and they hold a level of technological advancement similar to the Pact Worlds. There's an inexplicable hole in this premise, because when the PCs arrived at the planet, their ship's sensors found no signs of sapient life and presumably that included things like energy signatures, other broadcasts, etc.. That might be plausible if Khyyros didn't live on the surface, but we know they must live on the surface because the seismic activity makes delving underground dangerous!

    The problem is magnified when the PCs inevitably stumble upon a group of Khyyrents on their way out of the station. The Khyyrents, bat-like humanoids with four eyes, communicate through a combination of oral speech and blinking. The nature of the group that has come is randomly-selected (they might be scholars, scavengers, pilgrims, etc.) but the result doesn't really make any difference in the outcome of the encounter. If the PCs manage to communicate back through pantomime and the like, the Khyyrents don't attack. But if the PCs do manage to communicate (especially with a spell like share language), the scenario doesn't give any information on what the Khyyrents have to say! After all, the PCs will have a world's worth of questions, but all the GM is told is that the Khyyrents will explain that the mysterious transmission was simply an inadvertently broadcast signal stating that the station was closed to visitors.

    And then that's it. The PCs are expected to promptly depart, and I guess leave everything else to a subsequent team. It's a bizarre way to think of a "first contact" situation, as the scenario basically ends anti-climatically just as it's really getting started, and the GM is left in the lurch both with how to respond to the PCs' questions (especially with the plot difficulties) and how to give them the hint that it's time to pack up and go.

    I've been harsh on The First Test, but I kind of think the scenario deserves it. The Starfinder Society Organized Play Campaign has been around long enough to have a sense of what new players need to learn at the beginning, and how to give them an exciting, memorable experience. But if this is someone's entry to Starfinder, they certainly haven't received the best that the game has to offer.


    Good balance

    5/5

    As someone new to Starfinder I was concerned I'd be confused starting at season 4, but the scenario did a good job of showing what starfinders are about and what they do.

    Not sure how much repeatability variation there is but I'd play it again.


    Short and sweet!

    4/5

    So my run of this took one and half hour, though might depend on your party. Mine did banter a lot between each other and discuss findings, but combats took very short time so yeah. I do really like this scenario though, it works really as new player intro, it does well introducing of what typical starfinder mission is supposed to be like there is lot of nice exploration in this one :D

    My only nitpick is:
    while I do love first contact scenarios, the problem with language barrier is that its bit hard to roleplay extended scene without shared language :'D So as result the first contact scene was fairly short in my run.

    Something else to add is that I love randomization options in this one :D


    Paizo Employee Organized Play Associate

    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    Announced for May! Cover and product description are not final and are subject to change.


    Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

    Aha! This was truly needed.


    Very excited to see this in action!

    Paizo Employee Organized Play Associate

    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    Cover and map list updated.

    Dark Archive

    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    At first I was like "is that a nelentu" then I realized "ah no its probably grioth" then I was like "but while it does have four eyes and lanky build, grioths had seperate limbs for wings and arms" so I'm back to being confused x'D

    Liberty's Edge

    Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps Subscriber

    Will they also be for sale on Roll20?

    Paizo Employee Organized Play Associate

    Anorak wrote:
    Will they also be for sale on Roll20?

    As always, that decision is up to Roll20; they have access to all our assets, so if you want them made available, ask them directly!


    2 people marked this as a favorite.
    Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
    CorvusMask wrote:
    At first I was like "is that a nelentu" then I realized "ah no its probably grioth" then I was like "but while it does have four eyes and lanky build, grioths had seperate limbs for wings and arms" so I'm back to being confused x'D

    Turns out they're a new species!

    Liberty's Edge

    Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps Subscriber

    Finally got to play this! Now to run it!

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