The Last Refuge (2 of 6) GMs Reference


Attack of the Swarm

Grand Lodge

This is a place for questions and discussion for Book 2,The Last Refuge.

Grand Lodge

This is a spoiler-filled resource thread for GMs running the Attack of the Swarm Adventure Path, specifically for the second adventure, "Last Refuge."

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All GM Threads in this series:

1 - Fate of the Fifth
2 - Last Refuge
3 - Huskworld
4 - Forever Reliquary
5 - Hive of Minds
6 - God-Host Ascends


Has anyone had the chance to run this yet? I am preparing and have a couple of questions:

(1) How does the change in pacing from "we are fighting a losing war" to "we are trying to keep the peace in retreat" feel for PCs? DId your group have any trouble from going from soldiers to (essentially) police?

(2) How did the elements of religious discovery play out for your group? In particular, the main story thrust of the temple of Hylax is discovering this ancient Shirren haven. I think this needs to feel amazing to the party, rather than just a dungeon crawl, and I'm trying to think of how to play it.

Acquisitives

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Played it with my group last month and have to say I don't like it. The first one had a really nice epic military feeling to it. The second one felt more like a row of random "one-day" encounters.
Also the removal of the swarm as the main antagonist is a shame. The pressure and iminent danger you had in the first book is completely gone.
Chapter 1:
The ship "encounters" were fun, but the mutiny plot is totally unbelievable and my players took care of it with a simple "the system is still under Swarm siege, we are still under martial law, you are arrested".

Chapter 2:
The Sabotage-Plot was fun, but the reveal was... again not believable. Here something like "swarm mind control" would be much more intressting and would have brought another dimension to the danger of the swarm: They evolved and are now using stealth and infiltration. Unfortunately it was specificly stated that this isn't the case.

Chapter 3:
Yeah a Dungeon Run...

All in all the 2nd part of the adventure felt more like a "we have to give the players the clue to the mcguffin, let's add some random encounter"
Unfortunately the third book even removed the iminent danger for the suskillon system completely by letting the players travel for several weeks, while the system is under siege.

If I ever replay it, I would do the following changes:
- Remove the mutiny plot, instead add another swarm encounter, maybe in combination with the gremlins or some Swarm creatures which are attached to the hull and the player have to fight them in zero-G
- Let Utraneus be invaded several days after the players land. So you now have an external and an internal threat, spice up the part with some stories about SFD and Utraneus militia holding up against swarm invasions on some archipelegos.
- move the third chapter to one of these archipelegos, the players have to move in clear the cave and extract the data

And for Huskworld: I would put Illemchuuva in the Suskillon System, so the players don't need up to 30 days to reach it...

So far I have to say I'm not very happy with the AP. It was advertised as an epic military campaign against the swarm (something like Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty or Mass Effect 3) but after the first book it's a normal AP...

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Well third book is still military operation :p Also, you can't really space under siege(its reaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaally huge) so them being able to leave system still makes sense, it'd be nonsensical otherwise. I don't have problem with them leaving place for month either since military operations kinda take place over long time anyway, its not like zerg invasions were matter of days. (plus honestly, chuuva system system itself is too cool to remove, your gm probably didn't tell you lot about the other planets, but they are cool stuff really. Like "you could run entire campaign in the solar system" cool stuff)

That said, I do agree with that while second book's point is to give break from fighting swarm, it ends up making the book feel uninterested compared to other books since you don't fight any swarm at all :P So definitely agreeing that Swarm early invasion being part of this book would have been good too.

Acquisitives

Totally agree that the Chuuva System is awesome and could be place of it's own campaign.
I'm curious about the next books, the 4th and 6th sounds nice, but the 5th sounds… metaphysical :D

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

4th book is pretty great roleplaying stuff, but its definitely not military operation, at least until end when it turns to "Hold the line!" mission (for npcs at least ;-;) :D


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Peg'giz wrote:
Played it with my group last month and have to say I don't like it. The first one had a really nice epic military feeling to it. The second one felt more like a row of random "one-day" encounters.

Thanks for the input! This helps firm up my plan. I think I will really play up the psychic pressure of the God Host and the religious elements of Hylax. Make it clear to the players that it's not just military elements at play, but also potential religious elements.

I think I will play up the Fifth Column elements as less "agitators made worse by hidden psychic pressures" and more "the swarm breaking minds." Make the danger of the swarm and the Godhost deeper.

I also think I need to be prepared to explain that the Swarm isn't interested in Utraneus. The Swarm has alien motivations and actions, and its reason for not attacking Utraneus can be hard to understand from a pure military perspective.


Brother Willi wrote:
I also think I need to be prepared to explain that the Swarm isn't interested in Utraneus. The Swarm has alien motivations and actions, and its reason for not attacking Utraneus can be hard to understand from a pure military perspective.

I kinda like that, though, and would play on that, if possible. Make commanders let slip that they don't understand why the Swarm hasn't followed, why they're not striking. Build up some paranoia by rewriting some of the issues into being due to swarm subversion/mind-control (except it's low-intensity, latent, almost accidental and thoughtless on part of the swarm).

Make the players really wonder why the Swarm isn't acting as according to military doctrine. This is a good point during which to build up that the Swarm have very different interests, and that the Swarm's focus can be exploited.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Quick question I had while writing up the loot sheet for my players.

Are Thisskt's computer from the Reckoner base and the computer from the Reckoner stash at the cave entrance supposed to each have two miniaturization upgrades?

They're both described as portable computers, and I have trouble believing a 9 bulk computer could be described as portable.


I have just run this and i have to say that the muntiny was one of the best parts of the campaign so far. I really enjoyed the first book and upon reading the second i was little underwhelemed but when we got round to RP'ing the munity it worked.

I had put the work in to get the PC's and Zantos to really hate each other. From the first book i had made sure to have him play up to the more dislikable aspects so by the time the mutiny came round it felt as if it was inevitable.

Then when you have the confrontation have two arguements going on. Have Zantos trying to remove the PC's from power and place himself in charge but have all the other NPC's argueing for more say on running the ship so if the PC's flat out refuse then they come across as unreasonable.

If they fail their checks don't have the NPC's back down even if they are threatened with violence. The PC's can't just mow down a bunch of civilians without consequences. In my game it led to a tense stand off with the PC's and NPC's that was only resloved when they reached Utraneus and everyone got off.

Acquisitives

The mutiny was the shortest part of the adventure for my group. Once Zantos became a hazzle, the PCs told him to stand down or be the rest of the journey in the brig.

The other passengers had no reason to question the players, they were soldiers of the SDF who saved their lifes and did not behave in any negative way.

So when Zantos wanted to make his move they simply played the rank (and military order) card and confined him to the brig.

Even after re-reading the part I see no reason why this would become more then a site-note for any group... For me this was the weakest part (as the complete second book)


Reanimating this undead thread.

I swapped around this story a bit to provide some tension and a bit more background politics.

1. On the ship travel in part 1, people are dying. If the party moved past Lynmari in book 1, its the ooze behind it. If not, there's a single (custom ninja) Swarm behind it.

2. It's always raining in each mission. With that in mind, I replaced the apartment fire with trying to prevent the Reckoners from blowing up the seawall.

3. The unrest is such that any missteps by the PCs lead them to being the target of protests by people who don't care for the leading military presence on Ultraneus. Like if they go into a Reckoner meeting guns blazing.

4. The Reckoners needed to be more of a threat. To that end, they weren't all rounded up and at book's end, one assassinates Commander Najiri.

This leaves the PCs under political pressure and without their chief defender. Government leadership - including several surviving generals - are only too happy when a recently appointed advisor to President Daglaan suggests shipping them on a suicide mission to a distant planet behind enemy lines to investigate something the priests of Hylax are hot to have someone look into.

Which is how Loachwurt shows up again, this time with the upper hand as chief advisor on the Swarm to the (corrupt) president.

5. I beefed up Sister Spark's role and power level a bit. She also has acquired a pet Swarm that she keeps behind a forcefield and has been "communing" with. If the PCs keep her alive, we get a great Joker interview scene with her and she gets a recurring arc from here on.

Backstory: President Daglaan has also been dreaming about the Swarm and eventually he has her released in the background of book 3-4. She becomes his spiritual advisor as she begins to show the God Host how to "consume" the minds/souls of sentients. And then her psychic form shows up in book 5 in the place/role of the Hive Mind Avatar. Killing it kills her and the backlash also kills Daglaan.

Daglaan is basically a crazier President Clark from Babylon 5, and we never actually meet him face to face.

Loachwurt gets another beat here. I then had the third test from book 4 be "justice or mercy" as Hylax's test takes the PCs to the secret prison Daglaan's government has set up, where they find they have to free... Loachwurt. Apparently being outspoken about "superstition" when Daglaan is falling under Spark's influence didn't do wonders for his career prospects.

Acquisitives

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
MurderHobo#6226 wrote:

Reanimating this undead thread.

I swapped around this story a bit to provide some tension and a bit more background politics.

1. On the ship travel in part 1, people are dying. If the party moved past Lynmari in book 1, its the ooze behind it. If not, there's a single (custom ninja) Swarm behind it.

2. It's always raining in each mission. With that in mind, I replaced the apartment fire with trying to prevent the Reckoners from blowing up the seawall.

3. The unrest is such that any missteps by the PCs lead them to being the target of protests by people who don't care for the leading military presence on Ultraneus. Like if they go into a Reckoner meeting guns blazing.

4. The Reckoners needed to be more of a threat. To that end, they weren't all rounded up and at book's end, one assassinates Commander Najiri.

This leaves the PCs under political pressure and without their chief defender. Government leadership - including several surviving generals - are only too happy when a recently appointed advisor to President Daglaan suggests shipping them on a suicide mission to a distant planet behind enemy lines to investigate something the priests of Hylax are hot to have someone look into.

Which is how Loachwurt shows up again, this time with the upper hand as chief advisor on the Swarm to the (corrupt) president.

5. I beefed up Sister Spark's role and power level a bit. She also has acquired a pet Swarm that she keeps behind a forcefield and has been "communing" with. If the PCs keep her alive, we get a great Joker interview scene with her and she gets a recurring arc from here on.

Backstory: President Daglaan has also been dreaming about the Swarm and eventually he has her released in the background of book 3-4. She becomes his spiritual advisor as she begins to show the God Host how to "consume" the minds/souls of sentients. And then her psychic form shows up in book 5 in the place/role of the Hive Mind Avatar. Killing it kills her and the backlash also kills Daglaan.

Daglaan is...

I also reworked this book quite a bit.

Sister Sparq is a shirren who the party picked up w/ Xelonan at the Temple in Book 1. She's basically rendered insane by the psychic bellowing of the God-Host at the end of Book 1. One of the PCs is a Shirren Priest (Precog) and he knows her.

I cut out all the city stuff, since it didn't quite "make sense" to me... instead I sent out the party to a remote location to raise leeches for the war effort. They are on an ocean planet and I added some aquatic monsters and a boat encounter, and them riding on mahoi rays to herd plesiosaurs for their kalo friends.

Xelonan and Sister Sparq come to a nearby hylaxian monastery, which is destroyed when Sister Sparq summons the Swarm to reconnect with her... the caverns are run as written, but underneath them is a mech which the PCs will use in the final encounter.

I intend to bring Sister Sparq and Loachwurt back as recurring antagonists.

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