Tips for running book one as a standalone?

Strange Aeons

Hi all. My group has been running Starfinder since it came out but we're going to take a break from it for a couple months and decided we would play through the first book of this AP as a standalone. I have a group of 6 players. Most of them are veterans of 1E but we will be coming to this a bit rusty given our last two years with Starfinder. I'd welcome any feedback on my initial thoughts for setting this up, as well as any general tips or suggestions folks may have for running this as a standalone.

For general character creation:
1. Human Only
2. Any class that has immunity to fear is banned (i.e., Paladin)
3. Use the expanded fear rules
4. Use background skills
5. Maybe use the sanity rules? Corruption?
6. Per a suggestion in the character creation thread, each PC comes up with four "cornerstone events" in a backstory and gives those just to me. I then use two of the ones a Player created for their own character, plus two created by another player, and then add in additional details.

For atmosphere:
We have a dedicated gaming table with a built-in tv, so I was going to use Roll20 with the additional line of sight and lighting effects for the map, and run Syrinscape. I also splurged on some color LED bulbs, so I was going to adjust the lighting in the room and maybe use some candles to help get the mood going.

Wrapping up book 1 and the fugue state:
Since we're finishing with book one and won't be continuing, I think I need to change the pace at which players learn about their characters, and come up with a proper Cthulhu-esque ending for the book. Any thoughts or suggestions for either?

Finally, for the opening sequence, I'd like to run a video of a roiling yellow fog or mist on our monitor, but my Google-fu has failed me (I keep getting crap for yellow fog lights). If anyone has a link to a good video or effect, I'd be hugely grateful.


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For a bleak ending, perhaps have the buried Bhole wake and wreck everything. Or they defeat the Tatterman and clear the remaining yellow fog from around the asylum only to find out the whole island is really located in Carcosa, and a certain King is waiting. Finally, possibly adding to either of the other ideas, have the PC's regain their memories only to remember being the ones to have caused the whole mess to begin with.

Great ideas for mood lighting and mapping; I've used Maptool and Arkenforge for the line of sight lighting and it has been effective.

There's an involved backstory mystery of the PC's identities, so running it as a one-shot ruins all of that. You don't have to change anything, just run the adventure and leave the mystery. There's no real way to resolve it unless you drop the administrator's diary in with everyone's identities spelled out.

Or just run the adventure and let them leave. It's a pretty cool adventure either way, but removing the central mystery will certainly disperse a lot of the tension.

Thanks, both!

I like the suggestions for the end scene a lot and will chew on those, probably along with a way to do the as-written hints in the administrators office, followed by some sort of bleak revelation at the end. If they worked for the Count, maybe the -did- cause this, acting on behalf of the Count rather than getting dumped at the asylum to tie up a loose end.

I'm planning to run "In Search of Sanity" as a stand-alone as well, and there are a few possibilities I thought of for dealing with the PCs' identities.

The simplest possibility is that Lowls didn't sacrifice them and dispose of them at Briarstone, but instead sent them there as his agents to help perform the ritual on Zandalus. Dr. Losandro's diary instead talks about her suspicions about the "experts" and "security" Lowls sent (with descriptions that make it clear who they were). The ritual did not go as planned (or at least as the PCs expected - Lowls might have desired this outcome) and the PCs' minds were destroyed by the feedback. This gives the basic but useable twist that the PCs are actually responsible for the crisis. Of course, Lowls gets off scot-free unless the campaign is continued somehow.

A more complicated idea was that the PCs had ended up in the Dimension of Dreams through various means and fell out into the asylum along with the rest of the monsters. The twist would be that they are from all over the world and even different time periods without realizing it - a PC might not realize they are 200 years in the future until historical events are mentioned that they don't recognize. Kind of a complicated idea to convey, though, especially for players who aren't super-experienced with Golarion.

The idea I've decided to go with, though is that the PCs are people Zandalus met on his travels before or shortly after he went insane. All of them left an impression on him, due to their bravery or kindness or power or personality. When the ritual was done on him and his psyche began leaking into the asylum, part of him wanted to stop it. Helpless to move directly against the Tatterman, it conjured up duplicates of people Zandalus thought might be able to stop Tatterman out of the dream mist. The PCs lack memories not because they lost them, but because they never had them in the first place - they only know what Zandalus knew of their progenitors. For added fun, the PCs popped into existence inside the asylum before everything went south (I'm adding a few days, possibly a week or more between the ritual and the total breakdown, rather than it happening the first night Zandalus was 'cured'). The PCs were quickly captured by security (they didn't fight back) and claimed to know nothing but their names. Losandro, unnerved by this, decided to keep them secretly detained until she could determine their identities and how they got into the building. She also contacted the Royal Accusers and Church of Pharasma for assistance, hence the arrival of Winter and her associates.

  • The way I expect this to work out for the players is like this:
  • they have no memories but names ->
  • the staff don't recognize them (so they can't be staff or regular patients) ->
  • someone higher-ranked (York?) admits there were secret patients ->
  • patient files tell how they mysteriously broke into the asylum ->
  • in-depth background checks by the Royal Accusers include shocking information (like that one PC died 15 years ago or something) ->
  • Zandalus or similar reveals the truth

Of course, if they put the dream mist threat to rest (and/or kill Zandalus and Tatterman), the PCs may or may not fade away... Which could be either depressing or inspiring depending on the context (on the one hand, they didn't really survive, but on the other they saved a bunch of people, and may be remembered as heroes).

It's crazy, but I think it will be a good twist that I feel confident the players won't figure out way in advance.

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