SFS #3-03 Frozen Ambitions: The Shimmerstone Gateway


GM Discussion

5/5 *

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

Spoiler:

At the end PCs get a choice to either reveal the presence of Mathun to Jularaz or to keep it a secret. There is a section in the chronical sheet to tick depending upon wich option is chosen. In previous scenarios it's been the individual players choice that goes on the Chronicle Sheet and the group decision on the Reporting Sheet. Is that the case with this scenario?

Silver Crusade 4/5 Venture-Captain, Pennsylvania—Pittsburgh

Helvellyn wrote:
** spoiler omitted **

No need to spoiler here, Helvellyn--at least, as long as it's something about this scenario!

As a GM I'd try to make it a group decision and put it up to a vote, personally, but you've got some flexibility for how you want to handle it yourself. The exact mechanism isn't called out.

Silver Crusade 4/5 Venture-Captain, Pennsylvania—Pittsburgh

On page 7, it's mentioned that the bodies in the cavern are wearing "defrex hide." Defrex Hide is a...type of armor, I think is the correct terminology? Whatever we're supposed to call it. But it's not a specific model of armor. Based on the chronicle sheet I think it's supposed to be basic, the level 4 stuff.

Silver Crusade 4/5 Venture-Captain, Pennsylvania—Pittsburgh

Doing my last run-through of prep...

  • I think it really helps to read the section on Vesk 7 and 8 in Near Space. Kothamas are delightfully freaking weird! For example, it says that many kothaman star shamans fling themselves into space at the conclusion of the Gathering on Traverse. So Mathun's weirdness isn't that they didn't return to one of Vesk-7 or Vesk-8, it's that they didn't fling themself into space since they can survive in the void. It's kind of referenced in the scenario, but it wasn't clear to me what was going on until I read the entry in Near Space.

  • There are lots of notes about sounds and smells in the cavern on pages 6 and 7 that, ah, don't work because you're in a vacuum.

  • The scenario says the portal shuts down when the last PC emerges from it, but also says that the portal remains active and you can see glimmers or its light through the rubble. I think that last bit is in error based on what might be some changes in development--oops? Later on the scenario says that the portal flickers alive once more when the shimmerstone elementals are defeated. It sounds like the portal turning off and the rubble collapsing are trying to solve the same problem; maybe the rubble couldn't be fully removed during development because that's motivation to talk to the kothama?

  • Speaking of Mathun, talking while in a vacuum is kinda hard. Given that there are already some areas with artificial atmosphere on the moon, I'll probably rule that the kothama brings them back to their cave and they speak there.

  • Silver Crusade 4/5 Venture-Captain, Pennsylvania—Pittsburgh

    Two more "Alex is picky about vacuum" addendums, which in practice turned out to be handy with a sarcesian PC along for the ride (so we needed to know what was going on for each area!)

    Given the vast holes in the port side of the Kevolari Venture you find crashed, I prepped as though the interior was exposed to Traverse's lack of atmosphere--although having run it, now, I'm not sure that this was intended? There's more description of audible things and you have a conversation with the person who lives inside. The holes are so large and the fey is void attuned, so I just assumed it was open to the void. Despite lucandrians' are void-adaptation, I ended up assuming that this lucandrian had repressurized the bridge so as to make the whole "conversation" thing work in the void of space. I suppose you could extend the same assumption to the whole ship if you wanted.

    As a GM, I don't think you need to get complicated but it's probably worth picking an approach in advance, as part of your prep.

    There's some more sound-based descriptive text I missed in the second cavern, as you're going to meet the kothama.

    Speaking of the ship, with the traps all on the port side, I assumed the party entered on the port side (and, also, assumed the laser trap shot down the port side and not the starboard--the text and map are inconsistent.)

    Also, watch out, the box text for the kothama might be a tiny bit off:

    Mathun, as written wrote:
    “It alarms me to hear of this phenomenon. The shimmerstone’s power is the key to the activation of the portals. When these portals are close together, they connect automatically. A portal with enough energy to forge a connection while Vesk‐8 is nearly at its farthest point from us in orbit is beyond its normal abilities. Because emotional energy charges the shimmerstone, an infusion of powerful emotions could overcharge it and cause a portal to connect from well beyond its normal range. The stars shudder to prophesize what powerful feeling could cause something like that.”

    Near Space doesn't say which planet Traverse is currently orbiting, but the sidebar in the scenario says it's Vesk-8. It sounds like it should be a simple fix to replace Vesk-8 with Vesk-7 in the quote:

    Mathun, as written wrote:
    “It alarms me to hear of this phenomenon. The shimmerstone’s power is the key to the activation of the portals. When these portals are close together, they connect automatically. A portal with enough energy to forge a connection while Vesk‐7 is nearly at its farthest point from us in orbit is beyond its normal abilities. Because emotional energy charges the shimmerstone, an infusion of powerful emotions could overcharge it and cause a portal to connect from well beyond its normal range. The stars shudder to prophesize what powerful feeling could cause something like that.”

    One final thing: in terms of difficulty, I completely missed just how hard those swarms were. My party of snipers and biohackers was entirely unprepared and largely unable to damage them. We had one (one!) solarian who was playing up (a level 2 in subtier 3-4). Once every three rounds, they could hurt the swarms for 3d6/2 * 1.5 damage. I ended up giving them lots of opportunities to repair the traps (although the DCs were so low nobody took any damage from the reset traps, the swarms included) and I let the PCs set them to trigger when the nanobots entered the area (although, yes, I realize that the traps are initially set to not detect the nanobots). I was about to rule that the party could craft new traps by jury-rigging mechanical and electrical systems on the ship, but the party fled before they had a chance.

    You might want to check in advance with your players to see if they have any blast weapons or fully automatic weapons or grenades or handy area-effect spells.

    Dark Archive 4/5 5/55/55/55/5 **

    Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

    I've run this twice and the Nanobot Mimic is brutal! The Nanobot Mimic has swarm defenses (immune to attacks and effects that targets a single creature).

    I'm finding players are not even attempting to be ready to deal with swarms (especially at levels 1-2). Out of 12 PCs, not a single one had a grenade and no one had an AOE weapon (blast, line, or automatic). At least most of the CRB pregens have 1-2 frag grenades; a group of pregens might actually have a chance.

    In the first group, the only PC capable of damaging the swarm was able to cast Acidic Mist (Near Space page 154) which does 2d6 acid damage at the start of the creatures turn. If you can keep the swarm in the mist, that goes on for 1 round/level of the caster.

    In the second group, the only PC capable of damaging the swarm was a 1st level Solarian who had no interest in hanging around the swarm.

    I ended up allowing the PCs to quickly negotiate with Dolain to shut off the mimic. Since the PCs didn't defeat the Nanobot Mimic, they lose significant rewards.

    5/55/55/55/5 ***** Venture-Captain, Washington—Seattle

    2 people marked this as a favorite.

    Yes, the mimic is a major problem for parties with no AOE.

    Players, realizing they had no way to kill it, wanted to lure the creature into a room with doors and trap it in there; I allowed that.

    Second Seekers (Roheas) 4/5 5/55/55/55/5 **** Regional Venture-Coordinator, Appalachia

    I do have to second Alex's point - what happens if the party chooses to immediately excavate their way back to their ride home (not like a totally unreasonable plan given the circumstances)?

    Just have the shimmerstone elemetal fight happen right then and there and allow them a path home if they so choose?

    1/5 5/55/5 * Venture-Agent, Finland—Helsinki

    You could say the excavation would take too long for their suit life support to hold. Someone will probably bring up the suit recharge rules after that. By the book, page 198, suits can be recharged at either a functioning starship, an environment recharge station (publicly available in most technologically advaned or average settlements), or a recharging station (noted on page 234 as existing on most settlements of any significant size). No other methods (such as batteries) are mentioned.

    There's a scenario where a transfer charge or an Engineering check allows you to transfer environmental protections from one suit to another. They do not mention batteries either.

    In any case, the severity of the cave-in is unspecified, and without that you can just say it's too difficult, and push them to search for help. Mathus is basically a deus ex machina for the cave-in.

    About the Kevolari Venture; I'm just going to state that the nose damage is insufficient for entering. Otherwise the PCs would bypass a third of the scenario and lose money without knowing the reason for it. And yes, the port/starboard parts feel confusing. It is possible that the beam wall trap fires on the starboard side of the corridor, since it attacks in a line. The entry point doesn't really matter as long as the PCs walk down B1 and trigger the traps. Dolain probably sealed the rest of the doors on the starboard side or they are completely inoperable after decades of neglect.

    Which brings this question. How does Jularaz benefit from the information stored in this ship's computers? Dolain has been living here for a "few decades". How long have Jularaz's political enemies been in power on Vesk-5 and Vesk-6 for the information to still be useful? It's irrelevant for the scenario, just interesting.

    Running this tomorrow. The mimic is going to be interesting.

    Silver Crusade 4/5 Venture-Captain, Pennsylvania—Pittsburgh

    My comment about the cave-in was mostly that the combo "cave-in and portal shutting off" is a little contrived. It seemed like an obvious double-fix for the problem of "how do we keep the PCs here?"

    I think the portal shutting off was supposed to replace the cave-in and reduce the number of creative solutions that might let you go home immediately (like if you have a burrow speed or excavation equipment!). I think it's smart, given that Starfinders have a lot of tools available--even the low-level Starfinders. But then, even with the portal disabled, it's tough to remove the cave-in: it's the whole rationale for introducing Mathun!

    If someone really wanted to dig through the rubble I'd probably find a way to let them, but the costs would be high and the portal would still remain deactivated. IMO. We're allowed to reward creative solutions, after all, even if the reward doesn't get them where they think it should.

    Regarding the Venture: I ruled the same. You could enter through the hole in the aft/port side, or through the airlock on the aft/starboard side, but not through the nose. Frankly, I just dropped the party on the bottom-left of the map and we went from there.

    Regarding the info, one presumes Jularaz has some long-lived political opponents who were somehow involved in the incompetence or corruption the data supposedly reveals? It does seem silly for the information to have such a long shelf-life though, doesn't it? In the real world, most high-ranking military officers retain the highest posts for a handful of years, maybe a decade in total if we combine the top several ranks. I have a hard time imagining high despots staying in power much longer than that, but sometimes a McGuffin is just a McGuffin...

    Venture-Agent, Ohio—Cleveland

    Alex Wreschnig wrote:


    Also, watch out, the box text for the kothama might be a tiny bit off:
    Mathun, as written wrote:
    “It alarms me to hear of this phenomenon. The shimmerstone’s power is the key to the activation of the portals. When these portals are close together, they connect automatically. A portal with enough energy to forge a connection while Vesk‐8 is nearly at its farthest point from us in orbit is beyond its normal abilities. Because emotional energy charges the shimmerstone, an infusion of powerful emotions could overcharge it and cause a portal to connect from well beyond its normal range. The stars shudder to prophesize what powerful feeling could cause something like
    ...

    I think Mathun is correct as written. I think you were misled by the phrasing in the opening sidebar, which says the scenario "takes place on Vesk-8 and its moon, Traverse" -- but I don't think is meant to indicate where the moon currently is, just that Traverse is (sometimes) a moon of Vesk-8.

    See the DC 10 results on the Physical Science check to Recall Knowledge (pg 5): "... Traverse and Vesk-8 are currently at their furthest point in orbit."

    Silver Crusade 4/5 Venture-Captain, Pennsylvania—Pittsburgh

    Peter Nalepa wrote:
    Alex Wreschnig wrote:


    Also, watch out, the box text for the kothama might be a tiny bit off:
    Mathun, as written wrote:
    “It alarms me to hear of this phenomenon. The shimmerstone’s power is the key to the activation of the portals. When these portals are close together, they connect automatically. A portal with enough energy to forge a connection while Vesk‐8 is nearly at its farthest point from us in orbit is beyond its normal abilities. Because emotional energy charges the shimmerstone, an infusion of powerful emotions could overcharge it and cause a portal to connect from well beyond its normal range. The stars shudder to prophesize what powerful feeling could cause something like
    ...

    I think Mathun is correct as written. I think you were misled by the phrasing in the opening sidebar, which says the scenario "takes place on Vesk-8 and its moon, Traverse" -- but I don't think is meant to indicate where the moon currently is, just that Traverse is (sometimes) a moon of Vesk-8.

    See the DC 10 results on the Physical Science check to Recall Knowledge (pg 5): "... Traverse and Vesk-8 are currently at their furthest point in orbit."

    To me, that Phys Science check and the sidebar combined suggest that Vesk-8 and Traverse are hanging out together right now. :) (Since that phrase usually means distance from the center of the system.) For consistency, I changed the planet name to Vesk-7 in the dialogue. It's awfully ambiguous though, isn't it? Even Near Space didn't specify where the moon was.

    5/5 5/55/55/5

    1) Space does smell you can get it as a cologne

    2) Nothing says environmental seals keep out all smells. My head cannon is it lets in enough to let you know its there but not enough to make you gag. Or it releases a scent inside the armor, or it displays a reading of the concentrations of various chemicals inside the suit for the same effect...

    Venture-Agent, Ohio—Cleveland

    BigNorseWolf wrote:

    1) Space does smell you can get it as a cologne

    2) Nothing says environmental seals keep out all smells. My head cannon is it lets in enough to let you know its there but not enough to make you gag. Or it releases a scent inside the armor, or it displays a reading of the concentrations of various chemicals inside the suit for the same effect...

    Sure, but smells transferring in a vacuum is a bit of a stretch. (That space smell is more like ‘what my suit smells like on the outside after I take it off in the station.)

    Venture-Agent, Ohio—Cleveland

    Alex Wreschnig wrote:
    Peter Nalepa wrote:
    Alex Wreschnig wrote:


    Also, watch out, the box text for the kothama might be a tiny bit off:
    Mathun, as written wrote:
    “It alarms me to hear of this phenomenon. The shimmerstone’s power is the key to the activation of the portals. When these portals are close together, they connect automatically. A portal with enough energy to forge a connection while Vesk‐8 is nearly at its farthest point from us in orbit is beyond its normal abilities. Because emotional energy charges the shimmerstone, an infusion of powerful emotions could overcharge it and cause a portal to connect from well beyond its normal range. The stars shudder to prophesize what powerful feeling could cause something like
    ...

    I think Mathun is correct as written. I think you were misled by the phrasing in the opening sidebar, which says the scenario "takes place on Vesk-8 and its moon, Traverse" -- but I don't think is meant to indicate where the moon currently is, just that Traverse is (sometimes) a moon of Vesk-8.

    See the DC 10 results on the Physical Science check to Recall Knowledge (pg 5): "... Traverse and Vesk-8 are currently at their furthest point in orbit."

    To me, that Phys Science check and the sidebar combined suggest that Vesk-8 and Traverse are hanging out together right now. :) (Since that phrase usually means distance from the center of the system.) For consistency, I changed the planet name to Vesk-7 in the dialogue. It's awfully ambiguous though, isn't it? Even Near Space didn't specify where the moon was.

    But under that reading, would they say Traverse is a moon of Vesk-7 half the time? That makes less sense to me than just saying it’s a moon of Vesk-7 & -8 (as long as folks know it is, which they should). Doesn’t make me right, I know; plenty of times when notation isn’t how I might have done it.

    Also, it seems like much less of a big deal that the portals activated out of season if it’s a jump to lunar orbit rather than across the solar system. Takes the wind out of Mathun’s sails on the whole “scary level of emotions” thing. (As in, it would be strange, but a shorter range of teleporting is less energy, presumably.) But I suspect we will find out more about that in future scenarios, so we shall see...

    5/5 5/55/55/5

    Peter Nalepa wrote:


    Sure, but smells transferring in a vacuum is a bit of a stretch. (That space smell is more like ‘what my suit smells like on the outside after I take it off in the station.)

    Why? Its sound that has to propagate through waves and a medium. If something smells its because it's shedding chemicals, which if anything have less interference in a vacuum.

    If the difficulty is getting space to your sniffer, all you need is some sort of one way gortex suit.

    Shadow Lodge 4/5 5/55/55/55/5 **** Venture-Captain, Indiana—Southern

    Just want to say that I really appreciate the discussion here - it really helped my prep for this go fairly easily. Also, evocative is my word for the day on this one. Something about how the author wrote things gave me some amazing ideas for my in-game soundtrack and images to have on-screen when the PCs aren't on a flip-mat.

    Spoiler:
    Music: A lot of Stellaris OST for non-combat, and some Mass Effect 2 DLC (Arrival and Kasumi) OST for the combats.

    Imagery: Both from the New Horizons spacecraft, Plutonian mountains for when they emerge from the cave, and a color Pluto close-up planetary sweep to illustrate the trek from ship-to-shrine.

    One tiny thing I just caught is on the chronicle sheet notes that made me scratch my head, though.

    Page 22 wrote:
    This encounter also grants the PCs access to the sunset shimmerstone staff on their Chronicle Sheets.

    Given that no other level 4+ gear gets a call-out like this, my first impression was thta the sunset shimmerstone staff isn't a normally-legal item.

    Additional Resources: Alien Archive 3 wrote:
    Equipment: All equipment in this book with a listed item level and price is legal for play except for the EMP weapon fusion and flux fig.

    Am I missing something, or is the scenario the one that's drunk? :P

    4/5 5/55/55/55/5

    Suspect the suggestion is that if they don't deal with the encounter we take it back off the sheet?

    Grand Lodge 4/5 *** Venture-Captain, California—Sacramento

    I ran it tonight.

    It was about as horrible as one would expect.

    2 lvl 1 pregens, lvl 1 character, lvl 2 character.

    After they expended all their grenades, they had done a total of 1/4 of the swarm's health. Some one made the engineering check to identify, and asked if there was *anything* they could do to hurt it, so I pointed out that it loses it's swarm defense when it disguises itself. So with that they came up with a plan to memorize what they could of the room, run away, then sneak back, and try to spot what had changed, what new object had been added, then sneak in and blow it away before it could shift.

    A plan which succeeded only because they rolled a 18 on the die to figure out that a small green mug was not there last time, and I rolled a 1 on the die to spot them coming.

    And even then they almost didn't succeed.

    The final fight was a joke. They could barely even hurt the things. After 2 rounds, half of them were down, and they had dealt only about half the damage needed to one of the elementals.

    And that is with them rolling a well on the confusion saves and effects. They could have as easily killed themselves.

    I would say that confusion effect

    Shadow Lodge 4/5 5/55/55/55/5 **** Venture-Captain, Indiana—Southern

    When I ran it (high tier but with two level 1s), I took some of the ideas other GMs posted regarding creative solutions.

    - Let the party's operative intentionally trigger the traps while one square outside the blast radius, using those AoE effects against the swarm.
    - Let the party's vanguard soak damage and lure one of the swarms into a bedroom, where other PCs had readied actions to close and lock the door once they had it trapped inside.

    After they trapped swarm #1, the AoE damage from the traps and the party's Solarian-supernova did the rest.

    As for the final fight...

    Quote:
    one of the elementals

    My copy of 3-03 only lists 1 elemental for the PCs to fight (medium at low tier, large at high tier). Is there an older/newer version of the scenario that lists something different for that encounter?

    Grand Lodge 4/5 *** Venture-Captain, California—Sacramento

    Mike Bramnik wrote:


    Quote:
    one of the elementals
    My copy of 3-03 only lists 1 elemental for the PCs to fight (medium at low tier, large at high tier). Is there an older/newer version of the scenario that lists something different for that encounter?

    Okay, I have *no* idea how I misread that. I think I must have hit "So long as these foes remain in the area, the portal is inactive" and my mind did the rest.

    It's singular everywhere else.

    Shadow Lodge 4/5 5/55/55/55/5 **** Venture-Captain, Indiana—Southern

    Happens to all of us sooner or later :)

    Silver Crusade 2/5 ** Venture-Agent, Massachusetts—Littleton

    Man, that swarm. The Play-by-Discord group I’m running has a Solarian and about 6 or seven grenades among them, I let them re-arm the explosion trap which they disarmed earlier, and they still, through reflex saves and low damage rolls still haven’t taken it down. If they still haven’t done it with the second Solarian nova, I’m going to have the fey offer an out like some of you have done.

    4/5 5/55/55/55/5

    The swarm was pretty out there for the low tier - that is a lot of HP for the party to have to dish.

    5/5

    We had Keskodai with us, and I was playing an uplifted bear 4th level operative... essentially I stood in its space and danced around while the mechanic hucked Keskodai's grenades and improvised bombs from the traps at it. I think our level 1 technomancer had one spell that worked, but we had him searching the ship for bombs the rest of the time.

    Swarms are not appropriate for low level adventures unless you give out a lot of grenades or area effect weapons that can be scavenged before or during the fight.

    1/5 5/55/5 ** Venture-Agent, Online—VTT

    Yeah, it is reasonable to think that level 1 characters may be brand new and have not had a chance to pick up their emergency explosive rounds yet. Level 3 is a better starting point for swarms if there aren't solutions around to be salvaged.

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