Tusk the Half-Orc's The Chimera Mystery Campaign


The Threefold Conspiracy

Liberty's Edge

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

I’m running this AP for my wife and 16yo son as a backup game for nights when our 19yo daughter (stuck at home for at least the fall semester of her sophomore year of college) is too busy to play our long-running Reign of Winter campaign. We are longtime Pathfinder (1E) players and have played some 2E in the last year before the pandemic started, but we haven’t played a lot of Starfinder and none since Gen Con in 2019, so we’re remembering (or learning) the rules as we go.

My wife and son are each playing two characters - since it’s a back-up game, I told them I wouldn’t have time to do much prep and couldn’t handle running an NPC to go along with them, so they would have to cover whatever combat roles and skills are needed. Our goal is to play it fast and loose, going for laughs rather than grimdark suspense (when possible). After some serious consideration of a no-caster party, they made their choices and finished their characters last night in time for us to start the AP.

My son, who has a penchant for building oddball characters, is playing:

Beorn Ursunovitch, aka “Beorn the Unbearable” - Uplifted bear gladiator envoy. Intimidation, diplomacy, debuffer, melee combat/support, medicine. Campaign Background: Artist.

“Twitch” Betelgeuse - Ysoki outlaw operative (detective). Stealth, hacking, sense motive, trick attack. Campaign Background: Traveler.

My wife only plays in our home games and occasional PFS and SFS games (with our family group taking up most or all of the seats), and does not usually go too far afield with her characters. She has played a human cleric of Sarenrae, an elf cleric of Desna, a human rogue, and a human solar disciple mystic. This time, she decided to move out of her comfort zone and really surprised me with her choices:

Birgar Chaoskeeper - Dwarf spacefarer vanguard (boundary aspect). Melee combat (primary), medicine, athletics, some knowledge skills. Campaign Background: Traveler.

Sophie Tuesday - Strix roboticist technomancer. Engineering, computers, life & physical sciences, spellcasting, and she can fly at first level. Campaign Background: Intellectual.

I think for this journal, I’m going to just refer to the characters as though they were run by separate people unless it matters who the actual player is.

The action began as the PCs boarded the Chimera and checked in with Algiada Iom. Twitch noticed her and a vesk passenger making eyes at each other; not much gets past the little ratfolk blackmailer… I mean, detective. After the ship got underway and the PCs settled into their rooms, I announced that there were box lunches available in the dining hall as a way of letting the PCs introduce themselves and meet most of the other passengers and crew. We thought it might be awkward, with two players having a conversation for four characters, but it worked out really well - it helps that they each quickly settled on different voices to use for each character.

Beorn, an up-and-coming professional wrestler, introduced himself to everyone he met with both his real name and the name he uses in the ring, hoping to be recognized. He is, of course, destined for disappointment (at least for a while), although Song and Grath Metek each pretended to recognize his name but then told him it was only from the passenger list. For a character intended to be an intimidatomancer, the big bear is - so far - just a big, lovable bear, whose idea of intimidation is to stand up straight and growl a little.

Twitch just wanted to be left alone to eat and poke at his miniaturized wrist computer, or so he said - he could have taken his box lunch back to his room if he really wanted to be alone. The highlight was his reaction to Grath - the two ysoki recognized each other as somewhat kindred spirits in their mutual disdain for authority, but Twitch thinks Grath is a buffoon and Grath thinks Twitch might be a stick-in-the-mud (although the impromptu party in the hallway later may have changed his mind).

Sophie is a little quiet, but obviously the brains of the group (I’m sure this will irritate Twitch over time as he realizes it). I expected her to bond with Professor Benjam as a fellow scholar, but any questions she might have had for him were drowned out by Birgar.

Birgar was outgoing, friendly, and drove everyone crazy. In our Pathfinder games, my wife almost always builds for diplomacy, but this time both of her characters have 8 Charisma, so our son is going to have to cover most of the social interaction. Birgar does try, though. He wants to be friendly and helpful, he’s just really really bad at it. He does have the Tradition Mender alternate racial trait, which replaces Traditional Enemies with a +2 bonus to Diplomacy and Sense Motive, so at least he’s less likely to be an actual impediment to a successful investigation. Birgar was immediately fascinated by Benjam’s discussion of his archeological digs, because it involved digging. He kept asking questions - about the digging, the holes, the techniques they used to shore up the holes, and so on. When Grath asked him if he was more fun than he looked, my wife went off on an extended monologue, in character, in which Birgar wonders if he is, indeed, more fun than he looks. The highlight, though, was when he tried to befriend Jincheroga, literally trying to mend fences with the hobgoblin. It was awful and wonderful and drove Jincheroga back to her table with the Newbloods, but not before getting Beorn to agree to spar with the quartet of space goblins (“My boys need the practice”) sometime during the voyage.

The group explored some of the ship after lunch - I fiddled with the PDF of the map of the ship on the inside back cover until I had something I was comfortable giving the players, and made it clear that passengers were supposed to stick to the middle deck unless invited up or down by a member of the crew.

While waiting in the dining hall for Song to finish making dinner, Birgar, Sophie, Twitch, Beorn, and Kiiv (the engineer) listened as Professor Benjam showed off his “shrinking box,” which he had been told held four asteroid lice shrunk down to the size of regular insects. Kiiv looked it over but told the Professor they thought he had been conned. When he reached out to take it back, he knocked it from the engineer’s grasp and the box tumbled to the deck, cracking open. The released asteroid lice instantly reverted to their normal size and attacked everyone in sight.

This fight was our first test of how the characters would perform in combat, and it was illuminating. Birgar’s entropic strike proved to be extremely effective, killing his louse with a crit on his first attack and later helping to take down the louse that was attacking Beorn, and Sophie used magic missile and energy ray to good effect. Twitch managed to hit his louse a few times but not for much damage and needed help to take it down. Beorn’s demoralizing tactics were useless against the vermin, and his louse latched onto to the big furball and was very hard to dislodge; ultimately Birgar took down Beorn’s louse and Beorn threw a tactical spear to take down Twitch’s louse.

All four PCs helped Kiiv dispose of the bodies and overheard the discussion between Algiada and Trostinek. They managed to convince the security chief that they were on the lower deck for legitimate reasons, and when she escorted them back to passenger country, Twitch followed her. He managed to stay out of sight and watched her go into her cabin before he joined the rest of the group in the dining hall for dinner.

After dinner, everyone but Twitch offered - with no prompting from me - to help Song clean up after the Newbloods. This meant that Twitch was in his room when Grath came by with a bottle and some dented metal cups to have a few nips and “shoot the cheese.”

(Yes, I plan to make ysoki jokes throughout the campaign, why do you ask?)

Eventually, the two ratfolk found the rest of the group and convinced them to join the party. They spent a couple of hours drinking and dancing from room to room, then the ysoki said he had to start his shift “At the crack of — oops, real soon” and left, allowing the party to finally go to bed.

Staggering to the dining hall for breakfast the next morning, the party came across Jincheroga and the Newbloods arguing with Song. Beorn tried to first persuade, then intimate, the hobgoblin into having the goblins take their food back to their cabin to eat, but failed both checks. Rather than try to persuade Song to let them in, they readied themselves for a fight if the Newbloods decided to start a fight and were relieved when they left.

Before they could settle in for their own breakfast, the first mate arrived looking for Algiada, who was nowhere to be found. Just as the group promised to keep their eyes open for her, the ship’s power stuttered and cut out. The emergency lights came on a moment later, but the engines stayed silent; the Chimera was adrift in the Drift.

The group took the development calmly. When Professor Benjam found them a few minutes later and expressed his concern and asked for their assistance, they were immediately willing to help, either from a desire to help a fellow sapient who might be in trouble (Beorn, Birgar, Sophie) or because of the promise of a 1,000 credit payday (Twitch). They did push the archeologist for information about his relic, which he anxiously refused to discuss, and for more information about his real motive for hiring them.

Beorn once again attempted to persuade gently first, but after a failed Diplomacy check he had to take a tougher tone. The Professor, not used to this kind of treatment, quickly cracked and confessed to his part in smuggling an ancient draconic artifact off of Triaxus with a team that included Algiada’s older brother, who was badly injured and permanently disabled in the course of their escape. The old man said that he had not known that Algiada was part of the Chimera’s crew when he booked his ticket and thought the security chief had not recognized him, but the guilt had been eating away at him since he first saw her at the airlock. Satisfied with his real reason for hiring them, the party left the Professor sobbing quietly to begin their investigation.

End of session.

Liberty's Edge

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

I’m running session 2 tonight. I have also been looking for a way to make sure that my players have some of the sci-fi tropes important to this AP a little closer to top of mind than they might be otherwise, and today I managed something. My family knows I’ve been rewatching the River Song story line in Doctor Who on my own during workouts and other solitary downtime this week; today, though, when my wife and son and I were having a late breakfast I turned on the kitchen TV instead of my iPad to watch a specific pair of episodes. “The Impossible Astronaut” and “Day of the Moon” are near-perfect companions for this AP - memory-wiping greys, post-hypnotic suggestion, etc. etc., and the first hints of the metaplot for the rest of Season 6, which also ties in nicely:

Doctor Who (modern), Season 6:
...because Amy Pond turns out to have been a plasticine replica with Amy's implanted memories the whole time!

We've all seen them before - my son rewatched the whole season at the start of the pandemic, but my wife hadn't seen them since they first aired. I didn't say anything to relate the shows to the AP, but they might start picking up clues as some of the "reality seeping in" events take place.


That’s a really good idea to weave in the hints of reality. Good luck with your campaign, sounds fun!

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
babyGM wrote:
That’s a really good idea to weave in the hints of reality. Good luck with your campaign, sounds fun!

Thanks! I’m enjoying following your group’s adventure as well.

Liberty's Edge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

We played our fourth session last night, but it takes me several hours to write up my notes and I’ve been jammed with work the last few weeks, so I’m just posting our second session (Nov. 28) now. We probably won’t play again until mid-February or maybe late January at the earliest, because once my daughter’s fall semester finals are finished this week, we’ll go back to playing Reign of Winter and (when our other player is available) Rise of the Runelords until they go back to their respective colleges for spring term (fingers crossed, knock wood, etc.). Hopefully that will give me time to catch up on journal entries instead of falling further behind.

The party began its investigation in earnest after breakfast. Because they were already in the dining hall, they decided to start by popping into the galley to see if Song would answer a few questions. His response was predictable:

“Get lost, I’m busy! I have to clean up from breakfast and get lunch ready!”

They decided to check back with the android cook later. Moving on to passenger country, they tried talking to Jincheroga, and managed to get all of the information she had to offer. The hobgoblin told them that when she and the Newbloods boarded,

“…that woman looked me straight in the eyes and said, ‘I know what you’re up to you, and I won’t let you ruin this for us.’ I have no idea what she was on about. Perhaps she mistook me for someone else, or she was paranoid or something. Perhaps I just frightened her. But if you’re really interested in finding out what happened to her, maybe you should talk to the vesk. My boys and I saw the two of them getting pretty frisky in a bar on Legacy Station the night before we left.”

Two of the goblins who had been playing out various imaginary death scenes for Algiada on the floor behind the mercenary leader throughout the interview started to pretend to make out instead. Birgar and Sophie’s player immediately asked for name of the bar. I gave her a blank look - I was a little tired that evening and couldn’t think of anything right off the bat, which left an opening for Twitch and Beorn’s player to pipe up with The Musty Flagon.” Knowing when I’ve been beaten, I declared The Musty Flagon to be canon.

* I have been running Rise of the Runelords for these two players and two others - our daughter and one of the kids’ friends on the block - for about six years; we’re thisclose to being finished, but the two older kids starting college has slowed us down. The Rusty Dragon is the name of a tavern where our Runelords party spent a lot of time in the first couple of books of the AP.

After their interrogation of Jincheroga, Twitch suggested breaking into Algiada’s room (he learned which room was hers when he followed her the previous evening). After some discussion, the group headed down to the lower deck to talk to Kiiv. Sophie and Twitch volunteered to help with the repairs, and everyone failed the checks to notice the hazard. When the pipe exploded, it caught the entire party in the blast and all four failed their reflex saves.

Kiiv was very apologetic and - once the group had recovered a bit - was happy to answer most of their questions. She told them about Algiada’s arguments with Song (including the most recent fight, when the android physically threatened the security chief) and with Grath (who had one of the few people on the crew who was actually friendly with Algiada), and seeing Algiada and Trostinek together at a bar back on Legacy Station (“Was that The Musty Flagon?” Twitch asked, as if the station bar were a well-known spot for Ryphorians to pick up one-night stands; “Why yes, yes it was,” Kiiv responded.) If the engineer has any other information that might be relevant to the investigation, the amateur sleuths were too burned and bedraggled to uncover it.

On their way back to their quarters to clean up, the group stopped at the incinerator room, and noticed that the hatch to the garbage chute was stuck open half an inch or so, preventing the incinerator from activating. When they opened it and looked inside, they found a small but heavy statuette of the Kasathas’ generation ship Idari, with dried blood crusting over the prow. Sophie tried to determine how long the blood has been drying on the statue but could not reach any conclusions just by looking at it (later, she used a medkit to figure out it was less than a day old and identifies it as kasatha blood). They went back into the Drift engine room and showed the statue to Kiiv, who told them she thought the captain had one just like it in his quarters.

Bom bom BOMMMMM!

After the investigators went back to their own quarters to clean up and make ineffective attempts to bandage their wounds, Twitch tried again to convince the group to break into Algiada’s room, but was outvoted in favor of questioning Grath.

They climbed the ladder to the upper deck and find the crew quarters area; Twitch figured out which room belongs to the pilot by noticing smudges and dings on the paint at ysoki’s eye-level, a little below the keycard reader, suggesting that someone small and inebriated had a habit of trying to use a keycard to enter the room and missing the reader. At their knock, they heard someone staggering to the door before it slid open and Grath invited them in to “try my latest batch” - they saw the mechanic’s still on his desk through the door.

Talking through the open doorway, the party declined Grath’s offer of drinks and said they wanted to ask him a few questions about Algiada’s disappearance. The pilot said he didn’t want to talk about her - “good riddance to bad ryphorians” - and tried to close the door. Beorn stuck his big bear paw in the doorway to keep it open for a few moments while the players tried to decide what to do.

Sophie asked Grath if he wasn’t worried about being drunk, as he’s the only pilot on the crew.

“Normalement, you would be correct, ma cheri, but the engines, they are not working, so there is not much for a pilot to do. And there was an explosion just a little while ago, which means they are not going to be working again anytime soon. So no, I do not think the captain or anybody else is going to care if I have a little drink while we wait around for Kiiv to get us moving again.”

(All NPC ysoki speak with an Inspector Clouseau fake French accent in this campaign. It is known.)

The group was briefly suspicious - how would he know about the explosion? - until they realized that communications is much easier in the Starfinder universe than in the Pathfinder setting they’re used to, and that Kiiv probably notified the entire crew about the explosion immediately after the party finished questioning her.

After some discussion, the group decided they didn’t want to smell of Grath’s home-brewed moonshine if they ended up talking to the first mate or captain next, so they told Grath it was too early for them and promised to come back later.

The group settled into Beorn’s cabin and use the ship’s intercom system to call the first mate on the pretext of looking for medical assistance. Luzo Pahir arrived a few minutes later and apologized on behalf of the captain and the entire crew for the injuries they suffered in the explosion, and was sad to say that the Chimera did not have a medical bay or anyone with real medical training on board. When the party mentioned Kiiv’s suspicion that the explosion was the result of sabotage, the first mate appeared surprised.

The investigators used the possibility that there might be a saboteur on board to ask about the security chief’s disappearance and whether anyone on board might have wanted to hurt her. Luzo said she didn’t think so.

“Algiada could be rough. I think the whole crew basically liked her, though.” After a pause, she continued, “I can’t imagine any reason why someone might want to hurt her.”

The party didn’t get much more out of her, so when she left, Twitch snuck out behind her and followed her down to engineering. Listening at the door to the Drift engine room where Luzo and Kiiv were talking, Twitch couldn’t make out much of what the engineer said, but Luzo’s voice was raised and upset, and the ysoki heard her talking about “sabotage” and “you should have…”

As Twitch made his way back to the passenger quarters, he ran into Prof. Benjam standing motionless in a corner of the hallway near the dining hall, eyes fixed on the bare wall. Twitch asked him if everything was OK, after a moment of confusion Brodynt came back to himself.

“Yes, yes, of course, thank you. I must have just spaced out on my way to lunch, that’s all. Are you making any progress with the investigation?” Without waiting for an answer, Prof. Benjam checked his watch. “Oh, it’s later than I thought, I’d better hurry if I want to get something to eat,” and hustled into the dining hall.

After Twitch got back to Beorn’s room and told the others what he had seen and heard, the consensus was that Luzo was just understandably upset at the thought of her ship being sabotaged and unhappy that the engineer hadn’t told her, and that Brodynt was probably fine, just a stereotype of an absent-minded professor.* The group decided to go to lunch themselves. They left the bloody statue hidden in Beorn’s luggage, with Twitch’s phone set up as a remote security camera running a feed to his wrist computer.

While at lunch, Brodynt mentioned seeing Trostinek in the port cargo hold. The investigators decide to make the vesk their next interview and make their way to the front of the ship to the port cargo hold after lunch. They enter it only to find Trostinek on the floor, unconscious, with a large, padded humanoid robot standing over him. It turns its head - and its mounted gun - towards the group.

End of session.

* In another callback to our Runelords campaign, my players noted that the Professor’s first name - Brodynt - is very similar to the name of Brodert Quink, the Sandpoint-based scholar of ancient Thassalon befriended by our party in that game.

Liberty's Edge

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

I think we’re going to finish Book 1 this evening, so I’m going to try to get caught up on this journal before we start book 2.

December 5, 2020: Session 3.

Birgar (the dwarf vanguard) leads off the fight by charging at the out-of-control incapacitator robot and somehow manages to miss, but does immediately invalidate its tactics as written, which were to start by launching a stickybomb grenade and then use its anchor pistol to bog down two of the investigators before moving into melee. Instead, it is able to grapple Birgar right away. Sophie (strix technomancer) hits it with a minor ray of electricity, Twitch (ratfolk operative) moves into position to try a trick attack next round, and Beorn (uplifted bear envoy) manages to rake it with his claws. After Birgar fails to escape the grapple and takes enough slam damage from the robot to bring him to the brink of unconsciousness, the other PCs manage to do some minor damage to the robot. In a desperate, last-ditch effort, Birgar spends a point from his entropy pool to increase the damage from his entropic strike and scores a critical hit on the robot; Sophie hits it with one more energy ray and the robot falls to pieces.

Thus begins a pattern that has continued throughout this first book: Birgar takes a ridiculous amount of damage in almost every combat and does not hit consistently when he attacks, but at least once in each fight he manages to inflict a ridiculous amount of damage himself.

Twitch looks over the robot and realizes that someone has tampered with it to make it more aggressive. Birgar drinks a serum of healing; after a spirited discussion of Starfinder’s healing rules, the party decides to split up while Trostinek is still unconscious. Twitch checks the vesk’s pockets and finds his keycard, so he and Birgar go back to the passenger section to search Trostinek’s room. Sophie and Beorn stay in the cargo hold to keep an eye on Trostinek in case he wakes up.

Twitch searches the vesk’s cabin while Birgar keeps watch, pacing anxiously in the corridor. The operative finds the note and gift from Trostinek’s wife and the ion tape in the suitcase. He and Birgar read the note, but return it, the gift (unopened), and the ion tape to the suitcase where they found it. Twitch succeeds on a slight of hand check to put it back the way they found it, and when they get back to the cargo hold makes another to slip the keycard back into the Trostinek’s pocket before he regains consciousness.

While Twitch and Birgar are gone, Sophie looks around the cargo hold and notices a bulkhead panel emblazoned with the wrong ship name: Stardream II instead of Chimera. Neither she nor Beorn recognize the name; neither do Twitch or Birgar when they get back, so the party decides to ask Professor Benjam the next time they see him.

When Trostinek finally wakes up, he is wary but willing to talk with the investigators, at least for a bit. He explains that he unpacked his incapacitator robot to restrain any suspect in Algiada’s disappearance, but it went berserk when he turned it on. He says he thinks someone must have tampered with it. When they ask him about the argument they saw him having with the security chief the night before, he claims it was nothing, “Just a disagreement among friends! She insisted that I needed to install some upgrades on the robot, but I don’t. I don’t even use the robot that much; I only use it when the client doesn’t want the target too badly damaged.” After a moment of thought, the vesk frowns. “I wonder if maybe Algiada did something to make this thing go crazy, though. To prove me wrong.”

All of the investigators are suspicious, but none of them are able to spot a hole in Trostinek’s story; even Beorn, with envoy’s expertise, and Twitch, with operative’s edge fail every Sense Motive check.

After they finish talking with Trostinek, the investigators decide that they can’t put off looking at the scene of the crime (if there was a crime) any longer, and sneak onto the upper deck to break into Algiada’s quarters. Twitch and Sophie trade off Engineering and Computers checks until they get the door open, but Twitch notices the motion sensors just inside the doorway and stops anyone from entering the security chief’s room until he can disable the ice carbine trap.

Twitch is a ridiculously effective searching machine: he has the Diligent Searcher feat, which cuts the time to search an area by taking 20 on Perception down by three-quarters (so only five times the usual time required instead of 20). He finds a notebook that appears to be some kind of accounting ledger, a photograph of a young ryphorian man at an archeological dig with a young Brodynt Benjam, and a loose ventilation grate under the bed, surrounded by some kind of slimy residue that Sophie identifies as something like a snail’s mucus. They take the ledger, datapad, and photograph back to Beorn’s cabin (which has large furniture, so the bear will be comfortable) for examination.

Pouring over the ledger first, the investigators realize that the missing security chief had been making regular deposits into accounts in several banks scattered throughout the Pact Worlds and Near Space, and had more money saved up than one might expect from a relatively young officer on an independent transport ship. Yet in just one recent transaction, Algiada apparently withdrew 10,000 credits to a credstick, with the only explanation being a note reading “For LP, ship repairs.” The party quickly realizes that LP must refer to the first mate, Luzo Pahel.

Next, Sophie hacks into the datapad and finds a hidden folder, containing messages between Algiada and an unnamed contact in the city of Maro on Akiton, about the ryphorian’s “Uncle R.” These messages, about “Uncle R”’s “memories,” seem suspicious; Algiada’s unnamed correspondent would like to see these “memories,” and Algiada tells them that she can provide the “memories” if her contact can ensure Uncle R a new home, permanently. After some discussion, the investigators decide that “Uncle R” must refer to Captain Rameem and that Algiada must be plotting something, but they can’t understand what that might be. They take another look at the bloody statue of the Idari for hidden compartments, but don’t find any. Feeling more than a little lost, the party heads off to dinner, where they find Luzo Pahir and Professor Benjam in the dining hall, Song in the galley.

Acquisitives

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

update?

this was a hard book to run, but a lot of fun. i cut some stuff out, added a few things... would like to see how you did it.

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