5 - The Cradle Infestation (GM Reference)


The Threefold Conspiracy

Liberty's Edge

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

This is intended to be a spoiler-filled resource thread (as in other AP subforums) for GMs running book 5 of The Threefold Conspiracy Adventure Path, "The Cradle Infestation."

All GM threads in this series:

1 - The Chimera Mystery
2 - Flight of the Sleepers
3 - Deceivers' Moon
4 - The Hollow Cabal
5 - The Cradle Infestation
6 - Puppets Without Strings


1 person marked this as a favorite.

We finished the book! We're now on hiatus for a bit while one of the players welcomes their first child, so the party has some time to absorb the terrifying, world-upending news:

They're clones! Of Reptoid infiltrators scattered throughout the Pact Worlds!

I mocked up an actual PDF that read as a series of emails from Zaxo to Gyru for the party to actually read once they found the files. Then we "debriefed" to ensure they understand the implications, and setting the stage for the story to continue in Book 6.

Some things for other DMs to note:

1. The party may not choose to share this information with their allies immediately, so when following up afterward, the fight footage from Llaoe Arae that gets leaked is crucial to helping put the pressure on and clue in the party's new ally, Director General Lin Camulan, in the subsequent and final book.

2. Overseer Gyru was a decently tense fight due to her Greater Invisibility, but I forgot to engage some of her other defensive measures from being a Witchwarper. If you want to max out the tension, definitely brush up on all of her spells and abilities! Or, just give her a 2nd Gray operative to act as frontline fodder.


Congratulations! Hope you get to play the final chapter soon!

So how did your players react to the revelation? Were they already suspecting something like that? Or what was their theory?

We are now through part 1 of book 3 and my group suspects that everything is still a simulation. The Chimera revelation really did a number on them...

Anyway, would you care to share the PDF you mentioned? If you don't want to share it publicly due to copyright concerns, I'd be happy to give you my email address.


Nullpunkt wrote:

Congratulations! Hope you get to play the final chapter soon!

So how did your players react to the revelation? Were they already suspecting something like that? Or what was their theory?

We are now through part 1 of book 3 and my group suspects that everything is still a simulation. The Chimera revelation really did a number on them...

Anyway, would you care to share the PDF you mentioned? If you don't want to share it publicly due to copyright concerns, I'd be happy to give you my email address.

They were a little blown away by the revelation, but also, hindsight 20/20, it immediately explained their doppelganger problems and the whole Chimera mystery I kept casually reminding them was never solved. Only time will tell how they adapt/move on form this--for now, they're keeping it secret, so our eventual follow-up session will partly be dealing with the repercussions of their newfound knowledge, plus the growing media reports about a Director lookalike, from smuggled fight footage.

Yeah, Book 3 is honestly one of the toughest, with the strange events on the Voidcrier and then Dr. Nodens' interrogations...it's a real tough book to navigate successfully. Don't forget to have the charade be up the instant they kill a Reptoid though, which will revert to tis natural form! That's always a "aha!" moment. (My party luckily hadn't yet gotten hooked on the whole "nonlethal damage, let's take captives" deal, that came later in late Book 4 and early Book 5.)

I'd be willing share my original email content from Zaxo to Gyru and vice versa, but not the dossiers themselves, which I formatted as "Subject" (PC) and "Template" (the NPC they were cloned from) columns. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be an Attachments function here on the Forums.


No, unfortunately not. You could post a link to some cloud storage like Google Drive or Dropbox, though.


My group is just starting out Book 5. We've been loving the campaign so far, and they're all really invested in the mystery. I am going to make some major changes to the Book 5 flow.

1) the Trachee lab is a bit to same-y coming right on the heels of GamutBio. I realize it is set up to be a stealthy infiltration vs a dungeon shoot, but I felt "another lab" was getting redundant.

2) The Laoe Araae/Zairx connection is just too much of a stretch. Grays appear suddenly and I think the reasoning just strains immersion; my party would really dislike it as a bit too on the rails.

I'm cutting Trachee almost completely. The intel dump at the end of that is instead in the GamutBio server at the end of Book 4. This will lead them straight to Laoe Araae. They will still encounter the Shimmering Blade soon after entering Bretheda space.

Laoe Araae will welcome them and allow them to see Verifier Ki, who arrived earlier that day. Nevintsi arrived a few days before. Nevintsi sidesteps them and makes an escape with a captive Ki in tow. The PCs find the meditation room empty (recently vacated) and the alarms go off moments later -- they will have to negotiate their way back out past the guards.

This will lead to a space chase (using the rules from the SOM). During the chase, the PCs will have opportunities to notice they are being followed by a cloaked Gray vesesl. The chase ends with the Verifier's shuttle disabled and the party about to board (if they don't destroy it outright; I want to impress upon them to try and rescue the not-yet-infested Verifier).

The Gray ship (or 2) then appear and fire upon the shuttle, intent on destroying the dyskepsian threat for good. The PCs can defend the shuttle, but will have to fight off the Grays. If they win, they find a pointer to Obs Stn Zairx amid the wreckage.

Zairx is cloaked in some orbital debris (relatively) close to Laoe Araae. It will go pretty much as described, although obviously not attached to the hospice. I thought about using some environmental challenges, such as zero-G.


Additionally: I realize this will leave the group a little behind on experience per the AP track. Honestly, they're already blitzing through most of the encounters, so the slightly beefed up challenge in Book 6 should be appropriate.


GM Space Nomad wrote:
Additionally: I realize this will leave the group a little behind on experience per the AP track. Honestly, they're already blitzing through most of the encounters, so the slightly beefed up challenge in Book 6 should be appropriate.

Outside the first book in an AP I tend to find a choice between A) Severely curtailing loot gain, B) leaving players one level lower than expected, or C) ramping up the difficulty in certain encounters.

So far, B has been the best bet for my player enjoyment.


That holds true for my Pathfinder games too. My players are experienced enough that the adventures *as printed* are usually a bit too easy.

This is the first Starfinder game I've gotten to these levels, so I'm still kinda learning to balance the challenge. I thought some of the encounters in book 1-2 were too much (specifically Jinzeroga and the quantum troll), but the rest were good. At higher levels, some of the fights have been really too easy.

The solarian, soldier and vanguard are all very tanky... tons of hp/stamina so I have to focus fire on one just to make them sweat a little. Low CR foes just don't do enough meaningful damage.


GM Space Nomad wrote:

That holds true for my Pathfinder games too. My players are experienced enough that the adventures *as printed* are usually a bit too easy.

This is the first Starfinder game I've gotten to these levels, so I'm still kinda learning to balance the challenge. I thought some of the encounters in book 1-2 were too much (specifically Jinzeroga and the quantum troll), but the rest were good. At higher levels, some of the fights have been really too easy.

The solarian, soldier and vanguard are all very tanky... tons of hp/stamina so I have to focus fire on one just to make them sweat a little. Low CR foes just don't do enough meaningful damage.

Post level... 7 or so, low CR foes are a speed bump in starfinder. That's not to say they're useless. You can use said bags of hitpoints as cover and distractions for higher CR enemies. That said, anything less than APL-2 is literally just target practice unless you give them an accuracy bump (or limit PC gear drops so they don't have on level armor).

Now, throwing high CR encounters at players can be way too dangerous on the flip side. An APL+4-5 enemy will probably lose to your party, but they'll also probably take one of your PCs with them. You have to find a good balancing point based on how much stamina the PCs have.

Also, you just have the bad luck to have tanky PCs in general. When I've run games there tends to be one tank, and they are very good at their job. To the point that if enemies focus fire on them, they've done their job and won the encounter, because they've let the rest of the party act with impunity. It's the smarter enemies that challenge them... but if you have all tanks, that doesn't work so well.


I can see what you mean... with a more evenly balanced party (tank, caster, heals, and skill) the encounters would be on par or challenging. My group is soldier, solarian, vanguard (3x tanks), mystic and operative.

Finding that happy balance is tough... because what might threaten the tanks enough to make them nervous would probably overkill the other two!


GM Space Nomad wrote:

My group is just starting out Book 5. We've been loving the campaign so far, and they're all really invested in the mystery. I am going to make some major changes to the Book 5 flow.

1) the Trachee lab is a bit to same-y coming right on the heels of GamutBio. I realize it is set up to be a stealthy infiltration vs a dungeon shoot, but I felt "another lab" was getting redundant.

2) The Laoe Araae/Zairx connection is just too much of a stretch. Grays appear suddenly and I think the reasoning just strains immersion; my party would really dislike it as a bit too on the rails.

I'm cutting Trachee almost completely. The intel dump at the end of that is instead in the GamutBio server at the end of Book 4. This will lead them straight to Laoe Araae. They will still encounter the Shimmering Blade soon after entering Bretheda space.

Laoe Araae will welcome them and allow them to see Verifier Ki, who arrived earlier that day. Nevintsi arrived a few days before. Nevintsi sidesteps them and makes an escape with a captive Ki in tow. The PCs find the meditation room empty (recently vacated) and the alarms go off moments later -- they will have to negotiate their way back out past the guards.

This will lead to a space chase (using the rules from the SOM). During the chase, the PCs will have opportunities to notice they are being followed by a cloaked Gray vesesl. The chase ends with the Verifier's shuttle disabled and the party about to board (if they don't destroy it outright; I want to impress upon them to try and rescue the not-yet-infested Verifier).

The Gray ship (or 2) then appear and fire upon the shuttle, intent on destroying the dyskepsian threat for good. The PCs can defend the shuttle, but will have to fight off the Grays. If they win, they find a pointer to Obs Stn Zairx amid the wreckage.

Zairx is cloaked in some orbital debris (relatively) close to Laoe Araae. It will go pretty much as described, although obviously not attached to the hospice. I thought about using some environmental...

I also find two bio labs in a row a bit boring so I was also thinking about cutting it. I like your approach. Did you actually run your version yet? Any notes you might like to share?

Acquisitives

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
GM Space Nomad wrote:

My group is just starting out Book 5. We've been loving the campaign so far, and they're all really invested in the mystery. I am going to make some major changes to the Book 5 flow.

1) the Trachee lab is a bit to same-y coming right on the heels of GamutBio. I realize it is set up to be a stealthy infiltration vs a dungeon shoot, but I felt "another lab" was getting redundant.

2) The Laoe Araae/Zairx connection is just too much of a stretch. Grays appear suddenly and I think the reasoning just strains immersion; my party would really dislike it as a bit too on the rails.

I'm cutting Trachee almost completely. The intel dump at the end of that is instead in the GamutBio server at the end of Book 4. This will lead them straight to Laoe Araae. They will still encounter the Shimmering Blade soon after entering Bretheda space.

Laoe Araae will welcome them and allow them to see Verifier Ki, who arrived earlier that day. Nevintsi arrived a few days before. Nevintsi sidesteps them and makes an escape with a captive Ki in tow. The PCs find the meditation room empty (recently vacated) and the alarms go off moments later -- they will have to negotiate their way back out past the guards.

This will lead to a space chase (using the rules from the SOM). During the chase, the PCs will have opportunities to notice they are being followed by a cloaked Gray vesesl. The chase ends with the Verifier's shuttle disabled and the party about to board (if they don't destroy it outright; I want to impress upon them to try and rescue the not-yet-infested Verifier).

The Gray ship (or 2) then appear and fire upon the shuttle, intent on destroying the dyskepsian threat for good. The PCs can defend the shuttle, but will have to fight off the Grays. If they win, they find a pointer to Obs Stn Zairx amid the wreckage.

Zairx is cloaked in some orbital debris (relatively) close to Laoe Araae. It will go pretty much as described, although obviously not attached to the hospice. I thought about using some environmental...

i really like this idea. we just started book 4 and looking ahead at book 5... seems kinda 'samey' with the last part of Hollow Cabal ...

I'm thinking maybe a good ole fashioned dungeon crawl somewhere? where the PCs find the original fungal infestation... some asteroid which was flung from deep space at the Pact Worlds and is now orbiting Bretheda [I do love THE EXPANSE...]? I dunno... just think it might be fun to spice things up a bit...

Thoughts?

Acquisitives

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

my players got taken to whoop school by the starship combat. I hadn't even looked at the tier of the ship until last night. it's Tier 9. Same tier as the pc's ship. I wasn't even playing hard and just devastated them. Would recommend that DMs select / build a Tier 8 ship.

Acquisitives

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I'd recommend swapping out the Tier 9 build for the Society Tier 8 Gorgon, which is also a destroyer.

Community / Forums / Starfinder / Starfinder Adventure Path / The Threefold Conspiracy / 5 - The Cradle Infestation (GM Reference) All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.
Recent threads in The Threefold Conspiracy