6 - Puppets Without Strings (GM Reference)


The Threefold Conspiracy

Liberty's Edge

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

This is intended to be a spoiler-filled resource thread (as in other AP subforums) for GMs running book 6 of The Threefold Conspiracy Adventure Path, "Puppets Without Strings."

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


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I'll be starting this final volume sometime in the next two months (waiting on an original party member who had to take a perfectly-timed hiatus for the birth of his first child!), and want to get all my ducks in a row.

I've read and reread this volume several times, and I honestly think it's almost like a separate min-AP all its own.

There's a massive cast of NPCs. A number of complicated tasks that can be done in almost any order by the PCs. Several combats with specific floor-plans, and several other "quantum combats" that could be inserted at various points, triggered by various PC actions, but without specific maps (the Fleurasik enforcers, Tavin Arill's ambush, possible entanglements with House Rycast).

It's honestly a lot. I have the maps finished for the Jynma encounter on the train/tram, the

:
clone
ambush, the face-offs with "Erem" (named differently in my campaign) and Vora Rinn and Thylas Starhammer, and of course the big dungeon at the end on
:
Zaxo's Grey ship
. But there's a ton of connective tissue that's so dependent on the party's choices, all of the actual investigating bits, and I'm not sure what the most efficient way to prep for all that is.

Is anyone else prepping this volume or already GMing it?


It's happening!

After nearly a 4 month hiatus (!!), the escapees of the Chimera's mysterious disaster will at last be heading to Absalom Station to reckon with the fallout of their conflicts with the various Reptoids with whom they've clashed, and to deal with the looming mindf&%$ of the Grays' revelations about the party's real identities.

Session 34 is next weekend, May 1.

Anyone who's planning to run Puppets Without Strings, or is already running it, feel free to hit me up with questions on how this insanity goes. There's a lot of moving parts in this Book.


Empathize with the overwhelmingness of it. I had a very similar sense in Chimera Mystery, where I made myself read and re-read until I felt like I could close my eyes and walk through the ship, knowing what was hidden or stashed where, where each NPC was hanging out, etc.
Pw/oS is that and then some. Practically the only direction they're given is "maybe other directorate reptoids...?" and then cut them loose. I'm a little frustrated that the devs didn't even attempt to give real guidance as to what other individuals the non-Erem PCs might be cloned from. Seemed like if you make them all reptoids, that gives way too much away, but if you don't, you need to consider both what the grays might find useful in their anti-reptoid endeavors, what's going to be interesting/fun, and what's not going to distract overmuch from the narrative by making them fixate on things that don't wind up going anywhere significant.
Once you get past that... yeah, then you only need to memorize what dozens of NPCs know and don't know, their allegiances and enemies, the intel available at a number of sites (some of them improvised)... It's a humdinger. But we're most of the way through (about to identify the third reptoid directorate candidate, then on to the roundup), and we're having a blast doing it.


Boedullus wrote:


Pw/oS is that and then some. Practically the only direction they're given is "maybe other directorate reptoids...?" and then cut them loose. I'm a little frustrated that the devs didn't even attempt to give real guidance as to what other individuals the non-Erem PCs might be cloned from.

From page 5 of The Chimera Mystery:

"...Zaxo and his team have orchestrated a plan to replace the imposters...The PCs are those clones."

The Adventure Background here in Bk 1 makes it clear that the PCs are all clones of Reptoids in deep cover as people in the Pact Worlds, a mix of "important leaders" and "assistants to the powerful".

From page 37 of The Cradle Infestation:

"...dossiers on each PC. Each profile is accompanied by a picture and brief biography of the individual the PC is a clone of..."

Yes, having each party member be assigned a concrete template individual by the AP would be convenient in some ways, but it also makes it less flexible. The writers presumably wanted it to be adaptable, so they just went with having one PC being a clone of a known, named individual who has a specific role in the final book. This of course gives plot hooks for future adventures should the party and DM want to go further.

Personally, I'm having the 3 other party members realize their templates are all GTFO, after the media ruckus from the Llaoe Arae incident. The only one who doesn't of course is "Erem" (differently named in my game) becuase of their lofty position. "Erem" just attempts to spin the news and do damage control for their own power's sake. The other Reptoids (who operate individually, not in a unified cell) are impersonating less-public and less-powerful individuals, but choose to withdraw or hide in various ways, and won't be relevant to the final Book of the AP.

First session of this arc begins today for my party, and will be soem homebrew fill-in material to get them back in character between Llaoe Arae and Absalom Station. I'm having them take a 1 week mandatory "vacation" on Bretheda, courtesy of Confluence and the Stewards, both of whom are debriefing them and getting their pieces in place for how to best use this mysterious party of strange doppelgangers. Going for a roleplay-heavy so the party can grapple with the story twist in character, and also do some Session Zero-esque planning for what they expect out of the story and their characters for this final arc.

Acquisitives

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
SpiderOrc wrote:
Boedullus wrote:


Pw/oS is that and then some. Practically the only direction they're given is "maybe other directorate reptoids...?" and then cut them loose. I'm a little frustrated that the devs didn't even attempt to give real guidance as to what other individuals the non-Erem PCs might be cloned from.

From page 5 of The Chimera Mystery:

"...Zaxo and his team have orchestrated a plan to replace the imposters...The PCs are those clones."

The Adventure Background here in Bk 1 makes it clear that the PCs are all clones of Reptoids in deep cover as people in the Pact Worlds, a mix of "important leaders" and "assistants to the powerful".

From page 37 of The Cradle Infestation:

"...dossiers on each PC. Each profile is accompanied by a picture and brief biography of the individual the PC is a clone of..."

Yes, having each party member be assigned a concrete template individual by the AP would be convenient in some ways, but it also makes it less flexible. The writers presumably wanted it to be adaptable, so they just went with having one PC being a clone of a known, named individual who has a specific role in the final book. This of course gives plot hooks for future adventures should the party and DM want to go further.

Personally, I'm having the 3 other party members realize their templates are all GTFO, after the media ruckus from the Llaoe Arae incident. The only one who doesn't of course is "Erem" (differently named in my game) becuase of their lofty position. "Erem" just attempts to spin the news and do damage control for their own power's sake. The other Reptoids (who operate individually, not in a unified cell) are impersonating less-public and less-powerful individuals, but choose to withdraw or hide in various ways, and won't be relevant to the final Book of the AP.

First session of this arc begins today for my party, and will be soem homebrew fill-in material to get them back in character between Llaoe Arae and Absalom Station. I'm having them take a 1...

so how did the insanity go? we'll likely start book 6 - although not get very deep into it - in the next session...

i changed the gray plot which is driving the book, so i think i can skip quite a bit of the otherwise sure to ensure shenanigans with PCs running into their "original" versions...

Acquisitives

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Just started Book 6. The original Captain Rameem [discovered by the party in Book 3, and has been tagging along ever since] stole their ship after they arrived on Absalom Station. He's off to find the Chimera...

The PCs were a bit miffed.

Acquisitives

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

has anyone run the sniper encounter? thoughts on how to make it suspenseful?


Yakman wrote:
has anyone run the sniper encounter? thoughts on how to make it suspenseful?

Tried to...

My first plan was to add an assassin robot, the team would encounter it while it projeted an humanoid image, while the sniper would shoot them at long range. I would have put some automated traps on the way to the sniper too. But my players did not at all press the issue about him so the encounter never happened. Sad, because I planned to use his phase shift escape operative ability like a gray escape plan, and so tossing some red herrings in the investigation.

Plan B : He and his robot would be shooting from afar while the party engaged Erem. That did not happen...

I changed the Gray plot too because I ran about half of this AP after "Against the Aeon Throne" AP, so the story and relations of the team are a bit different. They were able to befriend Jymna and her gang to engage Erem, so those two gangs had a sniper party while the team engaged Erem as normal...

Acquisitives

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Ran the sniper encounter. It was fun, but only because I was later informed by a player that I was breaking the rules by adding trick attack damage to the sniper rifle.

Had I known that you can't do this, I would have added multiple attack robots to distract the party while he continued sniping at them.

BTW, what I did was put the party on an abandoned liquified thasteron dock at the base of the Spine... they walked 500 feet out into space to meet the contact... who was secretly an Assassin Robot. Then I had the sniper open up.

Were I to redesign my redesign, I'd take full advantage of the range of the sniper rifle (750'), and add flying attack robots to the challenge. That way the more mobile characters (2 ysoki had like these flying packs that let them move 350' in a full round action) would be more amenable to staying behind to assist the less mobile characters.

Additionally, one player went down to the dock the night before the encounter and set up a camera and bombs - the sniper blew right past the needed checks to avoid the camera and rejigger the bombs, so I had bombs blowing up along the dock as the players were running back - that was fun.

I had the sniper shoot his six bullets and try to jet, but our operative phase jumped into the room he was in, and they had a melee combat - which I rolled TRASH on, otherwise we'd have one less operative... meanwhile the mechanic managed to sneak into the room and was blasting both of them with his cone of cold gun. It was a fun combat, even if I did muck up the rules a bit.

I also used the phase shift, but they'd put a bomb on him when he was knocked unconscious... he had 1 HP and 1 RP left when he shifted through the floor and they blew him up. Which was good, because the squamous parasitical worms and bizarre vermin which infest the ruined levels of the station had already started to devour the reptoid's body by the time they got there...

Acquisitives

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

i guess we are about 5 sessions from completing the AP... very excited. i have some ideas about homebrewing the cycle of encounters before the end to make them a little more tense, and then probably going to run the last part as is, although i should probably spend a bit of time re-reading it...


Yakman wrote:
i guess we are about 5 sessions from completing the AP... very excited. i have some ideas about homebrewing the cycle of encounters before the end to make them a little more tense, and then probably going to run the last part as is, although i should probably spend a bit of time re-reading it...

I'm curious, is your elected board ends up cannon or is there any changes? For my team the Kasatha was replaced by Uvali Rycast.

Acquisitives

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Dargoth876 wrote:
Yakman wrote:
i guess we are about 5 sessions from completing the AP... very excited. i have some ideas about homebrewing the cycle of encounters before the end to make them a little more tense, and then probably going to run the last part as is, although i should probably spend a bit of time re-reading it...
I'm curious, is your elected board ends up cannon or is there any changes? For my team the Kasatha was replaced by Uvali Rycast.

i haven't decided how it's going to end yet. but I'll let you know when we end in September (fingers crossed!)

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