So why is the Starfinder Society's reputation so bad all of a sudden?


Starfinder Society

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

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I know after the scoured stars we had the whole Datch thing which was literally just propaganda and we as a society voted NOT to execute her live on television, so I'm not sure I get it.

After prepping the intro to season 5 you would think the society was living down a reputation of being war criminals or something. Even the way Ehu talks about the Society, one would think that Jadnura and Luwazi led with iron fists and that's really not at all what was portrayed so I am a little confused.

I am assuming this is because of what happened with the Data Scourge, but that's gonna be small potatoes compared to the drift crisis and not at all consistent with how the society is usually portrayed.

So what am I missing?


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I think they're pinning it on the Data Scourge, and you mentioned Datch's multimedia campaign, but I think at the core of it is that... well, Datch's campaign had the advantage of incorporating a lot of truth.

Questionable Starfinder recent history, in no particular order:

Spoiler:

* "Provoking" the Jinsul Hierarchy and then unilaterally waging war against them after the Pact Council voted not to get involved.

* Ticking off various corporations while pursuing the "Board of Directors" conspiracy. A pursuit which comes close to indirectly resulting in the death of thousands of Pact Worlds and Veskarium citizens (including a lot of kids) at Songbird Station.

* Provoking an orbital bombardment on the outskirts of Cumo on Triaxus.

* Potentially aggravating the Azlanti Star Empire.

* Endorsing Zo!'s televised bloodsports.

* Making arms deals with the drow and, relatedly, making deals with the Gideron Authority. For that matter, doing business with the Aspis Consortium and the despots of the Veskarium. A lot of First Seeker Elsebo's post-Scoured Stars incident "we can't afford to refuse offers of cooperation" attitude, while arguably necessary for the Society's survival at the time, may have had long tails.

* A lot of Starfinders died in the Scoured Stars. Some of them had families, and at least a few of those survivors personally blame the Society (particularly First Seeker Jadnura) for those deaths.

* Maintaining a secretive, private prison(!) in the Lorespire Complex. Originally called the Adamantine Prison, now retconned to the Adamantine Bastille. This is a particular red flag for me. I mean, seriously, how does it work that the Starfinders get to just "keep" Datch in their basement?

* And, of course, the elephant in the room: Historia-Prime, who turns out to have been a founder of and leader within the Society throughout its centuries-long existence, attempting to crash the Pact Worlds' technology, enslaving or literally destroying entire planets, and ultimately trying to "invade" Absalom Station. I'm guessing that all becomes very public very quickly.

* As a side note, the end of Historia-Prime's long tenure as a Society leader also coincided with the Society's spiritual advisor, Guidance, being corrupted by a malevolent AI virus for months, if not longer.

There's extenuating circumstances for a lot of this. On the other hand, Datch in particular would have put a lot of effort into airing a lot of this laundry in the worst possible light, and she's not the only party with grievances.


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This is also ignoring adventuring tropes that could be cast in a bad light if so desired, like getting into gunfights in cantinas or "every time the Starfinder Society arrives at a party, things start exploding."

Grand Lodge 4/5 Venture-Agent, Texas—Houston

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John Mangrum wrote:

I think they're pinning it on the Data Scourge, and you mentioned Datch's multimedia campaign, but I think at the core of it is that... well, Datch's campaign had the advantage of incorporating a lot of truth.

Questionable Starfinder recent history, in no particular order:

** spoiler omitted **...

You left out...

Spoilers for Fate of the Scoured God:

Killing a divine herald. Regardless of the motives, that level of power makes people nervous.

Second Seekers (Luwazi Elsebo) 5/5 5/55/55/5

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We stopped people from checking their emails.

FOR A YEAR.

They had to learn to add BY HAND.

People had to look up things in bits of dead tree sitting in stacks.

And talk to their relatives in person!

We're just lucky the data scourge ended before they figured out how to start a torch and pitchfork mob by rubbing two pieces of uranium together.

Second Seekers (Luwazi Elsebo) 4/5 5/55/55/55/5 ****

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Justin Norveg wrote:

We stopped people from checking their emails.

FOR A YEAR.

They had to learn to add BY HAND.

People had to look up things in bits of dead tree sitting in stacks.

And talk to their relatives in person!

We're just lucky the data scourge ended before they figured out how to start a torch and pitchfork mob by rubbing two pieces of uranium together.

I personally enjoyed the time away from work and my responsibilities myself. They're actually the villains for fixing the problem!

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

More seriously though, it really does feel like despite making all the "right" decisions as players that the society gets treated like a pariah no matter what.

Makes a guy really just wanna lean in and do all the selfishly motivated things he can.

Second Seekers (Jadnura) 5/5 5/55/55/5

"It's ironic that the first people to complain about the prison are also the first to complain about more...efficient methods of dealing with the mass murderers we come across on occasion. The stewards don't cover near space, much less the vast."

Dataphiles 4/5 5/55/5 *

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Just because Datch was malicious/evil, doesn't mean she was wrong about all of the things she said about the society. The most dangerous kind of evil are the ones who think they are the good guys.


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Afterthought to throw on the pile: The Starfinder Society didn't have an official "Prime Directive" regarding its interactions with less technologically advanced worlds ("ethical anthropology") until 319 AG, aka shortly after Datch declared war.

Dataphiles 5/5 5/55/5 ***

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John Mangrum wrote:
Afterthought to throw on the pile: The Starfinder Society didn't have an official "Prime Directive" regarding its interactions with less technologically advanced worlds ("ethical anthropology") until 319 AG, aka shortly after Datch declared war.

We Kiirintas wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Datch leading the starfinders to us!

Wayfinders 4/5 5/55/55/55/5 *** Contributor

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John Mangrum wrote:
Afterthought to throw on the pile: The Starfinder Society didn't have an official "Prime Directive" regarding its interactions with less technologically advanced worlds ("ethical anthropology") until 319 AG, aka shortly after Datch declared war.

I would like to take argument with this one. From what we know of First Seeker Roheas (female lashunta star shaman mystic, dating early in the Society's history from right after the Drift became available), one of her primary concerns was protecting pre-Drift civilizations and worlds that had not yet developed space flight from harm.* She was all about ethical anthropology, and she's one of the earliest First Seekers that we know about.

Hmm

__________
* Her other priority was upgrading the ships of the Starfinder fleet. We also know from several scenarios that she is one one Guidance's favorite faces. The AI definitely had favorites from amongst former first seekers.

Major sources of information: PaizoCon SS Roheas boon from 2019, plus various scenarios featuring Guidance.

2/5

Knowledge of the real origin of the Data Scourge is definitely one of the biggest clouds hanging over the Starfinders right now.

Spoiler:
The briefing from the Season 5 intro pretty much called out the fact that Historia-Prime, a former member of the Starfinder leadership, being responsible for such widespread death and destruction has created a serious problem with others trusting the Society. And it seems at least heavily implied that if a mass-murderer like that can hide in plain sight within the Society for so long, it's no wonder that paranoia and strife within the ranks are at an all-time high.


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Hilary Moon Murphy wrote:
I would like to take argument with this one. From what we know of First Seeker Roheas (female lashunta star shaman mystic, dating early in the Society's history from right after the Drift became available), one of her primary concerns was protecting pre-Drift civilizations and worlds that had not yet developed space flight from harm.* She was all about ethical anthropology, and she's one of the earliest First Seekers that we know about.

Counterpoint: While there were certainly voices within the Society pushing for what eventually became "ethical anthropology" (including Roheas), it wasn't official policy throughout the Society.

1. The Roheas Second Seekers is a minor faction. In real life, joining the faction was not widely available, being locked behind a convention exclusive. (Heck, as a non-organized-play GM myself, literally everything I know about that boon comes from a forum user posting it here two years ago behind spoiler tags.)

2. In #1-12: Ashes of Discovery, when asked about the possibility of sentient species on a planet the team's being sent to, Guidance's advice is simply to "endeavor for a peaceful first contact and keep the reputation of the Starfinder Society and the Pact Worlds in mind."

Parenthetical:

Spoiler for Years 1 and 2:
Keeping in mind that as Guidance is saying this, it's entirely possible that they're already under the control of Datch's virus.

3. Real-world discussion about the need for a "Prime Directive" was also active leading up to Year of the Thousand Bites and filtered into the in-setting material.

Explicitly, in #1-29, if First Seeker Elsebo is asked directly about first contact protocols...

#1-29 Spoiler (if you even want to call it that):
...she sighs and says, "Sadly, this is an area we've overlooked in our exuberance to interact with other cultures. We're not a military or government organization, after all. We don't have any official rules, but in general, my personal policy is to treat each alien species as a group of potential allies. They had a saying on ancient Golarion: explore, report... and get along. I think that applies here.

What we seem to be looking at here is a patchwork of unofficial policies that rose and fell with the First Seekers who endorsed them. It wasn't until 2019, aka 319, aka the campaign to rescue the Society's reputation from Datch's smear campaign, that it became official. The blog introducing it focused on the very real possibility that just a year earlier, Starfinder agents might well have literally sold out the truth of the izalguun civilization to the Pact Worlds at large, but chose not to on their own.

Second Seekers (Luwazi Elsebo) 5/5 5/55/55/5

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"First, there ARE guidelines on that sort of thing. In the field report from Vabamius sensationally titled "it rests beneath" society field researchers are worried about not interfering too much with the local barely sentient life. As they haven't figured out that whole writing thing yet we're PROBABLY not going to scar them forever. *

Secondly, in a universe as diverse as ours having guidelines rather than ironclad rules is a good thing. I love a well organized spreadsheet as well as the next lab rat, but we come across so many weird circumstances that trying to write an ironclad rule or decision making algorithm for it is just going to get you into trouble. Sure we don't want starfinders dropping down and setting up their own religions to locals who just figured out that whole fire thing, but do we really want to sit back on the bridge and eat popcorn while a plague rips through a planet, they get a Zombie apocalypse, or they decide to larp Nuclear War head IV :I can't believe it's not cobalt?"

"Its a good directive. But I don't see why it outranks doing the right thing. ANYTHING we do can get spun the wrong way. Anything we DON"T do can get spun the wrong way too. Let the haters hate, we know what we did and why we did it. "

Wayfinders 4/5 5/55/55/55/5 *** Contributor

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John Mangrum wrote:
The Roheas Second Seekers is a minor faction. In real life, joining the faction was not widely available, being locked behind a convention exclusive. (Heck, as a non-organized-play GM myself, literally everything I know about that boon comes from a forum user posting it here two years ago behind spoiler tags.)

Fair enough, John!

That forum user might have been me. I was disappointed that Roheas was never upgraded with Manifold Host from being a convention exclusive -- it is some of my favorite lore and a really cool faction.

BTW, for a non-organized play GM, I have always loved how invested and informative your posts on SFS lore have been. You're always a pleasure to read, John.

Hmm


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Hilary Moon Murphy wrote:
BTW, for a non-organized play GM, I have always loved how invested and informative your posts on SFS lore have been. You're always a pleasure to read, John.

Thanks! My brief (as it now looks in the rear view mirror) tour through professional RPG writing literally started with wrenching 2nd Edition Ravenloft's soupy continuity into a 30-something-page thoroughly annotated timeline, so trust me when I say I'm really making an effort to stifle my obsessive notetaking these days. I've even learned to not sweat the Gap! :)

As for being invested/informative, I think I may actually be at an advantage because I'm generally running these adventures years after publication (my home game is only now in the final stretch of the Scoured Stars). I have oceans of time to think about this stuff, as opposed to Society authors and GMs who, I assume, have to really stay on their toes to keep up in something like real time.

Dark Archive 4/5

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As someone who owns all of your books John I would love to hand over some money for you writing some Starfinder content.


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There's a part of me that's still always tempted, I'll admit.

Dataphiles

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And, worth noting...

SFS 3.11 Spoiler:
The Society deliberately sided with the Veskarium military for political reasons, in order to ensure a stable in-road into imperial space and to foster relations with them, by taking part in an attack against the PLF. This led to the death of several Pahtra resistance fighters, which in turn led to the radicalization of other Pahtra, causing an escalation in violence. I know because I wrote that part of the scenario.

SFS 5.03 Spoiler:
Which is something I was SO THRILLED to be able to pay off in THIS scenario, where the PCs not only see the damage their actions caused but are able to seriously discuss themes of imperialist violence and help to take steps towards repaying the harm they've caused.

Second Seekers (Luwazi Elsebo) 5/5 5/55/55/5

"I'm less than certain that "the rocket you launched dropped a building on my head, and on those of innocent civilians as well" Qualifies as "political reasons". "

5.03 spoiler:
We don't have a prison anymore. We could sentence to him to work in Fitches nursery on the Master of Stars but the last time we did that Apostae objected on the grounds of cruel and unusual punishment...

Grand Archive 4/5 ***

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Alison-Cybe wrote:

And, worth noting...

SFS 3.11 Spoiler: ** spoiler omitted **

Sadly, there is no way to report it, but:
I played that with my Anti-Facist, pro PLF vesk, who in a previous scenario had condemned the Vesk government on a popular interstellar music broadcast. We stretched the chase out until there was enough distance that we could communicate without being overheard, then conspired to fake the destruction of their ship while they got away.
Dataphiles

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Jared Thaler - Personal Opinion wrote:
Alison-Cybe wrote:

And, worth noting...

SFS 3.11 Spoiler: ** spoiler omitted **

** spoiler omitted **

Okay! That's pretty awesome right there!! :D

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

By the end we had all sided with the Vesk.

Dark Archive 4/5 ** Venture-Agent, Finland—Tampere

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The one starfinder character I bought starfinder of note for was idealistic soldier vesk who wanted to leave army to do archaeology, they had felt obligated by family to go to army instead of university and regretted it.

I made note that almost all scenarios I happened to play with character ended up being black ops operations, corporate sponsorship, doing "favors", etc. Basically not archeology

They felt very typecasted by society by level 12 :p

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