Monday, April 22, 2024

Scoured Stars Adventure Path: Session Zero and Part 1

Spoiler Warning: This post contains spoilers for the Scoured Stars Adventure Path. 

See the Scoured Stars Adventure Path: Index page for links to all of my campaign journal blog posts for this AP. 

Earlier this year, Paizo released the Scoured Stars Adventure Path, which repackages the primary story arc from Season 1 of Starfinder Society into a level 1-15 campaign. This story line sees the Starfinder Society struggling to recover from a recent disaster: the loss of the majority of their ships and personnel in a massive expedition to the mysterious Scoured Stars system. Over the course of the twelve adventures that make up this AP, the PCs start as newly trained recruits but quickly become central to the Society's investigations of what happened in the Scoured Stars, their return to the system to rescue any survivors, and the resulting conflict with an aggressive new enemy that intends to reclaim the system for themselves.

I have played all twelve of the original Starfinder Society scenarios that make up this "metaplot" arc, and GMed a few of them myself. Some of them are among my favorite organized play experiences, so this book was an easy sell for me. Some of the players in my home group have played many of them as well, but none of us have played them in any coherent order with the same characters throughout, so much of this treatment will still be novel to them.

We had a "session zero" to work out characters a few weeks ago. For the AP, I decided to allow most of the species on the "always available" list for Society play, minus a few species that were first introduced during this arc, or who were first encountered in later seasons. This still allowed for a very unusual mix of characters, and the resulting party was made up of species that nobody in our group had played before. Our heroes are:

  • Sasha, borai maraquoi, envoy, bouncer; ship's captain. This character's concept was inspired by the "space monkey mafia" line from Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire." She is a borai who used to be a maraquoi in life. This isn't one of the standard choices for the undead borai, so we decided that the species trait she would retain was prehensile tail. 
  • Gambit, hanakan, evolutionist, street magician; ship's gunner. Hanakan are magical raptor-like aliens who normally distrust and avoid technology, but Gambit is a (literally) shocking exception: a mechanics evolutionist, who becomes part robot as they mutate during combat.
  • Zzyssa, hanakan, vanguard, personal trainer; ship's pilot. Zzyssa is a little more typical of their species, except for the fact that they're a Small species filling the the front line/tank role. 
  • Sssami Kuppa, ikeshti, enhanced technomancer, tinker; ship's engineer. Having survived his species' brutal mating cycle, Sssami left Akiton to seek his fortune on a less impoverished world. 
Sasha (L) and Gambit (R)

Our group frequently play characters who all learn an unusual language they can all use when they wish to talk amongst themselves without being understood by outsiders. For the Against the Aeon Throne AP, it was Eoxian (common in the Pact Worlds, not so much in Azlanti space). This time, with two hanakan PCs, they choose that species' native language, Akan.

This past weekend, we started the campaign proper by playing the first adventure, "The Commencement." In this adventure, the PCs have just finished their training as Starfinders, which has been accelerated due to the urgent need for more field agents. They are asked to perform some tasks for the leaders of the four of the most prominent factions (Acquisitives, Dataphiles, Exo-Guardians, and Wayfinders). 

In the original scenario, the Acquisitives mission involves a junk-cycle race that, in practice, frequently runs much longer then the other missions due to the number of skill checks and NPCs involved. For the AP, this was replaced with a starship combat from another scenario, which introduces an NPC who will reappear later in the AP. Starship combat is not my group's favorite subsystem of the rules, as it is frequently time-consuming, and characters who aren't pilots or gunners are regularly overshadowed. With this in mind, I decided that we would try the narrative starship combat rules in Starfinder Enhanced. These were new to us, because they aren't used in Society play, but for an AP, GMs have much more latitude to make changes for their own games. These rules promised to make combats more fun because they were vastly simplified and because every crew role has a more equal opportunity to contribute to victory. 

This adventure's starship combat was an honorable duel rather than a deadly encounter, so it made for a good test for the rules, before the stakes get higher in later missions. This first trial proved to be not just a resounding success, but a quick and flawless victory! The enemy ship failed its skill roll to attack, while the PCs had large enough success margins on their checks to force a surrender after one round. It took much longer to explain the (fairly simple) rules than to play out the combat. I don't expect the PCs to ever have it that easy in the future, but it was definitely more fun to run and play than the standard starship combat rules, which are my and my group's least favorite part of the game--especially when both sides are so evenly matched that the battle becomes a tedious slog of attrition.

None of the other three missions were nearly that easy, but they performed well on them, only achieving less than complete success on one (recruiting a hacker for the Dataphiles by faking their death). However, they did well enough to not lose out on any rewards.

Monster hunt in a warehouse intended for conversion into the Exo-Guardians' new base.

My mini for the feather stalker, a crinoid-like alien.

All my players seemed to enjoy the game a great deal, and are looking forward to the rest of the AP. Apart from GMing occasional PFS (1E) and SFS scenarios, this is the first campaign I've run in a few years. I've definitely been missing being in the GM's seat for a long-term game, so I'm excited to be running this one.

Next time: "The First Mandate," in which our heroes try to impress some dignitaries at a gala while helping out with security for the event. 


Conversion Notes: For those who are interested, here is the Honorbound's stat block, converted for narrative starship combat following the guidelines in Starfinder Enhanced:


Average DC 11; Hard DC 16

HP 5; Threshold 2

Skill Bonus +7

The Honorbound has no Special Abilities. Yuluzak will surrender after his ship has been reduced to 2 HP or less.

And here are the stat blocks for the party's options at this Tier:

Average DC 13; Hard DC 18
HP 5
Skill Modifiers +1 to any three checks per round 
Average DC 13; Hard DC 18
HP 5
Skill Modifiers +1 to any two checks per round; +2 Computers; +1 Piloting

Note that the amount of simplification required for the narrative starship combat rules makes the differences between these two models' armor, weapons, and shields largely irrelevant unless they deviate significantly from the tier's norm. This is a significant change from the standard starship combat rules, where the Pegasus excels in speed, maneuverability, and sensors, but the Drake has heavier weapons and defenses. Here, the only real distinction between the two are the skill modifiers from their computers, sensors, and thrusters. (IIRC, my group chose the Drake this time out because they could use its skill bonuses on any of their checks.) At the highest tiers, the Pegasus will outperforms the Drake in all ways thanks to its superior computers and thrusters giving it more generous skill bonuses.


[Edited 7/11/2024 to add the spoiler warning, a link to the Index page, and stat blocks for the Drake and Pegasus.]

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