Monday, November 27, 2017

The Riven Star Gambit - A Starfinder Introductory Scenario

Here's the introductory Starfinder scenario I used last week. I will continue with Starfinder, but not without retooling it to be less "fantasy" and more "sci fi." Not sure how best to do that yet; I want the game to have a more coherent sense of order to the explanation for magic that is stronger than "because Golarion, d'uh."

The Riven Star Gambit - A Starfinder Introductory Scenario

Meet the Patron: Group is approached by a half elven Naelythian scholar named Dremora Walker. She needs the group to escort her and her cargo to Horizon’s Edge, near remote star port called Blunted Spear in the Riven Star system. As an elf she is respected and appears to be of high station, but Dremora explains her cargo is valued and may be the target of interested parties. She knows a Drow agent of Inatras has taken an interest in securing the cargo she carries. She asks for discretion, but explains the cargo is valuable, but harmless. She is protected by a mercenary Nuar named Makros. She explains she needs to make one stop along the way: after leaving port they need to jump first to the Fallen System to Outpost Coriander, an asteroid base managed by the Solar Order. From there, to Horizon’s Edge.

Presumably the PCs have a ship, but if not Dremora reveals she has one: a Tier 1 Venture, and she needs crew. Either way, she’s paying 5,000 credits apiece for their aid, and another 20,000 for the group on arrival.

Secret: the cargo contains the ashen remains of a solarian noble named Suffaros. He died fighting the Nether in the Fallen System and his remains were returned to his family. He wished to have his ashes buried on the homeworld of his elven wife (Dremora’s mother, Esienthe), a small planet in the Riven Star System called Horizon’s Edge.  The reason she needs to go to Outpost Coriander is because that’s where the remains are….her luggage contains an empty sepulcher waiting for his ashes.
Secret #2: The drow agent, an enforcer named Zedratas Callumhir, learned of the solarian’s death. His mortal enemy, the drow matriarch Usande Dralilei, would pay good coin (100,000 credits) for the ashes, as she wishes to use them to raise the solarian and torture him for ancient crimes he committed against her.

(In the one-shot, one of the PC's was Dremora's niece, an easy tie-in. The location of the hit that follows was based on a tea house they agreed to meet at. My version of Port Standown was a run-down version of "future San Francisco.")

Event #1: The Bounty Hunters

The group starts in Port Standown, a run-down district of Old Gyldarion of the Vulmeadean Empire. Assuming they take the job, they experience the first hit due to their precious cargo: Krung Hapas and his bounty gang. Krung is a half-orc who was put up to the job by the drow agent, who tipped them off. He wants to test (and distract) Dremora’s protectors, so he wants the bounty hunters to hit when they are with her, to see how they react. He will time it so her Nuar guard is not present if possible, preferably in an open market or commerce area where lots of confusion can be created.

6 Human Bounty Hunters
CR ½ soldiers (eldritch assailants) (NE) XP 200
HP 13, EAC 10, KAC 12, Fort +2, Ref +0, Will +2, Ability DC 9; Spell DC 9
Str +3, Dex +2, Con +1, Int 0, Wis 0, Cha 0
Skills: Stealth +9, Perception +4, Athletics +4
Special Ability: At-Will Eldritch Cantrip: Daze
Melee: survival knife (1D4+3 S; analog)
Ranged: Pulsecaster Pistol (shock; 1D4 E; 30 ft; nonlethal)
Flash Grenade I (20 ft; explode; blinded 1D4 rnds; 5 ft)
Armor: Freebooter Armor I (+2/+3); 50 credits each

1 Half-Orc Bounty Hunter, Krung Hapas
CR 1 soldier (eldritch assailants) (NE) XP 400
HP 20, EAC 11, KAC 13, Fort +3, Ref +1, Will +3, Ability DC 10; Spell DC 9
Str +4, Dex +2, Con +1, Int 0, Wis 0, Cha 0
Skills: Stealth +5, Perception +5, Athletics +10
Soldier Traits: Arcane Assailant (rune of the arcane assailant; treat attacks as magical to bypass DR and affect incorporeal)
Special Ability: Infernal Caster (ex-hellknight acolyte); gain
1/day 1st level: Jolting Surge (4D6), Overheat (2D8 F cone)
At will (2):  Daze, Energy Ray (1D3 energy)
Melee: survival knife (1D4+4 S; analog)
Ranged: Tactical Semi-Automatic Pistol (1D6 P; 30 ft; 9 rounds; use 1)
Armor: Freebooter Armor I (+2/+3); 250 credits

There will be at least one drow enforcer using cloaking tech (one use, DC 18 Perception to spot) to try and lift a card key from Dremora in the mayhem. He intends to go to her hotel room overlooking the bay and steal the urn....but will stop when he does so, realizing that the run is empty! He will instead then report back to his master Callumhir that she does not yet have the ashes.

(I rolled up a level 1 nuar soldier for this NPC, with the intent to offer it as a working character if someone needed a pregen. The fight above was easy enough for six PCs and I had the nuar knocked out at the start since his presence wasn't necessary. The group actually caught on that the drow had taken the key card and went to the hotel where they caught him in the act. I spiced this encounter up with the arrival of a refurbished gunship and a gang of goblins working for the drow enforcers. The scene got....weird....and a goblin took a roof dive into the deep end of a hotel pool. The drow did not escape.)

Event #2:  The Escape from Port Standown

The group finds an expedient need to get off-world when the bounty hunters attack, and Dremora begs them to make haste. When they reach their Ship Bay, they find a series of technicians and port officials shutting the bay down on grounds that the ship must be impounded for dozens of flight standard violations and an unpaid berthing cost. The port official is a Samsaran named Official Kuloth.

Suggested ways around the problem:

1.       Group can try to bribe him (he refuses to be bribed and threatens legal action; a Perception check might spot the tech with the lockdown motioning that he’ll take a 500 CR bribe…later)

2.       Group can wait and try to break through the lockdown or they can try to find a way to sneak in through the vents, and override the berthing launch clamps which require a DC 12 Computers check.

3.       They can pull out weapons and threaten their way through (this will work), but this leads to a chase by two Venture Class Patrol Ships! It also puts them on the Wanted List for the Starport and and the system.

Either way, Zedratas Callumhir is waiting in his sleek drow attack ship to follow them….having determined that Dremora does not yet have the body’s ashes.

(In the actual play session, the group bribed the tech to get to their ship, but then tried hacking the local terminal and bribing officials to force a lockdown on the drow ship. This was actually as far as we the following encounters did not manage to take place. When I run Starfinder next, it's going to be something decidedly different, and with a lot less D&D style feel to it, and a lot more SF.)

Event #3: Transition through the Drift and Arrival at Outpost Coriander

The journey takes 5D6 days to reach the remote Fallen System. When the ship arrives, it does so with alarms blazing and a warning that there is an ether rift nearby. And something is pouring out of it!

The group witnesses what appears to be Outpost Coriander, an asteroid base on the edge of the Fallen System, under attack by nether demons of the outer rift. One demon is drawn the interlopers ship: a shadow demon swings close and begins a chaos invasion! The ship reports multiple reality incisions along the hull, and abruptly a Dretch appears, possibly more than one if the challenge merits it…or 1D6 zombies from hell.

The battle should be swifter if the Nuar is with the group but the demon needs to be put down before the reality incision grows and lets more in. This can be done by dragging the body of the demon and ejecting it from the airlock, or worst case slicing off a section of hull, dealing damage to the ship but casting the infected machinery out. The dretch will try to make it to the ship’s core computer….infecting the AI with chaos will cripple the ship.

(If it is more convenient, have the encounter take place on the planet instead, after the ship lands; an incursion at the spaceport; if you don't want to convert a dretch or use the Hyperspace Fiends book, substitute accordingly).

By the time the PCs resolve this, they will witness a squadron of multiple Star Worlds fighters slide in and blow the Nether Rift to bits, then communicate their good luck to Outpost Coriander and the PC’s ship before winging off….they do offer to send a medical ship for assistance.

Outpost Coriander is in bad shape, but the key element the PCs get to deal with is the Solar Temple, where the Solarian Order resides. Standing on the edge of chaos, the order has been monitoring activity in the Fallen System for decades now, and only within the last five years have Nether Incursions gone from one every few years to sometimes dozens a month. The head of the order, Praxios Gemarne, a Vosk Warteacher, will speak of how he is certain that the Nether was awoken by whatever madness the Star Empire is up to on the mainworld in the system, Pellamorda. He will tell the PCs if they are interested in more work, especially recon, he has a job for them when they are done aiding Dremora.

Dremora will stay long enough for a sanctifying ritual transferring the ashes of her husband in to a vessel, and a recount by the order of his deeds slaying the Balor Crucifon before perishing under a horde of Nether in an effort to save the Imperial Cruise Liner Thousand Bells from destruction. The princess Tynerae of Szengauth, an ally world of Astrophikus, was on board the cruise liner and his actions convinces Szengauth to join the Coalition of Free Worlds.

During their stay at the temple, solarian guards capture a man snooping around. He admits he was paid to enter the temple and report on the location of the sacred sepulcher of the solarian, though he only knows it was “some drow.”

The group will have no further excitement, and may stay for up to two days at Outpost Coriander before they need to take leave. When they do take leave, have the science officer make a sensors (Computers, DC 14) check to see if they spot the stealth drow ship following. The drow ship will threaten attack….a pilot with a good enough maneuver check can buy time while the group contacts the Outpost for help….or they can try to make a drift jump with haste to escape. Worst case, the drow ship will seek to disable their vessel and board. Use the Eox Blackwind Sepulchre for the drow vessel stats. The drow do not want to blow up the target ship, they want to take the artifact ashes intact!

If the drow manage a boarding party, it consists of 4 drow enforcers initially, and 4 more after 6 rounds as backup or if they call for it. The party is sufficiently strong that this may pose difficulty for the PCs at this level of experience. If Zedratas Callumhir is forced to intervene, then use the drow noble arms dealer stat block. If the PCs really get luck and ambitious, the crew consists of another 5 drow, none of whom are as proficient as drow (use CR ¼ for each; Zedratas is the captain).

Either way, if the PCs hold out for ten minutes two solarian ships will come to their aid. Worst case, the solarians can knock out the drow ship, but best case the PCs might make a computer (sensors) check, DC 15, to try and track the drift coordinates of the escaping drow ship. They will see it’s going to the Inatras world of Bysal, a shadow planet at the edge of the Cinder System. That can lead to a future adventure, if they are brave enough for recovery….Dremora will not ask them to commit to such danger, though.  But if they do, it might accidentally be in time to reach the rough starport of Gearmans, where outsiders are welcome, and find that the drow matron has resurrected her husband….

(Solarians do not believe in resurrection of their fallen, especially when they fell in the service of the Light; but it can happen, if divine providence wills it)

 If the PCs somehow retain the ashes and can resume their journey, then go to Event 4.

Event #4: Arrival at Horizon’s Edge

In 3D6 days the group arrives at Horizon’s Edge, located in the Riven Star System. The planet is idyllic and tranquil….PCs investigating may learn it has close ties to the Arboreal Realm, and is riddled with natural passages between the Material Plane and that dimension. Indeed, those in tune with nature can sense that this planet has not been impacted by the presence of technology at all….except of course for Blunted Spear.

Blunted Spear is the name of a starport where gentrified elves and other races cohabitate and engage in modest trade with the rest of the universe. It is a Freeport, and Horizon’s Edge stands unclaimed. Inquiries as to why will reveal that there is a powerful, ancient presence which guards the world from foreign intrusion, though it accepted the first colony, founded by priest-dedicates of the Golden Traveler, Ptah. Since then, the starport has grown, almost organically, with the landscape.

Dremora will not ask the PCs to go further, but will accept their escort if they do. She will travel by foot for three weeks to a remote village where she finds the urn of her mother, and places the ashes there, in a new niche beside it in the family crypt. She explains that her mother died early, not long after childbirth, and her father was a fierce protector but not always the best. She settles her debts at last, and bids the old village goodbye. If the PCs went with her, she will ask them for passage back as well.

The PCs get 1,000 XP and 1,250 XP if they also accompanied Dremora on her journey by foot. A GM could extend that experience by adding in some good old fashioned random encounters with a fey theme (and space goblins are always a lurking menace!)

Worlds of Chaos Space and the Coalition of Independent Worlds

Astrophikus – Jewel of the Sky, first to join the Coalition under the immortal rule of Halistrak, where the ancient Vulmeadean Empire rules.

Seraphione – The peaceful world, second to join the Coalition, but known for its powerful military which trains off-world to protect the purity of the planet itself. Nonetheless, the art of war seems to be carefully developed into an art form, and the soldiers of Seraphione’s main moon Tybor are all sworn solarian dedicates to the god Ares.

Hyskortius – water world ruled by the aquatic elves of the Esentriule, third member of the Coalition of Independent Worlds. Said to be a rough domain, ruled by several balkanized states.

The Haze – stretching throughout Chaos Space, a domain of vast scope in which a great asteroid field blots out the very sun in places. The Haze is where belters, drifters and pirates come to seek their fortune and hide from the law.

Naelyth – The world of the Naelythian Elves, located in a region they call Dominion Space, and home to the elven starfaring empire. Their ships stand as gossamer strands even in the far future.

Lingusia – The artificial world of Lingusia was created with a sun and moon orbiting the flattish, disk-like planet which is 16,000 miles in diameter and 2,000 miles thick. The primary side of the world harbors and ancient but primitive culture which is largely unaware of the ongoings in Etherspace. The far side contains the remnants of a vast, ancient empire which was destroyed by the Nether of the Planar Realms and is a favored refuge of pirates, treasure hunters and antiquarians looking for details on the purpose of the ancient world. The artificial nature of the construct is attributed to its creators, the local pantheon of deities who seem to believe the world is a prison which harbors twelve ancient chaos gods called Skaeddrath, and is designed to prevent their awakening and escape.

Planets of Etherspace and the Star Empire of Corgastin Grace:

Corgastin Prime – home world of the Star Empire, and center of power. Corgastin Prime is marveled as a technological powerhouse and the source from which all technomancy arose over the last thousand years. Ruled by Darakos Astrokan, the technomancer who has extended his own life indefinitely through a use of arcane weavings and technology, he is epitomized as the bearer of the “new way,” and has sought to purge the Star Empire of all magic that is not technomancy. He seeks to destroy all primeval or wild magic, and all solarians who are not of the Order of Grace, the Supreme Divinity, the deified artificially intelligent god that rests at the heart of Corgastin Prime and is the secret power behind the Star Empire.

Wyseria – Home of the Wysentrian elves, these elves are almost albino, and are dedicated to the weavings of technomancy, having largely eschewed all of their ancient connection to nature and the Weirding. They are some of the most loyal of the Star Empire, and comprise a significant percentage of its military officers as well.

Pellamorda – a world in the realm of the Fallen System, technologically regressed and ignored by most space faring civilizations until five years ago when the Star Empire invaded. It is classified as a Quarantine world by the Galactic Scout Authority, due to the fact that it is a nonstandard planet: Pellamorda is toroidal, suggesting the presence of cosmic/deific forces at work, or an ancient artifact. The system shows evidence on numerous dead worlds with strong evidence they were assaulted by the demons of the Nether. Currently Pellamorda contains a number of cultures and civilizations fighting against the Star Empire, while the leading kingdom, the Empire of Daralle, stands in thrall. The ancient holy artifact of the Star Crystal has been removed to Corgastin Prime, where Astrokan studies it to unlock its mysteries. Unknown as yet, new Abyssal Galleys of the Nether have manifested, as the Star Crystal was the device which held back the Nether in the Fallen System, and now that it is gone the demons are once again able to force their way into reality.

Drytanis – The core world of the lashunta race, Drytanis is third of the Star Empire worlds, even if they don’t always trust Astrokan. Their world is known as a harsh and deadly environment to most beings not gifted with psychic talent, and the lashunta themselves dwell in carefully cultivated arcologies and orbital cities these days.

Horav Dain – The lead world of the Vesk and fourth in the Star Empire, Horav Dain was an ancient vesk colony world which grew in prominence and threatened all neighbors in its region known as the Burning System. They conquered two dozen worlds until they encounted the techomancers of Corgastin Prime, and were conquered. They now swear unending loyalty to Corgastin Grace, worship the AI god, and comprise the bulk of the Star Empire grunts in the military.

No comments:

Post a Comment