Way back in March I shared my family’s experiences creating their first Starfinder characters. We had a lot of fun making a kooky crew, and tried them out a bit before deciding they would join the Starfinder Society. There were some changes that needed to be made. Tucker was a halfling, which would have to change, but otherwise the transition went smoothly. Then we sat down and played Into the Unknown. Life got busy. We moved on to play Starfinder Scenario #1-03: Yesteryear’s Truth, which was great fun.
So today, when I turned on my computer with the intent of writing a blog post, my daughter put her little hands on her hips and said, “Mom, you did not write about our Wayfinders in a long time! You need to do that.”
Has it really been that long?
Yup! It certainly has.
And so, at my daughter’s insistence, we’re rejoining the crew of Infinity and heading out into the Vast! So strap in, and get ready for wild ride!
Our crew consisted of three mercenaries and a single Starfinder Agent. The Starfinder Agent Hoponisa (Hops for short), is a ysoki technomancer from the dark side of Verces who loves to dance. She’s on a mission to find herself the ‘perfect mate’ and is handy both in the pilot’s chair, the engineering bay, and at a computer console. She has a robot rabbit dubbed ‘Snowball’ who is a glorified computer with some minor mobility that she crafted herself, then wrapped in fuzzy faux fur for ultimate cuddle-ability. It’s also her spell cache. Hops is a member of the Wayfinders faction who acts as a contact with a specific group of mercenaries — the other PCs. Together, Hops and her hired help travel the Vast, deploying drift beacons for credits at the behest of the Wayfinders. After discovering new planets, collecting data on their environments, and deploying drift beacons, the group prepares a report on the planet for the Wayfinders, which allows the spacefaring faction to better prepare proper Starfinder teams for further exploration on these locations. The mercenaries make some decent credits, and the Wayfinders get to expand their influence without using up valuable Starfinder resources and personnel.
Hops and the crew of the Pegasus Class ship, Infinity, have gone on plenty of missions together. Led by their Captain Aya, a wise, enigmatic kasatha mystic who believes that every life is precious, they’ve charted planets and discovered new places. Their roles on the starship change a lot, with the rest of the crew rotating between pilot, engineer, science officer, and gunner as the mood strikes them. Aya and Hops are joined by Tucker Aetherfoot, a ysoki operative with the daredevil speciality who’s nimble, acrobatic, and full of boundless energy. He wears a t-shirt with a shirren design on it (to represent his long-time friendship with the shirren Vishkesh), and wears a racing helmet with a rose-tinted visor and stylized mouse ears on the side (which was given to him by Hops as a birthday gift). Tucker’s insatiably curious, and runs a blog in his spare time about his experiences exploring the Vast. He’s a devout Desnan from Absalom Station, prone to dancing when he’s idle too long. …Even in the middle of a mission. Lastly, there’s Vishkesh, a shirren mechanic with a little flying spy drone named Rijin. Rijin is trained to help Vishkesh with repairing starships, and is also outfitted with a flare gun. He’s a chipper little thing, with a bubbly artificial personality. Vishkesh has a fondness to caring for (and rescuing) larval shirren, and currently has a dozen dangling off of him in their protective canisters at all times. Vishkesh is the proud owner of a pig stuffed animal — a rare creature he’s never seen in in the flesh! He’s also from Absalom Station, and is a long time friend of Tucker’s. Vishkesh worships Hylax.
Recently a fellow scouting ship hired by the Starfinders, Unbounded Wayfarer, went missing. Worried for their friends and fellow mercenaries Aya, Tucker, and Vishkesh urged Hops to inquire with Venture-Captain Arvin after the other ship’s status. The news? Bad.
The crew of the Infinity were dispatched to find the Unbounded Wayfarer, save them (if possible), and return with the information they had acquired on their recent voyages. The mission was different than anything they had done for the Starfinders before, but they accepted. They made friends along the way, particularly with a vesk pawn-broker by the name of Julzakama, and a family of enterprising ysoki who run the Vat Gardens. They fought their way through undead from Eox, alien creatures, and space pirates. In the end they discovered that their friends from the Unbounded Wayfarer were dead. They retrieved their bodies, the information they had discovered, and learned of a few planets worth exploring. Then they returned to Absalom Station to report to Venture-Captain Arvin, and mourn the loss of good friends.
Upon completion of their mission, Arvin offered the crew of the Infinity a rare opportunity. He would sponsor their entry into the Starfinders as actual agents, then he would grant them right of first exploration on all of the planets that they had received intelligence on from their companion’s ship. Aya, Tucker, and Vishkesh did some soul searching, and decided to officially join the Wayfinders faction of the Starfinders on the condition that they would always work as a team, and they would retain their ship.
With the bargain struck, the crew of the Infinity spent a bit of time in Absalom Station resting and upgrading their ship to meet Starfinder standards. They interviewed fellow Starfinder agents, eventually hiring two rookies to assist them with rounding out their crew: Gizdara, a half-orc technomancer who’s a whiz with computers, and Diggs Drifthopper, a burly ‘rabbitfolk’ whose planet was conquered by the Vesk years ago. Diggs was forced into the military, but was recently allowed his freedom and was looking for work. He’s good with a gun, but not much else (which he can’t use in SFS play, as a non-combatant hireling, haha). Still, my daughter insisted on hiring him because he was destined to be Hops’ mate. (Uhhh… Okay? Haha). Diggs’ job is mostly to watch the ship while we’re away from it.
With their crew rounded out Infinity set off into the Vast to check out the first of the planets their friends on the Unbounded Wayfarer had discovered before dying. This planet was called Elytrio, and was reported to be protected by powerful automated defences. Hops took the pilot’s chair, and Captain Aya gave her the order to set off. Gizdara programmed the coordinates into the ship’s databanks. Vishkesh and Rijin headed down to the engineering room to ensure the ship was in tip-top shape. And Diggs wandered around aimlessly. As they entered the Drift the stars outside became replaced by a swirling mass of colours and motion. The journey was underway….
After ten days they came into communication range of another ship.
“Registration information?” Aya asked Gizdara.
The half-orc techie clicked away at her console for a few seconds. “Identified as Clutter Collector. It has docking certifications for Absalom Station. Looks like a salvage barge run by a ysoki called Winks.”
Aya considered this a moment. “Open communications.”
“Got it. Hailing the Clutter Collector.” Gizdara replied.
The rest of the crew gathered round just as Winks appeared on the view screen. “Hey, pal! The name’s Winks! I’ve been in the Drift 25 days, and I am BORED!” the ysoki exclaimed. “SO happy to meet ya’! You?”
Aya chatted with Winks for a minute before passing control of the comms over to her crew. Hops, Tucker, and Vishkesh all had a blast chatting away with the ysoki and his familial crew. But, after about an hour, they were nearly out of range of each other.
“Thanks for the chatter,” Winks said with a wink. “You can save my frequency. Maybe we’ll chat again in the future, eh?”
And with a crackle of static, he was gone.
“Out of communication range,” Gizdara announced.
“Thank you,” replied Aya. “End transmission.”
The crew headed back to their normal routine, performing their duties, eating, gaming, dancing and chatting. Nine days later they exited the Drift. Seeing the blackness of space and its brightly twinkling stars for the first time in weeks, the crew heaved a sigh of relief.
“The Drift makes me nervous,” Diggs admitted. “This is how space is supposed to be.”
Hops laughed. “Space is beautiful! But, we can’t travel like this all the time! We’d never get anywhere!”
“To your stations,” Aya announced. “Hops, prepare for approach. Vishkesh and Rijin, begin pre-descent systems check. Gizdara and Tucker, what can you discern about the planet?”
Everyone got to work, and soon Tucker grinned. “Elytrio is the fourth planet orbiting an unnamed sun. It has two barren moons, but I’m seeing minor energy fluctuations. There might be the remains of an installation up there. Whatever it is, it’s no longer functioning.” Tucker clicks a few more buttons on the computer console before continuing. “As for the planet itself… looks like some kind of wasteland. I’m seeing blasted deserts, strong winds, and higher than normal levels of radiation. Nothing harmful, but we should activate our armour’s environmental defences just in case. Air is breathable, gravity normal. …I’m not seeing any plants or water, and little signs of animal life. I’m not detecting any settlements left or — wait! I’ve pinpointed a large energy output from what seems to be a fully functioning city in the Southern Hemisphere. My readings indicate that the city has a level of technology similar to the Pact Worlds, though it seems… outdated. It’s hard to learn more. The entire city and surrounding area it is encased in a powerful force field.”
Aya nodded. “Thank you, Tucker. Gizdara, try to find us a safe landing zone near the city. Tucker, triangulate suitable locations on the planet’s surface to deploy four drift beacons. Let’s get this planet on the grid, shall we?”
“Got it!” Tucker replied.
“Vishkesh, prepare for battle. We’ll be making our descent any minute, and I want to be ready for the planet’s automated defences.” Aya ordered calmly.
“Check!” Vishkesh replied.
“I am happy to be useful!” Rijin added in an overly happy voice. “Oh, yeah! The joy is filling me up!”
“Now listen children,” Vishkesh told his larval shirren. “This is how we activate our ship’s shields. First press this… and then…”
“Hops, take us down.”
“On it, Captain!” Hops exclaimed.
Infinity began its approach… After only a few minutes, a loud klaxon alarm sounded.
“Approaching ship!” Tucker exclaimed. “Scanning it now!”
“Incoming transmission!” Gizdara announced.
“Play it over the comms.” Aya replied.
The message that played over their speakers was in a crackling, robotic voice. It’s language was foreign and unknown to them, but the tone seemed serious.
“It’s a warning,” Aya announced. “Gizdara, activate the tetrad certified translator. I want to know what it’s saying.”
“The message won’t be enough for the translator to get a handle on the language.” Gizdara retorted.
“It’s a start.”
The message repeated a few more times, then cut out in a crackle of distortions and static, like a corrupted audio file. Only the proximity alert continued to chime, breaking the silence with an irritating whine.
Suddenly, a hemispherical ship emitting a ring of red light from the edges of its lower hull came into view.
“Ship in sight!” Tucker exclaimed.
Vishkesh quickly examined it. “Intel was accurate. It’s a launch platform. Fully automated. Unmanned. Feel free to blow it up without worry!”
“Confirmed! Not reading any signs of life inside the ship.” Tucker added. “Take over Gizdara, I’ll man the guns!” With a grin, Tucker nodded at Diggs. “Come on, pal. Make yourself useful. We’ve got more than one gun.”
Tucker and Diggs hurried over to the gun controls as the enemy ship began to open.
“It’s launching a combat drone.”
Aya let out a sigh. She preferred to avoid a fight whenever possible. Still, at least the only loss of life they had to worry about was their own. “Engage.”
Hops tore off through space at breakneck speed as Tucker and Diggs fired at the launch platform. (GM Comment: technically, it was only Tucker. As a hireling Diggs cannot actually aid in battle. I only described him doing so in session for flavour).
The battle was a tricky one, and the launch platform managed to deploy three combat drones before we destroyed it. The combat drones stood little chance after that. My daughter had great fun flying our ship and acting as pilot, but did need help to properly move the ship and select her fancy flight maneuvers. My son rather enjoyed being engineer with his drone (which is my personal favourite starship role). My husband’s character is a solid gunner, and even when firing an extra gun most rounds he managed to do a number on the enemy fighters. And me? I enjoyed bossing everyone around with serene, super serious commands. I even put on my serious face for the occasion. Haha. We made use of Starfinder Flip-Mat: Basic Starfield for this battle, which I highly recommend picking up if you don’t already own it.
With the enemy drones defeated, Vishkesh examined the wreckage for information and made a few nifty discoveries. Although outdated, there were some interesting algorithms in the platform’s programming which would be helpful in improving their own automated defences. Soon Infinity continued its descent to the planet.
Due to our characters backstory we had some tasks to accomplish before landing (in addition to completing our actual mission). With Tucker’s coordinates, we set out to deploy some drift beacons on Elytrio. This was a fun way to provide some hints to the planet’s purpose and past without hitting my family over the head with a massive information dump. The first deployment location was a rocky mesa on top of a small mountaintop. From there the crew found the remains of a destroyed city on an uneven plateau near the base of the mountain. They discovered that it had been blown up long ago and eroded over the centuries. At our second location the group found themselves on a dried up lake-bed, which gave them some clues to Elytrio’s past eco-systems. They also discovered a new species of bug scurrying across the ground, which Tucker collected for further study, and some razor sharp weeds that they thought would easily be blown around by the wind and could cause some irritating cuts and wounds. The third location was in the desert beside a metal spire. They discovered the spire was the antenna or technological device that topped a building of some kind. After some examining from Vishkesh, he deduced that this was a power relay that sent energy and messages to a distant loctation just outside the atmosphere. Likely one of Elytrio’s two barren moons. Interesting!
The final drift beacon location was also going to be our final landing site. It was located as close to the city’s force field as we could get. After setting up the beacon in the desert wastes the group bid Diggs and Gizdara goodbye, leaving them behind to keep and eye on the starship. Then Aya, Hops, Snowball, Tucker, Vishkesh, and Rijin set off across the sands towards the city’s glowing forcefield.
Suddenly there was a shifting in the sands… a grumble of the earth… and a massive beast that looked like an oversized lion with a beige mane and a body covered in dark brown scales leapt out of the sand and chomped at Tucker! It had a stubby face with a maw filled with razor sharp fangs, and a long, segmented tail.
“Aaaah!” Tucker exclaimed as he dodged out of the way. “We’ve got company!”
“Bad kitty!” Rijin scolded the sand brute in an overly happy robot voice.
“Yeah!” Vishkesh said with a nod. “BAD CAT! SHOO!”
The creature let out a terrifying roar. Hops’ eyes widened in fear. “Let’s get out of here!”
“Hold your ground!” Aya commanded. “If you run it will follow. Weapons out. Engage!”
“You don’t have to tell me twice!” Tucker exclaimed. He fired a shot at the sand brute with his azimuth laser pistol, only for the creature’s hide to reflect the blast. Tucker let out a surprised shriek and ducked, causing the reflected laser beam to strike the sand right behind him. “It’s got a reflective hide!”
“No lasers,” Aya quickly commanded.
Vishkesh gave Rijin a nod. “Battle mode, Rijin!”
Rijin’s little metal hands waved around in excitement, drew a flare gun and loaded it. “Okay! I am so happy to be engaging in deadly battle with you today!”
Vishkesh stroked his multiple guns. “Oh, my… Decisions, decisions! This feels like a flame-thrower moment to me!” He pulled out his flamethrower, took aim, and unleashed a torrent of fire at the sand beast. The creature howled in pain.
Aya drew her battle staff and gave it a whirl. It spun through the air with a ‘whoosh’ sound. “I’ll distract the creature. Keep up the assault at range.” With her orders given, Aya dashed into honourable battle against the sand brute. She swung her battle staff, striking the beast in it’s forelimb. It growled in pain and bit at her, but she knocked it’s jaws out of the way with her staff — the first time. It growled and snapped at her again, tearing into the flesh on one of her four arms.
Hops nodded at Snowball. “Let’s hop to it!” she exclaimed (my daughter giggled in glee at her rabbit joke). Then she got to spell casting! She fired an icy cold ray of energy at the monster, while Snowball hopped around her feet.
Meanwhile, Tucker frowned. “But I only have laser guns!” He holstered his gun, drew his survival knife and took a deep breath. “Let’s dance!” (my daughter giggled in glee at my husband’s dancing joke). Tucker dove and tumbled across the battlefield and joined Aya in melee combat, stabbing at the sand brute as he danced around it. Aya whacked it with her staff, while Rijin and Vishkesh burnt it up with their flame-throwers and flare guns.
The battle was surprisingly short, but we took heavy damage. Aya had to cast multiple healing spells on the group, and use up some resolve to utilize her healing channel ability. Yesteryear’s Truth makes use of Starfinder Flip-Mat: Basic Terrain for this encounter, but (since I don’t own that) we used Pathfinder Flip Mat: Bigger Basic instead.
With the beast finally down she moved to cast another healing spell, only to see figures surround them. They were small beetle-like people with hard outer shells and protruding mandibles. They wore tattered cloaks and big goggles over their eyes. In their hands they held rifles, but they did not aim them. Instead, one of the bug-men approached and spoke.
Unable to understand, Aya pulled out the translator again, and got it working. It would take ten minutes of conversation, but eventually it would be able to translate simple sentences back and forth between the common tongue and… whatever the bug-men were speaking. It sounded the same as the language transmitted by the defence platform.
Aya led the crew through some pantomime in order to put the bug-people at ease. In time, they approached closer and the translator began to work. They learned that these people were called -untranslatable word-
For the record, I had great fun roleplaying the translators capabilities in this adventure, and the interactions of the group. It was awesome to watch my kids try to puzzle out messages that wouldn’t get garbled or messed up in translation, and to pantomime and act when translation was inadequate. So much fun!
Eventually they earned enough of the leader’s trust that Aya was allowed to cast a spell upon him (share language), which granted the bug-leader, Dystane, the ability to speak and understand Common, Kasathan, and Akitonian. From there, communication got much easier. They learned that the bug-people were known as ghibrani, and that this group were hunters, out scouring the deserts for food for their tribe. Aya offered the ghibrani the corpse of the sand brute and together they helped haul the lion-monster back to the ghibrani’s home. The crew was surprised to discover that was in the opposite direction of the city. Interesting!
Still, they all prioritized befriending the locals over investigating a city they might not be able to a access, so they followed the ghibrani into the desert without fuss. After half an hour they came to a drab cliff pockmarked with holes and cracks. More ghibrani crawled in and out of the crevices, which were clearly serving as their homes. Most of them wore plain scraps of clothing, while a few also wore make-shift goggles and carried a battered old gun in a holster at their side. There was a tiny, little garden off to the side which was clearly in poor health. That it was growing at all in these conditions caused Aya to raise an eyebrow ridge in surprise. There was also a crumbling well nearby, and a pair of older looking ghibrani wearing colourful necklaces who were surrounded by ghibrani children. It looked like they were telling them a story, or perhaps educating them.
At the sight of the hunters returning with a massive sand brute, the ghibrani cheered — until they noticed the weird strangers that accompanied them. Then the little beetle-people shrieked and scurried into their caves in a panic. Only the two elderly ghibrani and the few armed with guns remained in sight.
Dystane spoke to the elders in their harsh, chittering language while the the translator tried its best to keep up.
“Greeting brother -untranslatable word- sister -untranslatable word-. I will that mother -untranslatable word- watch you close. Find strangers who kill sand brute. Gift to us. Food. Many. “
The conversation continued and Dystane gestured the PCs forward. “This is Brother Koseemo and Sister Alomir. They serve Mother Touloo and lead our colony. Come. I will assist with translating.”
Everyone introduced themselves, then my family began asking questions of the ghibrani. They were surprised to find that none of the ghibrani asked questions of them! Turns out that Mother Touloo was a god who promised to save the ghibrani if they left behind the comforts of civilization and lived a life of hardship in the deserts. Although the ghibrani were happy to receive visitors — a joyous event which had only happened twice in recent memory — they were not interested in learning about whatever comforts and technologies the strangers from the sky possessed.
After only a short conversation Brother Koseemo beckoned at the caves and chittered some more.
The translator tried it’s best. “Stop speak. No deep speak. Welcome return hunter special ceremony. Happy feelings follow participate.”
Dystane’s mandibles clacked. “Brother Koseemo says that before we can speak in depth our people must perform the Welcoming. This is a special ritual where we officially receive our returning hunters. We would be overjoyed if you would join us.”
Aya bowed respectfully. “We would be honoured.”
The others agreed and soon were ushered into a large cave in the cliff. It was stuffy inside, with a fire burning in the centre of the room. It was surrounded by ghibrani, all standing in lines. There were a few piles of furs and leathers around the edges of the room where some ghinbrani set up drums and instruments made of stone and hide. Brother Koseemo and Sister Alomir crossed the room and stood at the opposite side of the entrance, while the hunters and the PCs waited at the cave mouth. There was some chittering, which the translator couldn’t quite translate from across the room, and then the ghibrani began to play a surprisingly stately tune. There was some waving, some bowing, and then the lines of the ghibrani — including the hunters — began a clearly choreographed processional dance. A few of the ghibrani looked at them expectantly.
“They want us to join in,” Aya explained.
“You don’t have to tell me twice!” Tucker exclaimed. He watched the dancers for a moment and then began to mimc their movements. A natural dancer, and incredibly graceful, Tucker caught on incredibly quick and was soon dancing even better than the locals. Hops, who loved dancing nearly as much as Tucker, noticed the patterns in the ghibrani movements and joined in with confidence. Vishkesh and Aya tried to join in, but proved incapable of mimicking the ghibrani’s movements, despite their best efforts. As the dance drew to a close the ghibrani cheered and clapped. A few hurried over to Hops and Tucker and drew them into hugs as family. They chittered at Tucker, who had added a few creative flourishes to the dance.
“You teach us rhythmic movement pretty,” the translator announced.
Tucker smiled and tried to teach the ghibrani some of his dance moves. Hops joined in and the pair had a ball. Vishkesh approached the musicians and enquired after their instruments (with Dystane assisting as translator). As he attempted to learn about their music Aya wandered the room nodding her head in greeting at the ghibrani. Everywhere she looked was poverty and hunger. She beckoned Dystane join her, then approached Brother Koseemo and Sister Alomir.
“I understand Mother Touloo protects you because you choose to live here. It is a hard life, yes? You seem to be proud, capable survivors. But, tell me. Survival is taking what you can when you can find it, yes? We have plenty of food on our starship — ” She considered her words before continuing. “On our moving home. May I bring you some food in exchange for your hospitality? As an offering to your people?”
Dystane translated and the elders chittered at each other for a while. Eventually Dystane nodded at Aya. “You are one of us now. Ghibrani welcomed home. Here we share all that we have with one another. We accept your offer of food and in exchange call you Hunter. This is a great honour. But, please, keep your other comforts on this ‘moving home’ of yours. We will accept nothing else.”
Aya nodded. “Thank you.” Then she fetched Vishkesh who clapped his hands happily at the news. The duo went outside and contacted Gizdara and Diggs on their communicators, telling them to move the ship closer — but not within sight of the caves. Then they began unloading food for their new friends. Tucker and Hops soon came out to help, as did Dystane. At the sight of their ship he stood stunned for a moment and turned around, pointedly refusing to look at the technological marvel any longer. After a few trips to and from the ship, the PCs returned to the party to find themselves welcomed with cheers. A few children had already snuck into the food stores and were eating flavoured protein sticks with excitement — a joyous event which the nearby ghibrani pretended not to notice.
As the festivities continued they were approached by a strange ghibrani. Where the others were short and stocky looking, this ghibrani was tall and slender. Where the others were brown, this ghibrani was blue. And where the others clambered and climbed over everything, this ghibrani flew. The ghibrani held a hand to its throat and then pointed at Vishkesh’s. Curious, Vishkesh went closer. The ghibrani cast a spell and then placed a hand on Vishkesh’s throat. Then she did the same to the others. With a clack of her mandibles she said “Greetings, strangers from the sky. I am Klarima. You are different from any I have met before. Are you a Husk or a Membrane among your people?”
Despite that the ghibrani had spoken in her native tongue, everyone understood her perfectly. With a wide grin Hops introduced everyone, then she asked, “What are Husk and Membranes? And why do you look so different than everyone else?”
Klarima clapped her hands. “If you do not know of Membranes and Husks, then surely you must be uneducated Husks! This makes sense. Do not worry about your lack of knowledge. I will teach you. Membranes like myself know much.”
Klarima explained that long ago a great war raged across Elytrio’s many ghibrani nations. Their weapons killed each other and most living creatures across the planet. Arkeost was the name of one of the cities that survived, locked behind a powerful forcefield. That was Klarima’s home. Some of the surviving ghibrani chose to worship a new god — their Mother Touloo — who promised them protection if they lived in the wastes. Due to the radiation, these ghibrani lost the use of their wings and became known by the citizens of Arkeost as Husks. The other ghibrani stayed in Arkeost and became known as Membranes by the Husks. Apparently Arkeost was a city of automated luxury, where the citizens want and work for nothing. All is provided for them.
“Unfortunately, I have been afflicted with a severe case of wanderlust!” Klarima joked. “I wanted to see the world outside of Arkeost, but I was wounded by soarnettles. Foolish of me, I know. The Husks bandaged my wounds and gave me shelter, but I was hoping to return home soon. This place is…. not to my liking.”
The group was grateful for the information, and thanked Klarima.
“Can we accompany you?” Tucker asked. “We were hoping to view Arkeost ourselves.”
“Oh, I would enjoy that very much! You will be the first Husks to visit Arkeost since the separation!”
Hops laughed. “We’re not Husks, Klarima.”
“Oh? You can fly?”
“Then you are Husks! I am sad for you, of course. But you should accept your heritage.”
Aya looked around the cave, then at the frail looking membrane. “I do not wish to burden our hosts with accommodating all of us. I suggest we offer our gratitude and then some of us retire to our starship.” She looked at her crew, who nodded at her in turn. Then she continued, “Would you like to see our ship, Klarima? You may spend the night with us, and we can fly to your city at dawn. I will spend the night with the Husks.”
Klarima clapped her hands in glee, clearly happy at the thought of leaving the caves. “I would like that very much.”
So the group enjoyed the rest of the party, bid their hosts farewell, and then returned to Infinity. Tucker, Hops and Vishkesh gave Klarima a tour and found her incredibly curious about… everything! Although, she was oddly incapable of doing anything for herself. Meanwhile, Aya enjoyed the simple but welcoming hospitality of the Husks.
My kids had a wonderful time with this whole section of the scenario. They adored interacting with the Husks, winning their friendship, and then showing Klarima around their ship. It’s why we picked this one to play, actually. I knew they’d love it.
The next morning Aya rejoined the group with some gifts from the Husks (a few healing serums that smelt like licorice, and a rifle) then they flew off back to a safe landing zone near Arkeost. Klarima used her magic to make the crew understand the ghibrani tongue, and then they approached the forcefield. Klarima pulled out a clunky, old fashioned data-pad and clicked away on it. Nothing happened, and Klarima’s mandibles clacked in impatience. She re-entered the commands and this time a gap opened in the forcefield, like a little door. The group filed in and Klarima tapped a few commands on her data-pad, causing the forcefield to close back up.
Arkeost was a sprawling metropolis with tall buildings lined with open doorways in place of windows. Membranes flitted through the air without a care, while robots and drones traversed the city’s lower levels, flying higher only when necessary. The streets and roads at ground level were in horrible condition, broken, jagged, and impassable in many places. Flowerbeds and gardens were overgrown, and all of the structures were suffering under years of rust, wear, and neglect. Although Arkeost was still standing, it was clearly not well maintained.
A group of Membrane guards wearing matching armour and carrying fine looking laser pistols approached the group and demanded to know the PCs business, but Klarima calmed them.
“Fear not, Honoured Guards! These Husks are my guests. I am taking them to see the Most Elevated!”
The guards, who did not seem very comfortable with their gear, eyed the group warily. “Very well,” the finally chittered. “We will escort you on your journey.”
And with that, a few more Membranes fell in line behind the group.
“Who is the Most Elevated?” Hops asked curiously.
“Oh, my! What a question to ask! Although, I suppose you are only Husks. The intricacies of proper Ghibrani society were lost to your people long ago. The Most Elevated are Arkeost’s governing council of most elder, wise, and important ghibrani. They will want to see you for themselves! It is a great honour!”
Hops rolled her eyes at being called a Husk and shrugged, following along with the others. Klarima and the guards flew relatively low to the ground, making keeping up with them only a little difficult. They were led through the city to the tallest and grandest building, located right at the heart of Arkeost. There, Klarima and the guards flew up towards an open doorway.
“Where did you go? Ah! Of course! You are Husks! I have forgotten again.” Klarima laughed. “I am afraid our city if not meant for ghibrani unable to fly. We have always had the ability, you see.” Klarima pulled out her data-pad and tapped a few commands into it. Soon a quartet of floating platforms arrived in front of the group. “There are hover disks used to transport goods and supplies through the city. You may ride on them. However, I recommend hanging on tight! They have no safety harnesses. Also, I hear Husks have a great fear of heights!”
The guards let out a chittering laugh.
Everyone climbed aboard their hover disks and held on. It was an unstable, jolting ride. Clearly very dangerous! There was a sudden puffing sound, and then a whine, as Hops’ hover disk malfunctioned. Her eyes widened, and she began to plummet back down to the ground.
“Eeeek!” she shrieked. But, as she neared the ground her hover platform let out another puff and a whine, and it’s engine turned back on. Hops once again began her ascent, although this time she wore a terrified, panicked look.
“Oh, dear!” Vishkesh exclaimed. “I think your drones could use some maintenance.”
“Maintenance?” Klarima asked. “You mean labour?” she laughed. “Oh, everything is done for us in Arkeost. I am sure if it is in need of main-ten-ants it will be taken care of.”
Vishkesh’s antennae twitched in agitation. He was pretty sure there was a lot of things around here that could use fixing…
After a shaky ride the hover disks dropped the group off at the entrance forty feet above the ground. Hops quickly scurried onto solid ground and clutched Snowball tight. Her robot rabbit twitched its nose and nuzzled her, guided by the artificial personality she had programmed in it. “That was… scary!” Hops muttered. Snowball made a clicking sound and cuddled up closer to Hops.
“Yes, I was afraid that Husks would not enjoy the flight.” Klarima replied.
Hops scrunched up her face. “Hey! I LOVE flying. I’m a pilot, you know! I just don’t like riding malfunctioning death platforms!”
The Membranes let out a chittering laugh, and ushered the group inside. Hops put down Snowball and followed after the others.
Rijin flew up to Hops. “You did not die a horrible death! I am pleased!”
Vishkesh laughed. “Me too!”
They travelled down winding hallways and came to a large central chamber that held a massive table surrounded by chairs. A collection of five Membranes dressed in elaborate clothing sat in the chairs chatting amongst themselves. At the sight of the group they regarded the PCs with their shimmering, multifaceted eyes. They stood, bowed to the group, and then gestured for them to approach. Klarima and the guards bowed in return, so Aya, Tucker, Hops and Vishkesh did the same.
“I cannot bow!” Rijin exclaimed happily. “I do not possess a waist!”
Snowball twitched its nose.
Klarima introduced the group and everyone took a seat at the table.
“Do all of your people look like you?” one of the Most Elevated asked.
Vishkesh shook his head. “Oh, we are not all of the same people at all! I am shirren, Hops and Tucker are ysoki, and Aya is kasathan. Snowball and Rijin here are drones created by myself and Hops.”
“I see!” Another nodded. “And all of your people are Husks?” the same Membrane asked.
“It is unfortunate your servants seem so small.” another added, clearly referring to the robots in the group.
Hops crinkled her nose. “We’re not Husks. We’re all different races from different worlds.”
“But you cannot fly?” One of the Most Elevated pointed out. “So you are Husks.”
“Other worlds?” Another asked. “You are referring to other cities on the far side of Elytrio?”
Aya shook her head. “We are not, Most Elevated. We come from outer space. The skies.” She paused a moment and added, “At night the stars shine brightly. Yes? If you were to travel to those stars, each is a sun, like the one you have here. Many of those suns are surrounded by other planets — worlds like Elytrio, but different. Some of those planets bear life, and others do not. Each of us comes from a different planet in space. Our galaxy is known as the Pact Worlds. It — “
Suddenly there was a chiming of bells. The Most Elevated clapped their hands.
“Yes, yes, I see,” replied one of the Most Elevated. They seemed unsurprised at such talk. “Dinner is served!”
Klarima smiles. “You are in for a real treat, my friends! It feels like ages since I have had a proper meal!”
Hover drones flew into the room from hidden hatches and placed ceramic bowls and a flat, stick-like utensil at every spot at the table. Others came out and squirted a serving of thick tan liquid filled with chunks of…. something. It smelt like smoke and cheese.
Rijin waves its hands at the hover drones. “Greetings friend robots! I am smiling in my heart! Pleasing to meet you!”
The hover drones didn’t respond, but that didn’t stop Rijin from speaking to/at them.
Some of the drones made an unappetizing sound when they served the food, while others flew irregularly. One of them missed a bowl completely and poured food all over the tabletop and Tuckers hand.
Klarima didn’t seem to notice. “This is called kahlgee! It’s delicious!”
The ghibrani all began to eat, while the Starfinders eyed the food suspiciously. Aya picked up her flat stick and used it as a spoon to scoop food up to her mouth (behind her mouth-mask). The others followed suit only to find the food was disgusting. Vishkesh ate it without complaint, Aya gagged but forced it down, Hops spit it out across the table in shock. Everyone turned to look at her. She chuckled nervously and tried to eat the rest of the food, which made her very ill. Still, she managed. Meanwhile Tucker spent the meal pretending to eat and subtly disposing of the food wherever he could without being caught. Halfway through the meal the lights flickered, and Tucker quickly dumped the rest of his food into another nearby bowl. Finished, he smiled brightly and began to chat with the other diners.
“That was lovely, thank you. Is there anything we can do to show our gratitude to you? Anything we can do to aid the ghibrani of Arkeost?” Tucker asked.
The Most Elevated laughed in unison. “We thank you for your generosity, but nothing is wrong here. Nothing needs to be done. We require no aid. Life in Arkeost is perfect.”
Tucker raised an eyebrows. “I see… Those power disruptions. The… uh… flickering lights and malfunctioning drones. Do those happen often?”
“Oh, there is no need to worry,” one of the Most Elevated replied. “The Mainframe acts up on occasion, but it always self-corrects in a few seconds.” They seemed unconcerned.
“I see. May I hear more about the Mainframe? We’re all fascinated with technology.” Tucker added with a smile. Perhaps the ghibrani could become allies of the Starfinders if Tucker and the team were able to repair their power grid.
“The Mainframe is located at the outskirts of the city. It was constructed by our ancestors to provide continuous power to Arkeost, and to house the many servants that cater to our whims.” One of the most Elevated gestures to a nearby robot. “Unfortunately I know no more of it than that. It is taboo for ghibranis to enter the area of the city where it is housed.”
“You’re not allowed to access your city’s own Mainframe? Uh… Aren’t you concerned about that? Who maintains it?” Tucker asked in surprise.
“The servants, of course.” Another answered happily. Clearly they were not concerned.
“I think that your servants could use a bit of help.” Tucker remarked with a smile. “May we visit the Mainframe ourselves to assist them? We are not ghibrani.”
The Most Elevated shook its head. “You clearly are Husks…”
The dinner bell sounded again. A flurry of hover drones flew out of the wall and set the table again — right on top of old dishes and uneaten food. A moment later a second set of drones flew out of the walls and poured more kahlgee into the bowls. The table was a massive mess. The drones flew back into the walls.
The Most Elevated clacked their mandibles serenely as if nothing was amiss. No one moved to eat a second helping.
“I’m sure the cleaning servants will be along any minute…” Klarima pointed out.
“About that Mainframe,” Tucker prodded.
One of the Most Elevated nodded its head vigorously. “You may be Husks but, as you say, you are not ghibrani Husks.” The others considered this. Without waiting for their response, the speaker continued, “It is not taboo for you. You may view the grandeur of our glorious Mainframe for yourselves.” He gave the group directions.
Tucker smiled. “Thanks. We’d like to head there soon, if you don’t mind.” He dreaded the thought of dessert.
The Most Elevated smiled. “Klarima will show you the way. Farewell.”
And with that, the Starfinders quickly left the messy, smelly table behind and hurried back out to the hover disks.
Hops groaned. “Not this again! Auw… When we get back to Absalom Station I need to invest in some jump jets!”
Vishkesh smiled. “I hope you do not fall to your doom!” He looked at the disks. “Hmm… Decisions, decisions… I will select… this one!” He squealed in delight. “I hope it is stable!”
My kids had great fun interacting with the Membranes. They tried their best to think of sneaky ways to avoid eating the kahlgee without offending their hosts. I found their attempts at conversation a blast. It was so fun watching them try to figure out how to explain things to the Membranes without being offended. Particularly when the Membranes didn’t seem to get the point. My daughter crossed her arms and scrunched up her nose every time someone called her a Husk, but couldn’t quite think of an argument that proved she wasn’t one. And those hover disks? They were so excited at first, but on the way back? Ha! They were terrified of stepping back on those things. It was hilarious. We had a blast.
The group descended down to ground level, then Klarima guided them through the city. The Starfinders examined the city as they travelled, and spoke with the locals. By the time they reached the edge of the city the streets and buildings were in much worse repair. The building was small and squat, but a constant stream of drones of all kinds moved in and out of the building. Massive signs reading “TABOO!” “NO ENTRY!” and “Off limits to ghibrani!” were hung all around the building.
Klarima waved farewell to the Starfinders. “I will wait out here for you.”
The Starfinders headed inside and were greeted by a series of ramps that descended down into the earth in a wide spiral, like a parking garage — although instead of storing vehicles it stored drones. They turned on the flashlights built into their armour and headed down the ramps. Eventually they reached a hallway different than the others. They headed inside and found themselves in a white plastic room lit by incredibly bright lights. The group filed in and looked around. Fans spun overhead, and a series of coveralls lined one wall.
Hops eyed the coveralls. “Should we be wearing those?”
Tucker shrugged. “It couldn’t hurt.”
Aya nodded. “I recommend it, if you can.”
Hops and Tucker put on coveralls, although they were too small for Vishkesh and Aya. Vishkesh squished himself into a pair, but Aya refrained. Together they approached a nearby door. Aya moved to open it and was electrocuted. She grunted in pain and surprise.
“Oh, dear! That looked painful!” Vishkesh happily pointed out.
“Whoah!” Tucker exclaimed. “I… didn’t expect that. Sorry.” He turned to the door and pulled out a series of tools and gadgets from his backpack. “I’ve got this.” As he worked he told the others, “Nobody touch anything unless I give the go ahead. There might be more traps or malfunctioning systems in here.”
Aya drew herself up to standing. “Agreed.”
“Is that maybe why this place is taboo?” Hops wondered aloud. “Because it’s dangerous?”
Aya considered this. “It is possible. Or, perhaps the city’s builders wanted to prevent meddling.”
“It is possible,” Hops mimicked. Aya didn’t seem to mind.
With a swoosh, the door slid open. Tucker put away his tools and led the way inside the next room. It’s walls were also made of plastic, and it’s entire floor was a bright light. Four pillars covered in circuitry and four waist-high generators circled the centre of the room. One of the generators was surrounded by flashing red lights, clearly showing it was in need of repairs.
Tucker led the group inside and began to look around for traps and hazards. Suddenly panels on the walls slid open and a trio of robots that looked like a mix between Husk and Membrane ghibrani stepped into the room.
“Restricted area!” The robot announced. “Leave immediately or be terminated!”
Despite the warning, the robot did not wait for the group to leave. Instead, it shot laser beams out of its eyes right at them.
“Eeek!” Hops shrieked.
“Engage!” Aya ordered.
“You don’t have to tell me twice!” Tucker exclaimed. He dove across the room and fired his laser pistol at the nearest robot. “BOOM!”
“Rijin!” Vishkesh commanded. “Battle mode!”
“Yes, sir! I will happily assault my fellow robots on your behalf!” Rijin replied. He pulled out his flare gun and aimed it at a robot. “Pew pew!” he called out as he fired the flare.
Rijin examined his guns. “Decisions, decisions… This feels like a — “
A laser beam zipped past his head and nearly singed an antenna. “Yup! Laser pistol it is!” He drew and fired his pistol at the robots. “I adore my flame thrower, but I do not want to cause unnecessary harm to the room’s generators!”
“Get behind me Snowball!” Hops exclaimed as she fired off energy rays at the robots.
Aya strode into honourable melee combat with her combat staff.
Once again, this battle was short but painful! Aya used up nearly all of her magic on healing spells for the group. Once the battle was over they took a ten minute break to rest and recuperate, then Aya finished healing the group with her magic. Meanwhile, Vishkesh, Rijin, and Tucker got to work repairing the generators, and Hops ran a diagnostics check and fixed some faulty programming. As the red lights stopped flashing, the group smiled.
“Well, that should stop the power fluctuations,” Tucker remarked.
Vishkesh smiles happily. “Joyous news!”
“High five’s team!” Rijin exclaimed. “Although my hand appendages only possess three digits!”
When they were done the group moved on, heading over to another nearby door. Tucker checked it out and decided it looked safe. They headed inside and found the room full of computer servers. They looked around, then approached the access terminal. Hops clicked away for a while and gained access to the mainframe.
“Oh, wow!” Hops exclaimed. “I thought this would control the mainframe, but it’s… like… everything! It looks like a long time ago they took all the information from the local databases and transferred them here. Some of its classified. Information from past leaders and stuff…” Hops began to sift through the data, and transferred all the important information about Elytrio and it’s society to Snowball — who was a walking computer.
As she read, she frowned. “Oh my… Uh… Well, some of this we guessed already. Elytrio used to have a variety of ecosystems until it was ravaged by nuclear war a few years after the Gap. There were a lot of different ghibrani nations up until then, and it looks like this city is the only place that survived the devastation. Lots of people died.” Hops shook her head sadly. “They used to worship Damoritosh. Before the war they managed to achieve orbital flight and built some stuff on their moons, but never actually got into outer space. Hmm… Looks like they anticipated a lot of trouble with keeping the population in Arkeost fed…. Something about automation… and…. Oh, my….”
Hops pressed a button and a video clip played on the screen. It showed a ghibrani who displayed features of both Husks and Membranes dressed in fine clothes. “…without a doubt food will runout before the end of one hundred years. As such, we have decided to enact protocol Exodus…” the video glitches before continuing. “…purposefully engineer several disasters to befall the surviving population. Rumours will be seeded throughout the lower and middle quarters that an angry Damoritosh was responsible for this ‘divine punishment.’ Select personnel, officers and delegates will know this to be false. Such agents will work to spread the creation of a false deity we’re going to call ‘Mother Touloo” who will promise salvation to those ghibrani who give up the comforts of civilization and head out into the wastes. One of our eldest — Most Elevated Gaulwen — is ill. He will serve as the leader of this false faith and lead a sizeable contingent of ghibrani’s into the wastelands. They will die, of course, but the leaders of Arkeost, our most trusted advisors, government officials, and military personnel, along with our closest friends and family, will remain behind…” the video glitches again. “Thus ensuring the continued survival of the great ghibrani people. Long live Arkeost. Praise Damoritosh. The war will be won.”
The video fell silent.
My daughter looked thoughtful. “Huh.”
My son shook his head. “So… they made up a fake god and tricked people into leaving their city? But the people who left became the Husks, right? The didn’t all die. Some lived.”
I nodded. “And the people who stayed in Arkeost became the Membranes. They also lived.”
My son shook his head again. “They were so… MEAN.”
I nodded noncommittally. This is the kind of thing I prefer to let my kids puzzle out and form an opinion of themselves, before throwing my two cents in there.
My daughter shrugged. “At least some people lived. Maybe they would all be dead if they didn’t do that.”
“But… They thought the Husks would DIE! I love the Husks!” My son replied.
“Wait.” My daughter said. “Does this mean the Membranes are bad?”
I shrugged. “What do you think?”
They thought. My daughter eventually said, “I will use my computers to see what happened after that stuff. When this mean guy was going to die or something.”
Hops sifted through the datalogs and eventually found some more videos and reports. Turns out only select personnel were told that Mother Touloo was fake. The remaining ghibrani held a ceremony bidding those who left farewell, then continued on with their lives. They completed automation on the city, ensuring that they and their descendants would live a life of leisure for centuries to come. A few decades later it became clear that some ghibrani has survived the wastes. The leaders of Arkeost publicly called this a blessing, but warned their people to stay clear of them and their strange religion. They had ordered all data of the past be transferred to the central mainframe and, as those ghibrani who created Mother Touloo neared the end of their lives, they closed off the Mainframe to prevent any of their fellows from learning the truth of Mother Touloo. Such knowledge could be dangerous.
My kids thought some more.
“Well… it is not really the fault of the Membranes that are left… Their grandparents and stuff were the mean ones….”
My kids thought some more. Their characters gathered all the information they could, and then left the Mainframe, locking it up behind them. Back outside, they found Klarima.
“How was it?” she asked.
“We learned much,” Aya replied.
“And we fixed the power fluctuations!” Vishkesh added helpfully.
My kids looked at each other.
“Are you going to tell anyone in Arkeost about Mother Touloo?” I asked them.
My kids shook their heads.
“What about the Husks? Will you tell them the truth?”
My kids shook their heads.
“Doing so might cause a war.” My husband pointed out. “But, they also deserve to know.”
My kids thought some more. They shook their heads.
“You’re keeping it quiet?” I confirmed.
The Starfinders returned to the centre of Arkeost and spent the night among the Membranes. The next day they left the city, with Klarima at their sides in order to access the forcefield.
“Something happened in the Mainframe,” Klarima pointed out. “I can feel it. You are burdened.”
My kids (and their characters) fell into guilty silence.
Aya stepped forward. “We learned much. Not all was good. But, it is the past. We would prefer not to dredge it back up. Divisions and anger can help neither Husk, nor Membrane at this stage.”
Klarima thought on this. “We have plenty, and they have nothing. But, I wonder who is better off. After seeing the Husks…. They can care for themselves. Membranes cannot.” She drifted off into silence. “Arkeost is great. I wish the Husks would accept its wonders. But then, I suppose their Mother would no longer protect them.” She shrugged. “I wish I could help them both.” With a clack of her mandibles she held out her hands in farewell. “It was a pleasure to meet you. I hope you enjoy your other worlds.”
“You should come with us!” Hops exclaimed.
My son grinned. “Yeah!” Vishkesh announced. “Come fly on our starship with us. You can join the Starfinders and see the galaxy! Maybe you’ll learn something helpful. That can help all ghibrani.”
Klarima clapped her hands. “Really? You would take me with you? Oh, I would love to!”
The Starfinders and Klarima, travelled to Infinity and headed back out into the Vast. They taught Klarima all they could — minus the history of her people — and soon returned to Absalom Station. Venture-Captain Arvin asked for a report, which they gave honestly. They provided him all the information they had learned from the Mainframe about Elytrio, it’s ruins, and history — including about Mother Touloo. Then they spoke of the cultures of the Husks and Membranes. Lastly, they told Arvin all about Klarima and the other friends they had made.
“You faced a difficult decision,” he pointed out. He made no comment on whether he agreed with their actions. “I will enter Klarima into training shortly.” After a pause, he smiled, “You did your friends from the Unbounded Wayfarer proud. I’ll contact you when the next expedition is ready to begin.”
The Starfinders fetched Klarima and brought her to see Arvin. Then they headed out into Absalom Station to recover from their adventures.
My kids had a ton of fun in this adventure. They loved interacting with the Husks and Membranes, enjoyed the starship combat against foes they didn’t have to feel bad about shooting, and made tough decisions that could affect the future of their new friends.
I can’t wait until they head back to Elytrio. We’re definitely going to play Starfinder Society Scenario #1-21: Yesteryear’s Sorrow when they’re high enough level. We’re also going to keep going on exploratory missions (which they’ll have discovered thanks to their friends on the Unbounded Wayfarer). Scenario #1-12: Ashes of Discovery and Scenario #1-08: Sanctuary of Drowned Delight are a shoe in for sure! But, before that, we’re going to go for a change of pace and explore Absalom Station. And what better way to do that than with a visit from their old friend Julzakama? Oh, yes! We’re going to play Scenario #1-10: The Half-Alive Streets!
Bring out your dead!
I can’t wait.