Review: Against the Aeon Throne: The Reach of Empire!

Today we’re going to take an in depth look at Against the Aeon Throne: The Reach of Empire! So hop aboard and get ready to visit the Vast!

Against the Aeon Throne is a three part Starfinder Adventure Path that begins with Part One: The Reach of Empire by Ron Lundeen, continues with Part Two: Escape from Prison Moon by Eleanor Ferron, and concludes with Part Three: The Rune Drive Gambit by Larry Wilhelm. All together these three adventures should take your characters from level one through to level six. You can check out our previous articles on Against the Aeon Throne here: Against the Aeon Throne and Preparing to Rebel.

StarfinderCover
Against the Aeon Throne is an Adventure Path for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game. To play you’ll need a copy of the Starfinder Core Rulebook.

Against the Aeon Throne is a shorter campaign that most. Typically six books in length, this Adventure Path is only three. I think it’s a great change that will allow the folks at Starfinder to tell shorter, more personal stories. In addition, this three part length makes it easier to purchase and play through an entire adventure path. Also? It’s awesome for gift giving and the budget conscious! Six books is a huge investment, but three? Well, that’s a lot more manageable for those of us without much extra cash laying around.

So what exactly is Against the Aeon Throne: The Reach of Empire all about? In short, your characters will play as a team of allies or coworkers who run a ship together. The how and why of your meeting, and what kind of crew you are is entirely up to your players. Want to be a bunch of socialites on vacation? Go for it! A grizzled team of mercenaries? Sure! A ship of colonists ready to set down roots in a new home? Perfect! Or perhaps some criminals on the lam? Sounds good! Whatever you and your fellow players decide, your ship has been contracted by AbadarCorp to make a delivery of supplies to the fledgling colony of Madelon’s Landing on the planet Nakondis way out in the Vast. Upon making the delivery they’ll receive 4,000 credits as payment from the leader of the colony, a lashunta priest of Abadar by the name of Madelon Kesi. For GMs who want to go off script a bit, it’s incredibly easy to change the hiring organization from AbadarCorp to any other corporation or group you desire. Irrelevant of who hires you, your contact for payment will remain the same.

Of course, cash isn’t the only reason your ship is heading to Nakondis. In addition, all of your characters are friends (or at least had passing contact in the past) with an android known as Cedona who recently retired to the colony of Madelon’s Landing. How and why they each know Cedona is up to your players, but there’s also an awesome list of eleven different suggestions related to the different themes that are provided in the book.

As for your ship? Your players get to make it themselves before play. Awesome! For groups who don’t want to spend the time crafting their own ship, they’re welcome to select any premade tier 1 starship. Whatever ship they choose to create, this bad boy will be with your players throughout the campaign and they’ll have plenty of opportunities to improve it as they progress.

Like any good adventure, stuff happens! And The Reach of Empire is no different! When they reach Nakondis they discover something has gone terribly wrong on Madelon’s Landing! It’s clearly been taken over by some invading force! (Spoiler Alert: It’s the Azlanti Star Empire). But, before the group has a chance to investigate they’re attacked by drones! They’ll have to fight off the drones, find a safe place to land, and make their way on foot to Madelon’s Landing to figure out what’s going on, save the colonists, and oust the invaders!

But, before we get into that too much, let’s take a look at the book itself.

Against the Aeon Throne Reach of the Empire Ron Lundeen
Starfinder Adventure Path: Against the Aeon Throne: Book One: The Reach of Empire

Starfinder Adventure Path 7: Against the Aeon Throne: Part 1: The Reach of Empire is a softcover adventure written by Ron Lundeen that is 63 pages in length. It’s intended to take players from level 1 to level 3. The adventure itself is around 35 pages long, and split into three main parts: Nakondis Under Siege, in which the players fight or sneak their way through the wilds of Nakondis to Madelon’s Landing; Rebels of Madelon’s Landing, in which the players liberate Madelon’s Landing; and History Unearthed, in which the players head out to explore an ancient crashed starship where the remaining invaders are holed up. After the adventure there’s a seven page primer on Madelon’s Landing and the surrounding region, which is incredibly important for GMs. There’s also a new theme: the colonist. Past this there are four pages of information on new ship upgrades, systems, and weapons common to the Azlanti Star Empire, and four further pages of ship statistics and details. The Alien Archives are eight pages in length, followed by the Codex of Worlds, which is one page of information on the planet of Nakondis. Lastly, the inside front and back covers feature information and a layout for a tier two starship: the Vanguard Voidsweeper!

Before we continue with a more in depth look at the book, let me point out: there will be SPOILERS. Not huge ones. But spoilers none the less.

You have been warned.

For starters, I love the look of this book. I like the colours and the layout. The text inside is easy to read (which isn’t always the case in an Adventure Path). The cover art is wonderful. It showcases a major enemy in this book, Lieutenant Sharu of the Aeon Guard, as drawn by Anna Christenson. Behind her is an awesome image of Iseph (the iconic android operative) and Raia (the iconic lashunta technomancer) running through the streets of Madelon’s Landing as they fight off drones from the Azlanti Star Empire. Super cool!

The ship showcased on the inside covers is a Vanguard Voidsweeper. This tier two medium explorer starship is destined to be the final enemy the PCs face in this adventure. All in all, it’s a fast, maneuverable little ship, that packs some serious firepower. The art for the exterior looks a lot more generic than I expected — particularly when you take into account all the other awesome Azlanti ship artwork found later in this book. That said, it is a mass produced ship, so it’s not surprising. The map layout is simple, but useful. Much more streamlined than a lot of the ship layouts I’ve seen. I rather like it.

After that we hop right into the adventure itself. This adventure starts with a bang, and doesn’t let up. It’s action packed and exciting the whole way through. I really, truly, loved it.

As previously mentioned, The Reach of Empire begins when the players reach Nakondis only to be attacked by automated drones! The resulting starship battle should lead to your players defeating the drones, only to have them explode! Unfortunately this leaves very little information that the PCs can salvage from the wreck. What can they learn? That the drones were automated and belongs to the Azlanti Star Empire. For those of you who don’t know: that’s BAD news. In short, the Azlanti Star Empire is a massive militarized Star Empire that has a whopping three solar systems under their thumb. They think they’re the greatest beings in the galaxy, and everyone else is fit only to be their slaves. And all those planets out there? Well, clearly they should belong to the Azlanti Star Empire. Cause they’re the best and all.

Yeah, they’re giant, pompous, jerks. Great villains for the PCs to clash with, but an overwhelming opponent. Let me be clear: this adventure path does not send your PCs off to take down the entire Azlanti Star Empire. It’s much smaller in scale than that. And frankly? I love it. It lends a sense of suspense to the series and makes it feel like you’re playing real people in a living breathing world universe doing what they can, rather than heroes so powerful they change the whole world universe. It’s a wonderful change of pace and scope. It’s got a very Firefly feel to it. (And Star Wars too, obviously).

After defeating the drones your players will need to attempt to contact Madelon’s Landing, only to find that it’s under occupation by the Azlanti Star Empire! Soldiers patrol the streets, the landing zone is occupied by a strange building, and there’s a massive space cannon mounted on one of the buildings that could clearly shoot your ship down if you went too close. With no idea what’s going on, the players need to find and select a new landing site. Once they’re safely on the ground they need to set out for Madelon’s Landing on foot to find out what’s actually going on. Along the way they’ll travel through the permanently misty jungles of Nakondis, deal with hazardous wildlife (the delightful hobgar!), battle enemy soldiers from the Aeon Guard, and save a colonist who managed to escape. From this man, Jellik Fulson, they’ll finally get an understanding of just how bad things have gotten in Madelon’s Landing and what’s going on. Jellik begs the PCs for aid and happens to know a secret way back into the colony. If they’ll go with him he’ll bring them to a woman who he thinks will give them a place to hide. From there they’ll be able to gather information on the troop movements, make targeted strikes against the Aeon Guard, and do what they can to give the invaders a hard time, and the colonists more freedom.

Which brings us to part two of the adventure: Rebels of Madelon’s Landing. This is both the longest and the most fluid section of the adventure. In addition to the adventure text, GMs will need to make heavy use of the primer on Madelon’s Landing found later in the book. Basically, Jellik and the woman he brought them to — a junker named Aibretta Fulson (Jellik’s ex-wife) — can give the PCs information on the enemy forces, and ideas for what sorts of secret missions they could accomplish to weaken their hold on the colony, and give the colonists more freedom. These ideas run the gamut from freeing trapped hobgars and unleashing them upon the town, to ensuring everyone has enough water to survive, and ambushing patrols. As the PCs sneak around Madelon’s Landing and subtly strike back they’ll meet other colonists, who can in turn become allies and give the PCs more support, intel, and suggestions. However, their actions don’t go unnoticed. Depending how much of a splash they make the Aeon Guard takes notice and retaliates. This also leads to other events that the PCs will have to intervene in — or not. It’s a great, dynamic part of the adventure, which is filled with enough mini-missions and events to keep the game exciting and interesting. As an added bonus, such missions are short enough you can accomplish one or two each play session (at least). Of course, the Aeon Guard is incredibly powerful, so stomping through the town centre and having a giant throw down is a tactic sure to get your players killed. However, that shouldn’t be a problem. The adventure itself does an excellent job of setting this up as a time to use guerrilla tactics, and subtly. Blatantly calling out the villains all at once is unlikely to be a plan your players seriously consider. Only after the town itself is secure will they be able to enter the Aeon Guard’s base of operations, take down the remaining soldiers, and free the prisoners. Finally, Madelon’s Landing is free!

Against the Aeon Throne Escape from the Prison Moon Eleanor Ferron
Starfinder Adventure Path: Against the Aeon Throne: Book Two: Escape from the Prison Moon

Or are they?

Within the Azlanti base it becomes clear that they didn’t come to Nakondis just to annex some tiny colony. They came for something else. Something hidden in the nearby jungle…  To truly free Nakondis your PCs need to travel to the mysterious site and ambush the remaining Aeon Guard!

Which brings us to part three: History Unearthed. The PCs travel to the mysterious site through the jungle (there’s multiple modes of transportation to choose from), and discover that the Azlanti are exploring an ancient crashed starship. An AZLANTI ship. As they explore the wreck they’ll come to realize that the starship was in possession of an experimental starship drive theoretically much, much faster than Drift Travel. If the Azlanti Star Empire got their hands on this ancient engine and found out how to reverse engineer it the entirely of existence would be at their fingertips. They could conquer the Veskarium or the Pact Worlds! Heck, they could conquer both. Also, they’ll come to realize that their friend, Cedona, was one of the first colonists to explore this wreck and discover the experimental engine. To make matters worse? Not only is the engine already gone, but so is Cedona. The Aeon Guard has already moved them both off world for further examination and interrogation.

Final Battle Mark Molnar
Illustrated by Mark Molnar. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

By the end of this chapter the PCs will defeat the rest of the Aeon Guard on Nakondis, and know that they need to get back the experimental drive, and their friend, before its too late. Unfortunately, there’s one last obstacle to face before the PCs can zip off into the stars after the Aeon Guard. An enemy ship is approaching Madelon’s Landing! And it’s about to open fire! The PCs need to race back to the colony and take on the Azlanti ship, Barazad (the Vanguard Voidsweeper featuring on the inner covers), before it blows the colony sky high!

Hopefully they succeed…

Robot David Melvin Against Aeon Throne
Illustrated by David Melvin. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

Which brings us to the end of The Reach of the Empire! It’s an exciting, fun adventure, which I thoroughly enjoyed. EXTREMELY enjoyed. It’s just… a ton of fun.

But, that’s not the end of Against the Aeon Throne, or the book. Up next, as previously mentioned, is the super useful primer on Madelon’s Landing. GMs will need to make extensive use of this primer to flesh out the rest of the town, and run the entire middle segment of the adventure. In addition, PCs who go off exploring on foot to get to the crashed starship will also make use of the information on the surrounding regions, which the GM will need to brush up on. Overall it’s an interesting, fun little town to adventure in. I rather enjoyed it. Plus it’s got lovely maps!

The colonist theme included in this book is pretty nifty. It grants a bonus to Constitution, while the theme knowledge makes survival a class skill and reduces the DC to identify average creatures using Life Sciences. Super useful. Later abilities allow you to protect more people than normal when finding shelter from weather, or feed more people than normal when living off the land. My favourite ability allows you to reroll a Fortitude saving throw made against disease, poison, or severe weather once a day.

Up next is a rather long chapter on the ships of the Azlanti Star Empire and their abilities. Now, I enjoy a good starship battle, but the ships themselves aren’t exactly the most interesting part of the game for me. I’m just not a person who’s into vehicles of any kind. That said, even I think this chapter was COOL. There’s a lot of neat abilities, systems, and weapons introduced, including stasis tubes, aeon stone based technology, drones (which give the undervalued Science Officer something cool to do!), autodestruct mechanisms, and — my personal favourite — hybrid starship weapons that allow you to control them with Mysticism. AWESOME. As for the ships themselves? They’ve got gorgeous artwork. I particularly like the Vanguard Comet, and the absurdly large Sovereign Vindicator.

The Alien Archive is up next, which is always one of my favourite sections of an Adventure Path. It contains seven new creatures, one of which is a playable race. and three of which are featured in the adventure itself. The creatures include: Carrion Dreg, a CR 4 undead monstrosity which has never looked grosser; Endiffian, which is a playable race of shapeshifters; Hobgar, a CR 1/3 blue monkey-like creature capable of shooting electricity that the PCs will come to know VERY well in this adventure (they’re awesome!); Mucilaginous Cloud, a huge CR 5 ooze; Azlanti Adjutant Robot, a CR 3 enemy they’ll face in the crashed starship; Synapse Worm, a small CR 2 vermin that tries to stun you before devouring you alive; and Thermatrod, a CR 3 creature that looks like a mix between a gorilla and an earth elemental, and vomits up lava. Cool! Personally, I like the hobgar and the synapse worm best.

Against the Aeon Throne The Rune Drive Gambit
Starfinder Adventure Path: Against the Aeon Throne: Book Three: The Rune Drive Gambit

Finally, there’s a short, one page Codex of Worlds entry on the planet of Nakondis. Despite its short length, the information contained therein is incredibly important to this adventure. It’s a must read for GMs.

And that’s it!

Against the Aeon Throne: Part One: The Reach of Empire has come to an end. I LOVED it. Seriously. Without a doubt I give it five out of five stars.

So where does it go from here?

Against the Aeon Throne: Part Two: Escape from the Prison Moon is written by Eleanor Ferron and intended for level three characters. In it, the PCs are deputized by the Steward (a galactic police force of the Pact Worlds) to secretly travel to the Azlanti Star Empire, rescue Cedona, retrieve the experimental Rune Drive, and get the heck out! They travel to the Azlanti Star Empire, visit an independent space station called Outpost Zed, and learn all they can of the prison moon Gulta that Cedona’s being held on. Then they’ll need to get there, get inside, free Cedona (and likely other prisoners), and flee the area. Awesome!
EDIT: You can read our review: Review: Against the Aeon Throne: Escape from the Prison Moon.

Against the Aeon Throne: Part Three: The Rune Drive Gambit is written by Larry Wilhelm and intended for level five characters. In it, the PCs head to a secret Azlanti science station in an asteroid where the Rune Drive is being held. They’ll need to get inside, infiltrate or fight their way to the Rune Drive, and learn what the heck it is. Then they’ll need to find a way to steal it. Along the way they’ll fight Aeon Guard soldiers, rescue captive scientists, and face off against the man responsible for sending troops to Nakondis in the first place! Awesome!
EDIT: You can read our review: Review: Against the Aeon Throne: The Rune Drive Gambit.

I can’t wait to get a chance to play Against the Aeon Throne with my family!

I hope you enjoyed taking an in depth look at the first volume as much as I did!

Until next time,

Jessica

 

Author: d20diaries

Author of d20 Diaries.

3 thoughts on “Review: Against the Aeon Throne: The Reach of Empire!”

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