Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus

Baldurs Gate - Descent Into Avernus
Cover for Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus

Wizards of the Coast has just announced its newest Dungeons and Dragons campaign, Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus! The announcement was made during its D&D Live: The Descent event in L.A. Beginning in the incredibly popular town of Baldur’s Gate and descending into Avernus (the first level of Hell), this 256-page campaign takes players from level 1 to level 13. Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus is scheduled to make its debut September 17, with the Beadle and Grimm’s Platinum Edition scheduled for release in October.

For more information on this diabolical campaign, check out the video below, or click here for a full list of the D&D Beyond interviews regarding this campaign on youtube.

For more information on Beadle & Grimm’s Platinum Edition of Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus, click here. Only 1000 copies of the Platinum Edition will be made, and yes, it’s expected to sell out. This weekend only (May 18th – May 19th 2019), the Platinum Edition is on sale for $449.00 USD (from it’s full retail price of $499.00 USD).

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Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus. Image credit: Wizards of the Coast

Review: Against the Aeon Throne: The Rune Drive Gambit

Today we’re going to take an in depth look at Starfinder Adventure Path #9: The Rune Drive Gambit! So hop aboard and get ready to rebel!

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 the 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 seven. You can also pick up the Against The Aeon Throne Pawn Collection.

To read our previous articles on Against the Aeon Throne click the links below:

Against the Aeon Throne is a shorter campaign than most. Typically six books in length, this Adventure Path is only three. It’s a great change of pace 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. 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. On the other hand, with the three book format I feel like I blinked and the whole adventure path was over. I didn’t get my hands on the first book until the third came out and I missed the Signal of Screams Adventure Path completely. In general, it’s both easier to collect and easier to miss. Although I enjoy the three book format, I also enjoy the six book format, so I hope they continue to rotate between the campaign lengths.

Against the Aeon Throne

So what exactly is Against the Aeon Throne: The Rune Drive Gambit all about? In previous adventures, the PCs defeated an Azlanti military force that had annexed the small colony of Madelon’s Landing on the planet of Nakondis. But saving the fledgeling colony was just the beginning. The PCs discovered that an experimental starship engine and their friend, the android Cedona, were transported off of Nakondis and back to the Azlanti Star Empire. Giving chase the PCs made some allies and rescued Cedona. All that’s left is to find the experimental starship engine, steal it or destroy it, and escape with their lives. 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! No problem! …Right?

the-rune-drive-gambit-against-the-aeon-throne-book-3-of-3-e1557809255646.jpgNow, let me take a moment to be clear. The Azlanti Star Empire is a pack of giant, pompous, jerks. They’re great villains for the PCs to clash with, but an overwhelming opponent. 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 / Star Wars feel to it.

But, before we get into that too much, let’s take a look at the book itself. Starfinder Adventure Path #9: The Rune Drive Gambit (Against the Aeon Throne 3 of 3) is a softcover adventure written by Larry Wilhelm that is 63 pages in length. It’s intended to take players from level five to level seven. The adventure itself is around 39 pages long, and split into three main parts: With Friends Like These, in which the players upgrade their ship and figure out where the heck they’re going; Within Enemy Territory, in which the players travel to and explore the upper levels of a secret research facility located in an asteroid; and Scientific Theories, in which the players finish exploring the research facility, track down the rune drive, and decide what to do with it. After the adventure there’s six pages of ideas on how to continue the campaign after it’s conclusion, with eight short ideas, and two detailed ideas that include a stat block or two. After that there’s an eight page primer on the Stewards, including two character archetypes. There’s seven new creatures in the Alien Archive, and a short Codex of Worlds article on New Thespera, heart of the Azlanti Star Empire. Lastly, the inside front and back covers feature information and a layout for a tier 5 starship: the Vanguard Regnant.

My favourite parts of this adventure are the layout, enemy tactics, and defences of the research facility, and the NPCs you unexpectedly discover along the way.

Before we continue with a more in depth look at the book, let me point out: there will be SPOILERS.

You have been warned.

Rune Drive

For starters, I love the look of this book. I like the colours and the layout. The text inside is easy to read and the colours are easy on the eyes. The cover art is wonderful. It showcases Sardat Zolan Ulivestra, an Azlanti nobleman and enemy of the PCs, as drawn by Anna Christenson. Behind him is an awesome image of Obozaya (the iconic vesk soldier) and Quig (the iconic ysoki mechanic) fighting off Azlanti soldiers.

Azlanti Aeon Guard
Azlanti Aeon Guard. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

The starship showcased on the inside covers is a Vanguard Regnant. This tier 5 small light freighter is destined to be the final (or second last) enemy the PCs face in this campaign. It’s a well-built luxury ship that’s fast and maneuverable, but still packs a punch. I particularly like the ship layout.

After that we hop right into the adventure itself. This adventure starts in Outpost Zed where the PCs (and Cedona) will need to get their ship upgraded by their friend Hasshachir, who they met in the previous adventure. While they wait they’ll run into trouble, which will ultimately provide the PCs with the clues they need to determine their next destination. We won’t talk about these events any further, as it would ruin the surprise for those of us reading this who ignored my spoiler warning. (You know who you are! Haha). What I will say, is that I enjoyed this section of the adventure.

Which brings us to part two of the adventure: Within Enemy Territory. In this section PCs will need to travel to Aurelos, the secret laboratory the rune drive was taken to, find a way inside, and explore the upper levels. Along the way they’ll have to take on the base’s defences and protectors. As previous mentioned, I was really impressed with the layout of the Aurelos base, both the upper levels featured in this section, and the lower levels featured in the next part of the adventure. It’s functional and easily defensible, and is populated with enemies who know how to use their surroundings. There’s a few complications and other defences to round out these encounters, and an enemy is introduced that I rather enjoyed.

Oliviana Jakub Bazyluk
Oliviana. Illustrated by Jakub Bazyluk. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

Which brings us to part three: Scientific Theories. In this section the PCs finish their exploration of Aurelos, fighting off further enemies and surmounting further challenges. Along the way they’ll have the chance to meet quite a few NPCs (potential friends and enemies), question scientists, explore science labs, and try to figure out what the heck the rune drive is and why it’s so important. Then they’ll have to figure out what to do with it and attempt to make their escape. They’ll face off against the mastermind of this whole debacle, Sardat Zolan Ulivestra, alongside some of his loyal (or not so loyal, depending upon your PCs actions) minions. Finally, they’ll have to engage in a starship battle to make their escape!

Part Three is fun, dynamic, and exciting, with plenty of people to interact with, challenging encounters, and a dilemma or two. I really enjoyed Evandrian, an Aeon Guard the PCs are destined to combat multiple times, and the Sardat’s statistics and tactics. He’s the perfect mix of pompous and skilled. I think PCs are going to really hate him. Haha. He’s a great villain. Finally, I like that some of the encounters in this section are open ended. There’s more than one potential outcome, and the choice ultimately rests in the hands of the PCs, either knowingly or through their actions. On the other hand, Part Three is also where I have some issues. There’s really only one thing to do with the rune drive. It’s cool, and it makes sense, but there’s clearly no real alternatives to the option presented. Which is unfortunate. Also, that option? Wow, it’s… complex? It’s logical, both in terms of the story and in terms of Pact Worlds implications. But I was also left wondering why it also does… some other stuff that seems tacked on. Cool stuff! But odd. I’m being vague, I know, but you’ll understand when you read it.  Haha.

Which brings us to the end of The Rune Drive Gambit and the Against the Aeon Throne Adventure Path. But, that’s not the end of the book. Up next, as previously mentioned, is a lot of ideas for how to continue the campaign. There’s eight minor ideas here, some of which will lead to short adventures, and others which could form the basis of long, epic campaigns. I know my family will want to head back to Nakondis to help out the colony there, so it’s nice to see a few options that deal with the Madelon’s Landing. Other ideas involve the Stewards, the Azlanti Star Empire, and even transitioning into the Signal of Screams Adventure Path (definitely not the option my family will be using, but it’s nice to see it in print). There’s also two longer campaign ideas. One is a direct continuation, which makes a lot of sense, and I’m very likely to make use of. The other is both awesome and out there! I love it! But, it’s way too confusing to run with my kids (which is who I’m currently running through Against the Aeon Throne). If any of you make use of Kellixtrian I’d love to hear about it.

Following this is an eight page primer on the Stewards. Basically the peace-keeping force of the Pact Worlds, the Stewards are warrior diplomats that are organized into four main branches and run by a Director-General. The branches are Constabulary (the police force), Ops (the spies), Overwatch (the starship fleet), and Conclave of Legates (veterans who act as a council and advisory board). This section describes the Stewards origins, history, structure, leadership, purpose, bases, training regimen, and interests. It also presents two new archetypes, the Stewards infiltrator (an ops agent) and Stewards stalwart (self-sufficient agents that often work alone). Both of the archetypes are useful and very cool! I’m really glad the Stewards are getting some attention, as they are a powerful organization that can be utilized and interacted with in a wide variety of campaigns. They’re very usable.

BattleRobot Alexandur Alexandrov
Azlanti Battle Robot. Illustrated by Alexandur Alexandrov. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

The Alien Archive is up next, which is always one of my favourite sections of an Adventure Path. It contains seven new creatures, three of which are featured in the adventure itself. The creatures include: power archon, a CR 5 outsider tasked with destroying corrupting technology; carnivorous crystal, a CR 11 ooze that can turn you to crystal; comanide, a very creepy looking CR 7 fey; entropy slug, a CR 4 magical beast the PCs will face in part one of this adventure; hulsa, a CR 10 fey; Azlanti battle robot, a CR 6 robot the PCs will face in part three of this adventure; and twinsoul, a very strange CR 8 creature also featured in this adventure.

Finally, there’s a short, one page Codex of Worlds entry on New Thespera, the heart of the Azlanti Empire and seat of the Aeon Throne. It’s an incredibly useful article, but very brief. New Thespera’s the sort of important place you could write pages of information on.

And with that, Starfinder Adventure Path #9: The Rune Drive Gambit (Against the Aeon Throne 3 of 3) has come to an end.

I hope you enjoyed taking an in depth look at the final volume of Against the Aeon Throne much as I did!

Until next time,

Jessica

Crowdfunding Spotlight: Kingmaker

It’s rare we take the time to talk about RPGs and other games that are crowdfunding, but today we’re making an exception! Why?

Kingmaker!

Next year marks the tenth anniversary of Kingmaker, a six-part Pathfinder Adventure Path by Paizo Inc. This incredibly popular campaign was recently made into a computer game, by Owlcat Games (for more information check out this blog post). As with many of the popular Pathfinder adventure paths, Kingmaker has been out of print for quite a while. Although you can still find it kicking around on amazon, eBay, and other sites, it is not cheap!

Although Kingmaker’s not my favourite adventure path (sandbox-style campaigns aren’t my preference), I’ve always enjoyed reading and GMing Kingmaker. My copies of the adventures are more than a little dog-eared and worn. They’re riddled with highlighter and post-it notes, and I have multiple notebooks full of hand-written events and expansions for the campaign. Sadly, none of my campaigns ended up making it to the end. I’m cursed! Haha.

To celebrate Kingmaker’s tenth anniversary, Paizo Inc. is releasing an anniversary edition of the Kingmaker Adventure Path for Pathfinder Second Edition! Like previous anniversary editions, the campaign will be updated, enhanced, and expanded upon. Unlike previous anniversary editions, this book is huge. Seriously huge. And you know what? It has the potential to be even bigger.

Today Paizo Inc. began a crowdfunding campaign for Kingmaker 10th Anniversary Edition. There are two primary products you can purchase. The Kingmaker Adventure Path for Pathfinder Second Edition (which will be a minimum of 576 pages long!) and the Kingmaker Companion Guide, which contains information on two of the characters from the Kingmaker computer game (the gnome Jubilost and the halfling Linzi), and brings them to the table with stats, information, kingdom roles, and quests. Backers get both a print and PDF copy of the books, which are due out next year. In addition, there are some cool add-ons for this campaign. Among these are dice, hero tokens, a pin, and the Forest Kingdom PDF by Legendary Games. The most exciting add-on? The Bestiary! Kingmaker Bestiary takes all of the Second Edition creatures and NPC stat blocks and recreates them for Pathfinder First Edition or 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons! The Bestiary volumes will also contain notes and information on how to run the Kingmaker Adventure Path in First Edition Pathfinder or Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition. Stretch goals include a Kingmaker Pawn Box (which I would love to get my hands on), flip-mats, and expansions to the Kingmaker Companion Guide. In addition, the Kingmaker Adventure Path will feature more and more content as the various funding goals are met.

Colour me intrigued!

For more information on the Kingmaker 10th Anniversary Adventure Path check out the video below, or head on over to the crowdfunding campaign on Game On Table Top.

Enjoy!

Jessica

May New Releases

May is here and plethora of new gaming products are hitting shelves! Check out this month’s new d20 releases!


Dungeons and Dragons

Dungeons and Dragons is releasing two very exciting products this month. Stranger Things D&D Roleplaying Game Starter Set contains everything players need to get started playing D&D – a basic rulebook, an adventure, a set of dice, five character sheets, and an awesome enemy to face off against – all in a retro red box with a Stranger Things twist. The adventure is written in the style of Mike Wheeler, a character and DM from Stranger Things, and pits PCs against a mysterious castle and the Demogorgon! The pre-made character sheets feature the kids D&D characters from Stranger Things, including Dustin the Dwarf, Will the Wise, and so on. Finally, the set comes with two Demogorgon figures (one painted and one unpainted). You can watch Stranger Things on Netflix (I highly recommend it!).

Due out May 21, Ghosts of Saltmarsh is a collection of seven nautical and coastal themed adventures that vary from levels 1-12. These adventures can be run separately, or combined by DMs into one larger campaign. The adventures contained in this volume are all previously published adventures, including some of the most popular first edition D&D adventures and some from Dungeon Magazine. Adventures in Ghosts of Saltmarsh include:

  • The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh (originally written by Dave J. Browne and Don Turnbull in 1981)
  • Danger at Dunwater (originally written by Dave J. Browne and Don Turnbull in 1982)
  • The Final Enemy (originally written by Dave J. Browne and Don Turnbull in 1983)
  • Isle of the Abbey (originally written by Randy Maxwell for Dungeon Magazine #34)
  • Tammeraut’s Fate (originally written by Greg A. Vaughan for Dungeon Magazine #106)
  • The Styes (originally written by Richard Pett for Dungeon Magazine #121)
  • Salvage Operation (originally written by Mike Mearls for Dungeon Magazine #123)

In addition to the adventures themselves there’s details on the port of Saltmarsh, mechanics for ship-to-ship combat, new monsters, and new magic items.

Launching next month is Beadle & Grimm’s Sinister Silver Edition for Ghosts of Saltmarsh! Currently available for pre-order on their website, the Sinister Silver Edition contains twelve high quality player handouts, a detailed ship map, a reusable ship map, two large scale battle maps, a map of the Styes, 30 encounter cards (which are designed to be hung over a DM screen so players can see images of the monsters they fight while the DM sees it’s statistics), custom DM screen, two objects, bonus encounters, and characters!


Pathfinder

Highlights from last month’s releases include Pathfinder Adventure Path 141: Last Watch (Tyrant’s Grasp 3 of 6) by Larry Wilhelm, and Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Concordance of Rivals. This month’s releases include Pathfinder Adventure Path 142: Gardens of Gallowspire (Tyrant’s Grasp 4 of 6) by Crystal Frasier and Pathfinder Player Companion: Chronicle of Legends, which is the last Pathfinder Player Companion being released for Pathfinder First Edition. Said to include traits and relics that grow in strength with your PCs, feats to support characters who have prestige classes, magic items that gain new abilities when together as a set, and new capstone abilities for all classes! The Player Companion line is certainly going out with a bang! Definitely one I want to get my hands on. Pocket Editions are available this month for Ultimate Wilderness and Occult Adventures.

New maps out this month for Pathfinder include Pathfinder Campaign Setting: The Tyrant’s Grasp Poster Map Folio and Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Bigger Temple.

This month’s Pathfinder Society Scenarios have not yet been announced, although canny players can find them on the schedule for PaizoCon (which takes place later this month in Seattle). For more information on PaizoCon and to register for events head over to https://paizo.com/paizocon!


Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

Very exciting news, as this month the new Pathfinder Adventure Card Game in unveiled! Players can test it out in person at PaizoCon or pick up a copy at the end of the month. Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Core Set is the base game, which include all the rules, the Dragons Demand adventure series, and a ton of cards. They’re also releasing Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Curse of the Crimson Throne Adventure Path which is designed to be mixed into the Core Set to create a whole new series of adventures. For more information on some of the changes you can expect to see in the newest version of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game check out this post, or head straight to the source and check out Paizo’s blog!


Starfinder 

Highlights from last month’s Starfinder releases include Starfinder Adventure Path 15: Sun Divers (Dead Suns 3 of 6) by Joe Pasini and the Starfinder Roleplaying Game: Beginner Box! For more information on the Starfinder Beginner Box you can check out the videos below:

You can also check out a liveplay utilizing the beginner box rules and starring members of Paizo’s staff here.

This month there’s Starfinder Adventure Path 16: The Blind City (Dawn of Flame 4 of 6) to look forward to, as well as Starfinder Flip-Mat: Spaceport. Starfinder Society Scenarios include #1-38: The Many Minds of Historia, a tier 5–8 scenario written by Lyz Liddell and #1-39: The Herald’s War, a tier 7–10 scenario by Mikko Kallio.


WizKids

WizKids releases some lovely products this month, primarily Pathfinder Battles: Ruins of Lastwall! This brand new set of pre-painted miniatures comes in blind booster boxes that contain four minis each – one large figure and three small or medium figures. In addition to buying a single standard booster box you can order a brick of boosters (which contains eight boosters) or a case of boosters (four bricks for a total of 32 boosters). Anyone who orders an entire case of boosters may also order Pathfinder Battles: Ruins of Lastwall: Cemetery of the Fallen Set which is a collection of graveyard themed set dressing! For images you can check out this blog post from last month, or head straight to the source and view the images on WizKids and Paizo’s blog.

Also out this month is Wave 3 of the Wardlings pre-painted miniatures. My kids and I absolutely adore this line of minis. Each one is interesting, highly detailed, and comes with one youthful adventurer and their pet. A few of the new releases also include male and female versions of eccentric adventurers (such as ghosts, goblins, and zombies), or a single large mini (such as a troll of treefolk).


Wayfinder

Wayfinder Fanzine is a free magazine of fan-created content that releases every year at PaizoCon. Typically filled with Pathfinder content, this years topic is Starfinder – more specifically, Absalom Station! Wayfinder #19 is due out later this month, and will be a free download on Paizo’s website. Although not currently on Paizo’s website, you can find all of the previous Wayfinder issues available, which I highly recommend you download and give a read.

My kids and I are particularly excited for this issue, as each of my kids created an alien that’s going to be featured in the magazine! I wrote a few articles as well (which is awesome!) but not nearly as impressive as my kids doing it. Haha. (Pardon my ‘proud mom’ bragging).


And that’s it for this month! Got a favourite release? I’d love to hear about it!

Happy shopping!

Jessica

 

Pathfinder Society Scenarios: The Daughters’ Due and Corpses in Kalsgard

Today we’re going to take a look at two of the most recent Pathfinder Society Scenarios that are currently available for purchase, and let you know we thought. Although you’ll find references to events in each that I liked or disliked, and comments about specific characters, these scenarios are not explored in detail. It’s not my intention to spoil the events in these scenarios, or give summaries and full reviews, but to share my opinions and provide recommendations. That said, if you want to avoid even minor spoilers then I recommend clicking on a different article.  Whether you intend to use these scenarios in home games of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, sanctioned scenarios for use with the Pathfinder Society Organized Play, or just want to read a nifty new adventure, we’ve got you covered! So let’s get cracking!

10-18 - The Daughters' DuePathfinder Society Scenario #10-18: The Daughters’ Due is a Tier 5-9 adventure written by Thurston Hillman. It begins in the Blakros Museum and quickly moves to Shadow Absalom. In addition to the Core Rulebook it includes content from the Advanced Player’s GuideUltimate Equipment, and Ultimate WildernessIt features creatures from BestiaryBestiary 2, and Bestiary 5 (although all of the necessary stat blocks are included within the scenario). It utilizes Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Carnival, and Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Slum Quarter, and a half-page custom map that will look very familiar to some players. For more information on the Shadow Plane check out The Inner Sea World Guide and Planar Adventures, and for more information on Shadow Absalom check out Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Distant Realms.

Daughter's Due - Chalos Visanda - Illustration by Leonardo Santanna
Chalos Visanda from #10-18: The Daughters’ Due. Illustration by Leonardo Santanna. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

This adventure tasks the PCs with investigating four missing relics from the Blakros Museum which it’s curator, Nigel Aldain, insists were destroyed or stolen by Pathfinders during their many missions within the Blakros Museum over the years. His boss, Lady Hamaria Blakros, has invited the PCs to her museum to investigate or refute these claims. After this quick mystery the PCs can give their report to Hamaria and even pass judgement on Nigel himself — a turn of events that I’m sure many players will take a perverse joy in. Haha. From there the PCs head into Shadow Absalom, to track down the missing relics and retrieve them from the true thieves. PCs who have played in any of the Blakros-themed Pathfinder Society Scenarios over the years (there’s lots!) will find this mission more relevant and entertaining than those who haven’t. It’s particularly closely tied to the events of Pathfinder Society Scenario #2–11: The Penumbral AccordsPCs who have the “Acquainted with Aslynn” boon from Pathfinder Society #5-09: The Traitor’s Lodge and #7-09: The Blakros Connection have a chance to have a slightly different experience than players who haven’t, although its minor.

Start to finish, this scenario was an absolute joy! The investigations in the beginning of the scenario are interesting. There’s a wide variety of fun social encounters and quirky characters to interact with. The battles were challenging and dynamic, with one of them having the potential to be avoided with clever skill use. Best of all, this scenario includes multiple ways in which the PCs can make important decisions which will come to influence the Pathfinder Society in the future. Overall, I thought this was an excellent scenario that’s going to be a ton of fun to play. It brings the Blakros/Onyx Alliance storyline to a nice ‘conclusion’ for First Edition, which is clearly going to be picked up again in Second Edition. I can’t wait to see where it goes from here!

10-19 - Corpses in KalsgardPathfinder Society Scenario #10-19: Corpses in Kalsgard is a Tier 5-9 Adventure written by Alex Riggs. It begins in Iceferry but primarily takes place in Kalsgard, a major city in the Land of the Linnorm Kings. For more information on these locations check out The Inner Sea World GuidePathfinder Campaign Setting: Lands of the Linnorm Kings and Pathfinder Adventure Path 50: Night of Frozen Shadows (Jade Regent 2 of 6). In addition to the Core RulebookCorpses in Kalsgard includes content from the Advanced Class Guide and Advanced Player’s Guide. It features creatures and monster templates from BestiaryHorror Adventures, and Pathfinder Adventure Path 81: Shifting Sands (Mummy’s Mask 3 of 6) (although all of the necessary stat blocks are included within the scenario). It utilizes the Pathfinder Flip-Mat Classics: City Streets, Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Necropolis, Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Thieves’ Guild, and a custom full-page map. This mission is of particular importance to gnomes, followers of Nivi Rhombodazzle, and any characters who have an interest ensuring the dead are treated with respect, and deaths are properly investigated.

Corpses in Kalsgard - ElluxShost - Illustration by Hannah Boving
Ellux Shost, one of the gnomes PCs will have a chance to interact with during their investigation. Illustration by Hannah Boving. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

This adventure tasks the PCs with investigating a series of deaths in Kalsgard, all of which occurred in gnomes and were attributed to the Bleaching. Of course, the local priestess of Nivi Rhombodazzle, Quil Tabberdash refutes these claims. Venture-Captain Bjersig Torrsen and his husky Mahki dispatch the PCs to Kalsgard to meet up with Quil and get to the bottom of this mystery! PCs will have a chance to quickly check out a series of crime scenes, dead bodies, and petition neighbours and witnesses for information. As the mystery unravels the PCs will have a chance to follow two different avenues of inquiry with each resulting in a different encounter and event. To make matters even more exciting this is all happening on a backdrop of political turmoil in Kalsgard, and canny PCs can even pick up clues that this mission has a connection to an organization and Adventure Path I’ll leave unnamed. This scenario is a great little mystery that should move at a rapid pace. There’s lots of fun NPCs to interact with. Most are brief witness statements, but Quil is an absolute delight. I’ll leave the other NPCs and villains unmentioned to help prevent too many spoilers, but I will say I enjoyed them all. There’s quite a few fights in this one (although one will be excluded depending on your PCs actions), but it’s the final encounter that will likely prove most challenging.  Particularly as the composition of the fight depends upon your PCs actions throughout the scenario. This means that some groups will find it difficult and others… less so. Although this could prove problematic, I think it’s a nice change of pace. I’d be interested to see how this plays out at game tables throughout the Organized Play Community. Overall I thought this was a fun and quirky murder mystery that made an effort to shake things up a bit. I particularly enjoyed that the PCs actions can alter the events and battles in this scenario. I give it four out of five stars.

Thanks for joining us today! We’ll see you again soon!

Jessica

Starfinder Society Scenarios: Enter the Ashen Asteroid and Siege of Civility

Today we’re going to take a look at the two most recent Starfinder Society Scenarios that are currently available for purchase, and let you know we thought. Although you’ll find references to events in each that I liked or disliked, and comments about specific characters, these scenarios are not explored in detail. It’s not my intention to spoil the events in these scenarios, or give summaries and full reviews, but to share my opinions and provide recommendations. That said, if you want to avoid even minor spoilers I recommend you check out a different article. Whether you intend to use them in home games of the Starfinder Roleplaying Game, sanctioned scenarios for use with the Starfinder Society Organized Play, or just want to read a nifty new adventure, we’ve got you covered! So sit back, and get ready to explore the Pact Worlds!

Enter the Ashen Asteroid by Larry WilhelmStarfinder Society Scenario #1-36: Enter the Ashen Asteroid is a Tier 1-4 adventure written by Larry Wilhelm. It takes place on Sledgehammer, a mining facility and exploration vessel owned by Ulrikka Clanholdings, a dwarven mining consortium that may be familiar to PCs who’ve played Starfinder Society Scenario #1-12: Ashes of DiscoveryFrom there the PCs enter Asteroid AA-126D, an asteroid in the Diaspora that contains duergar ruins dating back to the time of the Gap — and marked with the unholy symbol of Droskar. There you will explore the the site and collect any objects of archaeological importance. This does not feature any tags and does not contribute to the ongoing Scoured Stars storyline. PCs who are dwarves, speak dwarven, or have the Contractor’s Respect (Ulrikka Clanholdings) boon from Starfinder Society Scenario #1-12: Ashes of Discovery will find they have an edge in this scenario.  Enter the Ashen Asteroid does not feature starship combat. It includes two custom half-page maps (which are beautifully detailed!) and Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Elemental Planes. It makes use of the Starfinder Core RulebookStarfinder Armory, and Alien Archive 2. Although this scenario doesn’t feature any recurring characters it does introduce a new NPC of importance, dwarven Venture-Captain Thromkendal. In addition, five other NPCs you’ll have a chance to influence are introduced, most of which (but not all!) are dwarves.

Enter the Ashen Asteroid -VCThromkendal.jpg - Illustration by Bryan Syme
Venture-Captain Thromkendal. Illustrated by Bryan Syme. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

At it’s core, Enter the Ashen Asteroid is a dungeon delve. PCs enter an enclosed location, look around, unearth some secrets, and fight some bad guys. It’s a type of adventure that’s underrepresented in Starfinder, so I think it’s a nice change of pace. Happily this delve is packed full of opportunities to use a wide variety of skill checks, has interesting environmental hazards, and features a few obstacles in it that can be overcome in multiple ways. There’s some complex devices and backstory to untangle, which keeps the dungeon interesting, and plenty of important finds to collect. I particularly enjoyed the interconnectivity of the dungeon. Each room has ties to those around it, which is really nice to see. The battles in this scenario are challenging, particularly one against an old foe from Pathfinder whose new art looks amazing! At the end of the scenario PCs will have to report to some Ulrikka Clanholdings bigwigs and offer them a recommendation in regards to the fate of the asteroid. It should be noted that this is a complex adventure to run. There’s some subsystems at work here that new or inexperienced GMs could find confusing — luckily this is mitigated by a super handy player handout. One of the locations also has a complex obstacle some PCs might struggle with. Overall I really enjoyed this scenario. I give it four out of five stars.

1-37 - Siege of CivilityStarfinder Society #1-37: Siege of Civility is a Tier 5-8 adventure written by Kalervo Oikarinen. It takes place on a fortress moon named the Eye of Gideron, that orbits a gas giant named Maelstrom’s Maw. These areas are located within the territory of the Gideron Authority, a mostly-hobgoblin militant space empire at war with the Marixah Republic, both of which are introduced in Starfinder Society #1-24: Siege of Enlightenment. Although the two scenarios are linked, playing them is order isn’t necessary. In fact, characters who haven’t played Siege of Enlightenment are likely to have a different outlook on the Gideron Authority than those who have, which can make for some fun roleplaying between the party members. I think it’s best to have a mix of PCs who have and haven’t played Siege of Enlightenment. Whatever the party composition, your PCs mission is to convince representatives of the Gideron Authority to lend the Starfinder Society their aid — the Wayfinders flagship Master of Stars needs a drift engine only the Gideron Authority can provide, and the Starfinder Society would like exploration rights to some of their archaeological sites. This scenario features the Faction (Wayfinders) tag and does not contain starship combat. It makes use of one half-page custom map and no flip-mats. It includes content from Starfinder Core RulebookAlien Archive, and Alien Archive 2. There are two recurring characters in this scenario: Fitch, leader of the Wayfinders Faction, and Ceobarn Zeizerer, a drow who first appeared in Starfinder Society Scenario #1-06: A Night in Nightarch. There are five other new NPCs from the Gideron Authority who are likely to be of further importance in the future. PCs who have the Victory Over Authority boon will need to slot it for this mission.

Siege of Civility -CommanderImakoo - Illustraton by Bryan Syme
Commander Imako. Illustrated by Bryan Syme. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

Overall, this is a really fun social scenario. There’s plenty of interesting NPCs to talk to and sway to your side. The social engagements are well planned out, and interspersed with opportunities for other skill checks and a really cool combat encounter. It think it’s going to be an absolute blast to play! This is a great scenario to crack out your diplomats, envoys, and other charismatic characters. PCs who prefer to pound face all day are better suited to other scenarios, but that doesn’t mean they won’t have a chance to shine. The Gideron Authority is an aggressive, military-based society that values strength and experience, so even PCs with a martial focus will find someone they get along with.  Overall, I give this scenario four out of five stars. It’s one of my favourite influence-based Starfinder Scenarios. 

Thanks for joining us today! Tune in later this week when we take a look at the newest Pathfinder Society Scenarios!

Jessica

 

Review: Against the Aeon Throne: Escape from the Prison Moon

Today we’re going to take an in depth look at Starfinder Adventure Path #8: Escape from the Prison Moon! So hop aboard and get ready to rebel!

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 the 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 seven. You can also pick up the Against The Aeon Throne Pawn Collection.

To read our previous articles on Against the Aeon Throne click the links below:

Against the Aeon Throne is a shorter campaign than most. Typically six books in length, this Adventure Path is only three. It’s a great change of pace 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. 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. On the other hand, with the three book format I feel like I blinked and the whole adventure path was over. I didn’t get my hands on the first book until the third came out and I missed the Signal of Screams Adventure Path completely. In general, it’s both easier to collect and easier to miss. Although I enjoy the three book format, I also enjoy the six book format, so I hope they continue to rotate between the campaign lengths.

Against the Aeon Throne

So what exactly is Against the Aeon Throne: Escape from the Prison Moon all about? In short, the PCs defeated an Azlanti military force that had annexed the small colony of Madelon’s Landing on the planet of Nakondis. But saving the fledgeling colony is just the beginning. The PCs have discovered that an experimental starship engine and their friend, the android Cedona, were already transported off of Nakondis and back to the Azlanti Star Empire. Determined to rescue Cedona and retrieve the starship drive the PCs travel to the Azlanti Star Empire and attempt to rescue Cedona from the prison moon she’s being held on. Exciting stuff!

Now, let me take a moment to be clear. The Azlanti Star Empire is a pack of giant, pompous, jerks. They’re great villains for the PCs to clash with, but an overwhelming opponent. 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 / Star Wars feel to it.

But, before we get into that too much, let’s take a look at the book itself. Starfinder Adventure Path 8: Escape from Prison Moon (Against the Aeon Throne 2 of 3)  is a softcover adventure written by Eleanor Ferron that is 63 pages in length. It’s intended to take players from level three to level five. The adventure itself is around 35 pages long, and split into three main parts: A Distant Call, in which the players travel to the Azlanti Star Empire; Outpost Zed, in which the players explore a space station and plan their caper; and Jailbreak, in which the players infiltrate the Prison Moon to free Cedona. After the adventure there’s an eight page primer on the Azlanti Star Empire and an eight page primer on the non-human races of the Azlanti Star Empire. There’s also seven new creatures in the Alien Archive, and a short Codex of Worlds article on Outpost Zed. Lastly, the inside front and back covers feature information and a layout for a tier 3 starship: the Vanguard Parapet.

My favourite parts of this book are the large number of new player races (there’s six of them), the incredibly varied and quirky NPCs (Glest, Half-Red, Xaarb, and Talmrin are all great fun), and how free-form the locations are. Yes, you have to go to ‘A’ place, and accomplish ‘B’ goal, then go to ‘C’ place, and accomplish ‘D’ goal, but how you go about achieving your goals in ‘A’ and ‘C’ — the order and methods — are up to you. I really like that. Another minor thing I really enjoyed is that every enemy has a name. It sounds like a silly thing to enjoy in an adventure, but giving every villain a name allows for PCs to take approaches to dealing with them that amount to more than ‘attack’ and ‘loot.’ That’s incredibly important in this adventure, particularly in Part Three: Jailbreak.

Before we continue with a more in depth look at the book, let me point out: there will be SPOILERS.

You have been warned.

Escape from the Prison Moon

For starters, I love the look of this book. I like the colours and the layout. The text inside is easy to read and the colours are easy on the eyes. The cover art is wonderful. It showcases Cedona, an android, retired Steward, and ally of the PCs, as drawn by Anna Christenson. Behind her is an awesome image of Raia (the iconic lashunta technomancer) and Quig (the iconic ysoki mechanic) fighting off Azlanti prison guards.

The starship showcased on the inside covers is a Vanguard Parapet. This tier 3 medium transport is destined to be the final enemy the PCs face in this adventure. All in all it’s a well-built ship, that packs some serious firepower. I particularly like how it’s shield points are balanced, with barely any shields in the quadrants where they have the most guns, and the excess shields where they have the least guns. The art is nice and the ship layout is useful.

After that we hop right into the adventure itself. This adventure starts a bit slower than its predecessor. It begins with some necessary bookkeeping. The PCs likely have some loose ends and social encounters to wrap up in Madelon’s Landing after the conclusion of Reach of the Empire (Against the Aeon Throne 1 of 3) and they’ll need to upgrade their starship to tier 3. Afterwards they receive a recorded transmission from The Stewards which should help nudge them on their way and get the adventure going. For many groups this transmission is unnecessary. PCs should already know their goals for this one: retrieve the drive and rescue their friend. But, for those groups that need a little more guidance, this recording gets the job done quick and efficiently. The PCs will need to fly to the Azlanti Star Empire, get their bearings, and find their way to the Prison Moon Cedona is being held at. On the way they run into a witchwyrd merchant ship where they’ll have a chance to make friends, barter, and pick up some valuable intel. This social encounter also gives them a destination where they can learn some more about the Azlanti: Outpost Zed.

Glest
Glest, a nervous screedreep from Outpost Zed.

Which brings us to part two of the adventure: Outpost Zed. In this section PCs will need to travel to Outpost Zed, a rebellious little space station on the fringes of Azlanti space, figure out where Cedona was taken, and determine a way to properly disguise their ship. This is done primarily through interacting with the locals. Of course, not all the locals are friendly or willing to talk to obvious foreigners. Other hurdles the PCs will come up against are learning how to communicate with the locals, and figuring out Outpost Zed’s societal structure. As previously mentioned, this section of the adventure is a little free-form. There’s plenty of people to talk to, a section of the spaceport to explore, some quick battles (some of which can be avoided), and the PCs can go about their socializing in any order. However, they can’t really stray outside this area or get too off track. Still, it’s fun and enjoyable. Many of the NPCs they’re destined to meet are from races the PCs know nothing about.  I particularly enjoyed Glest (a nervous, shifty screedreep), Half-Red (a tiny squid-like stellifera that floats in an orb of water), Xaarb (an agressive creature who’s mostly mouth), and Talmrin (a very useful NPC who looks like a weasel-person). This section does a great job of showcasing that your PCs are obvious outsiders, which is something they’ll need to address if they want to break their friends out of prison without fighting their way through the whole place. Overall, it’s a fun, flavourful place to explore, filled with plenty of memorable social encounters. Before you move on, the PCs will need to take what they’ve learned and concoct a plan to travelling to and infiltrating the Prison Moon Gulta, for rescuing Cedona, and for escaping alive. Good luck! Haha. In all seriousness, the pieces of the puzzle the PCs need should come relatively easily, and there’s an NPC around who can help with the planning in a major way if the PCs are in need of inspiration or assistance. The actual planning shouldn’t be too hard once they’ve got their ducks in a row.

Glimmshar pirate
One of the many denizens of Outpost Zed!

Which brings us to part three: Jailbreak. This is by far the longest and most challenging section of the adventure. As the PCs approach Gulta, the prison moon, they should already know that non-Azlanti are typically held in Cell Block J. With their destination narrowed down considerably, they’ll need to disguise their ship, approach Gulta, and dock in Cell Block J. From there it’s more free-form. Depending upon what races the PCs are they’ll need disguises to manage any kind of infiltration mission. They’ll also need a way to speak Azlanti, someone who’s decent at lying, and someone who’s handy with a computer or at engineering. Then they’ll need to explore Cell Block J without tipping off the guards or raising an alarm. Plus there’s the security cameras and patrols to worry about. PCs who choose to go in guns blazing will instead need to be quick and get the security feeds shut down as soon as possible. Either way, once the PCs manage to get Cedona free (and hopefully some other prisoners as well), they’ll need to find a way to escape with her — a job much harder than getting in. Finally, before they escape they’ll need to contend with this volume’s big bad — an Azlanti woman named Iolastrila — and the Zandamant, a prison ship that pursues the PCs as they make their escape.

This section of the adventure is incredibly well presented, but not easy for GMs to run. It lays out the entirety of Cell Block J, what security measures are in place, labels every security camera, and shows where guards are located. Every guard has a name and some information about them — all useful information for PCs attempting an infiltration. There’s also notes on what things the PCs can do to raise or lower the alertness of guards, and cause alarms to sound. It describes what changes throughout the Cell Block in such circumstances, and what the various guards do. It’s really detailed, and really well thought out. Which is incredibly important! Your PCs are going to go in there and going to make a scene. GMs will need to keep track of what cameras are in operation, who’s suspicious of them, what the various guards are doing, and so on. It’s complex, and a lot to track. But pulling off this caper — both for the PCs and the GM — is a rewarding, exciting, experience. This place is dynamic, detailed, and reacts to the PCs. It will be different for every group and I really, really enjoyed it.

EronesseBy the end of this chapter the PCs will have freed Cedona, made their escape from the Prison Moon, and retreated to Outpost Zed. But their mission’s not yet complete. The PCs and Cedona know they need to get back the experimental drive from the Azlanti before its too late.

Which brings us to the end of Escape the Prison Moon! But, that’s not the end of Against the Aeon Throne, or the book. Up next, as previously mentioned, is an incredibly useful primer on the Azlanti Star Empire entitled Empire of the Aeon Throne. This eight page article provides a short history of the Azlanti Star Empire, information on the solar systems under it’s control (there’s twelve of them!), and information on their culture, and society. Finally, it’s got some new gear, including five new aeon stones, four new magitech augmentations, and two new weapons.

Talmrin
Talmrin, a gosclaw from Outpost Zed.

The second primer is entitled Citizens of the Star Empire. Also eight pages in length, this section describes a whopping nineteen races common to the Azlanti Star Empire, most of which are new. Six of these races is also given much more information and full racial traits to allow you to play these races. Playable races include the brakim, gosclaw, neskinti, screedreep, stellifera, and vilderaros. I really enjoyed all of these races, but the brakim and screedreep turned out to be my favourites. The brakim are also featured in Starfinder Society Scenario #1-27: King Xeros of Star Azlant.

The Alien Archive is up next, which is always one of my favourite sections of an Adventure Path. It contains seven new creatures, four of which are featured in the adventure itself. The creatures include: Aeon Stone Network, a CR 7 construct made from a swarm of aeon stones; Radiation Drake, a CR 9 drake; Iztheptar, a CR 6 shellfish-like humanoid that’s featured in both Escape from the Prison Moon and Starfinder Society Scenario #1-27: King Xeros of Star Azlant; Ooheo, a tiny CR 1 vermin with a long harpoon-like tongue; Paralith, a CR 4 aberration they’ll meet on Outpost Zed; Void Palm, a CR 7 gravity controlling plant; and Xaarb, an aggressive CR 5 magical beast they’ll meet on Outpost Zed.

Against the Aeon Throne - Escape the Prison Moon - Paralith David Franco
Paralith by David Franco. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

Finally, there’s a short, one page Codex of Worlds entry on the Outpost Zed. Despite its short length, the information contained therein is useful for this adventure, and a must read for any GMs who expect their PCs to do a bit more exploring of the space port than is scripted in this adventure.

OutpostZed Mirco Paganessi
Outpost Zed by Mirco Paganessi. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

And with that, Starfinder Adventure Path 8: Escape from Prison Moon (Against the Aeon Throne 2 of 3) has come to an end. So where does it go from here?

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 experimental starship 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 on it here: Review: Against the Aeon Throne: The Rune Drive Gambit.

I hope you enjoyed taking an in depth look at the second volume of Against the Aeon Throne much as I did!

Until next time,

Jessica