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

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

 

A Whirlwind Week!

Whoooo! It’s been a busy week.

My kids had their school holiday concert this week. They were supremely excited for it. My daughter’s been practising her holiday songs and dancing around every day since they first started practising two months ago. She would give me a mischievous smile every time I saw her practising, then shut the door in my face. Haha. Anyway, the concert was a lot of fun. They sang Hanukah, Kwanza, Christmas, and holiday songs, and had a ton of fun. I had my niece and nephew with me for both shows (they do an afternoon and an evening show) which I suppose might make some people nervous. What two and four year old want to sit nice through a concert, never mind the same one twice? But they’re usually pretty good for me, and I bring them with me every year, so they were pretty excited to see their cousins put on a show for them. They had a lot of fun and were actually really, really good. Which was nice. I got to enjoy the show too, haha. I parked my niece in her stroller at the edge of an aisle so she could see, but other parents kept getting up and standing in front of her and blocking her view. I suppose they figured she was ‘just a baby’ and wouldn’t mind. Ha! She’s two and at that age where she’s using new words every day. So, every time someone purposely stood in front of her she’d shake her little fist and exclaim, “HEY! CAN’T SEE! YOU! GO! I CAN’T SEE!”

So many parents jumped and looked around shocked to see it was this tiny, cute little chubby toddler giving them a scolding. Some moved, some ignored her, some scowled at her, some jumped a foot like we were on some gag show, but either way I had a laugh. She’s adorable. Haha.

Later in the show Santa made an appearance and went through the crowd greeting kids so my niece and nephew were just AMAZED. “SANTA! ITS SANTA! LOOK AUNTIE! SANTA!!” My kids up on stage were pretty excited about it to. Apparently Santa had made a few visits to their rehearsal ahead of time to say he was coming and greet all the kids. My daughter explained to me later that night that someone from her class had written him an email to invite him to the concert, so OF COURSE he came. It was cute.


Last night we went to a fancy gala for my husband’s work. Princess Auto is celebrating its 85th year in business. Not only that, it’s a small Winnipeg-based, family owned, Canadian business that stretches from coast to coast. Many of you won’t have ever heard of Princess Auto before, but let me start by saying: no, they don’t sell cars. Haha. They were originally an auto wrecking business based on Princess Street here in Winnipeg, but as the years went on their owners were always adapting to the current and future retail market. They got into army surplus at the end of the war, mail order catalogs, and later stores. They kept changing with the times and now they have 43 stores across Canada and are opening one more that I know of this year, with a few more in 2019. They sell products in all kinds of categories: hand tools, outdoor, farm, trailer, driveline, hydraulics, and surplus (where you can find good deals on just a bunch of.. stuff. Haha). Where I live people either have never heard of Princess Auto, or LOVE IT. Like, OBSESSIVELY love it. Their customers are absurdly loyal. I suppose it’s mostly due to their ethos. Princess Auto has made it their mission, and always has, to treat their customers and employees with kindness and respect. They’re one of those businesses where the regulars come in and hang out all day, chatting and visiting and browsing. Staff probably knows them by name, what they do for a living, and about their family. Like at an independent coffee shop, or your local gaming store. A little community where everyone’s welcome. I’m just some employees wife, and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting the owners, CEO, and all kinds of other wonderful people plenty of times. A lot of customers bring in gifts for the staff and store, just because. I have some smoked fish and pepperoni sticks made by some happy customers sitting in my fridge right now.

Anyway, the folks over at Princess Auto are super nice, and they always throw a great party, so it’s one of those work get-togethers that is always fun to go to. For the 85th Anniversary Gala they hosted a big dinner and dance, with a live brass band, free food and drinks, prizes, gifts for everyone, and (very important) free cab vouchers to get home. There were staff in from all over the country, and guests of honour from the early days of Princess Auto. It was a lot of fun.

My kids went for a sleepover to my Mom’s house for the evening, so I’m sitting in my living room as I type this with a hot cup of tea and… silence. There’s just the tap of the keyboard as I type, a distant drip in my sink — I really should get up and turn that off — and my husband’s snoring from the other side of the apartment. It’s so… still.

I’m not used to that. Being still.

Even when my kids are at school I’m watching other young children and trying to stop them from tearing my modest apartment apart. Life is never quiet for me. And certainly never still.

It’s weird. But nice. Give me another few hours and I’ll miss my kids. Haha. But, for now, it’s the first quiet break I’ve had in a long time.


Later this week it’s my birthday. I’ll be turning… (pardon me while I count) … 33! Yes, I literally had to count. Honestly, once I turned 18 (which is the year you’re an adult where I live in Canada) I just stopped counting. I’m an adult! That’s all I need to know. Haha. I don’t do much for my birthday. I’m not one of those people who has a big party, or even family over really. I usually just take a day off from babysitting and spend the day with my husband. My birthday wishes? Same as always! Hugs from my kids, a day free from chores and cooking, and a slurpee for a treat.

I’m a fan of the simple things. Haha.

Not sure what I’ll be doing this year. Taking my kids to school. Probably cleaning my house and cooking. Haha. But, my husband booked the day off (he’s a sweetheart), so maybe I’ll make him do all my chores for me.

Hey! A girl can dream!

So, from me and mine to you and yours, here’s wishing you all happy birthdays throughout the year. I value every one of you that comes by to visit our little corner of the internet.

A thousand thanks!


In other news, PaizoCon registration has officially begun!

PaizoCon will be held at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in SeaTac, Washington over Memorial Day weekend (which is May 24–27). I may admit that I’m a little jealous of all you folks who are going to attend. Haha. At PaizoCon you can meet your favorite Paizo artists, authors, designers, developers, editors, and personalities. You can also play games at the Pathfinder and Starfinder Society organized play tables, attend panels and workshops, get some snazzy sneak-peeks, and (of course) buy stuff! This PaizoCon will also mark the relaunch of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game (which has been getting an overhaul) and their new Adventure Path: Curse of the Crimson Throne. The Starfinder team  apparently has some secrets to share, and Pathfinder Second Edition is sure to be a hot topic, as well.

The Guests of Honor for PaizoCon 2019 are Liane Merciel (author Pathfinder Tales: Hellknight), Wayne Reynolds (freelance illustrator whose work includes every Pathfinder RPG hardcover release and the Pathfinder Iconics), and The Glass Cannon Podcast (weekly live-play podcasters who play Pathfinder and Starfinder. I’ve previously written about them here.).

Curious about pricing? Look no further!

  • 4-Day Badges are $75.00
  • 4-Day Kid’s Badges are $40.00
  • PaizoCon Preview Banquet Tickets are $45.00 and include an exclusive commemorative item available only to attendees at the Preview Banquet and through auctions or prizes at select charity events.
  • Purchasing a 4-Day Badge (regular) and a Preview Banquet ticket together are $110 ($10 savings)

For more information on PaizoCon 2019 and to register head over to PaizoCon.com. Want to learn more about the special guests? Check out LianeMerciel.com, WayneReynolds.com, and GlassCannonPodcast.com.


In other news, Wayfinder is announcing their accepted authors this week. Wayfinder is a free Paizo magazine written by fans, for fans, which features a ton of new content for the Pathfinder RPG. The issues are always a free download on Paizo’s website, and are always a treat to read. Usually they follow a theme and this year it’s not about Pathfinder at all! It’s about Starfinder! Absalom Station to be exact. They’ve been accepting entries from fans since the summer, and reading through them for another two months, and now this weekend they’re supposed to announce everyone who’s articles and submissions they’re going to use. My kids each created a creature for Wayfinder this year, and I submitted a Weal and Woe article and two themes. We’re all excited to see if any of us made the cut. My kids, particularly, are on the edge of their seats. It’s adorable. We’ve got our fingers crossed.

Wish us luck!


Finally, I want to talk about Pathfinder Friday. This past week’s episode was AWESOME! Erik Mona, Chief Creative Officer and Publisher of Paizo, was on the show and was an amazing guest. Erik has been with the team at Paizo the whole time. From back in the Dungeon and Dragon Magazine days, when Pathfinder wasn’t even born yet. This marked his first time on the show since they got they’re snazzy, comfy set for the twitch stream, and wow! They should really get him on more often!

Erik shared a ton of information with us about the Starstone! From behind the scenes inspirations, to the history and lore of the Starstone, how it arrived on Golarion, it’s effect on the world, its powers, and how you can use it. Just a ton of interesting information. Some of it was even new to me (exciting!).

For those of you who don’t know, the Starstone is part of a giant meteorite that was called down from outer space by some ticked off aboleths in order to put those uppity humans back in their place. The meteorite was slowed and detoxified by two Azlanti gods, Acavna and Amazden, which prevented much of the devastation that could have been caused at the expense of their lives. But, the impact still shook up the world. Civilzations ended, the sun was blocked from the sky, the terrain was literally reshaped, some races fled to different locations, which even created new races. In short, it was a BIG DEAL. A long time later a survivor by the name of Aroden found the stone, raised it up from the oceans, created the isle of Kortos, became a god, and made a city for his worshippers called Absalom. Thanks Aroden! When you interact with the Starstone you undergo a series of phantasmagoric visions and experiences that is different for everyone. This is known as the Test of the Starstone, and it sort of pits yourself against yourself. This inner test determines if you’re worthy to be a god, and if so, what you’ll be god of. If you pass you can become a living god, which is sort of like a demigod and is the most available method for ordinary people to become divine. Some people managed (Norgorber, Iomedae, and Cayden Cailean), while many more died in the attempt. Around the Startsone Aroden built a temple and filled it with dangerous tests, traps, and guardians.

“The first part of the Test of the Starstone, the dungeon part, tests your character sheet, but the second part tests your character,” said Erik Mona.

The Starstone is an artifact which had a huge historical impact on Golarion, it’s people, and the Pathfinder Campaign Setting as a whole. It even has a role to play in the Starfinder universe. Which is why this episode was such a neat one to get to see. Because, despite its importance, the Starstone isn’t really something that Pathfinder has focused on. It set the stage for the game and the world, but then it’s been sort of… idle. Nothing’s really happened with it lately, in and out of game. This is something that they hope to remedy in Pathfinder Second Edition. Erik explained that they’re going to do the Test of the Starstone one day, but the question is when and how. Is it better served as an Adventure Path or a high level deluxe adventure? He also mentioned that the team at Paizo is putting in a lot of thought into some central themes which may have been neglected over the last few years. This includes Absalom (which only PFS has focused on), Aroden, the Starstone, and much more.

If you haven’t seen the most recent Pathfinder Friday episode, I highly suggest you give it a watch. You can watch it and other previous episodes on Paizo’s Twitch stream, as well as on youtube. Although, I highly recommend watching it on Twitch so you can see the Q&A portion of the episode as well.

Enjoy!

Have a great week everyone,

Jessica

New Starfinder Society Scenarios: Truth of the Seeker and King Xeros of Star Azlant

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!

1-26 Truth of the Seeker
Starfinder Society Scenario #1-26: Truth of the Seeker

Starfinder Society Scenario #1-26: Truth of the Seeker is a Tier 3-6 adventure written by Shahreena Shahrani. It begins in Absalom Station before quickly moving to the Kasathan home-ship of Idari. This scenario later travels into the Vast, to the remains of an Ibran Temple. This scenario features the Faction (Second Seekers [Jadnura]) tag and does not include starship combat. It makes use of a gorgeous map if Idari, Pathfinder: Flip-Mat: AsylumPathfinder Flip-Mat: Desert Ruins, and Flip-Mat – Starfinder – Asteroid. In addition to the Starfinder Core Rulebook, it’s highly recommended you own Starfinder Pact Worlds. It also features some nifty new creatures from Alien Archive 2, and equipment from Starfinder Armory. All relevant stat blocks are included in this scenario.

Eshki Graey Erb 1-26 Truth of the Seeker
Eshki, a skittermander Starfinder recently rescued from the Scoured Stars Trinary System. Art by Graey Erb.

Truth of the Seeker continues the story of the Scoured Stars plot line, and directly follows up on events from Starfinder Society Scenario #1-99: The Scoured Stars Invasion. Although playing these prior scenarios isn’t necessary, you really should! They were awesome! If you haven’t, there is a bit of important information you’ll need to know: under the guidance of First Seeker Luwazi Elsebo the Starfinder Society has rescued the their lost comrades from the Scoured Stars Trinary System. This includes rescuing the old First Seeker, a kasatha by the name of Jadnura. Surprisingly this scenario only features one recurring characters: Captain Kahir of the Void Scholar who was briefly met in Starfinder Scenario #1-19: To Conquer the Dragon. In addition it introduces a few new ones, some of which could become recurring characters. For starters, there’s the skittermander Starfinder Eshki who hires your PCs for their mission. There’s also First Seeker Jadnura, of course. Finally, there is a lashunta teashop owner by the name of Alsuka, and a serene kasathan solarian called Master Boojan. They’re all delightful — particularly Eshki! There aren’t any specific boons I recommend slotting for this mission, although there are a few important things to note when selecting characters. This mission will go a lot smoother if someone in your party is diplomatic and sensitive to the traditions of other cultures. In addition, a Starfinder trained in mysticism is also important. Lastly, you’ll want to have some way to harm something incorporeal. You have been warned! Haha.

First seeker Jadnura
First Seeker Jadnura, one-time leader of the Starfinder Society.

Truth of the Seeker begins in Absalom Station, as the PCs attend a fabulous dinner with Eshki, the most cultivated skittermander I’ve ever encountered. This mission briefing is great fun, and packed full of flavourful interactions. Many of Eshki’s behaviours are scripted out, which serves to immediately make him likeable, quirky, and entertaining. He’s awesome (just in case you couldn’t tell from his art! Haha). Eshki explains that he was a Starfinder trapped in the Scoured Stars System, and that First Seeker Jadnura was a friend of his. Unfortunately, since returning, Jadnura’s gone into seclusion on Idari and Eshki isn’t sure where. He wants you to head to Idari, find his pal Jadnura, and convince him to come back to the Society. After agreeing the PCs bid Eshki farewell, hop aboard a shuttle, and end up on Idari. There they have to navigate their way through the Kasathan home-ship and track down Jadnura, all while dealing with the vastly different cultural traditions around them, and (hopefully) not offending anyone too badly. This scenario does a wonderful job of immersing you in a unique, serene sort of culture with strong Asian and Middle Eastern influences. It was engaging, fun, and wonderfully handled. Vastly different than the frantic, high-tech, fast pace of most scenarios, your players time on Idari is sure to throw some players for a loop. Characters who have social skills will definitely excel in this part of the adventure, but its not only skill, but clever roleplaying that’s necessary to make progress here, so even the most awkward of characters can be helpful if they try. Personally, I felt the the entire time on Idari was wonderfully handled and a real highlight of the scenario. That said, some groups may find it tedious. In time the PCs will need to track down Jadnura. The final location has a wonderful atmosphere, but other than that I’ll leave this part of the scenario a mystery.

One of the battles has an opportunity for roleplaying with your opponents, and your actions can have an obvious effect on the battle. Most have more straight-forward enemies — not so much in mechanics, but in roles. This scenario also featured some flavourful psychological/magical traps which will be interesting to see play out at the table. I’m curious how they’ll work. Overall, I thought this was a fun adventure. I particularly enjoyed how well it immersed us in Kasathan culture. That said, unprepared groups may find the final battle too difficult, or the social interactions tedious. Because of this I give it four out of five stars.

1-27 King Xeros of Star Azlant
Starfinder Society Scenario #1-27: King Xeros of Star Azlant

Starfinder Society Scenario #1-27: King Xeros of Star Azlant is a Tier 5-8 adventure written by Christopher Wasko. It begins with a mission briefing on Absalom Station, but quickly moves to a region of space near a lunar outpost called ‘Peak of Evening.’ There you will attempt to get your hands on an Ancient Azlanti Starship known as ‘King Xeros,’ which was ancient beyond reckoning long before the Gap. Of course, the Azlanti Star Empire already has it… so there’s that major complication to deal with. Haha. This scenario features the Starship tag and has starship combat. It is a distant, distant sequel to Pathfinder Society Scenario # 20: King Xeros of Old Azlant. In addition, this scenario has connections to the Against the Aeon Throne Adventure Path (Starfinder Adventure Path 7: The Reach of EmpireStarfinder Adventure Path 8: Escape from the Prison Moonand Starfinder Adventure Path 9: The Rune Drive Gambit). This scenario can easily be woven into that campaign. This scenario makes use of Starfinder Flip-Mat: Basic StarfieldStarfinder Flip-Mat: Urban SprawlPathfinder Flip-Mat: Forest Fire, and a custom map of King Xeros which looks awesome! Fans of the original King Xeros will be happy to know the ship looks nearly the same.  Awesome! As for books, it’s expected you own the Starfinder Core Rulebook and Starfinder Armory. In addition it makes use of content from Starfinder Adventure Path 7: The Reach of EmpireStarfinder Adventure Path 8: Escape from the Prison Moon and Starfinder Alien Archive, although all necessary rules from those books is reprinted in this scenario itself. King Xeros of Star Azlant only features one recurring character: the bleachling gnome Venture-Captain Naiaj. Although there’s no boons I specifically recommend slotting, if you have characters who has chronicle sheets from the Against the Aeon Throne adventure path I highly recommend you bring them along! Otherwise, all characters will excel in this scenario.

This scenario begins when Venture-Captain Naiaj gathers a large number of Starfinder together for a mission briefing. She explains that the ancient Azlanti ether-ship ‘King Xeros’ has been sighted for the first time since the Gap. Capable of sailing through the ethereal plane and exploring other worlds at incredible speeds, King Xeros is a ship of legends. Information is sparse, but you know it’s location — around a lunar base known as Peak of Evening — and that the Azlanti Star Empire has sent a small contingent of ships after it. Determined to get the ship in the hands of the Starfinder Society and to keep the Azanti Star Empire from acquiring it, Naiaj wants your group to go in and retrieve it. Well, not just your group. This is a multi-team mission! Basically, the teams will be split into three: Scout Team, Shield Team, and Strike Team. Naiaj will also be there on her personal ship as Commander of the mission. Your players will be a part of Strike team, whose job it is to land on the base and steal King Xeros. The other ships will support and protect you from the rest of the Azlanti ships as best as they can. With the briefing out of the way the Starfinders all board their ships and set out for the lunar base. Once there Naiaj determines there are two areas that appear of particular importance to the Azlanti: the Construction Bay and the Greenhouse. Your team gets to choose which nearby Azlanti Garrison to attack, and then begin their infiltration at whichever of the two points they desire.

This scenario has a dynamic starship combat that will be quite tough. King Xeros is an awesome ship, with some cool Azlanti upgrades. Luckily, the advantages your team may have discovered in their first location will give them a much needed benefit here. Which benefits is variable though,  depending on what they uncovered in their chosen location, and how efficiently they recovered it. Which is nice! With the starship battle complete they get to board King Xeros, fight the Azlanti inside, and explore the ship. But, the ship is acting erratic, and it soon becomes clear they’re on a timer for this one. They’ll need to recover what they can from the ship and make some split-second decisions about what matters to them and their mission the most. This does a wonderful job of ramping up the tension, and keeping this mission moving along at a good clip.

KingXeros Graey Erb 1-27 King Xeros of Star Azlant
King Xeros, an ether-ship from Old Azlant.

Overall, I really enjoyed this scenario. It’s got awesome art of King Xeros, great interconnectedness with its prequel, and the Against the Aeon Throne Adventure Path, but is a solid and fun adventure that’s more than capable of standing on its own. It has a different feel and tone to it than most scenarios. It’s dynamic, engaging, suspenseful, and a little frantic. Players and characters should be on the edge of their seats for this one. I love that your player’s get to make decisions that have an effect on the scenario and its outcome.

There’s some wonderful new ship mechanics that players will get to see the enemy make use of, and a lot of cool gear on the chronicle — including a unique aeon stone that’s awesome! There are two boons up for offer, both of which involve the alien races you could meet, and one of which allows access to that race as a player. You’ll only be able to get one of these boons though, so make your decision wisely! I think this scenario is a great change of pace that will be fun to run at a table. I give it four out of five stars.

Thanks for joining us today! We’ll see you tomorrow when we report on the new Starfinder Playtest Classes! See you then!

Jessica

 

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

 

Against the Aeon Throne

Against the Aeon Throne Reach of the Empire Ron Lundeen
Against the Aeon Throne: Book 1: The Reach of Empire by Ron Lundeen.

The Dead Suns Adventure Path has officially come to the end and I am thrilled for what’s coming next! It’s a rapid paced, Star Wars inspired campaign that pits the ‘little guys’ against the powerful militaristic Azlanti Star Empire: Against the Aeon Throne! This is the second Starfinder Adventure Path, and this time around they’re shaking up the format. For starters, it’s going to be a monthly release from now on. Also? It’s only three parts. This change is temporary, and will allow them to tell shorter, more diverse stories, with a more focused narrative. Against the Aeon Throne should take you to level six. It will be followed by another three-part Adventure Path, Signal of Screams, which is a delightful space horror that will begin at level seven. I know, right? Exciting. If you’re not ready to stop playing your characters after Against the Aeon Throne you can always pick right back up with Signal of Screams. After this they will go back to the six volume format for the fourth adventure path, Dawn of Flame, which happens on the sun! After Against the Aeon Throne comes to an end be sure to give Paizo your feedback. They’ll want to know if you like these changes, or prefer the six volume format.

But, enough about the future! Let’s hear about Against the Aeon Throne!

Against the Aeon Throne Escape from the Prison Moon Eleanor Ferron
Against the Aeon Throne: Book Two: Escape from the Prison Moon by Eleanor Ferron.

This new Adventure Path begins with Against the Aeon Throne: Book 1: The Reach of Empire. It’s written by Ron Lundeen and is intended to bring your characters from level 1 to 3. Your players will be creating characters hired to transport some much needed supplies to a new colony (named Madelon’s Landing) of just over a hundred people that was founded a few months ago on a planet in the Vast called Nakondis. This world is wild, and constantly shrouded in mist. Still, a pal of yours decided to move there, so paying them a visit is the least you can do. Besides, what could possibly go wrong? Right? Haha. Upon arriving you discover that the Azlanti Star Empire has conquered the colony! Your players must liberate the colony from the villainous Empire. But the Azlanti weren’t only interested in the colony. They were after something else: an experimental starship drive from an ancient ship that crashed on Nakondis long ago. To make matters worse, your friend is nowhere to be found. They’ve been taken! But why? In addition to the adventure itself, this issue features an article on the planet of Nakondis and the new colony of Madelon’s Landing. It also has a new theme: the colonist, a host of ships found within the Azlanti Star Empire (including drone fighters, and even ships that allow you to use mysticism and computers checks in new ways!). There’s also new creatures, of course: the carrion dreg template, the mucilaginous cloud, Azlanti adjutant robot, synapse worm, thermatrod, endiffian playable race and, my personal favourite, a simian creature known as a hobgar.

Against the Aeon Throne: Book Two: Escape from the Prison Moon is written by Eleanor Ferron and is intended to bring your player’s characters from level 3 to 5. Thanks to their efforts freeing Madelon’s Landing from the Azlanti Star Empire, the PCs have been deputized by the Stewards (a group of space police) and are on their way to rescue their friend. Not an easy task! They’ll have to enter the Azlanti Star Empire and figure out a way to break into a massive prison moon. They also get to visit a new space station. The articles in the back include information on the Azlanti Star Empire, some new gear, information of the many races and species that the Azlanti have conquered, and details on an Azlanti prison guard spaceship.  There’s also some new creatures, including a radioactive dragon and a plant that snubs its nose at gravity (or would if it had a nose…).

Against the Aeon Throne The Rune Drive Gambit
Against the Aeon Throne: Book Three: The Rune Drive Gambit by Larry Wilhelm.

Against the Aeon Throne: Book Three: The Rune Drive Gambit is the conclusion of this adventure path! It’s written by Larry Wilhelm and is intended for fifth level characters. Now that your PCs have rescued their friend they have to retrieve the starship drive the Azlanti retrieved from Nakondis. To do that they’ll need to find and break into a science laboratory, steal the engine, and get back to freedom. They also get to figure out why it’ so important and face off against the mastermind behind the attack on Nakondis. In addition to the adventure this issue also comes with ideas for continuing the campaign, an article on the Stewards, full details on a luxury Azlanti spaceship, and some new creatures (including fey and an aberration).

Against the Aeon Throne looks like its going to be an exciting change of pace that’s fun and personal. The shorter length is definitely going to appeal to some fans, including my husband and children. I can’t wait to strap on my laser pistol, make a rebel, and throw a wrench into the plans of the Azlanti!

Fire up the engines! It’s time to head into the Drift!

Want to know more? Check out the AWESOME trailer Paizo released for Against the Aeon Throne. My kids and I just watched it and they are literally bouncing up and down in excitement! Nice job, Paizo!

Jessica


UPDATE: For a more recent look at Against the Aeon Throne check out this blog post: Review: Against the Aeon Throne: Reach of Empire!


New Starfinder Society Scenarios: Duskmire Accord 9 & Yesteryear’s Sorrow

We’ve looked a lot at the Pathfinder Playtest lately, but today we’re changing gears.  We’re going to take a look at the two most recent Starfinder Society Scenarios that are currently available for purchase, and will 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!

DUskmire Accor 9 Starfinder 1-22Scenario #1-20: Duskmire Accord 9 is a Tier 1-4 adventure written by Brian Duckwitz. It takes place on Salvation’s End, which is an artificial moon that was previously visited in Starfinder Society #1-00: Claim to Salvation and Starfinder Society #1-09: Live Exploration Extreme! Those of you who have the ‘Claimant to Salvation’ boon from 1-00 should definitely slot it for this one.  This scenario features no special tags and does not involve starship combat. It uses Pathfinder Flip-Mat Classics: Swamp twice, and Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Hamlet once. It also uses a custom map of the terrain (though it won’t be needed for tactical movement). In addition to the Starfinder Core Rulebook, this scenario makes use of the Alien Archive, although all the necessary stat blocks are included in this scenario.

For those of you who don’t yet know, Salvation’s End is filled with a bunch of automatically-controlled simulations and experiments, each run in an individual self-contained area called a ‘vault.’ Duskmire Accord 9 tasks your team of Starfinders with exploring one such vault called ‘Duskmire Accord.’ Your mission is to determine the source of its power and give it a look see. It’s a fun romp that will take cunning, diplomacy, and tact to accomplish — or not! There’s more than one way to accomplish your mission, and I’m very curious to hear what methods see the most play. There’s a wonderful cast of side characters in this one, from the new drow Venture-Captain Kunoris Vex (the Starfinder in charge of the new Lodge at Salvation’s End), straight through to all of the residents of the vault. It’s a great change of pace from both of the scenarios that came before it in this location. I don’t want to spoil too much about the residents of the vault, but I can say I loved all of them.   And the art for the ghost of the swamp?! SPECTACULAR! The boons are flavourful and fun, but not amazing. Overall I really enjoyed this scenario. I took me a long time to decide if I would give this four or five stars, but in the end I decided to give it five out of five. It’s not over-the-top-awesome like some of the others I’ve given five stars, but I think the interesting, fun social encounters, and the quirky cast of characters will really make it a joy to play. I give this scenario five out of five stars.

sfs 1-20 - duskmire accord - sparklemane - graey erb
Sparklemane from SFS #1-20: Duskmire Accord 9. Illustrated by Graey Erb. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

Yesteryear's Sorrow Starfinder 1-21Scenario #1-21: Yesteryear’s Sorrow is a Tier 3-6 adventure written by Jason Keeley. It takes place on the planet of Elytrio, homeworld of the ghibrani, who were previously introduced in Scenario #1-03: Yesteryear’s Truth (and Dead Suns: Book 5 of 6: The Thirteenth Gate). There you will investigate an abandoned military bunker in order to salvage armaments for the Exo-Guardians. I highly recommend playing through Yesteryear’s Truth before playing Yesteryear’s Sorrow. It will be infinitely more interesting if you have. If you’ve got the ‘Friends of the Ghibrani’ boon you should definitely slot it! This scenario features the Faction (Exo-Guardian) tag and does not involve starship combat. It makes use of two custom maps, and has a lot of unmapped areas (although all of the area that will feature battle are mapped). In addition to the Starfinder Core Rulebook this scenario makes use of content from Dead Suns: Book 5 of 6: The Thirteenth Gate, although all the necessary information from that adventure is included in this scenario. This scenario features a few recurring characters including Zigvigix, leader of the Exo-Guardians, whom you meet in ‘the Nest’, the base of the Exo-Guardians that will be familiar to players of #1-01: The Commencement. In addition, your players will be escorted to their destination by a local guide — either the Husk Dystane, or the Membrane Klarima. Both of these characters are originally from Yesteryear’s Truth, and which one joins you will depend on who your player’s befriended in that previous scenario. Both guides have different skills, benefits, and tactics, which is really nice to see. As for new characters? I ADORE the new fey that was introduced in this scenario. The art for this guy is wonderful. There’s an intriguing social encounter right near the beginning which you can choose to get involved in (or not). This encounter teases events that will be occurring during the upcoming Against the Aeon Throne Adventure Path (which begins with Against the Aeon Throne: Book 1: The Reach of Empire) and will hopefully lead to further Starfinder Society Scenarios involving the Azlanti Star Empire (a girl can hope!). This scenario featured nice ecological information on all of its enemies and hazards, which I always enjoy and gives GMs something interesting to tell their knowledgable players. The location explored in this scenario is very, very, large, and although lots of areas are thoroughly detailed, others are entire floors summarized by a single sentence. Due to the length of Society Scenarios, striking the right balance between detail and brevity in important and unimportant areas is difficult to say the least. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. I thought that this scenario did a wonderful job of finding that sweet spot. The location felt vast, without feeling rushed or skimmed over. Obtaining your objective is both challenging and fun. There’s a wonderful selection of player handouts which will be of particular interest to those of you who have played through Yesteryear’s Truth. This scenario also did a wonderful job of slowly cultivating a spooky atmosphere, closer to the end. Overall, I give it four out of five stars.

sfs 1-21 - yesteryears sorrow - nighthopper - nicolas espinoza
Nighthopper from SFS #1-21: Yesteryear’s Sorrow. Illustrated by Nicolas Espinoza. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

Thanks for joining us today! We’ll see you next time when we talk about the new Pathfinder Society Scenarios that are out, and the beginning of Season Ten!

Until then,
Jessica