Random postings on my solo gaming

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Ralph Dula

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I figured I should create a thread of my solo RPG misadventures, so those uninterested could ignore my ramblings.



My first scenario without a TPK that I ran in recent times was the AMP: Year One scenario



Image.jpeg





I went with a quartet of PCs, as I find of late that’s my limit for keeping track of characters in a solo game. For simplicity’s sake, I had each character with only one power, maxed out. The quartet consisted of:



-Frank, with the power of Invisibility.



-Kelly, with the power of Blast (Cold)



-Ashley, with the power of Water



-Skye, with the power of Chimera



Being an avowed human supremacist, I made all the characters United Human Front members, the X-Men and Superman having taught me at an early age about the superhuman menace.



(I suspect the authors of the game are dirty superhuman sympathizers, since the line for your character’s real name on the character sheet has the slur for normal humans in-game on it. Disgusting, really.)



I ran the AMP Quickstart Adventure, having not read it before I made my characters. Hilariously, the scenario revolves around getting involved in the attempted kidnapping of a superhuman by government forces. The adventure assumes that all PCs would want to get involved, even mentioning UHF PCs at the end, without ever thinking about their motivation, or lack there of, to get involved.



So the PCs see some mysterious individuals plotting against a star athlete, one who keeps breaking record after record, and leading her team to victory against all who oppose them? And the mysterious fellows identify her as having powers?



Oh, hell no, they’re not getting involved. A superhuman who used her powers to crush the hopes and dreams of many a woman, who had no hope of matching her empowered abilities, to say nothing of the fame and financial success her cheating brought her? If anything, the PCs wish her teammates could be shipped off to Super-Gitmo or wherever she’s being taken, having ridden her superhuman coattails to success.



So the PCs left, happy the government was dealing with the super-cheat. And since the adventure hinges on the PCs preventing her kidnapping….Well, she got whatever fate her crimes earned her.



Now, going by the Quickstart, the PCs would have earned no XP. Good thing I have the Year One rulebook, with the full rules for bestowing XP.





+1 Showing Up To Play



+1 Moral of thr Story: Normal humans are perfectly capable of dealing with the AMP threat, and aren’t just helpless victims of them who can’t bring them to justice for their crimes.



+1 Loyalties…..Well, two of the character do have Loyalty to Self maxed out, so I guess they each deserve a point for putting themselves first.



And the best part is I finally finished reading the fluff in AMP Year One, and discovered there really is a Super-Gitmo in the game.



It was fun both having my characters not TPK, and being able to actually run an adventure with characters made before reading a scenario.
 

Ralph Dula

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Added Value is a level 1 Starfinder adventure, given away as a freebie during DriveThruRPG’s 2021 Halloween sale.



Image.jpeg





Having not played Starfinder in several years I decided to play it, my team consisting of:



-Nim, a Human Soldier Sharpshooter

-Armistice, an Android Soldier Sharpshooter

-Frank, a Human Witchwarper

-Mimi, a Tiefling Technomancer



The scenario feels like a Shadowrun scenario reskinned to Starfinder. The PCs are hired to break into a corp building and do a data heist with a magic object outside the rules of Starfinder. I briefly hesitated on running this asventure, given most of the party was of a Good alignment. Then I remembered a Paizo adventure path that taught me alignment is more the name of the team you are on, than actually moral leanings, and all was well.



The adventure has a lot of issues.

-The person hiring the PCs requires them to use their thumb prints as a signature to get paid. Not only is this hilarious because of the idea your totally-not Shadowrunners willingly give evidence to connect them to the crime they are about to commit, but later on credsticks can be found, meaning identification for payment isn’t needed.



-Almost three of the scenario’s 22 pages revolve around getting past a guard, presumably as it’s the only encounter that isn’t automatically a fight. The amount of space devoted to a mook encounter seemed silly on reading, and moreso after playing, as my attpt at a non-violent, stealthy passage was stopped by a failed die roll. Not only did this result in me having to go back and kill the guard to get his passkey, but I was left confused by only an Engineering roll being what could get one past a vent grate. Actually, that’s another problem of the module, as events might suggest to PCs to break through doors and windows, but no HP or Hardness was not given for them.



-There is a new creature in the adventure, and it’s noted the locks on doors were changed so they couldn’t open the doors and move between rooms. The map shows the doors are closed. Several parts of the adventure involve the creatures opening the doors noted as them being unable to open and moving between rooms. There’s also a bit about them killing a guy because he couldn’t hurt them due to their energy resistance, but his stat block indicates he never got off a shot.



-There is an encounter with the aforementioned creature(s), facing off against another opponent. When the PCs show up they forget about their ongoing conflict and attack only the PCs, which doesn’t mesh with their intellect.



-Their lack of intellect leads to what I initially thought was a cool bit of the adventure, that they focus on attacking PCs with light sources. In actual plat this led to the two characters without darkvision being attacked over and over, with one dying as a result. Ironically, one of the characters with darkvision had resistance to one opponent’s attack forms.



-The adventure uses locked doors to keep the PCs on the right path, with an overpowered monster waiting if they get past the locks. A TPK will surely result if PCs engage with the monster..



-A minor quibble, but the last page of the scenario has two new bits of cyberware that don’t actually appear in the scenario. I’d have preferred that space being used to flesh out the adventure a bit more.



Despite all my gripes, I did enjoy the scenario. Aside from my issues in play mentioned above (and RIP Frank) I screwed some things up, only realizing after the fact I’d been taught incorrectly on how many Resolve Points PCs get, which would have kept Frank alive. I also had a debacle in the final fight, as I had my first experience of having all characters on both sides of a fight using stealth, and having to keep a track of who was perceived and who wasn’t (I did find some issues I don’t see covered in the Starfinder rules on the mater, so I’m OK with this).



I also had my Soldiers repeatedly rolling ones for damage, and it kept ending up opponents were still standing with 1 Hit Point left. This brought back memories of my Dark Heresy campaign, where the players regularly damaged characters down to one Wound that you’d think probability was on a break.



Similarly, when I played in Starfinder Society I made a Soldier with maxed-out Constitution and with the Toughness feat, Pathfinder having taught me Hit Points were the most important stat. On several occasions I was the only character left standing in combat, several times with one Hit Point left. I recreated the character for last night’s game, and sure enough she was the last PC conscious, having five HP left, meaning if she hadn’t maxed out her Con and taken Toughness she’d have been down and I’d have another TPK on my hands.
 

Tulpa Girl

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What tools, if any, do you use to help facilitate solo play?
 

Ralph Dula

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What tools, if any, do you use to help facilitate solo play?
None. I create personalties for each character prior to play, and then base responses to a scenario based on them. That’s one of thr reasons I got miffed with all my TPKs with 5E, as I created personalities fot each character but never got the chance to explore how they affected play.
 

Tulpa Girl

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None. I create personalties for each character prior to play, and then base responses to a scenario based on them. That’s one of thr reasons I got miffed with all my TPKs with 5E, as I created personalities fot each character but never got the chance to explore how they affected play.

I did something a little like that when I was given several gaming books some years back, before I got a group together, when playing much less running something still seemed like a pipe dream. I ran characters through some of the old Basic modules. Because I didn't want to deal with too many characters, I would halve the number of monsters encountered (or sometimes just halve their HP), as well as cutting any treasure in half. That way I could run 3-4 characters through a given scenario.
 

Ralph Dula

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Because I didn't want to deal with too many characters, I would halve the number of monsters encountered (or sometimes just halve their HP), as well as cutting any treasure in half. That way I could run 3-4 characters through a given scenario.

I try to run all the scenarios as written, even doing my best to keep things as close to the original game as possible when I convert something. Part of that is because of my days reviewing and wanting to see how well the author(s) did with a scenario.

The other part is from my many years of being the only GM in my area who both let the dice fall where they may and always accepted drop-ins at my weekly, public games. I found people appreciated it more when they got to play an adventure where random things were truly random, rather than occurring per the story the GM wanted to tell or if they just wanted to kill the PCs, and that adhering to RAW has kept on going from there.

Of course, now I’m debating using the Pathfinder to Starfinder conversion rules, and if I should upgrade weapons and armor or just consider the scenario is on a backwater and use stat blocks from Pathfinder as is.

Bonus difficulty: It’s an OSR scenario I’ll first be converting to Pathfinder.
 

Ralph Dula

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This time around I’m running my characters through Mystic Times: Saraahd's Secret Shrine.

3D0F4BAB-3512-4F7F-9DFD-16E9ABAF9B81.jpeg



This scenario confuses me. I would swear when I downloaded it there was a campaign to tie into it, and the GM’s section certainly makes it sound like it’s part of a greater whole (though only fiction releases are mentioned). However, no such material exists when I go on DriveThruRPG, making me wonder if I’ve conflated it with something else, or if the other material was taken down; after an experience last year where a core rulebook wasn’t available for purchase on DriveThru, but supplementary material was, I can see the latter as possible.



The scenario is written for Pathfinder 1e, and I’m converting it to Starfinder to see how the generic conversion rules in the core book work. The set-up is simple enough. A known witch has moved into the area, one you encountered as she killed an orc; the arrival of others causes her to flee rather than fight the PCs. Familiar with the area, the PCs successfully guess where she’s lairing, and go to track her down.



I had hopes for the scenario. The draw-in of hunting down someone who only spared you because other people showed up is a good motivator to kill her and take her stuff. Her not being home when the PCs arrive draws parallels to the D&D module The Gem and the Staff. Sadly, I believe the scientific term for this adventure is “a hot mess.”



-It’s labeled as a Pathfinder-compatible product. Despite this, sometimes it has skills listed for both 3.5 and Pathfinder. On one occasion it allows a skill check it a Will save to identify something, and on another occasion it lists “Trapfinding” as a unique skill.



-Speaking of Trapfinding, you know how a Rogue is able to disarm magical traps? Apparently the author didn’t, as only a Spellcraft check can disable two of the traps in the adventure. The author also doesn’t know how awarding XP for traps works, as according to them making a skill check successfully to notice them awards XP only to those who notice it; whether is the XP award is per PC or divied up is unclear. Oh, and one of the traps has a damage type of “Arcane.”



-The big combat of the adventure stars with “Your PCs automatically do what the DM reads, so they have no choice but to fight.” Making this much worse is the face the main combatant is to move PCs around (bull rushing, I guess) to get into range of them being attacked by a quartet of immobile opponents…who aren’t shown on the map to give you an idea of where PCs have to move to be attacked by them.



-There is a lot of needless repetition in the module, bringing to mind the era of 3.5 where scenarios had quick summaries of encounters, as well as detailed descriptions.



-You’ve read enough of my rant on why this is bad without subjecting you to the whole experience I went through. You get the gist.



So my three surviving Starfinder characters went off for a short dungeon crawl, joined by Nim’s sister Lebia, a level 1 Human Mechanic (Neocortex)



Day 1: Attack! Now Flee!

When the PCs arrived at the shrine (a stone structure in the text, a wooden one in its illustration, though given my own experiences with artists doing their own thing on projects I can’t hold that against the module). From there the PCs went in, and I forgot to declare they were being stealthy, leading to a direct encounter with the skeletons in the first room.



The scenario gives a range for the number of skeletons, and a D3 roll later I had five skeletons facing the PCs. The design of the entrance allowed a choke point,limiting the skeletons to attacking the Soldiers. Unfortunately, one of them got crited by a skeleton, and the other soon found the best they could do with their weapons was one point if they rolled max damage and risked attacks of opportunity. Lebia missed every shot she took, and the Technomancer used all of her spell slots. After the battle they searched the room, then fled, because no way they were pushing on after getting chewed up as they did.



This combat was surprisingly amusing. I forgot to increase the skeleton’s HP by 25%, but given I know the damage the Technomancer dished out that means three of them would have died even with the bonus. I also went with the option of using their Pathfinder values for attacks, rather than using Multiattack rules from Starfinder, so I think it evened out.



One of the Skeletons had a magic spear, and I was amused that its use played out just as described in the adventure. I kept it at +1 rather than converting it, as I’m gonzo like that.



I’d been worried about justifying loot from Pathfinder to Starfinder and its value. I almost breathed a sigh of relief as I saw their stat block indicated their gear had the broken condition, so no one picked anything up, as they already have a shredded bit of loot from the last adventure. The module has specific rules on noticing the spear is magic, and all the PCs failed their rolls, meaning they bypassed a genuine magic item.



Day 2

Coming back the next day the team found nothing had changed. They decided to check out the north door, the exterior dimensions of the building suggesting it was a storage room of some kind. Armistice busted open the door, I ran a combat, then I decided to redo this section because it’s another hot mess of the scenario.



This room has Death Snails, Tiny-sized creatures who move 5 feet a round, have a ranged attack that is only effective in melee (WTF?) and are described as “not particularly harmful to anyone” despite being attracted to metal people carry and doing 1d3 acid damage per strike. The scenario indicates 1D20 Death Snails are in the room

(I rolled eight) but the XP value of the encounter is given for 20 snails (800XP). Mayne this was meant to reflect a hazard in the room caused bu the scenario, which requires the GM to know what kind of footwear the PCs have on, and me trying to determine what each armor type had on its soles, with 1d3 damage every turn and an Acrobatics check to stay upright as well.



Eventually I just decided to go with the original combat I ran, with the PCs waiting for whatever might be in the room to investigate the door being open, with Mimi and Armistice picking the Death Snails off as the party outpaced them. I ruled the PCs got tired of taking damage and falling and returned home, resting up to come back the next day.



Day 3: Second Verse, Same As The First

After the rest of the party failed to bust open the south door Armistice succeeded with a natural 20. They found the room identical to the first room…literally, as the exact same encounter block is shared by both rooms. I rolled 12 Death Snails again. The PCs followed the same tactics as last time, then came back the next day.



Day 4 Bedroom Raiders!

The group returned and unlocked the last door they could see from the entrance, being their target’s bedroom. Mimi rolled a Nat 20 Mimi on Mysticism to detect a trap pretty much guaranteed to he fatal for characters of the level this module is designed for. She then rolled a 26 to counterspell, so 200 XP just for her. Should everyone have made a roll to detect the trap and divy up the award? Each get the same amount? The module doesn’t say.



Adding to the fun, the adventure goes out of its way to say the trap’s lure can’t be reached without touching the trap, despite the map showing that by moving a few items in the room such can be done. At first I thought this was some video game logic of immobile background items, but then the text goes on to say each item is only 200 pounds, so why couldn’t the party move them?



The PCs looted the room (including a +1 dagger Mimi identified) and returned to town, selling the valuables and returning the next day.



Day 5. I get so mad at the author



The PCs had to ways to explore left, each requiring going over a very obvious pit trap. Per this adventure, despite being potentially lethal traps (with one written as though Death Snails might attack in it) no XP is awarded for bypassing them. Per the dimensions of the bed they found and the pits on the map, they just moved the bed over the north pit and walked across it.



Opening the door the PCs find a witch’s lab, with an unidentified number of Death Snails to fight. The fact that “various” is used repeatedly to describe their number in the various places they’re encountered in the room adds to my agitation.



So the party killed 20 so far. Per their write-up a colony can be between 4 to 50 of them. There’s about a dozen (the author being random again) in another area, so we’ll say 30 have been accounted for. So I roll 2d10 to see how many are left, and get 19. Given the variable number that we see getting eaten (more on that later) I roll a D10 for that and get “3.” So 16 Death Snails in the room.



Mimi kacks a total of six with all her Magic Missiles. Armistice depletes her pistol, then nearly empties Lebia’s pistol to kill all the Death Snails.



The next drama in the room is a tentacle in a cauldron. Its stat block indicates its appearance is unknown outside of the tentacle that pops out, and has “unknown” for a few other things in the stat block. It’d also listed as being blind, when I think the author meant it had blindsense. Whatever the case, the author never considered PCs might attack the cauldron to empty it, or just knock it over, leaving the creature exposed to attack, as my PCs did. Mimi cantriped its tendril until it died.



The PCs proceeded to miss the part of the room that involved them summoning a demon, because seriously who does that in a random dungeon?



We won’t discuss the trap worth no XP and has a unique damage type. Or the treasure with no value given.



From there they looted the room, finding, among other things, the journal they were looking for and a lockbox with contents that are a cut and paste of one found in the bedroom. They left, returning to town to read the journal. As it turns out it’s an overpowered piece of treasure, as despite being a spellbook with journal pages reading it gives a +3 miscellaneous bonus to certain skills forever! Converting to Starfinder, each character has s +3 bonus to Life Science, Medicine, and Mysticism. An argument could be made that Mysticism should get +6, but I won’t go there.



Day 6: The End…or is it?



The end of the adventure has the PCs turning in the journal they found for their reward. In a novel bit, throughout the adventure the players can learn things by making skill checks, as well as by reading the journal. Up to 500GP and 500XP can be gained, depending on what is shared.



Unfortunately, there is nothing in the adventure for the PCs to know this. Additionally, the info that can be learned from the journal and shared is the sort of thing that may cause PCs to not trust their boss and claim to have never looked at the journal. So my PCs didn’t say a word and missed out.



Day 7: One Last Room

Curious about what was in the last room they didn’t explore, the party went back, moving the bed to bypass the other pit trap (and missing the Death Snails inside it) they opened the door, finding a menagerie of immobile plant monsters and a Wood Elemental.



This combat was a cakewalk. Lebia crited with her laser, causing the elemental to cat h fire. Being vulnerable to fire, it was dead by the third round, its attempts to put itself our a failure as the others kept damaging it. They left the room to burn, killing the immobile monsters…and allowing me to ignore the headache of the room being described as full of valuable plants that could be sold indefinitely, with no values given.
 

Ralph Dula

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I ran my Starfinder characters through Starfinder Society Scenario 1-22 The Protectorate Petition. I talked about the scenario itself over in the “Tell Us Something Good You Got Recently” thread, so I’ll stick to the highlights.



-The team brute-forced their way through everything.



-Not having anyone with a good score in Diplomacy led to problems, but violence solved everything.



-Due to the funky split of XP last adventure Mimi is the only one who made it level 3. She took comprehend languages as her new first-level spell, since lacking it in this adventure (and poor rolls) meant an entire segment of the adventure was missed.
 

Ralph Dula

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Twice in my decades of gaming I’ve purchased scenarios that would have required massive amounts of rework to be playable, the authors having ignored setting, rules or both as they threw a bunch of words together. In both cases I gave my players the treasure and XP they would have gained for the scenario, explaining how bad the adventures were and that at least they should get something out of the adventure, since I spent money on it.



Now I extend the same courtesy to myself, with:



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Crash Down has a simple plot: While doing orbital research on an unexplored planet the PCs ship crashes, and they must find a way to signal for help and survive until being rescued. I was very curious about this scenario, as my last experience with such an adventure was Energy Curve for 2300AD, and it was not a good one. So when an associate offered to let me use their copy to solo it I jumped at the chance.



Story-wise, it isn’t that bad, my only quibbles being some comic book-science ideas on how evolution works (oddly reminiscent of Doomsday’s origin at DC) and a final encounter where it seems the creatures affected by the aforementioned evolution also developed a dramatic sense of timing, showing up just as the PCs are rescued.



There are several points in the adventure where things you would expect to know about the ship they’re piloting require rolls to know. Making it more annoying, if the PCs fail to do one thing it occurs automatically, but taking an action to do it could cause problems. In the case of the other things, it involves a timed encounter where failure could cause players to possibly die from….water.



-The timed encounter involves the PCs trying to escape a sinking spacecraft through a breach in the hull as local beasts enter it, as well as picking up the gear they need to make rolls to remember the location of. Unfortunately, the author forgot to mark on the map where the breach is, or how the PCs know where it is. Also, despite being animals with no prior exposure to technology the local fauna knows how to open doors to get to PCs. The PCs don’t know how much time they have before the ship sinks, so once the GM decides where the breach is the PCs may spend so much time fighting and looking for gear they may be face exposure to…water.



-Apparently the author got PCs confused with the aliens from Signs, as plain water both instantly penetrates environmentally-sealed armor and drops Hit Points to 0. No Athletics roll to swim or Con rolls to hold breath. Water is DOOM!



-There’s an issue with how the world’s dangerous weather is treated mechanically, but there’s a review on Paizo’s own website that I could never hope to hold a candle to on the matter. An attentive reader will note that it’s all damage types at once, as well as taking hours to cycle through them



-Much is made of building improvised shelters later in the adventure, and how temporary they are. Mention is made of tents, but not how long they last compared to ad hoc shelters.



-In an adventure about surviving on a hostile planet the author forgot about the PCs having to eat for the three+ weeks they will be on the planet. Seven days worth of rations can be found on the ship covering six people, but other than that it’s all about surviving the weather.



-There is at least one discrepancy between the treasure found in the adventure and what is on the Starfinder Society record sheet.



I kind of think the person who loaned me this hoped I’d buy it just so I could write a scathing review of it on the Paizo site. As it it, I’m just going to say my PCs were trapped on the planet and escaped when they were rescued by…Let’s say Moe.



New count: Monsters able to open doors when they really shouldn’t-2
 

Ralph Dula

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And to catch up on my campaign, my last session:


My next scenario is The Half-Alive Streets, an adventure I bought shortly after its release, but never got to run for my group.





The scenario has an interesting start, with the accidental uncovering of a biotech appendage far beyond what one normally can buy. The PCs are tasked to find the creators, who it turns out went with a dangerous method to create their wares, which had an additional side effect that puts everyone in danger.



The adventure starts out well, with a lot of RP opportunities, and having bits of information that the PCs can learn which are useful, rather than just flavor text and backstory. This is followed by the PCs encountering a halfling affected by strange biotech.



When I first read this adventure, one of the things I enjoyed about it was the glimpse it gave into halfling culture in Starfinder. Now, reading about a culture that doesn’t trust science when it comes to treating health problems, and having a scenario where PCs have to save someone who trusted in science and got the dirty end of the stick, is uncomfortable in the COVID era.



From there the PCs go to check in with the halfling’s middlehalfling. I thought this section of the adventure would be dangerous because of a limited number of PCs, most likely the ones not built for combat, stuck in a small room with an opponent. Instead the trap on the door to said room proved the real problem. Despite having her Perception skill at max and with Skill Focus, the character missed finding the trap on the door by one, and on a roll of 4d10+2 for damage I rolled a 32, exactly what was needed for her to die from massive damage. RIP Lebia the Mechanic.



From there was the final portion of the adventure, a “zombies besiege the building” scenario. As written, the zombies can’t get into the building, and those inside just sit around until the PCs deal with the zombies, even though they’ve no way to know the PCs are coming. It took me a bit to realize that the text goes on about every window being boarded up, but nothing about the lone door on the side opposite the zombies. The trio used Stealth to enter, with two getting natural 20s one after the other.



After positioning the PCs on the map I realized their opponents had blindsense. At first cursing that the stealth attempt was for naught. Then I realized blindsense extended for 30 feet, and the PCs were 35 feet out. I rolled randomly to see who the PCs attacked first, ending up with the spellcaster. Once she started casting they focused on her, following the Shadowrun motto of “Geek the mage.” As the module had each of the other final foes surrender if the other reached 5HP or less, I assumed both surrendered once the techononancer hit five hit points.



After that I just had the PCs turn the dup over to the authorities, and let them deal with the zombies.



Random quibbles

At the 3/4 Tier there’s one (maybe two, I’m too lazy to go back and check at the moment) Level 6 treasures and two level 5 treasures. I understand there placement for Society play purposes, but now playing scenarios outside of such the ability to acquire such level-inappropriate gear raises balances issues…or would if not for the issues on the GM’s side of things in the module.



The last Starfinder adventure I ran with NPCs with PC class levels was a third-party product, and they matched the official rules perfectly. Here, both NPCs have their small arms getting the weapon specialization bonus at +1 per level, rather than half that, and one has a +2 bonus to her existing modifiers when firing her pistol for no reason whatsoever. Given the adventure expects the PCs to confront them right after fighting a horde of undead, these additional bonus against a weakened party are even more annoying. Mimicking a Torg adventure I ran in the 90s, one of the PCs dropped after the surrender, due to continuous damage she was taking. I just had the other PCs give her a serum of healing and be done with it.



NPCs based on PCs classes with incorrect stats-1
 

Ralph Dula

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Back in the 90s I encountered a hat trick of “It was all a dream” RPG scenarios. Ranging from a two-page fight to a lengthy and convoluted scenario as long as a “real” one, each one ended with one or more PCs waking up and finding it was all in their head(s). In all cases gear expended was ignored, and only one addressed character advancement based on a dream.



One of the three scenarios was for Twilight: 2000, and part of the Twilight Nightmares adventure collection. It was my first reading of a T:2000 book, and after buying it at Origins ‘95 I didn’t touch another T:2K book until around 2006. A few years after I gave T:2K a second chance I stumbled on an old issue of Challenge #54, to be precise), where it turned out the dream adventure had been published as a preview of Twilight Nightmares.


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(Image taken from the net, as I can’t seem to shrink the picture I took of mine small enough to fit as a post)

This morning I again stumbled onto that issue, and figured I’d throw it in to my solo game.

Titled “Seeing is Believing,” the adventure, such as it is, is that the PCs are traveling and hole up in an abandoned house for the night. They fall asleep, and are attacked by an infinite number of opponents until all the PCs are dead. Then the PCs wake up and find it was all a (shared) dream. The Challenge version of the scenario has a “Or was it?” stinger, which the Twilight Nightmares version lacks.



That’s it. “Fight until you die” is the entirety of the adventure. When I first read it in 1995 I was vastly disappointed with it, and decades later, old and with limited free time, paying for a combat scenario with no plot is even less enthralling for me.



Since I’ve managed to pay for this scenario twice, I’m damn well going to get some XP out of it. Given how system-neutral an “It was all a dream” scenario is, I’m going to apply it to my AMP: Year One characters. One or all of them had the dream, and they’re all getting XP, as follows:



-1XP for showing up to play

-1XP for the moral of the story: “Sometimes dreams feel like a lame filler done by an author padding out a book.”



The two characters now up to five XP will each spend their points to gain a level in Discipline, as after that nightmare they’re much better about keeping themselves cool and collected.



Also, note the author is listed as “Legion G. McRae.” No doubt “Legion” is a reference to the infinite horde you face, and an alias was used because of how lame the scenario was.

It Was All A Dream Count-1
 
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Ralph Dula

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This Thanksgiving my PCs are thankful for not having to go through Abattoir 8.



Memory is a funny thing. I can distinctly recall when I saw the Grimmerspace Kickstarter, and being disappointed I didn’t gave the cash to back it. While going through Starfinder products on DriveThruRPG I stumbled on an adventure for it, Abattoir 8. That led me back to the Kickstarter page , where I saw it’s been held up like so many Kickstarters are. It wasn’t until I did a search for Starfinder on my recovered hard drive that I found the promo adventure for Grimmerspace I’d downloaded and never got around to reading before I forgot about it. That adventure is the now-for-sale Abattoir 8.

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Reading through it to solo, I wish I’d read it sooner, as all my regrets about not backing it would have vanished instantly.


The main problem with the adventure stems from the antagonist for the first portion, seen on the cover. Allegedly built based on the PC Mechanic class, his stats are far beyond what a PC could have in terms of combat ability, as well as having a unique take on Mechanic tech and the apparent ability to ignore penalties for lack of proficiencies.



Even more annoying, the character has plot armor on the level of NPCs integral to the metaplot of Deadlands in the 90s. Several random events occur, all at just the right moment that he can capitalize to have an overwhelming advantage to capture a PC. This is made more annoying by the fact that, with a little tweaking of his unique mechanic ability, much of it could be explained away. Instead things just happen so he can benefit from them, one of them even having an example play showing how he gets a +15 to Stealth from environmental issues, but for some reason this doesn’t impede him in seeing PCs.



Most egregious is that the author talks about player agency on several occasions, even as he shows he doesn’t believe in it. Nothing sums this up more than the fact that, if the bad guy in the first part takes ten or more points of damage while he has a captive he automatically kills said captive, the world apparently freezing so you can watch him kill a PC like a video game cutscene.



By comparison, the other problems with the adventure are minor.



-One of the possible PCs intros doesn’t make much sense with what is going on.



-An encounter that screws PCs that’s supposed to rely on their sense of curiosity, when if they were listening to the flavor text they’d have no reason to think anything of it. (Then again, the author apparently forgot he included a way for the PCs to skip two encounter areas there, as it’s not included in the adventure overview; maybe that’s a reward for being anal and interacting with everything),



-A moment with a NPC blaming the PCs for ruining her fixing everything, and whose backstory explaining her immunity to things not explaining it at all.



-An adventure to bring characters from first to third level, with seven pieces of treasure from levels five to seven. And that’s just through the path I went.



It’s a shame. I was very hyped about Grimmerspace. The fact the adventure is designed with multiple paths, so player choices on how they proceed actually affect the session is a novelty I rarely see in modern adventures.



The adventure also ends on a cliffhanger, with Kickstarter backers getting part 2, and which is not for sale as I write this. The DriveThruRPG listing fails to note this incompleteness, so an FYI for those kind enough to read all this.



I took the quickest path through the scenario and gave my remaining PCs the XP and treasure from it. We’ll see if it helps them in their next adventure.
 

Ralph Dula

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My introduction to Starfinder Society was Yesteryear’s Truth. That adventure taught me two things. First, that I hate space combat in Starfinder. Second, it taught me Starfinder Society is a bunch of psychos who think nothing about responding to a planet not wanting visitors to the point of having space defenses against them by repeatedly sending ships there until one gets through and gets some answers. Fuck self-government and a desire for isolation by a planet, am I right?



That poor planet gets revisited in Yesteryear’s Sorrow, where the Starfinder Society returns to the planet to loot one of its ruins for all its weapons, and screw if the inhabitants might want or need them.



None of the preceding was a joke. The scenarios are written exactly like that. But somehow the Starfinder Society are the good guys…



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I chose to run the scenario with only three characters, instead of the minimum four, as I didn’t feel like creating a new mook to go through the ringer.



I actually thought I was going to have a TPK right off the bat, with a hazardous weather scenario doing 2D6 a round (save for half) as the PCs work to uncover a hatch and open it. I rolled phenomenally well, but I think my fears it could have killed the party were valid.



From there there’s a search of a large underground complex, though only the notable levels are detailed. The PCs face a weapon-destroying curse, a new monster, structural
instability, and the kind of monster that should have a content warning for Dulas that might buy it.

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This adventure jumped around in quality for me. There’s some weirdness about some recovered weapons needing modification to be used with modern batteries, while other weapons from the same time period are automatically compatible with modern tech. There’s a massive trove of ammo, but the author gives no hard numbers on loot, which is more frustrating since the PCs may need to change their weapons after the aforementioned curse. Apparently it’s enough for the Starfinder Society to benefit as a whole, yet only enough for the PCs to reload their guns.



The main villain has a complicated history with the ruins, but per its stat block it lacks the powers it would need to have been the stealthy creature it was when the ruin was a military base. It has a vaguely-defined link to the base as a whole, which is really just a feeble excuse for the author to throw in some would-be jump scares. There’s also a very bad hazard encounter, which both highlights the issue of Starfinder not always giving XP for dangerous situations, and which could result in the PCs destroying the most valuable thing in the ruins to the bad guy, but this fact isn’t addressed.



We won’t get into the pun between the name of the base and the bad guy. For a foe of fungus like myself it was like having a vampire named Alucard.



Also, the Starfinder Society again proves their dicks, as the PCs get docked credits if they don’t expose themselves to dangerous radiation to loot a room, rather than putting a marker on the room for those with proper protection to investigate later.

This adventure has a NPC accompany you (and do virtually nothing), which highlighted a problem with Starfinder’s rules I never realized before. Since NPCs don’t have Stamina Points, they have to have all their damage healed as HP damage. This means they only heal their level overnight, which isn’t given; I used the CR, since I saw no hit dice or level given for her despite being a Mystic. I almost used my characters’ serums of healing before I realized the adventure making a point that the PCs could spend weeks on this adventure. Between that and having 78 R2E, every time we needed to heal or rest we pulled to the top of the base and spent the necessary number of days to recover HP, Stamina and Resolve in full.



And that leads into the problem I mentioned before about Starfinder Society adventures: Taking 10 or taking 20 is very often an option, making many a skill check seem pointless. This adventure was no exception.



Despite all my complaining, I found myself enjoying parts of the adventure. The combat with the first new monster was a fun battle. The zombies in the Half-Alive Streets blew up when they reached zero Hit Points, and these fellow did as well. Between crits on both sides, the self-destructs affecting both sides, and the critters’ special ability to enter melee, it was a fun battle. The fact a crit a character of mine inflicted timed perfectly with the module’s rules for a party of four added to the fun.



The structural instability section is also novel, even if the difficulty numbers are rather high, and the 6d6 damage that can result nearly took out the PC affected.



The final battle was very close. The mushroom monstrosity had set tactics of opening up with Fear, Hold Person, and his unique spew attack. The character hit with Fear rolled a 1 on her save, and the other rolled only slightly better against Hold Person. Then the technomancer was entangled by his spew, and if he had gone to melee I’m sure she’d have died. Fortunately, his tactics indicated he followed up with Mind Blast as his next attack, avoiding melee if possible, allowing her to cast her last Magic Missile and finish him off. It was a short, but tense, battle. It was kind of exhilarating for it to be a close call without feeling unfair.



I thought I was going to take a break from Starfinder after this, but I discovered a volume of an adventure path I got years ago and forgot about. I’d hoped AMP’s supplements would be on sale for Black Friday/Cyber Monday, but such is not the case.



Monsters who blow up when killed-2
 
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