Dead Suns Unlimited, Session 2

He attacked everything in life with a mix of extraordinary genius and naive incompetence, and it was often difficult to tell which was which.
– Douglas Adams.

Absalom Station Security (ASS) sifted through the remains of the carnage splattered across the neon floor of the Fusion Queen nightclub. They still weren’t completely sure what happened here and the forensics scans would take weeks to process but every cop on the cleanup crew knew one thing. This was bad. This was very bad.

Gang war? Maybe, most likely. Just a few cycles ago, the Downside Kings had thrown down with the Level 21 Crew in the docks and a famous Starfinder, Duravor Kreel, had been killed in the crossfire. But those two gangs didn’t really run in the same circles and there was no history between them.

Robot malfunction and slaughter? The three laws prevented service bots from harming living beings but there was evidence all over the club to the contrary. The first responders had to blow one up which kept zipping around the room and running people over.

Some of the club patrons swore it was a renewal of the conflict with the Veskarium. Reports said there were two huge Vesk at the center of the fight kicking everyone’s posteriors. The idea was absurd. The Vesk wouldn’t risk conflict with the Pact Worlds while they were still fighting off the Hive. Then again, a lot of folks thought the Vesk were big, dumb lizards with excrement for brains so it couldn’t be ruled out yet.

And one patron swore he saw blaster fire coming from the ceiling itself but there was no evidence to support that claim. The witness has been drinking Eoxian wine which made his account questionable at best.

Two weeks until the forensic scans would tell ASS anything of value. Two weeks…

2

Flashback to the beginning of the game session.

The newly recruited Starfinder agents began the process of further investigating the murder of Duravor Kreel and quickly uncovered more than they anticipated. Some time ago, a corporation called Astral Excavations contracted a small mining guild, the Hardscrabble Collective, to do some exploration out in the Vast. The Acreon left for deep space and was not heard from again until it dropped out of the Drift towing a massive asteroid a couple weeks ago. It was a ghost ship, the crew was missing.

Both Astral Excavations and the Hardscrabble Collective claimed the rights to investigate and as often becomes the case when mining law is involved, the matter became convoluted by politics. The local governance appointed Magistrate Howl to arbitrate the matter and as far as both companies were concerned, he was taking too long to make a decision. Both organizations hired local muscle to protect their people and their interests until the matter was settled. Astral Excavations contracted the Downside Kings to intimidate the members of the Hardscrabble Collective into backing off their claim, and the later contracted the Level 21 Crew to protect their people from the Downside Kings.

Duravor Kreel had connections with the Hardscrabble Collective (a cousin) and he began advocating for them. Word on the infosphere indicated Astral Excavations didn’t want the Starfinder organization involved and ordered the Downside Kings to kill Duravor. The PCs witnessed the results of that action. Unfortunately, all they could get their hands on was rumor and hearsay. They needed more solid evidence.

The PCs petitioned to be allowed to help Magistrate Howl but they were rejected (despite all of Ryder’s charms).

While checking out the Level 21 Crew, Ryder made contact with an orc information broker named Mama Booga who could set up a meeting between the PCs and Jabaxa, the ysoki leader of the gang. When they finally met, Jabaxa apologized for his people taking shots at the PCs when they jumped the Downside Kings. The Level 21 Crew are many things but they aren’t disciplined soldiers by any means. Mostly, he wanted to avoid conflict and if the PCs weren’t interested in a fight, then he wasn’t either. What he was interested in was providing as much info as he could about the Downside Kings and their current leader, Ferani Nadaz. The blood of his people was on her hands and Jabaxa was willing to tell the PCs where to find her as long as they promised to eliminate the barbarous miscreant. The PCs agreed, maybe without all of them realizing what was being agreed to, and Jabaxa provided them the info they needed and a promise of his own about what he would do to them if they didn’t hold up their end of the bargain.

Meanwhile, Tehrror had already located the Downside Kings and made his way there. The Vesk was already in a foul mood and thumping some gangers seemed like a fun way to blow off steam. When the rest of the PCs made it to the Fusion Queen, Tehrror was already scoping out the place. While the rest of the PCs completed their recon of the club, Tehrror decided he had waited long enough to have some fun. And to be fair, he wasn’t with the group when they met with Jabaxa. He had no idea what the rest of them were there to do.

The Vesk grabbed the bouncer and bounced his head off the wall. The bar brawl began!

Faces were smashed. Lasers cut through flesh. Wesley rigged a service bot and sent it careening into the Downside Kings, his allies, and patrons alike. Nuil climbed into the workings of the ceiling and blasted the Downside Kings from safety. Ferani Nadaz and her right hand Vesk, Vrokilayo Hatchbuster, joined the tussle and nearly turned it against the PCs when Cypher managed to hack, close, and lock the door between the main part of the club and the back room. Unfortunately, this only provided a short reprieve as Ferani demonstrated she was a more skilled hacker and unlocked the doors. By then, she was alone and the battle belonged to the PCs. Her death was quick and bloody.

This was the second time the Starfinders had fought together and it was evident they were not on the same page yet. As they retreated from the Fusion Queen with loot and information on the murder of Duravor, some of them wondered what they would need to do to develop some fusion among their new teammates.

The PCs submitted the evidence to the ASS and a few days later they receive a message. His Excellency Gevalarsk, the ambassador from Eox, and Magistrate Howl wanted to meet with them to discuss the matter of the Acreon and its investigation.

Our game sessions came to a close.

Dead Suns Unlimited, Session 1

1

Dead Suns “Unlimited”?

Yes, you read that correctly. Unlimited! The Dead Suns adventure path by Paizo is designed for a group of four characters as they adventure from levels 1 to 12 in the exciting new core setting of the Starfinder Roleplaying Game. At the request of my players, I am adding additional content of my own design to extend the campaign from levels 12 to 20. We’re going to run the full gamut of what the Starfinder RPG has to offer.

So who is the intrepid cast of this tale?

Drew

On the front lines of every battle (although he protests he is more than just a melee fighter), Tehrror is a vesk soldier and a pilot. Rare among the vesk, he focused on developing his agility and less common skills of battle. This left him a loner among his own people and now living among the other races of the Pact Worlds, he feels he is even more alone. Perhaps as a member of the Starfinder Society, he can create a home for himself.

MattSwitch is an android soldier and outlaw, on the run for the wrongs he has committed (whether he felt the deeds were wrong or not is a secret he keeps to himself). What crimes if he wanted for? Switch is not talking and none have had the courage to inquire yet. The Starfinder Society offers refuge where perhaps he can use his skills for a better purpose, or at least keep himself out of trouble.

StephenRyder is a smooth-talking human envoy and mercenary. He impressed Starfinder Society recruiters and they recruited him to attend the Starfinder Academy to become an agent of the Starfinder Society. Well, school is out and it is time for this newly christened agent to impress. Ryder befriended Nuil while attending the academy and the duo rose to new heights among their peers.

AlyNuil was the first lamerta to attend the Starfinder Academy and the first earn agent field status. She is a talented technomancer and scholar who specializes in life sciences and biology. She enjoys studying the variances of life and how the wonders of the cosmos can be used for medical treatments and other purposes. It remains to be seen if she shares the faithful drive of her people to find the alien masters who recently abandoned the lamerta.

BillCypher is a walking, talking rat. He is also a ysoki operative and bounty hunter who specializes more in hunting information than living targets. What he lacks in combat prowess, he makes up for in skill with computers and information systems. Need someone killed? Anyone can do that kind of thing. Need a Tier 10 Sidewinder Firewall and Pulsar Network Security Suite hacked to pieces? Cypher is your ysoki.

MichaelWesley the Star Crusher, as he likes to be called, is a human mechanic and outlaw who was raised by Cypher and is only now setting out to make a place for himself in the galaxy. He is young but brilliant and loves to spend his time developing weapons and testing them on his hapless drone, TIM-X, which Wesley rebuilds on a regular basis as needed.

 

  • The PCs arrive at Docking Bay 94 and are caught in the crossfire of a firefight between two rival gangs, the Level 21 Crew and the Downside Kings.
  • Duravor Kreel, a well-known dwarf agent of the Starfinder Society and the PC’s contact, is killed during the firefight but Cypher manages to hack the dwarf’s datapad and acquire information about the two gangs and where the PCs should go next, the Lorespire Complex (headquarters of the Starfinder Society).
  • The PCs meet with Chiskisk, a host shirren, who is saddened to hear about Duravor’s death. They quickly inprocess the PCs into the Society and issue the group’s first monthly stipend. Chiskick then asks the PCs to investigate the incident further to ensure Duravor was killed by accident and not murder.
  • Rewards: 350 credits per PC and a few azimoth laser pistols were taken from the fallen gang members.

Are you playing Dead Suns? Tell me about it in the comments below.

Curse of Strahd, an Interlude

“Rahadin…”

Strahd’s voice echoed down the long throne room of Castle Ravenloft. Maps cluttered a small table sat before the throne.

“I am here, my lord,” responded the sickly dusk elf as he emerged from the shadows.

The vampire lord sulked in his throne, glanced at a map of his realm, and tossed it to the floor.

“My lord?” asked Rahadin. Strahd’s troubles were known to all his servants, but the seneschal dared not presume his lord’s intent.

Strahd’s eyes flared red. “I have no patience for your games right now, Rahadin. You know why I am displeased.”

Rahadin quickly retrieved the map and placed it on the table. “Yes, my lord, the adventurers have not accepted your invitation.”

“Damn my invitation! I see now inviting them here was a mistake. This group is not like the others.”

“I don’t understand,” said Rahadin.

“When I faced them at Yester Hill, the priest, Elodin, called upon his god to drive me away.”

“Yes, this has happened before, my lord.”

“This was different. When my playthings enter this realm, they no longer commune with the higher powers they worship. Oh, they think they do, but is the Dark Powers who respond to their prayers and grant them spells and powers. Clerics, druids, warlocks… It’s all the same.”

“This is known,” Rahadin replied.

“It is, but when Elodin called upon the god, Amaunator, and his light burned into my flesh. I felt it, the true divine light of a god of light.”

Rahadin saw the grimace of pain on Strahd’s face, but he did not allow his master to see he had noticed it.

“That’s not possible, my lord.”

“I felt it! That was not the obfuscated power of the Dark Powers, the Vestiges. It was the divine might of Amaunator,” said Strahd.

“Have… Have they weakened?”

The thought chilled the dusk elf to the core. The Vestiges were all slivers of divinity, pieces of dark gods left behind. Alone they were no longer gods and goddesses, but together they were powerful enough, no divine entity had ever been powerful enough to penetrate this dimension.

Rahadin backed away as his lord rose and began to pace the room. The vampires slow, methodic footsteps echoed like a dark heartbeat.

The vampire stopped midway across the room and stared at Rahadin. “That is a mystery we must unravel. My spies tell me the adventurers are on their way to Amber Temple. I will leave immediately to commune with the Dark Powers there. I want you to gather the Dread Guard.”

“My lord! The Dread Guard,” questioned Rahadin.

“I do not like to repeat myself.”

“It has been centuries. Surely, surely most of them are dead!” Rahadin lowered his eyes to avoid his master’s glare.

“Each of them is bound to me, Rahadin. They share my immortality. I would know if they were gone.”

The Dread Guard were Strahd’s strongest minions, his personal guard when he was a mortal man, now twisted into vicious monsters. If they still lived, they were centuries old, maybe even millennia. The dusk elves were brought to Barovia hundreds of year ago, Rahadin among them, but Strahd was already ancient by then.

“I… I did not know, my lord.”

“It seems there is a great deal you do not know, yet still, you continue to question me.”

“My deepest apologies. I will send for the Dread Guard and instruct them to come to Castle Ravenloft immediately.”

“All but Drauglir.”

The name hung in the air and death swept into the room to join it.

“The Pale Wolf,” asked Rahadin.

“You will find him on Mount Baratok. My pack of lycanthropes has been wiped out, but truth be told, they had grown weak. I allowed Kiril to play his games and the pack suffered for it. When it came for them to play their role, they were wiped out too easily.”

“They had grown soft, my lord,” Rahadin remembered his lord’s disappointment when Kiril’s pack had been wiped out and how easily he fell to the adventurers.

“I want Drauglir to hunt the adventurers. I want him to kill them, or as many as he can before they reach Castle Ravenloft.”

“Yes, my lord.”

“Hurry now, I will be leaving soon.”

Rahadin did not like tempting the vampire’s ire, but he feared his punishment if he neglected this final duty before he left.

“My lord, and what about our guest?”

“I had almost forgotten about him. Send him in and I will speak with him before I leave for Amber Temple.”

“Very well, my lord,” said Rahadin.

“Rahadin, what is his name again?”

“His name is Mephistopheles.”

“Mephistopheles? Quickly send the devil in. We have much work to do and very little time.”

D&D 5E: New Monster – Arallasar

In the warm waters and islands of the tropical seas, few predators are as feared as the mighty arallasor. This lizard-like creature seems abnormally large for its natural environment, leading many scholars to believe the creature may have been created by unnatural means or transported there from somewhere else. Though the creature’s origins may be lost to the ages, their reputation as vicious killers is well known.Arallasars will claim entire islands as their territory, rarely sharing space with other predators except when they pair to mate every ten to twelve years. Only a single parent remains to watch over the eggs and to raise the young, who grow to full size in a few short years, and are driven away to find their own territory to claim.

An arallasar will claim an entire island as its territory, rarely tolerating other predators except when they pair to mate every ten to twelve years. Only a single parent remains to watch over the clutch of eggs or to raise the young, which grow to full size in a few short years. Once a young arallasor has reached full size, it is driven away to find its own territory, unless it is strong enough to kill its parent and claim their territory as its own.

Sailors and the people of the tropical islands fear the arallasor and the destruction they can wreak. For beasts, they are cunning hunters which are as comfortable climbing or swimming as they are lounging on a sandy beach waiting for a meal to stumble by. It is well known if you are the unfortunate soul who does the stumbling, the best you could do is cut your ally’s heel and hope they are enough of a meal to keep the arallasor busy while you flee. If not, may the gods have mercy on your soul.

arallasar

Design Notes: I created the Arallasar while prepping for a Battle Interactive adaptation of the classic Isle of Dread for Gen Con 2016. Some friends and I ran the event for a rather large crowd of gamers and we had a blast. At my table, I wanted to capture the nostalgia of the iconic image on the cover of the module (pictured above), so I created this nasty beast to greet the PCs when they landed on the beach, along with the natives who the PCs rushed to save.

arallasar

Feel free to use this critter in your home games. If you want to use the critter for anything more, please drop me a line at leahcim32@gmail.com.

Review: Aventyr Bestiary by AAW Games

Aventyr BestiaryAventyr Bestiary is AdventureAWeek.com’s newest addition to their growing and impressive library of books for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and believe me when I say this tome is not only gorgeous, it is packed with fun game material. AAW Games Inc has collected some of the best names in the gaming industry as well as the most talented developers of their own products to work on this book. As an avid game master, I love the way the book inspired me with story and encounter ideas, and I can’t wait to work work the material in this book into my next Pathfinder session. If you are a game master who runs Pathfinder, or even if you are a gamer who loves enjoying great game art, go buy this book!

Now, let me tantalize you with the blurb from the back of the book.

Continue reading

When the Players Break your Story

The Dungeon Master

“However, through defeat you shall find victory.”

As a veteran game master, I am well versed in the adage that you can never plan for everything your players are going to throw at you. My players have definitely thrown me some curve balls through the years. Inevitably, those so called “friends” are going to take your game and just turn it on its head. Months of planning and preparation become so much vaporware, because your hard work is definitely not going to see the dimmed, moody lights of the game table.

So what do you do when that happens?

There is no right answer to that question. There exists an entire spectrum of viable options depending on your players and how comfortable you are rolling with the punches.

You could calmly and politely tell your buddies, “No.” I know that sounds like an old-school, draconian kind of response, but it really is a perfectly fine response when your players have sent you into a tale spin. You have spent an immense amount of time preparing the foundation of a great story to tell with your friends, and its not unreasonable to ask the group to stay somewhat on coarse. The dominant philosophy in popular gaming culture right now is to “say yes,” but like many things in life, playing a game with your friends is not always so cut and dry. I think a good GM will say yes most of the time, but knows when to throw that much needed “no” into the mix.

On the other end of the spectrum is the obvious second choice. Yes! Yes, you can do this totally unexpected thing, no matter the cost. Saying yes is the popular choice at the moment, but too many game masters fail to realize you don’t always have to say yes and a culture of abuse is slowly creeping into the gaming community. Don’t get me wrong. I believe saying yes to my players is an important part of ensuring player agency has as much a chance to drive the story as my own. In improv, we always say yes, and it can lead to some pretty interesting and ridiculous moments. Ridiculous, good word. There is a lesson in there somewhere.

Everywhere in between are various levels of compromise that allow the players as well as game masters to move a great story forward without costing too much of one’s sanity or the other’s freedom of choice.

So why am I musing about this topic? Because after over twenty five years of gaming, my current Deadlands Reloaded gaming group got the best of me and I was caught completely off guard. Without getting too deep in the weeds, I tossed them into a classic Bad Future type of scenario. They had already survived some pretty nasty encounters in The Flood plot points campaign by the Pinnacle Entertainment Group (for those who have played through this campaign, you know what I am talking about). Its not the first time I used this trope, and historically, it has worked well for me. This time, not so much.

So the posse is deep in the future, learning more about what the villains have accomplished in their present, and a dice roll was needed to safely send them home. Out come the dice. The dice roll. The dice roll pretty phenomenally. You have no idea, this dice roll is beyond epic. I don’t remember what the player asked but I remember saying, “So, you can send the group back to the exact moment you want.” What I was thinking was, “the exact moment you left.” Of course, that is not what my players heard and they jumped on the opportunity. “Okay, then we want to go back to just before [REDACTED FOR SPOILERS] happened so we can stop that from happening.”

It caught me off guard. I had a choice. On one side of that decision, I saw a lot of prep time going out the window (not to mention the prep time to prepare the new story). On the other, I saw what seemed like a pretty epic idea (even if it isn’t all that original in as far as time traveling stories go). More than anything, I saw my group light up and get crazy excited about the possibilities the new story had to offer. In the end, that is what decided the matter for me. The prep time is important, it really is, but what is more important is the great time we were having playing a game together.

We spent some time planning what the group intended to do next, and then I cut the session an hour short because I needed time to prep the story to come. Was it the right decision? Only time and the dice gods know, but I intend to have fun finding out.