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Talking Society #1-04: View To A Xill

Jason recaps the events from the Roll For Combat playthrough of Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Scenario #1-04: Cries From The Drift. Episodes of this complete scenario playthrough include Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Welcome to our second attempt at a Starfinder Society game: Cries From The Drift.

I suspect this write-up will be a little shorter than the last Society game for two main reasons. First, there’s a little less preamble and introducing the concept itself – with the exception of introducing our new players, we can jump right in. The second is that the adventure itself was either shorter or ended up playing faster – six of one, half-dozen of the other.

Speaking of those new faces: Loren and Rebecca. Both veterans of roleplaying games, but both first-time Starfinder players. The New York contingent already knew Rebecca, a friend from “the real world”, but this is my first time meeting either of them. I will admit it was a little hard to distinguish between their voices at first, but it got easier as we played.

Long-time listeners will notice that there’s no John/Big Sexy. Truth told, part of the raison d’etre of this episode was that John was out of commission for a week or two, so our Dead Suns campaign was going to have to go on the shelf anyway. That’s not the only time or reason we do these, but it’s a tremendously useful side benefit. Sometimes these Society shows are a great way to fill a hole in the schedule.

As far as Jess and Willit as characters? Initially, I’m a little concerned that Jess and Pollux are going to become the Lawful Good Wonder-Twins and Nala will have to smother one of them with a pillow, but we’ll see how it goes. The last thing Pollux needs is a fan club. At a nuts-and-bolts level, I’m excited to see Willit at work because we haven’t really gotten a good first-hand look at a technomancer yet – Steve played one at PaizoCon, but that’s about it. On the other hand, I’m generally creeped out by the concept of a hairless ysoki; my brain keeps jumping back to naked mole rats. Google them and enjoy your nightmares. Ew.

I should also elaborate more on one in-joke we referenced during the intros. When we mention Rob Trimarco’s luck with doors: some of that comes from our playthrough of The Half-Alive Streets where Lucan spent most of the zombie fight trying to unlock a door, but there’s actually another level to it.

When we were playing the Pathfinder Playtest at PaizoCon, we were attempting to enter a run-down shack: Rob tried to bust open the door and part of the shack collapsed, doing 1 or 2 points of damage to him. So… Doors 2, Rob 0. Just another level of context I thought you might enjoy.

We begin our adventure getting our marching orders from Zigvigix, and I have to admit I got a kick out of the fact that some of the window-dressing was recognizable to anyone who played #1-01 (The Commencement) – at the risk of a mild spoiler, the warehouse they’re busy renovating is a location for a mission Ziggy sends you on in #1-01. Obviously, all of these adventures stand alone, but it’s nice to see those little connections around the edges. So our mission (should we choose to accept it) is that a kasatha ship that was thought missing in the wake of the Scoured Stars incident has resurfaced, and we have to ascertain info about the ship and recover information about “The Bulwark” which is some sort of command base for the Exo-Guardians. Essentially, nobody knows the location of it because (take your pick) anyone who did know died in the Scoured Stars incident and anyone else who traveled there used encrypted navigation data, so they didn’t know how to get back.

The good news: STARSHIP TRAVEL! (And very likely, starship combat.) Since I built Nala’s entire backstory around being a pilot, I’m pretty excited to actually get behind the wheel of a ship.

But then… the bubble bursts:  it turns out Lucan is a better pilot than Nala. NOOOOOOOOO! (Cue the sad Charlie Brown music.)

I suppose I should’ve seen this coming, since Piloting is DEX-based, and Operatives are DEX machines, but… oops. My disappointment is half roleplay – Nala would see this as her big chance and Lucan stealing it out from under her wouldn’t sit well – and half is my frustration as a player that I’m not getting to use the main skill I built the character around. (And that I’ll probably have to do Science Officer, which I already do a lot of as Tuttle. Been there, done that.) You could make a case for Nala as Captain, since CHA is a class skill, but I didn’t train any of the skills (Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate) so they’re only at the +3 for the ability score. (Note to self: start training those at Level 2). As a roleplay thing, Pollux jumped in there and had Jess backing him up, so I didn’t feel like Nala would be quite ready to challenge him. Next time might be a different story.

Our first encounter in deep space was a flavor encounter with the Manta Corps, the ship full of Kalo. First, I just want to say I LOVE the Kalo as a concept. That race stood out in the Alien Archive as one of my favorites; I kinda want to roll a Kalo character one of these days. More immediately, I feel like maybe there was a side quest we might have whiffed on. At the risk of meta-gaming, it seemed like a hook for a boon or some extra items, so I’m disappointed everyone else was so quick to shoot down the idea of meeting them.

But… whatever. Moving on. We arrive at the destination, and there’s another ship already here, so we have to do ship combat (HONORABLE ship combat, if such a thing exists) to decide who gets the salvage rights. I’m not sure that’s how intergalactic “maritime” law is supposed to work, but that’s the McGuffin that gets us fighting. Don’t target life support, don’t shoot ‘em in the ass… got it. And ohbytheway, there’s a minefield of asteroids that might come into play.

I’m not going to go round by round through combat, but I suppose the biggest highlight was the question of whether we fought honorably and the possibility of Pollux picking up an Infamy point. On one hand, we didn’t technically violate the terms of the combat – we never shot them in the back, we didn’t target life support – and personally, I don’t think just using the Captain’s Taunt ability should violate the terms of the fight. But yeah, a Lawful Good character probably shouldn’t go on a racist tirade about how the entire Vesk race lacks honor. As we’ve noted, Chris is still working on the whole Lawful Good thing.

I will admit, I was disappointed that I didn’t get to pilot, but setting up multiple crits on the weapon systems made for a nice consolation prize. I do think that going forward, I might have Nala invest in some of the social skills because in any group without an Envoy or other CHA-based character, Nala might have a decent shot at having the best Captain skills.

So to summarize: we win the battle, Pollux is taking his first steps toward an ANTI-Paladin build, and we arrive at the kasatha vessel.

(But first… oh hey! Voiceover Guy! We have intros for our Society characters now! Cool!)

So we arrive at the ship. Derelict vessel, signs of struggle, blood everywhere – lovely. And a space storm rolling in, which puts everything on a tight clock. That last bit is pretty normal for Society scenarios – they want to keep the action flowing and not bog down in camping for the night, so there’s usually some time constraint baked into a lot of these.

The first part of the adventure is just exploring the ship and figuring out what happened. It’s kind of a slow time for Nala as she’s not much of a skills-monkey, but that’s cool: I do enough of that stuff as Tuttle. Fortunately, the crew quarters supply a lot of the answers, as well as personal effects to take back – the secondary goal of our mission. To summarize what we learned:

  • Something happened at the Bulwark that had Yotto out of sorts.
  • Yotto dies during the incident that damaged the ship.
  • Yotto re-animates as a ghost; the crew drives it into the captain’s cabin with force batons and trap it with a force-field (but with the captain inside).
  • It sounds like there are at least six crew members. Teliu – the narrator who wrote the log entries. Yotto, who died and became the ghost. The captain, unnamed, trapped in the cabin with the ghost. The android Blue Sky-101 – dead, but unclear how it happened. Kela – the engineer who rigged batteries to amplify the field. Traska, whose mention was encrypting the ship’s log. There’s also a mention of “the pilot” – is that Traska or a 7th person?

The exploration continues. In the damaged weapon pod, we find the remains of the android Blue Sky-101 amidst the wreckage. Putting two and two together, it looks like maybe they were trying to blow the ghost into space, and Blue Sky-101 was the bait/someone had to operate the force field. Clearly, that didn’t go well for him. The dojo doesn’t reveal much in the way of new information… I think the dojo was an alternate way to gather information if a group did the rooms in a different order or somehow couldn’t get the datapad charged. On the other hand, the sparring robot supplies us with the battery which will eventually be useful in opening doors.

And, as it turns out, activating previously-dormant sentry turrets.

This fight was a little embarrassing for two reasons. First, I feel like a bit of a dumbass for running down into the killzone before realizing the turret was 15 feet off the ground. (Where are those falcon boots from the last adventure when you need them?) Even my secondary plan – wait until round 3 and set off Supernova – was flawed because it has a 10-foot radius and the turret is 15 feet up. So… yeah… drop prone and pew-pew-pew. The other was that the problem contained its own fairly obvious solution – just pull the battery. In fairness to Loren, Willit suggested this but never got around to doing it.

On the other hand, we got the turret down with no significant damage – just stamina (I think Jess dipped two points into “real” damage) – so no harm was done. At least figuring out the battery situation allows us to access the rest of the ship. And in doing so and reaching the dining hall, we get our first clue that there’s something other than the ghost on this ship – exploding spores, general viscera, and so on. I guess there’s a chance the ghost escaped and did this, but the Splodey-Spores Jess stumbled into don’t really jibe with a ghost. This… this is something else. But what?

The answer to that question awaits us on the bridge: oh look, a xill! I have to admit I felt bad for Becky and Loren – for their first Starfinder experience, this final battle ended up being not-very-fun for them. Willit didn’t even get to take part because she had to manage the Two-Step Battery Shuffle, and poor Jess got to be the recipient of all the xill-related nastiness. Paralysis. Implantation. Things You Cannot Unsee. Of course, Bob didn’t have a fun time for different reasons – three straight Spell Resistance whiffs on Mind Thrust. Ouch. Fortunately, for all its offensive ability, the xill wasn’t especially hard on the defensive side of the ledger – not especially hard to hit, no damage reduction, manageable hit points – so the rest of us were able to beat it down fairly quickly. Could’ve gotten messy, but we lived. Don’t look a gift xill in the implantation tube.

So after the fight, we search around and recover the nav data for the Bulwark. Break out the party hats, right? Well… that leaves us with a bit of a dilemma. We have the navigation logs for the Bulwark (our primary objective), we have the personal effects of the crew (our secondary objective), and we had found the captain’s keycard in the previous room. Do we stay and fight one more battle for the sake of saying we finished everything, or should we just declare victory and avoid the creature that’s likely to be tougher than the one that just drained most of our resources?

Now in general, I hate running from a fight and I’m a completionist at heart. When I play video games, I’m one of those people who gets lost in side quests for an extra 20 or 30 hours. And I’m just stubborn – ironically, we had a very similar conversation over in our Dead Suns game. And as a group, we’ve been known to get pretty aggressive from time to time. But being coldly analytical about it:

  • Willit would be the only person functioning at full capacity. Let’s say she was able to go with three full-attack Magic Missiles, that’s maybe… 25, 30 points of damage (depending on how the dice go)? Can the rest of us make up the rest?
  • Conversely, Quinn would have basically been useless. He’s out of spells. He could be a potion caddy, or maybe (as he did in Half-Alive Streets) he could take a hit to buy us some time, but that’s about it.
  • That leaves four of us and TWO force batons, so two of us would be able to do usable melee damage. Lucan feels more like he’s built for ranged fighting, so it feels like Pollux, Jess, and I would be the main candidates for that “honor”.
  • Jess either has zero or one resolve point left, so she’s got no margin for error. She drops, she dies, basically.
  • My solarian weapon has cool celestial flavor but is still ultimately bludgeoning damage, so that’s also useless. Supernova will still help some, but half damage every three rounds doesn’t sound that exciting, and if we’re in close quarters, friendly fire could do more damage to us than to the ghost.

So you see what we’re up against here. And for what? Bragging rights? A few extra credits? An item we will have to turn back into the Starfinder Lending Library anyway? Much as it wounds my pride to do it, I think there are times where you have to bend to reality and this is one of those times. We accomplished what we set out to do, so let’s get the hell out of Dodge. Either the storm will kill it, or it’ll be just another thing wandering the vast expanse of space. Or maybe we can come back and stomp it when we’re Level 20. Put the Yotto-Ghost on the menu for Starfinder Society: The Revenge Tour!

So we return home and settle up with Ziggy: Cries From The Drift is in the books. A pretty good adventure, even if walking away from the final fight was a little unsatisfying. In-game, even though I didn’t get to pilot, I got my moments: I held my own in the xill fight, got the kill shot on the turret, and my sciencing helped score some crits during the space battle. Out-of-game, we got to meet some new people and RFC served as their first introduction to Starfinder – can’t complain about that. Lastly, I’m also excited because Nala is on the cusp of leveling up – one more adventure should do it!

And as Steve hinted, that next time will be in Fugitive On The Red Planet (#1-02). It’s been played; we just have to figure out when we’re going to air it with GenCon and some other things coming up. Hopefully, it’ll be soon, and we hope you tune in to check that one out.