From Beyond Adventure Path (for Starfinder) – Episode 1: Distress Call

My partner and I got the Starfinder Core Rulebook and Alien Archive when it was released in 2017, but haven’t played much yet. However, when I got the opportunity to check out a Starfinder-compatible adventure path (a series of pre-created adventures for your party to go on that create one larger adventure as they go up in level) from an independent publisher, I was interested. There’s a lot of amazing ideas out there. Episode 3: First Strike of the six-part From Beyond adventure path from Angry Golem Games is currently in Kickstarter, but I preferred not to jump straight into the middle of the story; Angry Golem kindly provided me with Episode 1: Distress Call for player levels 1-3.

Starting at first level was more ideal than expected, as the only group I could get together was myself as GM, one young player with no RPG experience outside of knowing what they are, and one ex-Pathfinder player who hadn’t played for many years. I personally hadn’t GM’d for even more years but the beauty of adventure paths is that it’s not entirely on you to create a good campaign, you just run what you’re given. The importance of me explaining the comedy-worthy experience level of my group here is to highlight how happy I was with the way Distress Call was set up. While I still had to read through the Starfinder Core Rulebook for a while first to refresh myself on details so I could run the game a bit more smoothly without having to stop and look things up too much, the adventure itself was very adaptable to the groups real-life experience level, and the main encounters were with original creations with details provided in the appendix.

 

Angry Golem Games

 

This particular episode involves investigating an asteroid mining starship in a remote system which sends the eponymous distress call before falling silent. I won’t give away more than that, I certainly don’t want to spoil it for prospective players. There’s more focus on thinking your way through it than on action, which is what made it very adaptable for the group. While I could give them more leeway on checks, limit how much they had to fight, and drop bigger hints on what was going on, someone running a more experienced or jaded group could easily take it the other way and go full horror-ghost-ship-in-space on them. Considering my own inexperience running a game, with what I was given to work with I only had to make a few adaptions on the fly to be able to make sure my small ersatz group had fun and still felt challenged without being overwhelmed. The range of adventure hooks suggested gave them a lot of character creation ideas to boot. While I’m not sure if the following episodes continue the strategy focus the descriptions make me think they do, which sounds great.

While cool creations are the big things going for independently created adventures, the flipside is that they don’t always have a corporation’s level of production resources to work with. Distress Call has some grammatical errors pointing to a lack of professional editing/proofreading, and the image quality is inconsistent, including a noticeably low-res front cover. These issues aren’t huge, but enough to show that lack of high-level professional publishing polish. As far as I know it’s not intended originally for print, released through DriveThruRPG (though physical copies are offered there too), but when you’re viewing things on a 24” monitor visual quality of a digital document isn’t nothing. With some screenshots and Photoshop I easily put together some images of the starship deck maps included at the end to print in A3 that were alright quality, but more attention needs to be put into ensuring all the interior images are high and consistent quality.

This episode is a short volume, though the following ones are longer, and hopefully if it’s successful enough it will enable Angry Golem Games to put more polish on following adventure path publications. I know it’s a tricky balance with how much you spend creating something without making the price too high for buyers to want to take a chance on it, but I honestly would have liked to see a more perfected product for the amount being charged for it. Having said all that, the current Episode 3 Kickstarter is the third successful campaign for the episodes; if all you want is pretty pictures in high quality then you can just spend all day reading the Alien Archive, if you want cool ideas and adventures for you to run a game with, then this is the kind of thing you’re after. My players enjoyed it, I enjoyed it, and I was definitely fantasizing about how hard I could make this adventure on them if I really wanted to (I’m too nice to my players though).

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