Imagine having to trek through a jungle and being promised Bear Grylls as your guide but getting Mr. Bean. Welcome to session 4 of Dead Suns!
So we had a special guest this session. Matt, our ever faithful rogue and bard extraordinaire from the D&D group wanted to have a go at Starfinder and after being introduced to the group as a survival expert (the best in his field!) the group were excited about having a dedicated tracker and pathfinder on their team during this perilous stage of their adventure. The wilds of the jungle were a dangerous land and Matt, playing Kurtes would be a much needed help for the group on their journey through the untamed expanse of Ukulam.
At least that was the premise.
Where to begin? Let’s start from the top. The group had travelled for a couple of days and had just overcome the stamped of the Yaruk’s after setting up camp for the evening under the stars. The obelisk towered a way into the distance and if they made good time the group would be there before sun down tomorrow. A small tribe of native kaukariki had been following the party since their arrival. Naturally curious creatures they seemed to pose little threat to the group and generally seemed intrigued by the presence of what was potentially only the second party of explorers to venture out here in some time. Waiting for the group to settle for the night the kaukariki used their superior night vision to begin to approach the camp. With the group suffering with limited visibility due to the dim light and the mass of trees and shrubs they were confident that they’d be able to sneak up on the group unawares.
Feiyue, keeping watch was the first to spot that they were up to something and he was quick to relay this information to the group’s mechanic, Boock when their watch changed over. Boock noticed that a pair of the creatures were skulking toward the campsite and swiftly attempted to wake the others. The group were eventually successful in scaring the kaukariki away using their flash lights but this wasn’t the end of the group’s antics for the evening. Eniac, as wild and unhinged as always decided to spend his portion of the night watch running circuits around the edges of the camp. Getting faster and more daring as he went Shodorah decided to grab a hold of him using her Telekinetic hand – a move which spooked the android into climbing into her cot, scared of what may be out in the dark. The pair argued a while before waking up the next morning feeling worse for wear.
I love the conditions in Starfinder and fatigued fit the bill here perfectly:
- You cannot run or charge
- You take a –1 penalty to AC, attack rolls, melee damage rolls, Reflex saves, initiative checks, and Str– and Dex- based skill and ability checks
- You reduce your encumbered limit by 1 bulk.
With a whole day ahead of them it wasn’t before too long that the group came up against their first obstacle of the night. Already suspicious of our special guest player (given a stunt I’d pulled in the past!) the group were reluctant to let Kurtes do anything too impactful but given his accolades as a survival expert the group here were willing to leave the meta game away from the table. The jungle had been on a decline for sometime – the downward slope of a naturally occurring valley. On the other side of this wasn’t a gradual incline like they’d hoped but instead they came face to face with an almost vertical climb. Luckily this was a jungle and they had Kurtes with them, what could possibly go wrong? Well actually… quite alot. Kurtes was quick to point out the many vines, roots and branches that could be used to traverse the obstacle and identified a perfect place to begin their ascent. Reaching out to a healthy looking vine (successful survival check), Kurtes swung into action and began climbing, using the toes of his boots as grips on the rugged face of the ledge. Unfortunately though this impressive feat of manliness was short lived, a failed atheltics check meant Kurtes wasn’t able to keep his grip and as the vine untwined he came falling to the ground below (taking 16 points of damage in the process!).
Not overly thrilled with their expert so far, Boock scampered up the bank and attempted to attach a rope to a tree. To his eye, he had tied it perfectly and lowered it down to the others. Unbeknownst to them he rolled a lowly 8 on his Sleight of Hand check and the rope was tied about as successfully as a toddler tying their shoelaces. Eniac would be the first to attempt to climb it and, to everyone’s surprise succeeded with an insanely high acrobatics roll (in the low 30’s!) but his weight on the rope had potentially caused it to loosen even further. Unfortunately for her, Shodorah would be next and, as predicted the rope unravelled from the tree and she came crashing toward the ground but a quick thinking Feiyue caught her with outstretched arms. The burly Vesk lowered her down before throwing the rope back up to Boock and Eniac, where Eniac tied a knot so perfect they’d never be getting it undone. Shodorah shimmied up the rope to the top, leaving Feiyue and Kurtes below. Keeping watch of any ambushing enemies, Feiyue let Kurtes take the next turn and once more he started out promisingly enough. Afterall, this was a rope that wasn’t going to snap or unravel or come undone any time soon. Again, Kurtes began his ascent and once again the dice let him down. Failing an athletics throw Kurtes once again hit the deck taking even more damage. A survival expert that can’t climb a rope? Not a good sign.
Tiring of the human’s pitiful attempts, Feiyue climbed next and ordered Kurtes to take hold of the rope and allow himself to be pulled off. Red faced, he agreed.
Jungle: 1 | Survival “Expert”: 0
The group continued their expedition in the jungle, the climate almost cooking them inside their suits as they continued to have to make saving throws against the harsh conditions or use their suits very limited environmental protections. The kaukariki had left them alone all morning and the group were glad for the peace and quiet but this would be short lived as the sound of a rushing river could be heard echoing through the trees of the jungle.
As they pushed on the group discovered a raging river that ended perilously with a waterfall, various bits of drift wood lay scattered about the river providing ample hand holds should one of them fall in but come on, these guys are professional adventurers! What are the chances of that happening? Especially given the fact that there were five large stepping stones to aid them in their crossing. Well, it wasn’t long before the water took it’s first victim as Shodorah plunged into the river and was quickly swept downstream. The rest of the group chased after her and through some careful positioning Shodorah managed to shift her body weight to the edge of the river bank where Feiyue was able to easily reach over and pull her from the river’s hold. This wasn’t for naught though as caught up amongst the piles of debris was a waterlogged backpack containing a handful of helpful items!
Back to the stepping stones and the group had devised a way to use Boock’s rope as a makeshift handhold with his drone, Baang on one side and Eniac on the other. Everyone that crossed would join with Eniac and help aid the next party member. I thought it was a good plan! We were left once again with Feiyue and Kurtes, surely this would change the Vesk’s opinion on the survivalist? Surely nobody could mess up this. From a game standpoint Kurtes was recieving a huge bonus to his roll for the rope and the way it was set up, he only needed to roll a 6 or more to succeed at crossing safely. What happened as Kurtes stepped onto that first stone? Natural one. SPLOSH! He was in the drink much to Feiyue’s ever increasing annoyance. Able to stay buoyant at least the Vesk dragged him to safety and carried him across.
Jungle: 2 | Survival “Expert”: 0
The group, now once again reunited with the kaurikis followed the barely trodden path through the jungle, inching ever closer to the strange obelisk. A large clearing opened up infront of them revealing the remains of some sort of settlement – paving stones jutted up and out from the floor long covered in vines and roots. Boock noticed that the obelisk was nothing like the notes written by Halkueem Zan, the structure was to his eye clearly some form of guard tower – or rather was. The wooden walkway that would have once circled the top had long since crumbled into ruin. The group didn’t have too long to contemplate this though as they were suddenly set upon by seemingly manic kaukariki. Many of the creatures scuttled about, hooting and shouting as they dug up buried goods and stashed them in a hollowed out tree whilst others began to attack the group from afar using fruits and stones. The group were reluctant to attack the beasts but it seemed that this wasn’t going to be something they were going to give up and one of them lunged forward to sting Eniac with it’s poisonous tail.
Full on battle broke out between the heavily armed group of Starfinders and the primative primates. The kaukariki seemed reluctant to attack and instead seemed intent on leading the group back toward the obelisk. Cautiously giving chase the vines around the base of the structure erupted as a large, multi-mouthed plant like creature leapt to the surface. With spore producing bright purple flowers in it’s back it wasn’t too long before the group realised they were in trouble – anyone who breathed in these spores was compelled to use their next turn to charge toward the creature where they would then fall foul of it’s paralysis and gigantic bite attacks. Not nice. Why they didn’t put their helmets up or cover their mouths I’ll never know 😉
The battle was hard fought but as soon as they discovered that the plant was susceptible to fire it came crashing to a sudden finale. The creature, known as a Varcinea was reduced to a pile of ash and leaves. Sadly, during the battle Shodorah had the bright idea to set fire to the hollowed out tree where the kaukariki were stashing their valuables and it was Eniac that discovered after the battle that the tree held the remains of some MK2 Healing Serums. Nevertheless, this probably wasn’t the worst thing that had happened to them so far, nor would it be going forward.
Jungle: 2 | Survival “Expert”: 1
Seting up came the group took some time to examine the obelisk and pondered over the strange writings that remained there.
What survives of the Elven inscriptions warns visitors that they approach “Loskialua, monastery of starsong, embassy of the spheres, and Temple of the Twelve.” Fragmentary notes also include mentions of paying respect, messengers from beyond, an academy, and “interpreters of the beacon.”
The camp went as smoothly as could be expected, there was the brief sighting of a creature that materialised as nothing and the group managed to get a few hours of rest before daybreak and their continued efforts to follow Dr. Solstarni’s kidnappers.
The next day went well until the group happened upon a strange part of the jungle that didn’t look like anything they’d seen. A large expanse of trees were barely clinging on to life, leafless and brittle they lined the trail the party followed and gave roost to a dozen buzzards who watched the party intently. Curiously a strange pistol hung from a strap on one of the branches of these trees. Naturally expecting this to be some sort of trap the group tried to find out what they were walking into and it was Shodorah, using her home-planet knowledge who saw the tell-tale shimmer of quicksand blocking their path. It took some time which ate away at precious environmental protection and saving throws but the group managed to construct a make-shift bridge out of these dead trees and were swiftly surpassing the obstacle. Kurtes even managed to use his Telekinetic Hand spell to retrive the gun without issue. That was until it came to his turn to make the crossing.
It was meant to be a simple dexterity (acrobatics) check but the dice betrayed Matt once again as he rolled yet another natural 1. He fell into the quicksand which went straight upto his waist, thankfully though he had the wherewithall to stay calm and stay still. The group threw the rope to him and attempted to hoist him out, despite pulling out all the stops and supplying more than enough strength to do so Kurtes was unable to maintain his grip and disappeared under the surface.
With Kurtes only having limited time to breathe the group knew time was off the essence. Devising a plan which had them lower in Baang, Boock’s drone the group set to work in trying to retrieve the survival novice. They got him out but not before he had passed out from the ordeal, the group did debate whether or not resuscitation was even worth it at this point but empathy won over malice on this occasion and Kurtes was once again in the realm of the living. For now. Though he did drop that shiny new gun when he fell.
Apprehensively continuing onward the group heard a stifled moan through the trees as if someone were in pain. Pulling their weapons from their holsters they approached a small clearing where a female Lasunta wailed in agony. Calling for the Devourer to take her she had a nasty wound on her abdomen that wriggled with the larvae of some creature who had seemingly laid them inside her. Begging the party to end her life it was Feiyue who reluctantly agreed but not before he demanded a piece of helpful information. She agreed and pulled him in closer. In his ear she whispered…
“The creature that did this to me? … It’s behind you.”
All in all I was worried going into the session. I had fears that if the group were able to overcome the obstacles quickly then it’d turn into a bit of a combat fest or filler session. Neither of which were too appealing. The fact that Matt as Kurtes rolled as badly as he did really made the night. I think we counted a total of 9 natural 1’s and at least a half dozen other rolls that were lower than a 5. Though I felt bad for him I think it’s safe to say that these rolls and these situations he kept putting the group in really made the session pop and made for a cool story. The jungle has gone from a minor irritating backdrop to something that is both dangerous and deadly. Also we laughed alot and that’s something that’s often missed in these games. I’m not a fan of overly scripted comedy but comedy that arises naturally from a series of back to back to back errors really helps to lighten the mood and make the events of the game memorable. I’ll always opt for a serious, gritty tone for my games but having that natural comedy really does bring the whole thing to life.
It’s been decided that Matt will take up the roll of Kurtes once more for the next session, hopefully they get out of the jungle alive!