Free RPG Day in 2020, after a little delay due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, took place on Saturday, 25th July. As per usual, it came with an array of new and interesting little releases, which traditionally would have been tasters for forthcoming games to be released at GenCon the following August, but others are support for existing RPGs or pieces of gaming ephemera or a quick-start. Again, global events meant that Gen Con itself was not only delayed, but run as a virtual event, and likewise, global events meant that Reviews from R’lyeh could not gain access to the titles released on the day as no friendly local gaming shop was participating nearby. Fortunately, Reviews from R’lyeh has been able to gain copies of many of the titles released on the day, and so can review them as is the usual practice. To that end, Reviews from R’lyeh wants to thank both Keith Mageau and David Salisbury of Fan Boy 3 in sourcing and providing copies of the Free RPG Day 2020 titles.
One of the perennial contributors is Paizo, Inc., a publisher whose titles for both the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and the Starfinder Roleplaying Game have proved popular and often in demand long after Free RPG Day. For 2020, the title released for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game is Little Trouble in Big Absalom, and the title released for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game is Starfinder: Skitter Home. As in past years, this is an adventure involving four of the cheerfully manic, gleefully helpful, vibrantly coloured, six-armed and furry creatures known as Skittermanders—Dakoyo, Gazigaz, Nako, and Quonx. They were introduced in the Free RPG Day adventure for 2018, Starfinder: Skitter Shot, in which as the crew of the starship Clutch performed salvage tasks in the Vast beyond the Pact Worlds and then came across a derelict luxury liner, before being boarded by pirates and forced to crash land on a nearby world and survive as detailed in the Free RPG Day adventure for 2019, Starfinder: Skitter Crash. The foursome return in Starfinder: Skitter Home—not to have adventures, but to have fun!
Starfinder: Skitter Home shares elements with Little Trouble in Big Absalom. Both are written for player characters of Fourth Level and both consist of two adventures which can be run together or separately—and in any order. In Starfinder: Skitter Home, the four Skittermanders have come to their home world of Vesk-3 for a vacation—first for a party and a celebration, and then for a leisurely safari. The party, detailed in the scenario ‘Festival of the Exclipse’, is at Reetamander, a festival celebrating a lunar eclipse on the skittermanders’ home world. There are games to play, market stalls to peruse, songs to sing, and once the eclipse is over, food and drink aplenty. Events—or rather the intervention of a horrid villain—means that things go awry, but the heroes do get to have some fun first. Unfortunately, the villain turns the Reetamander against its celebrants and the heroes must come to their rescue and stop him from enacting his inconceivable plan! Overall, ‘Festival of the Eclipse’ is a fun adventure, intentionally raucous—even a little riotous, and a very positive adventure since it plays into the helpful nature of the Skittermanders and there are some nice rewards for the Player Characters being helpful.
The second part, or scenario, in Starfinder: Skitter Home is much darker and a shift in tone. In ‘Hunters Hunted’ the heroes have been given the gift of an underground hunting expedition into the caves beneath Vesta-3 where stridermanders—massive, terrifying cousins of the skittermander species—are said to be found. Unfortunately, when the Skittermanders arrive at the hunt agency, it seems all trips into the caves are off, because contact has been lost with the last trip which went into the caves. Of course, the Skittermanders, being as naturally helpful as they are, they offer to join the search for the lost hunting party and pointed to an ancient side tunnel which nobody has been able to check yet due to the agency being short-staffed. ‘Hunters Hunted’ is a mini-dungeon, consisting of just eight locations, and focusing on stealth and exploration. It is all perfectly playable and enjoyable, but not quite as much fun—and nowhere near as raucous as ‘Festival of the Eclipse’. There is a sense of urgency to it though, as the surviving members of the lost party are hurt and very much in need a rescue.
Rounding out Starfinder: Skitter Home are the Skittermander pre-generated characters. There are four of these provided for use with Starfinder: Skitter Shot. They include a Priest Mystic, a Xenoseeker Mystic, a Spacefarer Soldier, and a Scholar Mechanic, all Third Level (up one Level from Starfinder: Skitter Crash). Each is detailed on a full page, complete with background and a really nice illustration, as well as the stats. Players will need to refer to the Starfinder Alien Archive for full details of the Skittermanders, but really, they should be played as they appear—bumptious, gleeful, up for a challenge, and manically helpful!
Physically, as with Starfinder: Skitter Shot and Starfinder: Skitter Crash, Starfinder: Skitter Home is very nicely laid out and presented. The artwork is excellent, the writing clear, and the maps—placed inside the front and back covers—easy to use. All exactly as you would expect for a scenario from Paizo, Inc.
If a group has played Starfinder: Skitter Shot and Starfinder: Skitter Crash before it, then doubtless they will be pleased to return to playing the humorous, if not silly, Skittermanders. Players new to Starfinder and Skitterfinders may find the rules of the Starfinder Roleplaying Game slightly more complex than they expect and they certainly will not have the same sense of attachment to the Skitterfinder quartet as someone who has played either—or both—Starfinder: Skitter Shot and Starfinder: Skitter Crash will have. Either way, the likelihood is that they will enjoy ‘Festival of the Eclipse’ more than they will ‘Hunters Hunted’, as it gives more scope for fun and action, and gives more for them to do, whereas ‘Hunters Hunted’ is just a bit too straightforward an adventure to be really exciting. Overall, Starfinder: Skitter Home is very nicely presented, but really one for fans of the Starfinder Roleplaying Game rather than a good introduction to it.