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Friday, 12 August 2022

[Free RPG Day 2022] Starfinder Skitter Warp

Now in its fifteenth year, Free RPG Day in 2022, was celebrated not once, but twice. First on Saturday, 25th June in the USA, and then on Saturday, 23rd July internationally. This was to prevent problem with past events when certain books did not arrive in time to be shipped internationally and so were not available outside of the USA. As per usual, Free RPG Day consisted of an array of new and interesting little releases, which are traditionally 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. Thanks to the generosity of David Salisbury of Fan Boy 3Reviews from R’lyeh was get hold of many of the titles released for Free RPG Day, both in the USA and elsewhere.


One of the perennial contributors to Free RPG Day 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 the event. For Free RPG Day 2022, the publisher again provides a title for each of these two roleplaying games, A Fistful of Flowers for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, Second Edition, the other being Skitter Warp for the Starfinder Roleplaying GameAs 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 returned for Free RPG Day 2020 in Starfinder: Skitter Home—not to have adventures, but to have fun!

Starfinder: Skitter Warp is designed to be played by four Player Characters of Fifth Level. In addition to the core rules, the supplements Starfinder Alien Archive 2 and Starfinder Drift Crisis will be useful in running the adventure, but neither are required. The scenario returns to the planet Varkulon 4, the setting for Starfinder: Skitter Crash. In that scenario, a confrontation with a pirate ship combined with a strange natural phenomenon—now identified as the annual cosmic event known as a Drift cyclone—forced both ships to crash. The Player Characters must fight off the surviving pirates, repair their own ship, and make friends with the members of a scientific outpost, the Helix Lyceum, staffed by the slug-like Osharus. As a result of their efforts, the Player Characters acquired the salvage rights to the interesting debris which the Drift cyclone deposits on Varkulon 4. As Starfinder: Skitter Warp opens, the quartet of Skittermanders have returned to the world to collect more salvage—and once again, they are affected by a Drift cyclone.

The Drift cyclone is an annual cosmic event which occurs where the barrier between the Material Plane and Drift is thin. Varkulon 4 regularly passes through this region and so the crew of the Clutch is used to navigating its way around the phenomenon, but this year the ship is caught up in a miasma of planar energy which wreaks damage on the ship and as desperate message from the scientific outpost warns, on the planet below. Starfinder: Skitter Crash is primarily set up as a series of tasks built around events. So first, the Player Characters must repair their ship—which involves multiple tasks, such as using the Computer skill to plot the fastest route out of the miasma or the Athletics to rush to the engineering deck to heft power cables through access ports to reach power junctions—and then fending off an undead spaceship! Once the Player Characters reach the Helix Lyceum, they discover what is going on Varkulon 4—the planar energy unleashed by the Drift cyclone has transformed both planet and its inhabitants. The latter have transformed into either the best or the worst versions of themselves, so the majority of the scientists and inhabitants of the Helix Lyceum have become angelic and good, but those outside the scientific outpost have become demonic and evil, which includes friends of the Player Characters. Not only that, but the demonically transformed are now hellbent on smashing the Helix Lyceum and its inhabitants!

In the second half of the scenario, the Player Characters must defend the Helix Lyceum, including guiding civilians to safety, constructing defences, and holding off an attack by planar energy-transformed demons. These tasks can be done in any order, but get increasing difficult no matter which order they are dealt with. In addition, they are designed so that they have to be done with all four Player Characters rather than them splitting up and dealing with the tasks separately. This feels forced and some advice to handle what happens if the players decide their characters split up to deal with these tasks, would have been useful. Perhaps having the Player Characters realise that they cannot face a situation alone and they come to the rescue of each other? Once the Helix Lyceum is safe, the Player Characters can go out and track down their friends and hopefully save them and deal with the cause of the demonic outbreak which is attacking the Helix Lyceum.

Starfinder Skitter Warp is short and linear, no surprise given the format for Free RPG Day and the fact that it is intended as a demonstration adventure. Ideally, it should provide a session or two’s worth of entertaining play. Where the scenario differs from the previous scenarios involving the Skittermanders, is in the quartet of pre-generated characters provided for the players to roleplay. In the previous entries in the series, the four Player Characters are the Skittermanders—Dakoyo, Gazigaz, Nako, and Quonx. In Starfinder Skitter Warp, three of the Player Characters are Skittermanders. These are Dakoyo, Gazigaz, and Quonx. They are joined by Nakonechkin Ginnady, the male Vesk who is the others’ boss. It is great to see him play, his presence having been felt in the previous scenarios. However, this leaves the problem of what has happened to the fourth Skittermander, Nako. In the previous titles in the serious, he has always been a Player Character, but in Starfinder: Skitter Warp, he is shifted from being a Player Characters to NPC and discovering what happened to him is part of the scenario’s plot. Yet what if a player has roleplayed through the previous scenarios as Nako and wants to play him again? The obvious choice is to make Nakonechkin Ginnady the NPC, but Starfinder: Skitter Warp does not explore this option.

Physically, as with previous entries in the series, Starfinder: Skitter Warp is very nicely laid out and presented. The artwork is excellent, the writing clear, and the maps—placed inside the front cover—easy to use, if a little small. All exactly as you would expect for a scenario from Paizo, Inc.

If a group has played Starfinder: Skitter Shot, Starfinder: Skitter Crash, and Starfinder: Skitter Home before it, then doubtless they will be pleased to return to playing the humorous, if not silly, Skittermanders with Starfinder: Skitter Warp. Players new to Starfinder and the 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 Skittermander quartet as someone who has played the previous entries in the series. Even someone who played the previous scenarios may feel a sense of disconnect with the normally Player Character Nako being made an NPC.

Starfinder: Skitter Warp is a simple, straightforward scenario with a sense of both energy and urgency. Engagingly presented as you would expect for a title from Paizo, Inc. Starfinder: Skitter Warp is too deep into the story of the Skittermanders to quite work as an introduction to the Starfinder Roleplaying Game and ultimately, it is fans of both that will enjoy this scenario the most.

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