Dead Suns, Session 38

Watch video of the game session on YouTube at https://youtu.be/Jj5pKVlm2hc.

The crew had successfully bypassed the Corpse Fleet forces moving towards the engineering section of the Stellar Degenerator. Worried those forces might double back once they realized the Starfinders had thwarted them, Cypher and Switch left to set up traps to slow down their foes.

While the rest of the group rested, Wesley hacked into the internal sensors in the forward section of the ship. He found he could track the Corpse Fleet across the entire ship to ensure they would not be caught in a bad position. The group inventoried their gear and made some adjustments in preparation (adding radiation buffers to armor, etc). Wesley began concocting a crazy plan with a wheelbarrow, a fire extinguisher, and a flashlight but no one seemed to be on board with that one. Eventually, they decided they should use their holoskins to disguise themselves as Corpse Fleet just as Cypher returned from his work.

38.3

Wesley, via the sensors, was able to identify there were three approaches to the bridge. One opened onto the lower section of the bridge while the other two approaches opened onto the upper section of the bridge. Based on Nuil’s knowledge of the Maltur she thought the command station would be in the upper section. They entered the bridge and quickly discovered Nuil’s recall had failed them, an uncommon occurrence, and the command station was in the lower section.

A few undead soldiers lingered in the upper section while below a couple manned the command station. An enormous, undead vesk (Gatecrasher) stood guard over Admiral Serovox who floated in the center of an arcane circle of power. Standing around the circle and chanting were Serovox’s acolytes and the vessels through which he had stolen control of the ship. Standing away from the ritual was an undead soldier with incredible hair (Jacen) which immediately reminded the group of Ryder’s luscious locks.

The good looking undead reacted to the PCs and questioned them, “Kreth! What are you doing here? You’re supposed to be below finding the Starfinders.” It seemed the illusion was somewhat successful.

Cypher responded he had brought one of the Starfinders to serve as a sacrifice for the ritual. Jacen protested that a sacrifice wasn’t needed for this ritual because the power they needed came from the Denizens of Leng around the circle. Cypher went on a tirade about how everything was better with a sacrifice and sacrifices were all the rage these days. Jacen bought the bluff and gave up his protest.

One of the undead minions, a necrograft robot, wasn’t so convinced and began scanning Switch. Cypher feigned working on Switch’s bonds while working on his datapad to hack the necrograft robotlike he had done in the hangar bay. Only the large undead vesk noticed Cypher’s actions and questioned him. The illusion had begun to unravel. Despite Cypher’s protests, Gatecrasher demand he comes to the lower level and accounts for his actions.

Gatecrasher had begun to suspect Cypher was not Kreth and asked him a question about what Kreth had said to him hundreds of years before when they had conquered their first planet together. Cypher responded, “I said, never screw with the Starfinders!”

The subterfuge had ended but the PCs still had the element of surprise.

38.1

The group rolled initiative for the last time (in this campaign) at the 41 minute 20 second mark in the video.

As the rest of the group leapt into battle, Wesley and Drez wondered if they still needed to act like prisoners. Ryder and Cypher dropped their disguises and Ryder opened fire. Ryder hit one of the necrograft robots right in the eye and sent it flailing over the rail. It crashed into a computer system and died in a crackling explosion. Cypher activated his cloaking device and blended into the wall. Drez snapped to and tossed a grenade into the lower section. The explosion rocked several of the undead on the lower level. Wesley tried to maneuver TIM-X to take a shot but the drone’s rifle bounced off the rail and slammed into its own dome (a critical fail card, lost access to that attack). Nuil pulled out her big gun and dropped a wall of fire into the lower section. She laced it around the ritual circle and back up to where Gatecrasher and the minions hit by Drez’s grenade stood. The room was ablaze with burning corpses!

GM Note: I completely forgot about Nuil’s wall of flame and did not anticipate that attack. More power to her! She torched the bad guys good. Two undead soldiers remained in the upper section. One soldier remained at the controls for the ship. Gatecrasher and two twisted sisters (burned but still unliving), Jacen, and Serovox were all that remained of the foes the Starfinders originally found on the bridge when they arrived.

Serovox raged! The ritual was broken and he lost control of the Steller Degenerator. He bellowed, “Kill them! Kill them all except for Ryder. I want his face!”

Both sides pressed the attack!

Serovox

One of the twisted sisters warped her body and crawled up the wall to attack Nuil. She struck the lamerta with multiple punches and Nuil’s armor warped and grew brittle where struck. The group realized how dangerous the sisters were and Drez dropped to the second level to keep the second twisted sister busy.

Gatecrasher charged through the wall of flame (taking massive amounts of damage) and leapt into the upper section. TIM-X and Wesley tried to retaliate but failed to harm the undead vesk.

Serovox glowered at Nuil’s wall of flame and snapped his fingers (dispel magic). The wall of flame disappeared. Jacen, who now had an open path to the PCs, rushed up the stairs to the upper section but could not reach the PCs before they began to fire on them. He revealed his solarian abilities and summoned a protective wall of graviton energy to protect himself from their attacks.

Ryder opened himself to the attacks of the necrograft robot and fired on the twisted sister attacking Nuil. His gun misfired and flashed in his eyes making it difficult for him to see (fumble; all enemies have concealment for one round). NOTE: The seal on his pistol negated this penalty but narratively, he struggled until his vision cleared.

Gatecrasher

Nuil recognized the danger she was in and cast invisibility on herself. She then climbed to the ceiling and worked her way away from the twisted sister and Gatecrasher.

Cypher activated his holographic clones and rolled a 4, best roll for this ability in the entire campaign. Four Cypher clones appeared and Cypher leapt across the room to get away from Gatecrasher. The undead vesk swung on him but chose the wrong target and smashed a clone.

The twisted sister which had chased Nuil did not know where her target had gone so she dropped down next to Ryder and attacked him. Ryder continued to fumble with his vision problems and somehow managed to dodge every attack.

Drez continued to fight the twisted sister in the lower section. He could not penetrate her defenses but she continued to land attack after attack. Multiple crits in her multi attack and she dealt 88 points of damage, stunned Drez, and ripped into his flesh spreading her filth and poisoned Drez.

The battle had begun in the PCs favor but the tides were quickly turning.

Wesley directed TIM-X to continue attacking Gatecrasher and then activated his jump jets to leap over the undead vesk and land on the lower level (on one of the computer terminals). He fired on the twisted sister who had immobilized Drez and blasted her from behind. Although she still posed a great threat, she was not looking well (um, as well as normal, that is).

Serovox drew his red plasma sword and then launched a fireball (well, the Starfinder equivalent of a fireball) at the center of the PCs on the upper level. The admiral did not care if he harmed his allies as well and the upper level exploded in flame. The PCs on the upper level were able to take some cover but were still hurt by the attack.

USE THIS!!!!

Jacen dropped his protective shield, moved closer to the PCs, and summoned a second shield. The new shield stood between himself and most of the PCs but did leave him vulnerable to part of the upper section.

At that moment, Switch finally reached the bridge and joined in the fray! He rushed the twisted sister on the upper level. He drew his ultrathin necroblade and crit her doing 66 points of damage.

Ryder was glad to have the group’s second soldier back and guardedly stepped back from the twisted sister and Gatecrasher. Unfortunately, his vision had not yet cleared and he could not hit her.

Nuil (still invisible) scrambled across the ceiling and dropped down behind Drez. She force-fed him a healing serum (restoring 23 hit points).

Kurobozu

Drez was still stunned but managed to fight off the effects of the twisted sister’s poison.

Cypher fired on the twisted sister on the bottom level and then moved to cover behind a crate (along with his clones). The twisted sister was not looking good at all!

The twisted sister on the upper level reeled from Switch’s attack and she retaliated with a flurry of blows at the android soldier. Several of them connected doing damage but he resisted some of it.

The lower twisted sister turned to Wesley. Both Cypher and Wesley had hit her but she could not tell which of the ysokis was the real one and which were clones. Attacking Wesley was a sure bet and she pummeled the human mechanic for 56 points of damage.

Gatecrasher swung an aurora shock caster around and tried to blast the PCs on the upper level but they dodged. The energy field smashed into the wall and sent debris flying everywhere. Electricity spidered across the wall from where the blast hit.

Wesley dropped back from the twisted sister and fired at her but missed while TIM-X flailed at Gatecrasher.

Jacen finally reached the PCs and swung at Ryder with his solarian weapon but fumbled. He did 28 points of bludgeoning damage to himself as he tripped and slammed into the rail.

Necrocraft Robot

Switch cleaved through the twisted sister doing 41 points of damage (and she had 42 hit points). The One Hit Point Wonders strike again! Fitting for the final combat encounter of the campaign. Switch spun the attack around but missed Jacen.

Ryder cleverly distracted Jacen and then fired at him point-blank. He hit the solarian square in the chest but the undead warrior resisted some of the damage. He then shouted down to Drez and bolstered his ally restoring 34 stamina.

Nuil used her magic missile attack to finish off the twisted sister on the upper level and further harm Gatecrasher. The second magic missile bloodied the undead vesk.

Cypher continued firing on the remaining twisted sister and almost dropped her but not quite. He remained behind the crate and activated his cloaking field making it even more difficult to attack him.

Drez stepped forward and drew his nova lance from his back. With his haste circuit activated he circled around the twisted sister and stabbed repeatedly at her. He managed to hit her with his second lunge and destroyed her. He then moved over to the only remaining necrograft robot (the one at the helm of the Stellar Degenerator).

Gatecrasher saw Drez move and he dropped from the upper level and smashed down with his hammer but Drez dodged the massive attack.

Wesley scrambled back from Gatecrasher and blasted the necrograft robot to smithereens. Cables from the robot ripped out of the console and everyone felt the Stellar Degenerator tilt.

Serovox saw what the PCs were about to try and he summoned a wall of force around the helm.

Kreth

Jacen became fully graviton attuned and activated a Star Quake. The gravity field around the ship shifted as he stalked towards TIM-X, causing damage to everything around him and knocking Switch to the ground. He slashed through the drone with his solarian weapon and destroyed him.

Wesley screamed, “Nooooo! You bastard!” Jacen laughed maniacally.

Switch jumped to his feet and quickly lost the distance with Jacen. The solarian spun and easily parried the attack.

Ryder (still struggling with his vision) fired at Jacen and missed.

Nuil moved into the middle of the room and summoned a powerful arcing surge which she sent cascading through Gatecrasher and Jacen. The undead vesk shook violently.

Cypher fired on Gatecrasher but couldn’t hit him.

Drez summoned his resolve to “keep fighting” and restored 21 stamina and then launched a full attack at Gatecrasher but fumbled. He slipped across the forcefield and missed.

Gatecrasher chuckled and swing his hammer at Drez but the quicker vesk ducked the attack.

Wesley primed a grenade, tugged on Gatecrasher’s pants, and dropped the grenade into the undead vesk’s trousers. He then activated his jump jets and leapt away. Gatecrasher swung on the mechanic and smashed him as Wesley fled. Then the grenade went off in his pants. Bits and pieces of armor and gore flew all over the place. Gatecrasher stumbled and somehow managed to stay on his feet.

Serovox flew onto the upper level and slashed through Ryder’s should with his plasma sword. Ryder felt himself weaken as if just being near the admiral was draining his strength.

Jacen’s graviton power began to grow again and he summoned it around himself to increase his defenses. He then launched flashing strikes at Switch and slashed through him doing 59 points of acid damage. Thank the gods Switch has a huge reservoir of stamina.

Switch smiled and slashed through the solarian twice and drove him to his knees. Jacen barely managed to push himself back to his feet.

Ryder felt the aura around Serovox tugging at his reserves of strength but he managed to resist the magical assault.

Serovox took the momentary respite in action to parlay. “Ryder, there’s no reason for this. We did so miss you when you left the family. I had to go and clone you, create this other one but I’d much rather have the original.”

Ryder protested, “There’s only one original. That is no clone. He doesn’t even look like me!”

Serovox countered, “He’s got your hair!”

Wesley grudgingly agreed.

Ryder ended the discussion by raising his blaster and shot Serovox in the leg. He then ran to take cover near Switch and his haste circuit finally ran out of energy.

Nuil unleashed a second arcing surge which tore through Gatecrasher and Jacen again. Serovox bellowed for them to find the “techno-witch” before she could do more damage.

Cypher leapt out from the crate and taunted Gatecrasher, “I remember what I said on that planet. Die, *BLEEP*.” He laser ripped through Gatecrasher’s chest and the behemoth dropped to the ground, dead (like, really dead… not undead).

Drez could not resist Serovox’s aura and was suddenly fatigued. He activated his jump jets and leapt onto the upper level and landed in front of Serovox. He swung with confidence and was surprised when his attacked bounced off an invisible field of energy protecting the admiral. He focused his second attack and managed to get through the admiral’s defenses to do some damage.

Wesley also succumbed to Serovox’s aura and was fatigued. He stumbled out of range of the aura and blasted Jacen who was engaged with Switch. Looking down at TIM-X he levelled his blaster at the solarian and blasted him in the face. Jacen’s undead brains went flying out the back of his skull.

Renzar

Admiral Serovox was alone. He looked at Drez and cast “rewire flesh” on the vesk soldier. Drez was overcome by the magic which began to work his flesh and transmute him into a robot and mechanical parts, tearing the flesh as it converted him.

Switch, now free from Jacen, charged down the upper section and engaged with Serovox. He slashed through the admiral, bloodying him.

Ryder fired at Serovox but could not connect.

Nuil unloaded on Serovox with magic missiles.

Cypher followed the other’s lead and shot the admiral as well (barely hitting but a hit nonetheless).

Drez sees the look in Serovox’s eyes, a look he knows all to well in his prey. Serovox is about to run. The vesk taunted, “Well buddy, nothing gives me greater pleasure than jamming this right up your ass!” The vesk warrior attacked viciously but Serovox parried the first attack. The second one caught him in the side and tore away chunks of flesh. The admiral still stood (with 6 hit points remaining).

Wesley, aided by Drez’s assault, slides around the corner like Tom Cruise in Risky Business, raises his gun and tells his allies to duck. He fires once and the round flies between Drez and Switch. A red dot appears in Serovox’s forehead and with a popping sound, Serovox’s brain matter goes flying out the back of his head.

They won. The Stellar Degenerator was theirs.

The lingering vestiges of Serovox’s power quickly dissipate. The remaining Corpse Fleet vessels turned and fled.

Cypher and Switch remained on the bridge while the rest of the PCs returned to where the Maltur slept and began to awaken them. Although disoriented, the lead Maltur recognized Nuil as a lamertian, and asked her why the Stellar Degenerator had been unsurfaced again.

Nuil and Ryder explained about the Corpse Fleet and the barrier which had cut off a large portion of the Starfinder fleet in the Scoured Stars system (including Wesley’s parents). Somehow the Maltur sensed the remainder of the Corpse Fleet on the Stellar Degenerator and sent two of their soldiers to deal with the remaining threats.

The next few days were spent restoring the Stellar Degenerator to a fully serviceable state. The Maltur and the Starfinders exchange information and eventually, the lead Maltur decides they should help the Starfinder Society. He activates the Degenerator’s warp drives and within a few short hours, they find themselves dropping into real space outside the barrier surrounding the Scoured Stars system.

Wesley is given the honor of activating the weapon. The beam leaps out from the Stellar Degenerator. There is a long pause before the Sivv/Maltur begins to work. It takes some time but the barrier begins to crack. The barrier breaks and dissipates.

Almost immediately from somewhere in the Scoured Stars system, there is a transmission on all frequencies, “This is Starfinder 0672, 0672. Whose out there? Can you read us?”

Wesley responds, “0672. This is Starcrusher… With Artisanal Weaponry!”

Fade to black! We hoped you enjoyed the campaign!

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Next Campaign: Against the Giants

Playing Starfinder has been a lot of fun and I will treasure our time in the Dead Suns campaign forever. It is time to go back to our roots. I am adapting the Against the Giants series of adventures to Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition and I will be setting the campaign in the world of Midgard by Kobold Press. I know others have adapted this classic saga to D&D 5E but no one does it like I do and there is no group of players quite like mine.

Enjoy this teaser…

Dead Suns, Session 37

Admiral Serovox had employed his prodigious necromantic powers to wrestle control of the Stellar Degenerator from the Starfinders. Negative energy rippled across almost every surface of the ship and engulfed the control systems the PCs had previously been using to deploy the power of the starship against the surrounding Corpse Fleet ships.

Cypher quote, “That’s not good!”

Whenever they tried to touch the controls, spectral hands would reach out and grab them. Wesley wondered about the necrograph heart he had collected on the cultist’s asteroid. He pulled the heart out and when he got close to the controls, the heart began to glow and beat faster. This creeped him out and he decided he didn’t want to do that anymore. He pulled silver dust from the same asteroid and sprinkled it across the controls. The dust glowed and then disappeared. Although intriguing, Wesley decided to play with that later.

Stellar Degenerator Engineering

Nuil examined the energy field and identified it as a powerful necromancy ritual which enabled Admiral Serovox to take control of the ship. She knew there were a couple ways to counter the ritual. The first would be the easiest and the hardest would be to find where the ritual was being performed and disrupt it. The second would be to perform the same ritual using a more powerful energy source. In the immediate area, she could use the spell dispel magic to remove the effect but she did not have that spell.

Wesley wondered if he could use TIM-X to touch the controls and Nuil added she could always summon gremlins to play havoc with the ship. She also wondered about her psychokinetic hand and unseen servant spells but realized neither could manipulate the system.

Wesley yelled dramatically to his drone, “TIM-X, let’s meld!” The combat drone transformed into a mech suit and surrounded Wesley. He grabbed the controls and for a moment, nothing happened. Suddenly, the necromantic field crept up the arms of TIM-X and electrocuted Wesley. However, before he was shocked he was able to accomplish one task (because Michael rolled a crit on his engineering check). Wesley zeroed in on Admiral Serovox on the bridge and also identified that as the location where the ritual was being performed.

Wesley fled back from the controls and briefly lost consciousness. When he came to he told the group where they could find the admiral as well as where they would need to go to stop the ritual. He was also able to determine the Stellar Degenerator was slowly drifting out to join the remainder of the Corpse Fleet navy. He also noted the state of the defenses of the Gate of Twelve Suns. The Corpse Fleet definitely had the upper hand. Finally, he got a good layout of the ship and found an alternate route to the front of the ship using a maintenance rail system on the lower levels.

Wesley wondered if the group should contact the Starfinder Society but Cypher insisted they not do so. He pointed out he thought the Society would take control of the weapon and would use it for their purposes. The PCs decided not to contact them.

After some debate, the group decided the best way to reach the bridge would be to use the maintenance rail system. They descended into the lower levels of the engineering bay. Drez and Switch covered their egress from the upper levels.

They stumbled across some tech chests when they reached the lower levels. Nuil used her x-ray goggles to check them first and inside they found UPBs, 3 tier 3 healing serums, and an advanced laser crossbow for Nuil. Drez, Cypher, and Wesley all took one of the healing serums. They took a short break so Wesley could add an accuracy modification to Nuil’s new weapon.

A spooky laugh echoed through the lower levels of engineering.

Nuil turned her x-ray goggles on the areas beyond the east and west doors and saw no danger. The coast was clear. The group went through the eastern doors.

They moved into a circular room with tracks inlaid in the floor and an ancient vehicle which would have ridden the rails. Nuil recognized as similar in design to transports she had seen on her home planet. She and Wesley began repairs.

While the pair worked, the others scouted a short ways ahead through two tunnels leading north out of the room. Cypher heard some scraping noises coming from the darkness to the north. He quickly alerted the others and activated his cloaking field. The rest who weren’t working on the transport took cover. Ryder, Cypher, and TIM-X took aim and prepared to fire.

37.2

An amalgamation of robot and zombie parts came ambling out of the darkness. Those on guard fired and the three of them hit the necrograft robot. They blasted one of the arms from the creature but it kept coming. The battle begins at the 44-minute mark in the video. A second robot emerged from the darkness and shambled forward. The Starfinders quickly dismantled the first robot and turned their attention on the second one when their Geiger counters started ticking.

An ellicoth floated down from a hidden alcove above and flooded the chamber with radiation. Some of the PCs were protected by its radiation by their armor but a couple were not. When they last faced this type of creature, Wesley was nearly killed but this time they were prepared.

TIM-X attacked the second necrograft robot while Wesley threw a grenade at the ellicoth. Cypher distracted the ellicoth and blasted him with a powerful trick attack. He then retreated from the room and closed the door behind him. The ellicoth tried to attack the ysoki as he retreated but his tentacle smashed the floor instead.

37.1

Nuil summoned a wall of fire. She spiralled the wall around the center of the room, overlapping it so it did not harm her allies but built an inferno around the ellicoth and over the necrograft robot. The robot went up in flames but was left with 1 hit point. The One Hit Point Wonders strike again! The ellicoth drifted up to minimize the fire damage it sustained but it could not avoid the flames altogether.

Switch finally caught up with the group and rushed into the room. Without slowing, he charged into the ellicoth and slammed into it with his ultrathin longsword thin blade (rolling a crit) doing 74 points of damage (which is all the ellicoth had left). Electricity leapt off the blade and slammed into the robot. Both foes went down with the one attack.

Nuil and Wesley finished the repairs on the transport. Nuil then tended to her ally’s wounds. Wesley then grabbed enough scrap from the area to build a sledge so everyone would fit on the transport. Meanwhile, Nuil and Switch worked on repairing TIM-X. Switch completed what repairs he could and Nuil cast make whole to finish the job. Cypher and Ryder kept watch while the other worked.

The moved the transport onto the rails and zoomed through the maintenance tunnels. Fifteen minutes later, they were found themselves at the end of the tunnels and left the transport behind. The maintenance tunnels opened into a large storage facility with advanced medical tech. There were also three equipment storage units. Wesley examined them and discerned this was a high tech biological containment unit. They noticed writing on the floor which revealed this room to be a life pod. In fact, there were twenty maltur in suspended animation. Nuil gasped in surprise. Most of them were scientists and a few were ship crew and soldiers.

The PCs discussed whether they should wake up the maltur or wait until later when the ship was secured. They decided the maltur would be too vulnerable and decided to leave them where they were for now. They marked the location on their datapads so they could find their way back.

In the storage containers, they found equipment which was meant for the maltur in suspended animation. Including in storage was two pairs of kishaleen battle armor. Switch and Ryder took the armor and Ryder passed his previous armor to Wesley.

37.3Cypher, who was keeping watch again, heard what sounded like a liquid substance slapping against the floor and then a sliding sound. He called out to his comrades just as a pair of yellowish slimes with technology grafted to their tops slid into view. The battle begins at the 1-hour 30-minute mark in the video.

Wesley commented, “I thought it was a person coming down the hall but it’s not.” *drum roll*

Switch moved forward while the rest of the group retreated to high ground. The android engaged the scavenger slimes in melee combat to protect his allies.

Initially, the group used their usual tactics against the slimes but found some of them ineffective. The creatures possessed no sight and could not be distracted by anything which required it. They also quickly discovered the creatures were resistant to most types of damage. They quickly switched through their arsenals until they found attacks which could do the most damage and mowed them down.

END OF SESSION

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Dead Suns, Session 36

Watch the game session on YouTube at https://youtu.be/kTASmAJtoyM.

Corpse Fleet forces stormed the chokepoint through which the PCs had forced them to attack. Ryder, Drez, and Switch (accompanied by the two cyber-zombies) waited with tense anticipation to do everything they could to hold the line. The first wave consisted of a pair of bone trooper commandoes driving four baykok forward into the fray. The undead warriors wielded weapons crafted from the bones of their fallen foes and wasted no time against the PCs. The battle begins at the 2-minute mark in the video.

36.1

Ryder ordered one of the cyber-zombies to rush the baykoks along the southern platform. The skeletal baykok grew long, bony claws and slashed the cyber-zombie as it passed but the cyber-zombie was merely a distraction. Ryder jumped out and zeroed in on the baykok and blasted it into smithereens. Bones and necromantic ichor clattered down into the abyss below. Drez charged at the second baykok on the southern platform and tried to bullrush it over the edge. The baykok parried the attack, spun Drez around, and pushed the vesk soldier back. Switch moved forward along the southern platform and met the first bone trooper commando in melee combat as it zoomed across the gap with jumps jets. They traded vicious blows, Switch’s blade versus the commando’s charged gauntlet. The second bone trooper commando backed up from Drez (and avoided his attacks) and fired his rifle at the soldier.

On the northern platform, the third baykok charged the second cyber-zombie controlled by the PCs and slashed through it with his skeletal claws. Chunks of gore and necrograft components were torn free. The cyber-zombie survived the attack but only just barely. The battle continued unabated until finally, the stalwart PCs destroyed the attackers. They tended to their wounds and waited for the next wave.

36.2.pngMeanwhile… Nuil, Cypher, and Wesley successfully acquired control of the Stellar Degenerator. As the ship’s sensors came online they quickly realized the Gate of Twelve Sun’s defense systems had finally failed and the remainder of the Corpse Fleet vessels were closing on the Stellar Degenerator.

The various Corpse Fleet ships took evasive action and Cypher began maneuvering the ship so Nuil could make the most of the single, devastating weapon possessed by the Stellar Degenerator (represented by the Raza in the pic). She unleashed the full firepower of the ship and it tore through the side of the Blackwind Annihilator. The Corpse Fleet flagship immediately began to list while the rest of the enemy vessels opened fire. The smaller fighters charged in while the gunships opened fire. Their weapons store into the shields of the Stellar Degenerator but the ship’s defenses held true.

Back inside the Stellar Degenerator, the PCs holding the line found their rest had come to an end. A second wave of baykok attacked, this time led by a bone trooper commando, a corpsefolk marine and accompanied by a Denizen of Leng. The weary combatants threw themselves at the Corpse Fleet soldiers and wondered if they could hold out long enough for their allies to complete their task.

Cypher rammed two of the gunships (dropping the Stellar Degenerator’s shields to 40%). Wesley screamed, “I can fix this!” He then pulled the mighty ship around and lined up with the Blackwind Annihilator. Nuil fired the main gun again and the beam tore through the enemy vessel. It exploded and wreckage scattered across the system. The Blackwind Annihilator was gone!

36.3Drez and Switch formed a living defensive wall along the southern platform. Their foes momentarily were distracted from their goal and they threw themselves at the Starfinders. The Denizen of Leng reached into Drez’s mind and unlocked the vesk’s deepest and darkest fears. Drez fought off the mental attack but was shaken by the experience. Ryder had been watching the attackers closely and he identified a weakness in the corpsefolk marine’s armor. He carefully aimed, fired, and hit the weak spot in the marine’s armor. The corpsefolk collapsed in agony and fell off the balcony. The soldiers turned

Wesley worked furiously to restore the heavily damaged shields. Nuil realized the remaining Corpse Fleet vessels were going to ram them again to bring down the Stellar Degenerator so she abandoned the ship’s weapon system and rushed to further bolster the shields alongside Wesley. Cypher performed a flip and burn with the Stellar Degenerator and brought the ship around to face the remaining enemy ships.

The pair of soldiers were proving too much of a barrier to forward progress. The remaining baykok opened fire on Drez and Switch. They missed Drez but their aim was true on Switch. The android soldier spun his bone blade around and deflected the incoming projectiles. Drez used the opening to charge the Denizen of Leng and wailed on him with his kishaxe. Switch followed his ally and slashed through his target with his ultrathin longsword necroblade. Startled, the Denizen of Leng tried to back away and both warriors cut him down. Although two baykoks remained, the battle was won by the Starfinders and they fled.

Denizen of Leng

The Corpse Fleet technicians managed to reclaim their comm channels and Admiral Serovox came across the open line.

“Starfinders, I am sure you can hear me now. You’ve done… well. I commend your efforts in taking over the Stellar Degenerator and I lament the loss of the Blackwind Annihilator. I am in need of a new flagship and I think this one will serve quite well.” Then he commented to someone the Starfinders could not see, “Complete the ritual. Take control of the Stellar Degenerator.”

A strange humming and chanting filled the starship. Shadows begin to lengthen and darken. Spectral hands appear and disappeared like souls reached out from the walls around them. The ship shook as necromantic energy surged through the craft. Through Admiral Serovox, the Corpse Fleet stole control of the Stellar Degenerator from the Starfinders.

END OF SESSION

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Dead Suns, Session 35

Watch the game session on YouTube at https://youtu.be/SxMBD4juCQs.

The Starfinders began the session with a complete tactical advantage. Thanks to Wesley’s cloaking systems, the Raza had gone completely undetected as it flew by the surrounding Corpse Fleet and closed with the only open hangar bay on the Stellar Degenerator. As they approached the hangar, they spotted several starfighters and their pilots milling about the bay. Beyond them was a control room in which there were three cyber-zombies and a Corpse Fleet officer supervising them.

After some debate, the group decided to make the most of the Raza’s offenses and launched a torpedo into the hangar bay. The Corpse Fleet was caught completely off-guard as the weapon blasted into the bay and exploded. The starfighters and pilots were destroyed but much to everyone’s surprise, a Kishaleen energy field appeared and protected the control room. Wesley immediately began to hack the hangar bay’s systems and shut down the shield. The Corpse Fleet officer fled through an ancillary door and disappeared from view.

Cyber Zombie

The Cyber-Zombies were jacked into the ship’s computers systems and were oblivious to the actions of the PCs. Cypher jacked into the computers and used them as a backdoor to hack into the three zombies and took control of them. The first one was trying to hack into the surrounding star system’s defensive weaponry in an attempt to shut them down. Cypher ended that process. The second was monitoring the security systems around the hangar bay (including video feeds). The third was monitoring Corpse Fleet communications and their forces moving throughout the Stellar Degenerator.

Cypher decided to use the third zombie to bluff the Corpse Fleet. He announced the Stellar Degenerator had grown unstable and ordered a full retreat. This caused immediate chaos. One of the “young” Corpse Fleet officers responded, “Admiral Serovox, this order confuses us. Why should we leave the Stellar Degenerator when we just claimed it?” A gravelly voice responds, “That is the Starfinders, you fool. Go back to your original orders and complete your mission.” Not all of the Corpse Fleet heard this exchange and while some returned to their missions, others began retreating.

Using the second cyber-zombie, Cypher located the Corpse Fleet officer who had fled from the control room. He hadn’t gotten far before he reunited with another unit. That unit opened a teleportation portal and the officer disappeared through it alone. The Starfinders had one trail to follow if they chose to do so.

The group debated what to do next and they wondered if they could use the controls here to destroy the Stellar Degenerator to deal with the Corpse Fleet swarming it. Cypher reminded the group if they did that, Wesley’s parents and the other Starfinders in the Scoured Stars system might be lost.

The group decided to leave one cyber-zombie behind to interfere with Corpse Fleet comms and took the other two with them. Wesley took out the laser trap he had scavenged from the cultist asteroid and set it up to defend the cyber-zombie they were leaving behind. They decided not to follow the Corpse Officer who fled but instead they would head to the Stellar Degenerator’s engineering section where they intended to take control of the ship. They also schemed to use their holoskins to disguise themselves as members of the Corpse Fleet. Only Drez did not disguise himself and instead posed as a prisoner.

The vessel was enormous and labyrinthine and it took all of Wesley’s engineering skills (with an assist from Nuil) to navigate the ship as quickly as they could. They noted as they moved most of the ship was not Kishaleen but Kishaleen technology had been merged with the control systems of the ship. They recalled the ship had originally been created by the Sivv before the Kishaleen had claimed it.

Malakar

On the way to engineering, they happened across a second Corpse Fleet officer, a female human pale stranger, wielding twin pistols constructed of bone. She was in command of three “marooned ones” undead which were busy unloading crates. She turned to the PCs and with a disinterested demeanor, commented on how quickly they had captured one of the Starfinders. Cypher forgets himself and responds with a thick ysoki accent. The officer did not react and the group could not tell if she had noticed. She then commented on how pleased Admiral Serovox would be they had captured one of the breathers. She ordered to bring the prisoner to the nihili (marooned ones) who had not been fed yet that day.

Cypher pushed Drez forced and then the group broke apart and launched a surprise attack. The battle begins at the 58-minute mark in the video.

Cypher ducked behind some medical supplies for cover. Nuil scaled a nearby pillar. Drez burst into a run and tossed a grenade to land between the pale stranger and two of the marooned ones. Much to his surprise, the pale stranger’s eyes tracked him through the pillar and she was not surprised by the attack. Perhaps she had caught Cypher’s accent? She taunted, “You think I can’t see you wherever you are?” She fired on the vesk soldier just as the grenade landed near her feet. She could not avoid the blast and was sent reeling. Electricity and fire danced along the line of her attack and slammed into Drez with the round from her pistol.

Although outnumbered, the Corpse Fleet soldiers put up a good fight. The pale stranger, who revealed her name was Malakar, demonstrated the uncanny ability to enhance her attacks with her pistols with various energy types and the attacks passed through cover as if it did not exist. The PCs were defenseless against her attacks and quickly realized they needed to commit to an overwhelming offense. Drez activated his haste circuit and charged her which is when he discovered her defense mechanism, an aura which caused irrational fear in those it affected. The effect was too much for the vesk and he fled in fear before he could attack.

The rest of the group rushed the marooned ones while keeping their distance from Malakar as much as they could. They unleashed unholy hell on the undead threat and Malakar died with a snarl on her face.

The group finished their trek to the engineering section. There Nuil and Cypher hacked into the ship’s computers. Corpse Fleet technicians managed to briefly retake control of their communications and Admiral Serovox sent the Starfinders an ominous message. He was sending his forces to claim them but he was not going to kill them, he intended to transform them into undead and add them to his forces. Nuil and Cypher closed down as many passages as they could to force the approaching threat to come through a single route.

Nuil, Cypher, and Wesley began taking control of the Stellar Degenerator while Drez, Ryder, and Switch rushed off to set up defenses along the route the Corpse Fleet would take. The techies were able to quickly take control of the ship while the others steeled themselves for the inevitable attack.

END OF SESSION

Dead Suns Logo

Dead Suns, Session 34

Watch the game session on YouTube at https://youtu.be/V54ppY2yInU.

Osteth began lobbying for the PCs to destroy the Stellar Degenerator but before they could respond they realized hidden defenses across the system had come to life with the Corpse Fleet’s arrival. The PCs spotted the infamous Blackwind Annihilator, the flagship of the Corpse Fleet, and one of only three capital ships like it. Several shuttles disembarked from the Annihilator. One shuttle began an intercept course for the controller moon on which the PCs were currently located and the rest went in the direction of the Stellar Degenerator.

 

Ryder wondered if the PCs could just close the gate and call it a day but Cypher pointed out the ship had already drifted out of the demiplane, “You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube.”

 

The group contemplated their plan of action. They saw their first option was to board the Stellar Degenerator and to use it against the Corpse Fleet. Osteth recommended boarding the Blackwind Annihilator and to use its weaponry to destroy the Stellar Degenerator. Breaking it down they all agreed on one point, they needed to get to the Stellar Degenerator before the Corpse Fleet.

 

Osteth asked if he could be released from Cypher’s restraints. Ryder argued fervently they should free Osteth but Cypher could not find in himself to trust the AI. The group left with the AI still confined.

 

The Starfinders rushed into the jungle surrounding the control center and decided to cut a line straight for where Wesley had hidden the Raza earlier. Unfortunately for them, the foot soldiers of the Corpse Fleet had surrounded the facility and the PCs were forced to fight their way through. The battle begins at 18:28 in the video.

Bone Trooper Commando

 

The PCs spread out and began firing on the corpse fleet commandoes who were blocking their retreat. Switch and Drez charged forward to form the frontline when Nuil revealed a newly acquired spell on incredible power. She summoned a massive wall of fire and strategically laid it across the battlefield to hit all of the attacking undead. Magical flames tore through them but one of them charged into a safe spot and fired on Nuil. He clipped her and her wall of flame disappeared. Apparently, they were well trained in combat with magic users but the damage had been done. The commandoes were mostly dead. Cypher went invisible and went all Predator on the corpse fleet commandoes. The Starfinders finished off the commandoes.

 

Cypher quickly climbed a tree to ensure they were on the right path. He confirmed their location and also spotted where the corpse fleet shuttle had landed as well. They decided to stop by the corpse fleet shuttle on their way to the Raza.

 

In a clearing of razed flora, they found the shuttle unguarded. Examining the ship as they approached it they realized a unique feature of Corpse Fleet vessels. The insides of the ship would be completely exposed to the void of space outside of an atmosphere. Onboard, the only “living” thing on the ship is a zombie with shriveled vestigial limbs and necrografts implanted in its cranium. Cabling from its skull ran into the controls of the shuttle.

barrow-dirgesinger.jpgCypher plugged into the shuttle’s systems with Nuil’s help and discovered the Corpse Fleet technology was more advanced than he knew. It seemed the technology they had encountered on Eox was a pale shadow in comparison to the tech used by the notorious fleet. They quickly set about unlocked all the systems in the shuttle and identified it as Barrow Dirgesinger called the Blackwind Sepulcher. Cypher and Nuil rigged it so they could remotely pilot the craft.

 

Inspiration hits and Cypher gets the idea they can crash the shuttle into the Blackwind Annihilator and use it as a distraction while they head to the Stellar Degenerator aboard the Raza. Time for some kamikaze!

They rush the rest of the way to the Raza and both craft lift off from the moon. The first thing the crew does is cloak the Raza. They “flew the shuttle casually” and identified the bridge of the Blackwind Annihilator and set the shuttle on a roundabout intercept course. The flagship hailed the shuttle and inquired why it was returning early and if the crew of the shuttle had dealt

 

with the Starfinders. Ryder modulated his voice with his implant and feigned arrogant incredulity. The flight controller scolded Ryder and ordered him to land and resupply. The Corpse Fleet planned to send teams to disable the star system’s defenses.

Blackwind Annihilator

The crew of the flagship did not recognize the danger until it was too late. Cypher brought the shuttle around and rammed it into the command deck of the Blackwind Annihilator. A giant ball of flame erupted from the bridge and the capital ship began to list. The smaller ships surrounding the flagship took evasive action and began searching for other attackers but the Starfinder’s cloaking field kept them hidden.

 

The Raza took a wide berth around the searching Corpse Fleet ships and closed with the Stellar Degenerator. They quickly located an open docking bay and approached. Inside they spotted four Corpse Fleet fighters, a small contingent of commandoes, and a Corpse Fleet officer in a control room overseeing a trio of cyber-zombies like the one they found on the Corpse Fleet shuttle.

 

END OF SESSION

 

Dead Suns Logo

Dead Suns, Session 33

You can watch the game session on YouTube at https://youtu.be/_FgzhJbZoNU.

Nuil tended to her and Drez’s wounds. Drez then retreated to watch over the prisoner (aka Billy wasn’t with us this session). Ryder asked Wesley to send Canary to scout for the approaching cultists. After a touching moment between Wesley and his creation, Canary zoomed off to survey the area. While the drone did its work, Wesley worked to reset the electrified trap in the floor (rolled a crit, so I increased the damage the floor would inflict).

Canary checked in and revealed to Wesley there were cultists coming in the front door while others were placing some kind of device on the back wall of the facility. He quickly warned his teammates and they prepared for battle and Canary’s feed went dark. The back wall exploded inwards and Ryder was caught on the edge of the blast (but only took a single point of damage).

Null 9Null-9 entered the facility from the back and alongside her were two shade spawn and a dwarven soldier carrying a small cannon.

The battle begins at the 14-minute mark in the video.

The shades swarmed the party while the cultists attacked on both sides of the facility. Any hope of “focusing fire” was quickly abandoned as the PCs tried to cope with the battle on three fronts.

Null-9 taunted Switch but he refused to take the bait. He knew she had gone down a dark path and he would not follow her down it.

Switch threw himself at Null-9 and the villains slowly drew him out of the facility into the jungle just outside. He knew it was a trap but he refused to allow Null-9 any quarter and bravely charged into the vulnerable position. Null-9 and the dwarf, Deldreg the Butcher, pounded Switch until they finally dropped him unconscious.

Deldreg the ButcherMeanwhile, Xix’s brother, Zaz, led a second group through the front door. Although there was some jostling about, eventually Cypher caught the cultists on the floor trap and electrocuted them for 10d6 points of damage (all of them but Zaz who had charged past the floor). There was not much left to the cultists after that. Wesley and Cypher continued to wear them down but one snuck off to help the shades against Ryder and Nuil.

In the center of the facility, the shades closed on Ryder and Nuil. Nuil’s magical resources had been mostly depleted and the pair were hard-pressed to handle the undead attackers. The cultist who fled from Cypher and Wesley arrived and went after Ryder and Nuil. The Starfinders were forced to retreat step by step into the control room on the south side of the facility.

Cypher and Wesley managed to drop Zaz and then Cypher snuck off to find a good firing position in the center room. He took up a sniper’s position behind a desk and continued to fire as opportunities presented themselves. Somehow Ryder ended up with him behind the desk

ZazJust as the crew finished off the cultist and shades in the center hallway, Null-9 and Deldreg left Switch’s unconscious body in the jungle and reentered the facility to press the attack. Outside, Switch quickly recovered. The android soldier gathered his Resolve and regained consciousness (restoring 1 hit point). He stumbled back into the battle.

DM Note: Switch rode that 1 hit point through the end of the battle. I tried. Believe me, I tried. Fortune favored the bold and Switch stood strong until the end.

Ryder, Nuil, and Switch combined their strength to gain the advantage on Null-9 and Deldreg. The cult leaders fell and moments later, Cypher positioned himself just right and finished off the last cultist who continued to attack Wesley.

The Cult of the Devourer had finally been defeated.

While the others took a moment to catch their breath, Switch opened Null-9’s head and retrieved her memory module. Null-9 was lost to him but he wondered if Null-10 might have a better fate?

At the 2 hours, 49 minute, and 56-second mark, Michael and Stephen sang “Happy Birthday” to Bill’s daughter. I left it in the video. Enjoy!

Wesley took the parts the cultists had returned with and began repairs on the control facility. The debate on the fate of the Stellar Degenerator began again. Eltreth once again insisted the Starfinders destroy the superweapon and Ryder agreed. Cypher once again protested and insisted they reach it first. The pair could not agree (and the hologram continued to bolster Ryder’s point of view). Cypher reminded Ryder that a short while ago, the group wanted him to silence the hologram and now they were listening to it.

Ryder remarked, “And like you [Cypher] said, maybe he’s not so bad.”

Cypher retorted, “And like you said, maybe the guy is a jerk who should keep his mouth shut and keep his opinions to himself.”

Eltreth grimaced, “I do not like the ysoki. I wish we never created them.”

Nuil scolded him, “Hey now!”

The argument continued.

Finally, Cypher broke down and shared a secret he had been holding onto for a long time. He revealed when the group was on Absalom Station and he accessed the Starfinder database, he had confirmed something he suspected for a long time. Wesley’s parents had been part of the Starfinder expedition to the Scoured Stars system. That mission was a notorious failure. When the Starfinder fleet arrived at the Scoured Stars, an unknown entity surrounded the entire system in a huge field. Only a few ships were left outside the barrier to report what had happened. Most of the Starfinder Society was lost inside. No weapon or communication could penetrate it or ever has. Cypher suspected the Stellar Degenerator might be able to accomplish that task.

Wesley wondered if his parents might be alive on the other side. Cypher admitted he didn’t know but there was a chance.

Wesley was stunned. Dreams of seeing his parents again consumed him. Eltreth reminded Wesley of the danger of the Stellar Degenerator and Wesley protested.

The repairs on the control facility were completed. As the systems powered up, Wesley activated the controls and the star system-sized gate to the demiplane opened. The Stellar Degenerator began to drift out.

Moments later, other signatures began appearing on the system’s sensors. Undesignated ships in the hundreds began to appear. The crew recognized their make.

The Corpse Fleet had arrived.

Dead Suns Logo

Dead Suns, Session 32

Want to watch this game session on YouTube? Check it out here.

The crew decided to interrogate the captured cultist. Cypher and Ryder decide to go the intimidation route and the cultist brazenly resisted their attempts at first but the duo proved they could be quite scary. The cultist broke down and revealed there was another cultist still in the building named Xix.

Before they went to find the hidden cultist they decided to deal with the hologram, Eltreth (who I kept accidentally calling Esteth). Osteth did not like the idea of the PCs interacting with the kishaleen computer systems but they explained they only planned to lock up Eltreth, he acquiesced. Eltreth persisted in his protests in the name of the Devourer. During the exchange, the PCs learned both AIs had once been living beings who converted themselves into these forms to watch over the Stellar Degenerator. The PCs briefed Osteth on the current situation and the hologram asked the PCs to secure his friend. He conceded Eltreth had been corrupted by contact with the Devourer, he hoped there might be a way to help him. They locked Eltreth away but Ryder wondered if Cypher could alter the program so they could at least interact with Eltreth. Cypher began work on that.

Nuil began to scout the remainder of the facility using her x-ray goggles. She spotted a female ysoki in the next room on the northeast corner of the facility (in the closet to be precise) and she was bound. She also saw robot bits and pieces lying about the room and surmised it was a mechanical repair bay of some sort. The ysoki had sores and open wounds and her arms were bound behind her back. Nuil inquired with Osteth about the ysoki and was informed the cultists had two ysoki with them when they arrived. The other cultists did not treat them kindly. Nuil asked Osteth to scan the room and he reported he did not believe any of the robots to be active.

XIX

The PCs locked their prisoner in a closet and after a short rest, they entered the final room of the control facility. When the PCs opened the closet, Xix thought they were the other cultists and begged for mercy. She was surprised to see the crew was not Null-9 and the rest of the cultists.

When Nuil approached Xix to examine her wounds, the ysoki’s binders transformed and grabs Nuil’s arm. The device tried to snap her arm but Nuil managed to escape its grasp and threw it across the room. Xix had been playing possum (no real surprise there) and the PCs were jumped by Xix and three robots which were hidden in the junk. The battle begins at the 26 minute 42 second mark of the video.

Unfortunately for Xix, her plan did not go well. Her robot minions did manage to put a hurting on Ryder but they were not enough to take down the Starfinders. They finished her and her robots off in short order. Nuil tended to everyone’s wounds while the others scavenged for useful equipment.

The crew grew suspicious of Osteth (his scans of the room had been less than successful) and they locked him away with Eltreth.

Nuil spied into the last room in the control facility and discovered this room to be the key to opening the gate to the demiplane which held the Stellar Degenerator. Unfortunately, there was damage to some of the systems and it looked like the cultists had attempted to make repairs but failed. Nuil used the functioning systems in the room to scan the star system and located Null-9 and the remaining cultists on Moon 2. She also noted the drones on Moon 2 were not following their programming. Nuil wondered if they should use those drones to interfere with the cultists and possibly destroy the entrance to the demiplane. Cypher bulked at this idea but when pressed for his motivations, he diverted the topic. He suggested the group just find the Stellar Degenerator first and then talk about what to do with it later.

Cypher finished the software modification and the crew “freed” the holograms so they could get more information from them. The operative told them it looked like the cultists had been trying to open the gate. Osteth was very concerned and when Ryder suggested the group possibly use the drones to destroy the Stellar Degenerator, Osteth seemed in favor of the plan. The hologram agreed with Ryder and felt it was time to destroy the weapon. Cypher once again objected which made Ryder suspicious. Cypher suggested there might be a good use for the weapon but would not elaborate. The others asked, “What purpose?” He again pressed the group to find the weapon first and then decide later.

Cypher asked Osteth exactly what the Stellar Degenerator was. The hologram explained it was a capital ship sized weapon which could suck the energy out of a sun in moments. This would instantaneously destroy any star system and all life in it. They also learned to open the gate to the demiplane, the cultists would need to return to this location. The PCs decided to stage an ambush. Based on Nuil’s scans, they estimated they had two hours to prepare.

They ripped up the electrified floor and moved it into the main hallway. Meanwhile, they also prepared disguises (using their holoskins) to lure the cultists into the right position inside the hallway. Wesley, Zaleria, and Garrity took the Raza into the jungle to hide it. They debated what to do with the holograms and decided to lock them both up again just to be safe.

Bil’djooli

On their way back to Moon 1, Null-9 opened comms with the control facility. Ryder feigned signal interference and the cultists continued on their way. A short while later, three cultists and two bil’djooli appeared on the path outside the control facility. Ryder met them at the door (disguised as a cultist) and led the real cultists inside. The cultists spotted Switch and Drez (who had forgotten to disguise themselves) and attacked. Cypher activated the electrified floor and blasted the three cultists although the bil’djooli, which floated through the air, were unaffected.

The battle begins at the 2 hours 33 minute 41 second mark on the video.

Parts of the plan went well. The floor, the advantage of the ambush, and the overwhelming flanking maneuver in the hallway. Other parts, not so much. However, when the dust had finally settled the PCs were victorious and took a moment to rest. They knew Null-9 was not part of their group and there were more cultists to face but that is where we ended the session for the night.

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D&D Essentials Kit

Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition will be turning five years old shortly and as I write this we are days away from the fifth anniversary of the release of the D&D Starter Set for the game. Wizards of the Coast has released a new starter boxed set, dubbed the D&D Essentials Kit, but is it worth your time and money to journey to your FLGS (or, um… Target… smh) to pick up a copy? If you have the Starter Set, do you need the new Essentials Kit? Let’s dig through the boxed set and find out.

Dungeons and Dragons Essentials Kit

The basics… What does the D&D Essentials Kit include for it’s $24.99 price point?

  • 64-page rulebook which covers the rules and characters of levels 1-6
  • Dragon of Icespire Peak, an intro adventure
  • Poster map of the Sword Coast around Neverwinter on one side and Phandalin on the other
  • A mini-DM screen
  • 6 blank character sheets
  • 11 dice
  • A deck of cards for NPCs, conditions, magic items, and the boxed set’s sidekicks (more to come on that later)
  • D&D Beyond codes for 50% of the D&D 5E PHB, a digital copy of the Dragon of Icespire Peak, and access to additional content for that adventure

The D&D Starter Set was $19.99 but it only included a 32-page rulebook, an adventure, 5 pregenerated characters, and 6 dice. At a glance, this makes the D&D Essentials Kit look like a bargain. You’re definitely getting more bang for your buck but are the contents of the new boxed set worth it? Let’s take a look at the quality!

The first thing that caught my eye when I opened the new boxed set was the dice. They’re some nice red gem dice with bright white lettering. Color contrast on the dice is “essential” (pun intended) when your eyes are starting to get old and tired like mine and I think WOTC picked a great combo. They also included two 20-sided dice and four 6-sided dice which I think was a very smart inclusion as well. Advantage and disadvantage rolls are some of the most used mechanics in D&D 5E and the extra d20 is nice. That is actually something I think they missed the mark on in the D&D Starter Set which only had a single d20. D&D 5E also uses a lot of d6s so the extra d6s was cool.

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In the boxed set, the 72 cards mentioned above come in sheets with perforated edges you can easily fold over and tear loose. Good for packing and shipping but a little sloppy in final form. This is not a deal breaker by any means. There is also a card box for the deck which I really, really like. There are 9 initiative cards (labelled appropriately, one through nine), 3 combat cards to pass around which explain the game’s combat round, 15 condition cards (one of which is unique to the adventure, NO SPOILERS), 9 cards for the sidekick NPCs from the adventure (with character art), 36 magic item cards (with no art, small missed opportunity there but forgivable), and 9 quest cards.

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The rulebook and adventure module are well constructed. The pages are thick and glossy which makes the art pop and the sturdy softcover binding means these books can see a lot of use at the table without worrying about them falling apart. I only highlight this to contrast the flimsy construction of the books in the D&D Starter Set which began to fall apart after a decent amount of use. You’re not going to have this problem with the books in the Essentials Kit.

Looking specifically at the rulebook, first I want to say I really, really like it. Its contents really are the “essentials” of the D&D Player’s Handbook. The races covered are dwarf, elf, halfling, and human. The classes covered (up to level 6, the Starter Set only goes up to 5) are bard, cleric, fighter, rogue, and wizard. I am happy to see the bard included alongside the four iconic classes. The backgrounds covered are the acolyte, criminal, entertainer, sage, and soldier. The spell options are limited to those available to characters up to level 6 but that makes perfect sense to me. Aside from that, all the rest of the core rules are here. This doesn’t appear to be a simplified version of the game like is done in some beginner boxes. This is D&D 5E with limited race, class, background, and spell options so it would fit into a smaller book. This is a great product to hand to a new player and say, “Skim this to get started.”

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In fact, aside from using it as a tool for beginners, I think this is a great tool to use at any table as a rules reference. It is smaller and easier to flip through to find rules than the larger PHB.

I like the sidekick’s sub-system included in this rulebook. It’s simple and makes sense. It provides easy rules for sidekick advancement as they gain experience and levels. In fact, it is the same as the house rules I have been using in my own games although the advancement rules are a nice addition. Two thumbs up for Appendix A: Sidekicks.

Phandalin is your base of operations for the Dragon of Icespire Peak, or at least, that is where you will be beginning this adventure. The PCs will find adventure in the area using the town’s job board on which quests pop up and disappear as the adventure continues. There is a trio of quests to begin the adventure and when two of those have been completed, the PCs find three new quests have been added. When two of those are completed, another three are added. These quests provide a myriad of interesting challenges and an equal number of interesting rewards. Eventually, the PCs will answer the call to hunt a dragon who has been terrorizing the surrounding territory and they may even encounter the dragon once or twice along the way.

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Honestly, it is a bit of a misnomer to call Dragon of Icespire Peak an adventure. It is really a sandbox-like mini-campaign. Each of the quests includes their own dungeons which are packed full of challenges, NPCs, and stories all their own. I would call the quests the adventures and the adventure is a campaign. That isn’t a complaint as much as it is an observation and a nod to the fact your group is going to get a lot of play time from this product. That is awesome.

Also included in the product are the codes for D&D Beyond content. Full disclosure, I am fully aware of the parts of the community who are not happy they pay for the physical books and then have to pay again for the content if they want digital copies. I completely understand that point of view and I admit, I don’t like having to pay for everything twice either. We all understand the business relationship between WOTC and Wikia/Curse but, to be frank, it sucks for us, the loyal customers. That said, I do pay for the digital content on top of the physical copies and it was nice, for once, to get a digital copy of a product without having to pay extra. Including the codes was a strategic business move and I think it was a smart one. What better way to encourage potential customers to buy your product than to give them part of it for free? I can’t think of one. However, this comes across as a bit of “salt in the wound” to some customers.

In short, I like that a digital copy of the adventure was included with D&D Beyond. I wish WOTC and Wikia/Curse did more of that or maybe WOTC could find a way to ditch Wikia/Curse and offer the digital content on their own. I know, I know… There are contracts and legal issues. I guess I am dreaming for when Dungeons and Dragons Sixth Edition comes out. I digress…

After looking through this product and comparing it to the D&D Starter Set I kind of realized I was approaching it from the wrong angle. The Starter Set was published before D&D 5E’s release and it was meant to help gamers get started before they could actually get their hands on the full game. It served its purpose well. The D&D Essentials Kit is an entry point for new players now that D&D 5E has been in the market for half a decade while also serving as some great content for folks who are already playing the game. I am very happy with this purchase and I look forward to running Dragon of Icespire Peak for my players… Someday… It’s on the list! I swear it!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Hijack: Writer’s Guide to the Strix

Hijack - Writer's Guide to the Strix

When Hijack: Writer’s Guide to the Strix popped up in my daily listing of new products from the Storytellers Vault I was intrigued, to say the least. I love these kinds of products because they provide a wealth of interesting insights into the design processes behind my favorite game lines. Rose Bailey (www.fantasyheartbreaker.com) was the Vampire developer for CCP/White Wolf/Onyx Path Publishing for nearly a decade and if there is anyone more qualified to pull back the veil of mysteries than her, I don’t know who it is.

Vampire the Requiem has no shortage of “antagonists” to delight and entertain your players. VII and Belial’s Brood are interesting additions to the game but the Strix have always fascinated me the most. I would comb through each new Vampire product and wonder if these creatures were behind some awful event. The great thing about the toolkit approach of the Chronicles of Darkness is if I wanted the answer to be yes, it was! However, I always wondered if the authors were thinking the same thing behind the scenes.

This product answers some of those questions and I am delighted to know I was completely wrong on all accounts. Don’t worry, this didn’t diminish the fun by any means. However, it did emphasize that I was using the Strix as intended. They were fixed firmly as the harbingers of ill omen in my mind and I was seeing shadows where they may or may not have been any. That kind of paranoia can drive some great storytelling.

The best part of this product is Rose finally answers the big question, “What are the Strix?” I won’t spoil it for you but I will say the answer to that question is very interesting and perhaps ties the vampires of Requiem more closely to the myriad creatures from the Chronicles of Darkness more closely than the others would like.

Two thumbs up. Five out of five stars. Enjoy!