Escape from a death world in this satirical Starfinder adventure.
PLANET DEATH by Mark Martin (Mallifaux V2 & Durst Warfare) is an incredible Starfinder adventure that takes characters from a backwater death planet that is equal parts Smash TV, Battle Royale, and the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. PLANET DEATH (which I cannot help but type in all-caps no matter what) walks a fine line–parody/comedy in an RPG is hard to do in the first place. A lot of times the humor comes from the players reacting to a situation–but it manages to really work with that expectation. A big part of this is in setting the tone.
So let me diverge from talking about the adventure here for just a minute, we’ll get back to it, but I want to point out what this adventure does and how it makes comedy work for it. The basic premise of the adventure is that your party is a gang trying to survive on a barren waste of a world that has been strip-mined–and things are in dire straits when they hear about the 138th Season of PLANET DEATH. From then on, they are embroiled in this life-or-death game show (assuming they can make it)–but that’s just sort of the trappings.
The real gem here is the tone of the adventure. It starts with the premise: players are competing to escape, but the whole thing is televised for the entertainment of the masses–and then it digs down into what that means for the world. This is a bleak place, but it’s bleak in that very corporate/logical conclusion taken to an extreme kind of way. It’s a world where it feels like this kinda game show would absolutely be a form of entertainment, because so much of the world is as comically bleak. The world was strip-mined and the players are the descendants of the non-key personnel who were left behind on a dying world when the company who ‘owned’ it abandoned it.
Now they explore a world populated by cannibals and other gangs–but the real part is the world. There’sthe abandoned factory owned by a company called Kydko, which makes products For Kyds and by Kyds–everything is slime based, there. Or you’ll find Corporate sponsors who specialize in supplying the PCs with various boons, but also have agendas of their own. These aren’t necessarily agendas that run counter to the PCs, or even that the PCs can help with. One is all about selling medical supplements (Brord Medical gels–they’re the gelliest). Or there’s the section where the PCs have to answer an interview, or deal with a musical episode.
Did someone say musical episode?
The whole thing very much feels like this manic bloody tv-show/fever dream. And it works. It plays for laughs, but the adventure does it by grounding the weirdness in that same tone of corporate overreach gone mad. And with that as a baseline, it’s able to play to its strengths. All of this stuff doesn’t feel weirdly out of place. They set the tone to give them the freedom to play with this kind of territory. And then they mine this premise for what it’s worth.
Kinda like me and this picture.
Alright back to the thrust of the adventure. It’s a fairly sandbox-y kind of thing. The players, once they qualify for a spot in the show, are given a time limit (90 days) and there are some pre-planned events that play out according to player progression–it’s an ingenious way to handle an open world adventure, because the players have freedom to do whatever, but they have both a goal to achieve (build a starship and escape) and motivation to do so (there’s a clock). So they can faff about, but only so much.
And the adventure presents its encounters in terms of events. So you can kind of tweak it to fit what your group is doing–and because this is a show, the players can track the progress of other gangs, see what else they’re up against, even see themselves in the Highlight Reel.
It’s always Bastion. Or Torbjorn.
At any rate, the other thing the Sandbox phase of the game does well, is it has an endgame that it’s building towards. There’s a chart for GMs to follow along with that showcases what the other gangs are up to (which you can adjust to help push your game along as needed), but there’s a big showdown with a big liftoff event.
And that right there is what makes this game stand out–they understand that the PCs might lose. Or they win. But the adventure sets them up for continuing adventures either way–this is a great way to introduce your PCs to the world of Starfinder AND, moreover, this is a great primer for any GM who has ever been considering a sandbox type adventure. There’s a lot to learn from this–so it’s definitely recommended. It does require your group to buy in to the tone. People wanting space opera might have a harder time getting into the game, but, ultimately if you can get everyone on board, this is well worth your time, whether as a one-shot or campaign kick-off.
The star of the Ades system will soon destroy the fourth world in nuclear fire, scouring the scattered survivors still clinging to life beneath the dry ocean beds. But where no hope remains the RGR Broadcasting company is happy to announce the one hundred and thirty-eighth season of PLANET DEATH the most popular combat survival competition in the Stygian Stars!
This 60-page adventure brings PCs from level 1 to level 5 as they compete on an intergalactic game show, live for the universe to watch!
– A player’s guide for the Stygian Stars adventure series
– Full stat blocks for every encounter
– Player handouts for all three sections of the adventure
– Texture maps and text tokens for online play
I’d buy that for a dollar!
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