Future’s Past III – First Contact (SFRPG)
The third installment of the Future’s Past AP clocks in at 23 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 18 pages of content. It should be noted that, as in the first two installments, the module has more content inside than the page-count would lead you to believe.
This module is intended for 4-6 3rd level characters, and I highly recommend playing Future’s Past I and II – they are both phenomenal adventures.
Okay, so HUGE WARNING: In order to discuss this review, I will need to go into SPOILERS not only for the module, but also for its predecessors. If you want to play this (and you do, trust me!), then you should stop reading RIGHT NOW.
SERIOUS SPOILER WARNING! Players, skip to the conclusion.
All right, so this is thematically a WTF-moment; after the dark fantasy/horror/System Shock-esque first two adventures, this is where the series kicks into conceptual ultra-high-gear: The PCs, at this point, probably realize that the Druune are dangerous, alien and downright strange, and they have realized that Central AI is an issue. The druune realize the threat of Central AI reaching a kind of dues ex machina super-singularity. The PCs have hijacked the experimental druune prototype time machine, and send their minds back to the eponymous First Contact with the druune. To avoid issues with the time-stream, the PC’s minds are what’s sent back into time – and as such, the module begins with a surprisingly mighty possession-engine of sorts: The blending of memories means that the PCs get to choose one or two options from various lists: Military officers could get a theme knowledge, 6 + Int skills among physical skills, or a bonus feat – those taking two benefits have a harder time accessing the host body’s memories. That is…fantastic. A talented Gm can use this framework to potentially expand upon it and even use it to run an entire campaign of ghosts in living shells. Oh, and yes, this does address balance concerns, explains how e.g. mechanic tools interact with that, and there is an option for players to play a new character of sorts due to a glitch in the process.
The GM then proceeds to generate 1-2 characters per PC, which are tied to the host of the PC’s psyche. These are categorized in groups, and from lovers to enemies to those infected by the druune, can add lots of complications for them. Whether you need stats for them or not depends on your playstyle – flavor-only might well suffice.
Most personnel on board of the station is either a scientist or military – oh, and the players get to meet the key players of the station, who come with GORGEOUS mugshots and flavor-centric write-ups. And no, these artworks are not the only ones of this quality herein. Indeed, from characters to location, edge station is a stark contrast to the horrible timeline from which the PCs hail, with future memories intruding, reminding the players and characters alike of the horrid fates to come.
The PCs arrive at Edge Station at 13:00. The timeline of events has happened, to a degree, an innumerable number of times. It is up to the PCs to change them. Culture helps recall them, and points flux – options to [delay] and [avert] key steps on the way to First Contact – and the ultimate goal is to prevent it…which isn’t too easy, considering the smart tactics of the adversary. Oh, and the module has seriously amazing advice on how to troubleshoot the adventure, if required – the players do have a chance to engage in a limited groundhog day, but one that might require the players to engage in a loop, at least if you are as strict as I am. I LOVE this.
This module, in short, is about PLAYER SKILL.
Almost exclusively, dauntingly so. I LOVE IT. Yes, dice will be rolled – this is Starfinder, after all! Yes, there is a villain to be thwarted in combat. But know what? This module can only be solved by being CLEVER and by roleplaying well.
And no, I am not giving away the finale, how this module ends. Why? Because preventing First Contact shall not suffice to stop Central. And because the final paragraphs of this adventure sent bonafide shivers of excitement down my spine!
Editing and formatting are good on a formal level, excellent on a rules-language level. There is one header not closed (missing [/h2]), and I noticed a few references to spells in purely descriptive text not italicized correctly. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf comes with A LOT of full-color, high-quality artwork on par with cover, NPC mugshots, etc. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, but personally, I’d suggest getting the entire AP in print. It’s worth having on your shelf.
Stephen Rowe’s Future’s Past AP had two phenomenal modules so far; First Contact, while formally slightly less refined, imho mops the floor with even those. If you are a rules-savvy SFRPG-GM, then the possession-engine can open entire new campaign concepts for you. And if you’re not, you actually get an INTELLIGENT time-travel scenario that makes sense, that helps you troubleshoot if required, and that focuses boldly on the abilities of your players. This is all about roleplaying, and from the Groundhog-Day-potential to the stakes, this is a legendary adventure indeed. This module gets 5 stars, seal of approval, best of-tag, and is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2019. Future’s Past, so far, has been a truly epic achievement.
You can get this milestone of a module here on OBS!
Missed Part I? You can find it here!
Missed Part II? You can find it here!
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