Starfinder Adventure Paths #11 and #12: The Penumbra Protocol and Heart of Night Review

Frank Grip review, tabletop Leave a Comment

Just an initial heads up, this post contains Signal of Screams adventure path spoilers. If you are militant about in-game surprises, proceed with caution. Back on November 16, 2018, I wrote a post previewing Starfinder’s eleventh adventure path: The Penumbra Protocol (Signal of Screams 2 of 3). Today, it is well into the month of February 2019, and both #11 and #12, the final acts of the Signal of Screams adventure path saga have been released – The Penumbra Protocol and Heart of Night. These two new releases continue the story that was started by The Diaspora Strain (Signal of Screams adventure path #10). With the upcoming (February 27, 2019) release of Fire Starters, the first (of 6) adventure paths to be released for the Dawn of Flame series, a six-part journey for first-level characters, a review of the previously-released final two parts of the Signal of Screams is overdue.

Regarding these next two installments of the Signal of Screams, Paizo’s official summaries read:

(#11) Infected with a sickness that threatens to turn them into twisted sadists, the heroes travel to the city of Cuvacara on the planet Verces to find the possible origin of their affliction! They soon discover that a sinister company plans to release a new social media app that will corrupt the entire city. If they can survive attacks from corporate assassins, the heroes must save the metropolis by shutting down the transmitters set to broadcast the corrupting signal. Along the way, they learn the location of the company’s hidden underground base on the planet’s Darkside, where a sinister executive awaits their arrival.

(#12) Trapped on the Shadow Plane, the heroes find their only hope of returning home is to find and defeat Dr. Lestana Gragant, the twisted scientist who is attempting to broadcast a maddening signal throughout the galaxy. If the PCs can make their way past shadowy foes and terrifying obstacles, they might be able to wash the stain of corruption from their souls!

The Shadow Plane
The Shadow Plan

When this adventure path saga was announced, I was excited. And now that the three acts have all been released and the story is complete, I am very satisfied with the way it shaped up and turned out. These two final adventure paths in the Signal of Screams saga take your characters from level 9 through level 11 and lead them through the final acts of the dark, twisted space-horror adventure that The Diaspora Strain began. Like its predecessor, The Diaspora Strain, these two adventure paths contain an initial “Content Warning,” that warns of the body and psychological horrors (disfigurement, mutation, parasitism, self-mutilation, etc.) contained within . . . yes, please.

The basics: these next two installments contain the usual promised content that Starfinder players have come to expect and enjoy such as two new locations for the Codex of Worlds: Malfane (literal hellscape) and Nodethe (world of waking dreams). Also, these adventure paths come with schematics and stats for two new ships – the Antumbra Overseer (tier 8) and the Veltrac Tormentor (tier 9).

The Antumbra Overseer is a large destroyer-class corporate attack vessel built by Eclipse Innovations’ Antumbra Division. The Overseer is equipped with a Pulse Orange engine and has a speed of 8. With AC 20, TL 21, and HP 190, this armed starship was originally designed “to protect high-profile sites and ferry individuals from one dangerous area to another.” These ships were state-of-the-art, with anti-hacking systems and self-destruct systems installed to prevent its technology from falling into the wrong hands.

Heart of Night’s inside covers contain stats for the Veltrac Tormentor. This medium transport vessel possess an Arcus Maximum (200 PCU) power core and has a speed of 8. With AC 27, TL 26, and HP 100, Tormentors are “mobile bases of operations providing their crews with all the resources necessary for experimentation and torture of any creatures that cross their paths.” The Tormentor also possesses a Summoning Torpedo Launcher. This long-range heavy tracking weapon has a speed of 12 hexes and the limited fire 5 special property. Once per starship combat, when the torpedo causes hull damage, it can be triggered to to call forth a corporeal horror on board the enemy ship.

Each book also contains several new additions to the Alien Archives. The Penumbra Protocol houses seven other-world humanoids and beasts. Two that stood out to me are the Shadow Mastiff (CR 5) and the Svartalfar (CR 9). The Shadow Mastiff is a medium outsider native to dimly lit areas of the Shadow Plane. These evil extraplanar beasts often take on the resemblance of local predators and have several special abilities: Bay (Su), Shadow Blend (Su), and Trip (Ex). This nightmarish beast, familiar to the realms of Pathfinder and D&D, is easily insertable into a wide variety of home campaign settings. The Svartalfar (black elves of Norse mythology) are extraplanar aliens of the First World, exiled aeons ago for unspeakable crimes against other fey. They possess the special abilities Bane (Su) and Spell Strike (Su) allowing them to imbue one of its weapons with the bane weapon fusion and allowing them to cast entropic grasp to affect an opponent’s armor after a successful melee hit.

Shadow Mastiff
Shadow Mastiff

Heart of Night holds seven new creatures to add to your adventures. One thing that Paizo has done well, is the regular and continuous content releases that really have contributed to the development of the Starfinder universe. Kayal Operatives (CR 7), descendants of humans trapped on the Shadow Plane millennia ago, are agile, stealthy, rogue-like magical beings that can manipulate their appearances as they dance among the shadows. Vespers Hounds (CR 10) are extraplanar medium outsiders that have been surgically altered, bred, and trained by the velstracs. They are excellent tracking beasts and faithful pets with the ability to sniff out places where corruption and suffering have taken root. They possess the special abilities Faceless (Ex), Prison of Chains (Su), and Slip through the Shadows (Su).

These publications are chock-full of beautiful, rich picture art and detailed, stylized storyline content that includes maps, traps, NPCs, items, and so much more. The story picks up right where The Diaspora Strain leaves off, so your characters will simply walk right into this next act allowing the GM to create a seamless and effortless story path for the group. With lore, dialogue, and tips for improvisation, these adventure paths are highly successful at creating colorful, detailed worlds for the group to enjoy.

(*spoiler alert*) “The Signal of Screams adventure path ends when the PCs defeat Dr. Gragant and end her signal. But as in any horror scenario, the defeat of one horror can lead to another and to more adventures.” The final pages of Heart of Night provides GMs a guide to continue on with more adventures into the space horror genre. It provides a number of leads to various future scenarios that GMs can take and shape as their own as well as a number of player options for players to grab hold of such as subclasses and abilities. Just like previous adventure paths, this three-part saga does not disappoint. I am thrilled with the amount of content (and the variety) that Paizo has regularly pumped out since the release of Starfinder back in August 2017 and Signal of Screams is no exception.

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