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Starfinder Review: We're No Heroes

Howdy again my hooligans and buckaroos! We return once again to a new Paizo product review, this time with We’re No Heroes, the first entry in the latest Starfinder Adventure path Fly Free or Die. There’s a fair bit of ground to cover, so let’s get started!

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We’re No Heroes is the first of six adventures in the Fly Free or Die Adventure Path and starts with fresh new level 1 Starfinder heroes just scraping by at the end of a long, unfeeling corporate ladder, only to botch a few important jobs and end up on the run not only from the corporation but also a few new angry enemies as well. This module, and the Adventure Path as a whole, seems geared towards providing players a slice of the less glamorous side of life in the Starfinder universe.

Some of the most specific details in the adventure are dedicated to reiterating over and over the soullessness and callousness of corporations, most amusingly in the section where hapless characters receive generic warnings for infractions, their eventual termination, and the Kafkaesque process for getting their severance. From a broad perspective, the whole conceit seems a little misguided to me. We’re playing Starfinder because we want to be space lizards and space goblins trading blaster fire with the Azlanti Empire as we explore some brand new planet in the Vast, not so we can be menial labor for an unfeeling corporation.

The other major theme of We’re No Heroes is balancing doing what is good and doing what is profitable. The introduction promises meaningful choices and consequences for playing a cold hearted mercenary, but the actual adventure doesn’t have much to show for it—maybe that will come through in later chapters, but here consequences seem to be “more XP for being nice”. In a fitting tie to the theme of corporate carelessness, even toeing the line never seems to pay off for the characters. I’d go ahead and take the extra XP if you’re not getting shinier guns!

With that, we come to the biggest issue I have with We’re No Heroes—adventure design. Take the introduction. Assuming that “space delivery driver” is appealing to your party (and again, WHY), the adventure starts with…loading a truck. Then a quick squabble with some space goblins who are trying to steal from the truck, although they clearly can’t steal enough to make a meaningful difference in the players’ payday (and in fact the attempted theft has no impact on the actual adventure and isn’t mentioned when payment is discussed). Then there’s some riveting UN-loading, followed by some Drift travel that’s just handwaved away with “use the rules in the core book”. Only when the adventure reaches the dropoff point do things pick up with some bloody hostile takeovers and spectral space cops. There’s an NPC, Tarika, that functions as the support network and exposition mouthpiece for the adventure—the adventure even explicitly says that Tarika is important!—but she doesn’t appear until the party has already arrived at the delivery location.

If working-class poverty and entrapment are something the authors want to explore, I feel it’s important that these themes are implemented with care and accuracy. Things like mounting medical bills, unreliable transportation, and all the little fees and grifts that are imposed by petty tyrants at all levels of bureaucracy and law enforcement. Some of these would make for easy mechanical translation: a broken-down ship constantly requiring costly repairs and the characters never having quite enough for a full tank of fuel; diseases, curses, and injuries that are difficult to deal with at level one even if a healer is on the crew; jobs that the crew are denied because they require expensive permits, certifications of good credit, or proof of property ownership that are far outside the reach of the crew. These ideas just scratch the surface of the challenges that face folks living in poverty, and which would make for far more interesting and varied mid-route encounters than a paragraph-long chore involving space leeches. There are a few encounters that attempt to showcase the themes of the adventure—the police stop and the planet with a running bill for the service of breathable air come to mind—but they’re rendered so inconsequential either by mechanical redundancy or in-text description that I imagine most GMs will not use them.

Putting aside the muddled use of the themes, We’re No Heroes has a habit of falling short on a plethora of otherwise unrelated details. There’s an encounter with a bounty hunter that has two stat blocks and two full-character art pieces dedicated to something that properly-jaded and culturally-aware characters will simply ignore—and which has no bearing on the rest of the adventure. There’s a map of the bar in which this encounter (and the negotiation for their next job) occurs, and the bar doesn’t appear to have any exterior doors except for the one to the kitchen. The characters are hired to run guns for a comically evil drow to a comically evil hobgoblin empire—and there isn’t any mention of how much they will be paid beyond the pay being “exceptionally good”. Sometimes the adventure accounts for players straying off the beaten path—the crew can just opt to completely ignore the final encounter and end the adventure early—and sometimes it shoehorns them into questionable decisions, like giving control of half of their valuable cargo to a bunch of filler NPCs so that it can inevitably be lost and cause problems with their employer.

There’s a kernel of an interesting adventure in here, but my intuition says that most GMs will need to do a fair bit of massaging and re-reading in order to get things to run smoothly. I’m curious to see where the rest of the AP goes, but I’m going to probably stick to another system if I need my corporate-underdog itch scratched.
 
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Ben Reece

Ben Reece






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