Planetfall is the first of six parts of the Horizons of the Vast adventure path (characters start at 1st level). There’s a newly-discovered planet – quite habitable, but devoid of sentient life – and the player characters are the leaders of one of several settlement charters. That’s the setup for this unorthodox, but very good, start to an adventure path.
Adding a Civ-like (or Mutant Year Zero-like, if you prefer a more on-point TTRPG comparison) system to the game, Planetfall has the players choose a patron (such as the Starfinder Society or the Xenowardens) and focus for their charter, which will influence its starting ratings in accord, culture, economy, magic, and technology. Every month players must use downtime actions to manage the colony – gathering resources, keeping unrest low, and building advanced projects to improve charter attributes and gain other benefits. That system is built onto the ‘hexploration’ rules in the Galaxy Exploration Manual, with the characters exploring the area around their chosen starting location to claim hexes, build projects, and construct new settlements.
This isn’t a random exploration map, however. There’s a list of the other settlers who arrive with the PCs, specific locations to be found on the map, and events in the initial settlement that relate to both of those things. Indeed, there is no traditional big exploration/combat encounter flow-chart location (aka, no “dungeon”) for the majority of Planetfall – it’s about exploring the nearby areas, growing the charter, and managing events and NPC reactions (both the other members of the PC’s charter and some contact with other charters on the planet).
I really like the charter management system. And I really like that the ‘hexploration’ system is used in a purposeful manner here, wrapping the exploration up with the story, rather than filling the adventure up with random-feeling encounters. And I like the characters and the story developed in the charter. There’s just a lot to like in Planetfall.
Of course, there’s always some extra mechanical content tucked in the back. In addition to the GM-focused content (creatures, a world, a Tier 5 ‘star settler’ modular spacecraft), players gain a new theme and about a dozen new feats. The theme is the beastblood (+Int/Wis), which may represent literal blood relations, but may also be more metaphorical. A beastblood gets Survival as a class skill and bonuses to recall knowledge on animals or wild environments, and at sixth they can choose one of five animal-themed abilities (Feline Leap, Ursine Fury, that sort of thing). If you’re interested in jumping or tumbling I would check out the Feline Leap or Rodent Scurry options. The feats are mostly tied into the charter system, gaining resource bonuses or have certain projects as prerequisites. For those not using the charter system, this mostly limits the feats to a chain of Naturalism feats that grant specific spellcasting abilities (e.g., fatigue, detect radiation, baleful polymorph). And all of those feats and that theme are available in the free Horizons of the Vast Player’s Guide.
So, if you aren’t actually playing the AP, the mechanical content might not be so exciting. But Planetfall is very worth checking out as an excellent start to a promising adventure path.
(Note that, as of the time of writing, the image on Paizo’s website, on Amazon, and everyone else online that I saw does not match the cover art in the PDF copy I have and, I presume, physical copies.)
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