We’re No Heroes is the the first part (of six) of the Fly Free or Die adventure path for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game. Over the course of the adventure path, the characters will go from 1st to 12th level. Fly Free or Die itself covers levels 1-2.
As is my usual style for adventure reviews, this review is split into two parts. The top section is a spoiler-free look for players – a little about the adventure, and then any mechanical options included. Then below the image is a full-of-spoilers section for GMs.
What Players Should Know
We’re No Heroes starts the characters off as the crew of a corporate starship tasked with delivery missions (alas, they do not get to start out with the Planet Express ship), and there’s a definite theme of the players being “working class” folk being ground down by their corporate overlords. Of course, things can’t go smoothly, or else it wouldn’t be much of an adventure. When some jobs go bad, including one involving the hobgoblin-dominated Gideron Authority, the characters – facing down unemployment – will be given the opportunity to team up with organized crime for a big score against EJ Corp.
Over the course of the adventure, characters can anticipate dealing with cargo both innocuous and dangerous, attempted theft (where they’re the victims), attempted theft (where they’re the perpetrators), organized crime syndicates, drow, tyrannical hobgoblins and those they oppress, and run-ins with security (of the private and public varieties). Given that a less-than-smooth ride is part of the plot setup, players should anticipate not being able to achieve total success in everything that they do.
There are ten backgrounds available that tie the character into one of the NPCs who will be a repeat player during the adventure path, which I really like. You might be related to one of those corporate managers, be old buddies with an assassin, or friends with the brenneri who serves as your dispatcher.
Note that you’ll want to have access to the Character Operations Manual for the free trader archetype. Because the characters serve as a starship crew, this is one of those adventure paths where you want to make sure everyone has something useful to do in starship combat.
Of course, there are some mechanical tidbits to be found in We’re No Heroes, even if you don’t play the adventure. There are weaponized versions of some common tools and several pills to be found in the gear. If you really want to double-down on your anti-corporate rhetoric, you can take the prole theme, which is gives you a boost to Profession skill (and the matching attribute), and then at sixth level lets you auto-succeed when aiding another (no word yet on whether there will be a corresponding bougie theme). The vaster is a bit narrower than the theme name might make it sound, and focuses on Engineering; first making it easier to do ad hoc repairs and then letting you use Engineering to perform a variety of starship tasks at other positions (so, in Firefly terms, you’re Kaylee).
Beyond those options, there is – perhaps ironically for an adventure with a somewhat anti-capitalist bent – a new mechanical system for running your cargo transport business (so you can eventually afford the Planet Express ship and your very own bending robot). Build Points become currency for buying and selling cargo, then upgrading your ship with the profits. But, of course, if you just try to make your ship better, that will limit your earning potential (also, the rules still limit how powerful your starship can be relative to your level). So BPs can also be used to expand the business, hiring agents to find sweet deals and, eventually, employing other starships and crews to go make money for you. You can even, I kid you not, take out insurance. I’m pretty sure it’s only a matter of time until an enterprising group of characters out there starts exploring the exciting world of insurance fraud.
It is, perhaps unsurprisingly, hard to assess how Fly Free or Die will go and how well the events in We’re No Heroes will fit into the overall story. But within the scope of this adventure the plot is good and hangs together well, naturally flowing from one section to the next. I particularly like two cinematic vehicle-focused combat encounters (note that they are vehicle-focused without invoking the actual chases or ground combat rules; the vehicles instead provide a framework for the encounters). The characters may want to just keep their heads down, but circumstances won’t allow it.
Additionally, although the galactic trade mechanics will, I think, mostly be used by the characters in later stages of the adventure path, I think that they are a fun addition that stands a decent chance of working well with the rest of the path or, even if not, being the sort of things that GMs might want to use in homebrew campaigns.
Recommended for players who want the Starfinder version of the Robin Hood experience, dealing with the ‘little guy’ and the criminal and corporate elements that prey on him.
Spoiler time below.
Spoiler time below.
What GM’s Should Know
We’re No Heroes kicks off with what seems like a milk run – pick up the berries, deliver the berries, get paid. Of course, someone tries to steal the berries, which puts the PCs on the clock, as they’re distracted by a junkbot decoy while the space goblins start unloading from the back of their truck. A solid, fun encounter. Assuming the characters successfully secure all of their goods, avoid local entanglements, and don’t take too long in the drift, they’re still going to show up at their delivery location to find that their buyer has been removed from the picture, and the crime syndicate that’s taken over isn’t willing to pay full price. With their cargo about to rot, the characters have no good options as they try to navigate criminal elements and local law enforcement.
Of course, no one will be happy with this turn of events, meaning that the characters get a crummy job for their next delivery – taking weapons from the drow to the Gideron Authority. After saving an agender gnome from a case of mistaken identity and then picking up their weapons, the characters will arrive on Voxha to learn that they are supplying a forced labor camp. I suppose they could still deliver the weapons as instructed, but the adventure kind of beats you over the head with how awful things are, so I imagine that most groups will instead choose to sell the weapons to the resistance (at much reduced prices). This results in another fight on a moving truck, this time in a mountain pass instead of on city streets, and with copters firing at the PCs while hobgoblins descend on drop cables to take the weapons. And that’s before the truck goes into the tunnel. Good times.
Facing termination for two ‘botched’ jobs, the characters are approached with a plan to steal a starship with experimental cargo holds (they’re bigger on the inside). This means the characters get to case the joint, then later break in and deal with robotic security. Unlike the prior portions of the adventure, this features more smaller encounters, instead of mostly focusing on one more cinematic one. Well, until the characters’ drow operative contact double-crosses them, which prompts the final confrontation of the adventure.
I think that the base plot of the adventure is good, and I particularly like the vehicle-focused scenes. But I have a few quibbles with the framing for the adventure. There’s this real effort to paint the characters are just working folk who have to make hard choices. But, of course, any Starfinder adventure is pretty much guaranteed to quickly go beyond any sort of normal job, and We’re No Heroes is no exception.
The other thing is that there are choices for the characters to make at the end of each of the sections of We’re No Heroes. Do you supply weapons to the evil hobgoblin empire (like you’ve been hired to do) or sell them to the resistance? That sort of thing. I like the idea of making the characters choose between doing what’s right and what’s expedient, in a much different way from a “be heroes” or “be murder-hobos” sort of choice. You’re working stiffs, right? You’ve got this existential pressure on you. What I didn’t like was that it was on every occasion a false choice. The downside of doing the right thing happens to the characters even if they choose to do the expedient thing. You are only able to collect half of the money you were supposed to, and choose to give it all to the small business whose goods you were transporting. So, of course, the big transport company you work for punishes you. You choose to give all of the money to your corporate overlords and stiff the small business? The big transport company you work for punishes you in exactly the same way, except you get less XP. Why even have a choice at all? There isn’t even a short-term cost to being the heroes. Why call the adventure “We’re No Heroes” and push the notion that the characters would “never call themselves heroes, and their integrity is constantly tested,” when they’re strongly pushed to be heroes and the characters’ integrity is only tested to the extent that the players are misled about the nature of the choices they’re making?
Now, that ultimately doesn’t change the merits of the adventure itself; like I said, this is mostly about the framing. But it would change how I, as GM, would present the adventure to my players. I would tend to push the players towards more of a hero in the Robin Hood mold. Maybe they mostly want to keep their heads down, but the sort of folks who will rise when the occasion demands. The ‘we are heroes’ options are clearly the more satisfying ones for the players, and I want my players to have fun. And I especially don’t want a player getting mad at me when they later realize what the consequences of their choices were. But the characters also have to be willing to work with criminal syndicates when need be, or else the adventure grinds to a halt.
The ‘downtrodden working class’ thing doesn’t fit well starting about halfway through this adventure. Since the characters are freelancers by the end of part 1 of the adventure path, I don’t see how in a couple books down the road it’s going to fit on a party of level 10 small cargo business owners at all. However, there’s definitely a strong element of “you can’t always get what you want (or what you need)” here. So you can still readily convey a theme of the characters being downtrodden and put-upon; I just think it wants a different spin that the default way of doing that.
And We’re No Heroes does make it easy for the GM to generate resentment towards EJ Corp and get the characters in the mood for some revenge by the latter third of the adventure. The characters simply can’t fully fulfill the two missions they are assigned. The first time it’s going to be entirely out of their control. The second time it will feel more like it’s in their control, but now EJ Corp. has been revealed as more than willing to support some pretty clear black hats when it suits their profit motives. The characters will naturally feel irritated towards EJ Corp. and justified in taking criminal action against them, successfully setting up act 3’s motivations.
So, the adventure is good, especially the two vehicle-based encounters and in particular the hovertruck combat encounter in the mountain pass. But I would modify the trappings around adventure to, I think, better suit what’s going on in the adventure (and, likely, the adventure path).
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