Starfinder: The Last Refuge

Attack of the Swarm Review

settings rpg starfinder scifi

I'm reading through the Starfinder adventure path Attack of the Swarm. The second module in the series is The Last Refuge. This review may contain minor spoilers.

The previous module, Fate of the Fifth, was a punishing, non-stop chase scene. It was thrilling to read. I couldn't put it down. This module justifiably slows the pace down and lets the players breathe. But that doesn't mean it's a boring module. It's full of intrigue, exploration, and tense social encounters.

Situational drama

At the start of The Last Refuge, the player characters have just evacuated Suskillon, and are on a ship on their way to the nearby colony world Ultraneus with a bunch of other refugees. Unfortunately, the ship is experiencing a whole host of malfunctions, and it's up to the player characters to figure out why. And as they do that, they find that they also must keep their passengers calm because people are starting to get anxious. Losing your entire planet to a swarm of killer human-sized insects does that to you, I guess.

When the player characters arrive on Ultraneus, they find sanctuary in New Grakka. The whole city is gearing up for the inevitable Swarm invasion, so there's lots to do. Even as the city prepares for war, though, there's an half-activist half-cult within the city that preaches submission to the Swarm. The group, called The Reckoners, believes that resistance is futile, and that being devoured by the Swarm is just the natural way of things. Seems hard to believe anyone would be fatalistic about a powerfully destructive force like that, but this is science fantasy, so you have to let your imagination run wild. Obviously in real life, humanity would take whatever action necessary to fend off an impending catastrophe regardless of how insurmountable it might seem.


Part of the reason you play a science fantasy game is to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, and to boldly go where no one has gone before. In the first adventure, players don't get much of a chance to enjoy their fictional surroundings. Even when there was downtime, what civilization remained on Suskillon was crumbling, and the threat of death was around every corner.

On New Grakka, player characters are explicitly given the mission to explore the city. They have to gather intelligence about the Reckoners, and follow leads based on what they discover. It's not exactly a walk in the park, but players nevertheless have the excuse to experience a new setting. New Grakka has a sort of generic science fiction industrial feel to it, but there are little touches here and there that make it feel unique, and of course any gaming group will inevitably end up making it their own.

Even the space travel at the beginning of the adventure is a refreshing chance to walk around a spaceship. Sure, the player characters are actively putting out fires both literal and figurative, but there's lots of room for some leisurely ship tours.

Exciting sequel

Paizo adventure paths are the best in the business, and this one is no exception. You feel like you're on an important journey that somehow feels connected to the book that came before and the one that comes next. This is a slower adventure than the first, which is fortunate, because by the end of this adventure there's no sign that the Swarm is going to give up any time soon. I don't know what comes next, and neither will the players, but I can't wait to find out what it is!

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