The third standalone game in the LEVEL 7 series, LEVEL 7 [INVASION] continues the story that began with LEVEL 7 [ESCAPE] and progressed in LEVEL 7 [OMEGA PROTOCOL]. In this chapter, the scope of the setting is now bigger than ever. Every nation on the planet is in danger — and it’s your task to save them!
Players familiar with the story of the previous games will recognize certain aspects of INVASION and be surprised by others. The biggest surprise is the status of Dr. Cronos, the evil Ghin mastermind who opposed the heroes of the first two games. INVASION introduces a new alien race, the Hydra, which arrives in our solar system with a single goal: to destroy Dr. Cronos and his few remaining Ghin allies. Unfortunately for the people of Earth, the Hydra conclude that mankind is standing in their way. The leaders of humanity have no choice but to work with Cronos if they hope to survive the Hydra onslaught.
As in the previous two games, INVASION explores the LEVEL 7 setting with its own unique rules. Three to five players must protect the world in this semi-cooperative game, defending their own interests while working with the other players to save Earth.
~ Global War! ~
When you initially open LEVEL 7 [INVASION], the first thing you’ll notice is the board. In the first two LEVEL 7 games, players explored the confines of the Subterra Bravo facility using maps made of tiles. The board for INVASION, however, depicts the state of the entire world during the Hydra attack and tracks many different aspects in the game. The INVASION board serves primarily to track the ongoing battle between the human defenders of Earth and the Hydra forces besieging it. Each player places figures on the map to represent his armies. These armies face the overwhelming power of Hydra legions that land each round in an effort to subjugate the planet.
Each round, players draw Event cards to determine if the Hydra will bomb major cities or attack the Earth’s food supplies. These cards also show where new Hydra troops will spread. A massive carrier ship sits in orbit above the planet and continually sends drop ships full of troops to the surface. These drop ships land in various territories each round, and invader units are spawned from them during the Event step.
In addition to the outright destruction caused by the Hydra attack, there is also a terrifying psychological impact. As in the previous LEVEL 7 games, fear plays a part in INVASION. Certain events and circumstances can cause Terror, and as Terror grows among the population, world leaders find it increasingly difficult to maintain the fight against the Hydra.
~ The Coalitions ~
The Hydra began their invasion with a massive bombardment of poisonous materials that decimated Earth’s population. This massively disruptive initial attack not only killed millions but also left many of the planet’s governments in shambles. The remaining governments have banded together into coalitions to offer one another mutual support. Each player controls one of the five coalitions: North America, South America, Europe, Africa, or Asia. Each coalition has strengths and weaknesses that make it unique.
Each player manages his coalition through a console. The console tracks a coalition’s Military-Industrial Complex, resources, territory status, Power, and Terror level. Military-Industrial Complex represents the workforce the coalition has, its manufacturing capacity, and its military infrastructure. This is the most important part of a coalition. If the MIC dial of a coalition ever reaches 0, that coalition is defeated, and that player loses the game.
Income allows a coalition to purchase units, upgrade technologies, and feed its people. A coalition can trade for resources it lacks during certain phases of the game, allowing it to purchase more than it would be able to muster on its own. The territory status and Terror level of a coalition can adversely affect its income. When a territory is overrun by the Hydra, the coalition loses access to the resources produced by that territory. As a coalition’s people grow more and more terrified, they will be less productive, hampering the coalition’s ability to gather resources.
The Power of a coalition determines how well its forces can fight against the Hydra. In addition to the console, each coalition has a set of technology cards to track its technological development. Players can upgrade their technologies over the course of a game. The Military Equipment technology increases the power of the coalition’s troops, defends against Hydra bombardments, and increase the mobility of troops. Communications helps the coalition control the spread of terrifying gossip, instill positive messages to its people, and build better systems for fielding larger armies. Biological sciences protect a coalition’s food supplies, help its people survive the poisons the Hydra unleashed, and eventually allow it to start rebuilding. Social programs control the paranoia of its people and keep the members of a coalition’s population from harm as they flee from the Hydra.
~ Cronos and Victory! ~
Long ago, the Ghin were the masters of an empire that spread across the galaxy. They used their mastery of genetics to re-form any life they discovered into perfect tools for their empire, controlling these subjects with the Ghin’s incredible mental powers. The Hydra were among the most useful races the Ghin ever found. Over the years, they came to trust the Hydra with more and more autonomy, until at last the Hydra freed themselves of the Ghin’s mental shackles and rose in rebellion. The people of Earth have only one chance to defeat the Hydra: Dr. Cronos has discovered psychic potential in certain humans. He is now working on a machine that will allow a human mind to disrupt the Hydra’s mental network, giving humanity a window to defeat them, but he must be kept safe until he can complete this project.
This idea is incorporated into the game by the seven cards of the Cronos Project. The first six cards represent aspects of the project that must be completed in certain coalitions. The order in which the cards can be funded is limited, forcing Cronos to move around the globe in specific ways. After the coalitions’ Cronos Project cards are funded, the final card can be funded to trigger the end of the game. If a player can keep his coalition alive until the end of the game, he will share in the victory.
~ How Much Will You Cooperate? ~
The semi-cooperative nature of INVASION is expressed in two primary ways: trading and Events. At the beginning of the game, each coalition has its own distinct strengths and weaknesses. As the game progresses, however, the loss of territories and increased Terror can diminish these strengths or increase these weaknesses. The coalitions must work together to complete the Cronos Project while also upgrading their technologies. Unfortunately, there are not enough resources for all players to fully upgrade their coalitions. In addition, when coalitions trade, there is always one coalition left out. This forces players to keep their best interests in mind and can create animosity among players.
Every Event card offers a choice between two evils. This encourages semi-cooperative play, because many times the severity of these choices is not the same. The player who drew the card may see both options as equally bad, or one choice may not threaten him in any way. This gives players the choice between taking a risk for the greater good or sacrificing an ally. In the end, the fate of the world lies in how well the coalitions can work together to save humanity.
~ Save the Planet! ~
Now it’s your turn. United we stand a chance, so take charge of your coalition and prepare for the invasion!
Thousands of years ago, the skies above northern Avistan on the planet of Golarion split open and bled fire unto the world below. The night grew scarred with streaks of smoke and burning debris, and the ground burst into plumes of ash and ruin as fragments of an immense starship plummeted to its death against the wildlands below. When the sun finally rose over the wracked lands of Numeria, it did so on a landscape pocked with craters and ruined by an alien apocalypse. Those who lived through the night would never forget it, and tales of the fiery devastation would be told for centuries. It became known as the Rain of Stars.
Although the Rain of Stars devastated Numeria over nine thousand years ago, so immense was the event that it still shapes and defines the savage lands today. The craters and furrows torn into the earth that fateful night so long ago have largely vanished, the alien wreckage buried by fearful and superstitious barbarians who, after some early misadventures with explosive and dangerous technological debris, came to view the strange wrecks as taboo. Yet there have always been curious adventurers and scholars and explorers willing to brave the wilds of Numeria to explore these alien wrecks. And indeed, to the adventurer, the navigation of violent barbarian tribes eager to fight to prevent intruders from unleashing more technological horrors on their world can be as thrilling as the actual exploration of a wrecked alien vessel!
Recently, a new group has risen to power in Numeria - a group of spellcasters known as the Technic League, grown obsessed with the recovery and control of the ancient technology hidden throughout the metal dungeons and buried wrecks of the region. The Technic League was founded with altruistic goals, but their original hope to explore the ruins of these ancient wrecks and spread the lore found within throughout the world has been lost to greed, ego, and the lust for power. Today, the Technic League consists of squabbling sadists and cruel taskmasters as eager to secure their own cache of technological weapons and items as they are to hoard them from anyone else who might seek them out. Numeria’s technological treasures have, in effect, traded one guardian for another, but unlike the fearful barbarian tribes of yore who sought only to suppress the technology, the Technic League hopes to keep it for themselves to enhance and extend their power. To what purpose they hope to some day put this power, none can say, although the nature of their cruel experiments and vile personalities bodes ill.
~ Mixing Super Science and Mystical Magic ~
It is this dangerous and exotic realm that serves as the backdrop for Paizo’s newest Adventure Path - Iron Gods. To now, the campaigns and storylines that have appeared in our Adventure Path line have been various levels of relatively traditional fantasy fare, with evil wizards, wicked queens, demon-worshiping elves, lovelorn genies and fey, undead necromancers, dragons and demons and pirates and witches haunting the pages and preparing to wreak untold punishments and danger upon the as-of-yet unsung heroes of the world. True, now and then we got a little strange with some locations and villains along the way, but even when we turned to other planets or historical Earth, the adventure paths themselves never strayed far from their fantasy roots.
And truth be told, with Iron Gods, we won’t be straying as far as one might think. It’s true that Numeria, the setting where Iron Gods takes place, is a realm where fantasy and super-science mix, but the decision to include a realm like this in the Inner Sea region of our official campaign setting was not one we made on a lark. The mixing of fantasy and science fiction has a long tradition in RPGs, both in the tabletop tradition with classic Dungeons & Dragons adventures like “Expedition to the Barrier Peaks” or “Temple of the Frog,” and in the video game arena as well with the Might & Magic and Wizardry franchises. But it goes back even further than that. Fritz Leiber and Robert E. Howard weren’t afraid to periodically have their heroes encounter modern day, futuristic, or alien technology now and then (although never to the extent that the heroes exploring that strange metal cave in the Barrier Peaks would experience), and more recently, entire games like Shadowrun have embraced the mixing of technology and magic as a fundamental element of their game world.
And so it is with Iron Gods. In this, Paizo’s seventeenth Adventure Path for the Pathfinder campaign setting, we finally travel to the land of super science we first started to drop hints about back in the very first volume, “Burnt Offerings.” There, in the Pathfinder’s Journal, we had only this to say:
“...Elsewhere, Gojan the Sharp endures a decade of hardship under the oppressive Ontar, the Black Sovereign of Numeria, in order to gain access to the Silver Mount, a titanic edifice of steel that looms over Numeria’s capital, Starfall. Included in this volume is a complete catalogue of seven different types of skymetal littered about the plains of Numeria and the (wildly outdated) prices each variety is likely to garner in the markets of Taldor and Absalom.”
Not a lot, but certainly enough in a book that was many peoples’ first glimpse into the world of Golarion to tantalize and tease with possibility. We didn’t come out and say there in the first volume of Pathfinder that the Silver Mount was in fact a ship from beyond the stars, but we certainly heavily implied it. By the time we got to the hardcover revision to our campaign setting, The Inner Sea World Guide, all pretense of being coy about the mixing of magic and technology was gone when we opened the four pages of information about Numeria with an illustration of a classic fantasy barbarian facing off against an enormous robot scorpion armed with guns and a plasma-launching tail.
An entire Adventure Path set in this region was, in many ways, inevitable, and not just because I, as Paizo’s Creative Director and the lead on the Adventure Path line was eager to do one (although that certainly didn’t hurt!). Very little in the core Pathfinder rules provided direct support for the types of foes and treasures and hazards and surprises that await those who would explore Numeria’s secrets. When we decided it was time to do something with Numeria for real, we had to go all in. To support the Iron Gods Adventure Path, we’ve created several books to aid GMs and players alike, from the Campaign Setting books Numeria, Land of Fallen Stars and the gadget-filled pages of the Technology Guide, to Player Companions like People of the River and People of the Stars. There’s even a novel, Reign of Stars, which chronicles some of the events that take place in the Technic League a few years before the events in Iron Gods start to play out. These stand-alone books are in addition to the support articles and new robots and technological items we’ll be introducing in each and every volume of Iron Gods itself over the course of its six-month run.
~ Starting The Iron Gods Adventure Path ~
So far, the spoilers have been pretty light. I’m going to try to KEEP them light for the rest of this article, but if you’re planning on playing in the Iron Gods Adventure Path, you might want to stop reading now. Although... you’ve already seen some samples of the amazing artwork we’re putting into the adventures on these pages already, so perhaps it’s too late! I’ll apologize to your GM for spoiling those elements for you the next time I see him or her, I promise!
We start in the Numerian town of Torch, located in the southern reaches of the region. Here, on the Numerian Plains, the Technic League’s stranglehold on the nation’s citizens is less potent than it is in the capital city of Starfall, yet their presence is always felt. The key to Torch’s prosperity is the violet fire that burns atop Black Hill in the center of town. This mysterious flame burns incredibly hot, and is one of the few places not directly controlled by the Technic League where the exotic skymetals can be forged and worked. Torch allows smiths and metalworkers from throughout the Inner Sea access to the village fires, all for a nominal fee, of course, and as long as the town continues to pay the relatively unfair but not completely crippling taxes the Technic League demands, Torch is allowed to continue on its way without much oppression or control.
For nearly a century, the town has grown and prospered in the light of its violet namesake, but as the Iron Gods Adventure Path begins, this fire has been extinguished! Several teams of explorers and mercenaries, including one of Torch’s beloved leaders, have mounted expeditions into a freshly-discovered network of caverns below the town’s Black Hill to seek out a cause for the loss of the settlement’s namesake, but to date, none have returned. With the next round of taxes to the Technic League coming due soon, reliance upon the violet fire for income is greater and greater, and if something isn’t done soon to rekindle the fire, Torch may be doomed!
Of course, by the time Numeria’s newest heroes solve Torch’s problems, they’ll have uncovered a greater threat to all of Numeria - a threat that will have them traveling the breadth and width of the land as they come to learn the true dangers and surprising opportunities offered by the lands newest divinities, the mysterious Iron Gods!
~ Bring Out the Big Guns! ~
The fifth wave of X-Wing starship expansion packs features two heavily customizable, hard-hitting, large starships that offer you all-new ways to obliterate enemy fighters: the Rebels’ YT-2400 and the Imperials’ VT-49 Decimator! Along with their new starship miniatures, each of which is sculpted faithfully at the game’s standard 1/270 scale, the YT-2400 Freighter Expansion Pack and VT-49 Decimator Expansion Pack introduce a wide array of ship cards, upgrade cards, new missions, and new debris cloud obstacle tokens. You’ll also find a large cast of characters drawn from the Star Wars universe, the first Imperial turret weapon, and upgrade cards designed by each of the game’s first two World Champions.
~ YT-2400 Freighter Expansion Pack ~
A fast and resilient light freighter, the YT-2400 features no fewer than thirteen weapon emplacement points, making it an attractive vessel for smugglers, mercenaries, and other individuals looking for a heavily armed “transport.” Although a stock YT-2400 light freighter has plenty of space for cargo, much of that space is often annexed to support modified weapon systems and oversized engines.
The YT-2400 Freighter Expansion Pack brings this formidable light freighter to your table as a Rebel starship with two attack, two agility, five hull, and five shields. In addition to its detailed miniature starship, the expansion comes with four ship cards, thirteen upgrades, three debris cloud obstacle tokens, a maneuver dial, and all the tokens you need to fly your YT-2400 into battle.
Of course, you also gain the opportunity to recruit one of the galaxy’s most renowned smugglers, Dash Rendar. He appears in the expansion as both a crew member upgrade and as a YT-2400 pilot. His heavily modified YT-2400, the Outrider, is represented by a new Title card that allows Rebel players to experiment with battlefield tactics designed around striking at foes from distance with a turret-mounted cannon.
Finally, the YT-2400 Freighter Expansion Pack honors the 2012 and 2013 X-Wing World Champions, both of whom worked with the developers to create upgrade cards that appear in the expansion: the Dash Rendar crew upgrade and the elite pilot talent, Stay on Target!
~ VT-49 Decimator Expansion Pack ~
To be granted command of a VT-49 Decimator is seen as a significant promotion for a middling officer of the Imperial Navy. A heavily armed transport, the VT-49 Decimator is one of the Empire’s most feared warships, often used to provide long-range reconnaissance or to deploy raiding parties behind enemy forces.
The VT-49 Decimator Expansion Pack brings this intimidating Imperial gunboat to X-Wing as the game’s largest ship yet designed for Standard Play. Even at the game’s signature 1/270 scale, the expansion pack’s detailed miniature towers over its base and smaller starfighters. In addition to its imposing, pre-painted miniature, the expansion introduces four ship cards, three debris cloud tokens, a new mission, a maneuver dial, and all the tokens you need to fly your Decimator into the thick of combat.
There, the VT-49 Decimator is a truly terrifying warship. It has zero agility, but it can withstand the heaviest of enemy assaults with four shields and twelve hull. Most importantly, as the first Imperial starship with a turret weapon, the Decimator is designed to deliver lethal volley after lethal volley of attacks to opposing starships, all fired from a primary weapon with an attack value of three.
The Decimator also introduces a range of aggressive, new tactics to the Imperial fleet. For example, Captain Oicunn damages enemy ships when he crashes into them, and when his Decimator is equipped with the Dauntless Title upgrade, such collisions may not even cost him the ability to perform an action. All told, the VT-49 Decimator sets a new standard for Imperial aggression, and it’s certain to encourage new tactics at X-Wing tables worldwide!
~ Blast Into Battle! ~
With their new turret weapons and tactical options, the YT-2400 Freighter Expansion Pack and VT-49 Decimator Expansion Pack are destined to blast into the middle of the galaxy’s thickest X-Wing combats!