We got the chance to sit down with Boston native son and Starfinder GM Patrick Brennan last week at PAX East!
OK, first the rundown: who are you, and what do you do?
My name is Patrick Brennan, and I am a Librarian by day, and Gamemaster most of the rest of the time. I have been playing TTRPGs like a lot of people since High School, and over the last few years have been using them as a way to reconnect with old friends, and make new ones. When I heard about Paizo’s Starfinder I started a podcast with my current online gaming group of friends, many of whom I have known since college, and we call it “Cosmic Crit“. We are playing through the awesome Adventure Paths that Paizo has put out, and we finished up Dead Suns recently and just started Against the Aeon Throne. GMing on the podcast inspired my to get into Organized Play, both at my local gaming stores and online, and most recently at PAX East 2019.
The folks at Paizo have taken a shine to Cosmic Crit, as we are the most popular unofficial Starfinder podcast our there. They have been kind enough to allow me to write some of the backmatter for Against the Aeon Throne and Dawn of Flame and I was pretty excited that I got to announce this year that I wrote an Adventure Path volume for Attack of the Swarm, which the next AP coming after Dawn of Flame. It’s scheduled to be released in August of this year.
A Starfinder AP! Tell us more about that! How was it working with your developer at Paizo? Had you ever written something like that before?
My AP volume is called “The Fate of the Fifth” and it sees the players facing off against the unknowable alien legion known as “The Swarm,” which is a hive-mind collection of insect-like creatures from across the reaches of Starfinder. My book is part war story, part horror-show as the players have to navigate off their planet whilst it’s being invaded by The Swarm, and try and survive long enough to escape the advancing armies of bugs!
Working with Paizo and Starfinder developer Jason Keeley has been a dream. I have been playing Adventure Path content in Pathfinder for over seven years, and at no point in that time did I ever believe that I would be able to contribute something to this amazing universe. It’s funny in retrospect because I do have an undergraduate degree in Creative Writing, have been writing homebrew content most of my life, and have been deeply invested in Starfinder since before its release…so I was actually really well situated last year to dive into the writing process and help kick off the 5th Starfinder AP.
What was it about Starfinder that inspired you so much – versus something like Pathfinder or D&D?
I have been a huge fan of fantasy action since reading the Hobbit in middle school, and then Lord of the Rings after that while playing homebrewed 3.5 Dungeons & Dragons with a group of adult Librarians in rural North Carolina, which explains a great deal of my origin story. But to be honest my greatest loves in geekdom are Star Wars, Star Trek and other sci-fi universes. We’re talking Mass Effect, Firefly, Blade Runner, Dune, these are like cat-nip to me. Starship Troopers? Sign me up! I loved the huge space battles, the alien cultures, and the in some of them the mix of mystic magic powers and high-tech robots.
So when Starfinder was announced I was super excited, and I made the podcast because I was worried nobody else would. I wanted to make a show that I would listen to, and help bring in new players to the system. I was really impressed with the Glass Cannon Podcast and what they were able to do weekly with Pathfinder and said to myself “I wanted to portray Starfinder in a similar reverent fashion.”
Much of Organized Play locally is done in-person at gaming stores, whereas much of Cosmic Crit takes place on Roll20. Tell me about some of the differences of IRL v. Online gaming.
Well gaming online was a necessity for our podcast because the players and I are stretched out across multiple times zones and four different states. Technology has caught up and allows us to play with virtual tabletops like Roll20 and use great online VoIP audio services to connect. We have even played with cameras so it is like we are in the same room. I wanted to let people know that even if they don’t have a game store near them, or their friends have moved away (like many of mine have) that you can still get a great gaming group going on a regular basis.
That being said, I also love being able to go into Warhorn and look and see what tables are playing what in my local gaming stores. I also play Pathfinder at an IRL tabletop with friends, and that table has been gaming together for over eight years. I think that online games usually move a little quicker, but I love the drawn out and relaxed pace of playing in person with people. If I had to choose only one I would be hard pressed as they are both fun and freeing in their own ways. It is nice being able to play in your pajamas while relaxing in your own home and playing Starfinder.
Clearly the online gaming format has been a success for you as well as Cosmic Crit fans – so much so that you’re doing an online convention soon! Tell us more about that.
Yeah, when we started our online lodge for Starfinder Society we had an impromptu convention, “CRITTERCON”, where we had fans and GMs from all over the world play SFS together. We streamed SFS #1-09: Live Exploration Extreme! [written by John Compton] via Twitch and had a great time raising money for charity. This year we are upping the stakes with our second convention “CRITTERCON 2,” as we are gaming all weekend long Friday April 26th through Sunday the 28th, we are streaming much of that time and connecting gaming groups together. We also have official support from Paizo, so players can donate money to our charity “Doctors Without Borders” and get natural 20’s and rerolls while making sure your dollars are going to a great cause.
We are super excited to have authors of SFS scenarios running charity tables, we will have dozens of boons to raffle of, and we will be running the convention Interactive Special SFS #1-99: The Scoured Stars Invasion [written by Mikko Kallio] on Saturday. If people want to sign up for games right now they can join our Discord and make an account on our Warhorn schedule to see what tables and games are out there. We fully expect hundreds gamers, streamers and viewers over the weekend, both new to Starfinder as well as veterans, so everyone is welcome to join up!
OK, last question – convention season is almost upon us. Where can we find you and other members of Cosmic Crit this summer?
So I myself am hoping to make it out to non-Boston centered gaming conventions this year, namely Gen Con or PAX unplugged. Gen Con will be right before my AP volume is published, so I feel like I should show my face and apologize for all the murder PCs beforehand. But we will have our players Drew and Rebecca more than likely meeting up with fans at DragonCon in Atlanta, GA. This year will be our first official representation at PaizoCon as well, as our player Tyler will be there gaming, giving out free swag and meeting fans. It is a big year for us on the podcast, having launched on Patreon and announcing new fun partnerships and associations, so we are trying to get to as many conventions as possible.