In the second part of The Volturnus Adventure – Volturnus, Planet of Mystery – the player characters meet the Eorna, a “gentle race of intelligent dinosaurs” nearly destroyed by the Sathar during “the Day of Doom.” The Eorna inform the characters that the Sathar left an artifact on Volturnus “that would summon a Sathar battle fleet if space travelling beings are detected within the Zebulon star system.” The appearance of the “pirates” and the expeditions would likely have caused the artifact to activate. “There is a chance, however, that the device has not yet sent for the battle fleet.” The Eorna ask the party to go to the artifact and “attempt to prevent it from calling the Sathar fleet.” Apparently, destruction of the artifact isn't a viable option. This would make more sense if the artifact sent a regular signal and discontinuance of the signal would be enough to alert the Sathar. Due to their diminishing numbers, the Eorna are reluctant to stop the artifact “because it is almost certain to have both internal and external defenses.”
The artifact is pyramidal in shape, having a base of 40m × 40m. It is controlled by a disembodied Sathar brain floating in a flask. The brain controls nine slavebots, “cybernetic combinations of living beings and machines.” The module describes them thus:
As you look into this chamber, you see three horrid-looking Eorna who gaze at you blankly for a moment. You immediately see that there are strange assemblies of wires protruding from their heads, and that their flesh has a strange discolored appearance.This is a nice touch of the macabre. Anyway, the party finds that the artifact has transmitted its alert and they can extract from the artifact computer the following information:
Transmission received. Attack fleet heading Volturnus at full operational readiness. Attack on planet will begin in two weeks standard time. Initiate standard procedures.The module has two possible endings, one if there is an intent to continue with the final module and another if the adventure concludes. In either ending, the characters can use technology in the artifact to communicate instantaneously with Truane's Star. If the next module will not be used, “the Truane's Star battle fleet can reach Volturnus in time to intercept the Sathar.” The good guys win. The end. If the final module will be played, “The government of Truane's Star will promise to send warships as soon as possible, but doubt that any ships can arrive before the Sathar attack begins.”
Just as Volturnus, Planet of Mystery has two possible endings, Starspawn of Volturnus has two possible beginnings: one if the previous module had been played and the other if Starspawn is to be played by itself. When the second module is played in isolation, events of the first module are read to the players as background and the characters are supposed to have participated in those events. When Starspawn is played in isolation, the player characters “have been recruited by the government of Truane's Star and sent to Volturnus as government agents [to] render any assistance possible” against the Sathar attack. It is not discussed how the government learned of this information, but the characters “are met by a delegation of Eorna...”
So, the final Volturnus module deals with an impending Sathar invasion; the “pirate” plotline is abandoned. The Eorna present their strategy of countering the Sathar attack to the party:
The plan is to unite the races of Volturnus in a common effort against the Sathar. Although the races are suspicious of each other, it is possible that you, as impartial aliens, could overcome these suspicions and help them to fight the Sathar.This sort of undertaking is sometimes known as Flash Gordon diplomacy. There are four sections of the module in which the player characters interact with the Volturnus races, one section for each race. The Ul-Mor, Kurabanda, and Edestekai were introduced in the two prior modules. The Mechanons first appear in Starspawn. These four sections “may be played in whatever order the party decides to attempt them.”
The Mechanons are advanced robots, “loosely classified as an intelligent race.” Starspawn explains their origin:
The Mechanons evolved from Eorna robots. A large number of robots, including robot brains, survived the first Sathar attack. Some were linked to self-programming computers. Without Eorna guidance, groups of these robot brain/computer teams began building new robots. Improvements were added bit by bit, and eventually a group of self-programming super robots evolved. Over a long period of time, and with more and more refinements, these became the Mechanons.Having no knowledge of their true origins, the Mechanons “believe that a machine god ...created them to do its will.” In another instance of robot vilification, the will of the machine god “is to exterminate biological life and replace it with Mechanons.” The Intelligent Alien Update File for the Mechanons claims, “It is entirely possible that at some time in the future, the Mechanons could present a tremendous threat to the Frontier Worlds.”
The Mechanons reside within some “strange mounds in the southwest of the desert.” The mounds also house the controls of an “automated system of planetary defenses.” The Eorna think that activating what remains of the system may be useful against the Sathar attack (although the system didn't seem to be especially effective during the original Day of Doom). The structure of the scenario suggests that the player characters will fight their way through much of the Mechanon complex before they have an audience with the Council of Mechanons. “If the party makes reasonable arguments for joining the alliance,” we are told, “the Mechanons will reluctantly decide to help fight the Sathar.”
The Mechanons have three prisoners – one each of the Ul-Mor, Kurabanda, and Edestekai – who “find it almost impossible to get along together.” However, the three prisoners “will have heard of the player characters (if the players have played in CRASH ON VOLTURNUS and VOLTURNUS, PLANET OF MYSTERY) and will be eager to help the player characters and themselves escape.” This illustrates an important point, a party that has participated in the first two modules will have an advantage in that they are known to the three races they are trying to unite. Even if Starspawn is played in isolation, escaping with the three prisoners should facilitate acceptance of the party by the various races. The module does not address this.
Three “elite Mechanon guard robots” act as sentries for the Eorna Planetary Defense Control Room. The room has additional defenses and traps which the Eorna neglect to describe or even mention to the party. Most noteworthy is “an Eorna hypnosis machine” that causes characters who fail a Logic check to...
...see an illusion of deep space, with galaxies far off in the distance. Lunging at them out of the void of space will be a horrible beast the size of a huge dragon.Panic ensues. I would think that an illusion of an empty room, being more plausible, might be more effective at protecting the contents of the room.
To convince the Ul-Mor into cooperating with the other races of Volturnus, the party must participate in “the Great Game.” This is an important event among the Ul-Mor tribes: “The winner of the game has the coming New Year named after him...” The Great Game is somewhat like combative polo played on an obstacle course – complete with a sand shark. About two-and-a-half pages of the thirty-two page module describe the rules of the Great Game and the inner cover is devoted to a map of the field on which the game is played. A player character need not win for the Ul-Mor to join the alliance, but at least one member of the party must “stay mounted throughout the Great Game” to impress them enough to gain their military support.
To enlist the Kurabanda into the alliance, the player characters must retrieve a “Sacred Idol.” Said idol was “stolen” by a giant Volturnian eagle (considered a demon by the Kurabanda) and taken “to the Demon's Temple in the forbidden area.” The “forbidden area” is a huge crater and “the Demon's Temple” is a pinnacle in the center upon which the eagle nests. The characters must climb the pinnacle because random explosions of hydrogen occur in the air over the crater. The hydrogen is emitted by an alien fungus brought to Volturnus via the meteorite that caused the crater.
Edestekai society is heavily influenced by religion; interaction is governed by elaborate rituals and the leaders are priests. The Edestekai god of justice is embodied by a quickdeath, a type of mutated feline. In the first module, player characters were required to slay a quickdeath. To convince the Edestekai to join the alliance, the party must capture a live quickdeath. (The quickdeath kept by the temple has recently died.) At one-and-a-half pages, the Edestekai section of the module is the briefest.
The penultimate section regards the much anticipated Battle of Volturnus, a diagram of which is presented above. The Sathar land ground forces and they march toward the Eorna center of power. “It is clear that if the Sathar penetrate the Eorna complex below Volkos,” the module says, “Volturnus is doomed.” Why the Sathar do not employ any sort of air support is not explained. (The defenders have air support in the form of Kurabanda hang gliders.) Given that the defense factions muster at the Eorna city, they must have known ahead of time what the Sathar planned.
Inserting player characters into a large-scale battle in a meaningful way can be a difficult prospect; Starspawn does a decent job of accomplishing this. There are four 'encounters' in the battle, each a distinct skirmish in which the characters participate and which have a cumulative effect on the overall battle. Each encounter focuses on troops from one of the Volturnus races. If a given race was not recruited by the player characters, then those forces are not available for the battle and the associated encounter is automatically lost. Encounter 1 regards the Mechanons attempting to destroy a Sathar cannon. In Encounter 2, Sathar attack the Edestekai with a couple of quickdeaths. (Because of the religious significance the Edestekai attach to quickdeaths, they avoid attacking them and they “must make a special morale check.”) In Encounter 3, the Sathar attack with “cybodragons” that occasionally require replacement power packs during the course of the battle. Encounter 4 has the Ul-Mor attempting to charge Sathar lines. The player characters have specific goals for each encounter. A 'Fortunes of War' table is consulted after every encounter. If “All the player characters are killed,” the table helpfully informs us, “Do not play any more encounters.”
A percentile roll determines whether the overall battle is won or lost. For every Volturnus race at the battle, there is a 10% chance of victory. Since the Eorna will necessarily be present, there is at least a 10% chance of winning. For each successful encounter, the chances of winning increase by 10%. This means there is a 90% chance of victory if all five races fight in the battle and all four encounters are successful. Even if the Volturnus forces lose the battle, it is possible for the Eorna to hold out in their complex until the Truane's Star battle fleet arrives.
The final encounter is somewhat anticlimactic: “This section contains no action encounters.” The referee merely reads an epilogue. The Truane's Star battle fleet finds “an ancient orbiter still revolving in a very wide orbit around Volturnus.” The orbiter contains fifty thousand fertile Eorna eggs in cryogenic storage. Thus, the Eorna race is saved. These eggs are the titular Starspawn of Volturnus. Admittedly, 'Starspawn' sounds neat, but the eggs have almost nothing to do with the module. Something like Warlords of Volturnus would have been more apt.