Developing to Spec: Judging Rule Weight (with Starfinder Missing Legacy Feats) (Part 3)

This is Part Three of a series of articles looking at creating a set of Starfinder feats under specific constraints. You can find Part One here, Part Two here, hop ahead to Part Four, or just the finished feats (as they are written) here.

So last week in the first two parts we discussed what to do if you have a developer/writer job to take on you don’t think is a great idea, and how to work to make it a great idea. To serve as our examples, we’re creating the “Missing” legacy feats for Starfinder, taking every PF Core Rulebook feat that doesn’t have a feat by the same name in SF, and writing a new version.

And now we are up to Alignment Channel. And that deserves a discussion on rules weight.

Rules weight is my own term for the impact a rule has on the ease, flow, and fun of a game. Rules weight isn’t necessarily bad — a good “heavy” rule that opens up lots of concepts and play space can be worth the time it takes players and GMs to learn, understand, and apply it. For example, the fact that kinetic attacks target Kinetic Armor Class and energy attacks target Energy Armor Class in Starfinder has a fair amount of rules weight behind it. Not only does that core concept need to be understood, but it impacts things such as changing the damage type of an attack not changing what it targets, needing to be careful to note if bonuses apply to all AC in general or just EAC, and so on. But it also opens up interesting design space, such as allowing energy weapons to in general do a bit less damage, but be more accurate. It’s design weight is worth the benefits.

OTOH, I was once developing a trap a freelancer had written that added complex rules on how much you failed a disarm attempt varying the amount of damage the trap did, and how much applied to the contents, and had a sidebar to explain the whole thing. It was balanced and made sense. It was also in an adventure, used only once, and unlikely to ever becomes a standard rule subset for that game system. When GMs ran into it, they’d have to learn a whole subsystem just to run a single element of one encounter. No matter how much it made sense, the rules weighed too much for their benefit to the game. I changed it to a flat amount of damage if you failed a disable check badly enough.

I mention all that, because Alignment Channel in Pathfinder is its own rulesubsystem, with its own weight, that lots of different things tie into and multiple classes can access. In Starfinder, we instead have only the healing channel class feature of the mystic, and it’s single augmenting feat, Harm Undead.

So we COULD introduce a whole, broad set of energy channeling rules and ways for various classes to access them and try to build the concept into something as robust as the Pathfinder version… or we can just borrow from Harm Undead and keep things working in a way Starfinder players who might interact with these should understand.

In this case, I think the latter choice is much smarter.

You can use your healing channel to harm creatures with a specific alignment subtype.
Prerequisites: Healing channel connection power, mystic level 1st.
Benefit: Select one of the following alignment subtypes: chaos, evil, good, law. Your alignment cannot include any aspect of the selected subtype. When you use your healing channel, you can expend a mystic Spell slot of the highest level you can cast to also deal damage equal to the amount you heal to all foes in the area with the selected subtype. The foes can attempt a Will save for half damage, at your usual connection power DC.

And that brings us to Animal Affinity, which has similar issues as Acrobatic, which we discussed back in Part One of this series. We could just look for ways to expand the Survival skill when dealing with animals (since it covers both Handle Animal and Ride in Starfinder, the two things Animal Affinity gives bonuses to), or we could  investigate what design space might be available.

The third Starfinder Alien Archive has companion creature rules. These obviously have a good deal more rules weight to them than just adding some benefit to the use of a skill, but that weight opens up a whole range of new character concepts, and the rules are optional and open to any character. As long as we write rules that doesn’t add much more weight on top of the creature companion rules, and won’t be encountered outside of them, this may create a more interesting option for players.

You can easily direct an animal you have taken as a companion.
Prerequisites: Creature companion of the animal type.
Benefit: As part of any standard or full action you take, you can also grant an action to your animal creature companion as if you had taken a standard action to do so. You cannot do this the same round you use any other action to grant your creature companion another action. Once you have used this ability, you cannot do so again until you have expended Resolve Points to regain Stamina Points after a 10-minute rest.

Which brings us to Arcane Armor Mastery… which has it’s OWN set of problems, and we’ll tackle them tomorrow!

Like all my blog posts, this look inside my development process is brought to you by the wonderful patrons of my Patreon! Want more of this content? Want to suggest specific game systems, topics, of kinds of articles? Join my Patreon and let me know what you want to see!

About Owen K.C. Stephens

Owen K.C. Stephens Owen Kirker Clifford Stephens is a full-time ttRPG Writer, designer, developer, publisher, and consultant. He's the publisher for Rogue Genius Games, and has served as the Starfinder Design Lead for Paizo Publishing, the Freeport and Pathfinder RPG developer for Green Ronin, a developer for Rite Publishing, and the Editor-in-Chief for Evil Genius Games. Owen has written game material for numerous other companies, including Wizards of the Coast, Kobold Press, White Wolf, Steve Jackson Games and Upper Deck. He also consults, freelances, and in the off season, sleeps. He has a Pateon which supports his online work. You can find it at

Posted on October 15, 2019, in Game Design, Starfinder Development and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: