Developing to Spec (Part 5): Corner Cases (with Starfinder Missing Legacy Feats)
This is Part Five of a series of articles looking at creating a set of Starfinder feats under specific constraints. The point of these is to offer practical examples of how I approach developing and writing supplemental rules for tabletop RPGs. Rather than just blather on about things as I think of them, I go over issues as I encounter them in a real-world example.
The goal of this project is to create the “Missing Starfinder Legacy Feats,” a Starfinder-compatible version of every feat in the PF core rulebook that doesn’t have an SF match. (We discussed the impact of having to do that, whether that’s a good idea or not, in Part One.)
We’ve tackled a lot of PF feats that would be useless or annoying if translated directly into Starfinder, using methods ranging from exploring alternate design spaces within the same rule systems to creating brand-new benefits that are at most vaguely conceptually connected to their PF versions. Today we get one really easy feat — Arcane Strike — and one really difficult one — Armor Proficiency (Medium).
Let’s start with the easy one.
While Arcane Strike doesn’t exist in Starfinder the core concept–take an extra action, do extra damage, actually works just fine. Even the scaling of +1 damage, going up to +5 at 20th level, it okay. There are only really three issues. First, if we leave it a swift action, you could use Arcane Strike and the boost special weapon property in the same attack on the same weapon, and unlike PF, Starfinder has lots of multiple-target, area-affect weapons. Those two things together (use a swift and a move to add Arcane Strike and boost to an area effect weapon) are “corner cases” — they don’t apply to the most common types of attacks — but the result in those cases might be too good to just translate the feat directly.
However, if we switch the swift action of PF Arcane Strike to a move action for the Starfidner version, we prevent double-dipping, and essentially have a simple version of boost spellcasters can add to the area weapons they tend to be proficient with.
The third issue, which is a bit less of a corner case, is that operative melee weapons and small arms already have some significant enhancers within the game. So much so that they are limited to smaller damage dice and half the damage bonus from Weapon Specialization. Which suggests half the benefit of an extra action will cover that issue.
ARCANE STRIKE (Combat)
You draw upon your mystic power to enhance your weapons with magical energy.
Prerequisite: Ability to cast spells as a class feature.
Benefit: As a move action, you can imbue your weapons with a fraction of your power. For 1 round, your weapons deal +1 damage and are treated as magic for the purpose of overcoming damage reduction and damaging incorporeal creatures. For every five caster levels you possess, this bonus increases by +1, to a maximum of +5 at 20th level. If the weapon is an operative melee weapon or small arm, it gains half the normal damage bonus (minimum +1).
And that brings us to Armor Proficiency (Medium). Which doesn’t exist in Starfinder… because Starfinder doesn’t have medium armor. If ever there was a case to go back to your theoretical boss and ask for an exception to the rule that every feat in the PF core rulebook has to be given a Starfinder equivalent, this is it!
So, let’s assume they said no. You HAVE to include this feat. What are our options.
Well, you could add medium armor to Starfinder. But if we compare the weight of those rules to the benefit for a single feat, it’s clearly not worth it.
That leaves us in a pickle. There’s no good design space, and there’s no justification to create a new design space just for this one feat. So, how do we fulfill our mandate that REQUIRES us to include this feat?
If you can’t make something that’s awesome, at least try to make something that isn’t harmful.
In this case, we clearly need something that’s better than just light armor proficiency, but not the same as heavy armor proficiency. We could do something that gives you some of the benefit of heavy armor proficiency, but not all of it. But then we need to add at least some minor additional benefit, because otherwise you could just grab Heavy Armor Proficiency. So we could let you use powered armor too, though not to its full benefit. And then we’d have to detail what happens if you DO become fully proficient with heavy armor…
Sigh. It’d be so much easier to just not do this, but a remit is a remit.
ARMOR PROFICIENCY (MEDIUM) (Combat)
You have some training with heavy and powered armor, but have not mastered them completely.
Prerequisite: Proficiency with light armor.
Benefit: You can use heavy and powered armor as if you were proficient with it, but take a -2 penalty to all attack rolls you make while doing so. You are not considered to be proficient in heavy or powered armor for purposes of any prerequisite.
Special: If you gain proficiency in heavy armor and have a base attack bonus of +5 or more, this instead becomes Powered Armor Proficiency.
That’s… not terrible. If you lack the Strength minimum needed for heavy armor but really wanted to wear it and didn’t care too much about attacks, it could be useful. Or, if you have a feat that you WANT to use to get Powered Armor Proficiency but can’t because you don’t have the needed base attack bonus yet, you could take this and then upgrade when you can. Those are also corner cases–most characters won’t fall into those categories–but since anyone else can just ignore this feat, that qualifies for not doing anything harmful to the game balance.
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Posted on October 17, 2019, in Game Design, Starfinder Development and tagged #Microfeats, Essays, feats, Game Design, gaming, Geekery, Genre Feats, Pathfinder, Starfinder. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.