Developing to Spec: Part 11d – Design Tricks

This is the second section of  Part Eleven of a series of articles looking at creating a set of Starfinder feats under specific constraints.  You can read along as we convert every feat in the PF core rulebook to Starfinder (and  share my thoughts on that process, as a developer and writer)— or you can just look at the finished feats (as they are written) here.

So, Deadly Stroke is our next feat in the alphabetical list of things to convert from PF to Starfinder, but it has as prerequisites Greater Weapon Focus and Shatter Defenses, two PF feats that aren’t in Starfinder, and that are on our list to convert, but that we haven’t converted yet. So, it makes more sense to do those feats first, and then come back for Deadly Stroke.

So, Greater Weapon Focus has the same issue as Combat Expertise and Deadly Aim — it’s a PF feat build off a different mathematical assumption than Starfinder’ combat uses. On the other hand, it’s hard to see how to turn Greater Weapon Focus into anything more than bonuses to hit targets… it just doesn’t do anything else, and not much else is thematically appropriate.

But there is a trick up my designer’s sleeve. It’s not perfect, but when we HAVE to convert something like this, and we CAN’T just give bonuses without breaking the game, sometimes we can reduce penalties instead.

Reducing penalties doesn’t change a character’s maximum attack value, so they aren’t just more effective all the time, but it does allow them to retain more accuracy when they normally would lose it. It keeps the character within the range of expected numbers for Starfinder combat, while still allowing them to be better than expected in specific circumstances. Since Starfinder allows you to take penatlies to make multiple attacks (and this is almost always more effective in terms of total damage-per-round) we don’t want to just allow a character to reduce all penalties, since that could be used to almost always make a more effective damage-per-round choice than the normal maximum. Luckily for us there is another source of well-defined penalties in Starfinder–conditions.

You have become a master of a particular weapon type.
Prerequisites: Proficiency and Weapons Focus with selected weapon type, base attack bonus +8.
Benefit: Chose one weapon type (small arms, longarms, heavy weapons, etc.) with which you have Weapon Focus. When making attacks with these weapons, you ignore penalties to attack rolls from the entangled, exhausted, fatigued, frightened, off-target, and shaken conditions. 

That should appeal to weapon-focused characters with lots of feats to spare (such as soldier). If we weren’t specifically converting these to Starfinder feats it might be worth making this a soldier gear boost, but it’s not unbalanced to let any character take it, so we’ll leave it alone.

That brings us to Shatter Defenses. It works fine as-is (though we should note flat-footed is a condition). It does overlap with an operative’s trick-attack a bit, but we can incorporate off-kilter as an additional effect if the target is or becomes flat-footed, so an operative working with a character that has this feat still sees synergy in their attacks (another design trick for when rules have PC abilities overlapping).

Your skill with your chosen weapon leaves opponents unable to defend themselves if you strike them when their defenses are already compromised.
Prerequisites: Weapon Focus, Dazzling Display, base attack bonus +6, proficiency with weapon.
Benefit: Any shaken, frightened, or panicked opponent hit by you this round gains the flat-footed condition until the end of your next turn. If the target is already flat-footed, or becomes flat-footed during that duration, it is off-kilter during this time instead. (Targets are off-kilter even if not in 0-G, but may automatically right themselves with a move action if this is the case).

So NEXT week, we can go back and pick up Deadly Stroke!

Got questions about specific kinds of development or game rule issues? Want to suggest some other topic for me to tackle in-depth? Join my Patreon for just a few dollars a month, and give me feedback on the kind of content 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 November 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: