Monthly Archives: November 2019

Developing to Spec: Part 10b: When The Easy Answer Is WEIRD

This is the second section of Part Ten 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.

While we were going through the PF core rulebook feats in order, we’ve once again hit a whole category of feats –item creation feats. And I had no plan for handling that. So I came up with what I thought was a clever item creation feat for Brew Potion and Craft Magic Arms and Armor, and I can see how it’ll work well for Scribe Scroll and Craft Wondrous Item. Those are all well and good. Even Forge Ring is probably going to be okay.

But the NEXT feat I need to convert is Craft Rod. And there are Craft Staff and Craft Wand lurking out there, as well. So we need to get creative.

Looking at the types of equipment in Starfinder, I can map Scribe Scroll to spell gems, which serve the same function. I can map Forge Ring to magic rings, and Craft Wondrous Item to other classes of magic items. That still leaves augmentations, computers, technological items, hybrid items, vehicles, other purchases, and (if I got desperate) starships.

I’m going to discard computers, vehicles, and starships from the craft system immediately. Even ignoring how much those don’t feel like magic crafted items, the idea of letting someone make a computer in 10 minutes, which could then grant access to skills for example, seems clearly adventure-breaking.

I can see using Craft Staff for technological items (playing up that staves were, technically, weapons as well as magic items). Using Craft Wand for hybrid items is a stretch… but maybe I can find a way to have it make sense with the flavor text. That leaves me augmentations for Craft Rod, which again feels weird, but it IS a good game mechanical match.

This, by the way, is the point in a design process where if I was working in an office with other people employed by the same company, I’d lean over to whoever was next to me (for Starfinder, that was usually Rob McCreary or Joe Pasini), and ask them if this idea was TOO weird. failing that, if I had a developer or publisher to run it by, I’d ask for their input.

But since I am doing this project as a solo freelancer, I am on my own. It feels like it might be too weird… but it also works, so I’ll give it a go and see how I feel after the project is done. This is one of the things that can happen when you run into a major design challenge without having a solid plan to handle it, and just bull forward with the first thing that seems workable. (This is also one of the reasons a lot of game companies have developers — just because I decide this weird answer is okay doesn’t mean a publisher will agree with me. Developers help keep a game line;s tone consistent.)

CRAFT ROD
You have mastered the ancient art of using magic and sliding, interconnected rods and gears to make functioning, complex machines to accomplish specific tasks.
Prerequisites: Life Science 9 ranks, Physical Science 9 ranks.
Benefit: Over the course of ten minutes you can break down a number of unimplanted augmentations with a total item level no greater than your character level. You receive half these item’s credit value in UPBs.
Additionally with one hour of work, you can turn UPBs into a number of augmentations up to a total of item levels no greater than your character level. None of these items may have an item level greater than your character level. They may be unimplanted, or you may create them automatically implanted in a willing target that is able to have an augmentation added to the appropriate system.
Using this feat for either function requires you have access to an arcane laboratory or medical bay. Alternatively you can do this with a medkit, but are limited to augmentations with an item level at least 2 below your character level.

CRAFT STAFF
You have mastered centuries of philosophy and techniques on using magic to create technological items. Though this ancient art began with just staffs, you can use it to produce the vast array of technology you are familiar with.
Prerequisites: Engineering 11 ranks, Physical Science 11 ranks.
Benefit: Over the course of ten minutes you can break down a number of technological items with a total item level no greater than your character level. You receive half these item’s credit value in UPBs.
Additionally with one hour of work, you can turn UPBs into a number of technological items up to a total of item levels no greater than your character level. None of these items may have an item level greater than your character level.
Using this feat for either function requires you have access to an tech workshop or vehicle bay. Alternatively you can do this with an appropriate toolkit, but are limited to objects with an item level at least 2 below your character level.

Yep, those are weird. But, at least right now, they also feel cool to me.

I’m keeping them for now, and moving on with this project!

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Developing to Spec: Part 10: When You Have No Plan

This is a Part Ten 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.

While we were going through the PF core rulebook feats in order, we’ve once again hit a whole category of feats –item creation feats, beginning with Brew Potion–that play on game mechanics from PF that just don’t exist in Starfinder.

And, confession time, I have no plan for these.

I’ve known they were coming, in vague terms, since I began this project. And I’ve know they were the next thing to be tackled since last week, when I discovered I’d skipped a few things when I diverged from alphabetical order to tackle critical feats. So I have had lots of time to casually ponder this design issue. That often brings a number of ideas for how to work around some tricky bit of game design.

This time? Nothing.

Obviously I COULD just say I’ll do them later, and give myself more time. In some ways, that’d be the smart thing to do. But I want these articles to show how I tackle tricky development and design issues, so let’s pretend I don’t have any more time. I am on deadline. The project lead insists these be done, and I am out of time. So, since nothing else has sparked a good idea, it’s time to take an extreme measure.

It’s time to read messageboards.

I try to avoid this as a way to look for inspiration on specific questions, though I often do read game boards to get a feel for what players of a given game are thinking. But I am aware messageboards are not representative of all of a game’s players, and they can often have toxic elements I’d rather not dwell in. On top of that, when I am stumped on an issue I need to be careful not to plagiarize ideas I run into. Looking for inspiration is fine–taking someone else’s actual work and passing it off as my own isn’t.

So, reading through some Starfinder messagebaords today (there’s a reason this article got pasted so late in the day), I find the following common complaints about item creation in Starfinder.

It takes too long.
It doesn’t save you any money.
You have to have a big chunk of your wealth locked into UPBs instead of gear if you want to be able to craft while far from civilization.

Now I’m not going to play with costs at all. Equipment economy in -finder games is highly tuned for a reason, and adjusting it can lead to imbalances quickly, But there may be some room for solutions in the other issues.

BREW POTION
You have mastered ancient alchemical and magical arts of potable and potent liquids.
Prerequisites: Life Science 3 ranks, Medicine 3 ranks.
Benefit: Over the course of ten minutes you can break down a number of posions, medicinals, spell ampules, and serums with a total item level no greater than your character level. You receive half these item’s credit value in UPBs.
Additionally with one hour of work, you can turn UPBs into a number of poisons, medicinals, spell ampules, and serums up to a total of item levels no greater than your character level. None of these items may have an item level greater than your character level.
Using this feat for either function requires you have access to an arcane laboratory, medical bay, or synthesis bay. Alternatively you can do this with an advanced medkit or chemalyzer, but are limited to objects with an item level at least 2 below your character level.

Okay… that seems like a usable feat! It’s focused, but it fixes some of the problems people have with crafting. And it’s optional after all — if a player doesn’t think it’s worth it for them, they don’t have to take it.

Can we do the same with Craft Magic Arms and Armor?

CRAFT MAGIC ARMS AND ARMOR
You have mastered ancient magical techniques to create and adjust armor and weaponry.
Prerequisites: Engineering 5 ranks, Physical Science 5 ranks.
Benefit: Over the course of ten minutes you can break down a number of weapons, suits of armor, shields, or fusion seals with a total item level no greater than your character level. You receive half these item’s credit value in UPBs.
Additionally with one hour of work, you can turn UPBs into a number of weapons, suits of armor, shields, and fusion seals up to a total of item levels no greater than your character level. None of these items may have an item level greater than your character level.
Using this feat for either function requires you have access to an arcane laboratory, hangar bay, or tech workshop. Alternatively you can do this with an appropriate toolkit, but are limited to objects with an item level at least 2 below your character level.

Well, it sure is a feat. We’ll see if this concept survives going through all the item creation feats!

PATREON
This series of posts about my specific game writing and development process (along with concrete examples and Starfinder feats) is — like all my blog posts — is only possible if people join my Patreon, help me have the free time to write these things, and let me know what you want to see!

 

Centaur PC Race for Starfinder… and more.

CENTAURS IN STARFINDER
I have always loved the idea of centaur player characters. I suspect my love started with “Bridge of Sorrows” by Denis Beauvais, which was the cover of Dragon Magazine #92 (TSR, December 1984). Or maybe to goes back a tad earlier, to the Xanth novel Centaur Aisle, which I read in 1982, the same year I first encountered D&D, and RPGs in general.

I definitely want centaur PCs for my Really Wild West setting hack, which means I need rules for playing them as PCs in the Starfinder Roleplaying Game.

Ability Adjustments
Centaurs are powerfully built and in tune with their surroundings, but their hybrid form does come with drawbacks. Some centaurs are slightly awkward, having the brain of a biped, but the body of a quadruped. Others are delicate, their thin ankles and strange doubled internal organs leaving them prone to injury and ailments. A few are impatient and have little taste for complex calculations, preferring direct action and simple solutions whenever possible.
A centaur has +2 Strength, +2 Wisdom, and -2 to Dexterity, Constitution, or Intelligence.

Size and Type
Centaurs are monstrous humanoids that vary in size from halfling-scale torsos on pony equine bodies, to mighty human or even ogrelike torsos on mighty warhorse equine bodies. At character creation, a centaur PC decides if they are Medium or Large. They use held equipment as Medium characters in either case, but any armor is calculated using their total size.

Hit Points
6

Darkvision
Centaurs have darkvision with a range of 60 feet.

Humanoidlike
Centaurs are close enough to nonmonstrous humanoids that they can be affected by spells and abilities that affect humanoids, but do not normally affect monstrous humanoids. Centaurs gain a +4 racial bonus to saving throws (if any) against such effects.

Gallop
Centaurs have a land speed of 40 feet, but treat it as a speed of 20 feet when determining their movement using Athletics to climb or swim. A centaur gains a +2 bonus to AC when charging (which normally just offsets the -2 penalty to AC for charging). When a centaur succeeds at a bull rush combat maneuver, they can move their target 5 feet farther than normal.

Natural Weapons
Centaurs are always considered armed. They can deal 1d3 lethal damage with unarmed strikes and the attack doesn’t count as archaic. Centaurs gain a unique weapon specialization with their natural weapons at 3rd level, allowing them to add 1–1/2 × their character level to their damage rolls for their natural weapons (instead of just adding their character level, as usual).

Quadruped
Centaurs are quadrupeds, which gives them some advantages and a few drawbacks. They take -2 penalties to Acrobatics checks to tumble and Athletics checks to climb. When determining their bulk limits, centaurs add half their Constitution score to their Strength. Centaurs gain a +2 racial bonus to their KAC against bull rush and reposition combat maneuvers. A centaur can carry one creature of its own size, or two of at least one size smaller, without counting them against the centaur’s bulk limit.

RWW-Centaurs-background-01

CENTAURS IN THE REALLY WILD WEST
In the pulp-scifi-western-fantasy-world of the Really Wild West, centaurs appear in most ancient civilizations of western Asia, northern Africa, and eastern Europe. They often appear as separate tribes, no less advanced or civilized than the other species around them, and often seen as wiser and more scientifically advanced than the ancient cultures that wrote about them. They are an accepted part of the history of those places, and have become common throughout Africa, Europe and northern Asia.

However, centaurs are not generally huge fans of sea travel. This dislike is not pathological, but practical. Centaurs are excellent overland travelers, but at best mediocre swimmers, and many are large enough to make building ships to accommodate them problematic. In previous centuries, they simply used Roman roads and Asian trade routes to spread their kingdoms far and wide, often as the most feared and effective of cavalry. But the rise of sea travel in empire-building has left most centaur nations shrinking, and often joining larger bipedal nations in mostly-friendly alliances and unifications.

As a consequence, centaurs are not particularly common in the Americas, as their lack of a tradition of sea travel simply has centaur businesses and families less interested in the kinds of roles that have brought people from other nations to American shores. This in turn has caused most major North and South American to develop without taking centaur needs into account. Buildings are not designed to be accessed by hooved people up to seven feet tall, and even centaurs small enough to fit in American buildings find themselves with few places to stand in settings where everyone else sits.

Most centaurs in the Americas find they are just more comfortable in frontier towns or pure wilderness. So while there are not many centaurs on the continents in general, a disproportionate number of those who are present take to Wild West living, where their speed and carrying capacity, and long tradition of dedication and excellence, are seen as more than enough to justify making a few changes to the local saloon, or having on or two of the hotel’s stable stalls be well-appointed rooms, as well.

CENTAURS PF2
So, PF1 already has solid rules for centaur PCs, but what if you wanted to play a centaur PC in PF2, or 5e?

Hit Points
10

Size
Medium

Speed
30 feet

Ability Boosts
Strength
Wisdom
Free

Ability Flaw
Dexterity

Languages
Common
Sylvan
Additional languages equal to your Intelligence modifier (if it’s positive). Choose from Aklo, Elvish, Gnomish, Goblin, Jotun, Orcish, and any other languages to which you have access (such as the languages prevent to your region).

Traits
Centaur
Humanoid

Darkvision
You can see in darkness and dim light just as well as you can see in bright light. though your vision in darkness is black and white.

Centaur Heritages
Centaurs have a vast number of ethnic differences, but also can trace their linneage back to a few early tribes that still often produce very different

Kentoroi
You are Large, rather than medium, and have a thick, sturdy appearance. You may have small tusks, or pointed ears. You gain the orc trait and your bulk limits are increased by +6. You can select orc feats whenever you gain an ancestry feat.

Lapith
Your head, arms and torso are extremely humanlike. You gain the human trait and are trained in one skill of your choice. You can select human feats whenever you gain an ancestry feat.

While for a full suppliment we’d obviously want some cool centaur-specific ancestry feats, doing things this way ensures that as the PF2 game adds new options for humans and orcs, our centaur PCs will automatically gain expanded options as well.

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Developing to Spec: Part 9 (d) — My Mistakes Create A Teaching Moment

This is a continuation of Part Nine of a series of articles looking at creating a set of Starfinder feats under specific constraints.  You can read long 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.

While we were going through the PF core rulebook feats in order, we’ve hit a whole class of feats that play on rules that don’t exist in Starfinder — metamagic feats. Having developed a plan for converting those (and wanting to stay consistent with our development), it seems smart to tackle all the rest of the metamagic feats before we move on to the next in alphabetical order.

So, that brings us to Widen Spell. …. And Empower Spell and Enlarge Spell.

Wait, what? Shouldn’t those have been before Extend Spell, which we did in the first section of Part Nine?

Yes. Yes, they should have.

But when I did all the critical feats we got out of order, and instead of hopping back to Brew Potion (which would have sent us down a rabbit whole doing crafting feats this week), I somehow skipped ahead to Exotic Weapon Proficiency. I only caught the mistake earlier this week, when double checking I could get all the metamagic feats done by today, to move on to a new topic next week.

Now this isn’t a big deal. I can write these things in any order, so going back to Brew Potion next week is fine. But if I hadn’t double checked, I might have missed those skipped-over feats entirely. For purposes of a series of blog posts, that’s fine. But if this was actually a project I was developing for another publisher? A chunk of missing content would be a major failure on my part.

So, teaching moment. If your assignment is supposed to cover a specific list of items? Check from time to time, including when you think you are done, that you have covered all of them. And if you missed some? Fix it.

So, we’ll do three more metamagic feats today to get that line of design done, then hop to Brew Potion and crafting feats next week.

Since it’s always worthwhile to do things in alphabetical order unless you have a pressing reason not to, let’s look at Empower Spell. It has a lot of the same issues as Maximize Spell, so maybe we can use the same kind of solution. However, since it doesn’t add as much damage, we need it to be a smaller risk, and apply to a wider range of spells.

EMPOWER SPELL
You can get more effect out of your lower-level spells.
Prerequisites: Able to cast a spell at least 2 spell levels higher than your lowest-level spell.
Benefit: When you cast a spell with a casting time of 1 standard action, that is at least 2 spell levels lower than the highest-level spell you can cast, you may cast it with a casting time of 1 full action. The sp or hp damage done by the spell is increased by +50%.

That applies to a slightly higher level of spell, and takes a full action rather than 1 round. The payoff is much lower, but I could legitimately see a spellcaster wanting both these feats, and while they won’t work with each other (intentionally), they will stack with technomancer magic hacks.

Then it’s Enlarge Spell, which looks like it’ll work much like Extend Spell did.

ENLARGE SPELL
Your spells often have much greater reach than most spellcasters’.
Prerequisites: Ability to cast a spell with a range based on level.
Benefit: When calculating the range of your spells, treat your caster level as being +4 levels higher.

Aaaand that brings us to Widen Spell. Starfinder doesn’t normally have areas based on level, but they do often have targets limited per level, so we can use that with the Enlarge/Extend paradigm.

WIDEN SPELL
Your spells often affect many more targets than most spellcasters’.
Prerequisites: Ability to cast a spell with a maximum number of targets based on level.
Benefit: When calculating the maximum number of targets of your spells, treat your caster level as being +4 levels higher.

PATREON
This series of posts about my specific game writing and development process (along with concrete examples and Starfinder feats) is — like all my blog posts — is only possible if people join my Patreon, help me have the free time to write these things, and let me know what you want to see!