Developing to Spec: Part 15c – Great Spells and Sunder!

This is the third section of Part Fifteen 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, and I have time over the holidays to update the list) here.

We’re still cruising through the “Greater” spells from the PF core rulebook in our roughly-alphabetical run-through, and we’ve come to Greater Spell Focus, and Greater Sunder.

Starfinder has a non-Greater version of Spell Focus, which in fact is scaling, so it stands to reason the designers felt they didn’t want additional bonuses to be available at the cost of additional feats (changing hats… nope, we sure didn’t). That leaves us in the same situation we’ve been in with combat feats many times in this project–we need to create a feat that feels useful and makes sense to be called “Greater Spell Focus,” but that doesn’t increase the maximum bonuses a spellcaster can pick up.

However, it’s worth looking at how spells operate differently in Starfinder compared to PF. For example, spells tend to do flat damage instead of scaling damage, and spells are less likely to take a foe entirely out of a sight on a failed saving throw. That’s not universal (hold person is still among the most powerful lower-level spells – if I were designing it today, I’d have it end if the target takes damage). But it does mean we can slightly increase the potency of lower-level spells without it being as unbalancing as it would be in PF. Though, we still must do so very carefully.

You can make your weaker spells closer in power to your strongest ones.
Prerequisites: Ability to cast 3rd level spells, character level 7th, Spell Focus.
Benefits: When you cast a spell that is 2 or 3 levels lower than your highest-level spell, the DC of the spell increases by 1. When you cast a spell that is 4 or 5 levels lower than your highest-level spell, the DC of the spell increases by 2. When you cast a spell that is 6 levels lower than your highest-level spell, the DC of the spell increases by 3.

Next is Greater Sunder, which has the same issues as Greater Bull Rush, Disarm, and Grapple. And like those, we want to look at the utility of Sunder in Starfinder. An important difference between the two systems is that item levels mean even “mundane” equipment at high levels have impressive hardness and hit points. Also, Starfinder’s sunder only functions on held items, removing armor as a legal target, so the maneuver is at most half as useful as the PF version.

Further, unlike in PF there’s no size modifier to a creature’s defenses against combat maneuvers. Starfinder makes it a more difficult attack against EAC or KAC, so it should never be easier to sunder a foe than just hit them.

So if we want to convince a character to spend two feats on a Greater version, it had better have a pretty strong benefit, still without unbalancing max bonuses or increasing the sunder damage.

Your sunder maneuvers hurt them more than they hurt you.
Prerequisites: Improved Combat Maneuver (sunder), base attack bonus +6.
Benefit: When you successfully perform a sunder combat maneuver against an item a creature is holding, the creature also takes half the sunder damage. It applies any defenses or resistances normally. Alternatively, you can choose to do full damage to the target, and half damage to the sundered object (each still aplying their own defenses normally).

That has a real appeal — damage object and wielder with one attack– but doesn’t make it any easier to actually break the object while doing so.

Like all my blog posts, this 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? All of that 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!


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 December 12, 2019, in Game Design, Starfinder Development and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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