Monthly Archives: December 2019

Developing to Spec: Part 16b — Vital Choices

This is the second section of Part Sixteen 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.

Our alphabetical rundown has brought us to Greater Vital Strike, which obviously has Vital Strike and Improved Vital Strike as prerequisites. So, we need to somehow create a new combat option that’s worth a three-feat investment, that doesn;t break the game’s combat math.

And, to be honest, I’l not 100% sure this succeeds.

The idea is to give an alternative to the Starfinder full attack option. With the base Vital Strike, you end up being able to take a move action, take the same penalty to attacks as with a full attack, and if you hit get increased damage (more than one attack hitting, less than two, which tracks with the average result of a full attack though it’s not perfectly equivalent, and whether it’s better of worse is going to depend on a lot of factors). This is likely fine.

Improved Vital Strike makes you 5% more likely to succeed, and is in keeping with the math from the solarian flashing strikes… but anyone can pick it up and it’s not limited to melee weapons. That might steal too much thunder from the solarian, or it might be fine. Greater Vital Strike works like the solarian and soldier onslaught abilities, but isn’t as good total, and comes into play later, but ALSO is available to anyone.

My best guess is that these are okay, and good for some character builds, but not too good. But I’d certainly want to playtest them before I was sure of that.

(Presented below in the order you can take them, rather than alphabetical order as they would be in a feat list. I went ahead and did all three now, rather than saving one for tomorrow’s post. 🙂 )

VITAL STRIKE (Combat)
You can make one carefully- placed attack to do tremendous damage.
Prerequisites: Base attack bonus +6.
Benefit: As a standard action you can make a single attack at a -4 penalty to the attack roll. The weapon must be on you could make a full attack with (it cannot be unwieldy, for example). If your attack succeeds, you double the base damage dice of the attack when determining damage (but do not double not any bonuses, such as your Strength bonus for melee attacks or any weapon specialization bonus).

IMPROVED VITAL STRIKE (Combat)
You are skilled art making one carefully- placed attack to do tremendous damage.
Prerequisites: Vital Strike, base attack bonus +11.
Benefit: The penalty you take to your attack roll when using Vital Strike is only -3.

GREATER VITAL STRIKE (Combat)
You are skilled art making one carefully- placed attack to do tremendous damage.
Prerequisites: Improved Vital Strike, Vital Strike, base attack bonus +16.
Benefit: When you make a Vital Strike, you may choose to take a -5 penalty to your attack roll, rather than -3. If your attack succeeds, you triple the base damage dice of the attack when determining damage (but do not triple not any bonuses, such as your Strength bonus for melee attacks or any weapon specialization bonus).

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Developing to Spec: Part 16a — More Two-Weapon Fighting

This is the first section of Part Sixteen 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 ran into Greater Two-Weapon Fighting last week, which meant we also need to tackle its prerequisites of Two-Weapon Fighting and Improved Two-Weapon Fighting. We got the first one of those in place, and now we need to build off of it… and that leads to a discussion about specialization.

It’s obvious that the more character choices a player puts into one thing, the better the player wants their character to be at that one thing. It’s equally obvious that the more a character focuses on being good at one thing, the less benefit they’ll have to everything else. Therefore, the less effective they will be when their specialization doesn’t apply to a given situation or is at a severe penalty. What’s less obvious is why allowing someone to make this tradeoff endlessly is a problem.

For example, in Starfinder Weapon Focus gives you +1 to attacks with one class of weapons (+2 if your attack bonus is far enough behind). Imagine if you could gain another +1 by taking two more feats, and another by taking three feats, and so on. That would mean if you invested 10 feats into one class of weapons, you’d be at +4 to attack rolls. That’s a HUGE investment, so that has to be balanced, right?

But actually, that cause TWO imbalances. If you are in an encounter where that class of weapon is a fair or better choice, you’ll perform much better than the encounter is designed to account for, and you’ll be much more effective than other characters (often reducing their fun, and yours too if nothing is a challenge for you). But when you can’t use your specialized tactics, you are going to perform worse than the encounter is designed for, which is less fun for you (and for everyone else, if they have trouble taking up your slack). Instead of being more fun for being super-good at one thing, you risk being so specialized you create problems in any encounter.

Now there’s a big difference between investing 10 feats in something and investing three, so our Two-Weapon Fighting feat chain may well be fine. But anytime we’re giving options to focus lots of resources into specialization, it’s important to make sure you aren’t encouraging that kind of double-imbalance. It’s one reason we’re avoiding doing anything that increases a character’s max bonuses and instead trying to give new options. Increased flexibility is less likely to lead to the double-imbalance issue (though as with any design concept, there are exceptions to look out for, like spell choice for spellcasters).

So, that in mind, what can we do that makes sense with a character using two weapons without breaking the game’s math? We could keep the track we created for Two-Weappon Fighting and give greater and greater reroll options for damage. But while increasing average damage isn’t the same as increasing total bonus to damage (which affects minimum and average and max), it does still boost a character’s total damage-per-round. If possible, we need to find new options.

GREATER TWO-WEAPON FIGHTING (Combat)
You can maximize the benefit of fighting with two or more weapons.
Prerequisites: Dexterity 19+, Improved Two-Weapon Fighting, Two-Weapon Fighting, base attack bonus +9.
Benefit: When you are wielding two or more weapons, and you use one to take an attack of opportunity (AoO), before the beginning of your next turn you can use the other weapon to make an attack of opportunity if a different AoO against a different target presents itself and the second weapon could be used to make the AoO if you had a reaction left to do so. This second AoO does not take an action.

IMPROVED TWO-WEAPON FIGHTING (Combat)
You gain additional benefits from fighting with two or more weapons.
Prerequisites: Dexterity 17+, Two-Weapon Fighting, base attack bonus +6.
Benefit: When you are wielding two or more weapons, and you attack a target that could be attacked with either of them, you may choose to attack the target with two of the weapons (expending charges or ammunition normally) as part of the same attack. If the two weapons are different, select one weapon as your primary, and the other as your secondary.

If your primary weapon’s attack is successful you do damage wit that weapons. However, if the secondary weapon has the aurora, block, breach, bright, deconstruct, deflect, disarm, drain charge, entangle, extinguish, feint, first arc, grapple, harrying, ignite, injection, lockdown, penetrating, sunder, or trip weapon special property, you may treat the attack as having that property.

If the two weapons are identical, you instead ignore any additional bonus to AC the target gains from aligning a shield it is wielding.

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Flash Fiction: Magic Origins

Hofenung ripped a streetlight free of its cast iron mooring with one arm, caked ice shattering off of it, and hurled it down the alley. A bolt of faefire caught it before it had gone more than 20 feet, ripping through it with the same boom as a glacier breaking free of the icepack. The streetlight exploded in a cloud of dust and burning embers, filling the narrow space between buildings. Still clutching his charred side with his other hand, Hofenung staggered to the end of the byway and turned onto the next major street.

Behind him, he heard a chorus of buccasnickle cries of pain and anger. Though he could not smile, Hofenung allowed himself a flat-faced chuckle. The Fel Moroz wouldn’t make the mistake of assuming everything made by man was wood and stone again, but for not they had coated themselves in iron shavings far more efficiently than he possibly could have.

Still, the Fouettard would have the diminutive trackers whipped back into a hunting pack within moments, so his reprieve was to be a short one. He bulled forward through the near-blinding snow toward the nearest doorway, using his good shoulder to burst the door in, popping it entirely free of its frame. He staggered a half dozen paces into the shop, plowing through a display of silk hats and gloves, before crashing down on a wooden bench, which groaned under his weight.

His form heaved as though he was breathing heavily, though he lacked lungs or need for air. He rolled onto his side, bringing the side he had been clutching with his spare hand up from under him. Gently he peeled his fingers back to survey the damage. A chunk nearly the size of his fist was missing from his stone body. Worse, veins of shiny black silver was spreading from the wound, tiny spikes drilling through his granite form and cracking him apart.

At full strength, he might have been able to fight the curse. Weakened as he was, there was no chance of stopping it. He would break, and die, soon. He had even less time than he had feared.

Gingerly, Hofenung reached into the inner pocket of his tattered opera cloak. He pulled forth a single thread, a golden line of light, its tail end trailing into the fabric of his cloak. It resisted his pull at first, but when he gave it a determined tug it popped free. A chill set into his massive stone form, and he felt the animation begin to seep from him. The glowing thread curled one end of itself around his bulky fingertip, stroking the rock that was turning more gray by the second.

“It has been my honor to protect to.” Hofenung could no more cry than he could smile, but there was sadness and pain in his voice. “But I can carry this duty no longer. Your enemies ride fast. We must find you a new protector.”

It was scarcely a minute before heavy hoofsteps crunched in the snow outside. The light from the doorway was blocked by a massive form, hunched and shaggy, a long, barbed whip clutched in one hand and a massive wicket basked over its back. Around it, tiny, beautiful, perfect human forms danced and shook their fists angrily.

The hooved figured pressed its head against the open space of the doorway, and for a moment was held in place. It pushed, and the entire frame of the building groaned, as if being pressed by a terrifying wind. Then, it’s passage no longer blocked by the invisible force, the creature stepped into the shop. It walked down the obvious path of destruction through smashed displays and toppled shelves, to find Hofenung lying on a broken bench.

“You have been a worthy hunt, protector.” The creature’s voice was deep and gruff, nearly closer a growl than speech. “But it comes to an end now.”

“That you have enjoyed my escape is my sole regret in evading you.” Hofenung’s mouth opened, but did not move with the words. His body was almost entirely stiff, lifeless rock.

The creature bleated once. “You evaded nothing, protector. The teacher’s gift shall now be ours. Produce it, or I shall rip it from your broken rubble.”

More than ever in his long existence, Hofenung wished he could smile. “It’s not here.”

“WHAT?!” The shaggy form stomped a hoofed foot in anger. “What foolishness is this? Left aloeg, it could be damaged, destroyed. I need it intact to harness it, and you would never risk a gift from the teacher!”

Hofenung nodded. “You are right, of course. I have stitched it anew. And it will find a new protector, and that entity shall carry on where I have fallen.”

The creature snorted, in a mix of anger and amusement. “A new protector? Oh, it has the power to bring another like you alife, it is certain. But you believe here, in this time in this place, someone will craft a new body for such a protector? Make a man-form, or close enough, imbue it with their love and joy and cheer, so the gift can embody it?” One of the tiny forms yelped in squeaky complaint, and the creature nodded. “Indeed, even if some student of secrets was so inclined, there is snow on everything!”

Hofenung felt his last moments come upon him. “Yes, I believe all those things. And until it selects a protector, it will be difficult even for your buccasnickle to find. You will, at least, be delayed.”

And then the protector was no more than a pile of rock.

The hoofed, shaggy whip-bearer stared for long seconds at the remains of its foe of centuries, then cracked its whip. The buccasnickle flooded into the shop, and began tearing apart everything within in. Hats were rent asunder. Coats split in half. Scarves unraveled. As dawn approached, the whip-bearer roared in frustration and, with a crack, drove the small searchers from the shop, back toward the alley.

As they marched past the window of “Professor Hinkle’s Magic Shoppe and Rabbit Supplies,” not one of them stopped to glance at an old silk hat sitting in the display, a bright pink cloth flower sewn to it by a single, golden thread.

#DeepCuts

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Developing to Spec: Part 15d — Attacks of Opportunity and To-Weapon Fighting

This is the fourth 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.

So we bring ourselves to Greater Trip, which like the earlier Greater combat maneuver feats is fairly easily adapted… if we are willing to add a new way a character can provoke an attack of opportunity to Starfinder.

In general as a d20 game mechanic, Attacks of Opportunity (AoOs) are contentious among some groups. Many players (including GMs) feel they are too complicated, and it can be difficult to remember and understand what provokes one. On the opposite hand, there are tactically-minded players (and GMs) who want to have rules that force characters to think about where they are when they take certain actions–so you can’t just run past a line of spearbearers, for example and standing in the middle of a group of foes is a bad place to shoot at the main villain on his throne.

Starfinder tries to thread this needle by boiling down all the various options so three, and only three, things can potentially provoke an AoO (cast a spell, make a ranged attack, or leave a square threatened by a foe). There are ways to avoid provoking those AoO, but so far nothing else adds ways. So, does that mean we shouldn’t have Greater Trip do so?

No, not at all.

I would never have some new universal option, such as a new skill use, provoke AoOs when nothing else like it does. But a feat that adds a new consequence to a successful combat maneuver is a very different thing. It isn’t something people need to remember, because it’ll only come up when an attacker wants to use it. Similarly I’d have no issue with a spell you could cast that would force a creature to provoke an AoO.

But there ARE some action economy issues. If you take a standard action to trip a foe, and then get to attack it because it provoked from you, you can attack it twice. Sure, you might not succeed at the trip, but when you do it’s always better than just making a melee attack. This has been an issue over nearly 20 years of d20 games including Greater Trip.

But it’s easily fixed.

GREATER TRIP (Combat)
When you trip a foe, they briefly lose focus on their defenses.
Prerequisites: Improved Combat Maneuver (trip), base attack bonus +6.
Benefit: When you successfully trip a foe using the trip combat maneuver, they provoke attacks of opportunity from creatures threatening them other than you.

Done.

Okay, next is Greater Two Weapon Fighting. Which has Improved Two-Weapon Fighting as a prerequisite. Which itself has Two-Weapon Fighting as prerequisite. That means we need to come up with three, scaling, interesting combat benefits without boosting the maximum bonuses or damage a character gets (and we certainly can’t add more attacks to the Starfinder combat rules). As is generally the case with feats with prerequisites, we’ll start with the lowest-level of these feats.

TWO-WEAPON FIGHTING (Combat)
You can maximize the benefit of fighting with two or more weapons.
Prerequisites: Dexterity 15+, base attack bonus +1.
Benefit: When you are wielding two or more weapons, and you attack a target that could be attacked with either of them, you may choose to attack the target with two of the weapons (expending charges or ammunition normally) as part of the same attack. If the weapons are identical, if your attack hits you roll damage normally for one weapon, but reroll any damage die that results in a “1”. If the two weapons are not identical, you may reroll a single damage die that results in a ‘1″.

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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.

GREATER SPELL FOCUS
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.

GREATER SUNDER (Combat)
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.

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Developing to Spec: Part 15b – Better Combat Without Higher Bonus Maximums

This is the second 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 going through the Greater feats at the moment, and that brings us to Greater Shield Focus, which has Shield Focus as a prerequisite. It’s obvious why there are no such feats in the Starfidner core rulebook–it has no real shields. But the COM adds shields, and special rules for shields, and still doesn’t add Shield Focus or Greater Shield Focus. That suggests the math behind Starfinder’s shield bonuses is too tight to allow a feat to simply increase it.

So, once again, we need to find a way to make a combat option good enough to be worth spending a feat on, without having it increase the maximum bonus a character can take. Worse, we have to do it twice–once for Shield Focus, and once for the greater version.

Reading the special shield rules in COM, we run into the action economy rules needed to get maximum bonus from such equipment, That gives us a thin area of potential game design space–not to increase the maximum bonus a character can get from shields, but to make it easier to get that bonus quickly in in a wider range of circumstances.

GREATER SHIELD FOCUS (Combat)
You are a master of fighting with a shield.
Prerequisites: Shield proficiency, Shield Focus.
Benefit: When wielding a shield, you are always considered to have aligned it against attacks of opportunity made by foes you are observing (see States of Awareness in Chapter 8 of the Starfinder Roleplaying Game). Additionally when you align a shield against a foe, you gain the benefit of doing so against all foes you are observing.

SHIELD FOCUS (Combat)
You are skilled at fighting with a shield.
Prerequisites: Shield proficiency.
Benefit: When you take a move action to move your speed, you can pull a shield out from storage or put one away. If already wielding a shield, you can alternatively align a shield you are wielding against a foe as part of a such as move action.
Normal: Pulling a shield from storage, putting one away, or aligning it against a foe are each their own move action.

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Developing to Spec: Part 15a – Penetrating Thoughts

This is the first 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.

Our alphabetical rundown has brought us to Greater Penetrating Strike. Which, of course, has Penetrating Strike as a prerequisite. And while Starfinder has a Penetrating Attack feat, it doesn’t have Penetrating Strike. So we need to create a Starfinder version of a feat that has already been adapted under a slightly different name. And then create a greater version of it.

Since our feat is a Strike, rather than any Attack, we can start by having it only apply to melee attacks. That reduces its effectiveness so we can have it apply at lower levels. But we still don’t want to do the same thing as Penetrating Attack. That means we need to look for some other kind of defense it can penetrate.

Penetration suggests getting through barriers, and there are two basic forms of barrier in Starfinder — cover (including shields, now), and force fields.

GREATER PENETRATING STRIKE (Combat)
Prerequisites: Base attack bonus +9, Penetrating Strike, Weapon Focus (any melee weapon).
Benefit: you can use the benefit of Penetrating Strike with any melee attack, regardless of the action you use, whether you have Weapon Focus with it, or how many RP you have.

PENETRATING STRIKE (Combat)
Prerequisites: Base attack bonus +6, Weapon Focus (any melee weapon).
Benefit: As long as you have at least 1 Resolve Point remaining, when you make a single melee attack as a standard action (with an attack to which you can apply Weapon Focus), your target does not gain any AC bonus from cover (including shields) against that attack, and it ignores any HP and other effects from force fields and energy shields, and any other defensive effect of a shield.

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d20 Design Diary: Feat Prerequisites

One of the things I have mentioned several times in my ongoing series of articles converting Pathfinder Core Rulebook feats to Starfinder, is that Starfinder tends to have much less restrictive, less extensive feat prerequisites. What I haven’t done is go into any particular details about WHY that is the case, or how it impacts gameplay, or why Starfinder has any feat prerequisites at all.

To understand the answers to those questions, you need to understand why any feat has prerequisites, and what the different game function of various categories of prerequisites are. Since the core concepts here tend to apply to a broad range of d20 games, they seemed deserving of their own Design Diary (which, if popular, may be the first in a series of such posts looking at the unwritten logic behind various elements of d20 game design).

There are basically three kinds of feat prerequisites.

The first are balancing prerequisites, designed to limit which characters can take a feat based on character build. These include things like ability score minimum (so feats that make a character seem strong are limited to characters who have some minimum level of Strength), level minimums (so you can’t get the benefit until a certain level of options have entered the game in the form of class features, spells, and items tied to that level), and base attack bonus minimums (which ensure lower-level characters can’t get the feat immediately, and that full attack-bonus classes have access to them earlier and therefore can also get more of them). These tend not to be things players have to plan for–eventually a character hits these values, or doesn’t.

(A quick aside — Ability scores are slightly different, in that they can be a case where you can plan to gain the needed score to pick up a feat eventually. This is one of the reasons Starfinder and Pathfinder 2e grant you boosts to more than just one ability score when you hit the appropriate level–to allow characters to pick up feats they didn’t original qualify for due to a secondary or tertiary ability score without requiring the character give up boosting their primary ability score. It’s also why ability score prerequisites are always an odd numerical value–since ability bonuses are tied to even scores, having feats have odd scores as prerequisites can be the only gem mechanical difference between a 12 and 13 Intelligence, for example. In turn, this is why themes grant a +1 ability bonus in Starfinder. The design is intended to ensure any character build can work with any theme, since the theme does not change what your ability score modifiers are. But since they do cause one of your ability scores to have an odd value, taking the mercenary theme can be the difference between qualifying for Heavy Armor Proficiency, or not.)

The second type of prerequisites are those where just by the nature of the rules for someone to be able to do what a feat grants, they much have some previous ability. This is a like our Starfinder version of the Extra Rage feat, which gives you a benefit with a specific soldier fighting style–obviously if you don’t have that style, the feat is useless, so the style becomes a prerequisite. Often these are things a character is going to have as part of their core concept, or not. It’s less common for a character to evolve to gain these things, except as level locks (a feat that requires 7 ranks in a skill is level locked in that you can’t get it before 7th level, but most characters won’t pick up those ranks just to access the feat).

A subtype of this are prerequisites that are just a good idea for a character to have to make things effective–for example combat maneuvers in Starfinder are difficult to succeed at, so we are adding Improved Combat Maneuver with the appropriate maneuver as a prerequisite for each of our Greater combat maneuver feats. You don’t have to be good at disarming things game mechanically to theoretically benefit at the additional benefits for Greater Disarm, but it makes sense to avoid having frustrated players who end up with extra options for a combat maneuver they rarely succeed with by requiring them to be fairly good at the basic option before taking an advanced option.

The third type of feat prerequisites are conceptual ones, where it makes sense within the setting for you to have to be able to do something before you can gain a feat’s benefit, but they aren’t directly tied together. This includes things like not being able to use a skill for some advanced task unless you have ranks in it as a prerequisite, or needing a simple improvement before you get a complex improvement. This is where Pathfinder feats often have long chains of prerequisites which may have nothing to do with the game mechanics of a feat, they exist purely because it was considered logical by the designer. For example, you can’t get Greater Disarm in Pathfinder without Combat Expertise, since obviously disarming someone is an expert combat maneuver. But that also means you can’t get it without a 13 Intelligence, and that you must pick up the purely-defensive Combat Expertise feat before you can get the unrelated offensive combat maneuver-boosting Greater feat.

One effect of this is that it tends to create niche protection for what characters can gain what abilities. In Pathfinder if you have a fighter and a rogue in the group, and only the rogue has a 13 Intelligence, the rogue is more likely to be the only character with Greater Disarm because the fighter likely won’t be motivated to get the 13 Int AND Combat Expertise just to pick it up. However, this niche protection is haphazard–the Pathfinder fighter may have a much higher Combat maneuver Bonus and thus still be better at disarm than the rogue even with no resources dedicated to the idea–and it can create frustrations where a player finds some feat that feels thematically appropriate, but the feat has a chain of 7 prior feats they must have to take it, requiring the character be dedicated to that one concept for many levels of game play.

This category is where Starfinder has cut out a lot of prerequisites, so characters are less likely to be required to access unrelated feats to qualify for the things that interest them. As much as possible, the game is designed to allow any character of an appropriate level, who has the basic concepts to support a new feat option, to be able to select that feat option.

Long feat chains can also be designed in an effort to enforce game balance, in two different ways. First, if a feat is under-powered on its own, having it serve as the prerequisite for a more-powerful-than-average feat can, theoretically, lead to characters being more balanced overall. However, this means a player must choose the under-powered feat first, and live with its underwhelming performance until the more advanced feat can be gained. Second, if a feat has a huge list of prerequisites it obviously won’t be taken by low-level characters who don’t have that many feat slots. However if the feat is powerful enough, players will constantly seek ways to gain the prerequisites through other means, and may end up picking it up earlier than its designer intended. If a feat shouldn’t enter the game until 7th level, it’s simpler to just make being 7th level a prerequisite.

HUGE THANKS TO MY PATRONS

This post almost didn’t happen today, because my Patreon had fallen below the support level where I post 5 times a week. So I held it back, in the hopes I could post it later in the week if the Patreon support went up. But within a few hours of that becoming common knowledge the Patreon surged back up, so we’re back to 5 posts a week!

The patreon support really is critical to my being able to spend time making these posts, so if you enjoyed this or found it useful, please considering adding your support.

 

ACTIONFinder Species: MechaMorphs

ACTIONFinder is a modern action/adventure campaign for Starfinder, that I do NOT have time for right now. But it’s taking up space in my brain and I have to get it out to get anything else done, so:

ACTIONFinder Species
MechaMorph
6 HP
+2 STR, +2 CON, -2 WIS
30 foot land speed
Size and Type
MechaMorphs are humanoids with the android subtype. Their base form can be Small, Medium, Large, or Huge. Once this decision is made, it cannot be changed.
Constructed
For effects targeting creatures by type, MechaMorphs count as both humanoids and constructs (whichever allows an ability to affect them for abilities that affect only one of those types, and whichever is wore for abiliteis that affect both types)effect is worse). They receive a +2 racial bonus to saving throws against disease, mind-affecting effects, poison, and sleep, unless those effects specifically target constructs. In addition, androids do not breathe or suffer the normal environmental effects of being in a vacuum.

MechaMorph
VEHICLE FORM
A MechaMorph can change into a different physical form (or back again) as a swift action, or as part of a move action to move their speed. This form may be a vehicle (but not starship) of Small, Medium, Large, or Huge size, though it must be within one size category of their base form. the vehcile must be one with an item level no greater than the MechaMorph’s character level, and has the AC and HP/SP of the MechaMorph. this can change at each new character level.
The MechaMorph can pilot itself, or allow someone else to pilot it. Anything it carried in its base form is stowed within it in its vehicle form, and the MechaMorph may opt to allow it to be accessed by riders/passengers.
While in a vehicle form, the MechaMorph gains a +10 bonus to Disguise checks to appear to be that vehicle.
Alternatively, a MechaMorph can have a secondary form that is any object of the same size as the MechaMorph. The MechaMorph gains a +20 to Disguise checks to apepar to be that object, and gains +1 rank/level that must be put into a Profession skill appropriate to that form.
A MechaMorph has all the benefits of a suit of armor it wears in either form, and other creatures must make a Perception check (DC 15 + 1.5x mechamorph level, +Disguise bonus of the MechaMorph, if any) to realize the MechaMorph has armor and to be able to attempt to identify it.
MORPHIC
A MechaMorph can adjust its form to fit in spaces much smaller that normal for a creature it’s size. It can fit into spaces that a creature two sizes smaller could fit into. Its space does not change except as constrained by available space (for example, a Huge MechaMorph in a 5-foot wide corridor takes up a space 5 feet wide and 15 feet long)
DARKVISION
MechaMoprhs have Darkvision with a 60-foot range.

PATREON
Love ACTIONFinder? Want to encourage me to make more of it? Join my Patreon, and let me know!

Developing to Spec: Part 14 – The Overrun Objective

This is the fourth section of Part Fourteen 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.

Our journey of adaptation has brought us to Greater Overrun. Which is a problem, because the PF overrun combat maneuver doesn’t exist in Starfinder. And we can’t just create a new ability and call it Greater Overrun, because we’re going to have to convert Improved Overrun later when we get to all the PF “Improved” feats.

It’s not hard to see why overrun doesn’t exist in Starfinder — it’s a hybrid charge/trip that has special rules that allow a foe to move out of the way when it’s not their turn. Given one of the design objectives of Starfinder was to be simpler than PF, it makes sense to cut a combat maneuver that’s rarely used and has to bear the weight of special rules used only for that one maneuver.

But it’s inconvenient for us now.

The “obvious” solution is to create a new combat maneuver-like option you access through the Improved Overrun feat, and make a better version of it for Greater Overrun, while keeping true to the original concept of overrun but not making things as complicated as that option was. Which is a lot to try to manage, but we’re professionals, right? 🙂

GREATER OVERRUN (Combat)
Your foes fall before you.
Prerequisites: Improved Overrun, Improved Unarmed Strike.
Benefit: When using Improved Overrun, you can make any melee attack as part of the charge rather than only unarmed strikes. If your attack roll exceed’s the target’s KAC +8, it is knocked prone and your movement does not provoke an attack of opportunity from that foe.

IMPROVED OVERRRUN (Combat)
You are skilled at running down your foes.
Prerequisites: Improved Unarmed Strike.
Benefit: When you charge a foe that is no more than one size larger than you (or one size larger than your mount or vehicle, if you are mounted or piloting a vehicle), and you make an unarmed melee attack (or your mount makes one if mounted, or you impact the target with your vehicle, if in one), you gain a +2 bonus to the attack roll. If the attack hits and damages the target, you may continue your movement through their space (though doing so provokes an attack of opportunity for doing so as normal if you leave their threatened space), and your movement after the attack need not be in a straight line.
Normal: A charge stops when you attack your target.

We can get away with the attack bonus on the charge because in Starfinder charge normally has a penalty to your attack, so we aren’t breaking the game’s combat math, just making that option less restrictive. This may actually mean some soldiers and solarians who take class features based on charge can end up with a bonus, but they’ll have spent significant character choices to do so, and will still be limited to unarmed attacks.

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!