Designing to Spec: Support Material (Part 12: Everybody Else)

So we’ve finished creating Starfinder versions of all the Pf Core Rulebook feats that weren’t already in Starfinder, and we’re spending some time looking at things we may want to add to Starfinder, now that we’ve added such a huge load of feats.

We’ve added at least a couple of class features to ever official class in the game, but that doesn’t handle all the third-party Starfinder-compatible material out there. And, reasonably speaking, anyone adding the 130+ feat we’ve written up to their game may well also want to add aeoncarnates, godlings, gunslingers, zoomers, or other classes. And while it’s not our job to support every 3pp Starfinder-compatible class, we should consider that customers who buy our product may like it more (and thus buy more things we design) if it has support for a wider range of products.


Luckily, Starfinder has an option that can be applied to any class–archetypes. (Or at least any class that is properly designed to include the abilities that are swapped out when an archetype is taken). We can build a bonus-feat friendly archetype that can be added to any class, give it a theme and justification for that flexibility, add a few extra tweaks so it doesn’t just feel like the words “bonus feat” five times, and we’ve added an extremely flexible character design tool without breaking the game.


While you have the same general training as others in your field, you have always taken it upon yourself to forge your own path, and seek out the education you thought most useful to your specific needs and goals. You have become an expert in your own learning style and conditioning, and can even compartmentalize previous training to make room for new techniques and knacks.

Custom Training (Ex): At 2nd, 4th, 6th, 9th, and 12th level, you may choose to take you classes’ normal class feature, or to gain the customer training preceptor alternate feature. Each time you take this feature, you gain a bonus feat of your choice (for which you must meet all its prerequisites), or an additional 5 skill points (though you still cannot have more ranks in a skill than your total character level).

Additionally, whenever you take custom training, you can also choose to replace one of the feats you have already learned with a different feat. The feat you replace can’t be one that was used as a prerequisite for another feat or other ability. You can change only one feat each time you gain custom training, and you must choose whether or not to swap the feat at the time you gain this alternate feature.


Another option available to all characters are personal upgrades. Those in the core rulebook only grant ability score increases, but it’s easy enough to link into that system to allow people to buy bonus feats. It means we are requiring players to decide between boosted ability scores and boosted feat lists, and that’s an interesting choice for a lot of character builds. Most characters are better off having at least their key ability score upgraded with the highest-level personal upgrade they can manage, but its less obvious that everyone needs three ability scores boosted at higher levels.

Feat Upgrades

Feat upgrades are a variant form of personal upgrades. Like ability-focused personal upgrades, feat upgrades come in three models (Mk I, II, and II). they require the same interface as personal upgrades, so a character is limited to one personal or feat upgrade of each model–if you have a Mk I feat upgrade, you cannot also have a Mk I personal upgrade *but could have a Mk II personal upgrade).

Feat upgrades are always custom-designed for the recipient, and thus can grant any one bonus feat the recipient meets the prerequisites for. A feat upgrade that grants a feat the recipient uses as a prerequisite is so intertwined with their system, it can no longer be removed by anything short of a miracle, wish, or mnemonic chamber.

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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 February 21, 2020, in Game Design, Starfinder Development and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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