Combat Effects on Missed Attacks for Starfinder

As discussed in the articles Greater Combat Maneuvers for Starfinder, and Greater Partial Effects for Starfinder “Save Negates” Spells, there’s very little as frustrating for a player than to take their whole turn and have absolutely no impact on a conflict. We’ve talked about how to possibly mitigate that frustration for combat maneuvers and spells, but what about characters focusing on just making attacks? Certainly, constantly missing a target is no less frustrating that failed maneuvers and resisted spells, even if it is theoretically easier to accomplish and doesn’t have as high a resource cost. So, should we create minor secondary effects on failed attacks for the combatant characters?

I personally think the answer is “yes…. but.”

On the one hand, it makes sense that exactly the same factors that make failed attempts unfun for maneuvers and spells makes it unfun for attacks. On the other hand, the very fact that attacks are more likely to succeed and easy to keep trying means they need to not have all the advantages of other combat options. While we made combat maneuvers and spells more appealing by giving them minor conditions that could apply even when they failed, we can’t use the same solution for standard attacks. First, it doesn’t make sense for a failed standard attack to impose a condition when a successful one doesn’t. Secondly, if failed attacks impose conditions, even minor ones, they’ll overshadow the hard-won advances in failed combat maneuver and spells feeling impactful.

We can, however, have missed attacks still have SOME impact in combat. But it shouldn’t be a condition, and it shouldn’t be damage (not because that couldn’t be balanced with some small amount of damage, but because a large segment of d20 game players rebel at the idea of doing damage on a miss, and because the tiny amount of damage we’d have to make it be for balance would likely not feel satisfying).

So, instead, we can play with accuracy. As with all these “effects on a failure” rules this could be made a general rule, or even a general rule for characters with base attack bonuses equal to their character level, but I think it makes the most sense to present it as a feat.

Zero In

As your foes evade your attacks, you manage to zero in on their defenses, increasing your accuracy for your next attack.
Prerequisites: Base attack bonus +1.
Benefit: When you make an attack against a target’s EAC or KAC (or a starship’s AC, but not TL), and your attack misses, and the attack has no effect on any target, you gain a +1 insight bonus to your next attack against that target using the same weapon. If you attack a target with this insight bonus and miss again, the insight bonuses increases by 1, to a maximum equal to your Strength modifier (for most melee attacks) or Dexterity modifier (for ranged attacks and melee attacks with operative weapons if you used your Dexterity bonus as part of your attack bonus). If you attack another target, damage the target you used Zero In to gain an insight bonus for, or the encounter ends, your insight bonus resets to +0.

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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 July 8, 2021, in Game Design, Starfinder Development and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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