Owen Explains It All! – Forlorn Hope and Gadgeteer Armor

Before we get to any OGL content, an editorial aside:

So, why is this tagged as an “Owen Explains It All” post, when that’s very unlike my normal marketing tone? Well, because this links into a new show from the BAMF podcast, titled “Owen Explains It All!“.

We have a logo and everything!

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If you haven’t already gone and watched the August 16, 2021 episode, we talk about The Suicide Squad and how to implement elements of it in a Starfinder Roleplaying Game campaign. We’ll do an episode every two weeks, picking new things from the zeitgeek to use as inspiration for game material.

Superhero movies and TV are particularly good places to pick up ideas for Starfinder, because they are generally modern-or-later settings that include aliens, technology, magic, and small-unit action –and sometimes even starships– much as Starfinder does. While there are lots of other science-fantasy game settings out there (40k, Shadowrun, RIFTs, and so on), it’s a much less common combination in major media such as TVs and movies. And while superhero stories tend to focus on, well, superheroes (or, in this case, villains), a lot of the concepts and set-pieces still work well translated to a less-cape-and-mask science-fantasy setting.

For this movie in particular, I was fascinated by the idea of convict agents as protagonists on a suicide mission, and with Bloodsport’s gadget-armor, both of which seem ripe for Starfinder emulation. So that’s what we’re looking at in this article. If you want game material inspired from other elements of The Suicide Squad, or want to suggest other things for us to feature on Owen Explains It All, let me know!

Now with that explanation out of the way, let’s get to the OGL game content!

Forlorn Hope as Campaign Setting

I won’t dwell on this too much because I actually covered it pretty well in the podcast, but I still think there is a lot of value in using conscription as the framework for a Starfinder game. Note here that i am talking about doing so with the explicit buy-in of the players, not springing it on them as the GM with no warning. But some game groups really enjoy a narrative device that helps keep them on-track, especially for lengthy campaigns adapted from published adventures. Not everyone will enjoy having a controller with their finger on a cortex bomb that can kill the PC, but having an overwatch who tells you when you are wasting time moving away from the adventure can be a big help for larger groups, or those who play rarely enough they sometimes forget what is going on.

Of course just because you are playing convicts doesn’t mean you are doomed to die on a suicide mission. The term “forlorn hope” specially refers to a group accepting a mission from which they are unlikely to return, often a last stand or desperate attack. You can use this term just to refer to characters for whom death is a likely outcome (the idea of the Forlorn Hope Division is kinda too cool to let a little thing like real-world definitions get in the way), or even put a hard timing on how long the PCs will survive. Certainly there’s nothing more definitely going to bring a game to a close and keep players pushing without having their characters fully rested all the time than a 100-day countdown to cortex bombs detonating.

You can also make it almost comical, and assure players if they die, they get to bring in a new convict character at the same level in the next game session. As long as you are okay with players flinging their PCs into air ducks to jam them and wresting dragons to buy friends time to escape, this can ramp up the risk players are willing to take.

Different groups will react to these concepts different ways, so this is very much an idea a GM should pitch to their players and see how it is received before implementing, but for people who find it dramatic, motivational, and potentially funny it can be a great campaign setup.

Gadgeteer Armorer

The concept of a character grabbing various modules and pieces off their armor to snap together into different kinds of tool and weapons is very on brand for Starfinder. The main issues with turning such an idea into a character option is how to make it balanced and something that doesn’t slow down game play, while remaining relevant at a wide range of character levels. Essentially, it needs to act like a class feature, rather than as buy-it-for-credits gear. The easiest way to add class features in Starfinder while maintaining balance is to create an archetype.

There already are some abilities that grant equipment, temporarily, as class abilities. The technomancer’s “fabricate tech” magic hack is a key example, along with fabricate arms at higher level, and the Adaptive Fighting feat offers a way to let a character have a range of options without slowing down gameplay. Drawing from those, and the mechanic’s experimental armor prototype alternate class feature, I wrote up the following:

Gadgeteer Armorer Archetype

While every starfaring adventurer knows that armor is a crucial part of their gear–allowing survival in the airless void of space as well as keeping attacks of fang and laser at bay. But some explorers and mercenaries go farther, turning their armor into a flexible supply of variable gadgets to be used and changed as needed. The gadgeteer armorer archetype represents such people.

When this archetype’s features refer to your class level, use the level of class you have attached this archetype to.

Minor Gadget Block (Ex or Su): At 2nd level, you can adapt a suit of armor you wear to be gadgeteer armor. No one else wearing your gadgeteer armor gains any benefits of this archetype from it. If your gadgeteer armor is ever destroyed or lost, you can convert a new suit of armor into gadgeteer armor after 24 hours of uninterrupted work. You can take a single 8-hour rest during each 24 hours spent working, but any interruption greater than a moment of conversation requires you to add 12 hours to the time required to convert a new suit of armor into your gadgeteer armor. In addition, you can transfer the gadgeteer function of your armor and place it in a new suit of armor with 10 minutes of work.

Your gadgeteer armor has two gadget blocks, pieces of modular technology you can remove from your armor and add to other devices or turn into specific items. One used, a gadget block is inert and cannot be used again until it is renewed when you regain your daily abilities. Select three technological items or weapons (not including analog weapons) and three weapon fusions. The selected items and fusions cannot have a level greater than your class level.

As a move action, you can use two gadget blocks to temporarily construct a piece of technological gear matching one of the three technological items or weapons you have selected. The item appears in your hands or in an adjacent square. The size of the item cannot exceed 10 bulk or Medium size, and the quality of the item is average. The item persists for a number of minutes equal to your class level. At the end of this duration, the item ceases to function, and is obviously not of any value. If you create an item or weapon with limited uses or charges (such as batteries, drugs, or fuel) with this hack, you must separately provide the appropriate ammunition or fuel for it to function.

Alternatively, as a move action you can use two gadget blocks to temporarily grant the effects of one of the three weapon fusions you selected to a weapon that you touch. The weapon gains the chosen fusion for once minute per class level. The weapon can’t gain a fusion it already has or one that can’t be applied to a weapon of its type, but this bonus fusion doesn’t count toward the maximum total level of fusions the weapon can have at once.

Each time you gain a class level, you can change what technological items, weapons, and fusions you have selected.

Split Gadget Block (Ex or Su): At 4th level, you can select an additional 3 technological items or weapons, and an additional 3 fusions. These must have a level no greater than your class level -2. You can use one gadget block to create these lower-level items or apply these lower-level fusions. These otherwise follow the rules for gadget blocks, meaning each day you can either spend 2 gadget blocks for one item/weapon or fusion of up to your level, or twice spend 1 gadget block to create your lower-level item/weapon or fusion.

Gadget Block (Ex or Su): At 6th level, your gadget armor has a total of 4 gadget blocks per day.

Improved Gadget Block (Ex or Su): At 9th level, your gadget armor has a total of 6 gadget blocks per day.

Major Gadget Block (Ex or Su): At 12th level, your gadget armor has a total of 8 gadget blocks per day.

Wrap Up

So, have different ideas for a Forlorn Hope campaign? Got other supers you think could be turned into archetypes? Interested in having me Explain It All for some other media-inspired content? Leave a comment and let me know!

(This is an Extended Post, with additional material discussing operative-trick-attacks-as-flavor, and an Acrobatic Tricks operative exploit, exclusively on my Patreon for my supporting Patrons.)


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 https://www.patreon.com/OwenKCStephens

Posted on August 18, 2021, in Adventure Sketch, Game Design, Starfinder Development and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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