Awesome 80s: MechaServe Pilot ThemeType (Transforming Robot/Vehicle/ Armor Augmentation for Starfinder)
Posted by Owen K.C. Stephens
Today we’re continuing the Awesome 80s line of blog posts, which are about sharing some of the things I created partially due to the inspirations I got from movies, shows, games, and literature of that decade. In this case, it’s robots that act like drones but can also be vehicles but can also become augmentations for your armor.
Yep, it’s a pretty specific example. I’m going with the name “MechaServe Robot Pilot.”
To create this as a PC option, we’re using a ThemeType, a PC option that combines a character’s Theme with an Archetype to allow them to be significantly more varied than a typical character. I first introduced and explained ThemeTypes in a 2018 article, and they remain a useful tool for some kinds of character concepts. I’ve done several ThemeTypes already, including multiclass options for nearly all the official Starfinder classes (the new Evolutionist class has yet to get one, but it’s coming), and some special kinds of characters that might have been presented as prestige classes in other d20 games (such as the Psionic and Lawstar Justicar ThemeTypes). Since the MechaServe Robot Pilot has to integrate a robotic drone, transforming vehicle, and armor augmentation, a ThemeType is definitely the way to go with it.
An Aside: One of the things that some people criticize about ThemeTypes is that they prevents you from getting the +1 to 1 ability score that a typical theme grants. While that’s true, it’s also a minor issue. Losing that +1 never needs to result in having a lower ability bonus — all it does is make a single score that would have been odd instead be even, and thus potentially not qualify for feats with ability score minimums. That’s not nothing, but it’s also not a major character balance issue. Essentially you give up a slight edge in a narrow range of feat prerequisites in favor of the greater flexibility of accessing abilities n scale with accessing the features of another character class.
(Art by Jacob Blackmon)
MechaServe Robot Pilot ThemeType
You have access to a MechaServe – a robot that can also be a vehicle that can also become part of (and thus augment) your armor. Maybe you built it. Maybe you found it in a cache of lost technology. Maybe you’re from a world where MechaServes are common. Maybe it came with your role in the cyberband. Whatever its origin, it’s your now, and that gives you a lot of flexibility.
Theme Knowledge (Ex, Theme, 1st Level): At first level, you gain Piloting as a class skill. You may use your Intelligence bonus, rather than your Dexterity bonus, to determine your Piloting skill bonus total, if you wish. You also gain a free dragoon armor upgrade with an item level equal to your character level (minimum item level 2), that only you may use. It can be installed in your armor without using an upgrade slot, and the vehicle it can become can have a level no greater than your character level. You can change what vehicle this is each time you gain a level. This is your basic MechaServe, which starts with two modes (reinforced plates and vehicle, as outlined in the dragoon armor upgrade).
Basic MechaServe (Ex, Archetype, 2nd Level): Your dragoon armor upgrade vehicle also acts as a mechanic’s drone, as if you had the drone version of the mechanic’s artificial intelligence class feature. Your effective mechanic level is equal to your class level –1, to a maximum mechanic level of 3rd. Select a chassis for your drone and build it normally. Your drone can switch between this drone form and the vehicle form for your dragoon armor upgrade. This functions as the vehicle form ability from the deceptive transforming robot graft.
Your MechaServe now has three modes: Reinforced plates, drone, or vehicle. It can change directly from vehicle to reinforced plates, but must be adjacent to you to do so.
You do not gain any other mechanic class features, but your MechaServe does gain drone special abilities, feats, and drone mods appropriate for your effective mechanic level. When it vehicle form it only has access to abilities from that vehicle, and it can still only take actions as allowed by your drone version of the mechanic’s artificial intelligence class feature.
MechaServe Improvement (Ex, Archetype, 4th Level): Though still calculated as your character level –1, your maximum effective mechanic level for your MechaServe’s drone mode increases by +1. You can use one MechaServe Upgrade Swap (see below).
MechaServe Repair (Ex, Theme, 6th Level): You gain the repair drone mechanic trick, treating your mechanic level as your character level -1. You can use one additional MechaServe Upgrade Swap (see below).
MechaServe Improvement (Ex, Archetype, 6th Level): Though now calculated as your character level –2, your maximum effective mechanic level for your MechaServe’s drone mode increases by +2. You can use one additional MechaServe Upgrade Swap (see below).
MechaServe Improvement (Ex, Archetype, 12th Level): Though still calculated as your character level –2, your maximum effective mechanic level for your MechaServe’s drone mode increases by +3. You can use one additional MechaServe Upgrade Swap (see below).
MechaServe Trick (Ex, Theme, 18th Level): You gain one mechanic trick, selected from the mechanic tricks of 8th level or less that grant an ability to your MechaServe’s drone mode (such as drone meld or overclocking). You can use one additional MechaServe Upgrade Swap (see below).
MechaServe Improvement (Ex, Archetype 18th): Though still calculated as your character level –2, your maximum effective mechanic level for your MechaServe’s drone mode increases by +2. You can use one additional MechaServe Upgrade Swap (see below).
MechaServe Upgrade Swaps
Your MechaServe can gain the following abilities in place of drone feats or mods. Essentially, your MechaServe has one less feat or mod in drone mode, but gains the upgrade swap of your choice from the list below. You can’t have more upgrade swaps than have been granted to your by the MechaServe Pilot ThemeType, and you can change what swaps you have at each character level.
MechaServe Enlargement: When your MechaServe is in reinforced plates mode, you can choose to be one size category larger. This increases your reach by 5 feet, and the amount of bulk you can carry without becoming encumbered or overburdened by +10.
MechaServe Reinforcement: When your MechaServe is in reinforced plates mode, you gain a +1 shield bonus to AC. This increases to +2 if your character level is 14th level or higher.
Robotic Flexibility: Your MechaServe retains all its vehicle movement types and equipment when it is in drone mode. If you select this a second time, your MechaServe can carry as many passengers in drone mode as it can in vehicle mode, without becoming encumbered or overburdened. If you select this a third time, when your MechaServe is in reinforced plates mode, you can use any movement form your MechaServe has in drone or vehicle mode.
Swift Switch: Once per round, your MechaServe can change mode as a free action.
Upgrade Flexibility: When your MechaServe is in reinforced plates mode, it can grant your armor any one armor upgrade with an item level no greater than your character level -2. This does not require an upgrade slot, has no cost, and can be an upgrade for any type of armor (light, heavy, or powered), regardless of your actual armor. You may change what this upgrade is each time you gain a new level. If you select this a second time, your MechaServe also has this upgrade when in drone mode. If you select it a third time, your MechaServe also has this upgrade in vehicle mode.
Vehicular Flexability: Your MechaServe retains use of its drone weapons and equipment while in vehicle mode. If you select this a second time, you also have access to its weapons when it is in reinforced plates mode. If you select this a third time, your MechaServe has access to all its drone feats and upgrades while in vehicle mode.
(Jacob carefully made sure a humanoid fit in his MechaServe in reinforced plates mode. And, he had his own thoughts about what it should be called. 🙂 )
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About Owen K.C. StephensOwen 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 December 1, 2022, in Game Design, Starfinder Development and tagged Awesome 80s, Class Options, Game Design, gaming, Geekery, PC Options, Starfinder, ThemeTypes, Transformers. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.