Category Archives: Pathfinder Development

Developing to Spec: Part 12c – Deft and Disruptive

This is the third section of Part Twelve 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’ve made it to Deft Hands, which has all the issues of Athletic and Acrobatic and similar feats. Luckily we can again use the same solution—look through the relevant feats and seek some design space open for new options.

DEFT HANDS
You have exceptional manual dexterity.
Benefit: You can perform the hide object, palm object, and pick pocket tasks of Sleight of Hand as move actions.

Disruptive is interesting, because it makes a spellcaster less likely to cast defensively… and defensive casting isn’t a thing in Starfinder. But if we just take the feat to be something that makes spellcasters near you less effective, we can build something interesting that does that without trying to replicate the exact game mechanics.

DISRUPTIVE (Combat)
Your training makes it difficult for enemy spellcasters to safely cast spells near you.
Prerequisites: Base attack bonus +6.
Benefit: Creatures within the area you can threaten with melee attacks take a -1 penalty to attack rolls with spells, and the save DCs of their spells are reduced by 1. If you hit such a creature with a melee attack these penalties are doubled as long as is it in your threatened area until the beginning of your next turn.

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!

Developing to Spec: Part 12b – Adapting Concepts

This is the second section of Part Twelve 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’ve reached Defensive Combat Training, which has the same kind of problems with game math and combat options as Greater Weapon Focus and, like it, there’s a way to preserve the concept by having it apply to avoiding penalties rather than gaining bonuses.

DEFENSIVE COMBAT TRAINING (Combat)
You have trained to keep your defenses us against tricky maneuvers, even under the worst circumstances
Benefit: You do not apply the penalty from the entangled, exhausted, fatigued, flat-footed, frightened, grappled, off-kilter, panicked, or prone conditions to your AC against combat maneuvers.

Deflect Arrows clearly got superseded by Deflect Projectiles, but we can possibly use the fact that the Starfinder version has extremely broad utility, late-level prerequisites, and a Resolve Point cost to make a much narrower, but less costly version just for “arrows.”

DEFLECT ARROWS (Combat)
You have trained in an archaic art designed to avoid archaic missile weapons.
Benefit: Once per round when an archaic ranged weapon that does kinetic damage would hit you, you may choose to have it miss you.

PATREON
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Centaur PC Race for Starfinder… and more.

CENTAURS IN STARFINDER
I have always loved the idea of centaur player characters. I suspect my love started with “Bridge of Sorrows” by Denis Beauvais, which was the cover of Dragon Magazine #92 (TSR, December 1984). Or maybe to goes back a tad earlier, to the Xanth novel Centaur Aisle, which I read in 1982, the same year I first encountered D&D, and RPGs in general.

I definitely want centaur PCs for my Really Wild West setting hack, which means I need rules for playing them as PCs in the Starfinder Roleplaying Game.

Ability Adjustments
Centaurs are powerfully built and in tune with their surroundings, but their hybrid form does come with drawbacks. Some centaurs are slightly awkward, having the brain of a biped, but the body of a quadruped. Others are delicate, their thin ankles and strange doubled internal organs leaving them prone to injury and ailments. A few are impatient and have little taste for complex calculations, preferring direct action and simple solutions whenever possible.
+2 Strength, +2 Wisdom, -2 to Dexterity, Constitution, or Intelligence.

Size and Type
Centaurs are monstrous humanoids.Centaurs vary in size from halfling-scale torsos on pony equine bodies, to mighty human or even ogrelike torsos on mighty warhorse equine bodies. At character creation, a centaur PC decided if they are Medium or large. They use equipment as Medium characters in either case.

Hit Points
6

Darkvision
Centaurs have darkvision with a range of 60 feet.

Humanoidlike
Centaurs are close enough to nonmonstrous humanoids that they can be affected by spells and abilities that affect humanoids, but do not affect monstrous humanoids. Centaurs gain a +4 racial bonus to saving throws (if any) against such effects.

Gallop
Centaurs have a land speed of 40 feet, but treat it as a speed of 20 feet when determining their movement using Athletics to climb or swim. A centaur gains a +2 bonus to AC when charging (which normally just offsets the -2 penalty to AC for charging). When a centaur succeeds at a bull rush combat maneuver, they can move their target 5 feet farther than normal.

Natural Weapons
Centaurs are always considered armed. They can deal 1d3 lethal damage with unarmed strikes and the attack doesn’t count as archaic. Centaurs gain a unique weapon specialization with their natural weapons at 3rd level, allowing them to add 1–1/2 × their character level to their damage rolls for their natural weapons (instead of just adding their character level, as usual).

Quadruped
Centaurs are quadrupeds, which gives them some advantages and a few drawbacks. They take -2 penalties to Acrobatics checks to tumble and Athletics checks to climb. When determining their bulk limits, centaurs add half their Constitution score to their Strength. Centaurs gain a +2 racial bonus to their KAC against bull rush and reposition combat maneuvers. A centaur can carry one creature of its own size, or two of at least one size smaller, without counting them against the centaur’s bulk limit.

RWW-Centaurs-background-01

CENTAURS IN THE REALLY WILD WEST
In the pulp-scifi-western-fantasy-world of the Really Wild West, centaurs appear in most ancient civilizations of western Asia, northern Africa, and eastern Europe. They often appear as separate tribes, no less advanced or civilized than the other species around them, and often seen as wiser and more scientifically advanced than the ancient cultures that wrote about them. They are an accepted part of the history of those places, and have become common throughout Africa, Europe and northern Asia.

However, centaurs are not generally huge fans of sea travel. This dislike is not pathological, but practical. Centaurs are excellent overland travelers, but at best mediocre swimmers, and many are large enough to make building ships to accommodate them problematic. In previous centuries, they simply used Roman roads and Asian trade routes to spread their kingdoms far and wide, often as the most feared and effective of cavalry. But the rise of sea travel in empire-building has left most centaur nations shrinking, and often joining larger bipedal nations in mostly-friendly alliances and unifications.

As a consequence, centaurs are not particularly common in the Americas, as their lack of a tradition of sea travel simply has centaur businesses and families less interested in the kinds of roles that have brought people from other nations to American shores. This in turn has caused most major North and South American to develop without taking centaur needs into account. Buildings are not designed to be accessed by hooved people up to seven feet tall, and even centaurs small enough to fit in American buildings find themselves with few places to stand in settings where everyone else sits.

Most centaurs in the Americas find they are just more comfortable in frontier towns or pure wilderness. So while there are not many centaurs on the continents in general, a disproportionate number of those who are present take to Wild West living, where their speed and carrying capacity, and long tradition of dedication and excellence, are seen as more than enough to justify making a few changes to the local saloon, or having on or two of the hotel’s stable stalls be well-appointed rooms, as well.

CENTAURS PF2
So, PF1 already has solid rules for centaur PCs, but what if you wanted to play a centaur PC in PF2, or 5e?

Hit Points
10

Size
Medium

Speed
30 feet

Ability Boosts
Strength
Wisdom
Free

Ability Flaw
Dexterity

Languages
Common
Sylvan
Additional languages equal to your Intelligence modifier (if it’s positive). Choose from Aklo, Elvish, Gnomish, Goblin, Jotun, Orcish, and any other languages to which you have access (such as the languages prevent to your region).

Traits
Centaur
Humanoid

Darkvision
You can see in darkness and dim light just as well as you can see in bright light. though your vision in darkness is black and white.

Centaur Heritages
Centaurs have a vast number of ethnic differences, but also can trace their linneage back to a few early tribes that still often produce very different

Kentoroi
You are Large, rather than medium, and have a thick, sturdy appearance. You may have small tusks, or pointed ears. You gain the orc trait and your bulk limits are increased by +6. You can select orc feats whenever you gain an ancestry feat.

Lapith
Your head, arms and torso are extremely humanlike. You gain the human trait and are trained in one skill of your choice. You can select human feats whenever you gain an ancestry feat.

While for a full suppliment we’d obviously want some cool centaur-specific ancestry feats, doing things this way ensures that as the PF2 game adds new options for humans and orcs, our centaur PCs will automatically gain expanded options as well.

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Developing to Spec: part 9 (c) — Quickened and Silent

This is a continuation of Part Nine of a series of articles looking at creating a set of Starfinder feats under specific constraints.  You can read long 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) here.

While we were going through the PF core rulebook feats in order, we’ve hit a whole class of feats that play on rules that don’t exist in Starfinder — metamagic feats. Having developed a plan for converting those (and wanting to stay consistent with our development), it seems smart to tackle all the rest of the metamagic feats before we move on to the next in alphabetical order.

So, that brings us to Quicken Spell and Silent Spell.

Quicken Spell is an issue because the action economy in Starfinder is different from that of Pathfinder, and the quickened spell magic hack is clearly more limiting and already in place, and available to just one class. So, how do we quicken spells, without overlapping and invalidating that magic hack? Well, that hack applies only to spells with casting times of 1 standard action or less. So, we look only at other spells.

QUICKEN SPELL
You can cast some of your spells much more quickly than other spellcasters.
Prerequisites: Able to cast more than one spell level of spells.
Benefits: When you cast a spell with a lower spell level than your highest-spell-level, if it has a casting time of 1 round, you can instead cast it in 1 standard action. If it has a casting time of multiple rounds, you cast it in 1 round. If it has a casting time for 1 minute, you can cast it in 2 rounds. If it has a casting time of 10 minutes, you can cast it in 1 minute.

Okay, so, Silent Spell. That feat’s benefit in PF is that it prevents you from needing to fulfill verbal components when casting a spell–but Starfinder doesn’t HAVE verbal components. But it DOES note that spells have obvious elements, and creatures around you can tell you are casting a spell. So, what if it wasn’t that YOU were silent, but literally that your SPELLS could be silent?

SILENT SPELL
You can produce magic without audible consequences.
Prerequisites: Able to cast more than one spell level of spells.
Benefits: When you cast a spell with a lower spell level than your highest-spell-level spell, you can make a Bluff or Stealth check (your choice), opposed by observer’s Perception checks, to prevent anyone who cannot target you with a precise sense other than hearing from being aware you have cast a spell. On a failed check such observers do not know you have cast a spell, and are unaware of the spell itself unless it have physical effects.

Okay, having done that, it’s clear what Still Spell will be, right?

STILL SPELL
You can produce magic without visible consequences.
Prerequisites: Able to cast more than one spell level of spells.
Benefits: When you cast a spell with a lower spell level than your highest-spell-level spell, you can make a Bluff or Stealth check (your choice), opposed by observer’s Perception checks, to prevent anyone who cannot target you with a precise sense other than sight from being aware you have cast a spell. On a failed check such observers do not know you have cast a spell, and are unaware of the spell itself unless it have physical effects.

Okay, tomorrow we tackle Widen Spell… and some stragglers we missed.

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Developing to Spec: Part 9: Keeping It Simple

This is a Part Nine of a series of articles looking at creating a set of Starfinder feats under specific constraints.  You can read long 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) here.

While we were going through the PF core rulebook feats in order, we’ve hit two feats that play on rules in PF that Starfinder doesn’t have — Exotic Weapon Proficiency, and the first metamagic feat. When looking at converting those things to Starfinder, there’s going to be a temptation to make complex feats that closely map to the functionality of the PF versions. Sometimes, you have to do that to make a functional, interesting feat.

But let’s try not to.

Starfinder doesn’t have “exotic” weapons, but it DOES have “special weapons.” And, of course, you can gain proficiency with one special weapon with Special Weapon Proficiency.  But that requires you to take that feat for every model of special weapon, which means there’s space to let someone be proficient with all special weapons. If we require them to have the Special Weapon Proficiency feat as a prerequisite we don’t invalidate that feat, and Versatile Focus and Versatile Specialization set a precedent for this kind of mass-weapon-benefit feat.

Simple.

EXOTIC WEAPON PROFICIENCY (Combat)
You understand how to use exotic weapons in combat.
Prerequisites: Special Weapon Proficiency feat, proficiency with basic melee and small arms.
Benefit: You are proficient with all special weapons.

And that brings us to Extend Spell. Not only does Starfinder not already have metamagic, but technomancers have what are clearly a replacement for metamagic in the form of certain magic hacks, including “extended spell.” We COULD recreate the whole metamagic system… but that’s going to overlap with what technomancers get (reducing the value of those magic hacks) AND introduce a whole new subsystem. But what if there was a way to have an Extend Spell feat without doing either of those things?

For skills and weapon attacks and damage, rather than slide an effect into a different category to gain a benefit (such as metamagic increasing spell level to boost effects), they just give a numerical bonus. We don’t want to just add +4 rounds to durations, because we’d have to write tons of rules to make sure we didn’t have instantaneous spells running multiple rounds, and spells with a 10 minute/level casting time wouldn’t be affected in a significant way.

But since lots of durations ARE based on caster level, we can add a flat bonus to that to gain a benefit that only applies as relevant, and that can stack with technomancer magic hacks.

EXTEND SPELL
Your spells often last much longer than most spellcasters’.
Prerequisites: Ability to cast a spell with a duration based on level.
Benefit: When calculating the duration of your spells, treat your caster level as being +4 levels higher.

Simple, stacks with the technomancer spell hack, and from 5th level on not as useful as the spell hack.

Since there are lots more metamagic feats to convert, and we have a design principle in place for them, we’ll hop to getting all those done in the next few entries before we move on to Extra Channel.

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!

 

Developing To Spec: Part 8 (c) -Exhausting Sickening, Staggering, and Stunning

This is a continuation of Part Eight of a series of articles looking at creating a set of Starfinder feats under specific constraints.  — or just the finished feats (as they are written) here.

While we were going through the PF core rulebook feats in order, when we ran into the first critical feat, we paused in Part Seven to look at all of those as a whole, and we tackled Critical Focus and Critical Mastery. We’ve been going through the critical feats for the rest of the week, and since I think we’ve hit every corner case and design principle already, today we’re just going to do all the last four.

EXHAUSTING CRITICAL (Combat)
Your critical hits cause opponents to become exhausted.
Prerequisites: Critical Focus, Tiring Critical, base attack bonus +15.
Benefit: When you score a critical hit on a foe, your target immediately becomes exhausted. This feat has no effect on exhausted creatures. The exhaustion ends as described in the exhausted condition, or can be removed by any effect that states it removes exhausted.
If the attack already has a critical hit effect, when you score a critical hit you may apply its normal critical hit effect or the effect from this feat, but not both.

SICKENING CRITICAL (Combat)
Your critical hits cause opponents to become sickened.
Prerequisites: Critical Focus, base attack bonus +11.
Benefit: Whenever you score a critical hit, your opponent becomes sickened for 1 minute. The effects of this feat do not stack. Additional hits instead add to the
effect’s duration.
If the attack already has a critical hit effect, when you score a critical hit you may apply its normal critical hit effect or the effect from this feat, but not both.

STAGGERING CRITICAL (Combat)
Your critical hits cause opponents to slow down.
Prerequisites: Critical Focus, base attack bonus +13.
Benefit: Whenever you score a critical hit, your opponent becomes staggered for 1d4+1 rounds. A successful Fortitude save (DC 10 +1/2 your base attack bonus + your key ability score modifier) reduces the duration to 1 round. If you use this critical against a creature that is already staggered, the additional rounds add to the condition’s duration.
If the attack already had a stagger critical hit effect, you may add 1 round to the duration of the condition applied by this feat. If the attack already has a non-staggered critical hit effect, when you score a critical hit you may apply its normal critical hit effect or the effect from this feat, but not both.

STUNNING CRITICAL (Combat)
Your critical hits cause opponents to become stunned.
Prerequisites: Critical Focus, Staggering Critical, base attack bonus +17.
Benefit: Whenever you score a critical hit, your opponent becomes stunned for 1d4 rounds. A successful Fortitude save (DC 10 +1/2 your base attack bonus + your key ability score modifier) reduces this to staggered for 1d4 rounds. If you use this critical against a creature that is already stunned, the additional rounds add to the condition’s duration.
If the attack already had a stunned critical hit effect, you may add 1 round round of stunned condition to the stunned or staggered condition applied by this feat. If the attack already has a non-stunned critical hit effect, when you score a critical hit you may apply its normal critical hit effect or the effect from this feat, but not both.

.

And that’s the end of the PF critical feats! So next week we get to tackle… Exotic Weapon Proficiency (for a game system that doesn’t have exotic weapons), and metamagic feat (for a game system that doesn’t have metamagic!)

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!

Developing To Spec: Part 8 (b) -Deafening and Tiring

This is a continuation of Part Eight of a series of articles looking at creating a set of Starfinder feats under specific constraints.  — or just the finished feats (as they are written) here.

While we were going through the PF core rulebook feats in order, when we ran into the first critical feat, we paused in Part Seven to look at all of those as a whole, and we tackled Critical Focus and Critical Mastery. Now, for the rest of this week, we can just write up the critical feats themselves.

It’s useful to tackle all the critical feats at once, because they are interconnected both with each other and with the existing critical effect rules in Starfinder. All these rules could come into play on a single attack roll, so it’s worth writing them all in once block, so we remember what we are doing and why, and keep a consistent answer. This is different from, say, PF feats that give bonuses to two different skills, such as Acrobatic and Athletic, which function similarly, but aren’t going to all interact on the same skill check, since they boost different skills.

The next two critical feats in out list are Deafening Critical and Exhausting Critical. Since Exhausting Critical has Tiring Critical as a prerequisite, we’ll obviously write that one up first.

Like Bleeding Critical, Deafening Critical plays with the same concept as one of Starfinder’s existing critical hit effects, so we need to include how to handle that interaction in our feat. Doing a copy-and-paste of our revised Bleeding Critical seems like a good place to start… but:

When copying-and-pasting, I discovered I thought the first sentence I have been using, that says you can add a critical hit effect to any attack you make, is not clear enough. Someone might decide that means even non-critical attacks get the benefit of the critical hit effect. I don’t think RAW supports that interpretation (critical hit effects have their own rules, which say they only kick in on a critical hit), but if you can remove potential ambiguity without bogging things down, or making it seem like you ALWAYS clarify every interaction (which suggests to some players and GMs that without a clarification the interaction should be read in the most permissive way, rather than in keeping with standard rules). you should. I go back an add “that is a critical hit” to the previous feats in the final archive of feats, and now use that language going forward.

DEAFENING CRITICAL (Combat)
Your critical hits cause opponents to lose their hearing.
Prerequisites: Critical Focus, base attack bonus +13.
Benefit: You can add the deafen critical hit effect to any attack you make that is a critical hit. If the attack already had a deafen critical hit effect, you may also permanently deafen the target on a critical hit if it fails a Fortitude save. The DC of this Fortitude save is equal to 10 + half your base attack bonus + your key ability score modifier. This deafness can be cured by regenerateremove condition (greater), or any spell or effect which is capable of restoring life to the dead or states it cures deafness.
If the attack already has a non-deafen critical hit effect, when you score a critical hit you may apply its normal critical hit effect or the effect from this feat, but not both.

Tiring Critical is in many ways easier, because Starfinder DOES have a fatigued condition, but DOESN’T have any tiring critical hit effects of fusions. (As an aside, I think Fatiguing Critical would be a better name for this feat… but that’s not in the remit of our assignment, so I keep that opinion to myself. It’s not worth taking to our theoretical producer to ask for an exception, especially if they already insisted on having every name from the PF core rulebook in this project when we brought them Armor Proficiency (medium)).

TIRING CRITICAL (Combat)
Your critical hits cause opponents to become fatigued.
Prerequisites: Critical Focus, base attack bonus +13.
Benefit: Whenever you score a critical hit, your opponent becomes fatigued. This feat has no additional effect on a fatigued or exhausted creature. The fatigue ends as described in the condition, or can be removed by any effect that states it removes fatigue.
If the attack already has a critical hit effect, when you score a critical hit you may apply its normal critical hit effect or the effect from this feat, but not both.

That means we’ll tackle Exhausting Critical, and one more crit feat, tomorrow!

PATREON
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Developing To Spec: Part 8 -Blind and Bleeding

This is Part Eight of a series of articles looking at creating a set of Starfinder feats under specific constraints. (Which is continued in section b here, and section c here). The point of these is to offer practical examples of how I approach developing and writing supplemental rules for tabletop RPGs. Rather than just blather on about things as I think of them, I go over issues as I encounter them in a real-world example.

The goal of this project is to create the “Missing Starfinder Legacy Feats,” a Starfinder-compatible version of every feat in the PF core rulebook that doesn’t have an SF match. (We discussed the impact of having to do that, whether that’s a good idea or not, in Part One.)

You can find previous entries here — Part OnePart TwoPart ThreePart FourPart FivePart Six, Part Seven — or just the finished feats (as they are written) here.

While we were going through the PF core rulebook feats in order, when we ran into the first critical feat, we paused in Part Seven to look at all of those as a whole, and we tackled Critical Focus and Critical Mastery. Now, for the rest of this week, we can just write up the critical feats themselves, starting with Bleeding Critical and Blinding Critical.

Bleed criticals are already built into some weapons, and can be added with the bleeding weapon fusion, so we want to make sure a character who takes the Bleeding Critical feat doesn’t regret having a weapon that also has bleed — it’s thematically on point for the character to do so, in fact. Since there aren’t any existing critical hit effects that blind in Starfinder, and being blinded in Starfinder isn’t any worse than being blinded in PF, we can translate the Blinding Critical feat more directly, though still matching how Starfinder handles having multiple critical hit effects and making sure there’s a reasonable list of spells that can remove the blindness.

BLEEDING CRITICAL (Combat)
Your critical hits cause opponents to bleed profusely.
Prerequisites: Critical Focus, base attack bonus +11.
Benefit: You can add the bleeding critical hit effect to any attack you make. The bleed effect does 1d6 damage per round, +1d6 per 5 item levels of the weapon used, or per 2 spell levels if the attack is a spell effect, or +1d6 per 5 character levels if the attack is not made with a weapon or spell.
If the attack already had a bleed critical hit effect, you may instead use the bleed that does more damage (either the attack’s normal bleed effect, or the one granted by this feat) and increase the amount of that effect’s bleed damage by +1d6.
If the attack already has a non-bleed critical hit effect, when you score a critical hit you may apply its normal critical hit effect or the effect from this feat, but not both.

BLINDING CRITICAL (Combat)
Your critical hits blind your opponents.
Prerequisites: Critical Focus, base attack bonus +15.
Benefit: Whenever you score a critical hit, your opponent is permanently blinded. A successful Fortitude save reduces this to dazzled for 1d4 rounds. The DC of this Fortitude save is equal to 10 + half your base attack bonus + your key ability score modifier. This feat has no effect on creatures that do not rely on eyes for sight or creatures with more than two eyes (although multiple critical hits might cause blindness, at the GM’s discretion). Blindness can be cured by regenerateremove condition (greater), or any spell or effect which is capable of restoring life to the dead.

PATREON
Like all my blog posts, this is brought to you by the wonderful patrons of my Patreon! Want more of this content? Want to suggest specific game systems, topics, of kinds of articles? All of that 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!

Developing to Spec: Part 7-Critical Thoughts

This is Part Seven of a series of articles looking at creating a set of Starfinder feats under specific constraints. The point of these is to offer practical examples of how I approach developing and writing supplemental rules for tabletop RPGs. Rather than just blather on about things as I think of them, I go over issues as I encounter them in a real-world example.

The goal of this project is to create the “Missing Starfinder Legacy Feats,” a Starfinder-compatible version of every feat in the PF core rulebook that doesn’t have an SF match. (We discussed the impact of having to do that, whether that’s a good idea or not, in Part One.)

You can find previous entries here — Part One , Part TwoPart ThreePart FourPart Five, Part Six — or just the finished feats (as they are written) here.

Running through the “missing” PF feats from the PF core ruelbook in order, we’ve run into our first critical feat, Bleeding Critical. And that means understanding how critical hits work in PF, and in Starfinder, and forming a plan for converting critical-focused player options from the one system to another.

Starfinder handles critical hits a bit differently than most previous d20 games. First, only a natural 20 on the attack roll is a critical hit–there’s no “threat range” where a roll of 19, or even 18 may count as a crit. Second, there is no “confirmation roll” (many d20 games require a second attack roll that also hits the foe’s AC to make an attack a crit).  Thirdly, all damage is doubled — you never do x3 or x4 damage, and there is no category of damage that isn’t multiplied. And, finally, many weapons have critical hit effects — special effects (such as bleed damage, or setting a foe on fire) that only occur on a critical hit. In the vast majority of cases if a rule option gives a character access to multiple critical hit effects on a single attack, it also requires them to pick just one to apply. (There are exceptions to this, but they are rare.)

This series of changes means critical hits in Starfinder are less common, simpler to adjudicate, and often include more impact on combat that just doing more damage. Those impacts are all intentional, but it does mean that the design space for modifying how critical hits work has been significantly shrunk down.

So, when looking at critical feats from PF to convert over to Starfinder, we need to make sure we don’t violate any of the core ways Starfinder handles feats. We can play with the formula some, but we need to not change the value a feat gives to combat effectiveness, and not create rules with too much weight to be justified just on some feats.

So the first two critical feats we run into are Bleeding Critical and Blinding Critical. But since we know it can be useful to apply development consistently, it’s worth looking at all the critical feats to see if they can all be converted using the same design philosophy. So, they are: Bleeding Critical, Blinding Critical, Deafening critical, Sickening Critical, Staggering Critical, Stunning Critical, Tiring Critical, Exhausting Critical, and two related feats: Critical Focus and Critical Mastery.

Since we want to work with the critical rules within Starfinder we also go over critical rules in the core rulebook, and find that Improved Critical has been converted over, and gives a bonus to critical save DCs rather than expanding critical threat range. That saves us some work from converting the feat from PF, but it also takes one potential design choice for “missing legacy” critical feats off the table. We also note what critical hit effects already exist (in all the official Starfinder books, since we don’t want to duplicate or invalidate any official supplemental rule material).

Since Critical Focus is a prerequisite for all the critical feats in PF, it makes sense to try to convert that first, and use it as a prerequisite in the Starfinder conversions.

(As a brief aside, I don’t think there’s any need to create a sub-category of “critical feats” as a new descriptor of feats in Starfinder. They’ll all be combat feats, but none of the core rules are ever going to reference them since this is 3pp material, and they aren’t in the Starfinder Core Rulebook. As a result, we’ll need to include any special interactions we want in the feats anyway, removing the one benefit of having a new category of feats that all follow some universal rules).

Now in PF, Critical Focus gives you a bonus to your confirmation roll when you have a critical threat. That mechanic doesn’t work in Starfinder, but the *concept* of criticals happening more often is still a valid design space. Of course we know we can;t have a feat double the number of critical hits a player gets — that would quickly become the no-brainer go-to feat of number crunchers.

But Starfinder does have ONE example of making a critical hit effect more common–the plasma immolation soldier gear boost.

“You are expert at setting things on fire with plasma. If your attack roll with a weapon in the plasma category is a 19 (the d20 shows a 19), and the attack hits your target, the target gains the burning condition. The condition deals 1d4 fire damage if the weapon has an item level of 1st-6th, 1d8 if its item level is 7th-14th, and 2d8 if its item level is 15th or higher.”

AND that sit outside the normal restriction of one critical hit effect per attack. So, can we use that for Critical Focus?

CRITICAL FOCUS (Combat)
You are trained in the art of causing pain.
Prerequisites: base attack bonus +9.
Benefit: If your attack has a critical hit effect, when your attack roll is a 19 (the d20 shows a 19) and the attack hits your target, you may apply one critical hit effect from the weapon to the target. You do not also deal double damage, and any effect that would prevent a critical hit from effecting the target also works against this critical hit effect.
Special: If you have the plasma immolation gear boost, when using this feat you can activate that gear boost if your attack roll is an 18 and the attack hits your target.

That works pretty well. It can have the same flavor text as the PF version, and gives a character more critical hit effects, without doubling how often the character gets to do double damage. And we built in a benefit for soldiers with plasma immolation, so this feat doesn’t weaken the benefit of that class-specific gear boost.

Then looking at Critical Mastery, we see in PF it allows you to apply multiple critical feats to one attack. That doesn’t make a lot of sense for Starfinder, but since Starfinder does normally limit you one critical hit effect per attack, there is a similar design space available.

CRITICAL MASTERY (Combat)
Your critical hits can cause multiple critical hit effects.
Prerequisites: Critical Focus, gear boost class feature, base attack bonus +14.
Benefit: If your attack has more critical effects available to it than you are allowed to apply on a critical hit, you may increase the number of critical hit effects you apply on a critical hit by 1. For example, if you attack a foe with a weapon that has bleed, knockdown, and stagger critical hit effects, but you are normally required to select one when you score a critical hit, you may instead select two.

We aren’t being as restrictive on the prerequisites with Critical mastery as PF, since we are limiting it to people with a specific soldier class feature and a +14 attack bonus, rather than to 14th level fighters as PF does, but that’s in keeping with Starfinder’s less prerequisite-intensive feat system.

Okay, so since we’ve covered the broader critical hit feats, we can NOW go back and look at Bleeding Critical.

Tomorrow. 🙂

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!

Developing to Spec: Starfinder Missing Legacy Feats (Part 1)

This is Part One of a series of articles looking at creating a set of Starfinder feats under specific constraints. You can find other entries (Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven, Part Eight, Part NinePart Ten, Part Eleven), or just the finished feats (as they are written) here.

The point of these is to offer practical examples of how I approach developing and writing supplemental rules for tabletop RPGs. “Developing to Spec,” as it were. Rather than just blather on about things as I think of them, I go over issues as I encounter them using a specific Starfinder-related project as a real-world example.

The job of a freelance game developer (or writer) isn’t always to do the thing you think is the best, or the most fun. Sometimes, it’s to do the best, most fun version of the thing you are being paid to create. You may think that core idea is a bad one, but if you agree to do the job, you are agreeing to fulfill its design goals. You can (and should) suggest the design goals might not be good ones (you are being paid for your opinions and talents, by all means be a strong advocate for your opinion), but in the end the people paying you deserve to get what they ask for if they aren’t convinced by you.

And there absolutely CAN be good business reasons to do a product that has a concept that isn’t the most fun, or more useful addition to a game. If you have moral or ethical objections to that concept, the right answer is to refuse to do it at all. If you just think it’s not a great idea, and you agree to do it, your task is to make the best version of that product you can.

Sometimes, the results can surprise you.

So, let’s look at some concrete examples of developing an idea that, at least at first blush, isn’t fun or smart.

Let’s do the Starfarer Missing Legacy Feats.

Here’s our remit: Create Starfinder-compatible versions of all the feats that are in the PF Core Rulebook, but not in the Starfinder Roleplaying Game.

There are some obvious issues here. the two games are different, despite sharing a lot of the same DNA. And many feats are “missing” because they’ve been simplified or replaced. In fact, we run into this issue with the VERY first “missing” Legacy feat: Acrobatic.

Acrobatic is one of the PF feats that gives you +2 to two skills: Acrobatics and Fly. There’s no need for that feat in Starfinder, because Skill Synergy covers it and more. (And the skill DC math is different, the bonus structure is different, and there’s no Fly skill, and… lots of reasons, but Skill Synergy is the most obvious).

So, we are required to have an Acrobatic feat, and it’s a terrible idea for it to do the same thing. So, as a developer or writer where do we start? Well, I always like to go read the rules we’re dealing with, so it’s time to read Starfinder’s Acrobatics skill.

Here we see the skill has 4 tasks: balance, escape, fly and tumble. We don;t want to give numerical bonuses to any of those (because that would interefere with the balance of skill DCs in the game), and we want to give benefits that feel ‘acrobatic,’ and apply to both being acrobatic and flying.

Looking at fly first, we see you normally have to take a move action to hover, or if you have perfect maneuverability you can do it without making a check, or as a swift action if you make a check. But taking a swift action still prevents a full action in Starfinder. So, here’s a place we could have a benefit — allow you to hover as if you had perfect maneuverability even if you don’t, and allow you to hover without using any action without making a check if you do have perfect maneuverability.

So, that means we need some similar benefit for one or more of balance, escape, and tumble.

With balance, you need to make a check if you take damage, so we could allow someone with this feat to ignore that requirement.. but that’s pretty corner-case so more is needed. Escape is a standard action, or a minute for restraints, so we could make that faster. Tumble requires you to not be encumbered… but that makes sense. It also requires you to move at half speed as a move action, so there’s a place we can give some benefit for the feat.

And as a last step, we need to check all other feats and class abilities to make sure none of them already do the things we are now considering making feat benefits.

Then, we pull the whole thing together, as follows:

ACROBATIC
You are particularly talented at balancing, flying, and tumbling.
Benefit: When using the Acrobatics skill for the following tasks, you gain the listed advantages.
Balance: You do not have to make a skill check to maintain your balance if you take damage.
Escape: You can attempt to escape from a grapple or pin as a move action. You can attempt to escape from restraints in half the normal time.
Fly: If you do not have perfect maneuverability, you can attempt to hove as if you did have perfect maneuverability. If you do have perfect maneuverability, you can hover without making a check and without taking an action to do so.
Tumble: You can make an Acrobatics check to tumble as part of any action in which you move, and do not have to move at half speed to do so.

So those are all situational, minor benefits–but there are four of them, they are all linked to the same skill, and none of them alter the balance of skill check math in the game. Overall, not a bad feat!

Next comes Acrobatic Steps… which is built on Nimble Moves. Starfinder has a feat called Nimble Moves, which is better than PF’s Acrobatic Steps, but our remit requires us to create Acrobatic Steps, so…

ACROBATIC STEPS
You can easily move over and through obstacles.
Prerequisites: Dex 15, Nimble Moves
Benefit: As long as you are not encumbered or overburdened, you ignore the effects of difficult terrain.

Which brings us to Agile Maneuvers, which has a similar, but potentially more complex set of issues. Which we’ll tackle tomorrow!

PATREON
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