Category Archives: Starfinder Development

OGL Warlock for Starfinder Part 6: Pact Boons

We’ve gotten through most of our OGL warlock for Starfinder, with the class table and proficienciesspell access and spell slotsthe Fiendish patron. its patron gifts, and a set of invocations.

Let’s move on to Pact Boons.

Pact Boon
You gain a pact boon at 4th level. Your pact boon is a special link between you and a creature or object that is granted to you by your patron. In most cases any patron can grant any pact boon–the nature of the pact boon says more about the warlock than the patron. Once you select a pact boon, this choice cannot be changed.

Pact boons are obviously the kind of thing we could expand endlessly, but let’s start with two very different kinds of pact boons, which build two very different kind of warlocks. Then we can do two more, tomorrow.

(Art by thanawong)

Pact of Armor (Su): Your patron empowers you to infuse some of its power into your armor. Select one suit of heavy or powered armor with an item level no greater than your warlock level. When wearing light armor, as a standard action you can cause it to gains all the game values of the selected heavy or powered armor. If the light armor’s bonus to EAC or KC is greater than the selected heavy or powered armor, you retain the light armor’s armor bonus. this effect ends when you stop wearing the armor, or you can end it as a move action.

The armor takes on a dramatic appearance, similar to what happens to weapons when a weapon fusion is added. This appearance is determined by the player, but should tie into the theme of the warlock’s patron. Once set, this appearance does not change until you next gain a warlock level.

When active, the pact of armor also adds one armor upgrade that does not count against the armor’s normal upgrade slots. This must have an item level at least 3 levels below your warlock level, and once decided you cannot change it until you gain a new warlock level.

If the heavy or powered armor, or the armor upgrade, uses charges or petrol, those charges or petrol are refilled each time you recuperate*. Charges or petrol removed from the armor or upgrade fade away and cannot be used for any other purpose.

Each time you gain a warlock level, you can change what heavy or powered armor this ability emulates.

(Art by Grandfaulure)

Pact of the Vessel (Sp): You can summon a vehicle formed from planar energy aligned with your patron. Select one vehicle with an item level no greater than one less than your warlock level. You can summon or dismiss this vehicle as a full action. It cannot be summoned in an area it cannot travel in, that does not have space for it, or that would damage a creature or object. Except as noted this acts as a summon creature spell with a spell level equal to 1/3 your warlock level.

The vehicle has a dramatic appearance, similar to what happens to weapons when a weapon fusion is added. This appearance is determined by the player, but should tie into the theme of the warlock’s patron. Once set, this appearance does not change until you next gain a warlock level.

The vehicle can drive itself as you direct without any effort on your part, and is considered to have a Pilot check equal to your warlock level + your key ability modifier. If the vehicle uses charges or petrol, those charges or petrol are refilled each time you recuperate*. Charges or petrol removed from the vehicle fade away and cannot be used for any other purpose.

Any damage or changes made to the vehicle last until you next regain your daily abilities and then, even if it was totally destroyed, it is restored to its normal state. Each time you gain a warlock level, you can change what vehicle you can summon with this pact.

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OGL Warlock for Starfinder Part 5: Invocations

We’ve gotten through most of our OGL warlock for Starfinder, with the class table and proficienciesspell access and spell slotsthe Fiendish patron. and its patron gifts.

It’s time for invocations.

While I could adapt a bunch of hexes from Starfarer’s Codex: Legacy Witch Class (and I may well do that in the future…) but for now I’m going to create a dozen-and-a-half or so without going to that resource, and see how they come together.

(Art by Dominick)

Invocations
A warlock gains their first invocation at 2nd level, and gains an additional invocation at 3rd level and every other level thereafter. If an invocation requires a saving throw, the DC is 10 + 1/2 your warlock level + your key ability modifier unless otherwise noted. You cannot select the same invocation more than once unless otherwise noted. Using an invocation is a standard action unless it says otherwise.

Evil Eye (Sp): You can force a target within 60 feet to succeed at a Will save of gain one of the following conditions of your choice for 1 minute — fatigued, sickened, or shaken. Once you have caused a target to suffer one of these conditions, you cannot cause it to suffer the same condition until after you have recuperated*. If you cause a target to be dazzled, any creature may attempt Stealth checks against that target without cover or concealment as long as it is dazzled. This is a sense-dependent ability.

Eyes of the Nemesis (Sp): If a creature does damage to you or forces you to make a saving throw, you gain persistent see invisibility against them until you next recuperate*. If you are 12th level or higher, you instead gain persistent true seeing against them until you next recuperate*.

Dread Wings (Sp): You can cast flight on yourself at will. The flight has a spell level equal to 1/3 your warlock level (minimum 1st, maximum 6th).

Eldritch Reach (Su): The range of your eldritch blast increases. If it has a range increment or is a cone or line, it’s range doubles. If it is a melee attack, its reach increased by 5 feet. If it is a radius, its radius increases by +10 feet.

Eldritch Vigor: You gain Great Fortitude and Toughness as bonus feats.

Eldritch Vision (Ex): You gain the see in darkness ability. If you have darkvision of low-light vision, you also gain a +2 bonus to Perception checks in dim or no light.

Felstorm (Su): Select a grenade that not not a magic or hybrid item, which has an item level no greater than your warlock level -2. You can create the effect of this grenade, as a magic effect, centered on you. You can make yourself, and any ally you can see or hear, immune to this effect. Once you have used this invocation, you cannot do so again until you next recuperate. Each time you gain a warlock level, you may add a new grenade (no higher than your new warlock level -2), and add it to a list of grenades you can emulate with felstorm.

Fel Visions (Sp): You can glimpse the future, though you also see all the possible ways in which the future can be a bloody, horrific mess. You can cast augury at will. After casting it, you are shaken (even if you are normally immune to this effect) until you next recuperate*. This shaken effect cannot be removed by any other means. You cannot use fel visions while shaken or being affected by any fear effect.

Irresistible Voice (Sp): You can cast command at will, except the save DC is calculated as an invocation. After a creature is affected by your irresistible voice, it gains a +2 bonus to attack and damage rolls against you and to saves against your spells and effects for 1d4 rounds. Once you have targeted a creature with this invocation, you cannot target the same creature again until you have recuperated*.

Malediction (Su): You can force a target within 60 feet to succeed at a Will save of gain one of the following conditions of your choice for 1 minute — dazzled, deafened, or encumbered. Once you have caused a target to suffer one of these conditions, you cannot cause it to suffer the same condition until after you have recuperated*. If you cause a target to be dazzled, any creature may attempt Stealth checks against that target without cover or concealment as long as it is dazzled. This is a sense-dependent ability.

Many Faces (Sp): You can cast disguise self at will.

Mesmerism (Sp): You can attempt to charm a creature at will. This acts as charm person, except the save DC is calculated as an invocation. If you are 7th level or higher, it instead acts as charm monster. You can only have a single creature charmed at a time, if you use this ability again whole a previous charm is still active, the earlier charm ends. Once you have targeted a creature with this invocation, you cannot target the same creature again until you have recuperated*.

Minions (Sp): Once per day you can cast a summon creature spell with a spell level up to 1/3 your warlock level (minimum 1st level, maximum 6th level). The summoned creatures all speak one language you know of your choice. The spell has a duration of 1 minute/level, but when in combat each round of combat reduces the duration by 1 minute.

Repelling Blast (Su): When you successfully damage a creature with the eldritch blast from your patron, you may choose to push the creature 10 feet directly away from you. This movement does not provoke attacks of opportunity.

Retributive Blood (Sp): When a creature within 400 feet scores a critical hit against you, it is targeted by a bestow curse spell, except the save DC is calculated as an invocation, and the curse effect is determined randomly.

Shadowy Mists (Sp): You can cast fog cloud at will, but any part of its area that is in normal or bright light immediately dissipates.

Sphere of Winds (Su): You can create a radius of save, comfortable, breathable air. This acts as a life bubble, except it is centered on you and affects everything with 10 feet.

Whisper of Rest (Su): You can expend 1 Resolve Point to whisper restful occult words to an adjacent creature. The creature may choose to expend 1 Resolve Point of their own to regain points of damage equal to double their level. If they have taken both HP and SP, they can decide where to place the healing their receive, though neither pool can exceed its normal maximum. This is a sense-dependent effect.

Unseen Servants (Sp): You can cast unseen servant and token spell at will. You can only have one of these spells active at a time–casting it against while a previous casting is still active ends the earlier casting.

Unspeakable Resilience (Su): When you make a successful saving throw against a disease or poison, that affliction ends, even if it normally requires multiple saving throws to end it.Any effect it has had on you remains, just as if you have made the normally required number of saves against the affliction.

*Recuperate is my proposed game term to represent when a character spends 1 Resolve Point to regain Stamina Points following a 10-minute rest.

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OGL Warlock for Starfinder Part 4: Fiendish Patron Gifts

We’re off to a good start with our OGL warlock for Starfinder, with the class table and proficiencies, spell access and spell slots, and the Fiendish patron. Now, let’s look at some patron gifts to go with our fienidsh warlocks.

(Art by Grandfailure)

Patron Gift: Unless otherwise specified, the save DC of your patron gifts is 10 +1/2 your warlock level +your key ability modifier.

A warlock with the fiendish patron can choose from any of the following patron gifts.

Balefire (Su): You call upon the searing fires of the lower planes to burn your foes. As a standard action, one target within 30 feet is wreathed in screaming flames and takes 1d6 points of fire damage per level. A successful Reflex save halves this damage. At 10th level, the fire’s howls cause any creatures damaged by it to be staggered for 1 round. At 15th level, creatures who fail their saves against the balefire are staggered for 1d4 rounds and stunned for 1 round. You can use this ability once per day plus one additional time per day at 10th level.

Dark One’s Own Luck (Su): You can call on your patron to alter fate in your favor. When you make an ability check or skill check, you can use this feature to add a +d6 insight bonus to your roll. You can do so after seeing the initial roll but before any of the roll’s effects occur. This increases to 1d8 at 8th level, and 1d10 at 16th level. Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you recuperate*.

Demonhide (Su): You alter your flesh to be as tough as a demon’s hide, granting you energy resistance to acid, cold, electricity, and fire equal to 1/2 your warlock level.

Dread Resilience (Ex): You have been hardened by exposure to the otherworldly energies of the lower planes, and you just keep getting tougher. You gain the toughness feat as a bonus feat.

Fiendish Magic (Su): Your spells gain a +4 bonus on caster level checks made to overcome the spell resistance of chaotic, good, or lawful outsiders.

Fiendish Resilience (Su): Each time you recuperate*, you can choose one kinetic damage type. You gain DR/cold iron equal to 1/2 your warlock level against that damage type.

Planar Haze (Su): You can fill an area with the smoky miasma of the lower planes. Once per day when you cast a spell that has an area, as part of the same action you may also fill that area with a thick haze that acts a smoke grenade (with a save DC calculated as your patron gifts), except it originates at the center of your spell effect and cannot expand beyond the spell’s area. You may use this ability one additional time per day at 7th level, and one additional time per day at 14th level.

Planar Infusion (Su): As a standard action once per day, you can cause a 20-foot-spread to gain the mildly chaotic-aligned, mildly evil-aligned, or mildly-lawfully aligned planar trait for a number of rounds equal to your warlock level. Lawful creatures in a chaotic-aligned area take a –2 circumstance penalty on all Charisma-based checks, as do good creatures in an evil-aligned area and chaotic creatures in a lawful-aligned area. At 11th level, the infusion makes the area strongly aligned, which causes the –2 circumstance penalty to apply on all Intelligence-, Wisdom-, and Charisma-based checks made by any creature that lacks the matching alignment component (these penalties stack with those from the lower-level effect).

Telepathy (Su): You can mentally communicate with any other creature within 100 feet that has a language, as per the telepathy power of demons. You must be at least 10th level before selecting this gift.

Unearthly Terrain (Su): You can twist the material world into the harsh, jagged edges and uneven angles of the outer planes. As a standard action, you can turn one 20-foot square into difficult terrain for 1 round per level. Once you use this ability, you cannot do so again until you recuperate*.

Wings of Terror (Su): You can manifest a pair of enormous, batlike demon wings that grant you a fly speed of 30 feet with average maneuverability. At 10th level, your speed increases to 60 feet and your maneuverability increases to good.

*Recuperate is my proposed game term to represent when a character spends 1 Resolve Point to regain Stamina Points following a 10-minute rest.

So, we have a patron and its gifts. What about incantations?!

Check in tomorrow to find out!

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OGL Warlock for Starfinder Part 3: Fiendish Patron

So Monday we took a first look at adapting the 5e Warlock class for Starfinder (tackling proficiencies and the class table), and yesterday we outlined how we are going to handle spell access and spell slots.

It’s time to tackle a Patron.

Your patron is one of the crucial elements of the warlock. It represents the otherwordly force with which you have made a pact, and from which you gain your powers. The concept is vaguely similar to mystic connections, but warlocks interact with their patrons using different rites and rituals, and have access to their own list of possible patrons.

At 1st level each patron gives you an eldritch blast, a special way to boost the save DC of spells you cast, and access to a series of patron gifts you can choose from at higher levels.

While we’d likely to patrons for at least a half-dozen options in a full version of the class, for now let’s create the classic fiendish patron option.

(Art by Grandfailure)

Fiendish Patron
You are somehow bound to a fiend from the lower planes of existence, and in a different way it is bound to you. You might have sought out this pact using nearly-post ancient traditions of soul-beinding and true names, or it may have occurred without any desire for it on your part.

You might have stumbled across some unhold alien atifact and trigger it to make a pact with no understanding of what you were doing. You might have been born during a complex galactic conjunction that marked you forever before you could even talk. Your parents might have been experimented upon by unethical fiendomancers seeking a way to imbue future generations with infernal power.

However your patron came to fuel a pact with you, this is a being whose aims are evil, even if you strive against those aims. Such beings desire the corruption or destruction of all things, ultimately including you. Fiends powerful enough to forge a pact include demon lords, archdevils, pit fiends and balors that are especially mighty, and ultroloths and other lords of the yugoloths.

Eldritch Blast (Su)
You gain the power to channel a form of fiendish fire as an attack against your foes. Select a weapon you are proficient with from the flame category, which uses batteries or petrol and has a usage of 4 or less. It must have an item level no greater than your warlock level. Once this decision is made it cannot be changed until you gain another warlock level.

If you have at least one hand free, you can make eldritch blast attacks that act as if you were attacking with this weapon. It is treated as an integral weapons except as noted. You use your key ability modifier, rather than Strength or Dexterity, to add to your attack rolls with your eldritch blast. You may choose to make half your eldritch blast damage untyped planar hellfire. If you run out of petrol or battery charges, you can “reload” your eldritch blast as a standard action.

Your eldritch blast can benefit from effects that could augment the weapon it is emulating. You can place fusion seals on yourself to affect your eldritch blast as if you were the weapon it is emulating.

Dark One’s Power
Starting at 1st level, when you reduce a hostile creature to 0 or fewer hit points, you gain a Dark Point. When you cast a spell, you can expend a Dark Point to cause its save DC to be 10 +1/2 your warlock level +your key ability modifier. This is adjusted by any abilities or feats that adjust your spell’s save DCs. You lose all unused Dark Points when you recuperate.*

Fiendish Eldritch Master
At 20th level, you gain the ability to open rifts between planes. This allows you to use plane shift or summon monster VI as a spell-like ability once per day.

Additionally, you can select any one patron gift from any patron that does not list a level requirement, or any patron gift from your own patron.

*Recuperate is my proposed game term to represent when a character spends 1 Resolve Point to regain Stamina Points following a 10-minute rest.

So, what patron gifts will the Fiendish patron allow a star warlock to choose from? Check in tomorrow to find out!

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OGL Warlock for Starfinder Part 2: Spell Slots

My class table and proficiencies for the Starfinder OGL warlock has an entry for “spell slots” rather than the normal “spells per day” for a starfinder spellcaster. This difference in terminology is intentional, and crucial to how I am designing the Starfinder warlock.

Rather than have a daily limit of spells, a warlock will gain spells that are restored each time they recuperate*. However, they will always be a full spell level behind a traditional caster — a warlock doesn’t gain 1st level spells until the “full” spellcasters (mystic, technomancer, and witchwarper) all have access to 2nd level spells, and so on. Because the overall power level of Starfinder spells does not rise nearly as sharply with caster level (compared to the original 3.5 game rules, of PF 1st edition), this means the warlock needs to have a large selection of spells known to make sure their dramatically less-powerful best spells are likely to include something appropriate to a given situation.

Thus a warlock has much less powerful spells, and can’t unleash nearly as many spells in a single encounter as a fresh “full” spellcaster, but can reliable restore their spell power numerous times per day, making them less likely to have to carefully conserve their spells.

With longarms and heavy armor options a warlock need not depend on spells for basic offense and defense, and each will receive an eldritch blast with their patron. They do have a potential issue with spell DCs being too low compared to “full” spellcasters, but we’ll address that in different ways in different places.

(Art by James Thew)

So, let’s look at the actual game rules for warlock cantrips and spell slots.

Cantrips

Warlocks cast spells drawn from the technomancer and witchwarper spell lists, though they cannot cast spells that require them to have class features they lack. They begin play knowing 4 cantrips. They gain bonus cantrips known equal to their key ability modifier, to a maximum of one bonus cantrip known per warlock class level.

Spell Slots

Warlocks cast spells drawn from the technomancer and witchwarper spell lists, though they cannot cast spells that require them to have class features they lack.

Each time a warlock gains access to a new level of spells, they begin play with six spells known of their choice, and gain one additional spell known of each lower level of spell or cantrip. For example, when a warlock reaches 7th level, they gain access to 2nd level spells, and begin play knowing six 2nd level spells of their choice. They also gain one additional 1-st level spell and 0-level cantrip known.

A warlock can cast any warlock spell they know by expending a spell slot of the same or higher spell level. A warlock regains all used spell slots when they recuperate*.

A warlock with a key ability bonus gains a single additional spell slot. This spell slot is of a spell level equal to the key ability bonus, to a maximum of 5th level.

*Recuperate is my proposed game term to represent when a character spends 1 Resolve Point to regain Stamina Points following a 10-minute rest.

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An OGL Warlock for Starfinder

Having created a version of the OGL warlock for Pf1, I thought we’d try the same thing for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game. I love the idea of exploring what scifi heroes who gain powers from pacts with otherworldly beings might bring to a setting. As with last time, let’s start with what the class table and proficiencies and such might look like.

(Art by Grandfailure)

Warlock

Hit Points: 6

Stamina Points: 6 + Constitution modifier

Key Ability Score: Different warlock patrons are compatible with different personalities and demand differing mental attributes of their bound agents. As a result a warlock may select Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma as their key ability score at 1st level. Once made, this decision cannot be changed.

Class Skills: Bluff (Cha), Culture (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Disguise (Cha), Intimidate (Cha), Life Science (Int), Medicine (Int), Mysticism (Wis), Perception (Wis), Physical Science (Int), Profession (Int, Wis, Cha), Sense Motive (Wis), and Survival (Wis)

Skill Ranks Per Level: 6 + Int modifier.

Proficiencies: Armor–light, heavy. Weapons–Basic and advanced melee weapons, small arms, longarms.

Table: The Warlock

So, what do all those class features mean? And why does the table list is spell slots, rather than spells per day like most spellcasters?

Tune in tomorrow to find out!

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Ways to Boost a Foe’s CR in Starfinder

Yesterday we discussed why Starfinder doesn’t really follow the CR and CR equivalent charts in the core rulebook in all situations. I also linked to my “CR 6 +1” manticore as a way I had created a CR 7 monster appropriate for 5th level characters. A lot of people wanted to know if there were fast and easy ways to boost the CR of a Starfinder creature by +1 without making them too dangerous for lower-level players.

So, here are three! (Note that these don’t work as well if the players are already higher-level than the monster’s CR.)

Art By Herschel Hoffmeyer

*Boost All It’s Lower Values: Look at the creature’s saving throws, and make them all as good as its best save. Look at its attacks, and make all its attack bonuses as good as it’s best attack bonus. Look at its skills, and give them all the bonus for its highest skill. Increase its initiative modifier to be 4 higher than its highest ability score modifier. If it’s EAC is more than 2 lower than its KAC, bring it to be within 2. Remove any vulnerabilities.
This doesn’t raise the opponent’s numbers to be higher than the PCs can deal with at its level, but it does make it as strong as is reasonable in every area of combat. Without a weakness the PCs can exploit, the foe is more effective in whatever area happens to be important in the chaos of a fight.

*Double Its Hit Points: A foe that lasts longer can do more damage, but obviously it’s as dangerous as two of the same foe, since it can still make only one set of attacks per round, can only be in one place, and any penalties the PCs inflict only have to target one enemy. This one is fast and easy, but it has the downside that combats can drag on a bit, so only use this sparingly, and when you want an opponent to come off as super-tough.

*Give It Area/Ranged Attacks: You don’t want to make it do more damage or have a better attack bonus, but you can give it ranged, area attacks that do appropriate damage for its level. A breath weapon is a good example of this, as are any grenades with an item level equal to its CR or less. The idea here is to let it damage multiple PCs in a single attack action, and be able to switch up its attack options based on what’s happening in the combat.

PATREON
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The Issues of CRs and Multiple Creatures in Starfinder

So if you look in the Starfinder Core Rulebook, it’ll tell you that encounter difficulty is determined by comparing an encounter’s CR to your player’s Average Party Level (APL), as follows:

Encounter Difficulty

DifficultyCR Equivalency
EasyAPL – 1
AverageAPL
ChallengingAPL + 1
HardAPL + 2
EpicAPL + 3

It’ll also tell you that you can determine the CR equivalence of multiple creatures with the following table.

CR Equivalencies

Number of CreaturesCR Equivalency
1 creatureCR
2 creaturesCR + 2
3 creaturesCR + 3
4 creaturesCR + 4
6 creaturesCR + 5
8 creaturesCR + 6
12 creaturesCR + 7
16 creaturesCR + 8

Both these tables are useful… and both are wrong in ways the core rulebook doesn’t explain (we didn’t really realize it when we wrote the book — or at least I didn’t), and that isn’t intuitively obvious. But depending on how you combine these, your encounters may be way too easy, or way too hard.

Let’s start with when it may create an encounter much harder than expected.

Single Creatures of Higher CR

If you use a single higher-CR creature to make an encounter above your player’s APL, that encounter is going to be much harder than the core rulebook suggests. A single creature 1 CR higher than your PCs’ APL is on the tougher end of “Hard,” not merely “Challenging.” A single creature 2 CR’s above APL is Epic. And a single creature 3 CR above APL is likely to be more murderous than fun.

The reasons for this are baled into how Starfinder is different from pathfinder. First, the math is tighter. In Pathfinder you often have 1 or 2 players who are well ahead of the average PC curve in one area or another. Thus when you challenge them with a higher-CR foe, the one PC who is above the curve in whatever aspect of the game is effective against that foe can affect it, and the other PCs can support them. In Starfinder, the upper level of effectiveness is much more tightly controlled (and monster state blocks are much more consistent), so as the CR of a single monster goes up, the % chance of any attack of ability affecting them drops in ways the PCs cannot easily deal with.

Similarly, the raw bonuses and DCs a monster has increase in ways the PC’s defenses aren’t designed to handle, and a single higher-CR creature is likely to focus its attacks more than two lower-CR ones, just as a practical matter of space, reach, and line of sight.

Relatedly, the prevalence of save-or-lose effects is much lower in Starfinder than Pathfinder. In Pf, if you are just facing one foe players can spam hold or similar spells until the enemy fails a saving throw. Which such effects exist in Starfinder they are much less common, and generally more limited in scope.

Additionally Starfinder generally increases combat effectiveness not with multiple attacks, as Pathfinder does, but with each single attack anyone makes doing more and more damage. This both means the PCs can;t spam 3-6 attacks a round at a foe hoping to roll well on at least a few (and thus get a little damage in each round), and that a GM can’t have a foe divide their attacks among multiple PCs to make sure one is not killed in a lucky shot.

These factors combine to mean than one CR 8 foe is much more dangerous to a group of PCs than three CR 5 foes. It is much harder for the PCs to connect with it, given it’s higher ACs and better saves, and rather than have the threat be reduced as they drop one enemy and can focus on the other two, it remains at full effectiveness until dropped. And many legitimate class builds that focus on area attacks which help deal with three CR 5 creatures are actually less common against one CR 8.

So the table that tells you an APL +3 encounter is Epic (but reasonable) is only true if you are using multiple creatures of roughly your parties APL.

But, of course, there’s another possible weird result, when things are much easier than expected…

Art by likozor

Multiple Creatures of Lower CR

The other thing the core rulebook tells you is that 16 creatures make up an encounter with a CR equal to their indiviual CRs +8. That ought to mean that if you have an APL of 9th level, you can challenge them with 16 1st level foes.

But you can’t. I mean you can do it, but it won’t be a challenge.

In this case, the tighter math and reduced attacks per round work in the PCs’ favor. The AC of a typical CR 1 combatant is 11 lower than a CR 9 combatant, and it has 20 HP, compared to the CR 9’s 145. One or two area attacks can wipe out all the CR 1 foes, and their attacks are insignificant even if they manage to connect with PCs.

Now being able to be in multiple places can given useful otpions, and of course a clever Gm CAN build an encounter where eight CR 1 foes are at least interesting (putting them in defensive positions, for example, or spread them out and set the encounter so the PCs want to capture them all without letting any escape, rather than just defeat or bypass them). But failing that, for a satisfying encounter you generally don’t want to use foes with a CR more than 3 below your PCs’ APL.

The Takeaway

When using the CR system in Starfinder, try to stick to creatures with a CR no more than 3 below, or 1 above, your party’s APL.

(Unless you are prepared to get clever, as I experimented with when building a CR “6 +1” Manticore.)

PATREON
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The “Damn” Manticore of Really Wild West (in Starfinder)

In yesterday’s session notes for my third Really Wild West Game, I mentioned the main villain was a modified manticore. I took the base stats from Legendary game’s excellent Alien Bestiary (name mentioned here with special permission from LG), and made some changes.

Some of those changes are stylistic. I wanted a scorpion-tailed manticore, rather than a spike-flinging tail. But some of the changes (higher will saves, flexible tail, flyby attack, advanced weaponry) are specifically designed to make it a more dangerous foe.

Essentially, I wanted a CR 7 threat to be an epic encounter for the five 5th level heroes, but I didn’t want to use a CR 7 monster. In Starfinder, the math is so tight, fighting something that is 2 CRs above you can be extremely frustraintg, ebcause it never misses, and you rarely hit. Using two CR 5 monsters as a CR 7 encounter works great, but here I experimented with boosting the combat effectiveness of a foe without boosting their HP, AC, attack values, and so on. I list this as CR 6 +1; it’s CR 7 for all purposes except it’s array.

Then at the end I list my GM notes on two of the bits of treasure Gaotema had. They helped tell this specific monster’s story — an Ottoman Turk manticore who has been around since the 1700s, and fought for the Confederates in the US Civil War, then turned mercenary and gang leader after the South lost.

Gaotema, sans hat, art by Jacob Blackmon

GAOTEMA, The “Damn” MANTICORE
Manticore           CR 6+1
Init +2; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision; Perception +13
DEFENSE              HP 95    
EAC
18; KAC 20
Fort +10, Ref +10, Will +10
OFFENSE
Speed
40 ft., fly 60 ft. (Ex, average)
Melee
claw +16 (1d8+11 S) or stinger +16 (1d8+11 P, Fort DC 17)
Ranged
grenade launcher +14 (“Puckle Gin,” See below)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 5 ft. (10 ft. with stinger)
Offensive Abilities Flexible Tail (Threaten foes in reach even if they have cover)
STATISTICS
Str
+5, Dex +2, Con +3, Int –1, Wis +0, Cha +0
Skills Survival +18 (+22 when tracking)
Feats Flyby Attack (as PF1), Mobility, Spring Attack
Languages Common, Ottoman Turkish
SPECIAL ABILITIES
Doomstone-Enhanced Poison – Uses track of target’s highest ability score. End State is Venom-Wight. DC 17 (7 points of damage)

Each state takes twice as long as the one before it
Immediate/1 round – Save or Weakened             
2 rounds – Save or Impaired                                       
4 rounds – Save or Staggered                                    
8 Rounds – Save or Immobile                                     
16 rounds – Save or Venom-Wight                        

Puckle Gun
2280 cr.               60 ft.     8 grenades         5 bulk    Analog, Expiramental
Grenades
Grey Smoke – Fortitude saving throw each round (DC = 13 + 1 per previous check) or spend that round choking and coughing; he can do nothing else. A character who chokes for 2 consecutive rounds takes 1d6 nonlethal damage. Concealment.
Silver Smoke – DC 14, or forget details of what you saw without confirmation afterward.
Black Smoke – As smoke + tail venom, above
Red Shell – 5d6 fire, half damage to targets within 20 feet (Ref negates)
Experimental — If damaged, roll d20 on the mishap chart, below.
1-5: Backfire, user takes 1d6 fire damage each time it fires.
6-10: Takes a full round action to attack.
11-15: Can’t load a new round without a DC 17 Engineering check
16-20: Inaccurate. Roll scatter for every attack.

Artilleryman’s Hat – Constant – Reduce effect of miss change from smoke/fog/vapor-base concealment by half, and it is never total concealment.
Standard Action – Grant 1 hour of immunity to inhaled smoke/fog/vapor effects. 1/day.
“A battered hat with many cuts and scrapes, there is a Confederate artillery pin stuck on top of a faded Union artillery patch.”

Compression Gear Harness
Standard to activate, 1/day, for 1 hour +4 to bulk carrying capacity, +2 damage with melee attacks
2 bulk, 5k credits, item level 5, must be custom fit with Engineering check

PATREON
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Really Wild West “Doomstone” Campaign — After-Action Report (Game Session 3)

Since people still seem to be enjoying after-action reports of my Really Wild West: Doomstone campaign, here’s a write-up adapted from notes taken by my wife Lj (who is playing the fenrin operative bounty hunter named “Sawyer”) as a quick report for Session Three!

You can find Session One here: Part One, Part Two.
Session Two here: Part One, Part Two.

If you don’t recognize a reference, it may (or may not) be in a previous session, or at the updated campaign notes page.

Session 03:

Day 06

The players investigate the eponymous Circle Axe the Circle Axe Ranch is named for. It is 4ft tall, 30lbs. When the land was pioneered 50 or so years ago, Dwargus hardfist (the current foreman and a dwarf) was here with his grandmother. She had them stop here and dig up this axe, buried in the ground, because she could sense it. She believes it dates back to when a Hardfist was with Leif Erikson’s exploration of the area.

  • Discover it is a magic item, The Double Blade, which is Axiomatic, Bane vs. creatures aligned to, or serving humility or gluttony.
  • Serves Pride and Patience. “Pride and Pateince” is the Hardfist family motto. It dates back to Nordic days, when Pride was seen as a sin by the family, and patience their failing.
  • Can oversee an oath – is doing so right now. Therefore, that oath is still intact. Dwargus is sure no one has used it for an oath since it was buried. Since it was buried, the PCs think the oath might have been a treaty of some kind (for “Bury the hatchet’)
  • Made of steel alloyed with a star metal – noqual. Not usually compatible with steel.
    • Some magical process fused them
    • It weighs 2x-3x what it should
    • It has become a crystalline matrix of steel

Since the PCs are here to stop the Manticore only Dwargus has ever seen, which always kills of his (and ONLY his) cattle each time they are picked from the general hear, their plan is to have the cattle picked, put in buildings in a nearby abandoned town (Horse Creek), and wait for the Manticore to arrive. Sawyer (fenrin operative bounty hunter) buys a cow to mix in with Dwargus’ herd

Day 07 – At the ambush

  • The cows are in two buildings
  • Two ranch hands — Bohoss (an ogre) and Waterlily (an elf) are handling the cattle to keep them calm
  • PCs wait for the attack … and it comes!

FIGHT!

  • First there’s a distant “thump” then a silvery fog rolls in. Everyone needs to make a DC 10 Will save, and those who fail it can’t remember any element of the situation they aren’t currently seeing. Tess (human mechanic) fails her save… but asks her drone what she is doing in a building, at night, near cows, and when explains she rushes out to help.
  • Then the hossest-looking manticore flies in
    • Wearing a previously Union Artilleryman’s hat – debadged
    • Armored forearms with mechanical thumbs
    • Mounted, heavily modified and updated Puckle Gun on its shoulder
The Manticore, Gaotma, by Jacob Blackmon
  • He swoops in and fires at Anuthyr (centaur paladin) – same “thump” sound occurs
    • It’s his fog gun!!
    • MARTIAN BLACK GAS!!
    • He calls her a bad name in Ottoman Turkish – Pislick (“dirt” – piece of crap or asshole)
  • Sawyer flies up and shoots the manticore … real hard
  • Liam (human soldier) was in a sniper position behind the saloon sign on its roof. He drops his rifle and leaps upon he Manticore’s back in an attempt to sunder its gun harness.
    • Gets stung – poisoned
    • Extremely virulent (Doomstone does not use the normal Starfinder poison rules for common poisons, but DOES use them for this poison. Which, worse, uses the track of your HIGHEST ability score!)
    • Liam and damages the harness (As an Experimental weapon it rolls on a failure chart each time it is damaged — it is now a full action to use. So the manticore can no longer use it while flying, and must land).
    • Hangs on, dragging the Manticore to the ground
  • Anuthyr sets for charge and challenges the manticore
  • He shoots her, she stands strong and challenges again
  • Brone (Half-orc technomancer cartographer) tries to cast from cover and is stung and poisoned. The manticore’s tail has reach AND can make attacks of opportunity around corners!
  • Four serpentfolk teleport in, drop off masked bandits, then disappear
    • The bandits have sawed-off double-barrel shotguns, and mining picks with green rims
  • Liam sends up a flare so that Anuthyr can see the manticore on the other side of the black gas
    • Liam starts to succumb to the poison – Dex for him
  • Anuthyr charges – her attack glances off the Manticore’s shoulder armor
    • Manticore identifies himself as Gaotema
  • Gaotema stings and poisons Anuthyr
    • She begins to succumb to the poison – Str for her
  • Sawyer (flying with Davinci wings) keeps Gaotema flatfooted with successful trick attacks
  • Tess and Pinon take on the bandits
  • Brone begins to succumb to the poison – Int
  • The bandits finally get to take action
    • One of them takes on Tess
    • The other two enter the building with Waterlily and 6 cows
    • Lily is shot, but manages to keep the cows calm… during an active shootout right next to them!
  • Liam is stung a second time – poisoned
  • Lily kills a bandit
  • Anuthyr drops her lance, activates Smite, and smacks Gaotema with her sword
    • SMOTE!!
  • Gaotema flies by, attacking Anuthyr
  • Sawyer misses this time
  • Tess takes out another bandit
  • Brone throws a magic Missile at Gaotema
  • Liam shoots Gaotema, putting him on his last leg. Liam’s poison finally stops progressing.
  • Anuthyr charges
  • Gaotema attempts to fly away
  • The last remaining bandit wings a huge knife at Tess, injuring her and knocking her down with a critical hit
  • Liam shoots Gaotema one last time – finally killing him
  • Anuthyr steps up to remove his head saying “You shall see your master in hell.”
    • He responds “Kral Zenhiri is not in hell”

Aftermath:

  • Brone falls over
    • Anuthyr helps him
    • Brone is still in trouble
  • Waterlily is bleeding out
    • Sawyer helps her – stops the bleeding
  • Tess tries to make an anti-venon
    • We need to get his venom out to do so
    • There is something stuck inside the stinger
    • Bohoss smashes it with a rock and gets out a piece of glowing green iron
    • It’s a piece of green iron – radiated. “Doomstone” Get it far enough away from the poisoned, will help
    • Tess gives it to Pinon, who runs it far, far away
  • Brone is still in trouble
    • This isn’t gonna kill him… it’s final state will turn him into something
    • Finally, he stabilizes

We set watches and discuss what to do with the body. Bury them all.

Day 08

  • Brone’s good
  • Bury the bodies – the bandits are all branded with a manticore, and they used to have bounties on them
    • Each had a token of one drop of poison – likely used to locate them by the serpentfolk. We give them all to Anuthyr.
    • The manticore had a flower stuck in his gear (cliff dandelion) that locally is only found on Neblin Ridge – in the disputed territory between the Circle Axe and Vicious Hippogriff ranches.
  • Bury all the items tainted with radiation
  • Leave it unmarked for now

LOOT: Artilleryman’s hat (magical), compression gear harness, Puckle gun (original to 1700s, and upgraded by the Confederates and again recently with Martian-derived tech), one black gas shell, one silver shell, two gray shells. Four sawed-off double-barreled shot guns, four bowie knives, 400 credits worth of Vicious Hippogryph script. Lead case for the Doomstone.

  • The hat
    • The bones and fangs cover up the Union marks
    • Brone mends it
    • It helps the wearer see through smoke, fog, and vapor
    • Gives wearer immunity to smoke, fog, and vapor effects once per day for an hour
  • Harness
    • Once per day, for one hour, allows +4 to bulk carrying capacity, and +2 damage with melee attacks (2 bulk)
  • Puckle gun
    • Grenade launcher – custom made (5 bulk)
  • Lead case
    • Designed to hold the green radiated rock Domstone
    • Inscribed with

Mark II

Doomstone

Go out and get the stone and put it in the case. All the vegetation around it has died.

The rock doesn’t want to be enclosed. It *fights* being put in the lead case, but Tess forces it in.

Anuthyr and Liam can both tell where it is. Brone can too.

PCs return to Dwargus

  • His cattle are fine
  • Bring back the manticore head
  • They cheer, feed us, put us to bed
  • We take watches

Day 09

Everyone’s healed up. Now, only Anuthyr and Brone can feel it where the Doomstone is.

LOOT: 200 credits each for the bounty

Dwargus gives the PCs a writ to legally explore Neblin Ridge, in the disputed territory, as there is enough evidence to suggest criminals are operating out of there.

  • Wants to send the Puckle gun ammo to the Speaker of the State House
  • Wants to buy the Puckle gun for 1500 credits
  • Tess wants to keep the tech

The Plan

  • Stay here tonight
  • Send the ammo to Fontz and Bizmark to take to the State Speaker of the House, who Dwargus trusts, as evidence of criminals with access to martian tech, in the hopes of getting state or federal peacekeepers out here… in 3-4 weeks.
    • Sawyer and Tess write letters of witness for Dwargus
  • PC’s keep the stone with us and head to Neblin Ridge first thing in the morning
  • Use the VH scrip to buy some anti-toxins here at Circle Axe. (Medicinals cost 1/10th list price in Really Wild West)
    • One tier 2 anti-venon
    • Six tier 1 anti-venons
    • One tier 1 sedative

Day 10 – 2 days to Neblin Ridge

Brone says if we take the direct route, the PCs will be seen.

  • However, he says they can take a dry creek bed, not be seen, and take three days instead of two. So they do.
  • As we approach the entrance to the gully, Sawyer finds a trip wire made of spider silk.
  • Loud gunshot goes off – green iron shot
    • Not radioactive, not poisonous, but it would sicken you if shot with it
    • They must have a green iron mine
    • Tess gathers up the pellets

LOOT: Shotgun w/a manticore symbol in the butt

  • We notice that this gully is wide enough for the manticore
  • They have a trail-craft expert with them
  • Find his half-way campsite
  • Used in the last week 5-20 people, possibly the manticore
  • It’s been here weeks, months, maybe years
  • PCs camp aways off so we can watch the camp

As we settle down to camp …

  • Sawyer’s hackles raise
  • Tess sees impact terms in her tea
  • Something is vibrating. Underground?
  • The local fauna doesn’t seem to care
  • Tess determines it’s happening at Neblin’s Ridge, whatever it is
    • Ten to twenty miles away
  • For the next 3-4 hours, the vibration goes off for one minute every half hour
    • Tess gets no sleep

Day 11

On toward Neblin Ridge. Find another trip wire. This time the PCs disarm it and rig it back up to appear to be set up.

LOOT: green iron shot, shotgun

Tess determines these are very well-made shotguns made by a master engineer, but using an extremely simple design, as if he’d never made guns before.

That night, the PCs find another camp site, with a shallow grave next to it.

  • At least three sverfneblin. Dead for awhile.
  • Liam talks to them.
    • In olde German, the corpse will say
    • “They said it was part of the pact. Why are they killing us? They said it was part of the pact. I didn’t know they were killing us.”
    • The body turns to dirt. Released?
    • They were on their way to becoming undead, but being allowed to speak after death has given them epace.
  • We dig them up to give them proper burial.
    • Find a total of 9 bodies
    • Looks like they were buried every three months
  • Other relevant things they say
    • “They do not respect the ore. They do not respect the old ways of mining.”
    • “Damn the pact. Damn the traders. We should have closed the vault.”

XPs: 950

PCs at 12,000 total (15,000 to 6th)

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