Category Archives: Starfinder Development

Designing to Spec: Support Material (Part 1)

So now that we’re done creating Starfinder versions of all the Pf Core Rulebook feats that weren’t already in Starfinder, what’s next?

While you think about that (and tell me your thoughts!), let’s spend this week looking at things we may want to add to Starfinder, now that we’ve added such a huge load of feats.

These are going to be class features which are designed to help players who like many of the new wave of feats add them to their characters in some cases. this helps prevent Starfinder from being a game where everyone feels feat-poor as a result of the conversion work we have done.

First, let’s look at some soldier options. Soldiers already have a lot of feats and combat options, but they are also the class that is most likely to feel lacking if a player thinks there are now more feats than they can possible reasonably take (especially if those feats are important to a specific character concept).

Luckily, the soldier already has gear boosts, which are on-par power wise with feats, and we can use that as a way for a soldier to access even more of the new feats we created, or gain abilities that tie into them.

Soldier Gear Boosts

Shield Tactics [Ex] Select a feat that has proficiency with shields as a prerequisite, and for which you meet the prerequisites. You gain this as a bonus feat.

Twin Draw [Ex] When you draw or sheath weapons, you can draw or sheath one for every arm you have as part of the same action. If you have the Quick Draw feat, you can sheath a weapon and draw a new one (with each arm, if desired) as part of the same action.

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d20 Design Diary (Part 6)

This is the sixth in my series of class-focused d20 Design Diaries. I suspect I only have a couple more posts to go on this topic, but we’ll see how the topics actually shake out (and what kind of feedback I get).

If you followed class design steps in the order I have written about them, we’ve settled on an appropriate and interesting class concept, set up the right class progression tools, made sure we are following (or at least only breaking by intent rather than by accident) the game’s style and etiquette, looked at how many options you want for each level of your class and how that impacts complexity, and discussed spell access and progression.

But we still need to talk about spell lists. Specifically, do you give your new class access to one (or more) existing spell lists, or make a brand-new spell list? And, it turns out, that.s a pretty complex question that depends very much on the game system you are using.

So, you know, let’s start by saying studying what that system does and how it handles those questions.

Also, it’s very important to know if you are building expansions classes that are in addition to a *core* set of pre-existing classes or are building a whole set of classes from scratch. Most of the advice here is directed at the former case. If you are in the latter situation, there may not even be pre-existing spell lists for you to borrow from. In that case you’ll need to make decisions about how many class lists to build from scratch, and the following advice may still be applicable to that decision.

Certainly the more you want a spell list to have a very strong theme tied to the class’s concept, the more you should consider a unique class spell list. The more you want the spell list to interact and grow well with other publisher’s content, the more you should consider using an existing class list.

In Pathfinder 1st edition, classes have access to a hodgepodge of class-specific lists, sharing class lists, and mixing class lists. The bard has its own spell list for example (though the skald later gains access to it as well), while the warpriest just has access to the cleric list (though it gets most spell levels later in its own level progression, when they are less powerful compared to the challenges being faced). Both sorcerers and wizards use the sorcerer/wizard spell list, though it has specific spells only one of the classes can take. Hunters get both druid and ranger spells (and gain access to ranger spells much earlier than rangers do, potentially making them more powerful compared to the challenges faced when you first access them), but inquisitors have a unique spell list.

Counting only official classes, no alternate classes, and only actual spell lists (as opposed to formula lists for alchemists and investigators), by the end of its run Pathfinder 1st d had 16 separate spell classes. On top of that, all of the class spell lists are defined as being arcane, divine, or occult.

In that environment, it seems insane to create a brand new unique class list. First, there are tons of lists with different themes already. Second, each of those lists has been expanded by so many supplements (official and otherwise) that any new lists is either going to fill a small book on its own, or have many fewer options than the 16 existing lists. Further, if someone is adding content from other publishers, those 3pp spells won’t even know to suggest what new spells should be on your unique class spell list.

By the same token, by the time a game has 16 unique spell lists, it’s hard to claim a 17th will be the bridge too far for design weight.

Pathfinder 2nd edition, as a counterexample, has only 4 spell lists. Absolutely every class has access to the arcane, divine, occult, or primal spell list. Some classes can pick what spell list they access based on other class features (such as the sorcerer), and many classes have access to a very small number of “focus spells” unique to their class. This includes both classes with access to a traditional spell list (such as the bards and their occult spells), and classes with no other spell access (such as champions). While it would be possible to build a whole 5th spell list (akashic magic, perhaps, or runic magic), this would likely only make sense if designing multiple classes that accessed it, or perhaps writing class variants of existing classes that accessed your new magic type. However, adding a small number of focus spells to any new spellcasting class, but otherwise tying them to one or more of the 4 existing lists, seems an excellent way to both benefit from that class having unique and flavorful spells of its own (new focus spells) and benefiting from ties to a growing standard spell list that other books and companies can expand. Pathfinfer 2nd ed also has things such as spell rarity which could be used to create “new” spell list options (such as creating a magister class that has access to common spells for multiple lists, but can never gain uncommon or rare spells).

By contrast Starfinder goes the opposite route, and give every spellcaster their own unique spell list.

Starfinder only has 3 official spellcasting classes so far of course, and each also has the same level of spell access and spells/day. That certainly sets an expectation for players that a class focused on spellcasting would likely follow the same path. There are many potential reasons to not go that route (if creating a mechanic/technomancer hybrid class, the Dronemancer, that only had access up to 3rd level spells, it might well make sense for it to have the technomancer spell list), but again the key point is to know what tools are at your disposal, and study how the core game (or similar games, if you are starting from scratch) use them.

Dungeons & Dragons 5th ed also gives each class its own spell list (at least in the Player’s handbook), including the sorcerer and wizard, who shared a spell list when the sorcerer was first introduced in 3rd edition. There is greater variety in both spell access (paladins and rangers only get up to 5th level spells), and how the class uses spells (warlocks and wizards have very different game mechanics dictation how they interact with and use their spells). The larger number of lists makes it more likely that you can match a specific class’s theme with an existing class list or combination of lists, but it also drives home player expectation in much the same way Starfinder does.

As a final note, it’s worth mentioning that whether a game has dozens of class spell lists or just three, d20 games almost always have some basic spells that appear on multiple (or even all) spell lists. the most flavorless and utilitarian spells are often there, from detect magic to light. By the same token, most such games have at least a few types of spells that are kept off specific spell lists, in the tradition of “clerics don’t cast magic missile, wizards don’t heal.”

But honestly, that’s another whole blog post worth of commentary.

PATREON

These Design Diaries are among the most popular of the things I wrote, but they are also the biggest, hardest, and most time-consuming to create. If you want to keep seeing them, I encourage you to join my Patreon. Just a few dollars a month can make the difference between me having the time to tackle these larger, in-depth design articles, and sticking to shorter, simpler topics.

Developing to Spec: Part 22d (The Last PF Core Feats)

This is the fourth section of Part 22 of a series of articles looking at creating a set of Starfinder feats under specific constraints.  You can go back and read previous entries where we converted every feat in the PF core rulebook to Starfinder (and  I shared my thoughts on that process, as a developer and writer)— or you can just look at the finished feats here.

This is it. The very last feats from the PF Core Rulebook that did not exist in Starfinder. This has been my longest ongoing blog series ever. I’m almost sad.

Almost.

But, let’s get to them, shall we? We begin with Unseat.

A confession. Having played hundreds (in all honesty, maybe thousands) of sessions of Pf and the games that came before it, I have never seen Unseat be used, or even taken by a character, even once.

It’s a super-specific jousting feat. Yo have to be mounted to use it. And attacking with a lance (and only with a lance). And your target has to be mounted. AND you have to charge to use it. And if you hit, you can TRY a bull rush to unseat the target.

That’s so many rules I’d be inclined to just add them to what a lance can do without needing a feat for it. Plus, does this mean that without this feat, I can’t use trip or bull rush to take a mounted foe out of their saddle? Or only that I can’t do it as part of a charge attack with a lance?

But we HAVE to make a Starfinder version, so:

UNSEAT (Combat)
You can rip foes from the mounts and vehicles.
Benefit: When a foe that is mounted or in a vehicle provokes an attack of opportunity from you, you can make a bull rush or trip combat maneuver instead of a melee attack. If you succeed, you pull the target off their mount or out of their vehicle, and leave them prone in an adjacent space.

I’m still not sure how often that’ll come up, but at least knocking folks off their motorcycle has genre-emulation value.

Next up is Weapon Finesse. Which, like so many PF feats, requires things (like a definition of “light weapons”) that Starfinder doesn’t have to allow something (switching some melee weapons from Strength to Dexterity) Starfinder isn’t designed to allow. In fact Starfinder already essentially decided that light weapons are “operative weapons,” and anyone can use their Dexterity to attack with them, and no other weapons should be allowed to do that under any circumstances.

But there is one thing that Starfinder’s system could allow for — some way for operatives to make trick attacks with different weapons than normal. Not to be more effective (operatives are FINE on the power scale), but to support different character concepts and variable tactical styles.

WEAPON FINESSE (Combat)
You can use bulkier, slower weapons to place attacks with additional effects.
Prerequisites: Trick attack class feature.
Benefit: You can use any weapon to deliver a trick attack. When you do so with a non-operative melee weapon, you may choose to use your Dexterity modifier, rather than Strength modifier to add to your attack bonus. You can only apply the trick attack to a single creature, regardless of how many the attack affects, and must make the appropriate skill check. For that one trick attack, you deal either just your trick attack damage +1 per operative level (with its damage type determined by the weapon), or you do the weapon’s damage without any bonus from your trick attack. In either case, you can apply any other effect your trick attack imposes onto the target you trick attack.

There are things this does, and things it does not do. It won’t increase any character’s single-target damage-per round output, and that’s intentional. It also won’t allow a solarian (for example) to ignore all Strength in favor of Dexterity, and that’s intentional. It is of most use to operatives who want increased flexibility. You may not do any more damage to one target when you deliver a trick attack with a grenade, but you still get the rest of the effect of a grenade. making unarmed attacks as trick attacks won’t bust your damage curve, but it’s a lot better than normal trick attacks if you’ve been disarmed.

Okay, last one.

Whirlwind Attack

Whirlwind Attack is a PF feat that normally comes in at mid- to high-level play that has 7 prerequisites (though a fighter could theoretically meet them all by 4th level), that allows you to make one melee attack against every target within reach. Again, a chunk of that is balanced by the fact that in PF, a good chunk of your Damage Per Round (DPR) is based on making more attacks each round. In Starfinder, your DPR increase is much more strongly tied to each attack doing more damage, so getting to make a single attack against a large number of foes is much more powerful.

We could probably do something with forcing you to take the full attack -4 to your attack rolls, and then maybe another -2 or so… so it’s only useful against lower-level foes, and even then you won’t hit all of them, so if you connect with one or two your DPR is reasonable…

But wow that doesn’t sound like fun or satisfying as a player. Let’s try something else.

WHIRLWIND ATTACK (Combat)
You can surround yourself with lighting-fast, shallow strikes.
Benefit: When you use the full-attack action, you can give up all your other attacks and instead make one melee attack against each opponent within reach. Make a single attack roll, and apply it to the AC of every target in reach. Roll damage once, and apply half the value to every target you hit.

That’s easy to access, it lets you do a little damage to a lot of foes (which is closer to how Whirlwind Attack generally works in Pf anyway), has a much better change of doing SOME damage to multiple targets. If you want to lay about and put a hurt on a lot of people up close this works, even if you won’t be able to pile nearly as much on any one target.

AND THAT’S IT!

What comes next? Who knows! Let me know your thoughts, over at my Patreon, or as a comment here, or at my email, Twitter, or Facebook!

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 22c (Two-Weapon Feats)

This is the third section of Part 22 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 have come to the last couple of two-weapon related feats; Two-Weapon Defense and Two-Weapon Rend. It would have made sense to write these back when we were writing the base Two-Weapon Fighting feat and it’s follow-up feats, but since we were only checking all the prerequisites for Greater Two-Weapon Fighting, and didn’t check to see if there were any more thematically-linked feats (such as Double Slice, or today’s examples), it didn’t come up.

So, Two-Weapon Defense is a combat feat that grants bonuses to AC. We’ve made major changes to every one of those we’ve run into on this project and for Two-Weapon Fighting we need to adjust:

Not a darn thing.

Seriously. With the advent of shield bonuses being defined in COM, Two-Weapon Defense works perfectly as-written. Even the prerequisites are reasonable. We can just add it to the game as-is. (If it makes sense and ain’t broke, don’t adjust it). We could require the two weapons to be melee weapons (although PF didn’t–apparently twin hand crossbows is fine), but the visual of the two-pistol character blazing away to give themselves cover fire is too cool to restrict even if it makes slightly less logical sense.

TWO-WEAPON DEFENSE (Combat)
You are skilled at defending yourself while dual-wielding.
Prerequisites: Dex 15, Two-Weapon Fighting.
Benefit: When wielding a double weapon or two weapons (not including natural weapons or unarmed strikes), you gain a +1 shield bonus to your AC.
When you are fighting defensively or using the total defense action, this shield bonus increases to +2.

And that bring us to Two-Weapon Rend which… does need change. I’ve never been convinced the PF version of Two-Weapon Rend was balanced. At first glance it looks like just a little bonus damage, but later FAQs made it clear that it also benefits from damage bonuses that apply to both attacks that trigger it (such as Power attack and potentially sneak attack) but not things that specifically are weapon damage bonuses (such as weapon enhancement bonuses and spells such as divine favor. Which means it is far, far more powerful for cavaliers, paladins, and rogues than for most other classes.

Any damage bonus is always problematic with Starfinder feats, especially those that won’t really have a drawback for a large portion of characters. While it’s nice for being multi-armed being useful, we don’t want a feat to radically change that usefulness if that calculation wasn’t considered in creating the core rulebook.

Luckily the feat’s name says you “rend,” not “do extra damage” so there are other options.

TWO-WEAPON REND (Combat)
You can make the intersection of damage from different weapons hurt.
Prerequisites: Dex 15, Two-Weapon Fighting.
Benefit: When you hit and damage the same target with attacks from two or more weapons in the same round, it must attempt a Fortitude save (DC 10 +1/2 your base attack bonus +your key ability score modifier). If it fails, it is sickened for 1 round for ever 5 item levels of the lower-level of the weapons (minimum 1 round). This is a pain effect.

Now, why did we say it was a pain effect?

Pain IS one of the descriptors Starfinder lists in the core rulebook. Pain effects note “Creatures that are immune to effects that require a Fortitude save are immune to pain effects.” It doesn’t come up that often, but it also helps explain why rending someone causes a sickened effect, so it’s worth the extra wordage.

Okay, that just leaves three feats, all of which we’ll tackle tomorrow.

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Developing to Spec: Part 22b (Trample Undead)

This is the second section of Part 22 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’re into the T feats now, near the end, with Trample.

In PF Trample applies to the overrun combat option which anyone can access. Starfinder doesn’t have a generic version of overrun, but we did create some overrun options for Improved Overrun and Greater Overrun. While the game mechanics need total revision, conceptually there’s nothing wrong with running down foes in Starfinder. There is a trample rule in the Universal Creature Rules of the Alien Archive books, but it’s a bit too powerful to put into player’s hands. However, it can serve as the basis for a powerful feat we put at the end of the a relatively rare Starfidner feat chain.

TRAMPLE (Combat)
When riding or driving into combat, you are skilled at knocking foes over.
Prerequisites: Greater Overrun, Improved Overrun, Pilot 8 ranks or Survival 8 ranks.
Benefit: When mounted (if you have at least one rank of Survival) or controlling a vehicle (if you have at least one rank of Pilot), as a full action you can move up to your mount/vehicle’s speed and through the space of any creatures that are at least one size smaller than your mount or vehicle. You not need to make an attack roll; each creature whose space it moves through takes half your mount’s unarmed or natural melee damage or half your vehicle’s ram damage. A target of a trample can attempt a Reflex save (DC 10 +1/2 your ranks in the relevant skill + your Dexterity score) to take no damage, or choose to fall prone to automatically take no damage. If it takes either actions, it can’t make an attack of opportunity against you that is provoked by your movement. A creature can deal trample damage to a given target only once per round.

That brings us to Turn Undead. Like all the other PF things based on clerical channel energy, we’ll base this on the mystic’s healing channel and the Turn Undead feat. Of course at this point, you could build a whole new mystic connection just on gaining healing channel feats…

I have seen more players be annoyed by making undead run away (so you have to hunt them down later, and they aren’t tight;y grouped for area attacks) than cheer that affect, so because I can I am going to make the “turn” part of turn undead more conceptual.

TURN UNDEAD
You can use your healing channel to force undead to turn their attention away from you and all their foes, spending much of their effort guarding their eyes from a light only they can see.
Prerequisites: Harm Undead, healing channel connection power, mystic level 1st.
Benefit: When you use your healing channel to Harm Undead, those undead that fail their saving throw are also flat-footed, off-target, and staggered for a number of rounds equal to the level of the spell you expended to use Harm Undead.

That’s still a huge tactical benefit–indeed, smart undead might CHOOSE to run when they are successfully turned–but given that it requires a use of healing channel, and the highest-level spell lost the character has available, and two feats to perform, I think it’s reasonable.

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Developing to Spec: Part 22a (Beginning of the End)

This is the first section of Part 22 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’re in the last week of the feat-conversion part of this project. Next week I’ll likely talk about supplemental material I’d recommend putting in a book that includes these conversions (and which I DO plan on putting in the book I compile at the end of this), but the actual feats will all be done by Friday’s post.

But for now, let’s look at Stunning Fist.

Stunning Fist is a little surprising as a PF to Starfinder conversion subject because… it doesn’t need any changes. I mean, we need to remove language about monks (that’s class-specific stuff, and we shouldn’t port it automatically to any Starfinder class–if someone wants to give a Starfinder class special Stunning Fist powers, they can mention it as a class ability rather than have us preload that into the feat), but otherwise it works fine as-is.

Which is weird. I mean if it works perfectly well in Starfinder, why hasn’t anyone converted it before. (Why the heck didn’t *I* include it when I was doing the first draft of the Starfinder core rulebook feat chapter?) I can only assume it was considered too goofy for a science-fantasy game to include people using a bare fist to stun someone in powered armor. But the feat already requires you to actually damage your foe, and if you are getting damage through the powered armor (maybe using the edge of a shield, now that those exist and some can deliver unarmed strikes) there doesn’t seem to be any reason you couldn’t deliver a nerve-strike type ability to them.

While there’s nothing we *have* to change, there are a few things worth tweaking. First, having a high Dexterity and high Wisdom isn’t really directly tied to stunning things, so in keeping with the lower prerequisites common for Starfinder feats, we’ll cut those. Second, the PF Stunning Fist includes a lot of the rules in the feat (what being stunned means, when someone recovers from an ability with a duration of 1 round), and Starfinder doesn’t normally do that either.

In fact I considered if this feat was under-powered, since it’s a melee option in a game of jetpacks and ray guns. But there are way to do ranged unarmed strikes, and stunning someone is still a pretty good condition to apply. I also considered if this should require Resolve points to use, but since it felt like it might be underpowered, decided to leave it with its own uses per day to compensate.

Interestingly I suspect most PF players consider Stunning Fist to be a low-level ability because they only see it with monks, who get it at first. Minus monks, this becomes a mid-level power without needing to change any crucial elements of the text.

STUNNING FIST(Combat)
You know just where to strike to temporarily stun a foe.
Prerequisites: Improved Unarmed Strike, base attack bonus +8.
Benefit: You must declare that you are using this feat before you make your attack roll (thus, a failed attack roll ruins the attempt). Stunning Fist forces a foe damaged by your unarmed attack to make a Fortitude saving throw (DC 10 + 1/2 your character level + your key ability score modifier), in addition to dealing damage normally. A defender who fails this saving throw is stunned for 1 round. You may attempt a stunning attack once per day for every four levels you have attained, and no more than once per round. Constructs, oozes, plants, undead, incorporeal creatures, and creatures immune to critical hits cannot be stunned.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have Tower Shield Proficiency, which is another PF feat that does something that isn’t relevant in Starfinder, because Starfinder doesn’t have “Tower Shields.” But it does have riot shields, so maybe we can do something with that.

TOWER SHIELD PROFICIENCY (Combat)
You can get the most out of the biggest shields.
Prerequisites: Shield Proficiency.
Benefit: You reduce the armor check penalty of any shield you use by one (to a minimum of 0). You can make unarmed strikes with riot shields. These unarmed strikes are not considered archaic.

The biggest part of that is allowing the unarmed strikes with a class of shield that doesn’t normally, but since there are rules for shields that allow unarmed strikes in COM, that should work fine.

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d20 Design Diary (Part 5)

This is the fifth in my series of class-focused d20 Design Diaries. I suspect I only have a couple more posts to go on this topic, but we’ll see how the topics actually shake out (and what kind of feedback I get).

If you followed class design steps in the order I have written about them, there’s one big step left to actually creating your class, even after you settle on an appropriate and interesting concept, set up the right class progression tools, made sure you are following (or at least only breaking by intent rather than by accident) the game’s style and etiquette, and looked at how many options you want for each level of your class and how that impacts complexity.

You still need to design the actual class features, the special abilities you class gets that (at least mostly) others don’t.

I mean, technically you don’t HAVE to give a class features beyond it’s progressions. If you gave a Starfinder class 10 SP and HP/level, all good saving throws, 12 skill points + Int/level, any key ability score, all class skills and weapon and armor proficiencies (and Weapon Specialization as appropriate), and a full attack bonus, it would honestly probably be pretty balanced with no other class features at all.

It would also be boring and flavorless as heck. And I have no idea what concept you’d start with that would lead you to that design. but yes, it COULD be done.

And that does touch on an important element of designing interesting and balanced classes — the more useful things the class gets outside its class features, the less room you have to make its class features useful without making the class overpowered. A 5e barbarian has d12 hit dice, and 2 skill proficiencies (selecting from 6 options) and 5 weapon and armor proficiencies. A fighter has d10 hit dice, and 2 skill proficiencies (selecting from 8 options) and 6 weapon and armor proficiencies. A rogue has d8 hit dice, and 4 skill proficiencies (selecting from 11 options), one tool proficiency, and 2.5 weapon and armor proficiencies. It’s not hard to see that while their proficinecy starting points are different, when combined with their hit dice they all come out on a fairly even playing field, allowing their classes to have equally-useful class features.

One of the biggest and most impactful potential class features is spellcasting. Assuming you are building classes for a game that already has a full set of classes you can use as examples, it’s normally best to stick to the spell progression and acquisition schemes that already exist, unless you feel it’s a severely underdeveloped design space. (Classes with some number of spell-like abilities are a different matter than the spellcasting class feature we are discussing in this article.)

For example, first edition Pathfinder has both spontaneous and prepared spellcasting acquisition, as well as spell lists that go from 1st-4th level, 0-4th level, 0-6th level, and 0-9th level. However, every spontaneous class in Pathfinder with access to a 0-6th level spell list has the same base access to spells known and spell slots per day (though OTHER class features, such as domains or archetypes, can vary their total beyond the simple base). Starfinder, on the other hand, *only* has spontaneous spellcasters with access to 0-6th level spells. While adding a whole new spell progression or access to Pathfinder would likely muddle a crowded field, there’s easily room in Starfinder for class with reduced spell access (perhaps level 0-3 spells).

Wizard with Green Disk Spell

The more spell power a class has, the less room it has for any other options. For example, in all the most popular d20 games classes with the greatest spell access never have the highest Hit Point/health value of classes, or beginning proficiency with all types of armor. This has two significant impacts on their design. First, it means that they generally need to use some of their spell power to bring their defenses up to their best level and, even at that level, it’s generally not as good as the best defenses of the most defense-focused class. Secondly, it means they aren’t as durable without depending on their spells (and even then some classes with major spell access have very little in the way of healing or damage mitigation spells — a 1st edition Pathfinder cleric can heal themselves much more easily than a wizard).

Again, using other classes as benchmarks can be extremely useful for making your first stab at granting spellcasting to a class. In 5th edition D&D, paladins and rangers gain up to 5th level spells, clerics and wizards gain up to 10th level spells, and specific specializations of fighters and rogues get up to 4th level spells. Those benchmarks make it pretty easy to see what kinds of class features, both in terms of scope and utility, a class with each of those options can gain. For example, a great deal of the class features of sorcerers and wizards are focused on their spells–allowing them to be more flexible, used more often, or even just boosted in power. Paladins and rangers however, have very few spell-focused class features, with their class features more likely to actually give them entirely new abilities.

Even once you know how your spellcasting class is going to acquire spells and to what degree, there still another crucial question–what spell list do they use?

We’ll tackle that one next week.

PATREON

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Developing to Spec: Part 21d (Finding Design Space)

This is the fourth section of Part 21 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.

So here we are at the last post of the next-to-last week of this season-long project. There are still some real problem feats in front of us, but today won’t be too bad.

And it starts with Spirited Charge.

In PF, Spirited Charge helps charge-based characgers keep up with damage-per-round (DPR), since a major factor of  DPR is getting multiple attacks per round and you (generally) can’t do that with a charge. However, in Starfinder, the primary way DPR increases is through bigger weapon damage dice and Weapon Specialization. So a damage multiple would be, to put it simply, broken as heck.

However, charging has big drawbacks in Starfinder, in the form of penalties to attack and AC. That gives us some design space, if we are clever and careful. We can mitigate those… but we need to keep an eye on other abilities that do this. For example, the uplifted bear’s ferocious charge and the soldier’s blitz fighting style already negate the normal penalties to attack rolls and AC. Since people playing an uplifted bear blitz solider are likely among those most interested in a Spirited Charge feat. (And, by the way, I want to play an uplifted bear blitz soldier now… )

SPIRITED CHARGE (Combat)
Oh lawd, you be comin’.
Benefit: When you charge, you can attempt a trip combat maneuver in place of the normal melee attack. In addition, you can charge without taking the normal charge penalties to attack rolls or AC. If you have another ability that allows you to charge without taking these penalties (such as the charge attack ability from the soldier’s blitz fighting style or an uplifted bear’s ferocious charge), you gain the ability to charge through difficult terrain. If you already have the ability to charge through difficult terrain (such as from being an uplifted bear with the blitz fighting style), you can charge even if you do not have a clear path directly to your target (running around obstacles, for example), and if the space adjacent to the target that is nearest your starting space is blocked or occupied, you can charge to the closest available adjacent space.

That brings us to Stealthy. Like all our PF +2-to-2-skills feats, this needs a total conceptual rewrite. Luckily, reading through terms like “Hide” and “Stealth” in a pdf of the rulebook gives us lots of places we can grab some design space.

STEALTHY
You can always find a way to avoid detection.
Benefit: You can attempt to make a Stealth check without cover or concealment. Doing so applies a -20 penalty to your Stealth check. This is cumulative with the penalties for attempting Stealth while moving more than half your speed.
Additionally, if you are using Stealth and you would be detected by a sensor or spell (such as detect thoughts) from a creature that is not currently observing you with a primary sense. This acts as nondetection, but the DC for those attempting to detect you is 11 + ranks in Stealth + any insight bonus you have to Stealth.

This design took some careful consideration. Since it’s already a -10 to make a Stealth check after a successful Bluff check, it needs to be harder to make Stealth with no cover or concealment at all. This is mostly only useful for sneaking past low-level threats… but that often includes things like guard animals and patrols. And besides, the chance to duck other ways of being detected is a nice back-up for nonmagic sneaks who should have SOME change to have trained in ways to avoid cameras and crystal balls.

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Developing to Spec: Part 21c (One pro-spell feat, one anti-spell feat)

This is the third section of Part 21 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’re up to Spell Mastery, which once again references a rules element in PF (preparing spells) that does not exist in Starfinder (where all spellcasters are spontaneous). But it shouldn’t be too hard to come up with something spells related that matches the feel of the feat’s name and is useful for spellcasters.

SPELL MASTERY
Some spells you have learned to use in place of your normal repertoire.
Prerequisites: Spells class feature.
Benefit: For each spell level you can cast as a result of the spells class feature, select one spell from your class spell list that you do not have as a spell known. When you regain your spells per day, you may swap out one of your spells known at each level for a Spell Mastery spell of the same spell level. This lasts until you next regain your spells per day.
Special: You may select this feat more than once. Each time it is selected, you choose another spell for each level of spells you can cast which you can temporarily gain in place of a spell known when you regain your spells per day.

On to Spellbreaker… which is designed to work with the PF rule that if you cast a spell it provokes an attack of opportunity unless you cast it defensively, which is not a thing in Starfinder. But the core idea that your melee attacks make it harder for a creature to cast spells is something we can work with.

SPELLBREAKER (Combat)
You know how to hit spellcasters where it hurts.
Prerequisites: Base attack bonus +5.
Benefit: When you make a melee attack against a creature you may choose to take a -4 penalty to the attack roll to make it a spellbreaker attack. If you attack hits and damages the target, it must succeed at a Fortitude save (DC 10 + your key ability modifier +1/2 your base attack bonus) or be unable to cast spells or use spell-like abilities for 1 round.

That attack penalty is enough to ensure characters are unlike to combine this with other difficult attack options (such as a full attack action), and in fact will likely want to use this as part of a team effort to give them enough bonuses to be able to hit (with flanking, Get ‘Em, and similar options taken by other characters in an effort to help), but since no extra resource is used the players are free to try that any time.

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Developing to Spec: Part 21b (Troublesome, Archaic Feats)

This is the second section of Part 21 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.

So, here’s something I have been dreading. Of all the feats I do not have an obvious starting point in my head on how to make a Starfinder version, this is the top of the list. And it’s because it is SO simple, and basic, and unneeded in Starfinder.

Simple Weapon Proficiency.

Not only does Starfiner not have simple weapons, the things that might be considered simple weapons (such as basic melee weapons) all classes already have proficiency with. Unlike PF, no class has a list of individual weapons it is proficient with. Every class gets at LEAST basic melee and small arms.

We had similar issues with Exotic Weapon Proficiency and Martial Weapon Proficiency, but at least the names of those feats gave us a sliver of conceptual design space we could latch onto. Simple weapons? Not so much. Any PC is going to have all “simple” weapons anyway. So, maybe this isn’t a feat to make Player Characters better?

You want laser wolves with buzzblades? Because this is how you get laser wolves with buzzblades.

SIMPLE WEAPON PROFICIENCY (COMBAT)
You have trained your companion to use the most basic of weapons.
Prerequisites: You have a creature companion
Benefit: Your creature companion is proficiency with one-handed basic and advanced melee weapons, and small arms–but only those 2 or more item levels below your character level. Being proficient with weapons does not automatically allow a companion to physically use the weapon. Unless a GM decides otherwise, a companion must have a special control interface made to use such a weapon, at a cost of 20% of the weapons base cost.

That brings us to Snatch Arrows which, again, is pretty niche. But in PF Snatch Arrows plays off Deflect Arrows, and we built tat feat, so…

SNATCH ARROWS (COMBAT)
You can pluck slow-moving projectiles out of the air and fling them back at their source.
Prerequisites: Dex 15, Deflect Arrows.
Benefit: When you choose to have an archaic ranged weapon miss you with Deflect Arrows, you may as a reaction choose to snatch it from the air and hurl it back at the attacker who launched it. It has a range increment for you of 20 feet or its own range increment, whichever is less. You use your thrown attack bonus and Weapon Specialization (if any) to determine the effect of this attack.

Additionally, if a grenade is targeted on an intersection of your space, you may catch that and throw it anywhere you wish as a reaction. You use normal grenade throwing rules for this attack.

It’s still pretty niche, but at least is could lead to an awesome moment or two under exactly the right circumstances. Heck, if you had a friendly grenade-using character, he could launch grenades at you, and you could redirect them, allowing the grenade to make a turn in its attack.

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!