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Revised Icon Theme, for Battles of the Bands in Starfinder

So, yesterday I presented a reskinned version of the starship vehicle chase rules in Starfinder for use in Battle of the Bands contests. It works great. There’s just one issue.

Icons don’t have any real edge winning Battles of the bands with these rules.

Now, sure, the Icon theme might not be for musical/stage performers specifically, And they DO get a +1 bonus to their selected Profession skill, so that’s a small edge.

But if a campaign is REALLY going to use Battles of the Bands as often as, say, starship combat, there really ought to be a theme that makes you better at it.

So, here’s a revised Icon, tied into yesterday’s rules. Or, if you prefer, you can use this as a Jukebox Hero, Rock God, Pop Star, or Stage Diva theme, and leave Icon alone.

(Insert your character here)

Revised Icon

You’re going to be a Superstar, if you aren’t one already.

Theme Knowledge

Choose one of the following Profession skills – dancer, musician, orator, poet, video personality, electrician, vidgamer, or manager. You are hooked deeply into the culture of your iconic profession. You gain a +1 bonus to checks with your chosen Profession skill. Culture also becomes a class skill for you, though if it is a class skill from the class you take at 1st level, you instead gain a +1 bonus to Culture checks.

When you are in a Battle of the Bands contest, your band’s Musical Armor Class increases by +1, and you and all other members of the band receive a +2 enhancement bonus to all Perform Phase skill checks.

In addition, you gain an ability adjustment of +1 to Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma at character creation (whichever is tied to the Profession skill you selected).

Under Pressure (6th)

Performing is in your blood, and the harder things get, the better you perform. When you are not at full Stamina Points, or are down to 3 or fewer Resolve points, you gain a +2 circumstance bonus to skill checks with skill checks for your Profession associated with this theme. When performing (taking at least a standard action each round to make an appropriate Profession check, or participating in a Battle of the Bands), you gain a +2 circumstance bonus to saving throws against any effect that would prevent you from continuing your performance.

The Show Must Go On (12th)

You can keep on performing even while aiding you allies, keeping the equipment working, or even shooting at music-killing raith phantoms. During a Battle of the Bands, you can take a single action in the Perform Phase or Combat phase as a swift action (as long as it is normally a standard action or less), as long as you take no other action during that phase.

Holding Out for a Hero (18th)

The thrill of a great performance energizes you, whether it’s yours or someone else’s. The first two times each day you are present when someone rolls a natural 20 on a Profession check for some kind of performance check (for a Battle of the bands, or anything else), you recover 1 Resolve Point. If you take 20 on an appropriate Profession check, this counts as a natural 20 that day for purposes of this theme ability.


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Battle of the Bands: Reskinning Chases as Musical Contests for Starfinder

One of the great things about the Starfinder Core Rulebook is that is has built-in vehicle chase rules. That framework is great for opposed efforts that just wouldn’t work well using normal battle-grid and movement rules. But once we HAVE that framework, we can adapt it to other conflicts that don’t depend on attack rolls and Stamina points as much as they do relative success.

Like a Battle of the Bands, Starfinder-style!

“Can no one defeat the Digital DeckGod? Wait… a new challenger appears. Please welcome to the stage… Cherry Cyborg Candy!”

(Art by Corona Borealis)

Okay, to run a Battle of the Bands, where two or more acts compete to win the hearts of a judge or audience (be that live in person, or while suspended on platforms above molten lava with a mad undead host calling the shots),we need to take the existing Vehicle Chase rules, and make some tweaks.

If you are setting up a battle of the bands where actual attacks are allowed, you may describe the set-up as having each band of a floating, mobile stage hovering over the crowd. then, engaging maneuvers allow members to make melee attacks, as normal.

This could be a one-time event PCs have to take part in to save a kidnapped famous singer, the only way to earn the trust of a powerful witchwarper drummer with a secret the PCs need, or even just a common part of the mystery-solving adventures of a space band.

Relative Positioning: Battles of the Bands uses the same Relative Positioning rules as vehicle chases, but rather than represent a physical distance apart, it represents relative popularity with the viewers or judges. Once you are 2 or more relative positions behind the leader, you are out of the battle. If there are just 2 bands competing this ends the battle, but in a free-for-all bands could be slowly dropping out until only 2 remain. If a single band is ahead of everyone else, they get the normal Being Ahead bonus to skill checks and attack rolls.

Musical Armor Class: Each band has a Musical Armor Class (MAC), equal to 10 plus (average ranks of appropriate Profession skill among band members). Each band member contributes only their highest ranks in appropriate Profession skills to this total. This does mean a bigger band with a few less-skilled members may have a lower MAC, but those extra members get actions each round so it may be worth it. Use this in place of vehicle KAC for actions.

Musical Item Level: Each band has a Musical Item Level (MIL), equal to 10 plus the highest number of ranks of an appropriate Profession possessed by any band members). You use this in place of vehicle item level for all Band Action DCs members of the band attempt. This does mean the better your best band member is, the harder it is for anyone to make Band Actions, but it turns out if you can’t keep up with your headliner, it sounds bad.

Phases of a Battle of the Bands: Use the normal phases of a vehicle chase for the battle of the bands, but with one crucial difference. Rather than Pilot actions, the first phase is Perform actions, representing musical actions or part of the band’s stage show.

There are the same choices of perform actions as pilot actions in a vehicle chase, but perform actions are taken with appropriate Profession skills (normally dancer, musician, orator, poet, video personality, electrician, vidgamer, and manager, though specific bands might have others) in place of Pilot.

Each member of a band can attempt their own perform action (go in order of initiative), but a band can only benefit from one successful action each phase (ie if a band member tries to break free and fails another member can try the same action, but once any band member succeeds, no further benefit can be gained from that action in that phase. All the pilot actions from vehicle combat are allowed, with the GM and players describing them in terms of band actions (“I’ll use the trick pilot maneuver to represent playing a riff that is disharmonic with all the other band’s music, making them sound worse, while reinforcing our disintegrator-rock sound.”)

If a band member attempts the same action another band member has already attempted, or uses the same Profession skill, they take a -2 penalty to their check. This applies to checks attempting in the same phase, or that were attempted in the previous round — it turns out audiences like some variety. Band members can also ready an action to aid another on an ally’s perform action skill check — harmony is a thing.

The chase progress phase and combat phase proceed normally. Even if a battle of the bands doesn’t allow actual combat, this is the phase when characters an use other class abilities, cast spells, try to demoralize foes, and so on, if they have actions left.

That’s It! You are now ready to run varied, nuanced Battle of the Band contests in Starfinder!


This writing is work, and it takes time from my other paying projects. If you got any use out of this article, or have enjoyed any of my content, please consider supporting my Patreon to cover the cost of my doing it. You can join for the cost of a cup of coffee a month.