Blog Archives

Strategy Boosts for the Starfinder Soldier (Pt. 3)

We continue looking at strategy boosts, an alternate class feature for the soldier. You can take a strategy boost in place of a bonus combat feat, as long as you meet the strategy boost’s minimum soldier level.

Soldier 6
A soldier must be at least 6th level to select these strategy boosts.

(Art by Camile)

Hold the Line! (Ex): You expend 1 Resolve Point as part of any other standard, move, or full action to inspire your allies to hold their ground against enemy advanced. Allies within 60 feet gain a +4 AC bonus against combat maneuvers that change their position (such as bull rush and reposition) and special attacks that move them (including swallow whole). If a special attack has an effect other than to move a target, the non-movement portion occurs if the attack hits the ally’s normal AC, but the movement portion only occurs if the attack hits the AC with the +4 bonus. These bonuses last until an ally is moved by an attack, or 10 minutes pass. This is a sense-dependent, language-dependent ability.

MEDIC! (Ex): When you allies are wounded, you can inspire those able to patch them up to move faster and do better. As a reaction when an ally takes damage, or as a swift action, you can expend 1 Resolve Point to select one damaged ally and call for a medic. For 2 rounds, any creature within 60 feet can make a Medicine check on the selected ally more quickly. Checks that normally take 10 minutes can be performed as a full action. Those that take 1 minute can be performed as a standard action, those that are normally a standard action can be performed as a move action, and those that are normally a move action can be performed as a swift action. Additionally, creatures can cast a spell with the healing description on the ally as a move action (as long as it’s normal casting time is 1 standard action or less).
This is a sense-dependent, language-dependent ability.

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Strategy Boosts for the Starfinder Soldier (Pt. 2)

We continue looking at strategy boosts, an alternate class feature for the soldier. You can take a strategy boost in place of a bonus combat feat, as long as you meet the strategy boost’s minimum soldier level.

(Art by Mike)

Soldier 4
A soldier must be at least 4th level to select these strategy boosts.

Gear Up! (Ex): As a standard action, you can direct your allies to prepare for hazardous situations. Each ally within 60 feet able to see and hear you can draw one weapon or piece of equipment, or activate a piece of equipment already ready for use (including activating environmental protection on worn armor, but not any kind of attack.) This is a sense-dependent, language-dependent ability.

Take Cover! (Ex): As a standard action, you can direct your allies to take cover. Each ally within 60 feet able to see and hear you can move up to their speed directly toward the nearest piece of cover. Allies that do this are staggered on their next turn (even if they are normally immune to being staggered, and this condition cannot be removed prematurely). This is a sense-dependent, language-dependent ability.

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Strategy Boosts for the Starfinder Soldier (Pt. 1)

Strategy boosts are an alternate class feature for the soldier. You can take a strategy boost in place of a bonus combat feat, as long as you meet the strategy boost’s minimum soldier level.

Honestly, while they are themed more around tactical concerns strategy boosts are exactly the same as Soldier Combat Feats, but with a different name and framing device for people who don’t like class-locked feats. (I tend to be fine with class-locked feats, since they have existed as long asd20 feats have existed, but I get why some people find them awkward.)

(Art by grandfailure)

Soldier 2
A soldier must be at least 2nd level to select these strategy boosts.

Fighting Withdrawal (Ex): When you affect an ally with covering fire, or hit a foe with harrying fire, the ally cannot be the target of an attack of opportunity, or the foe cannot make an attack of opportunity. This lasts until the beginning of your next turn.

Fire For Effect (Ex): When you hit and damage a foe, as a reaction you can call out targeting information to your allies to help them effectively attack that target. Allies within 60 feet able to see and hear you and see the target you selected can reroll any damage die from their own attacks against that target that show a 1 on the die. A given die is only rerolled once per attack.

Once you use this ability, you cannot do so again until you score a critical hit against a target (in which case you can use fire for effect as a reaction against that target), or you recuperate*.

*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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Technomancers of the Really Wild West 5: Teslics

Not so long ago I noted on Facebook and Twitter that in the Really Wild West, the most common kinds of technomancers are CartogramancersEdisonadesLovelacers, Telethurges, Teslics, and the Prophets of John Moses Browning.

I thought it might be fun to examine those ideas, and we’ve gotten to the Teslics.

(Image by Nejon Photo)

Teslics

Teslics are technomancers who attempt to reconcile the weirder scientific theories of mechanic Nikolai Tesla with their theosophic technological equivalents. Though Nikolai Tesla is a relative newcomer to the technological world stage, Tesla’s AC system and motors driven by it were adopted by Westinghouse in 1888 (following a war of publicity with Thomas Edison) giving Tesla international attention.

When Tesla claimed to be able to communicate with spirits of the dead in 1889, and that they warned an invasion from another planet was imminent, numerous serious researches and companies wrote him off. When he revealed he was boosting his own intelligence with the applciation of electircal current through an implant, there was serious discussion of having him committed.

When the Martians invaded, and tesla proved able to intercept their communications, predict their movements, and was the first to begin understanding their technology, all that changed. The US War Department has since given him nearly unlimited funds and facilities, and his Grand Street Laboratory in Manhattan has rapidly expanded to cover most of a city block. As a result, Tesla’s creativity has exploded.

Spirit phones. Cosmic auras. Teleforce. Broadcast energy. Death rays. Polyphase converters. Oscillating generators. Radiant energies. Remote controls. Magnifying transmitters. Tesla creates ideas in frenzied dashes of invention, rushing from one concept to another and forgoing sleep in favor of direct electric stimulation of his body. Some ideas he completes, and can be put into near-immediate use. Others are barely described at all, with little more than a single working prototype and a few scrawled calculations and theories. All efforts to bring tesla back to flesh-out his more esoteric concepts fail, and the War Department is so desperate for the inventions he completes–which they believe will be crucial in predicting and possible preventing a second War of the Worlds–they refuse to cut off his support.

After some weeks of having top-secret panels try to make sense of the fragmentary advances in technology Tesla has already abandoned for new ideas, the War Department generally leaks what little is know to private think tanks, and over months they become more widely disseminated. While dedicated mechanics and engineers attempt to recreate the pure-science answer Tesla has clearly discovered, some going to far as to install electric “exocortex” stimulators in their own brains, some technomancers seek to bypass the need for understanding the core principles of these technologies by building theosophic, sympathetic magic answers that can create the same end result without knowing exactly how it is done.

Teslics are often considered to be toying with forces no mortal mind can comprehend, and thought of as likely to become unreliable and possible even dangerous with little or no warning. At the same time, a Teslic’s willingness to risk their mind to unlock some discovery that might help the Earth defend itself from Mars is also seen as crucial on a grand scale, even if most people prefer Teslics do their crucial work far, far away.

Technomancer Alternate Class Feature: Teslic

Theoretical Theosophy: One spell known of each spell-level the technomancer can cast is randomly determined, representing what concepts the technomancer doesn’t quite understand they have managed to temporarily lock into a theosophic frame. However as the stars alignment changes, planets move, weather patterns shift, and the technomancers own understanding of the universe evolves, the tehcnomancer can loose the ability to use an old random spell, and can a new spell in its place.

Normally the randomly-selected spells shift once per month, and each time the technomancer gains a new technomancer level. These spells may be drawn from any spellcasting class (roll 1d10– 1-3 random mystic spell, 4-6 random technomancer spell, 7-9 random witchwarper spell, 10 technomancer may select a spell from any class allowed in the campaign). The random spell is always of the same level as the spell it replaces and one the technoamncer can use (for example, if a personal spell only functions with some class feature he tecnomancer lacks, a different random spell is selected).

Additionally, the technomancer may select one spell known at each spell level that is drawn from the mystic or witchwarper spell list. These may be any spell of the same or lower spell level. The technomancer may never select more than one such off-class spell known at each spell level in this manner (such as if they later swap out spells known upon gaining a level). However, the spell-per-spell-level-known that is selected randomly does not count against this limit.

Teslic Magic Hacks

The following magic hacks are available for selection by Teslics, beginning at 2nd level.

Broadcast Magic: You can attune a number of technological devices equal to your key ability bonus. This takes an hour, and they remain attuned until you attune new items in excess of your maximum. When these items are within short range (25 feet +5 feet/2 levels) and within your line of sight and line of effect, as a move action you can make them the origin point of a spell you cast that has a range greater than personal. You must cast the spell by the end of your next round to do this.

Teleforce: If you cast a damaging spell with a casting time of 1 standard action or less as a full round, you can change the type of damage it deals to be bludgeoning damage, and it becomes a force effect. If you cast the spell using a spell slot one or more levels higher than normal, you can also force the target to make a Reflex save (at the DC for a spell of the level of slot you used) or be pushed back 5 feet for every point by which it fails its save, and knocked prone.

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New Operative Specialization in Really Wild West: Pistoleer (For Starfinder)

We wrap up out look at operative class options in the Really Wild West (and therefore Starfinder in general) with the pistoleer specialization, and one extra exploit that synergies with it despite not being part of it. While the gunslinger and soldier are both classes that may well use pistols (one reason gunslinger abilities have multiple ways of being accessed by soldiers), the existence or trick attack means operatives are the class most likely to focus on small arms, and deserve a unique way to specialize with such weapons.

Rww Shootist

(art by warpaintcobra)

New Operative Specialiation: Pistoleer
While all gunfighters may have a preference for one firearm over another, a pistoleer specifically focuses on pistol-combat, trading versatility for greater expertise in small arms.
Associated Skills: Bluff and Sleight of Hand. When you use Bluff to make a trick attack, you gain a +4 bonus to the skill check.
Specialization Exploit: Fast on the Draw
Sweep the Room (Ex): At 11th level as a full action you can make one small arm attack against every target in a cone out to your weapon’s second range increment. If you are holding multiple small arms, you can decide which small arm is used to attack which target. Each attack takes the weapon’s normal ammunition usage and you cannot reload during this attack, even if you have a way to reload without taking an action. When you run out of ammunition, your attacks stop.

Operative Exploits:

[2nd Level]

Shootist (Ex)
You gain a gunslinger ability. You must select one that could normally be used with small arms or longarms (though it can also be usable with other weapons as well). You must meet its other prerequisites. You can only use it with small arms.
At 4th level, you gain a second gunslinger ability using the same rules and limitations.

[10th Level]

Fast on the Draw (Ex)
You gain the Quick Draw feat – if you gain the Quick Draw feat through other means, you gain the ability to draw a small arm as a reaction whenever someone within your line of sight makes an attack against anyone. You can still take a full action on a round you Quick Draw as a swift action.

Additionally, you gain a +1 bonus to the attack roll of trick attacks made with a small arm in the first round of a combat.

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New Operative Exploits in the Really Wild West (for Starfinder)

We already did a few operative exploits for the Really Wild West, but we obviously want more than 3 new thematic options for the operative class. So here are 4 more, inspired by Western tropes, but appropriate for most Starfinder campaigns.

RWW Mounted cowgirl

(art by Daniel)

Artillery Tricks (Ex)

You have learned to apply your flexible attack style to starship combat. When you do damage with starship weapons, you roll both its normal damage, and (separately) your trick attack dice. You use whichever total is higher, though you still cannot exceed the starship weapon’s maximum damage.

Bushwacker (Ex)

If all foes are unaware of your location at the beginning of a combat, you may make a Stealth check, rather than an initiative check, to determine your iniativie.

Flexible Tricks (Ex)

You can use any weapons to make trick attacks, rather than just operative weapons and small arms. However, the precision and light touch needed to make a trick attack prevents you from getting the full impact of more powerful weapons when you perform a trick attack with them. The maximum weapon damage you can deal using a weapon while trick attacking is based on your operative class level, as noted below. If you have Weapon Specialization with the selected weapon, it is limited to half your character level when you make trick attacks with it.

Level      Max Weapon Damage
1              1d3
2-3          1d4
4              1d6
5-6          1d8
7              1d12
8              2d6
9              2d8
10           2d10
11           3d6
12           3d8
13           4d6
14           4d8
15           6d6
16           5d8
17           6d8
18           7d8
19           8d8
20           9d8

Steer With Your Knees (Ex)
You can steer a vehicle, or control a mount, without using your hands. This means when mounted, you do not need to make a special Survival check to control your mount without using your hands.

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Operative Exploits in Really Wild West (for Starfinder)

Having taken a look at the whip in Really Wild West, there are some exploits for operatives that immediately come to mind. Not that are mandatory for whip-use, but that are suggested by it and thematically appropriate.

RWW Operative

(art by warpaintcobra)

New Operative Exploits

2nd level

Dance! (Ex): You can make attacks that do more psychological damage, such as shooting at someone’s feet and forcing them to hop about. When you successfully trick attack a target you can forgo all your trick attack dice to force the target to make a Will save. On a failed save, the target is shaken for a number of rounds equal to your normal dice of trick attack. You can choose to do your non-trick attack weapon damage or not, as you prefer, when you use this ability.

Disarm Trick (Ex): When you succeed at a trick attack using a weapon you could perform a disarm combat maneuver with (normally a melee weapon, unless you have some way to make disarm attacks with ranged weapons), you can forgo all damage to add a bonus to your attack roll equal to your normal dice of trick attack. If you attack roll succeeds, you disarm your foe.

Gusher (Ex): When you successfully trick attack a target, you can forgo one die of trick attack damage to cause the target to gain the bleed condition. The bleed is equal to 1d6 + the number of trick attack dice you normally get.

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Sword Saint in Really Wild West (Solarian Alternate Class for Starfinder)

While the Really Wild West is specifically designed to be 100% compatible with the Starfinder RPG rules, that doesn’t mean every concept in Starfinder is a good fit for the reallY Wild West’s setting. Most classes in the core rulebook work fine (soldiers and envoys and operatives, in particular, but as long as they take a wild west/steampunk turn, mechanics, mystics, and technomancers are also good fits). the one really odd-idea-out is the solarian.

Certainly you CAN play a solarian in a RWW game, but the idea is so anchored in modern sci-fi concepts it feels a bit out of place. However, the basic framework of the solarian can be used to build a more in-genre class, such as the sword saint presented below.

SWORD SAINT
The sword saint is a supernaturally-fueled weapon expert alternate class for the solarian, designed specifically for the Really Wild West, but functional in any Starfinder-compatible campaign. Despite the name the sword saint can focus on any weapon, ranged or melee, and may view their supernatural abilities as arcane magic, theosophic metaphysics, or (especially in a GammaFinder campaign) mutant power or psionic ability.

RWW Sword Saint

(art by 9’63 Creation)

Key Ability Score
Str, Dex, Wis, or Cha (select one)

Proficiency
You are proficient with longarms.

Bonded Weapon
Select a basic or advanced melee weapon, small arm, or longarm with which you are proficient to be your bonded weapon. You can change your bonded weapon with 30 days of meditation, or whenever you gain a new sword saint level.

You add your key ability score to your AC against disarm and sunder combat maneuvers directed at your bonded weapon.

You can always spend credits to upgrade your bonded weapon. Pay the difference between your current bonded weapon and a higher-level weapon that becomes your bonded weapon. The new bonded weapon has a maximum item level of your class level +2 or your total character level whichever is higher). (If using this in a Really Wild West campaign, any cost for a 4th level or higher bonded weapon must be paid with renown.)

This replaces solar manifestation.

Battle Stance
At the beginning of each round, weather in or out of combat, you can select a stance – mobile stance or attack stance.

Mobile Stance When you enter a mobile stance, you are considered to be attuned for purposes of mobile stance revelations. While in a mobile stance, you gain a +1 insight bonus to Reflex saves. This bonus increases by 1 for every 9 sword saint levels you have.

Attack Stance When you enter an attack stance, you are considered to be attuned for purposes of attack stance revelations. While in a mobile stance, you gain a +1 insight bonus to damage rolls (including damage rolls for your stellar powers). This bonus increases by 1 for every 6 solarian levels you have.

This replaces stellar mode.

SWORD SAINT REVELATIONS
You learn your first sword saint revelations (crashing wave strike and death blossom) at 1st level, and learn an additional Revelation at 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter. Sword saint revelations require you to have a minimum level, and are organized accordingly. Additionally, each is marked as either a mobile stance or an attack stance.

1ST LEVEL
Every sword saint gains the following stellar revelations at 1st level.

CRASHING WAVE STRIKE (SU) [MOBILE STANCE]
When you are in mobile stance, you can expend 1 Resolve Point as a standard action to move up to three times your land speed, and attack any 1 creature with your bonded weapon at any point along that movement. You ignore difficult terrain, and can fly and swim for any part of this movement, though if you are not standing in a space that can support you at the end of the movement, you fall or sink normally. At 9th level you can make two attacks at any two points along this path (though you must select different targets), and at 17th level this becomes three attacks. After you use this Revelation, you cannot expend Resolve Points to fuel revelations until after you expend a Resolve Point to regain Stamina Points following a 10-minute rest.

DEATH BLOSSOM (SU) [ATTACK STANCE]
When you are in attack stance, you can expend 1 Resolve Point as a standard action to deal 1d6 damage plus 1d6 additional damage per solarian level, to all creatures within 10 feet of you. A creature that succeeds at a Reflex save takes half damage. This damage is of the same type as your bonded weapon. At 9th level, you can increase the radius to 15 feet, and at 17th level, you can increase the radius to 20 feet. After you use this Revelation, you cannot expend Resolve Points to fuel revelations until after you expend a Resolve Point to regain Stamina Points following a 10-minute rest.

You have access to the following revelations as sword saint mobile stance revelations, with the same requirements (including level requirements) as a solarian: [2nd Level] blade in the night, dark matter, gravitic reinforcement, gravity anchor, gravity boost; [6th Level] blazing orbit*, defy gravity, reflection, roiling cloud****,  serpent’s coil, water flowing step****; [10th Level] soul furnace*, stealth warp; [14th Level] gravity shield; [16th Level] superlative nebula.

You have access to the following revelations as sword saint attack stance revelations, with the same requirements (including level requirements) as a solarian: [2nd Level] distracting glare, flare, plasma sheath, stellar rush, ultraviolet pulse’ [6th level] astrologic sense, corona, crush**, crushing force***, draining agony***, glow of life*, luminescent inquisition; [10th Level] gravity well***, solar inferno; [14th Level] sunbolt; [16th Level] superlative constellation.

*This is a mobile stance revelation, despite normally being a photon revelation.

** This is an attack stance revelation, despite normally being a graviton revelation. If your bonded weapon is a melee weapon, you can only use this on targets within reach.

*** This is an attack stance revelation, despite normally being a graviton revelation.

****New revelation, presented below.

Roiling Cloud [6th] You gain a +1 bonus to Reflex saves against area attacks. If you are in mobile stance, and you can get out of an area by moving no farther than your land speed, as a reaction if you succeed at a Reflex save against an area effect you can move to the nearest space that would place you outside the area.

Serpent’s Coil [6th] You gain a +1 bonus to your AC against grapples and attacks with the attach, grab, or swallow whole universal creature rule. If you are in mobile stance, this increases to +1 per 3 sword saint levels.

Water Flowing Step [6th] You do not provoke attacks of opportunity by leaving the first space you move from each round. If you are in mobile stance, none of your movement provokes attacks of opportunity.

Zenith Revelation
Rather than using zenith revelations when fully attuned, you can use a zenith revelation as long as you are in the correct stance. However, this requires the expenditure of a Resolve Point, and once you do so you cannot use another Zenith Revelation until after you have expended a Resolve Point to regain Stamina Points following a 10-minute rest. Crashing Wave Strike and Death Blossom are Zenith Revelations for this purpose.

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Super-Strength, a Tiered Mutation for GammaFinder and Freedom Finder (Starfinder-compatible)

So, tiered mutations designed for the GammaFinder setting continue to be both extremely popular, and fascinating to me from a game-design perspective. I originally began working on them as a way to have a few powers that were too potent to gain as a single mutant ability, which is why the first one was teleportation. But the more of them I create, the more interesting I find them as a design space.

It’s clear that as their own rules module, mutant abilities and tiered mutations could be used for a lot more than just the GammaFinder setting. For example, combined with a way for one or more character classes to easily access them, they could be used to create a mid-range “FreedomFinder” setting, with militant, armored heroes in paramilitary-style four-color comicbook settings.

You could, in fact, do an all-soldier Freedom Finder campaign, where rather than most equipment, characters focus on various mutations. All you need for that is some mutant abilities to replace gear boosts and combat feats. (And, or course, you could use these mutant soldiers in a GammaFinder campaign as well).

Mutant Soldier Class Features

Female Chain Super color

(Art by Jacob Blackmon)

NEW GEAR BOOST

Mutant Power: You gain a mutant ability. If you use this to increase a tiered mutant ability, it cannot grant a tier higher than half your soldier level.

ALTERNATE CLASS FEATURE: COMBAT MUTATION

Combat Mutation: You gain a mutant ability. If you use this to increase a tiered mutant ability, it cannot grant a tier higher than half your soldier level.
You may select this alternate class feature in place of combat feat. You make this decisions each time you gain the combat feat class feature.

Super-Strength Tiered Muation

When considering a tiered mutation that works well for both GammaFinder and the still-entirely-theoretical FreedomFinder, super-strength seems an obvious place to start. How strong the strongest heroes are helps set the tone for a superheroic game setting, and how much the strongest mutant can lift or tear apart with their bare hands helps set what the power level of mutations are in a GammaFinder setting.

super muscleman will smash your face in a white background

(Art by DM7)

Super-Strength (Ex)
You are spectacularly strong. Your fast-twitch muscle fiber is impressive, but it is your slow-twitch muscle fiber that exceeds what seems possible.
Tier 1: You add double your super-strength tier to the bulk you can carry without being encumbered, and add your tier as an insight bonus to Strength-based ability checks and skill checks. Your KAC against grapple checks is increased by your super-strength tier (though this bonus is reduced by 1 for each tier of super-strength the grappler has, to a minimum bonus of +0).
Tier 2: You can make super-strength attacks. These are melee attacks as if wielding an uncategorized advanced 2-handed melee weapon you are proficient with (and gain Weapon Specialization with, if you are 3rd level of higher). If a calculation uses item level, your super-strength attacks have an item level equal to your character level. You do not need a hand free to make a super-strength attack (it can be a kick or headbutt), but you must be in a circumstance that would allow you to make an unarmed attack if you had a free hand to do so.
Your super-strength attacks are considered analog, but not archaic. You can do any damage type you can deal with unarmed attacks, and use this damage in place of options that allow you to do unarmed damage, but do not get to add any special abilities that affect the damage of your unarmed attacks. If you normally have the ability to add 1.5x your level to unarmed attacks as a special Weapon Specialization, you instead add 1.5 times your Strength modifier to damage of your super-strength attacks.
Your super-strength attacks do 1d8 damage.
Additionally, you can lift and carry a weight equal to your super-strength tier squared x 1,000 pounds without becoming overburdened. You can voluntarily carry double that while accepting the overburdened condition. Due to limitations in size and leverage you can generally only use this lift/carry ability to manipulate a single object (or tightly bound collection of objects). Picking up a single 100 bulk vehicle is reasonable, picking up 50 2-bulk rifles is not unless they are in a crate or similar stowage.
Tier 3: Your super-strength attacks now do 2d6 damage. You may add one of the following weapon special properties to your super-strength attack: block, breach, deflect, feint, or underwater. Once made, this decision cannot be changed.
Tier 4: Your super-strength attacks now do 3d6 damage. You may add one of the following critical hit effects to your super-strength attack: demoralize, knockdown, push (distance is tier x3 in feet, rounded down to the nearest 5 feet), stifle, or staggered.
Tier 5: Your super-strength attacks now do 5d6 damage. You may add a second weapon special quality to your super-strength attack, which may be from the tier 3 list or the following list: disarm, grapple, penetrating, sunder, or trip. Once made, this decision cannot be changed.
Tier 6: Your super-strength attacks now do 6d6 damage. You may add a second critical hit effect to your super-strength attack, which may be from the tier 4 list or the following list: blind, deafen, stunned, or wound. Once made, this decision cannot be changed.
Tier 7: Your super-strength attacks now do 9d6 damage. You may add a third weapon special quality to your super-strength attack, which may be from the tier 3 or tier 5 lists. Once made, this decision cannot be changed.
Tier 8: Your super-strength attacks now do 11d6 damage. You may add a fourth weapon special quality to your super-strength attack, which may be from the tier 3 or tier 5 lists. Once made, this decision cannot be changed.
Tier 9: Your super-strength attacks now do 15d6 damage. You may add a fifth weapon special quality to your super-strength attack, which may be from the tier 3 or tier 5 lists. Once made, this decision cannot be changed.
Tier 10: Your super-strength attacks now do 20d6 damage. You may add a third critical hit effect to your super-strength attack, which may be from the tier 4 or tier 6 lists. You also select one critical hit effect your super-strength attack has that is triggered when your attack roll is a natural 19 (a “19” shows on the d20). Such as attack does not do double damage, it just applies the critical hit effect if the attack is successful. Once made, these decisions cannot be changed.

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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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