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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.

PATREON
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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

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.

Design Diary: Creating d20 Classes (Part 4)

Last month we began a line of Design Diary entries discussing how to create a character class from scratch for a d20 class/level based game. We’ve gone over concept, and discussed the class progression tools various games give you to fill out the mechanical roles your class might fill, and begun discussing the etiquette of the presentation of special abilities (the heart of any d20 class).

So, we need to dig into Class Features… and that’s a big topic. So this week we get a big post, that tackles some of the context and frameworks you can use when designing how a class and a character interface with class feature choices.

When looking at what special abilities to give a class, you should consider the category of each ability. Some abilities are access abilities, such as a spellcaster’s access to a spell list (and we’ll talk more about spells and spell lists in a later post) or access to a list of feats. Some are unique powers available only to that class. Some classes (and some game systems) blur that line — Pathfinder 1st edition has fighter-only feat, which some later classes can can access as their own class features. Pathfinder 2nd edition has feats for every class that are unique to that class, except that any other character can pick many of them up by taking a mutliclass dedication feat.

In addition to the access-unique spectrum, class abilities can be divided into static abilities, group abilities, and selectable abilities. Static abilities are things the class gets with no variation or choice (and least without accessing optional or advanced rules). In Starfinder, every operative gets trick attack. Group abilities are things where a player makes a choice between one group of abilities and another, but once that choice is made the abilities it grants are set. Looking at the Starfinder operative again, each operative select one specialization. That specialization has a few abilities it grants over the course of the operative’s career, but once the choice of which specialization to take is made the abilities within that choice are set. Selectable abilities are individual things that can be chosen from a list (though they might have prerequisites). The operatives exploits are a good example of this.

Some of the access choices are things every character class can take some portion of, so when designing a class you need to consider not just what access options help their role within the game and a party, but how that interacts with other classes in the game. Skills are a perfect example of this. Most classes have access to more skills than they can take (whether through a skill-point system, scaling proficiencies, or just what ability score they focus on, depending on how the game system handles classes). If you give a class access to all a game’s skill options, the chances they’ll overlap with some other class that needs a skill more for its core function increases. Even if no one character can take all the skills, adding some limits to what subset they have to choose from can help give a class focus and clarity of purpose.

There are some pseudo-choices a character can offer as well, where every member of the class has the same ability, but characters may be differentiated by which choice they make. For example, all fighters in most d20 game systems have access to all martial weapons, armors, and shields. However, most fighters select a small set of weapons to use most often. Even though two different fighters can both use a greatsword or a longsword and shield, most characters go with one or the other. While that’s a minor difference at first, as the character evolves the other choices they make are likely to reinforce one equipment selection over another.

One of the less-obvious consequences of how you allow ca class to access its abilities is complexity. A character that has access to a wide range of spell choices, for example, is less likely to have lots of selectable abilities. The need to read through and pick spells is already a lot of footwork to ask of a player. (Even if a character ends up with only a small number of spells, the need to pick them from a large list slows and complicates character creation). If you are designing a class to add to an existing game you likely can afford to make the design more complex overall–players who don’t like more work to make their character can stick to existing class options. But if you are designing all the classes designed to be used in a campaign (such as if you are creating new classes that are all that is expected to be available for a campaign setting), you should consider having at least one class that is simpler and has fewer choices, to allow players who prefer simple design an easy entry point.

That’s not universal, of course. Many players prefer highly customizable characters with lots of options. Many just enjoy being able to build a character closer to their pre-existing concept, while others want to have enough flexibility that if another player chooses the same class their two characters act and play differently from one another.

However that plays off another important fact, which we need to discuss before we move on to ability balance–the more selectable options a character class has at a given level, the more potential for min/maxing exists. Even if the options are tied to a set of options that are (theoretically) all at the same power level, the wider the set of options you give access to the more powerful a character can become. For example, if you give a class access to a single specific feat at 5th level, that’s a typical and easily balanced level of power. If you give the character their choice of one of 6 feats, that is slightly more powerful, even if all those feats are perfectly balanced against one another. If you allow a character to take any feat they meet the prerequisites for that is much more powerful, even if you assume every feat in the game is perfectly balanced.

This is because players who achieve a high-degree of system mastery can use synergy between options to make a character that can do more than an off-the-rack build. Especially in games with growing rules additions (which are most games that are seen as “well-supported”), every adjustable class feature is a chance to find some combination that works better than a typical combo. Even if none of the new options are built into you class’s features (a character who has a set of 7 specific feats they can choose from doesn’t have that list automatically expand just because new feats are added to the game, unlike a character with access to all of a type of feat–or one with access to all of one set of spells), a synergy could develop between an old choice and new options any character can access.

There’s no right or wrong choices with these elements, to be clear. They are just things to consider when looking at the ways you can organize and hand out class features.

With all that in mind, we can look at power level of class features and appropriate choices by character level… next time! (Maybe in a week… maybe in 2-3… )

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. I was thrilled to be able to really take some time to write and develop this particular entry over a few weeks, thanks to your kind support! If you want to help me keep producing these Design Diaries, 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.

Alternate Multiclass Rules for Starfinder (exocortex Mechanic)

We covered the basic idea behind Multiclass ThemeTypes in the Starfinder Roleplaying Game, talked about why they are especially good for Really Wild West campaigns, and presented two example of how it works—the Envoy and the drone Mechanic. That, of course, immediately suggests there should be an exocortex mechanic Multiclass ThemeType.

And there is! 😊

Mechanic (exocortex) ThemeType

You have an extremely advanced combat brain implant. It may not be the absolute best hardware in existence, but it’s much better than anything you can buy off-the-shelf.

Theme Knowledge (Ex, Theme, 1st Level): At first level, you gain two of the following skills of your choice as class skills: Computers, Engineering or Physical Science. For each selected skill, if you have the skill as a class skill from other sources at 1st level, you instead gain a +1 bonus to that skill. Once these choices are made, they cannot be changed.

Theme Knowledge (Ex, Theme, 1st Level): At first level, you gain two of the following skills of your choice as class skills: Computers, Engineering or Physical Science. For each selected skill, if you have the skill as a class skill from other sources at 1st level, you instead gain a +1 bonus to that skill. Once these choices are made, they cannot be changed.

Basic Combat Training (Ex, Archetype, 2nd Level): You gain proficiency in either longarms, or heavy armor. If you select proficiency in longarms, this counts as a proficiency granted by your class for purpose of weapon specialization class feature.
If you already have proficiency with both longarms and heavy armor, you instead gain Weapon Focus with longarms as a bonus feat.

Basic Combat Tracking (Ex, Archetype, 4th Level): Your exocortex provides you with enhanced combat ability. As a move action during combat, you can designate a foe for your exocortex to track. As long as that target is in sight, the exocortex feeds you telemetry, vulnerabilities, and combat tactics, allowing you to reduce one penalty you take to attacks against that target by 1. Designating another target causes you to immediately lose this bonus against the previous target.

Basic Memory Module (Ex, Theme, 6th Level): You can use your exocortex’s memory module to enhance your own knowledge. Once per day, as a reaction while not in combat, you can reroll a failed skill check to recall knowledge.

Improved Combat Tracking (Ex, Archetype, 6th Level): Your combat tracking ability can now allow you to treat your base attack bonus from this class as being 1 higher (to a maximum of 1 less than your class level), rather than reducing one penalty to attack rolls against the target by 1 point.
If your base attack bonus from this class is so high that this gives you no benefit, and you are talking no penalties to your attack rolls, instead when using combat training you add half your Intelligence bonus (minimum +1) to damage done with weapon.

Wireless Hack (Ex, Archetype, 9th Level): You gain the wireless hack ability of the exocortex version of the mechanic’s artificial intelligence class feature, though your range is only 10 feet.

Exocortex Trick (Ex, Theme, 12th Level): You gain one mechanic trick, selected from the mechanic tricks of 8th level or less that grant an ability to your exocortex (such as neural shunt or overclocking).

Exocortex Mod (Ex, Archetype, 12th Level): Your exocortex allows you to apply any one of the following drone mods to yourself as if you were a drone with that mod installed: armor slot, cargo rack, climbing claws, enhanced senses, hydrojets, jump jets, resistance, smuggler’s compartment, speed, or weapon proficiency (gaining proficiency in advanced melee or heavy weapons).

Twin Tracking (Ex, Theme, 18th Level): You gain the twin tracking ability of the exocortex version of the mechanic’s artificial intelligence class feature.

Advanced Combat Tracking (Ex, Archetype, 18th Level): When using the combat tracking ability of the exocortex version of the mechanic’s artificial intelligence class feature, you treat your base attack bonus from this class as being 2 higher (to a maximum of 2 less than your class level), or reduce one penalty to your attack roll by 2.
If your base attack bonus from this class is so high that this gives you no benefit, and you are talking no penalties to your attack rolls, instead when using combat training you add your Intelligence bonus (minimum +2) to damage done with weapon.

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If you join at any level, you can check it out here!

Alternate Multiclass Rules for Starfinder (Envoy)

Character concepts don’t always fit neatly into just one character class. Sometimes you want to play a diplomat who is also trained as a spy, or a brilliant engineer who has studied just enough magic to consider it one more tool in her toolbox, or a soldier with psychic powers. Starfinder offers three broad tools for adjusting a character to fit such concepts—themes (to represent background training), archetypes (to represent a different path than a typical member of a class), and multiclassing (to represent training in more than one role). Generally exactly the right balance of those options can make nearly any character concept work.

But it can take a lot of effort.

Maybe, if they were all blended into one definitive all-encompassing option, a broad range of new character concepts could be made easier and faster to write up. A way to indicate that a character has been working to add a second career to their primary training for most of their life, and plans to continue to blend the things represented by multiclassing, theme, and archetype. Something that takes some of the advantages of multiclassing, and places them in the slots of additional abilities normally granted by themes and archetypes. In short, a Multiclass ThemeType.

MultiClass ThemeTypes

A Multiclass ThemeType gives you some abilities of a second character class, but counts as both your theme (preventing you from gaining any other theme, and requiring you to select the ThemeType at 1st level) and as an archetype for the first class you take levels in (requiring you to give up some abilities of your primary class, as normal for an archetype).

Multiclass ThemeType abilities marked with (Theme) occur when you reach the listed character level, regardless of what classes you have taken levels in. Those marked (Archetype) are gained only when you reach the listed level in the first character class you take levels in. However, it is also recommended that characters with a Multiclass ThemeType not be allowed to also use normal multiclassing rules (in which case the character’s character level and class level will always match).

A character cannot take class levels in the class that matches their Multiclass ThemeType.

While ThemeTypes can be used in any Starfinder campaign, they are particularly appropriate for the mash-up world of the Really Wild West setting hack.

As an example, here is the Envoy ThemeType, which allows any character to gain some of the abilities and roles of an envoy.

Envoy ThemeType

You have carefully mastered some aspects of leadership, negotiation, tactics, and making friends and influencing people. While you are generally measured against your abilities from your primary character class, you are seen as a leader within the ranks of those with your other skill sets.

Theme Knowledge (Ex, Theme, 1st Level): At first level, you gain either Bluff or Diplomacy as a class skill. If you have both of these as class skills from other sources at 1st level, you instead gain a +1 bonus to one of the two skills. Once these choices are made, they cannot be changed.

If you select Bluff, you may use your Bluff skill bonus as your Diplomacy skill bonus, and are considered trained in Diplomacy. If you select Diplomacy, you may use your Diplomacy skill bonus as your Bluff skill bonus, and are considered trained in Bluff.

Expertise (Ex, Archetype, 2nd Level): You gain the envoy’s expertise ability for one of the following skills of your choice: Bluff, Computers, Culture, Diplomacy, Disguise, Engineering, Intimidate, Medicine, or Sense Motive. Once this choice is made, it cannot be changed. Your expertise die is a d4, rather than a d6.

If you have an insight bonus of +4 or better to all applicable skills, you may choose to instead treat your expertise die as a +1 circumstance bonus.

Basic Improvisation (Ex, Archetype, 4th Level): You gain one envoy improvisation, selected from the list of 1st level envoy improvisations. You treat your character level as your envoy level for all envoy improvisations gained from this Multiclass ThemeType.

Expanded Expertise (Ex, Theme, 6th Level): You select a second skill from the list of skills in the expertise ThemeType feature to which you apply your expertise die.

Intermediate Improvisation (Ex, Archetype, 6th Level): You gain one additional envoy improvisation selected from the list of 1st-level envoy improvisations.

Expertise Talent (Ex, Archetype, 9th Level): You gain one expertise talent, selected from the list of envoy expertise talents.

Improved Improvisation (Ex, Theme, 12th Level): You gain one envoy improvisation, selected from the list of 1st level or 4th level envoy improvisations.

Greater Expertise (Ex, Archetype, 12th Level): Your expertise die increases to 1d4+1.

Greater Improvisation (Ex, Theme, 18th Level): You gain one envoy improvisation, selected from the list of 1st level, 4th level, or 6th level envoy improvisations.

Full Expertise (Ex, Archetype 18th): Your expertise die increases to 1d6+1. You select a third skill from the list of skills in the expertise ThemeType feature to which you apply your expertise die.

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Envoy for Pathfinder

Fantasy Envoy

It’s possible to take the space-faring envoy class, and revise it to work for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Mostly you can ignore the rules tied to the science-fantasy ruleset (Stamina points, 10-minute rests, resolve Points, and so on), and run the character using straight Pathfinder rules. Some universal adjustments are needed (anything that requires a 10-minute break in which you spent 1 Resolve Point to regain Stamina instead can be done by taking 10 minutes and spending 1 point from your Envoy Intensity pool, a reaction can be done as a swift or immediate action, ignore rules that refer to spells, equipment, feats, or weapons that do not exist in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, if an envoy effect creates a condition that does not exist in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, apply the same penalties and rules the condition would have applied in the star-faring version of the rules).

For a few features, alternatives must be presented. Each of the items below replaces the envoy feature of the same name. those that do not share names with envoy features note when they are gained and what (if anything) they replace. The following also presents hp, skill, and proficiency rules for the envoy for use with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game rules.

Othwerwise, you can use the normal tables and class features of the envoy.

Dwarven Envoy

Fantasy Envoy

Alignment: Any

Hit Die: d8

Class Skills: The envoy’s class skills are Acrobatics (Dex), Appraise (Int), Bluff (Cha), Climb (Str), Craft (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Disable Device (Dex), Disguise (Cha), Escape Artist (Dex), Heal (Wis), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (all) (Int), Linguistics (Int), Perception (Wis), Perform (Cha), Profession (Wis), Ride (Dex), Sense Motive (Wis), Sleight of Hand (Dex), Stealth (Dex), Swim (Str), and Use Magic Device (Cha).

Skill Ranks per Level: 8 + Intelligence modifier

Proficiencies: The envoy is proficient with light and medium armor, all shields (except tower shields), all simple weapons, and light martial weapons.

Envoy Intensity Pool: The fantasy envoy does not need or use Resolve Points, as they are not a part of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Instead at 1st level the envoy gains a Envoy Intensity Pool, with a number of points equal to half the envoy’s class level plus her Charisma bonus. Whenever a class feature calls for the envoy to spend a Resolve Point, she instead spends a point from her Envoy Intensity Pool. This pool is refreshed once a day after 8 hours of rest. At 16th level, she can restore up to two points per day when she succeeds at a Bluff, Diplomacy, or Intimidate check against a creature that is not friendly to her and has a CR no less than 3 lower than her character level.

Expertise (Ex): You are an expert at dealing with challenges that test your skills, be the challenges social or otherwise. At 1st level, when attempting a Bluff or Sense Motive check, you can roll 1d6 (your expertise die) and add the result of the roll to your check as an insight bonus. You can use this and other expertise abilities as long as you have at least 1 point in your Envoy Intensity Pool. At 5th level, anytime you roll your expertise die, you gain a +1 bonus to the result. At 9th, 17th, and 20th levels, this bonus increases by 1. At 13th level, you roll 1d8 as your expertise die instead of 1d6.

Beginning at 9th level, you have even greater expertise with skills to which you can add your expertise die that you have also selected with the Skill Focus feat. For each such skill, once per day when rolling your expertise die to add to that skill, you may roll the expertise die twice and take the better of the two results.

Additionally whenever you successfully feint a foe (such as with the Bluff skill), you add your expertise die to the damage of your attack. This is considered precision damage, and creatures immune to critical hits or sneak attack are immune to this additional damage.

Skill Expertise (Ex): At 1st level and every 4 levels thereafter, you can use expertise with one additional class skill. You must have at least 1 rank in a skill to select it, and it must come from the following list: Appraise (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Disable Device (Dex), Disguise (Cha), Escape Artist (Dex), Heal (Wis), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (any one) (Int), Linguistics (Int), Perform (Cha), Profession (Wis), Sleight of Hand (Dex), Stealth (Dex), and Use Magic Device (Cha).

Weapon Focus (Ex): At 3rd level, you gain Weapon Focus as a bonus feat for any one weapon with which you are proficient. This replaces the Weapon Specialization class feature.

Improvisations

The following improvisations are changed.

1st level

Get ’Em (Ex) [language-dependent, mind-affecting, sense-dependent]

As a move action, you can choose one enemy within 60 feet. Until the start of your next turn, you and your allies gain a +1 morale bonus to attack rolls made against that enemy. The bonus persists even if the enemy moves beyond 60 feet or out of line of sight or hearing.

At 6th level, you can spend 1 Resolve Point to grant this bonus to attack rolls and damage rolls against all enemies who are within 60 feet.

This bonus increases to +2 at 5th level, and by an additional +1 at every 5 envoy levels thereafter.

Inspiring Boost (Ex) [language-dependent, mind-affecting, sense-dependent]

As a standard action, you can signal an ally within 30 feet and grant them a number of temporary hit points equal to twice your envoy level + your Charisma modifier; at 15th level, this increases to three times your envoy level + your Charisma modifier. These last 1 minute per envoy level, or until depleted. Once an ally has benefited from your inspiring boost, that ally can’t gain the benefits of your inspiring boost again for 24 hours, unless you spend 1 point from your envoy Intensity Pool.

At 6th level, you can spend 1 point from your envoy Intensity Pool to add your envoy level to the number of temporary hit points granted.

Look Alive (Ex) [mind-affecting]

All allies within 60 feet of you gain a +2 morale bonus to Perception and initiative checks as long as you are conscious and able to act.

4th Level

Focus (Ex) [mind-affecting, sense-dependent]

This ability can cause an ally to no longer be flat-footed, asleep, confused, or dazed.

Watch Out (Ex) [language-dependent, mind-affecting, sense-dependent]

The ally gains +4 AC and +4 to Reflex saves against the attack,

6th level

Draw Fire (Ex) [sense-dependent]

The foe’s ranged attacks and effects that do not include you suffer -4 to attack rolls and the save DCs are reduced by 2.

Improved Get ’Em (Ex)

Rather than being a +2 bonus, this increases your bonus from get ‘em by 1.

8th Level

Sustained Determination (Ex) [language-dependent, mind-affecting, sense-dependent]

This ability allows the ally to use any ability it would normally need to spend points to use (ki points, grit, panache, magus arcane pool, and so on—nearly any point-based mechanic other than a mythic ability), or use an ability they can use a limited number of times per day (as long as they can use it more than once per day).

Expertise Talents

Cultural Savant (Ex)

You can take 20 on Diplomacy checks to gather information, and Knowledge checks to learn about a creature that has an Int of 3 or greater, in only double the normal time

Engineering Adept (Ex)

You can forgo your expertise die on Craft or Disable Device to half the time of the check. You must be able to apply your expertise die to the skill to use this ability.

Fast Hack (Ex)
This just isn’t available.

Inspired Medic (Ex)

This ability works with Heal checks.

Skilled Linguist (Ex)

You gain an extra language for each rank of Linguistics you have.

Student of Technology (Ex)

You can take 20 on Appraise and Knowledge (engineering) checks in only double the normal time.

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