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Designing to Spec: Support Material (Part 12: Everybody Else)

So we’ve finished creating Starfinder versions of all the Pf Core Rulebook feats that weren’t already in Starfinder, and we’re spending some time looking at things we may want to add to Starfinder, now that we’ve added such a huge load of feats.

We’ve added at least a couple of class features to ever official class in the game, but that doesn’t handle all the third-party Starfinder-compatible material out there. And, reasonably speaking, anyone adding the 130+ feat we’ve written up to their game may well also want to add aeoncarnates, godlings, gunslingers, zoomers, or other classes. And while it’s not our job to support every 3pp Starfinder-compatible class, we should consider that customers who buy our product may like it more (and thus buy more things we design) if it has support for a wider range of products.

ARCHETYPES

Luckily, Starfinder has an option that can be applied to any class–archetypes. (Or at least any class that is properly designed to include the abilities that are swapped out when an archetype is taken). We can build a bonus-feat friendly archetype that can be added to any class, give it a theme and justification for that flexibility, add a few extra tweaks so it doesn’t just feel like the words “bonus feat” five times, and we’ve added an extremely flexible character design tool without breaking the game.

Preceptor

While you have the same general training as others in your field, you have always taken it upon yourself to forge your own path, and seek out the education you thought most useful to your specific needs and goals. You have become an expert in your own learning style and conditioning, and can even compartmentalize previous training to make room for new techniques and knacks.

Custom Training (Ex): At 2nd, 4th, 6th, 9th, and 12th level, you may choose to take you classes’ normal class feature, or to gain the customer training preceptor alternate feature. Each time you take this feature, you gain a bonus feat of your choice (for which you must meet all its prerequisites), or an additional 5 skill points (though you still cannot have more ranks in a skill than your total character level).

Additionally, whenever you take custom training, you can also choose to replace one of the feats you have already learned with a different feat. The feat you replace can’t be one that was used as a prerequisite for another feat or other ability. You can change only one feat each time you gain custom training, and you must choose whether or not to swap the feat at the time you gain this alternate feature.

PERSONAL UPGRADES

Another option available to all characters are personal upgrades. Those in the core rulebook only grant ability score increases, but it’s easy enough to link into that system to allow people to buy bonus feats. It means we are requiring players to decide between boosted ability scores and boosted feat lists, and that’s an interesting choice for a lot of character builds. Most characters are better off having at least their key ability score upgraded with the highest-level personal upgrade they can manage, but its less obvious that everyone needs three ability scores boosted at higher levels.

Feat Upgrades

Feat upgrades are a variant form of personal upgrades. Like ability-focused personal upgrades, feat upgrades come in three models (Mk I, II, and II). they require the same interface as personal upgrades, so a character is limited to one personal or feat upgrade of each model–if you have a Mk I feat upgrade, you cannot also have a Mk I personal upgrade *but could have a Mk II personal upgrade).

Feat upgrades are always custom-designed for the recipient, and thus can grant any one bonus feat the recipient meets the prerequisites for. A feat upgrade that grants a feat the recipient uses as a prerequisite is so intertwined with their system, it can no longer be removed by anything short of a miracle, wish, or mnemonic chamber.

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Designing to Spec: Support Material (Part 11: The Vanguard)

So we’ve finished creating Starfinder versions of all the Pf Core Rulebook feats that weren’t already in Starfinder, and we’re spending some time looking at things we may want to add to Starfinder, now that we’ve added such a huge load of feats.

Our last class to look at is the vanguard.

The vanguard bucks normal Starfinder class and rule design, in that is has a pool of “point” separate from Resolve Points. That’s not a problem (sometimes you want an outlier, like how witch hexes work differently from nearly anything else in 1st edition Pathfinder, or how the warlock engages in spells differently than other 5e classes), but it’s a good sign that entropy points are a crucial part of vanguard design.

So, if we want a vanguard to access some of the feats we created, or at least the new abilities those feats represent, it makes sense to look at entropy points as a way to do that.

Obviously if you have to have to spend or have entropy points to gain a feat, that’s less powerful than having the feat all the time. There are two primary way to boost conditional feat class features. The first is to give more than one feat (even if it’s only one feat at a time, flexibility increases overall effectiveness). The other is to give access to feats the character otherwise does not qualify for. You can mix these, of course.

Vanguard Disciplines

You must be 2nd level or higher to choose these vanguard disciplines.

Combat Momentum (Ex): You can expend 1 entropy point as part of any other action to gain one of the following feats as a bonus feat for the rest of the combat: Improved Bull Rush, Improved Disarm, Improved Overrun, Improved Sunder, Improved Trip. You do not need to meet the feat’s prerequisites. If you use this ability to gain a feat, any previous feat you gained with it ends.

Entropic Armor (Su): You gain Arcane Armor Training as a bonus feat, without meeting its prerequisites. Instead of powering the feat with a Resolve Point, you can choose to power it as a move action with an entropy point. If you take this option, the arcane talisman you create fades at the end of combat if not used.

6TH

You must be 6th level or higher to choose these vanguard disciplines.

Combat Impulse (Ex): You can expend 1 entropy point as part of any other action to gain one of the following feats as a bonus feat for the rest of the combat: Greater Bull Rush, Greater Disarm, Greater overrun, Greater Sunder, Greater Trip. You do not need to meet the feat’s prerequisites. If you use this ability to gain a feat, any previous feat you gained with it ends.

8TH

You must be 8th level or higher to choose these vanguard disciplines.

Entropic Armor Mastery (Su): You gain Arcane Armor Mastery as a bonus feat, without meeting its prerequisites.

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Designing to Spec: Support Material (Part 8)

So we’ve finished creating Starfinder versions of all the Pf Core Rulebook feats that weren’t already in Starfinder, and we’re spending this week looking at things we may want to add to Starfinder, now that we’ve added such a huge load of feats.

Adding new options to a witchwarper is almost too easy — nearly anything can be justified as access to alternate realities. To keep things interesting, here we picked one way to gain bonus feats (and have access to a wider range of options that you can use at one time), and one way to use feats to define a different power that does things the feats normally don’t.

Paradigm Shifts

[2nd Level]

Alternity (Ex): Select three feats you meet the prerequisites for. These are abilities alternate versions of you, in alternate realities, have gained. Each day as a swift action you can select one of these feats to have for the remainder of the day. If you are 6th level or higher, you can expend a Resolve Point as a swift action to change which of these feats you have access to after you have made this choice.

At each new witchwarper level, you can change what three feats you have selected for this ability.

That’ll Leave A Mark (Su): Select a Critical feat (a feat that adds a critical hit option to an attack of yours), plus one additional Critical feat for every 5 witchwarper levels you have. You do not need to meet these feat’s normal prerequisites, but you must have a caster level equal to any base attack bonus they require. You do not benefit from the Critical feat, but as a reaction when an ally within 60 feet hits a foe with an attack, you can expend one use of your alternate outcome ability to add one of your critical hit feats to that attack (in addition to its normal critical hit effects, if the attack was a critical hit).

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Designing to Spec: Support Material (Part 7)

So we’ve finished creating Starfinder versions of all the Pf Core Rulebook feats that weren’t already in Starfinder, and we’re spending this week looking at things we may want to add to Starfinder, now that we’ve added such a huge load of feats.

In addition to just giving a class access to bonus feats, and using the abilities of new feats to create new class options (as we did with the mystic support material), its possible to use new feats to define the powers of brand-new abilities. In 1st edition Pf, the cavalier and inquisitor classes are great examples of this, as both have powers that use teamwork feats in ways the feats alone don’t provide.

So with that in mind, let’s look at some new theorems for the biohacker!

Theorem

The following theorems follow the normal rules for biohacker theorems.

[2nd Level]

Heal Thyself: You gain the Self-Sufficient feat. Additionally when you use a skill, feat, or class feature to restore Hit Points or Stamina Points to yourself, you may take the points restored and divide them between your missing Hit Points and Stamina Points, even if the ability normally only restores one of those.

Multispectrum Booster: Select two feats from the following list: Acrobatic, Agile Maneuvers, Athletic, Deceitful, Deft Hands, Dodge, Endurance, Nimble Steps, Persuasive,  Stealthy. When you inject a creature with a basic booster, it gains both the normal booster benefit and your choice of the two feats you selected for the booster’s normal duration.

Alternatively you can expend a use of your booster ability to grant an injected creature both feats for a number of minutes equal to your key ability score bonus (minimum 1 minute).

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Designing to Spec: Support Material (Part 5)

So we’ve finished creating Starfinder versions of all the Pf Core Rulebook feats that weren’t already in Starfinder, and we’re spending this week looking at things we may want to add to Starfinder, now that we’ve added such a huge load of feats.

The core thing we are trying to do is make it easier for characters to access the additional feats appropriate to their character concept without that being the only thing those characters can do. Essentially an additional 130 feats is a considerable “weight” of concepts that it can be difficult for a class to access a reasonable number of. Certainly giving classes new ways to gain these feats is one way to accommodate the additional weight of concept options on a character, but there are other options. You can, for example, take some of the new options you created with feats and build them into a class feature without accessing the feats directly. This works best with classes that don’t have a good class feature to use to hand out one feat, or a small collection of feats.\

Like the mystic.

Given all the healing channel options we added with feats, it begins to seem odd that healing connection mystics, and ONLY healing connection mystics, can access this vast array of new powers. But there’s a good way to fix that — an Alternate Class Feature. Alternate class features were added to Starfinder in the Character Operations Manual, so we have a precedent.

That brings us to the channel energy alternate connection power.

Channel Energy (Su) 1st Level

You can channel mystic energy. You can spend 1 Resolve Point to channel this energy. Having the channeled energy just affect yourself is a move action, while affecting one adjacent creature is a standard action, and affecting all appropriate creatures within 30 feet is a full action. This channeled energy’s effect starts at 2d8, and increases by 2d8 at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter.

Your channel energy qualifies as healing channel for prerequisites, and can be modified by feats and options that modify healing channel.

You can choose one of the following channel effects.

Alignment Harm: Select one of the following alignment subtypes: chaos, evil, good, law. Your alignment cannot include any aspect of the selected subtype. When you use your channel, you can expend a mystic Spell slot of the highest level you can cast to also deal damage equal to the amount you heal to all foes in the area with the selected subtype. The foes can attempt a Will save for half damage, at your usual connection power DC.

Elemental Harm: Your channel energy deals damage equal to its effect to elemental foes (including all creatures of the elemental type) targeted. The elementals can attempt a Will save for half damage, at your usual connection power DC.

Harm Undead: Your channel energy deals damage equal to its effect to undead foes (including all creatures of the undead type) targeted. The undead can attempt a Will save for half damage, at your usual connection power DC. This qualifies as the Harm Undead feat for other prerequisites, and things that modify Harm Undead can modify this ability.

Healing: The channeled energy heals all targeted allies a number of Hit Points equal to its effect.

Special: Any connection can take Channel Energy as a replacement for it’s 1st-level power. This is normally themed in a way appropriate to the connection (the crusader connection might well take alignment harm to smite its supernatural foes) or the character (even if the empath connection has no specific link to undead, a character taking it as the priest of a god that abhors undead might well replace it’s first level power with the harm undead alternate connection power).

Of course just because something can be an alternate power of other connections doesn’t mean it can’t also be the core of it’s own connection, which we’ll explore tomorrow.

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Designing to Spec: Support Material (Part 4)

So we’ve finished creating Starfinder versions of all the Pf Core Rulebook feats that weren’t already in Starfinder, and we’re spending this week looking at things we may want to add to Starfinder, now that we’ve added such a huge load of feats.

Since the core thing we are trying to do is make it easier for classes to access appropriate feats, since we’re adding more than 120 additional feats to the game, we don’t have to restrict that access to just new feats we created. If there are feats appropriate to a class from previous rulebooks, and a game-balanced way to give them to characters as selections for class features, that can have the same benefit as just focusing on our new feats.

We can also do more than just offer up bonus feats. As a class feature, we can give options to get feats you normally wouldn’t (such as allowing ranks in a skill to substitute for base attack bonus), as long as we don’t grant feats so early the end effect is unbalanced. We can also tie the feats to other class features, to reinforce a previous class concept.

Here are some examples (one mixing old and new feats, one focusing just on pre-existing feats) for the mechanic class.

Mechanic Tricks
These mechanic tricks follow the normal rules for the mechanic trick class feature.

[2nd Level]
You may select these mechanic tricks beginning at 2nd level.

Combat Interface
Select one of the following feats: Ambuscade, Ambush Awareness, Defensive Combat Training, Dodge, Manyshot, Nimble Steps, Power Attack, Precise Shot, Spirited Charge, or Unseat.
If you have a drone, it gains the selected feat. If you have both a drone and an exocortex, at the beginning of each day you decide which has the programmed combat interface, determining if you or your drone gain the bonus feat. Otherwise, you gain the selected feat.

You may select this mechanic hack more than once. Each time, you choose a different feat.

Combat Engineer
Select one of the following feats for which you meet the prerequisites. You can use your ranks in Engineering in place of base attack bonus to fulfill the prerequisites: Adaptive Upgrade, Amplified Glitch, Barricade, Cook Grenade, Double Tap, Far Shot, Grenade Mastery, Hauler, Penetrating Attack, Pull the Pin, Ricochet Grenade.

You may select this mechanic hack more than once. Each time, you choose a different feat.

So, should we cover the rest of the classes next week, or move on to a new topic? Let me know! One great way to do that is as a comment or message through my Patreon! Like all my blog posts, this content was only possible because people joined my Patreon, helping me have the free time to write these things. 🙂

Designing to Spec: Support Material (Part 3)

So we’ve finished creating Starfinder versions of all the Pf Core Rulebook feats that weren’t already in Starfinder, and we’re spending this week looking at things we may want to add to Starfinder, now that we’ve added such a huge load of feats.

So let’s look at envoys.

Envoys are an interesting case because they don’t really try to fill a role that exists in PF. Yes, they are Charisma-based characters, and so are bards, but bards are so explicitly build as spellcasters with a single strong group area buff (bardic performance), with a strong secondary role as information sources. Envoys have no base spellcasting, and can be built with any of a wide variety of powers, only some of which are buff or information focused.

But they do clearly serve as diplomats and negotiators, and spies and field observers, 0so there’s room there for them to have an easier time picking up some of our new feats.

Envoy Improvisations

[2nd Level]

Entourage: Select Followers or Leadership. You gain the selected feat as a bonus feat.

This envoy improvisation can be taken a second time. When you do so, you gain the second feat.

Tricksy: Select Alertness or Deceitful. You gain the selected feat as a bonus feat.

This envoy improvisation can be taken a second time. When you do so, you gain the second feat.

PATREON
Like all my blog posts, this is brought to you by the wonderful patrons of my Patreon! Want more of this content? Want to suggest specific game systems, topics, of kinds of articles? All of that is only possible if people join my Patreon, help me have the free time to write these things, and let me know what you want to see!

Designing to Spec: Support Material (Part 2)

So we’ve finished creating Starfinder versions of all the Pf Core Rulebook feats that weren’t already in Starfinder, and we’re spending this week looking at things we may want to add to Starfinder, now that we’ve added such a huge load of feats.

Technomancers already have spell hacks to help them manipulate their eldritch energies, so it’s easy to see how those might be turned toward adding some of the new feats that do the same.

Technomancer Magic Hacks

[2nd Level]

Eldritch Crafter: Select one of the following feats for which you meet the prerequisites. You gain this as a bonus feat. Brew Potion, Craft Magic Arms and Armor, Craft Rod, Craft Staff, Craft Wand, Craft Wondrous Item, Forge Ring, Scribe Scroll.

This magic hack can be taken more than once. Each time, you select a different feat from the list.

Eldritch Finesse: Select one of the following feats for which you meet the prerequisites. You gain this as a bonus feat. Empower Spell, Enlarge Spell, Extend Spell, Heighten Spell, Maximize Spell, Quicken Spell, Silent Spell, Still Spell, Widen Spell.

This magic hack can be taken more than once. Each time, you select a different feat from the list.

PATREON
Like all my blog posts, this is brought to you by the wonderful patrons of my Patreon! Want more of this content? Want to suggest specific game systems, topics, of kinds of articles? All of that is only possible if people join my Patreon, help me have the free time to write these things, and let me know what you want to see!

Designing to Spec: Support Material (Part 1)

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

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

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

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

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

Soldier Gear Boosts

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

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

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Like all my blog posts, this is brought to you by the wonderful patrons of my Patreon! Want more of this content? Want to suggest specific game systems, topics, of kinds of articles? All of that is only possible if people join my Patreon, help me have the free time to write these things, and let me know what you want to see!

 

d20 Design Diary (Part 6)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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