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Developing to Spec: Part 9 (d) — My Mistakes Create A Teaching Moment

This is a continuation of Part Nine of a series of articles looking at creating a set of Starfinder feats under specific constraints.  You can read long as we convert every feat in the PF core rulebook to Starfinder (and  share my thoughts on that process, as a developer and writer)— or you can just look at the finished feats (as they are written) here.

While we were going through the PF core rulebook feats in order, we’ve hit a whole class of feats that play on rules that don’t exist in Starfinder — metamagic feats. Having developed a plan for converting those (and wanting to stay consistent with our development), it seems smart to tackle all the rest of the metamagic feats before we move on to the next in alphabetical order.

So, that brings us to Widen Spell. …. And Empower Spell and Enlarge Spell.

Wait, what? Shouldn’t those have been before Extend Spell, which we did in the first section of Part Nine?

Yes. Yes, they should have.

But when I did all the critical feats we got out of order, and instead of hopping back to Brew Potion (which would have sent us down a rabbit whole doing crafting feats this week), I somehow skipped ahead to Exotic Weapon Proficiency. I only caught the mistake earlier this week, when double checking I could get all the metamagic feats done by today, to move on to a new topic next week.

Now this isn’t a big deal. I can write these things in any order, so going back to Brew Potion next week is fine. But if I hadn’t double checked, I might have missed those skipped-over feats entirely. For purposes of a series of blog posts, that’s fine. But if this was actually a project I was developing for another publisher? A chunk of missing content would be a major failure on my part.

So, teaching moment. If your assignment is supposed to cover a specific list of items? Check from time to time, including when you think you are done, that you have covered all of them. And if you missed some? Fix it.

So, we’ll do three more metamagic feats today to get that line of design done, then hop to Brew Potion and crafting feats next week.

Since it’s always worthwhile to do things in alphabetical order unless you have a pressing reason not to, let’s look at Empower Spell. It has a lot of the same issues as Maximize Spell, so maybe we can use the same kind of solution. However, since it doesn’t add as much damage, we need it to be a smaller risk, and apply to a wider range of spells.

EMPOWER SPELL
You can get more effect out of your lower-level spells.
Prerequisites: Able to cast a spell at least 2 spell levels higher than your lowest-level spell.
Benefit: When you cast a spell with a casting time of 1 standard action, that is at least 2 spell levels lower than the highest-level spell you can cast, you may cast it with a casting time of 1 full action. The sp or hp damage done by the spell is increased by +50%.

That applies to a slightly higher level of spell, and takes a full action rather than 1 round. The payoff is much lower, but I could legitimately see a spellcaster wanting both these feats, and while they won’t work with each other (intentionally), they will stack with technomancer magic hacks.

Then it’s Enlarge Spell, which looks like it’ll work much like Extend Spell did.

ENLARGE SPELL
Your spells often have much greater reach than most spellcasters’.
Prerequisites: Ability to cast a spell with a range based on level.
Benefit: When calculating the range of your spells, treat your caster level as being +4 levels higher.

Aaaand that brings us to Widen Spell. Starfinder doesn’t normally have areas based on level, but they do often have targets limited per level, so we can use that with the Enlarge/Extend paradigm.

WIDEN SPELL
Your spells often affect many more targets than most spellcasters’.
Prerequisites: Ability to cast a spell with a maximum number of targets based on level.
Benefit: When calculating the maximum number of targets of your spells, treat your caster level as being +4 levels higher.

PATREON
This series of posts about my specific game writing and development process (along with concrete examples and Starfinder feats) is — like all my blog posts — is only possible if people join my Patreon, help me have the free time to write these things, and let me know what you want to see!

 

 

Developing to Spec: part 9 (c) — Quickened and Silent

This is a continuation of Part Nine of a series of articles looking at creating a set of Starfinder feats under specific constraints.  You can read long as we convert every feat in the PF core rulebook to Starfinder (and  share my thoughts on that process, as a developer and writer)— or you can just look at the finished feats (as they are written) here.

While we were going through the PF core rulebook feats in order, we’ve hit a whole class of feats that play on rules that don’t exist in Starfinder — metamagic feats. Having developed a plan for converting those (and wanting to stay consistent with our development), it seems smart to tackle all the rest of the metamagic feats before we move on to the next in alphabetical order.

So, that brings us to Quicken Spell and Silent Spell.

Quicken Spell is an issue because the action economy in Starfinder is different from that of Pathfinder, and the quickened spell magic hack is clearly more limiting and already in place, and available to just one class. So, how do we quicken spells, without overlapping and invalidating that magic hack? Well, that hack applies only to spells with casting times of 1 standard action or less. So, we look only at other spells.

QUICKEN SPELL
You can cast some of your spells much more quickly than other spellcasters.
Prerequisites: Able to cast more than one spell level of spells.
Benefits: When you cast a spell with a lower spell level than your highest-spell-level, if it has a casting time of 1 round, you can instead cast it in 1 standard action. If it has a casting time of multiple rounds, you cast it in 1 round. If it has a casting time for 1 minute, you can cast it in 2 rounds. If it has a casting time of 10 minutes, you can cast it in 1 minute.

Okay, so, Silent Spell. That feat’s benefit in PF is that it prevents you from needing to fulfill verbal components when casting a spell–but Starfinder doesn’t HAVE verbal components. But it DOES note that spells have obvious elements, and creatures around you can tell you are casting a spell. So, what if it wasn’t that YOU were silent, but literally that your SPELLS could be silent?

SILENT SPELL
You can produce magic without audible consequences.
Prerequisites: Able to cast more than one spell level of spells.
Benefits: When you cast a spell with a lower spell level than your highest-spell-level spell, you can make a Bluff or Stealth check (your choice), opposed by observer’s Perception checks, to prevent anyone who cannot target you with a precise sense other than hearing from being aware you have cast a spell. On a failed check such observers do not know you have cast a spell, and are unaware of the spell itself unless it have physical effects.

Okay, having done that, it’s clear what Still Spell will be, right?

STILL SPELL
You can produce magic without visible consequences.
Prerequisites: Able to cast more than one spell level of spells.
Benefits: When you cast a spell with a lower spell level than your highest-spell-level spell, you can make a Bluff or Stealth check (your choice), opposed by observer’s Perception checks, to prevent anyone who cannot target you with a precise sense other than sight from being aware you have cast a spell. On a failed check such observers do not know you have cast a spell, and are unaware of the spell itself unless it have physical effects.

Okay, tomorrow we tackle Widen Spell… and some stragglers we missed.

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Developing to Spec: Part 9 (b) — Heighten and Maximize

This is a continuation of Part Nine of a series of articles looking at creating a set of Starfinder feats under specific constraints.  You can read long as we convert every feat in the PF core rulebook to Starfinder (and  share my thoughts on that process, as a developer and writer)— or you can just look at the finished feats (as they are written) here.

While we were going through the PF core rulebook feats in order, we’ve hit a whole class of feats that play on rules that don’t exist in Starfinder — metamagic feats. Having developed a plan for converting those (and wanting to stay consistent with our development), it seems smart to tackle all the rest of the metamagic feats before we move on to the next in alphabetical order.

So, that brings us to Heighten Spell and Maximize Spell.

Heighten Spell is tricky, because so little is tied to spell level in Starfinder, and there’s already a mechanism or three in place to adjust spell DC. However, Starfinder does have variable-level spells, which are a totally different thing that could be “heightened” without totally disrupting game balance (if properly defined and limited).

HEIGHTEN SPELL
You can get the most out of your variable-level spells.
Prerequisites: Know a variable-level spell with a higher-spell-level variant you do not know, but can cast spells of that level.
Benefit:
 You can expend one Resolve Point to cast a spell using a higher-level spell slot, to gain the benefits of the higher-level version of that spell even if you do not know the higher-spell-level version. Any decisions you must make when you learn the higher-level version (such as what creatures you can summon with a higher-level summon creature spell) you make the first time you use this ability, and cannot change until you gain a new character level.

That’s not *simple*, but it does stick with exiting Starfinder rules, rather than introducing a whole new subsystem. I’d likely playtest the wording with some friends before turning it over to a publisher, if I had time.

Now, Maximize Spell… which is a whole new issue. The PF version let’s you cast a lower-level spell with a three-spell-level-higher slot, to maximize all its effects. The math on that would be a nightmare to graft to Starfinder in an effective way, and it always encouraged alpha-strikes taking out everything in the first round of an encounter. But, how do we do SOMETHING with this that can be considered to maximize a spell, without introducing metamagic or breaking Starfinder?

There are lots of things we could do. Require the caster to expend a grenade with an item level at least triple the spell level… but that feels very technomancer. We could allow maximum damage on a critical hit with a spell, but mathematically that’s not great, and it doesn’t come up that often.

On the other hand, the fact spell damage tends not to scale in Starfinder means we might just be able to let spellcasters do maximum damage, under carefully-controlled circumstances. This extends the utility of lower-level spells, but also makes sure the spellcaster is taking a risk to do so.

MAXIMIZE SPELL
You can get the most effect out of your lower-level spells.
Prerequisites: Able to cast a spell at least 3 spell levels higher than your lowest-level spell.
Benefit: When you cast a spell with a casting time of 1 standard action, that is at least 3 spell levels lower than the highest-level spell you can cast, you may cast it with a casting time of 1 round. The spell is not completed until just before you turn on the next round, and if before that time you take any damage from either a successful attack that targeted your AC or from an effect that you failed a saving throw against, the spell fails.
The sp or hp damage done by the spell is maximized, rather than rolled normally.

Tomorrow, we tackle Quicken Spell and Silent Spell… for a game that doesn’t have verbal components.

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

Developing to Spec: Part 9: Keeping It Simple

This is a Part Nine of a series of articles looking at creating a set of Starfinder feats under specific constraints.  You can read long as we convert every feat in the PF core rulebook to Starfinder (and  share my thoughts on that process, as a developer and writer)— or you can just look at the finished feats (as they are written) here.

While we were going through the PF core rulebook feats in order, we’ve hit two feats that play on rules in PF that Starfinder doesn’t have — Exotic Weapon Proficiency, and the first metamagic feat. When looking at converting those things to Starfinder, there’s going to be a temptation to make complex feats that closely map to the functionality of the PF versions. Sometimes, you have to do that to make a functional, interesting feat.

But let’s try not to.

Starfinder doesn’t have “exotic” weapons, but it DOES have “special weapons.” And, of course, you can gain proficiency with one special weapon with Special Weapon Proficiency.  But that requires you to take that feat for every model of special weapon, which means there’s space to let someone be proficient with all special weapons. If we require them to have the Special Weapon Proficiency feat as a prerequisite we don’t invalidate that feat, and Versatile Focus and Versatile Specialization set a precedent for this kind of mass-weapon-benefit feat.

Simple.

EXOTIC WEAPON PROFICIENCY (Combat)
You understand how to use exotic weapons in combat.
Prerequisites: Special Weapon Proficiency feat, proficiency with basic melee and small arms.
Benefit: You are proficient with all special weapons.

And that brings us to Extend Spell. Not only does Starfinder not already have metamagic, but technomancers have what are clearly a replacement for metamagic in the form of certain magic hacks, including “extended spell.” We COULD recreate the whole metamagic system… but that’s going to overlap with what technomancers get (reducing the value of those magic hacks) AND introduce a whole new subsystem. But what if there was a way to have an Extend Spell feat without doing either of those things?

For skills and weapon attacks and damage, rather than slide an effect into a different category to gain a benefit (such as metamagic increasing spell level to boost effects), they just give a numerical bonus. We don’t want to just add +4 rounds to durations, because we’d have to write tons of rules to make sure we didn’t have instantaneous spells running multiple rounds, and spells with a 10 minute/level casting time wouldn’t be affected in a significant way.

But since lots of durations ARE based on caster level, we can add a flat bonus to that to gain a benefit that only applies as relevant, and that can stack with technomancer magic hacks.

EXTEND SPELL
Your spells often last much longer than most spellcasters’.
Prerequisites: Ability to cast a spell with a duration based on level.
Benefit: When calculating the duration of your spells, treat your caster level as being +4 levels higher.

Simple, stacks with the technomancer spell hack, and from 5th level on not as useful as the spell hack.

Since there are lots more metamagic feats to convert, and we have a design principle in place for them, we’ll hop to getting all those done in the next few entries before we move on to Extra Channel.

PATREON
This series of posts about my specific game writing and development process (along with concrete examples and Starfinder feats) is — like all my blog posts — is only possible if people join my Patreon, help me have the free time to write these things, and let me know what you want to see!

 

Developing To Spec: Part 8 (c) -Exhausting Sickening, Staggering, and Stunning

This is a continuation of Part Eight of a series of articles looking at creating a set of Starfinder feats under specific constraints.  — or just the finished feats (as they are written) here.

While we were going through the PF core rulebook feats in order, when we ran into the first critical feat, we paused in Part Seven to look at all of those as a whole, and we tackled Critical Focus and Critical Mastery. We’ve been going through the critical feats for the rest of the week, and since I think we’ve hit every corner case and design principle already, today we’re just going to do all the last four.

EXHAUSTING CRITICAL (Combat)
Your critical hits cause opponents to become exhausted.
Prerequisites: Critical Focus, Tiring Critical, base attack bonus +15.
Benefit: When you score a critical hit on a foe, your target immediately becomes exhausted. This feat has no effect on exhausted creatures. The exhaustion ends as described in the exhausted condition, or can be removed by any effect that states it removes exhausted.
If the attack already has a critical hit effect, when you score a critical hit you may apply its normal critical hit effect or the effect from this feat, but not both.

SICKENING CRITICAL (Combat)
Your critical hits cause opponents to become sickened.
Prerequisites: Critical Focus, base attack bonus +11.
Benefit: Whenever you score a critical hit, your opponent becomes sickened for 1 minute. The effects of this feat do not stack. Additional hits instead add to the
effect’s duration.
If the attack already has a critical hit effect, when you score a critical hit you may apply its normal critical hit effect or the effect from this feat, but not both.

STAGGERING CRITICAL (Combat)
Your critical hits cause opponents to slow down.
Prerequisites: Critical Focus, base attack bonus +13.
Benefit: Whenever you score a critical hit, your opponent becomes staggered for 1d4+1 rounds. A successful Fortitude save (DC 10 +1/2 your base attack bonus + your key ability score modifier) reduces the duration to 1 round. If you use this critical against a creature that is already staggered, the additional rounds add to the condition’s duration.
If the attack already had a stagger critical hit effect, you may add 1 round to the duration of the condition applied by this feat. If the attack already has a non-staggered critical hit effect, when you score a critical hit you may apply its normal critical hit effect or the effect from this feat, but not both.

STUNNING CRITICAL (Combat)
Your critical hits cause opponents to become stunned.
Prerequisites: Critical Focus, Staggering Critical, base attack bonus +17.
Benefit: Whenever you score a critical hit, your opponent becomes stunned for 1d4 rounds. A successful Fortitude save (DC 10 +1/2 your base attack bonus + your key ability score modifier) reduces this to staggered for 1d4 rounds. If you use this critical against a creature that is already stunned, the additional rounds add to the condition’s duration.
If the attack already had a stunned critical hit effect, you may add 1 round round of stunned condition to the stunned or staggered condition applied by this feat. If the attack already has a non-stunned critical hit effect, when you score a critical hit you may apply its normal critical hit effect or the effect from this feat, but not both.

.

And that’s the end of the PF critical feats! So next week we get to tackle… Exotic Weapon Proficiency (for a game system that doesn’t have exotic weapons), and metamagic feat (for a game system that doesn’t have metamagic!)

PATREON
This series of posts about my specific game writing and development process (along with concrete examples and Starfinder feats) is — like all my blog posts — is only possible if people join my Patreon, help me have the free time to write these things, and let me know what you want to see!

Developing To Spec: Part 8 (b) -Deafening and Tiring

This is a continuation of Part Eight of a series of articles looking at creating a set of Starfinder feats under specific constraints.  — or just the finished feats (as they are written) here.

While we were going through the PF core rulebook feats in order, when we ran into the first critical feat, we paused in Part Seven to look at all of those as a whole, and we tackled Critical Focus and Critical Mastery. Now, for the rest of this week, we can just write up the critical feats themselves.

It’s useful to tackle all the critical feats at once, because they are interconnected both with each other and with the existing critical effect rules in Starfinder. All these rules could come into play on a single attack roll, so it’s worth writing them all in once block, so we remember what we are doing and why, and keep a consistent answer. This is different from, say, PF feats that give bonuses to two different skills, such as Acrobatic and Athletic, which function similarly, but aren’t going to all interact on the same skill check, since they boost different skills.

The next two critical feats in out list are Deafening Critical and Exhausting Critical. Since Exhausting Critical has Tiring Critical as a prerequisite, we’ll obviously write that one up first.

Like Bleeding Critical, Deafening Critical plays with the same concept as one of Starfinder’s existing critical hit effects, so we need to include how to handle that interaction in our feat. Doing a copy-and-paste of our revised Bleeding Critical seems like a good place to start… but:

When copying-and-pasting, I discovered I thought the first sentence I have been using, that says you can add a critical hit effect to any attack you make, is not clear enough. Someone might decide that means even non-critical attacks get the benefit of the critical hit effect. I don’t think RAW supports that interpretation (critical hit effects have their own rules, which say they only kick in on a critical hit), but if you can remove potential ambiguity without bogging things down, or making it seem like you ALWAYS clarify every interaction (which suggests to some players and GMs that without a clarification the interaction should be read in the most permissive way, rather than in keeping with standard rules). you should. I go back an add “that is a critical hit” to the previous feats in the final archive of feats, and now use that language going forward.

DEAFENING CRITICAL (Combat)
Your critical hits cause opponents to lose their hearing.
Prerequisites: Critical Focus, base attack bonus +13.
Benefit: You can add the deafen critical hit effect to any attack you make that is a critical hit. If the attack already had a deafen critical hit effect, you may also permanently deafen the target on a critical hit if it fails a Fortitude save. The DC of this Fortitude save is equal to 10 + half your base attack bonus + your key ability score modifier. This deafness can be cured by regenerateremove condition (greater), or any spell or effect which is capable of restoring life to the dead or states it cures deafness.
If the attack already has a non-deafen critical hit effect, when you score a critical hit you may apply its normal critical hit effect or the effect from this feat, but not both.

Tiring Critical is in many ways easier, because Starfinder DOES have a fatigued condition, but DOESN’T have any tiring critical hit effects of fusions. (As an aside, I think Fatiguing Critical would be a better name for this feat… but that’s not in the remit of our assignment, so I keep that opinion to myself. It’s not worth taking to our theoretical producer to ask for an exception, especially if they already insisted on having every name from the PF core rulebook in this project when we brought them Armor Proficiency (medium)).

TIRING CRITICAL (Combat)
Your critical hits cause opponents to become fatigued.
Prerequisites: Critical Focus, base attack bonus +13.
Benefit: Whenever you score a critical hit, your opponent becomes fatigued. This feat has no additional effect on a fatigued or exhausted creature. The fatigue ends as described in the condition, or can be removed by any effect that states it removes fatigue.
If the attack already has a critical hit effect, when you score a critical hit you may apply its normal critical hit effect or the effect from this feat, but not both.

That means we’ll tackle Exhausting Critical, and one more crit feat, tomorrow!

PATREON
Like all my blog posts, this is brought to you by the wonderful patrons of my Patreon! I’m happy to do this kind of Practical TTRPG Designer masterclass free to the public… but it’s only possible for me to take the time to do so if people join my Patreon and help me have the free time to write these things!

Developing To Spec: Part 8 -Blind and Bleeding

This is Part Eight of a series of articles looking at creating a set of Starfinder feats under specific constraints. (Which is continued in section b here, and section c here). The point of these is to offer practical examples of how I approach developing and writing supplemental rules for tabletop RPGs. Rather than just blather on about things as I think of them, I go over issues as I encounter them in a real-world example.

The goal of this project is to create the “Missing Starfinder Legacy Feats,” a Starfinder-compatible version of every feat in the PF core rulebook that doesn’t have an SF match. (We discussed the impact of having to do that, whether that’s a good idea or not, in Part One.)

You can find previous entries here — Part OnePart TwoPart ThreePart FourPart FivePart Six, Part Seven — or just the finished feats (as they are written) here.

While we were going through the PF core rulebook feats in order, when we ran into the first critical feat, we paused in Part Seven to look at all of those as a whole, and we tackled Critical Focus and Critical Mastery. Now, for the rest of this week, we can just write up the critical feats themselves, starting with Bleeding Critical and Blinding Critical.

Bleed criticals are already built into some weapons, and can be added with the bleeding weapon fusion, so we want to make sure a character who takes the Bleeding Critical feat doesn’t regret having a weapon that also has bleed — it’s thematically on point for the character to do so, in fact. Since there aren’t any existing critical hit effects that blind in Starfinder, and being blinded in Starfinder isn’t any worse than being blinded in PF, we can translate the Blinding Critical feat more directly, though still matching how Starfinder handles having multiple critical hit effects and making sure there’s a reasonable list of spells that can remove the blindness.

BLEEDING CRITICAL (Combat)
Your critical hits cause opponents to bleed profusely.
Prerequisites: Critical Focus, base attack bonus +11.
Benefit: You can add the bleeding critical hit effect to any attack you make. The bleed effect does 1d6 damage per round, +1d6 per 5 item levels of the weapon used, or per 2 spell levels if the attack is a spell effect, or +1d6 per 5 character levels if the attack is not made with a weapon or spell.
If the attack already had a bleed critical hit effect, you may instead use the bleed that does more damage (either the attack’s normal bleed effect, or the one granted by this feat) and increase the amount of that effect’s bleed damage by +1d6.
If the attack already has a non-bleed critical hit effect, when you score a critical hit you may apply its normal critical hit effect or the effect from this feat, but not both.

BLINDING CRITICAL (Combat)
Your critical hits blind your opponents.
Prerequisites: Critical Focus, base attack bonus +15.
Benefit: Whenever you score a critical hit, your opponent is permanently blinded. A successful Fortitude save reduces this to dazzled for 1d4 rounds. The DC of this Fortitude save is equal to 10 + half your base attack bonus + your key ability score modifier. This feat has no effect on creatures that do not rely on eyes for sight or creatures with more than two eyes (although multiple critical hits might cause blindness, at the GM’s discretion). Blindness can be cured by regenerateremove condition (greater), or any spell or effect which is capable of restoring life to the dead.

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

Developing to Spec: Part 7-Critical Thoughts

This is Part Seven of a series of articles looking at creating a set of Starfinder feats under specific constraints. The point of these is to offer practical examples of how I approach developing and writing supplemental rules for tabletop RPGs. Rather than just blather on about things as I think of them, I go over issues as I encounter them in a real-world example.

The goal of this project is to create the “Missing Starfinder Legacy Feats,” a Starfinder-compatible version of every feat in the PF core rulebook that doesn’t have an SF match. (We discussed the impact of having to do that, whether that’s a good idea or not, in Part One.)

You can find previous entries here — Part One , Part TwoPart ThreePart FourPart Five, Part Six — or just the finished feats (as they are written) here.

Running through the “missing” PF feats from the PF core ruelbook in order, we’ve run into our first critical feat, Bleeding Critical. And that means understanding how critical hits work in PF, and in Starfinder, and forming a plan for converting critical-focused player options from the one system to another.

Starfinder handles critical hits a bit differently than most previous d20 games. First, only a natural 20 on the attack roll is a critical hit–there’s no “threat range” where a roll of 19, or even 18 may count as a crit. Second, there is no “confirmation roll” (many d20 games require a second attack roll that also hits the foe’s AC to make an attack a crit).  Thirdly, all damage is doubled — you never do x3 or x4 damage, and there is no category of damage that isn’t multiplied. And, finally, many weapons have critical hit effects — special effects (such as bleed damage, or setting a foe on fire) that only occur on a critical hit. In the vast majority of cases if a rule option gives a character access to multiple critical hit effects on a single attack, it also requires them to pick just one to apply. (There are exceptions to this, but they are rare.)

This series of changes means critical hits in Starfinder are less common, simpler to adjudicate, and often include more impact on combat that just doing more damage. Those impacts are all intentional, but it does mean that the design space for modifying how critical hits work has been significantly shrunk down.

So, when looking at critical feats from PF to convert over to Starfinder, we need to make sure we don’t violate any of the core ways Starfinder handles feats. We can play with the formula some, but we need to not change the value a feat gives to combat effectiveness, and not create rules with too much weight to be justified just on some feats.

So the first two critical feats we run into are Bleeding Critical and Blinding Critical. But since we know it can be useful to apply development consistently, it’s worth looking at all the critical feats to see if they can all be converted using the same design philosophy. So, they are: Bleeding Critical, Blinding Critical, Deafening critical, Sickening Critical, Staggering Critical, Stunning Critical, Tiring Critical, Exhausting Critical, and two related feats: Critical Focus and Critical Mastery.

Since we want to work with the critical rules within Starfinder we also go over critical rules in the core rulebook, and find that Improved Critical has been converted over, and gives a bonus to critical save DCs rather than expanding critical threat range. That saves us some work from converting the feat from PF, but it also takes one potential design choice for “missing legacy” critical feats off the table. We also note what critical hit effects already exist (in all the official Starfinder books, since we don’t want to duplicate or invalidate any official supplemental rule material).

Since Critical Focus is a prerequisite for all the critical feats in PF, it makes sense to try to convert that first, and use it as a prerequisite in the Starfinder conversions.

(As a brief aside, I don’t think there’s any need to create a sub-category of “critical feats” as a new descriptor of feats in Starfinder. They’ll all be combat feats, but none of the core rules are ever going to reference them since this is 3pp material, and they aren’t in the Starfinder Core Rulebook. As a result, we’ll need to include any special interactions we want in the feats anyway, removing the one benefit of having a new category of feats that all follow some universal rules).

Now in PF, Critical Focus gives you a bonus to your confirmation roll when you have a critical threat. That mechanic doesn’t work in Starfinder, but the *concept* of criticals happening more often is still a valid design space. Of course we know we can;t have a feat double the number of critical hits a player gets — that would quickly become the no-brainer go-to feat of number crunchers.

But Starfinder does have ONE example of making a critical hit effect more common–the plasma immolation soldier gear boost.

“You are expert at setting things on fire with plasma. If your attack roll with a weapon in the plasma category is a 19 (the d20 shows a 19), and the attack hits your target, the target gains the burning condition. The condition deals 1d4 fire damage if the weapon has an item level of 1st-6th, 1d8 if its item level is 7th-14th, and 2d8 if its item level is 15th or higher.”

AND that sit outside the normal restriction of one critical hit effect per attack. So, can we use that for Critical Focus?

CRITICAL FOCUS (Combat)
You are trained in the art of causing pain.
Prerequisites: base attack bonus +9.
Benefit: If your attack has a critical hit effect, when your attack roll is a 19 (the d20 shows a 19) and the attack hits your target, you may apply one critical hit effect from the weapon to the target. You do not also deal double damage, and any effect that would prevent a critical hit from effecting the target also works against this critical hit effect.
Special: If you have the plasma immolation gear boost, when using this feat you can activate that gear boost if your attack roll is an 18 and the attack hits your target.

That works pretty well. It can have the same flavor text as the PF version, and gives a character more critical hit effects, without doubling how often the character gets to do double damage. And we built in a benefit for soldiers with plasma immolation, so this feat doesn’t weaken the benefit of that class-specific gear boost.

Then looking at Critical Mastery, we see in PF it allows you to apply multiple critical feats to one attack. That doesn’t make a lot of sense for Starfinder, but since Starfinder does normally limit you one critical hit effect per attack, there is a similar design space available.

CRITICAL MASTERY (Combat)
Your critical hits can cause multiple critical hit effects.
Prerequisites: Critical Focus, gear boost class feature, base attack bonus +14.
Benefit: If your attack has more critical effects available to it than you are allowed to apply on a critical hit, you may increase the number of critical hit effects you apply on a critical hit by 1. For example, if you attack a foe with a weapon that has bleed, knockdown, and stagger critical hit effects, but you are normally required to select one when you score a critical hit, you may instead select two.

We aren’t being as restrictive on the prerequisites with Critical mastery as PF, since we are limiting it to people with a specific soldier class feature and a +14 attack bonus, rather than to 14th level fighters as PF does, but that’s in keeping with Starfinder’s less prerequisite-intensive feat system.

Okay, so since we’ve covered the broader critical hit feats, we can NOW go back and look at Bleeding Critical.

Tomorrow. 🙂

PATREON
This series of posts about my specific game writing and development process (along with concrete examples and Starfinder feats) is — like all my blog posts — is only possible if people join my Patreon, help me have the free time to write these things, and let me know what you want to see!

Developing to Spec (Part 6): Applying Development Consistently (with Starfinder Missing Legacy Feats)

This is Part Six of a series of articles looking at creating a set of Starfinder feats under specific constraints. The point of these is to offer practical examples of how I approach developing and writing supplemental rules for tabletop RPGs. Rather than just blather on about things as I think of them, I go over issues as I encounter them in a real-world example.

The goal of this project is to create the “Missing Starfinder Legacy Feats,” a Starfinder-compatible version of every feat in the PF core rulebook that doesn’t have an SF match. (We discussed the impact of having to do that, whether that’s a good idea or not, in Part One.)

You can find previous entries here — Part One , Part TwoPart Three, Part Four, Part Five — or just the finished feats (as they are written) here.

Having tackled a lot of different feats with a lot of different kinds of issues to make them fun and useful parts of Starfinder, we now have a run of feats that need the same kind of solution as feats we’ve already converted. This is a good lesson on development as well — if you have a working solution for multiple issues, applying it consistently can be a big part of creating a fun, easily-learned, intuitive set of game rules.

So, we look at two new Missing Legacy feats today, and see how we can use ideas from earlier in the series to come up with Starfinder versions.

So, for Athletic we used the same development techniques as for Acrobatic in Part One.

ATHLETIC
You possess inherent physical prowess.
Benefit: When using Athletics to climb you do not need any hands free and are not flat-footed. When using it to jump you are always considered to have a running start and never fall prone at the end of your jump as long as you are conscious and not suffering  condition that would prevent you from taking move actions. When using it to swim you must fail the check by 10 before you are forced to sink beneath the surface or singk deeper, and you are not required to make Athletics check to avoid nonlethal damage when swimming for an hour or more.

For Augment Summoning, we just had to adjust the feat to work with Starfinder rules and assumptions, similar to Arcane Strike in Part Five.

AUGMENT SUMMONING
Your summoned creatures are more powerful and robust.
Prerequisite: Able to cast the summon creature spell.
Benefit: Each creature you conjure with any summon spell gains a +2 enhancement bonus to attack rolls and damage, and 1 extra HP per HD for the duration of the spell that summoned it.

While there’s no guarantee we won’t run into brand-new kinds of problems in future feats (the XX Critical line of PF feats is about to hit us…), this is a good sign that we have reached a milestone in this project — we’re running into more and more things that we can apply existing solutions to. As we keep going through these feats next week, chances are it’ll be possible to keep these articles shorter and snappier.

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Developing to Spec (Part 4): Creating New Mechanical Benefits (with Starfinder Missing Legacy Feats)

This is Part Four of a series of articles looking at creating a set of Starfinder feats under specific constraints. The point of these is to offer practical examples of how I approach developing and writing supplemental rules for tabletop RPGs. Rather than just blather on about things as I think of them, I go over issues as I encounter them in a real-world example.

The goal of this project is to create the “Missing Starfinder Legacy Feats,” a Starfinder-compatible version of every feat in the PF core rulebook that doesn’t have an SF match. (We discussed the impact of having to do that, whether that’s a good idea or not, in Part One.)

You can find previous entries here — Part One , Part Two, Part Three — or just the finished feats (as they are written) here.

We’re done Acrobatic, Acrobatic Steps, Agile Maneuvers, Alertness, Alignment Channel, and Animal Affinity. And that brings us to Arcane Armor Mastery and Arcane Armor Training.

And a brand new problem.

Both Arcane Armor Mastery and Arcane Armor Training are designed to allow characters with arcane spellcasting to overcome the penalty of arcane spell failure when wearing armor. But Starfinder doesn’t differentiate between arcane spellcasters and any other kind, and doesn’t have any arcane spell failure mechanism. These PF feats interact with two sets of rules Starfinder doesn’t have! As a result we can’t just use the trick we did for Acrobatics and Alertness, and look for design space in the SF rules to match the intent of the version of the PF feats.

So, we’re going to have to make up some entirely new benefits, guided by little more than the feat names and the kinds of PF characters who might take the feats.

Every class in Starfinder has access to proficiency with light armor (to date, anyway), and none of the spellcasting classes (again, so far) have access to heavy armor. But there’s no problem spellcasting in heavy armor — the classes just aren’t proficient with it. And it’s easy enough to get proficiency, with a feat or multiclassing, so that’s not likely a fruitful direction for developing an SF version. On the other hand, it means any feat we create tied into light armor is accessible to all spellcasters.

That givens us a where or when for bonuses for these feats, but not a what. Worse, since we know we have to do both Arcane Armor Mastery and Arcane Armor Training, we need a bonus that can scale up, or two related bonuses. And, we need them to not give the kinds of numerical bonuses that can break the game math in Starfinder — just having Arcane Armor Training give you +2 if you can cast spell and are wearing armor, and Arcane Armor Mastery give you a +4, won’t work. they’d immediately be the go-to of any spellcaster, and might even convince soldiers to take one level of technomancer just to qualify for them.

But just because Arcane Armor Training gives spellcasters access to better mundane defenses in PF doesn’t mean it has to do the same thing in Starfinder. We could, in fact, have the feats not be training in armor for arcane characters, but training in arcane armor for any classes.

Viewed through that lens, we can decide the feats give you bonuses only against spells and spell-like abilities. That’s a much narrower field than a bonus to all ACs, but still makes sense with the names, AND is still appealing to fighting-casters who might have wanted the PF version (though we are opening it up to a broader group, potentially).

While we can’t hand out universal bonuses without risking imbalance, we can create situational benefits a player can call on from time to time, especially if they have a cost. So, what we need are defensive benefits, tied to armor, against spells and spell-like abilities, with a cost. Since we are designing for Starfinder, it seems a good idea for that cost to involve Resolve Points, and t make sure it’s useful but not a no-brainer, we should limit it’s uses.

And that leads us to these.

ARCANE ARMOR MASTERY
You can focus mystic energies into your armor, creating a powerful beneficial magical talisman.
Prerequisite: Arcane Armor Training, proficiency with light armor, Mysticism 9 ranks.
Benefit: When you expend your arcane armor talisman to reroll a saving throw, you roll 2d20 and take the higher of the two results.

ARCANE ARMOR TRAINING
You can focus mystic energies into your armor, creating a beneficial magical talisman.
Prerequisite: Proficiency with light armor, Mysticism 1 rank.
Benefit: You can take one minute and expend on Resolve Point to create an arcane armor talisman in one upgrade slot of your armor. You can only have one arcane armor talisman in existence at a time, creating another one automatically causes any existing ones to fade, and your arcane armor talisman only works for you and only when you are wearing the associated armor. While your arcane armor talisman exists, you cannot recover the Resolve Point used to create it.

When you fail a saving throw against a spell or spell-like ability, as a reaction you may expend your arcane armor talisman and reroll the saving throw.

.

Tomorrow we’ll take on Arcane Strike and… Armor Proficiency (Medium)?

PATREON
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