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Design Diary: Creating d20 Classes (Part 3)

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. Now, it’s time to begin discussing the heart of what makes a class fun and unique–special abilities.

Of course there are lots of elements to good special abilities. Balanced numerical considerations. Well-worded rules. But also, matching (or intentionally breaking from) the game system’s class organization etiquette.

Yep. Etiquette.

Each d20-based game system has an etiquette on how classes are presented, which you need to understand on order to build a set of class features players will find satisfying and relatable. Yes, you can challenge it, but you need to know why it’s there and understand how GMs and players may react to a class that doesn’t follow the system’s rules of class presentation etiquette.

Since we haven’t talked much about special abilities yet, let me use a progression bonus example to explain what i mean/

If you were making a Chaos Adept class for Starfinder, you could perfectly well decide it has a +2 base Will bonus at 1st level, +0 at 2nd level, +3 at 3rd and 4th, +1 at 5th, and +4 at 6th. Done properly, that can be balanced, and match the class’s theme. None of those numbers are out of whack for balance purposes at the levels they are presented, so the class is not in that regard unbalanced.

But it breaks etiquette in a big way. A lot of GMs will flip out. It LOOKS wrong, since every other class in Starfinder uses one of just two progressions, which all march slowly upward at a regular pace. It also makes it really hard to a player to know if the class is one that in general is “good” at Will saves. If they want to be more mentally resilient than ususal should they invest in Iron Will or similar save-boosting options? Most players won;t have a clue.

Further, the class if going to give different end result feels at different levels. Sometimes it’ll feel very mentally resilient, while on other occasions it will seem weak for entire levels of gameplay at a time. That can be chaotic, of course, but it puts a lot of mystery into how the class is going to act, forcing the player to guess or do a fair amount of analysis before discovering what to expect from the class.

Is that worth the chaos-themed-feel? You can’t answer that questions until and unless you understand why the etiquette existed to begin with.

Different games handle how the class gains bonuses to basic tasks and game functions differently. Proficiency values are fixed in 5e, it’s what you apply them to that varies. Proficiency tiers are given as specific levels in PF2 and have set values. No one ever gets a d11 hit die in any of these games, even though d11s are easily available.

Using a specific set of tools and presentation makes it much clearer to players and GMs what a class is good at and should be able to do. Breaking those norms has consequences, and you need to grasp what those are before you can decide if your off-the-wall design is worth it.

There’s also some Picasso at work here.

If your choices appear entirely random and disconnected from how the game you are designing for builds a class, players and GMs have little reason to trust you know what you are doing as a designer. Suspicion and confusion can very quickly lead to gamers spending more time picking about the game design than playing the game, and that is unlikely to lead them to feel they got good value out of what your spend so much time and hard work creating.

On the other hand, if your class design is familiar in how most of it is presented, the places you do deviate from the norm are more likely to be accepted as mindful, intentional efforts to make something new and innovative. Like a work of Picasso, at least some people are going to evaluate something that breaks the normal conventions in the context of knowing the creator has proven to have mastered the normal rules of that art form first. Picasso mastered the conventional styles of art in his field, and was then able to change the rules from a place of understanding what they were and how to use them.

So, analyze how the existing classes in the game present everything from bonuses to proficiencies to class features. In Starfinder, every class has beginning armor and weapon proficiencies, class skilsl and skill points/level (and in general twice as many class skills as the number of skill points it gets per level), Weapon Specialization at exactly third level, and most have a few set core abilities every few levels and one or two different sets of tiered ability choices with level prerequisites.

By contract, 5e classes all have a proficiency bonus that increases by level (at exactly the same rate for every class), fixed abilities at most levels (generally with one kind of choice at 1st or 2nd), and one or two points where the player picks a specialization. Classes don’t have special class abilities that are picked every few levels in 5e, though things like feats and spell selection still have an element of that.

So if you want to introduce a whole new mechanic of player (say, a system of runes that don’t work like any existing class feature as I have in the runecaster class now available through the 52-in-52 program), you want for everything else in the class presentation to follow the normal class etiquette. Not only does that show you knew what you were doing, it lets gamers who look at your design focus on learning the new rules you are presenting, without having to also grasp a totally different presentation of information.

You CAN change anything you want as a designer. Just make sure you only do so when the result is worth the cognitive load on your customers.

Next week, for sure, we’ll talk about fixed abilities versus customizable abilities. 🙂

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.

Developing to Spec: Part 18d — Magic and Automatic Mode

This is the fourth section of Part Eighteen of a series of articles looking at creating a set of Starfinder feats under specific constraints.  You can read along 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.

We now come to Magical Aptitude and Manyshot. Neither is going to work for Starfinder, as they work with mathematical assumptions about how skill bonuses work and the value of multiple attacks that are very different in PF. So, again, we need to do what one reader has referred to as an apples-to-oranges conversion. The end result won’t be the same as the PF versions, but as long as they are interesting and useful options, that’s fine. (Better, in fact, than doing a conversion that works the same way as the original if doing so would create boring, unhelpful, or overpowered options).

MAGICAL APTITUDE
You’ve learned how to apply your nonmagical experiences to increase the effectiveness of your magical abilities.
Prerequisites: Ability to cast a spell.
Benefit: Your caster level is equal to your character level, rather than the combination of just your spellcasting classes. This does not impact your spells known or spells per day, just calculations that directly involve your caster level.

MANYSHOT (Combat)
You are expert at maximizing the effect of having ranged attacks fly in high numbers.
Prerequisites: Proficiency with heavy weapons.
Benefit: When you make an attack in fully automatic mode (using the automatic weapons special property), you can choose what order to attack targets (rather than attacking closest foes first). Additionally, your attacks in fully automatic mode, your attacks can score critical hits as normal.

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 18c — Fight like Wind and Lighting

This is the third section of Part Eighteen of a series of articles looking at creating a set of Starfinder feats under specific constraints.  You can read along 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.

We’ve come to Lightning Stance, which has Wind Stance as a prerequisite. In Pf, Wind Stance rewards you for staying mobile and not taking full-attack actions (which is why they don’t kick in until you have a +6 BAB, so you have a full attack you *could* be making). Not as it happens full attacks in Starfinder are available earlier, and still have a strong upward push on the amount of damage you can do in a round, so that’s a fair tradeoff. On the other hand, a number of things are already playing with that tradeoff in Starfinder so we likely don’t want to give as big a boost as a 20% miss chance (especially since ranged attacks are more common in Starfinder). OTOH, a way for melee-focused Starfinder characters to get in and out of the fight without getting plastered because they left cover would be nice.

The Character Operations Manual had similar ideas when it introduced new rules for shields, which are basically mobile bits of cover. So…

LIGHTNING STANCE (Combat)
The speed at which you move makes it nearly impossible for opponents to strike you.
Prerequisites: Dex 17, Wind Stance, base attack bonus +11.
Benefit: If you take two Move Your Speed actions in a turn, and take no other actions of any kind, you gain a +4 shield bonus to AC until the beginning of your next turn.

WIND STANCE (Combat)
Your erratic movements make it difficult for enemies to pinpoint your location.
Prerequisites: Dex 15, base attack bonus +6.
Benefit: If you move more than 5 feet this turn, you gain a +2 shield bonus to AC against ranged attacks until the beginning of your next turn.

While these feats have Dodge in the PF versions, it really has a different utility the way we’ve adapted it, and Starfinder tends to have fewer and shorter prerequisite chains, so we omitted it.

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Developing to Spec: Part 18b –Followers and Leadership

This is the second section of Part Eighteen of a series of articles looking at creating a set of Starfinder feats under specific constraints.  You can read along 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.

And we’ve reached Leadership.

Leadership has always been a contentious feat. It brings with it some unanswered questions, such as whether the GM or player writers the cohort gained by taking it. There’s no question it is among the most powerful feats, based on action economy alone–even if your cohort is a few levels below you, having another character that can take a full set of actions every round is a huge boost to the effectiveness of a whole group. The feat has never been allowed in any official organized play program, and it’s easy to see why Starfinder’s designers chose not to include it. But now, we have to.

Of, at least, we have to create a feat called “Leadership.” No one said it had to include things like followers and cohorts. On the other hand, even if we decide cohorts are out of the picture (the Alien Archive 3 companion rules *could* be adapted if a group wanted to do so), there are going to be players who want followers, conceptually, even if we go a different route with the Leadership feat.

So, if a feat is too powerful and too flexible, maybe we need more than one feat to emulate it in a new game system.

FOLLOWERS
You’ve got a lot of fans out there.
Prerequisites: Cha 15, Cha as key ability score, or a theme that grants +1 Cha.
Benefit: You have allies, fans, supporters, and boosters all over the galaxy. Each day you can call upon those supporters to assist you in one of the following minor ways.
Friendly Face. In any settlement, with 1d4 hours of inquiries, you can find a typical local who is one step friendlier toward you than the typical population. You can make Diplomacy checks to try to improve this attitude normally.
Reconnoiter. You can ask your supporters to gather information for you, anywhere you can communicate with them. This takes 1d4 hours, and the bonus used for the skill check is equal to your level + your Charisma modifier.

LEADERSHIP
You have a knack for keeping a group together and on-task.
Prerequisites: Cha 15, Cha as key ability score, or a theme that grants +1 Cha.
Benefit: When ally determines if they are within range to affect a friendly target with beneficial abilities, you are within the range of the ally’s ability, and the friendly target is within that range to you, the ally can affect the friendly target. You can also act as a middleman for line of sight and sense-dependent abilities (as long as both ally and friendly target are within line of sight of you, the ally can affect the target even if they are not in line of sight of one another), and language-dependent abilities (as long as you are able and willing to communicate with ally and target the ability works,m even if te ally can’t communicate directly with the target).

Additionally in starship combat, you can take the role of Captain, even if the ship already has a captain. You take your action directly after the other captain, and cannot take the same action the other captain does in the same turn.

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 18a –Scary Improv

This is the first section of Part Eighteen of a series of articles looking at creating a set of Starfinder feats under specific constraints.  You can read along 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.

We’re finally through the Improvised feats, and that brings us to Improvised Weapon mastery. Looking at it we see the core PF mechanic works, but we also see that Starfinder has a special rule about treating most improvised weapons as clubs. It seems most likely that this feat will be primarily used by operatives who want their spies to be able to grab a coffee mug off an interrogator’s desk and use it to kill someone, so we should look for ways to make this appealing to such characters without being overpowered. Also, even though we wrote up Catch-Off-Guard and Throw Anything, which the PF Improvised Weapon mastery uses as prerequisites, we really don’t need them here.

IMPROVISED WEAPON MASTERY (Combat)
You are a master of using unexpected weapon.
Prerequisites: Base attack +3.
Benefit: When you use an improvised weapon, you may add your Weapon Specialization damage to it. If it is a weapon you treat as a club, you may also either treat it as not being archaic, or you may treat it as an operative weapon. If it is an improvised weapon the GM determines functions as something other than a club, you do not take the normal -4 to attack rolls for it being an improvised weapon.

That brings us to Intimidating Prowess, which in PF is designed to specifically make it easier for bulky half-orcs to intimidate someone by bending a bar in half. that’s cool, but Starfinder doesn’t generally allow you to add two ability score modifiers to one check, and it has a key ability score system. Why can you only intimidate by being strong? Why not by spinning a dagger on a fingertip, or using Sherlock-like deduction to ask someone how they liked their roast slarn lunch, making them think you have had them under surveillance. Also, if you want to be good at Intimidate in Starfinder, where everyone has at least 4 skill points/level, you ought to make sure it’s a class skill before anything else.

But we can build all that into one fairly simple feat.

INTIMIDATING PROWESS
You are scary good at being scary.
Prerequisites: Intimidate as a class skill, trained in Intimidate.
Benefits: You may use your key ability score bonus to add to your Intimidate checks, in place of you Charisma bonus. Additionally, if you have fewer ranks in Intimidate than half your character level, use half your character level rather than your ranks to determine your bonus.

Tomorrow?

Leadership.

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!

 

Design Diary: Creating d20 Classes (Part 2)

Last week 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 tackled a number of questions about the concept for you class then, and now it’s time to look at taking that concept and turning it into playable game mechanics.

And that starts with the tools d20 games give you to define the base competencies of your class, and how quickly they progress.

Class Progression Tools

The heart of a good character class is its special abilities, but you don’t have to start with those. In fact, beyond a general idea of what you want its special abilities to be able to do, as part of settling on a class concept, I prefer not to focus on special abilities until I have more of the class’s framework in place. That framework is made up of various progressions — health, skill points, class skills, beginning proficiency, base attack bonus, base saving throws, and spell progression.

In most d20 games, there are only a few progressions available for these, and they are often interconnected in non-obvious ways. For example, in 1st edition Pathfinder, a class that gets a “full” base attack bonus progression (+1 to bab per level gained) always has at least a d10 Hit Points per level (the sole non d10 full-bab class is the Barbarian, who gets the slightly-larger d12), and no one gets a d10 or higher Hit Die unless they have a full bab progression.

In general, you want to have a balance of good, moderate, and bad progressions. In some cases those progressions already come in those quality levels–in most d20 games your base attack bonus progression can be good (+1/class level, like the barbarian, cavalier, fighter, soldier, and so on, also known as a “full” bab progression), moderate (+2/3 levels, like the bard, cleric, envoy, mechanic, and so on), or poor (+1/2 class levels, such as the sorcerer, witch, and wizard–interestingly Starfinder has no classes with this progression). In these systems it’s easy to see that if you give a class a good attack progression the focus of that class is combat, if you give moderate bab progression it is going to have numerous combat options but will either need abilities to make it more effective, or must accept that combat is a secondary function, and if you give it a poor progression it’s never going to be good at combat without special abilities.

There are some built in potential problems with those progressions that show up over 20 levels of play (the gap between a fighter’s chance to hit and a wizards goes from as little as 5% at 1st level to 50% or more at 20th), which several newer d20 games have tried to solve by having very different ways of rating who is combat. pathfinder 2nd edition has a flat progression of everything from level (+1 to attacks per level for all classes), and uses five ranks of proficiency (untrained, trained, expert, master, and legendary, or U/T/E/M/L) and class features to differentiate which classes are combat-focused. Most classes are at-best trained in various weapon categories, while the fighter begins play  expert in some attack options. Similarly 5e has a flat “proficiency bonus) (ranging from +2 to +6) which classes can add to various attacks, defenses, skills, and ability score checks, and class features (the barbarian’s rage, the fighter’s fighting style) determine who is good at the raw math of combat.

The best way to begin a character class is to see how many good, moderate, and poor progressions (or whatever similar mechanics the game in question uses) a typical class gets and which classes have which progressions. Normally a class that is strong in combat has weaker skill options but more HP, and characters with strong spell abilities have weaker saving throws. These aren’t hard-and-fast rules, but you want to make sure every class both has strengths and weaknesses, and that it’s bonuses and game mechanics support what the description and flavor tell players the class is good at.

That last element can be tricky, of course. If you have a Combatant class (not a great name, but fine for example purposes) which you describe as the best class at combat, and a Big Boxer class which you describe as the best at unarmed combat, it’s going to be frustrating for Big Boxer players of the Combatant is better even at unarmed combat than Big Boxers are. On the other hand, you don’t want all the flavor and mechanics of a class to just be a difference on where they get their bonuses. You could have an Archer class and a Smasher class and have their only different be the Archer gets big bonuses to ranged weapons and the Smasher gets them to hammer attacks, but that gets boring and tightly locks those classes into narrow character concepts.

Spellcasting deserves a special note here, because not every class gets it, and it has a huge impact on character effectiveness. The most obvious variable in levels of spellcasting is what level spell a character gains access to–in early d20 games it’s often a question of 4-level spellcasting (such as the paladin and ranger), 6-level (such as the bard and all official Starfinder spellcasting classes), and 9-level (such as clerics, druids, and wizards). But even within that there are important distinctions such as how effective a spell list is at specific things (the wizard spell list has more and better offensive options than the cleric, for example).

Again, not every d20 game keeps this set of progressions (5e has 5-level and 9-level casting, PF2 has 10-level casting and access to specific focus spells), but each game generally has a few standards you can borrow when building the superstructure of your character class. If you don’t feel like you know what the progressions and proficiencies of the core classes of the game you are designing for are, you need to do some study and analysis before you try to write a character class for that game.

You don’t have to get all this right in your first pass–if a class initially feels like it’s going to be strong at skills and spellcasting and weak on everything else, and then analysis or playtesting reveals that limits its options too much, you can go back and beef up some other progression to give it more core competency. But handling your initial idea of progressions, proficiencies, skills, and spells up front also helps define where things like special abilities should go. If a class doesn’t gain any spellcasting (or mutations, psionics, superpowers, miracles, or whatever) in a game where such powers exist, it’s worth thinking about how that class is going to deal with things that DO have supernatural powers when writing the class’s special abilities.

Because special abilities are the heart and soul of most classes. And we’ll look at them, especially fixed abilities versus customizable abilities, 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.

‘SCRAPERS

‘Scrapers is a campaign concept, for whatever system or use interests you.

You live in Jenney Tower West. You were born here, you presume you’ll die here. The top of the tower is somewhere unseen above you, stretching like a ribbon into the sky. The bottom is equally invisible, down under the Vapor. You’ve never gone down to the Vapor levels. Jenney Tower East is visible. The middle of it anyway. A few hundred feet across the Empty. Sometimes there are crosswalks.

Which are always war zones. Easters are more than a little crazy.

You are a Scraper, one of the migrating scavengers who strips each floor of anything of value or use, and trades it to survive. As each level is, on average, roughly 4,500 square meters of floorspace, and there are 20-30 levels being Scraped at any time, you often trade to other Scraper gangs, or solo Scrapers. But more often, you depend on the Ele-Markets, hand-cranked mobile trade stalls that ratchet between the Scraper levels, the Middles in the 10-20 floors above you.

On the Middles levels, things still work… some. Warehouses haven’t been depleted of everything yet. Automated systems and assistants can still sometimes turn on and off lights, close windows, and so on. Power still comes from the walls… sometimes. The intercom is almost entirely functional, the vid-screens can run 24/7. Plumbing is mostly functional. It’s easier for Middle on the higher floors, of course. As they use up the things they prefer, those upper Middles migrate to the floors above them. The ones the Uppers left behind when they migrated upward seeking caviar and fully functional android assistants.

As the higher Middles move into new territories, the floors below them migrate up as well… as long as they can afford to. A level every month, more or less. Moving takes credit with the Ele-markets, and spare time, and manpower. Your ancestors might have been Middles, once. But they waited too long to shift up a few floors, so you’re all Scrapers now. You also move up roughly a level a month. If you run out of scavenge early, maybe you push those above you, or supplant them, a little early. You certainly don’t want to wait around too long.

You’re told there are Penters, up above even the Uppers. Just one floor of them, or maybe two. But you’re not sure you believe that. If there was just one floor worth of Penters, why wouldn’t the Uppers just rush those floors and move above them?

Below you are poorer and poorer Scrapers, groups unable to enforce claims to better scavenging grounds. You don’t have much, but at least you can still find food now and then, or trade with one of the scaffold farms hanging on the outside of the Tower, suspended from ropes that go…. up. Though honestly, what you have isn’t all that awesome. Security systems still work sometimes. Middles come down with better weapons and gear to take things they realize they left behind. THINGS come out of the vents, and ducts.

The THINGS live in the Vapor levels, but they’re climbing too. The Deep Vapor has worse creatures, but they can’t survive out of the Vapor, even for a moment. And between the lowest Scraper floor, and the highest Vapor floor?

Crazies, cults, broken machine angry at being abandoned, and the Uninsured. The Uninsured have a taint of the Vapor, be that boils, or sharp teeth and a taste for flesh, or weird mind powers. Even the lowliest Scraper can’t trust Uninsured.

You may have some Vapor taint too, but you want that to stay a secret.

Scrapers life is hard. Detritus comes down chutes, which you capture when you can. Bodies, sometimes. You can make mulch, and sell it up. Or pull up cables, carve off building materials, turn it into raw material for Middles to patch what they have. Or to sell as new things to Uppers. Uppers don’t know how to make anything. Or for Ele-markets to turn into cranks, and winches. You can gather water, from rain and from broken sewers above you. Grow a few things. And repurpose to make clothes. And tools. And barricades. And weapons.

Weapons kill a lot of Scrapers. So do traps, rogue machines, Middle mercenaries dipping down, Uninsured raiders popping up, and even other Scrapers often threaten you. Scrapers die faster than they breed, but that’s okay. Poor Middles who lost their spot become Scrapers fast enough to make up the difference. Every month, at least a dozen Middles discover their last neighbors moved on. Moved away.

Moved up.

The Vapor is moving up, too.

Faster than you are, in recent months.

PATREON
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Developing to Spec: Part 17d – Captain Akiton

This is the third section of Part Seventeen of a series of articles looking at creating a set of Starfinder feats under specific constraints.  You can read along 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.

We’re nearly through the long list of “Improved” feats, and have come to Improved Shield Bash. That would have been tricky as heck before the Character Operations Manual, but since that book added shields, and they have rules for making unarmed attacks using a shield, all we need is to find an option that is shield-specific, slam related, combat-useful, interesting, fun, and doesn’t upset any of the game’s combat math by increasing max bonuses.

Easy, right?

IMPROVED SHIELD BASH (Combat)
You are skilled at mixing offensive and defensive shield tactics in combat.
Prerequisites: Proficiency with shields.
Benefit: When you successfully hit a target with an unarmed strike from a shield, until the beginning of your next turn any increased bonus to AC the shield grants when you align it against a target apply to attacks made from the target you hit.

That brings us to Improvised Weapon Mastery, which has Catch-Off Guard and Throw Anything as prerequisites. We aren’t obligated to have them as prerequisites for our Starfinder version of Improvised Weapon Mastery, but it’s still a good idea to have them written up first and to remind ourselves what they do) We did Catch Off-Guard already, so that just leaves Throw Anything.

We COULD just copy-and-paste our Catch Off-Guard and make it for improvised thrown weapons rather than improvised melee… but no one would ever take that feat. It’s dull and corner-case at best. Besides, we JUST wrote a feat that deals with using shields in combat, so…

THROW ANYTHING (Combat)
You are adept at turning anything into a ranged weapon.
Prerequisites: Dex 13, proficiency with Advanced Melee Weapons.
Benefit: Anything held you can use to make a melee attack with, you can use as a thrown weapon without taking additional penalties for throwing it. Items you can use 1-handed have a range increment of 20 feet, those that require 2 or more hands have a range increment of 10 feet.
Additionally, items you throw in combat bounce back to you and are caught ready-for-use by you, unless something happens to them to interrupt their journey. A foe can ready an action to attempt to sunder a thrown weapon you use this feat with, and after your attack is resolved if the readied action hits, the thrown item ends up in a random space somewhere between you and your target.
If you have this feat and are proficient with shields, you can throw a shield you are wielding, and are considered to be wielding it again when it returns.

Okay, so maybe I’ve been watching too many Avengers movies, but at least this feat feels fun. 🙂  And, given the more common nature of ranged combat in Starfinder, making it easier to be a melee-weapon-using character is likely fine.

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 17c – The UnFamiliar

This is the third section of Part Seventeen of a series of articles looking at creating a set of Starfinder feats under specific constraints.  You can read along 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.

We’re well into the long list of “Improved” feats and we’ve hit a big one — Improved Familiar. This is important in a couple of ways. First, people tend to be strongly connected to their familiars, meaning they have strong feelings about the rules that define and control them. Secondly, Starfinder doesn’t have familiars, making an Improved version of the concept difficult to implement quickly or easily.

Luckily, Starfinder does have rules for Creature companions, as of Alien Archive 3. The feat chain that allow you to control and gain actiosn with your creature companion are obviously very carefully balanced so we don’t want to impact what actions are possible, but we can add more familiar-like options without impacting that element.

We could add spellcasting ability to this feat’s prerequisites, or limit the feat to working with Tiny or smaller creatures, but honestly why? Starfinder has a more flexible feat system with fewer prerequisites and more open character concepts, so if someone wants to play a mind-blind human soldier who happens to have a laser-world familiar, let’s allow it.

IMPROVED FAMILIAR
You have a strong supernatural link to a single creature, known as your familiar.
Prerequisites: Creature Companion Adept, Survival 1 rank.
Benefit: Select a single creature companion of yours. You gain limited telepathy with this creature with a range of 60 feet and are considered to share a language with it (if you already have full telepathy, instead your creature companion gains the ability to understand and speak one language you know of your choice). You double the range at which you can control your creature companion. You also gain an empathic link with your familiar, allowing you to share general emotions with a range of up to 1 mile.

Your familiar gains evasion, as the operative special ability. If you are 7th level or higher, it gains improved evasion. If you are 3rd level or higher, a familiar can deliver touch spells for you. If you and the familiar are in contact at the time you cast a touch spell, you can designate the familiar as the spell’s “toucher.” The familiar can then deliver the touch spell just as you would. As usual, if you cast another spell before the touch is delivered, the touch spell dissipates. If you are 11th level or higher, your familiar gains spell resistance equal to your level + 5.

You can change what creature is selected as your familiar with 1 full day of quiet meditation with a new creature companion.

That brings us to Improved Precise Shot, which has the not-in-Starfinder-yet Point-Blank Shot and Precise Shot as prerequisites. So, we need to write those up first.

Point-Blank Shot would work fine in Starfinder as far as the rules are concerned… but again throwing around unlimited attack bonuses with feats the Starfinder designers could have put in the game is likely to unbalance the game’s combat math. On the other hand, ranged weapons obviously have a big advantage in combat when you use them from far away with cover. So we probably can use a Point-Blank Shot feat to give some bonuses when you sacrifice that advantage, as long as we do so cautiously. And since we are asking a player to risk an attack of opportunity, let’s add some mechanics addressing that to the feat.

POINT-BLANK SHOT (Combat)
You are an expert at the close-quarters use of ranged weapon.
Prerequisites: Dex 15+
Benefit: The first time each round you make a ranged attack against an adjacent target and it makes an attack of opportunity against you, you gain a +2 bonus to your AC against that attack. If the target cannot or does not choose to take its attack of opportunity, you instead gain a +1 bonus to your attack roll.

That means we’re free to wrap up the week with Precise Shot and Improved Precise Shot tomorrow.

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Developing to Spec: Part 17b – Cut, Paste, Repeat

This is the second section of Part Seventeen of a series of articles looking at creating a set of Starfinder feats under specific constraints.  You can read along 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.

We’re into the long list of “Improved” feats and have come upon the Improved combat maneuver feats, which can use exactly the solution Improved Bull Rush did. Obviously to save time we’ll cut-and-paste the Improved Bull Rush feat… but it’s important when doing that to make sure you check ALL the places you need to make changes, like replacing “bull rush” with “sunder.”

IMPROVED SUNDER (Combat)
You are expert at making foes’ stuff break.
Prerequisites: Str 13, base attack bonus +1.
Benefit: When you take a full attack action, you can make a sunder combat maneuver in place of one or more of your attacks. The combat maneuver does not take penalties to its attack roll from being part of a full attack, though any other penalties apply normally.
Special: If you have Agile maneuvers and Improved Sunder, you can replace any melee attack you are normally allowed to make (such as an attack of opportunity) with a sunder combat maneuver.

IMPROVED TRIP (Combat)
You are expert at knocking foes down.
Prerequisites: Str 13, base attack bonus +1.
Benefit: When you take a full attack action, you can make a trip combat maneuver in place of one or more of your attacks. The combat maneuver does not take penalties to its attack roll from being part of a full attack, though any other penalties apply normally.
Special: If you have Agile maneuvers and Improved Trip, you can replace any melee attack you are normally allowed to make (such as an attack of opportunity) with a trip combat maneuver.

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!