(Photo by Tab10)
I’m interrupting this week’s at-your-table game content to discuss the state of the industry. We’ll get back to fund stuff, but this is important.
I’ll start with some recent history.
The 2016 U.S. east coast blizzard made a noticeable negative impact on print RPG sales. Stores were shut down, people did not go out. It hurt. Companies suddenly were not selling like they had been, but expenses didn’t go down at all. While it didn’t drive anyone major into bankruptcy, it did have serious impacts. Budgets were slashed. Plans for new hires were axed. Raises were cancelled. Projects were scaled back. Not necessarily at every game company–some had very deep pockets from parent companies or investors and could just take the hit — but more companies than not had to change plans to survive.
Sales of PDFs did not see a significant uptick. Sales did not spike to higher-than normal levels after the snow melted and life got back to normal. Inventory for products created just before the blizzard did sit around longer. Some never sold. The expected money that would have been made that season was just gone.
Obviously the past few months have been worse. Worse for publishers, worse for companies, distributors, and individual creators.
But if the current upward pandemic infection trends continue and/or a second wave is bad? It doesn’t have to be the whole country to kill already struggling companies. The 2016 blizzard was a bit less than 1/3 of the US population, and everyone knew it couldn’t last. But it’s economic impact on gaming was widespread and serious.
There’s a reason so many ads currently begin with “In these uncertain times.” No one knows when a vaccine is coming. No one knows how bad the current rising numbers are going to get, or if they will spike again in the fall. In the US, there does not seem to be any national plan to handle this pandemic. Some places are depending on voluntary steps. Others are mandating masks.
Unlike 2016, there’s could reason to fear the impacts could keep going, or get worse, for a year. I hope a vaccine comes out before that, but I can’t depend on it. Not as a writer, and not as a citizen trying to pay the bills.
So even as governments open for business, sales are still down. They are improved over total lockdown, obviously, but companies aren’t getting the lost money from the lockdown back. Ever. The blows taken in the next few months don’t have to be as bad as the lockdown in order to kill stores and companies, and drive creators out of the industry forever, because everyone already took several serious financial hits.
If you want professional ttRPG material in the future, there are things you can do, now and in coming months,
Support your local stores if you safely can. Some stores are doing curbside pickup, some are doing delivery.Some are allowing a small number of people wearing masks in at a time. I don’t want anyone to risk their health for games, but if your safety measures allow for contactless delivery, and you have the money, those stores are still hugely important. They sell more, total, than online places (yes, including Amazon). And they bring more new people into the industry.
Support game companies. Buying from a local store absolutely counts, but if that’snot an option for you for whatever reason, look to see if the publisher has their own online store. Look to sign up for mailing lists and get special offers. If you have to buy through online stories, try to find a game-specific store you like and buy through them. The huge distributors don;t care about RPGs, and they’ll survive or not with no regard to how many dice and game books they move.
Finally, support game creators directly if you can. Even those who have full-time on-staff positions with game companies often make ends meet by taking on additional freelance… and that freelance is greatly reduced right now because game companies are tightening their belts. If you have a creator you particularly like or enjoy the work of, find if they have a Patreon, of Ko-fi, or other means of receiving money.
Because if the stores go, the game companies will suffer. if the game companies go, the creators will suffer. And if the creators go?
Then there’s much less chance the game content YOU want will even be created.
And, yes, I have a Patreon. I am a full-time freelance and contract writer now. I pay for my own insurance, pay my own social security and self-employment taxes, have to make quarterly payments on income tax, and then try to pay all my bills with what’s left of the money made on words.
Eugenics, as a concept, is evil. It does real harm.
Things that promote it are problematic-at-best.
That includes a lot of my very favorite entertainment options, from many RPGs to the Lensman series.
I need to do better in not just supporting it, but fighting it.
The game balance of the Starfinder Roelplaying Game is perfectly maintained if EVERY character, regardless of playable species, gets to choose between +2 to one ability score, or +2 to two scores and -2 to one score.
I may just make that my default from now on.
Here’s the final post for the week, playing with fun options for the weapon damage benchmarks per level for Starfinder I posted on Monday.
Since those benchmarks allow you to determine the damage of nearly any weapon at any item level (grenades and special weapons are special cases), they are half of what we need to allow you to upgrade Starfinder weapons. If you want to have your laser pistol be improved so it does more damage, just select an item level on the EAC small arms table with a benchmark that’s better than your current damage, and increase the pistol’s item level to match.
The big question left, of course, is “how much does that cost?”
Enter the Weapon Upgrade Pricing chart.
To determine the cost of such an upgraded weapon, find the first value on the chart that is more than it’s current cost. Then go three steps down the chart from there for each increase in item level. That entry is the new value of the weapon. Pay the difference between that new value and your original value, and your weapon is upgraded. (Upgrading a weapon requires the same time, resources, and skill at building a weapon of the new item level from scratch).
(art by 3droman)
For example: Carl has a 5th level wyrmling dragon rifle, a longarm which does 1d8 fire damage and costs 3,020 credits. But his character is 7th level, has money to spare, and he wants to upgrade the weapon. Looking at the benchmark table, he sees that if he upgrades his longarm to 7th level, it’ll do 2d6 damage. Much better!
His friend Ali the mechanic has the ranks and tools to do the upgrade. All Carl needs to know is the price.
Looking at the Upgrade Pricing Chart, he sees the first value higher than 3,020 is 3,250. Since he increased two item levels he needs to go six steps down the chart, which is 7,000 credits. Since his weapon currently has a value of 3,020, he needs to pay the difference — 3,980 credit (likely in UPBs) to get the weapon upgraded.
Weapon Upgrade Pricing Chart
You can also use the chart to estimate the cost of other kinds of equipment such as armor and even magic items… but that’s a different article!
Do you find these kind of analyses and design tools useful? Want to suggest a specific topic for an article? Support this blog by joining my Patreon!
So, yesterday I posted a big entry with long lists of tables that gave benchmark damage values for weapons of all types at all item levels in Starfinder, and mentioned there were lots of fun things we could do with a list like that. Here’s one of them.
We can scale weapon damage without having pre-written weapons.
For example, here’s a new version of the hammer fist ability from the soldier’s armor storm fighting style.
Hammer Fist (Ex) – 1st Level
You treat any unarmed attack you make while wearing heavy or powered armor as being made with a battleglove with an item level equal to or lower than your soldier level. Calculate damage for these attacks using the 1-handed basic melee benchmark damage, and adding bonuses as if you had the melee striker gear boost. If you have the melee striker gear boost, you gain a +2 bonus to damage rolls with your unarmed attacks when using this ability. These unarmed attacks don’t benefit from other abilities that apply specifically to unarmed attacks (such as the Improved Unarmed Strike feat).
(art by photoslaz)
With the core rulebook version of hammer fist, you have long dead levels where your damage with this ability doesn’t keep up. Now it goes to 1d6 at 2nd level and so on, keeping up with relevant weapons you could gain at those levels.
We can now also create class features that allow you to exceed the limits of your weapon’s damage, built on the idea a character *can* get access to an item up to their level +2, without creating some stacking nightmare that could be combined with higher-level gear to break the game.
Let’s say we wanted a Melee Weapon Master archetype, and we wanted them to do more damage with their melee weapon than other folks. The archetype can require to you to focus on an advanced melee weapon type, and then give you advantages with it.
Masterwork Damage (Ex): When using a weapon of your focused type that has an item level no greater than your character level, you may do more damage with it. Find the benchmark damage* matching your advanced melee weapon (KAC or EAC, 1-handed or 2-handed). You deal damage one level above your weapon’s benchmark.
*If your weapon damage dice do not exactly match a listed benchmark, your benchmark damage is considered to be the highest damage dice that have an average result that does not exceed your weapon’s damage dice’s average result. For example, if using a 1-handed EAC advanced melee weapon that does 1d20 damage, your benchmark damage is considered to be 3d6 (average of 10.5), as that is the highest total that does not exceed your weapon’s average (also 10.5). You would thus do 3d8, one benchmark level higher, when using this ability.
My patrons make these posts possible. Please consider joining them in funding my Patreon!
The following tables are benchmarks for how much damage a typical weapons of a specific type should do at each item level. This is the result of a LOT of work, which I have been doing literally for a couple of years. These numbers are based on creating weapons that match the mathematical assumptions behind combat in Starfinder, so if you have a weapon within a few item levels of your character level, you are within the range of combat effectiveness the game assumes when determining enemy AC and HP.
Of course such a system is not perfect. You can tell just by looking at it that it doesn’t perfectly recreate weapons in Starfinder, especially weapons of item level 5 or less. This is because lower-level weapons are, in fact, too good for the “assumed math” of Starfinder. An optimized 1st-level character can often kill a CR 1 or less foe in a single slightly-luckier-than-average shot. This is never the case at higher levels, and that’s intentional. Essentially when designing this system, low-level fights being easier for low-level characters than mid- and -high level fights are for mid- and high-level characters was considered an acceptable consequence of not wanting to say a 2-handed doshko does 1d6 to 1d8 damage.
Those issues even out at higher item levels, and even so these numbers provide weapons within the rough range of “useful.” That’s going to be important with some interesting things we’re going to do with these values as the week progresses.
*There are assumptions built into these numbers:
*These values assume typical range increment, usage, critical hit effect, and cost.
*A line does damage equal to a weapon three levels lower.
*A blast does damage equal to a weapon four levels lower.
*An unwieldy weapon does damage equal to a weapon two levels higher.
*A typical weapon has a single moderate critical hit and 1-2 positive special qualities. A weapon with none of these can do increased damage, but not as much as a 1-level shift. A weapon with wound, severe wound, or stunned and 1-2 positive special qualities, or with 3 or more special qualities, does damage equal to a weapon one level lower. Being unusually cheap, having a better-than-average range, or having unusually low usage count as a special quality, while the inverse can negate the impact of a special quality.
Weapons of level 9 or less should not have wound, severe wound, or stunned. No weapon should have more than one critical hit effect.
Single Target, Ranged KAC Weapons
Level Heavy Longarm Small Arm
-3 1d2 1 pt. 1 pt.
-2 1d3 1d2 1 pt.
-1 1d4 1d3 1 pt.
0 1d6 1d4 1d2
1 1d8 1d6 1d3
2 2d4 1d8 1d4
3 1d10 2d4 1d4
4 1d12 1d10 1d6
5 2d6 1d12 1d8
6 2d8 2d6 1d8
7 3d6 2d8 1d12
8 3d8 3d6 2d6
9 3d10 2d12 2d8
10 5d6 3d8 2d10
11 5d8 4d6 3d6
12 7d6 4d8 3d8
13 7d8 4d10 4d6
14 8d8 5d10 4d8
15 9d8 6d10 6d6
16 10d8 7d10 5d8
17 10d10 8d10 6d8
18 11d10 9d10 7d8
19 12d10 10d10 8d8
20 13d10 11d10 9d8
21 14d10 12d10 10d8
22 15d10 13d10 11d8
Single Target, Ranged EAC Weapons
Level Heavy Longarm Small Arm
-3 1 pt. 1 pt 1 pt.
-2 1d2 1 pt. 1 pt.
-1 1d3 1d2 1 pt.
0 1d4 1d3 1d2
1 1d6 1d4 1d3
2 1d8 1d6 1d3
3 2d4 1d6 1d4
4 1d10 1d8 1d4
5 1d12 1d8 1d6
6 2d6 1d10 1d8
7 2d8 2d6 2d4
8 3d6 2d8 1d10
9 4d6 4d4 2d6
10 5d6 3d6 3d4
11 4d8 3d8 2d8
12 6d6 3d10 3d6
13 5d8 5d6 2d10
14 6d8 4d10 2d12
15 7d8 5d8 3d8
16 6d10 7d6 3d10
17 7d10 8d6 4d8
18 8d10 6d10 4d10
19 9d10 7d10 5d8
20 10d10 8d10 5d10
21 11d10 9d10 6d10
22 12d10 10d10 7d10
Single Target Melee KAC Weapons
Item 1-handed 2-handed 1-handed 2-handed
Level Advanced Advanced Operative Basic Basic
-3 1d2 1d4 1 pt. 1 pt. 1d2
-2 1d3 1d4 1 pt. 1 pt. 1d3
-1 1d3 1d4 1 pt. 1d3 1d3
0 1d4 1d6 1d3 1d4 1d4
1 1d4 1d6 1d3 1d4 1d6
2 1d6 1d6 1d4 1d6 1d6
3 1d6 1d8 1d4 1d6 1d6
4 1d8 1d8 1d4 1d6 1d8
5 1d8 1d10 1d6 1d8 1d8
6 2d4 2d6 1d6 1d8 1d10
7 2d6 2d8 1d8 1d10 1d12
8 2d8 3d6 2d4 1d10 2d8
9 3d6 4d6 2d6 2d8 3d6
10 4d6 5d6 3d4 2d8 3d8
11 5d6 4d8 2d8 2d10 4d6
12 4d8 6d6 3d6 3d8 5d6
13 6d6 7d6 3d8 3d10 4d8
14 6d8 9d6 4d6 4d8 5d8
15 9d6 10d6 5d6 5d8 8d6
16 10d6 11d6 6d6 6d8 9d6
17 12d6 13d6 7d6 7d8 10d6
18 14d6 15d6 8d6 8d8 12d6
19 16d6 17d6 9d6 9d8 13d6
20 18d6 20d6 10d6 11d8 15d6
21 20d6 22d6 11d6 12d8 17d6
22 22d6 25d6 12d6 13d8 19d6
Single Target Melee EAC Weapons
Item 1-handed 2-handed 1-handed 2-handed
Level Advanced Advanced Operative Basic Basic
-3 1 pt. 1d2 1 pt. 1 pt. 1 pt.
-2 1d2 1d3 1 pt. 1 pt. 1 pt.
-1 1d2 1d3 1 pt. 1d2 1 pt.
0 1d3 1d4 1d3 1d3 1d3
1 1d3 1d4 1d3 1d3 1d3
2 1d4 1d4 1d3 1d3 1d4
3 1d4 1d6 1d3 1d3 1d4
4 1d4 1d6 1d3 1d3 1d4
5 1d6 1d8 1d4 1d4 1d6
6 1d8 1d10 1d4 1d6 1d8
7 1d10 2d6 1d6 1d8 1d10
8 1d12 2d8 1d8 2d4 1d12
9 2d8 3d6 2d4 1d10 2d6
10 3d6 3d8 1d10 1d12 2d8
11 3d8 4d6 1d12 2d6 3d6
12 4d6 4d8 2d6 2d8 2d10
13 5d6 6d6 2d8 3d6 3d8
14 5d8 7d6 3d6 3d8 4d6
15 6d6 6d8 3d8 4d6 5d6
16 6d8 7d8 4d6 4d8 5d8
17 7d8 8d8 5d6 6d6 6d8
18 8d8 9d8 4d8 7d6 7d8
19 9d8 10d8 6d6 9d6 8d8
20 10d8 15d6 7d6 10d6 9d8
21 11d8 17d6 8d6 12d6 10d8
22 12d8 19d6 9d6 13d6 11d8
Made Possible By Patreon
Projects this big (involving this much math and art) are impossible without the support of my Patrons! Of you find any of my content useful, from this to videos to the #RealGameIndustry hashtag on social media, please consider backing me on Patreon even just for a few dollars a month.