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Developing to Spec: Part 15a – Penetrating Thoughts

This is the first section of Part Fifteen 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, and I have time over the holidays to update the list) here.

Our alphabetical rundown has brought us to Greater Penetrating Strike. Which, of course, has Penetrating Strike as a prerequisite. And while Starfinder has a Penetrating Attack feat, it doesn’t have Penetrating Strike. So we need to create a Starfinder version of a feat that has already been adapted under a slightly different name. And then create a greater version of it.

Since our feat is a Strike, rather than any Attack, we can start by having it only apply to melee attacks. That reduces its effectiveness so we can have it apply at lower levels. But we still don’t want to do the same thing as Penetrating Attack. That means we need to look for some other kind of defense it can penetrate.

Penetration suggests getting through barriers, and there are two basic forms of barrier in Starfinder — cover (including shields, now), and force fields.

GREATER PENETRATING STRIKE (Combat)
Prerequisites: Base attack bonus +9, Penetrating Strike, Weapon Focus (any melee weapon).
Benefit: you can use the benefit of Penetrating Strike with any melee attack, regardless of the action you use, whether you have Weapon Focus with it, or how many RP you have.

PENETRATING STRIKE (Combat)
Prerequisites: Base attack bonus +6, Weapon Focus (any melee weapon).
Benefit: As long as you have at least 1 Resolve Point remaining, when you make a single melee attack as a standard action (with an attack to which you can apply Weapon Focus), your target does not gain any AC bonus from cover (including shields) against that attack, and it ignores any HP and other effects from force fields and energy shields, and any other defensive effect of a shield.

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Developing to Spec: Part 13d – Know When to Break the Design Rules

One of the general principles of good game development is not to add things to a game’s rules that was explicitly avoided by the core rulebook. For example, even though Weapon Focus gives a +1 or +2 bonus to attacks with one class of weapons in Starfinder, the book specifically didn’t give a better, stacking version of that to soldiers for an even bigger bonus. So, when we adapted Greater Weapon Focus, we avoided adding what the core rulebook was specifically designed to not have.

This is different, in very important ways, than just not adding anything new.

But it’s also a general principle, not a hard-and-fast law. Sometimes, you know better than the people who created the core rulebook. Sometimes real-world play experience shows people want unbalanced options because they’re fun. And sometimes, you are creating something everyone knows is unofficial, so you are in an environment with different needs and responsibilities.

Starfinder clearly doesn’t want to allow people to transfer Resolve Points, or duck the drawbacks of their class features. But maybe we DO want to allow those things, at least in the context of this product, which is most likely to appeal to players who want things the PF core rulebook allows for, and Starfinder doesn’t.

And that leads to today’s feat conversions.

Like Extra Lay On Hands from yesterday, Extra Mercy functions in PF by giving extra uses of an ability that doesn’t exist in Starfinder. So how can we make this feat’s name, which suggests you are already being merciful, feel like the user is *extra* merciful?

EXTRA MERCY
Your healing touch can restore the inner resolve of your patient, at a heavy cost to you.
Prerequisites: Healing touch class feature.
Benefit: When you use the healing touch class feature, you can also expend 1 Resolve Point to grant one target of your healing touch 1 Resolve Point. Under no circumstances can the target exceed its normally maximum number of Resolve Points.

Extra Performance gives us exactly the same problem—there’s nothing you can run out of called a “performance” in Starfinder. So, what CAN we add some benefit to that makes linguistic and thematic sense? Well, envoys have abilities that could be considered performance-related, and they have a kind of ability that takes away one of their normal benefits, the expertise die. There’s nothing in Starfinder that let’s you double-dip (getting both the expertise die and a talent benefit that normally requires you to forgo it), but as a limited, flexible resource you can gain with a feat, that should be balanced (if adding a bit more complexity than Starfinder normally engages in).

EXTRA PERFORMANCE
You can call upon a deep well of performative and diplomatic skill to pull off complex tasks requiring great expertise.
Prerequisites: Expertise talent class feature.
Benefit: Twice per day you can use an expertise talent that normally requires you to forgo adding the benefit of your expertise die to a skill check, and still add the expertise die as normal for that skill.

Both of these re-conceptualize the function of the original feats into a different, though thematically-related, benefit. They also do things Starfinder’s existing rule options don’t allow for, but in a controlled way that makes sense, and shouldn’t break any aspect of the game.

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Developing to Spec: Part 13c – Feats that are SO EXTRA

This is the third section of Part Thirteen 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, and I have time over the holidays to update the list) here.

In our ongoing alphabetical march we have run into another set of feats-of-a-set-type, though in this case they’re all still just general feats. These are the feats that grant “Extra” uses of various PF class features with limited charges per day. Since almost none of those powers even exist in Starfinder, somehow creating a set of feats with the same names as those designed to just boost uses/day is going to take some creativity. (These are another great examples of feat it would be worth checking if you producer REALLY wanted to create Starfinder versions of, but this project considers that question settled, so on we go).

For example, Extra Ki has all sorts of problems. First, there is are no ki points or ki powers in Starfinder. Second, those things that are similar to ki powers have been replaced by a universal Resolve Point mechanic, which already has Extra Resolve that gives you more Resolve Points, and cannot be taken more than once.

And, in that second fact we perhaps find a crack of design space. It’s likely not something the designers of Starfinder intended (aside—nope, it sure isn’t), but it should work well enough.

EXTRA KI
You have a focused pool of resolve to draw of when accessing your trained abilities.
Prerequisites: Extra Resolve, character level 5th.
Benefit: You gain a special pool of 2 bonus Resolve Points, These can only be used to fuel class features you possess that require Resolve Point expenditure.

That solution doesn’t work with Extra Lay on Hands, of course, because there’s no similar broad category of abilities we could reference. But there IS the mystic healing touch class feature, which is close descriptively, so:

EXTRA LAY ON HANDS
You can sooth with a touch more often than most mystics.
Prerequisites: Healing touch class feature.
Benefit: You gain three additional uses of healing touch per day. In a single ten minute period, you can heal multiple adjacent creatures (expending one use of the ability for each target), though you cannot use this to apply multiple uses to a single target.

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Developing to Spec: Part 13b – Re-conceptualizing

This is the second section of Part Thirteen 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, and I have time over the holidays to update the list) here.

As the developer for this project, it’s getting clearer and clearer that a lot of feats didn’t get translated from PF to Starfinder because they are connected to game mechanics that have been abandoned or radically changed. (I already knew this, as it happens, and I wrote the first draft of the Starfinder Core Rulebook feats chapter, and remember how many things just weren’t relevant. But for purposes of this series of articles, let’s assume we’re discovering this for the first time.) That means we need to lean on re-conceptualizing those feats to use new mechanics, and possibly to have them create entirely new effects which just match the name of the original feats (and, hopefully, will appeal to the same kind of player).

The same issue comes up with Eschew Materials, since Starfinder doesn’t require material components for spellcasting unless they have a cost. We found a way to use Still Spell and Silent Spell despite Starfinder spellcasting not requiring words or gestures by re-conceptualizing what those feats meant. We didn’t tackle Eschew Materials at the same time, because it’s not officially a metamagic feat, but can we do the same thing to come up with a solution here? And, since it’s NOT a metamagic feat, can we step away from spells entirely to give it a broader utility?

ESCHEW MATERIALS
You have learned to call forth the magic essence of various substances, passing their benefits homeopathically through your form, rather than needing to apply them in traditional ways.
Benefit: As a standard action, you can apply any serum or medicinal in your possession (that you could normally draw as a move action or less) to yourself or an adjacent creature with a touch. The serum or medicinal is expended normally, you just don’t have to have it in hand to use it.

That brings us to Extra Channel, which isn’t too bad – we have a class that has a healing channel, and two extra uses seems reasonable, though since Starfinder only has one “extra” feat (Extra Resolve), and it can’t be taken more than once, we should probably not allow this to be taken more than once either.

EXTRA CHANNEL
You can channel healing energy more easily than most healer mystics.
Prerequisites: Healing channel class feature.
Benefits: Twice per day you can use the healing channel ability without expending Resolve Points to do so.

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Developing to Spec: Part 13 – Keeping It Simple

This is the first section of Part Thirteen 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, and I have time over the holidays to update the list) here.

The deeper we get into this project, the greater the temptation is going to become to create complex, weighty new rules to help us have enough design space to make a slew of new feats covering common conceptual tropes. But as much as possible, we need to keep things simple.

For example, while channeling feats are going to keep being something we have to adapt, Elemental Channel can be extra easy and simple, since we can just emulate the existing Starfinder feat Harm Undead.

ELEMENTAL CHANNEL
You can use your healing channel to harm elementals.
Prerequisites: Healing channel connection power, mystic level 1st.
Benefit: When you use your healing channel, you can expend a mystic spell slot of the highest level you can cast to also deal damage equal to the amount you heal to all elemental foes (including all creatures of the elemental type) in the area. The elementals can attempt a Will save for half damage, at your usual connection power DC.

Sometimes the problem is deeper, but that doesn’t mean the solution has to be complex. The reason Endurance doesn’t exist in Starfinder is that all of the benefits the PF version grant have been rolled into Toughness (which also does pretty much what the PF toughness feat does). That means if we want to have something that feels like Endurance, we need to come up with brand-new mechanics. There are lots of places we could go with this, but since I know that afflictions in Starfinder turn out to be pretty severe, that’s the first place I go looking for options. And, luckily, there’s a really easy way to adjust a character’s level of enduring such things.

ENDURANCE
Harsh afflictions do not bring you down quickly or easily.
Benefit: You treat the onset and frequency of afflictions that have them as being twice as long as normal.

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Developing to Spec: Part 12d – Designing to Concept

This is the fourth section of Part Twelve 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, and I have time over the holidays to update the list) here.

Sometimes when developing existing rules, you find you like a concept that an option of encounter is built around, but the core mechanics don’t work. When that happens you often “design to concept,” looking not at the mechanics you have been given, but the cool idea behind them that needs to work differently. Everything but that core, good idea gets thrown away. That same idea can apply to adapting from one game system to another–sometimes you have to throw out everything but the concept (and in this case, the name), and start over from there.

For example, Dodge is a lot like Dazzling Display in that it would work exactly as written in Starfinder, which makes us have to ask why it isn’t. The answer is clearly a case of combat math, so like Greater Weapon Focus we need to find some other solution to creating a feat that serves some defensive function, has a solid game use, and feels like dodging, but doesn’t break the game assumed range of numbers.

DODGE
Your training and reflexes allow you to avoid a wide range of threats when specifically avoiding opponents’ attacks.
Benefit: When you take the fight defensively or total defense action, you apply the bonus that action gives you to AC to your saving throws as well.

Like so many PF feats, Double Slice is designed to work with mechanics that just don’t exist in Starfinder. The name of it does lead to consider some interesting options, hwoever, and I know from my time talking to Starifner players that there is a strong desire for some kind of mechanical beneit for wielding multiple melee weapons. So, in a two-birds-with-one-stone way:

DOUBLE SLICE
You are adept at using multiple weapons to strike foes around you when they drop their guard.
Benefit: If you are wielding two or more melee weapons that are not archaic or unwieldy (including natural or unarmed attacks, if they meet those requirements), and at least is an operative weapon, you an take one additional attack of opportunity each round. Each attack of opportunity must be provoked by a different event, and must be made with a different melee weapon.

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Developing to Spec: Part 12c – Deft and Disruptive

This is the third section of Part Twelve 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, and I have time over the holidays to update the list) here.

We’ve made it to Deft Hands, which has all the issues of Athletic and Acrobatic and similar feats. Luckily we can again use the same solution—look through the relevant feats and seek some design space open for new options.

DEFT HANDS
You have exceptional manual dexterity.
Benefit: You can perform the hide object, palm object, and pick pocket tasks of Sleight of Hand as move actions.

Disruptive is interesting, because it makes a spellcaster less likely to cast defensively… and defensive casting isn’t a thing in Starfinder. But if we just take the feat to be something that makes spellcasters near you less effective, we can build something interesting that does that without trying to replicate the exact game mechanics.

DISRUPTIVE (Combat)
Your training makes it difficult for enemy spellcasters to safely cast spells near you.
Prerequisites: Base attack bonus +6.
Benefit: Creatures within the area you can threaten with melee attacks take a -1 penalty to attack rolls with spells, and the save DCs of their spells are reduced by 1. If you hit such a creature with a melee attack these penalties are doubled as long as is it in your threatened area until the beginning of your next turn.

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Developing to Spec: Part 12b – Adapting Concepts

This is the second section of Part Twelve 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, and I have time over the holidays to update the list) here.

We’ve reached Defensive Combat Training, which has the same kind of problems with game math and combat options as Greater Weapon Focus and, like it, there’s a way to preserve the concept by having it apply to avoiding penalties rather than gaining bonuses.

DEFENSIVE COMBAT TRAINING (Combat)
You have trained to keep your defenses us against tricky maneuvers, even under the worst circumstances
Benefit: You do not apply the penalty from the entangled, exhausted, fatigued, flat-footed, frightened, grappled, off-kilter, panicked, or prone conditions to your AC against combat maneuvers.

Deflect Arrows clearly got superseded by Deflect Projectiles, but we can possibly use the fact that the Starfinder version has extremely broad utility, late-level prerequisites, and a Resolve Point cost to make a much narrower, but less costly version just for “arrows.”

DEFLECT ARROWS (Combat)
You have trained in an archaic art designed to avoid archaic missile weapons.
Benefit: Once per round when an archaic ranged weapon that does kinetic damage would hit you, you may choose to have it miss you.

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Developing to Spec: Part 12 – Deadly and Deceitful

This is the first section of Part Twelve 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, and I have time over the holidays to update the list) here.

So now that we’ve done Greater Weapon Focus and Shatter Defenses, we can look at Deadly Stroke. The PF version is specifically designed to give you a kind of quick coup de grace option, but that doesn’t hold up well to Starfinder’s combat math. On the other hand, Starfinder does assume that if you have an attack bonus to high you can hit even while taking the penalty for multiattacking, you can do more damage (or significantly inconvenience them with a combat maneuver). There might be ways to allow that high-attack-bonus character to just access more damage directly if they pay a feat to do so.

And since Starfinder feats tend to be much more prerequisite-lite than PF, and the base attack bonus restricts this to higher-level characters anyway, we can do away with some of the prerequisites that aren’t directly related to the way this feat works.

DEADLY STROKE
With a well-placed strike, you can bring a swift and painful end to most foes.
Prerequisites: Greater Weapon Focus, Weapon Focus, and proficiency with the selected weapon, base attack bonus +11.
Benefit: When using a weapon you have Greater Weapon Focus with to make a single attack as a standard action, if your attack roll exceeds the target’s AC by 8 or more, the attack is a critical hit.

And that brings us to Deceitful, which has all the issues of Athletic and Acrobatic and similar feats. Luckily we can use the same solution—look through the relevant feats and seek some design space open for new options.

DECEITFUL
The art of deception is second-nature to you.
Benefit: You can use the diversion task of the Bluff skill to allow another character to use the distraction to attempt Stealth or to palm an object. If your skill check is 20 or higher, you can pass a secret message to the character you are making the distraction for informing them of your intention in creating the distraction, and no one who is distracted can attempt a Sense Motive check to learn the gist of that message.
Additionally, the DC of a Perception check to penetrate a successful disguise of yours is increased by +2.

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Developing to Spec: Part 11d – Design Tricks

This is the second section of  Part Eleven 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.

So, Deadly Stroke is our next feat in the alphabetical list of things to convert from PF to Starfinder, but it has as prerequisites Greater Weapon Focus and Shatter Defenses, two PF feats that aren’t in Starfinder, and that are on our list to convert, but that we haven’t converted yet. So, it makes more sense to do those feats first, and then come back for Deadly Stroke.

So, Greater Weapon Focus has the same issue as Combat Expertise and Deadly Aim — it’s a PF feat build off a different mathematical assumption than Starfinder’ combat uses. On the other hand, it’s hard to see how to turn Greater Weapon Focus into anything more than bonuses to hit targets… it just doesn’t do anything else, and not much else is thematically appropriate.

But there is a trick up my designer’s sleeve. It’s not perfect, but when we HAVE to convert something like this, and we CAN’T just give bonuses without breaking the game, sometimes we can reduce penalties instead.

Reducing penalties doesn’t change a character’s maximum attack value, so they aren’t just more effective all the time, but it does allow them to retain more accuracy when they normally would lose it. It keeps the character within the range of expected numbers for Starfinder combat, while still allowing them to be better than expected in specific circumstances. Since Starfinder allows you to take penatlies to make multiple attacks (and this is almost always more effective in terms of total damage-per-round) we don’t want to just allow a character to reduce all penalties, since that could be used to almost always make a more effective damage-per-round choice than the normal maximum. Luckily for us there is another source of well-defined penalties in Starfinder–conditions.

GREATER WEAPON FOCUS (Combat)
You have become a master of a particular weapon type.
Prerequisites: Proficiency and Weapons Focus with selected weapon type, base attack bonus +8.
Benefit: Chose one weapon type (small arms, longarms, heavy weapons, etc.) with which you have Weapon Focus. When making attacks with these weapons, you ignore penalties to attack rolls from the entangled, exhausted, fatigued, frightened, off-target, and shaken conditions. 

That should appeal to weapon-focused characters with lots of feats to spare (such as soldier). If we weren’t specifically converting these to Starfinder feats it might be worth making this a soldier gear boost, but it’s not unbalanced to let any character take it, so we’ll leave it alone.

That brings us to Shatter Defenses. It works fine as-is (though we should note flat-footed is a condition). It does overlap with an operative’s trick-attack a bit, but we can incorporate off-kilter as an additional effect if the target is or becomes flat-footed, so an operative working with a character that has this feat still sees synergy in their attacks (another design trick for when rules have PC abilities overlapping).

SHATTER DEFENSES (Combat)
Your skill with your chosen weapon leaves opponents unable to defend themselves if you strike them when their defenses are already compromised.
Prerequisites: Weapon Focus, Dazzling Display, base attack bonus +6, proficiency with weapon.
Benefit: Any shaken, frightened, or panicked opponent hit by you this round gains the flat-footed condition until the end of your next turn. If the target is already flat-footed, or becomes flat-footed during that duration, it is off-kilter during this time instead. (Targets are off-kilter even if not in 0-G, but may automatically right themselves with a move action if this is the case).

So NEXT week, we can go back and pick up Deadly Stroke!

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