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Hold-Out Grenadier Feat, for Starfinder

Grenades in Starfinder are specifically designed to work in-game. That is, their cost, range, and power is scaled in such a way as to make them useful, but not something that is going to end an encounter with one action or allow minor NPCs to kill all the PCs with one lucky throw. That is, of course, arguably not how grenades work in the real world. That’s the “game” part of a roleplaying game.

But there are other factors as well when scaling grenades compared to reality. They are heavy and expensive per use, compared to other ranged counterparts, and real-world fatigue is more complex than just a bulk or credit system. They can be unpredictable in exact aiming, pose a potential danger to the user or their allies, break or detonate when damaged on your person in combat, and often require you to expose yourself more from cover than using a rifle does. None of these factors are major enough to call for complex rules to model them in Starfinder, but they are a reason it’s not common for individual soldiers to carry 20 grenades with them.

So, is there a way to give players the big-boom-to-save-our-butts experience, without breaking the game so grenades become the go-to solution for every combat? Well, yes, but since we are trying to overcome a gamist issue, it’s going to require a gamist solution with some limitations that have to do with fun gameplay for everyone rather than modeling reality. Not everyone will like that, but for those who do, here’s a feat to become the guy who has one cinematically-impressive grenade on their belt for when the situation calls for a big boom.

(Art by Sarah Hollund)

Hold-Out Grenadier (Combat)
You keep one bad boy ready, in case things go badly south.
Prerequisites: Proficiency with grenades and heavy weapons
Benefit: Once a day, when one of more of your allies is out of Stamina Points (or is down to 25% of their HP, for allies that lack a SP score), and you have access to your normal selection of gear (so not if captures searched and weapons removed, or when you have unable to resupply since last using this ability, and so on), as a full-round action you may throw a hold-out grenade that you keep for emergency situations.

The grenade is a grenade of your choice with an item level no greater than your item level +2, and you add your level to damage dealt by the grenade. If the grenade does dice of damage, it deals one additional die of the same size its damage is calculated in (thus a 4d6 grenade becomes a 5d6 grenade). The grenade cannot be one that does not directly deal damage (such as a smoke grenade, flash grenade, or grenade that summons a creature).

The round after throwing the grenade, you cannot make an attack, attack action, full-attack action, cast any spell unless it is harmless, or use any ability that requires an attack roll or forces opponents to make a saving throw.

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Owen Explains It All –Minor Allies for Starfinder

Before we get to any OGL content, an editorial aside:

First, this blog has spoilers for The Book of Boba Fett (and, by extension though less so, The Mandalorian). So if you want to avoid those, don’t read this.

Second, you may be wondering why is this tagged as an “Owen Explains It All” post, when that’s very unlike my normal marketing tone? Well, because this links into a show from the BAMF podcast I’m on, titled “Owen Explains It All!“. We do an episode every two weeks, picking new things from the zeitgeek to use as inspiration for game material, specifically the Starfinder Roleplaying Game.

We have a logo and everything!

One of the thing I have found fascinating about The Book of Boba Fett is that it has focused on empire-building, rather than being a personal badass. I have idea about why that is (and why some people dislike it as an arc for this character), but that doesn’t really matter when I am discussing gamifyable elements of the show.

Specifically, Boba Fett has a number of minor minions he’s picked up, from droids to Gamorrean Guards to mod bikers, who assist him in social and combat encounters. None of them are a match for him or his significant enemies, but they can tilt a close situation to his favor, and buy him time when he’s at a serious disadvantage. It leads me to want to have simply rules for how useful a few folks below your own skill level to back you up can be, without slowing down gameplay by tracking the positioning and health and gear of numerous NPCs just so they can have a small impact on encounters.

And all of that leads me to Minor Allies, as OGL content

Minor Allies

Minor allies are people who aren’t on the same level as you and your adventuring partners, but are hearty and skilled enough to be of some assistance. A GM may use minor allies as a way to boost PCs for a major encounter (“While none of the ship’s crew are hardened marines, they will back you up as you attempt to retake the bridge.”), as a reward other than just credits (“Your willingness to risk your life to help the miners of Bluroc 17 has convinced a few of their roudier citizens to follow you and work toward your goals.”), or just as a feat a PC can take if they want to have some folks supporting them.

If your character has minor allies, you gains 1 effective minor ally, plus one per six character levels you possess. Minor allies are very limited in what they can do, and their exact position and health are not tracked. Each round a minor ally can attempt to aid another, engage in harrying fire, or grant covering fire. There bonus for any of these actions is equal to half your character level. If a minor ally fails in any of their checks, it indicates they are too fatigued, injured, or low on gear to continue, and they stop being able to assist you.

A minor ally can also be taken out of play by any significant enemy as a standard action, or by any attack (from any source) targeting them that hits an AC equal to 10+ your character level. A minor ally taken out this way is too injured to do anything helpful, but still able to remove themselves from danger.

You regain the use of one minor ally per day (with minor allies healing up and tagging along but staying out of trouble until they are recovered enough to be helpful again).

Expanded Content

In addition to these minor allies rules, I created an option for Afterthrusters, as ystem designed to allow a starship a burst of extra speed… at the risk of damaging the ship. This is bonus content for my Patrons, and is presented exclusively at my Patreon. You can join for a monthly cost of less than a cup of coffee!

Guard Dog Feat for d20 Games

Look, guard dogs are a common element of fantasy and feudal adventures, but they can add a lot of hassle for bookkeeping and worrying about their well-being in a ttRPG. So, maybe we just let people take a feat so they can have a dog that barks when assassins creep up in the night, and otherwise don’t worry about it?

This can also be used as a group benefit a GM passes out as a reward for PCs buying a stronghold, or saving an animal, or having an official group name and working together.

This is written to work in a number of d20-baed ttRPGs, so the formatting and language may need to be tweaked to perfectly match the exact game you are playing.

If they don't keep dogs, maybe.
(I *love* The 13th Warrior)

Guard Dog

You have a guard dog. It doesn’t put itself at risk during combat, does not make attacks, and just serves as an early waring system when you are stationary. You cannot use it to send messages, threaten prisoners, carry equipment, or any other task.

As long as you have access to your normal equipment you are expected to have access to your guard dog, unless the GM specifically says otherwise. While the GM can have your guard dog involved in other matters if they wish, doing so is specifically under the purview of the GM’s discretion. This game mechanics of this feat provide for a guard animal’s senses to help protect you out of combat, and in return for expending the resource of the feat and limiting the animal to early warning, you are not required to track its exact location, hit points, food needs, and so on. If the guard dog needs special accommodations to survive in the area you are adventuring, and everyone else in the party has them, you are considered to have managed to cobble together what the guard dog needs.

When you are camping or otherwise staying in one place for a long period of time (such as hanging out in a tavern, sleeping, having a picnic, crafting objects in a shop, and so on), the guard dog can make a Perception check with a bonus equal to half your maximum possible Perception bonus without any spells or equipment augmenting it. The guard dog can see, smell, or hear threats. If the guard dog perceives a threat, it barks loudly, alerting everyone nearby who then may act as if they had successfully made a Perception check to notice the threat.

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Barbaric Axe Fighting, for Pathfinder 1st edition

Jacob Blackmon noted yesterday that there are a LOT of illustrations of barbaric characters fighting with two axes. He’s right, and I also noticed that often that art shows them using 2-handed axes in each hand.

I thought it was a shame it’s not something the 1st edition Pathfinder RPG supports well as a character concept.

And then, this idea hit me.

(Art by Konstantin Gerasimov)

You have mastered a vicious axe-fighting technique.
Prerequisites: Martial weapon proficiency, rage class feature, Str 13.
Benefit: You can fight with two weapons you are proficient with from the axes weapon group, one in each hand. You can do this even if one or both is a two-handed weapon (you can use each 1-handed, without taking any special penalty for doing so, otherwise using 1-handed weapon rules). You are not considered to be two-weapon fighting, and do not gain any extra attacks of benefits of two-weapon fighting. If you gain multiple attacks per round from a high base attack bonus or haste effect, you can choose which weapon to make each attack with.
Additionally, when you make an attack roll where the d20 show a result 1 or 2 less than your threat range, your attack is a lesser critical threat. Roll to confirm the lesser critical threat, just as if it was a normal critical threat. If your lesser critical threat confirms, your attack does double damage. You do not gain any other benefit you would normally gain with a critical hit, and any effect that would prevent a critical hit from being effect also negates your lesser critical hit.
Special: A character that gains rage powers may select this as a rage power if they meet the prerequisites. It functions exactly as noted above, even when the character is not raging.

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GammaFinder Mutations for Starting Characters

We have GammaFinder rules for mutations as a character emphasis, and for growing mutations as your gain levels, but nothing that just lets you be a typical mutant as a 1st-level character (though standard GammaFinder characters don’t start at 1st level anyway). That seems like a gap.

So, let’s fix it!

Alternate Racial Feature: Mutant

PA Winged Woman
Art by Bert Folsom

You are a mutated version of your base species. You gain one Mutant Ability for which you meet the prerequisites. Your mutation replaces the following racial feature, based on your species, as noted below:
Core SpeciesAndroid (upgrade slot), Human (bonus feat), Kasatha (natural grace), Lashunta (lashunta magic), Shirren (communalism), Vesk (armor savant), Ysoki (moxie)
Legacy SpeciesDwarf (traditional enemy), Elf (elven magic), Gnome (gnome magic), Half-Elf (adaptability), Half-Orc (orc ferocity), Halfling (sure-footed)
Other Species– Astrazoan (rapid revival), Bantrid (balanced), Borai (resist energy drain), Ghoran (past-life knowledge), Haan (slow fall), Hobgoblin (battle hardened), Kalo (cold resistance), Maraquoi (blindsense), Nuar (maze mind), Orc (fierce survivalist), Pahtra (wary), Skittermander (grappler), Strix (nightborn), Uplfted Bear (limited telepathy).

New Feat

You do not fall within the most common genetic baseline for your species.
Benefit: Select one Mutant Ability for which you meet the prerequisites. You gain this mutant ability.

PA Alien Women

art by warpaintcobra

Filing Off the Serial Numbers
One of the advantages of using the Starfinder rules for GammaFinder is that the game comes with dozens of alien races ready to use. A GM should generally allow a player to select one of these species to represent a mutant (and if the race is humanoid, change their subtype if appropriate). for example, a kalo could be used for a mutant human who is adapted to the cold and water, losing the kalo subtype and gaining the human subtype to represent their heritage.
Similarly once a character has a mutation, GMs are encouraged to allow players to describe the character physical appearance as anything they wish within reason, even if it falls well outside the normal parameters for that species’ vital statistics. If a player wants a nuar to look like a boarfolk, with bright green hair and six tusks, that’s not really any weirder than an albino bullfolk.

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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.

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.

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.

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 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?

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).

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.

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 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.

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:

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.

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 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?

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.

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.

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.

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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