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Developing to Spec: Part 10d: Down the Rabbit Hole

This is the fourth section of Part Ten 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.

While we were going through the PF core rulebook feats in order, we’ve once again hit a whole category of feats –item creation feats. And I had no plan for handling that. So I came up with what I thought was a clever item creation feat for Brew Potion and Craft Magic Arms and Armor. The I applied it to Craft Rod and Craft Staff, which was weird. Then Craft Wand and Craft Wondrous Items, which was weirder. Now we just have Forge Ring and Scribe Scroll left.

The further I go down their weird rabbit whole of having Craft Wands make hybrid items, Craft Staff make technological ones, and Craft Rods do augmentation, the more I doubt my choice to do things that way. But I’m already most of the way down the rabbit hole, so I’m going to tackle the last two of these feats, and think about how I like the full set as I move on with other feats next week.

FORGE RING
You’ve mastered the nearly lost art of magic ring forging, and can aply it to creating similarly useful objects of magical power.
Prerequisites: Mysticism 7 ranks.
Benefit: This feat interacts with magic items that do not use charges (see the rules on Charges in the Magic Item section of the Equipment Chapter of the Starfinder Core Rulebook). Over the course of ten minutes you can break down a number of such magic items with a total item level no greater than your character level. You receive half these item’s credit value in UPBs.
Additionally with one hour of work, you can turn UPBs into a number of such magic items up to a total of item levels no greater than your character level. None of these items may have an item level greater than your character level.
Using this feat for either function requires you have access to an arcane laboratory. Alternatively you can do this with nothing more than the UPBs and a relatively quite space to work in, but when you do so you are limited to objects with an item level at least 2 below your character level.

SCRIBE SCROLL
You are adept at taking magic energy and freezing it time, a process that was once done using ink and parchment, and now generally involves spell gems.
Prerequisites: Mysticism 1 rank.
Benefit: This feat interacts with magic items that have charges that never refresh (see the rules on Charges in the Magic Item section of the Equipment Chapter of the Starfinder Core Rulebook), except serums and spell ampules which fall under Brew Potion). Over the course of ten minutes you can break down a number of such magic items with a total item level no greater than your character level. You receive half these item’s credit value in UPBs.
Additionally with one hour of work, you can turn UPBs into a number of such magic items up to a total of item levels no greater than your character level. None of these items may have an item level greater than your character level.
Using this feat for either function requires you have access to an arcane laboratory. Alternatively you can do this with nothing more than the UPBs and a relatively quite space to work in, but when you do so you are limited to objects with an item level at least 2 below your character level.

PATREON
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Developing to Spec: Part 10b: When The Easy Answer Is WEIRD

This is the second section of Part Ten 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.

While we were going through the PF core rulebook feats in order, we’ve once again hit a whole category of feats –item creation feats. And I had no plan for handling that. So I came up with what I thought was a clever item creation feat for Brew Potion and Craft Magic Arms and Armor, and I can see how it’ll work well for Scribe Scroll and Craft Wondrous Item. Those are all well and good. Even Forge Ring is probably going to be okay.

But the NEXT feat I need to convert is Craft Rod. And there are Craft Staff and Craft Wand lurking out there, as well. So we need to get creative.

Looking at the types of equipment in Starfinder, I can map Scribe Scroll to spell gems, which serve the same function. I can map Forge Ring to magic rings, and Craft Wondrous Item to other classes of magic items. That still leaves augmentations, computers, technological items, hybrid items, vehicles, other purchases, and (if I got desperate) starships.

I’m going to discard computers, vehicles, and starships from the craft system immediately. Even ignoring how much those don’t feel like magic crafted items, the idea of letting someone make a computer in 10 minutes, which could then grant access to skills for example, seems clearly adventure-breaking.

I can see using Craft Staff for technological items (playing up that staves were, technically, weapons as well as magic items). Using Craft Wand for hybrid items is a stretch… but maybe I can find a way to have it make sense with the flavor text. That leaves me augmentations for Craft Rod, which again feels weird, but it IS a good game mechanical match.

This, by the way, is the point in a design process where if I was working in an office with other people employed by the same company, I’d lean over to whoever was next to me (for Starfinder, that was usually Rob McCreary or Joe Pasini), and ask them if this idea was TOO weird. failing that, if I had a developer or publisher to run it by, I’d ask for their input.

But since I am doing this project as a solo freelancer, I am on my own. It feels like it might be too weird… but it also works, so I’ll give it a go and see how I feel after the project is done. This is one of the things that can happen when you run into a major design challenge without having a solid plan to handle it, and just bull forward with the first thing that seems workable. (This is also one of the reasons a lot of game companies have developers — just because I decide this weird answer is okay doesn’t mean a publisher will agree with me. Developers help keep a game line;s tone consistent.)

CRAFT ROD
You have mastered the ancient art of using magic and sliding, interconnected rods and gears to make functioning, complex machines to accomplish specific tasks.
Prerequisites: Life Science 9 ranks, Physical Science 9 ranks.
Benefit: Over the course of ten minutes you can break down a number of unimplanted augmentations with a total item level no greater than your character level. You receive half these item’s credit value in UPBs.
Additionally with one hour of work, you can turn UPBs into a number of augmentations up to a total of item levels no greater than your character level. None of these items may have an item level greater than your character level. They may be unimplanted, or you may create them automatically implanted in a willing target that is able to have an augmentation added to the appropriate system.
Using this feat for either function requires you have access to an arcane laboratory or medical bay. Alternatively you can do this with a medkit, but are limited to augmentations with an item level at least 2 below your character level.

CRAFT STAFF
You have mastered centuries of philosophy and techniques on using magic to create technological items. Though this ancient art began with just staffs, you can use it to produce the vast array of technology you are familiar with.
Prerequisites: Engineering 11 ranks, Physical Science 11 ranks.
Benefit: Over the course of ten minutes you can break down a number of technological items with a total item level no greater than your character level. You receive half these item’s credit value in UPBs.
Additionally with one hour of work, you can turn UPBs into a number of technological items up to a total of item levels no greater than your character level. None of these items may have an item level greater than your character level.
Using this feat for either function requires you have access to an tech workshop or vehicle bay. Alternatively you can do this with an appropriate toolkit, but are limited to objects with an item level at least 2 below your character level.

Yep, those are weird. But, at least right now, they also feel cool to me.

I’m keeping them for now, and moving on with this project!

PATREON
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Developing to Spec: Part 10: When You Have No Plan

This is a Part Ten 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.

While we were going through the PF core rulebook feats in order, we’ve once again hit a whole category of feats –item creation feats, beginning with Brew Potion–that play on game mechanics from PF that just don’t exist in Starfinder.

And, confession time, I have no plan for these.

I’ve known they were coming, in vague terms, since I began this project. And I’ve know they were the next thing to be tackled since last week, when I discovered I’d skipped a few things when I diverged from alphabetical order to tackle critical feats. So I have had lots of time to casually ponder this design issue. That often brings a number of ideas for how to work around some tricky bit of game design.

This time? Nothing.

Obviously I COULD just say I’ll do them later, and give myself more time. In some ways, that’d be the smart thing to do. But I want these articles to show how I tackle tricky development and design issues, so let’s pretend I don’t have any more time. I am on deadline. The project lead insists these be done, and I am out of time. So, since nothing else has sparked a good idea, it’s time to take an extreme measure.

It’s time to read messageboards.

I try to avoid this as a way to look for inspiration on specific questions, though I often do read game boards to get a feel for what players of a given game are thinking. But I am aware messageboards are not representative of all of a game’s players, and they can often have toxic elements I’d rather not dwell in. On top of that, when I am stumped on an issue I need to be careful not to plagiarize ideas I run into. Looking for inspiration is fine–taking someone else’s actual work and passing it off as my own isn’t.

So, reading through some Starfinder messagebaords today (there’s a reason this article got pasted so late in the day), I find the following common complaints about item creation in Starfinder.

It takes too long.
It doesn’t save you any money.
You have to have a big chunk of your wealth locked into UPBs instead of gear if you want to be able to craft while far from civilization.

Now I’m not going to play with costs at all. Equipment economy in -finder games is highly tuned for a reason, and adjusting it can lead to imbalances quickly, But there may be some room for solutions in the other issues.

BREW POTION
You have mastered ancient alchemical and magical arts of potable and potent liquids.
Prerequisites: Life Science 3 ranks, Medicine 3 ranks.
Benefit: Over the course of ten minutes you can break down a number of posions, medicinals, spell ampules, and serums with a total item level no greater than your character level. You receive half these item’s credit value in UPBs.
Additionally with one hour of work, you can turn UPBs into a number of poisons, medicinals, spell ampules, and serums up to a total of item levels no greater than your character level. None of these items may have an item level greater than your character level.
Using this feat for either function requires you have access to an arcane laboratory, medical bay, or synthesis bay. Alternatively you can do this with an advanced medkit or chemalyzer, but are limited to objects with an item level at least 2 below your character level.

Okay… that seems like a usable feat! It’s focused, but it fixes some of the problems people have with crafting. And it’s optional after all — if a player doesn’t think it’s worth it for them, they don’t have to take it.

Can we do the same with Craft Magic Arms and Armor?

CRAFT MAGIC ARMS AND ARMOR
You have mastered ancient magical techniques to create and adjust armor and weaponry.
Prerequisites: Engineering 5 ranks, Physical Science 5 ranks.
Benefit: Over the course of ten minutes you can break down a number of weapons, suits of armor, shields, or fusion seals with a total item level no greater than your character level. You receive half these item’s credit value in UPBs.
Additionally with one hour of work, you can turn UPBs into a number of weapons, suits of armor, shields, and fusion seals up to a total of item levels no greater than your character level. None of these items may have an item level greater than your character level.
Using this feat for either function requires you have access to an arcane laboratory, hangar bay, or tech workshop. Alternatively you can do this with an appropriate toolkit, but are limited to objects with an item level at least 2 below your character level.

Well, it sure is a feat. We’ll see if this concept survives going through all the item creation feats!

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!

 

Centaur PC Race for Starfinder… and more.

CENTAURS IN STARFINDER
I have always loved the idea of centaur player characters. I suspect my love started with “Bridge of Sorrows” by Denis Beauvais, which was the cover of Dragon Magazine #92 (TSR, December 1984). Or maybe to goes back a tad earlier, to the Xanth novel Centaur Aisle, which I read in 1982, the same year I first encountered D&D, and RPGs in general.

I definitely want centaur PCs for my Really Wild West setting hack, which means I need rules for playing them as PCs in the Starfinder Roleplaying Game.

Ability Adjustments
Centaurs are powerfully built and in tune with their surroundings, but their hybrid form does come with drawbacks. Some centaurs are slightly awkward, having the brain of a biped, but the body of a quadruped. Others are delicate, their thin ankles and strange doubled internal organs leaving them prone to injury and ailments. A few are impatient and have little taste for complex calculations, preferring direct action and simple solutions whenever possible.
+2 Strength, +2 Wisdom, -2 to Dexterity, Constitution, or Intelligence.

Size and Type
Centaurs are monstrous humanoids.Centaurs vary in size from halfling-scale torsos on pony equine bodies, to mighty human or even ogrelike torsos on mighty warhorse equine bodies. At character creation, a centaur PC decided if they are Medium or large. They use equipment as Medium characters in either case.

Hit Points
6

Darkvision
Centaurs have darkvision with a range of 60 feet.

Humanoidlike
Centaurs are close enough to nonmonstrous humanoids that they can be affected by spells and abilities that affect humanoids, but do not affect monstrous humanoids. Centaurs gain a +4 racial bonus to saving throws (if any) against such effects.

Gallop
Centaurs have a land speed of 40 feet, but treat it as a speed of 20 feet when determining their movement using Athletics to climb or swim. A centaur gains a +2 bonus to AC when charging (which normally just offsets the -2 penalty to AC for charging). When a centaur succeeds at a bull rush combat maneuver, they can move their target 5 feet farther than normal.

Natural Weapons
Centaurs are always considered armed. They can deal 1d3 lethal damage with unarmed strikes and the attack doesn’t count as archaic. Centaurs gain a unique weapon specialization with their natural weapons at 3rd level, allowing them to add 1–1/2 × their character level to their damage rolls for their natural weapons (instead of just adding their character level, as usual).

Quadruped
Centaurs are quadrupeds, which gives them some advantages and a few drawbacks. They take -2 penalties to Acrobatics checks to tumble and Athletics checks to climb. When determining their bulk limits, centaurs add half their Constitution score to their Strength. Centaurs gain a +2 racial bonus to their KAC against bull rush and reposition combat maneuvers. A centaur can carry one creature of its own size, or two of at least one size smaller, without counting them against the centaur’s bulk limit.

RWW-Centaurs-background-01

CENTAURS IN THE REALLY WILD WEST
In the pulp-scifi-western-fantasy-world of the Really Wild West, centaurs appear in most ancient civilizations of western Asia, northern Africa, and eastern Europe. They often appear as separate tribes, no less advanced or civilized than the other species around them, and often seen as wiser and more scientifically advanced than the ancient cultures that wrote about them. They are an accepted part of the history of those places, and have become common throughout Africa, Europe and northern Asia.

However, centaurs are not generally huge fans of sea travel. This dislike is not pathological, but practical. Centaurs are excellent overland travelers, but at best mediocre swimmers, and many are large enough to make building ships to accommodate them problematic. In previous centuries, they simply used Roman roads and Asian trade routes to spread their kingdoms far and wide, often as the most feared and effective of cavalry. But the rise of sea travel in empire-building has left most centaur nations shrinking, and often joining larger bipedal nations in mostly-friendly alliances and unifications.

As a consequence, centaurs are not particularly common in the Americas, as their lack of a tradition of sea travel simply has centaur businesses and families less interested in the kinds of roles that have brought people from other nations to American shores. This in turn has caused most major North and South American to develop without taking centaur needs into account. Buildings are not designed to be accessed by hooved people up to seven feet tall, and even centaurs small enough to fit in American buildings find themselves with few places to stand in settings where everyone else sits.

Most centaurs in the Americas find they are just more comfortable in frontier towns or pure wilderness. So while there are not many centaurs on the continents in general, a disproportionate number of those who are present take to Wild West living, where their speed and carrying capacity, and long tradition of dedication and excellence, are seen as more than enough to justify making a few changes to the local saloon, or having on or two of the hotel’s stable stalls be well-appointed rooms, as well.

CENTAURS PF2
So, PF1 already has solid rules for centaur PCs, but what if you wanted to play a centaur PC in PF2, or 5e?

Hit Points
10

Size
Medium

Speed
30 feet

Ability Boosts
Strength
Wisdom
Free

Ability Flaw
Dexterity

Languages
Common
Sylvan
Additional languages equal to your Intelligence modifier (if it’s positive). Choose from Aklo, Elvish, Gnomish, Goblin, Jotun, Orcish, and any other languages to which you have access (such as the languages prevent to your region).

Traits
Centaur
Humanoid

Darkvision
You can see in darkness and dim light just as well as you can see in bright light. though your vision in darkness is black and white.

Centaur Heritages
Centaurs have a vast number of ethnic differences, but also can trace their linneage back to a few early tribes that still often produce very different

Kentoroi
You are Large, rather than medium, and have a thick, sturdy appearance. You may have small tusks, or pointed ears. You gain the orc trait and your bulk limits are increased by +6. You can select orc feats whenever you gain an ancestry feat.

Lapith
Your head, arms and torso are extremely humanlike. You gain the human trait and are trained in one skill of your choice. You can select human feats whenever you gain an ancestry feat.

While for a full suppliment we’d obviously want some cool centaur-specific ancestry feats, doing things this way ensures that as the PF2 game adds new options for humans and orcs, our centaur PCs will automatically gain expanded options as well.

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

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

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

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

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

Yes. Yes, they should have.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PATREON
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Developing to Spec: Part 9: Keeping It Simple

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

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

But let’s try not to.

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

Simple.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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