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Owen Explains It All — Command Voice and Sonic Weapons for Starfinder

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

First, this blog has spoilers for Dune — the book, both movies, and the miniseries. 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!

If you haven’t already gone and watched the October 25, 2021 episode, we talk about various version of Frank Herbert’s Dune. Specifically, how it’s very much a skill-based setting, with the Voice, Prana-bindu training, and the Weirding Way as taught and learned abilities. We also spoke about David Lynch’s 1984 Dune movie, which replaced much of that with raw technology, in the form of “Weirding Modules,” which still required training as the words used impacted its effectiveness.

And all of that leads me to Command Voice and Sonic Weapons, as OGL content

Command Voice Feats

The brain of any sentient is designed to take in information, process it, decide what it means, and use that to form a mental picture of what reality is and what actions should be taken. Normally, speech is processed as a form of information that must be carefully analyzed and considered before being accepted. However, with extensive training it is possible to change the pitch and intensity of the spoken word such that short commands bypass a brain’s normal analysis portion of taking in information, and accept it as a decision made by the target’s own mind. This is known as the Command Voice.

Command Voice
You can cause the weak-willed to briefly obey you.
Prerequisites: Charisma 13, 5 ranks of Diplomacy, 5 ranks of Intimidate.
Benefit: You can expend 1 Resolve Point to use the bully task of the Intimidate skill as a full action, rather than the normal 1 minute. The creature is only bulled for 1 round, plus 1 round for every 5 by which your check exceeds the DC.
Special: An envoy can take Command Voice as an envoy skill expertise, without meeting its prerequisites.

Greater Command Voice
Your command over can cause the weak-willed to briefly obey you.
Prerequisites: Charisma 15+, Command Voice, 8 ranks of Diplomacy, 8 ranks of Intimidate.
Benefit: You can use Command Voice as a standard action (though it still requires you to expend a Resolve Point). Alternatively you can use Command Voice without expending a Resolve Point, but take a -10 penalty to your Intimidate check when you do so. When using Command Voice, if you exceed the normal DC by 5, the target does not realize you bullied it and it’s attitude towards you does not change as a result of it. If you exceed the normal DC by 10, the bullying lasts for 1 minute.
Special: A character with 5 or more envoy levels and Command Voice can take Greater Command Voice as an envoy skill expertise without meeting its prerequisites.

Sonic Weapons

Faiet Module

Faiet Modules are hybrid magic item weapons that use the power of specific words or sounds, and converts them into killing energy. They are the ultimate expression of the Faiet Way, a method of influencing and controlling creatures through the use of specific tones of voice and combinations of phrases that bypass much of the psychological defense of a target. However, Faiet Modules take those sounds and convert them into physical harm far beyond some tool of coercion or deceit.

(Faiet Module art by Jacob Blackmon)

In addition to a small hand-held emitter, a Faiet Module has a throat mic, which must be worn to use the weapon. The price is included in the price of the module, and it can be added to armor without taking up an upgrade slot. If the operator of the Faiet Module is for some reason unable to speak or make a sound as loud as a shouted word, the module cannot be used to attack,

The results from attacking with a Faiet Module are only partly about accuracy and combat acumen. A great deal of the successful use of a such a module depends on the ability to accurately create the needed killing words, and to do so in rhythm with the sounds of a conflict. As a result, despite being small arms Faiet Modules cannot be used to perform trick attacks (the misdirection required for trick attacks is not compatible with the voice control and forthrightness needed to create effective killing words), and rather than the normal Weapon Specialization a character gains bonus damage equal to their ranks in Bluff, Culture, Diplomacy, or Intimidate (whichever is higher). A character that has no ranks in Bluff, Culture, Diplomacy, or Intimidate can’t use a Faiet Module at all.

Faiet Modules target EAC, despite doing both sonic and bludgeoning damage. Additionally Faiet Modules have the sound-dependent weapon special property.

New Weapon Special Properties

Sound-dependent: If a target cannot hear you when you attack with a sound-dependent weapon, it cannot be harmed any sonic damage dealt by that weapon. Thus, for example, they don’t deal sonic damage in a vacuum. However, if the weapon does more than one damage type (such as a Faeit Module dealing both sonic and bludgeoning damage), the weapons can still deal the non-sonic portion of the damage.

Sonic Small Arms
WEAPONLVL$DAMRNGCRITCapacity/
Usage
BULKSpecial
Faiet Module, Mummer14001d6 S & B30 ft.Wound20/1LSound-dependent
Faiet Module, Eulogy42,5001d10 S & B40 ft.Wound20/1LSound-dependent
Faiet Module, Epitaph76,5002d6 S & B40 ft.Wound20/1LSound-dependent
Faiet Module, Lament1128,0004d6 S & B40 ft.Wound40/2LSound-dependent
Faiet Module, Dirge15100,0006d6 S & B40 ft.Wound40/2LSound-dependent
Faiet Module, Requiem19625,0009d6 S & B50 ft.Wound100/4LSound-dependent

Expanded Post

This is an Expanded Post, with the rules for Warpboxing (another item inspired by the same sources) available to my Patrons, who provide me with the support that makes these posts possible. If you aren’t already a member of my Patreon, sign up and all the Expanded Posts to date become available!

The Traumatic Weapon Property for Starfinder/ShadowFinder

Sometimes, you have to decide if an idea is worth the mental load adding it causes the game to gain.

Stamina Points and Hit Points are wildly unrealistic simulations of how creatures and objects take damage. After all, people who are stabbed once sometimes die, people who are stabbed 30+ times sometimes survive. Similar numbers are true for gunshot wounds, and often the people involved are sufficiently typical there’s no reason to suspect they are secretly 11th level heroes with a vast pool of damage points… or that the people who kill with a single attack are pulling off massively high-level trick attacks.

But SP and HP aren’t efforts to model reality. They are gameist rules designed to make it easy to know if a character is being hurt, near death, or dead. Often the situations they create are pretty clearly at odds with typical reality, even if possibly within the realm of things that have happened a few times in medical history. But the rules do a good job of indicated levels or harm, allowing resource management to help track available healing and rest times, and allowing players a metric by which they can gauge the threat posed by a wide range of threats.

Normally, you look at changing rules to make them easier, faster, more realistic, or more “fun,” (which can, admittedly, encapsulate a lot of potential elements). While it would be pointless to try to make weapon damage more “realistic” in a system using SP/HP, due to the inherent gameist nature of that system, there is, however, another potential reason to have firearms work differently than melee weapons in Starfinder (or a compatible modern version, perhaps ShadowFinder) – genre emulation. While lots of supernatural monster hunters in genre fiction have shotguns and pistols, others with access to such materials restrict themselves to knives, axes, and wooden stakes, and go so far as to claim firearms never help.

And there IS a difference between the way a bullet damages a soft target and the way it damages a hard one. The vast speeds of bullets means they often deform and warp soft tissues in a much larger area than the wound track, whereas a stiletto punching the same size whole in someone lacks that additional damage mechanic.

So, maybe we want bullets (and maybe some other weapons) to work differently than other damage-dealers… sometimes. Kinda.

So, what if we create a new weapon property, called “traumatic”?

Traumatic: A traumatic weapon is one that does a significant amount of soft-tissue and propagating damage, such as a gunshot’s effects through hydrostatic shock. When used to damage a target that has no hardness and no DR, traumatic weapons deal additional damage equal to the listed amount (such as “traumatic +1d6”).

Kinda like Boost and some other traits, traumatic gives you more damage, but only in specific circumstances. I’d have to do a lot of math and comparisons to know exactly how much extra damage traumatic can add at any given level… and I’m not sure it’s worth it

Sometimes you have to craft a rule before you know if you like it. I’m really on the fence with this one. So I can try to adjust it until I like it, ir discard it and start over… or just decide it’s a bad idea.

But even fi I do that, I’m saving it in my archived files. Sometimes a bad idea for one game or function turns out to be just what you need for another project.

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Designing Weapons for DungeonFinder, a theoretical all-fantasy Starfinder Hack

Starfinder is not just “Pathfinder in space,” it’s its own ttRPG with specific changes (designed to be improvements and/or simplifications of PF1 rules, or to cover issues common in science-fantasy but not traditional fantasy settings). Some people genuinely prefer its core game system to that of PF1, PF2, or 5e, totally aside from the genre and setting (I’m not claiming that’s a MAJORITY of people mind you, or even a big minority, just that such a group exists.)

One of the things that means is, it would be possible to design a pure-fantasy version of Starfinder, specifically for doing the kind of dragon-slaying and dungeon-delving of a typical d20 fantasy RPG. For the moment, let’s call that theoretical game, DungeonFinder.

Ideally, DungeonFinder would be 100% compatible with Starfinder, so if you *wanted* to have androids and lasers show up in DungeonFinder (like they do in official PF1 material and in some fantasy ttRPGs right back to the beginning), you can just grab the appropriate Starfinder material and use it, no changes needed.

To make a pure-fantasy with the normal swords-and-feudal-themes of a typcial fantasy ttRPG work in a 100% Starfinder-compatible setting, you need some way to make tiered fantasy weapons work, using the same higher-level-gear-does-more-damage framework as Starfinder’s SF weaponry.

That’s perfectly possible — higher-level melee weapons simply become masterwork or magic weapons, and deal more damage. Of course everyone will expect to have +1 longswords and so on, just because that’s the terminology the fantasy predecessors to Starfinder have, which isn’t how Starfinder normally works… but as long as we restrict the bonus to damage (rather than attack rolls), we can make it work.

Here’s a sketch of what a set of tiered Longswords might look like, from 1st to about 17th item level.

(Art by serikbaib)

Advanced Melee Weapons, One-Handed (Longsword)

NameLevelPriceDamageCriticalBulkSpecial
 Longsword13751d8 S1analog
Longsword, masterwork53,2001d10 S1d6 Bleed1analog
Longsword, +178,7502d6+1 S1d6 Bleed1analog, magic
Longsword, +1 flaming912,7502d10+1 F & S1d8 Burn1analog, magic
Longsword, +2912,7502d10+2 S1d8 Bleed1analog, magic
Longsword, +1 holy1127,0004d8+12d6 Bleed1analog, magic, holy fusion
Longsword, +2 flaming1127,0004d8+2 F & S2d6 Burn1analog, magic
Longsword, +31127,0004d8+3 S2d6 Bleed1analog, magic
Longsword, +2 holy1480,0007d8+2 S2d8 Bleed1analog, magic, holy fusion
Longsword, +3 flaming1480,0007d8+3 F & S2d8 Burn1analog, magic
Longsword, +41480,0007d8+32d8 Bleed1analog, magic
Longsword, +3 holy17250,00010d8 +3 S3d6 Bleed1analog, magic, holy fusion
Longsword, +4 flaming17250,00010d8+4 F & S3d6 Burn1analog, magic
Longsword, +517250,00010d8+5 S3d6 Bleed1analog, magic

I could carry this concept on through 20th level equipment, but since this is just a thought experiment, there’s no real need to do so.

Of course it would be nice if we could avoid having to do a table for every weapon we put in the game. But it might well be possible to break weapons down into a few categories, and have some standard rules (like “masterwork weapons are item level 5, cost 3,000 gp more, do one die step more damage, and gain a minor critical hit effect”), once we have a few exemplar weapons to work from.

This is very much early days yet, but equipment is absolutely the #1 thing that needs to be worked out to make DungeonFinder work. Some Starfinder classes could be ported over with little more than some new class features)soldiers are fine, just create new gear boosts and fighting styles, similarly envoys, mystics, and operatives envoys take little work), while other classes should be more extensively rewritten, or replaced entirely.

I could also carry this same concept into a theoretical ShadowFinder game…

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New Critical Hit Effects for Starfinder

As I work on running my first Really Wild West campaign, and write up weaponry for it, I find myself using new critical hit effects.

I’ll present a weapon list later I presume, but here are some new crit hit effects for GMs doing their own homebrew weapons.

RWW Weapons

(Art by warpaintcobra)

New Critical Hit Effects

Alternate Crit
When you score a critical hit, you may apply either its normal critical hit effect, or its alternate critical hit effect (listed in parenthesis), at your preference.

AoO (Attack of Opportunity)
Scoring a critical hit with the weapon causes the target to provoke an attack of opportunity from you. Normally only melee weapons have this critical hit effect.

Trauma
A weapon with a trauma crit does double normal damage to living thing on a critical hit, to a minimum of its maximum normal damage.

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Hex Rounds and Wandshells for Starfinder

Yesterday we presented spell guns and runethrowers, magic devices that can produce spell effects from battery power. The next obvious question is — can you have magic bullets that produce spell effects?

Of course you can. Presenting: Magic Muntions!

Magic Bullet
(art by Yuri Hoyda)

Magic Munitions                     Item       Credit
Item                                            Level      Cost       Bulk
Hex round, 0-level spell          2             140           L
Wandshell, 0-level spell          3             325           L
Hex round, 1st-level spell       5             450           L
Wandshell, 1st-level spell       7             750           L
Hex round, 2nd-level spell     8          1,400           L
Wandshell, 2nd-level spell    11         3,250           L
Hex round, 3rd-level spell     11         3,700           L
Hex round, 4th-level spell      14       10,600          L
Wandshell, 3rd-level spell      15       17,500          L
Hex round, 5th-level spell      17       36,650          L
Wandshell, 4th-level spell      19       81,000          L
Hex round, 6th-level spell      20     112,800          L

Magic munitions allow you to load a one-shot, consumable version of a spell into a weapon. Any spell with a casting time of no more than 1 standard action, that does not require Resolve Points or materials with a cost, can be turned into a magic munition. Activating a magic munition is a standard action, and when you do so the weapon does not have its normal effect (and does not use any ammo or battery beyond the magic munition). The magic effect normally originates as if you had cast the spell. If the spell has a range of touch, you can instead target any legal target within the weapon’s reach of first range increment. The caster level for the spell effect is equal to the magic munition;s item level.

A hex round can only be fired from a spell gun or runethrower able to cast a spell of the same or higher level, or a weapon with the spellthrower fusion. A wandshell can be loaded into any weapon. As magic munitions these ammos can be loaded into any ranged or melee weapon, even ones not designed for physical ammunition or that are normally totally unpowered. Loading a single he round or wandshell into a weapon is a move action. A weapon can’t have more total item levels worth of magic muntions loaded into it at a time than its own item level. Thus a item level 9 laser pistol with the spellthrowing fusion could have one hex round with a 2nd-level spell, or three wandshells with 0-level spells.

Magic munitions not loaded into a weapon are easily identified as magical at a glance, of even by their unusually heavy heft. Most have the spell loaded into them carefully noted on their casing. You cannot craft a a magic munition of a specific spell unless you can cast that spell, or have someone able to cast the spell available to do so when you create the munition.

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Spellguns and Runethrowers for Starfinder

As soon as you say a setting has spellcasters and blasters, there’s a group of players who want to have spellguns. And that’s fair. After all there are numerous examples of spell-generating hybrid technology in science-fantasy fiction (my specific inspirations come from The Irregular at Magic High School and Outlaw Star, but there are many more examples).

But Starfinder doesn’t really have anything like that. There are spell ampules and spell gems… but those are 1-shot consumables, not the spellguns we want.  So I was going to post a few examples of spell guns last Friday… and realized I hadn’t written how how I figured the item level and cost of such things. So I delayed the article to today, and you get a enarly-double-length Monday article that both shows the design process I used, AND presents two sets of finished spellcasting weapons.

So how do we figure out the effective item level of a device that can cast detect magic using a battery, and how do we scale that against a baleful polymorph rifle?

Well, let’s start with something we CAN easily scale — damage. If we can find a relationship between damaging spells at each level and weapons that are roughly as effective, and spells of each level have roughly the same impact on the game as one another, that should allow us to set item levels for devices that create other spells effects of each level.

It’s best if we pick a few spells that come as close as possible to JUST doing damage at each level. We can then figure out a rough benchmark for the typical weaponlike damage each of these things does, looking back at our benchmarks for weapon damage. There’s some subjectivity there of course, but in general we can compare these to damage from weapons (treating a save and attack rolls to be about even in terms of damage-per-round options, and treating area or ongoing attacks as being 10-20% more damage for benchmark purposes) to tell us roughly what item level weapon does comparable damage.

We want two effective item levels (EIL) for each spell — one taken from the closest equivalent longarm or advanced melee weapon (representing an item used by people skilled in combat), and one taken from the closest 1-handed basic melee weapon or small arm (representing an item use by those unspecialized in combat). Those are listed with a slash as skilled/unspecialized. We’ll go into why we want those separate numbers in a moment.

Technomancer spells have the following exemplar damage spells at each spell level:

0-Level
Energy Ray (1d3, single target EAC ranged)  EIL – 0/1

1st-Level
Jolting Surge (4d6, single target EAC melee) EIL – 12/15
Overheat (2d8 energy in a cone, save for half) EIL – 11/15

2nd-Level
Caustic Conversion (4d6 energy, single target EAC ranged, ongoing damage) EIL – 13/18

3rd-Level
Arcing Surge (10d6 energy, line, save for half) EIL – 19/24
Explosive Blast (9d6 energy, radius, save for half) EIL –  19/24

Since we already hitting item level 19+ by 3rd level spells, it’s pretty clear 4th-level and higher spells would be beyond the scope of even 20th level equipment.

So, erring on the side of items that duplicate spells skewing up at lower item levels (as we not the benchmark damage for low-level weapons is a bit off, a weirdness the designers accepted so no one would actually have a weapon that did 1 point of damage), and standardizing the curve between skilled and unspecialized, we come up with the following typical item level for something that can reliable reproduce magic effects:

EIL by Spell Level
0-Level Spells: 3/8
1st-Level Spells: 11/16
2nd-Level Spells: 13/18
3rd-Level Spells: 19/24

We know from the price difference in spell gems vs spell ampules that giving a spellcaster access to more spells from their spell list is cheaper than allowing anyone to use that magic effect, so let’s use the same logic here. The lower “skilled” EIL is what we use for “Spell Guns,” which we define as only being able to be used by a character who can cast spells of the same spell level and class list as the one reproduced by the spell gun. So a microbot assault spell gun can only be used by a technomancer who can cast 2nd level spells.

The higher-level EIL we’ll use for Runethrowers. They function just like Spell Guns, except they can be used by anyone.

Also, we’ll use Small Arms proficiency for Spell Guns (so any spellcasting PC can use them), and Longarms for Runethrowers. Of course attack rolls won’t matter for all spell effects, but we’ll rule that any nonproficiency penalty you take with with a Runethrower impacts both any related save DCs, and reduces the Runethrower’s caster level.

We’re also going to ban any spells that require Resolve Points, have a casting time greater than 1 action, or require an experience material mentioned in the spell description. Otherwise each item casts a spell and works like a spell-like ability with a caster level equal to the item level, and all decisions made by whoever pulls the trigger.

So, borrowing some typical costs and battery usages from appropriate items:

Small Arms

SPELL GUNS                    Item     Credit      Spell
Name                              Level    Cost         Level   Battery  Usage
Spell Gun, Apprentice        3         1,500       0           20            2
Spell Gun, Mage               11       26,000       1           40            4
Spell Gun, Arcanist           13        52,000       2           80            8
Spell Gun, Archmage        19      600,000       3         100          10Spell Gun by info at nextmars dot com
(art by info@nextmars.com)

Longarms

RUNETHROWERS                 Item     Credit      Spell
Name                                    Level    Cost         Level   Battery  Usage
Runethrower, Neophyte       8          10,000       0           40            4
Runethrower, Warlock         16       180,000      1           80            8
Runethrower, Theurge         18       400,000      2         100            10Spell Rifle by info at nextmars dot com
(art by info@nextmars.com)

Runethrower (neophyte, Warlock, Theurge)
A runethrower is a hybrid weapon that contains a single spell of the listed level. It can convert energy from a battery into the energy needed for that spells, using a rune embedded within the weapon to provide all the eldritch control needed to create magic effects.
Only spells that can be cast in a single action or reaction can be placed in a runethrower (and always use a standard action to activate), and it must not have any Resolve Point cost or require any material with a cost (as noted in the spell description). A runethrower’s caster level is equal to its item level, and any decisions that need to be made when it creates a spell effect are decided by the user.
A runethrower can normally only have a single spell added into it. That spell can be changed to another spell of the same level by anyone with the ranks needed to craft the runethrower, at half the cost of creating a new runethrower. A runethrower can also have a additional spells of the same or lower level placed within it as Weapon Fusions (at the normal fusion cost, though it cannot be transferred from another weapon). Each weapon fusion of this type is treated as a weapon fusion with a level equal to 5 + the level of spell it contains. If a runethrower has multiple spells, the user decides which one to use each time it is activated.
Any penalty to attack rolls a character takes applies to a runethrower’s save DC, and if a character is nonproficient, that penalty also applies to the ruenthrower’s caster level when they use it.

Spell Guns (Apprentice, mage, Arcanist, Archmage)
A spell gun is a hybrid weapon that contains a single spell of the listed level. It can convert energy from a battery into the energy needed for that spells similar to a runethrower, but rather than have an internal rune that provides the directions to create a spell effect, requires an eldritch spark from the user to initiatie this conversion. Thus a character can only use a spell gun if they are of a class and level able to cast the spell contained within the spell gun (though it need not actually be a spell known).
Spell guns otherwise follow the rules for runethrowers.

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Weapon Upgrade Pricing for Starfinder

Here’s the final post for the week, playing with fun options for the weapon damage benchmarks per level for Starfinder I posted on Monday.

Since those benchmarks allow you to determine the damage of nearly any weapon at any item level (grenades and special weapons are special cases), they are half of what we need to allow you to upgrade Starfinder weapons. If you want to have your laser pistol be improved so it does more damage, just select an item level on the EAC small arms table with a benchmark that’s better than your current damage, and increase the pistol’s item level to match.

The big question left, of course, is “how much does that cost?”

Enter the Weapon Upgrade Pricing chart.

To determine the cost of such an upgraded weapon, find the first value on the chart that is more than it’s current cost. Then go three steps down the chart from there for each increase in item level. That entry is the new value of the weapon. Pay the difference between that new value and your original value, and your weapon is upgraded. (Upgrading a weapon requires the same time, resources, and skill at building a weapon of the new item level from scratch).

SF Dull Revolver

SF Revolver

(art by 3droman)

For example: Carl has a 5th level wyrmling dragon rifle, a longarm which does 1d8 fire damage and costs 3,020 credits. But his character is 7th level, has money to spare, and he wants to upgrade the weapon. Looking at the benchmark table, he sees that if he upgrades his longarm to 7th level, it’ll do 2d6 damage. Much better!

His friend Ali the mechanic has the ranks and tools to do the upgrade. All Carl needs to know is the price.

Looking at the Upgrade Pricing Chart, he sees the first value higher than 3,020 is 3,250. Since he increased two item levels he needs to go six steps down the chart, which is 7,000 credits. Since his weapon currently has a value of 3,020, he needs to pay the difference — 3,980 credit (likely in UPBs) to get the weapon upgraded.

Weapon Upgrade Pricing Chart
Credits
100
250
400
500
750
1000
1,175
1,350
1,500
1,750
2,000
2,250
2,500
2,750
3,250
3,750
4,125
4,500
5,250
6,000
7,000
8,000
9,000
10,000
11,000
12,500
14,000
15,500
17,000
19,000
21,000
23,000
26,000
30,000
34,000
38,000
42,500
47,000
52,000
60,500
69,000
78,000
92,000
106,000
120,000
140,000
160,000
180,000
210,000
240,000
270,000
310,000
350,000
400,000
465,000
530,000
600,000
700,000
800,000
900,000
1,050,000
1,200,000
1,500,000

You can also use the chart to estimate the cost of other kinds of equipment such as armor and even magic items… but that’s a different article!

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Weapons in DungeonFinder (Starfinder variant)

So, Monday I posted a big entry with long lists of tables that gave benchmark damage values for weapons of all types at all item levels in Starfinder, and mentioned there were lots of fun things we could do with a list like that. Here’s another one.

We can eliminate weapon damage being primarily determined by item level.

There are lots of good and well-thought out reasons why damage is tied to item levels in Starfinder, and it works great for the core game, but it makes some setting hacks harder to pull off. In particular, it doesn’t work well for genres that encourage players to get attached to specific weapons (the Colt revolver Shanna the Gunslinger left you when she rode back into the Outlands, or the longsword your Grandfather carried in the aberration wars two generations ago, and so on).

So, let’s say we wanted to use Starfinder for a pure fantasy campaign, rather than science-fantasy. Perhaps a game set in Solstice, with charters constantly looking for new dungeons to explore.

We’ll call is DungeonFinder… for now.

And we want people to fight with swords and axes and bows in DungeonFinder, rather than plasma sabers and laser pistols. So, first, we make a few fantasy weapons. (This isn’t an exhaustive list, just a short set of examples).

For now we’ll list the prices in “cr,” which could stand for credits, crown coins, copper reals, or whatever. For this example we can treat 1-handed and 2-handed as properties for now (to keep these on fewer charts), allow boost on things without charges, and list the range increment of thrown weapons after the thrown property.

DungeonFinder Weapons

Basic Melee Weapons
Weapon  Item Level  Cost    Damage  Critical           Bulk Properties
Club                  0             0 cr       1d2 B         Knockdown   1        1H, Thrown (10 ft.)
Dagger             1             10 cr     1d3 S                                   L       1 H,  Thrown (15 ft.)
Mace                1             25 cr      1d4 B         Knockdown   1       1H, Boost (1d4)
Maul                1             10 cr      1d6 B         Knockdown   2       2H, Boost (1d6), unwieldy
Spear, light     1             15 cr      1d4 P                                  L       1 H, Reach
Spear, heavy  1             25 cr      1d6 P                                  1       2 H, Reach
Staff                 1             5 cr        1d4 B         Knockdown   1       2H, Block
Stiletto             1             50 cr      1d3 P        Bleed (1d3)     L       1H, Conceal, operative
Torch               1             1 cr         1d2 B & F Burn (1d3)     L       1 H, One 1-hour charge

Advanced Melee Weapons
Weapon  Item Level  Cost    Damage  Critical        Bulk     Properties
Battle Axe        1             50 cr     1d6 S      Wound          1           1 H, boost (1d6)
Great Axe        1            100 cr    1d10 S   Wound           2           2 H, boost (1d6), unwieldy
Great Sword   1             110 cr   2d4 S      Bleed (1d8)   2           2 H
Short Sword   1             30 cr     1d6 S      Bleed (1d4)   L           1 H
Longsword     1             50 cr      1d8 S     Bleed (1d6)   1            1 H
Rapier              1            150 cr     1d6 P     Demoralize  L           1 H, Block, feint, operative

THEN, we say if you are proficient with a weapon, when using it you do either its listed damage, or damage from the appropriate benchmark table using your class level (or perhaps equal to your base attack bonus if we want to give soldiers more of an edge) as the item level.

Magic weapons can have fusions… or really powerful ones could actually do damage at +1 or +2 levels on the benchmark chart.

Dungeonfidner Magic Axe

Slings and throw darts can be Small Arms. Crossbows and longbows Long Arms.

But MAGIC WANDS can be small arms too! Your cogamancer might have a wand of lighting that’s just a 1d6 ranged electricity attack with arc on it…

Dungeonfinder Magic Wands

This allows for a HUGE range of weapons, all of which need only be designed as a single item level, since damage will scale automatically.

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Fun with Starfinder Damage Benchmarks

So, yesterday I posted a big entry with long lists of tables that gave benchmark damage values for weapons of all types at all item levels in Starfinder, and mentioned there were lots of fun things we could do with a list like that. Here’s one of them.

We can scale weapon damage without having pre-written weapons.

For example, here’s a new version of the hammer fist ability from the soldier’s armor storm fighting style.

Hammer Fist (Ex) – 1st Level
You treat any unarmed attack you make while wearing heavy or powered armor as being made with a battleglove with an item level equal to or lower than your soldier level. Calculate damage for these attacks using the 1-handed basic melee benchmark damage, and adding bonuses as if you had the melee striker gear boost. If you have the melee striker gear boost, you gain a +2 bonus to damage rolls with your unarmed attacks when using this ability. These unarmed attacks don’t benefit from other abilities that apply specifically to unarmed attacks (such as the Improved Unarmed Strike feat).

Scifi hand

(art by photoslaz)

With the core rulebook version of hammer fist, you have long dead levels where your damage with this ability doesn’t keep up. Now it goes to 1d6 at 2nd level and so on, keeping up with relevant weapons you could gain at those levels.

We can now also create class features that allow you to exceed the limits of your weapon’s damage, built on the idea a character *can* get access to an item up to their level +2, without creating some stacking nightmare that could be combined with higher-level gear to break the game.

Let’s say we wanted a Melee Weapon Master archetype, and we wanted them to do more damage with their melee weapon than other folks. The archetype can require to you to focus on an advanced melee weapon type, and then give you advantages with it.

Masterwork Damage (Ex): When using a weapon of your focused type that has an item level no greater than your character level, you may do more damage with it. Find the benchmark damage* matching your advanced melee weapon (KAC or EAC, 1-handed or 2-handed). You deal damage one level above your weapon’s benchmark.
*If your weapon damage dice do not exactly match a listed benchmark, your benchmark damage is considered to be the highest damage dice that have an average result that does not exceed your weapon’s damage dice’s average result. For example, if using a 1-handed EAC advanced melee weapon that does 1d20 damage, your benchmark damage is considered to be 3d6 (average of 10.5), as that is the highest total that does not exceed your weapon’s average (also 10.5). You would thus do 3d8, one benchmark level higher, when using this ability.

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Lassos in Really Wild West (for Starfinder)

A lasso is definitely a thematic option for the Really Wild West, but it’s also something that can become unbalanced quickly or weird quickly. Lassos use in the real world to capture cattle is extremely common, but it’s use for anything else in a modern era is equally uncommon. While there were roman gladiatorial laquearius, but it is unclear if they were true gladiators or closer to clowns who fought mock battles. There are records of various groups in antiquity using lassos in combat, but they are neither clear nor common.

So, we need the lasso to be easily and commonly used to bring down big, strong cattle, and to be something you can use in combat but with a great deal more difficulty. We need it’s use to be common among cowboys, and rare among most other people.

I want to avoid using feats to cover this for a couple of reasons. First, it seems unlikely most cowboy builds will consider a feat a reasonable cost to be able to do a core, iconic thing from their concept. Secondly, if someone DOES expend a feat on lassoing, they’ll want to try to use the lasso all the time, rather than when it’s actually the right tool for a an encounter. So, we need to look to the item/weapon design itself to thread this needle of utility.

This is a first stab at such an item, which almost certainly will be adjusted given some playtesting. As a special weapon no one gains proficiency with it automatically from their class, but the “professional” weapon special property (defined in Armor) means anyone with 1 rank in Profession: Cowboy is considered proficient, which seems a reasonable compromise.

RWW lariat

(art by Elena)

2-Handed Special Weapon
Item       Level  Price       Dam    Crit           Range   Bulk   Special
Lasso         1         30            —      Entangle       15 ft.        1       Professional (Cowboy 1 rank)

Lasso
A lasso is a ranged, 2-handed special weapon. A character trained in Survival or Profession: Cowboy can use a lasso to control a creature within 30 feet that has an Intelligence modifier of -3 or less. The DC for this check is 10 + 1.5x the CR of the creature. On a successful check, you control the creature’s movement until the end of your next round. If your check exceed’s the DC by 5 or more, the creature is flat-footed and off-target. If you are adjacent to the creature, exceed the check by 5 or more, and the creature was already flat-footed or off-target, you can bind the creature with the lasso, leaving it helpless.

If proficient with a lasso, you can use it to make grapple checks at range. You gain a +5 bonus to your attack roll if the target has no hands or arms, and a +5 bonus if your target has an Intelligence modifier of -3 or less. Once grappled the target is entangled (with you as the tether) as the weapon special property. If you use a lasso to successfully grapple an adjacent creature that is pinned, you can bind two of their limbs as if using manacles.

A lasso takes half damage from bludgeoning, piercing, cold, and sonic attacks.

Higher-level lassos made of special materials (and thus having higher hardness and HP) may exist.

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