Grenades, and explosives in general, are tricky to write rules for in most d20-based ttRPGs. If a grenade isn’t effective enough, it feels more like a firecracker than a deadly weapon of war. If it’s too effective, it can end encounters so quickly it’s no fun for the players, or accidentally wipe out PCs in undramatic ways.
When grenades show up in action/adventure fiction, they tend to act less as damaging devices than plot devices that force people to seek cover. The threat of them is generally represented not by them killing main characters, but by forcing characters to take them seriously and possible shake off effects of shock and awe.
Example: Starfinder Revised Grenades
So, let’s try to model that behavior, specifically for Starfinder. Within that game, grenades are pretty expensive consumables anyway, so a power-up shouldn’t break the game even if it makes grenades more affective and appealing. That said, if these seem too powerful, you can limit these rules to actual purchased consumables, rather than spells and class features that allow characters to create or emulate grenades without a credit or OPB cost.
Grenades are dangerous, deadly military explosives that everyone must take seriously as a threat, no matter how tough or resilient they are. While savvy and active combatants know to duck for cover and shake themselves free of the shock of battlefield explosions, doing so comes at a cost.
When you fail a saving throw against a grenade that has an item level no lower than your character level/CR -2 that deals damage (as opposed to, for example, smoke grenades), you must either expend a Resolve Point or be staggered on your next turn. This represents the need to duck, take cover, and shake yourself back to focus after narrowly avoiding more serious injury.
Helpless characters that fail a save against such a grenade treat the attack as a coup de grace against them. As a full round action a character can make an Engineering check (DC 15 + 1.5x grenade item level) to wedge a grenade into an adjacent stationary structure or unattended object, causing it to do max damage and have only half its normal explode radius. On a failed check, the grenade explodes in the character’s hands, and they take max damage.
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In the upcoming ShadowFinder modern fantasy play mode for Starfinder, weapons don’t do a set damage based on their item level, and mundane, typical weapons aren’t bought with credits. Instead anything reasonably available to a typical person (bolt cutters, road flares, blue jeans, baseball bats, cars, firearms, bandages, and so on) use a wealth mechanic to see if you can find and afford what you want when you want it. Credits are used for more esoteric items, such as magic and hybrid equipment, fringe science, psychically imbued crystals, alien relics, and so on.
Similarly, rather than a set damage, weapons have their damage based on a damage tier, which is calculated using a set of rules that are being polished as we speak. If you are proficient with a weapon, it’s base damage tier is your character level. If you are not proficient, it’s base damage tier is your base attack bonus -2 (and you suffer the normal nonproficiency penalty to your attack roll). Weapons then have a damage tier modifier, often based on things like their critical hit effects and special properties.
Here’s a sample of what some melee weapons will look like, and how the damage tier chart works.
Baseball Bat (1-h/2-h Basic Melee Weapon)
Wealth Check: 10
Damage Tier -1 (B)
Properties: Analog, archaic,
Critical Hit Effect: Knockdown
Stiletto (Operative Melee Weapon)
Wealth Check: 12
Damage Tier +0 (P)
Properties: Analog, conceal, feint
Critical Hit Effect: Bleed (1d6, +1d6/5 damage tiers)
Single Target Melee KAC Weapons
Damage 1-h 2-h 1-h 2-h
Tier Adv. Adv. Oprtv Basic Basic
-3 1d2 1d4 1 pt. 1 pt. 1d2
-2 1d3 1d4 1 pt. 1 pt. 1d3
-1 1d3 1d4 1 pt. 1d3 1d3
0 1d4 1d6 1d3 1d4 1d4
1 1d4 1d6 1d3 1d4 1d6
2 1d6 1d6 1d4 1d6 1d6
3 1d6 1d8 1d4 1d6 1d6
4 1d8 1d8 1d4 1d6 1d8
5 1d8 1d10 1d6 1d8 1d8
6 2d4 2d6 1d6 1d8 1d10
7 2d6 2d8 1d8 1d10 1d12
8 2d8 3d6 2d4 1d10 2d8
9 3d6 4d6 2d6 2d8 3d6
10 4d6 5d6 3d4 2d8 3d8
11 5d6 4d8 2d8 2d10 4d6
12 4d8 6d6 3d6 3d8 5d6
13 6d6 7d6 3d8 3d10 4d8
14 6d8 9d6 4d6 4d8 5d8
15 9d6 10d6 5d6 5d8 8d6
16 10d6 11d6 6d6 6d8 9d6
17 12d6 13d6 7d6 7d8 10d6
18 14d6 15d6 8d6 8d8 12d6
19 16d6 17d6 9d6 9d8 13d6
20 18d6 20d6 10d6 11d8 15d6
21 20d6 22d6 11d6 12d8 17d6
22 22d6 25d6 12d6 13d8 19d6
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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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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.
Advanced Melee Weapons, One-Handed (Longsword)
|Longsword, masterwork||5||3,200||1d10 S||1d6 Bleed||1||analog|
|Longsword, +1||7||8,750||2d6+1 S||1d6 Bleed||1||analog, magic|
|Longsword, +1 flaming||9||12,750||2d10+1 F & S||1d8 Burn||1||analog, magic|
|Longsword, +2||9||12,750||2d10+2 S||1d8 Bleed||1||analog, magic|
|Longsword, +1 holy||11||27,000||4d8+1||2d6 Bleed||1||analog, magic, holy fusion|
|Longsword, +2 flaming||11||27,000||4d8+2 F & S||2d6 Burn||1||analog, magic|
|Longsword, +3||11||27,000||4d8+3 S||2d6 Bleed||1||analog, magic|
|Longsword, +2 holy||14||80,000||7d8+2 S||2d8 Bleed||1||analog, magic, holy fusion|
|Longsword, +3 flaming||14||80,000||7d8+3 F & S||2d8 Burn||1||analog, magic|
|Longsword, +4||14||80,000||7d8+3||2d8 Bleed||1||analog, magic|
|Longsword, +3 holy||17||250,000||10d8 +3 S||3d6 Bleed||1||analog, magic, holy fusion|
|Longsword, +4 flaming||17||250,000||10d8+4 F & S||3d6 Burn||1||analog, magic|
|Longsword, +5||17||250,000||10d8+5 S||3d6 Bleed||1||analog, 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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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.
(Art by warpaintcobra)
New Critical Hit Effects
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.
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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