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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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).
(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
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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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.
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.
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…
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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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).
(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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