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Starship Combat—I Am a Leaf on the Wind

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Illustrations by David Melvin

From androids manipulating reality with technomagic to goblins in spacesuits wielding barely functioning laser pistols, the Starfinder RPG covers the majority of weird and exciting science-fantasy tropes. But it would be a poor game that takes place among the stars if it didn't have starships! Luckily, Starfinder gives you all you need to play the crew of an intrepid vessel exploring the galaxy—and getting into trouble along the way.

The universe is not always a friendly place and there are forces out there, from freebooting space pirates to a whole fleet of undead soldiers, who either want to incapacitate your starship and take your stuff or just blow you out of the void. And of course, you're not going to roll over and let that happen! That's where Starfinder's robust starship combat system comes into play.

While it has some similarities to character-versus-monster combat, starship combat boasts a number of unique and interesting features. It would be impossible to explore every detail in one blog (you'll just have to buy the book to find out more!), but we'd like to give you a taste of what you can expect come August.

When your characters first board their starship, each player chooses one of five roles for his or her character: captain, engineer, gunner, pilot, or science officer. Only one character each can be the captain and the pilot, but depending on the configuration of your vessel, you may want multiple engineers or gunners. Each role gives the character assuming it a number of actions she can perform during the battle. The captain can give encouraging speeches or make demands of the rest of the crew, granting valuable bonuses. A science officer can scan enemy ships and target specific systems on those vessels. An engineer can boost power to the engines or repair a malfunctioning weapon. A gunner fires the ship's weapons at the enemy, taking precise shots or unleashing a volley of lasers.

All that is exciting and vital to the success of the fight, but as Iseph would be quick to remind you, you'd still be a sitting duck without the impressive things the pilot can do!

The pilot has the important job of moving the PCs' starship across the hex-grid map that starship combat uses, ensuring that gunners can shoot the ship's biggest weapons at the most dangerous enemies while hopefully making sure that those foes don't have the opportunity to shoot back. Getting the positioning and facing of the ship right is crucial, as is knowing what the ship is capable of doing and then pushing it beyond its limits.

To that end, pilots have access to a whole suite of stunts—daring maneuvers that only the skilled can hope to pull off. Of course, if the situation doesn't call for any of these fancy tactics, the pilot can always fly normally or step on the gas for an extra burst of speed. The basic pilot stunts are:

Back Off: The pilot throws the ship into reverse, moving backward a few hexes.

Barrel Roll: By spinning the ship on its axis, the pilot allows the ships's port guns and shields to function on the starboard side and vice versa for 1 round. Hope your artificial gravity is turned on!

Evade: This stunt encompasses the standard dodging maneuvers, making the ship harder to hit for 1 round. But it doesn't shake those pesky target lock-ons!

Flip and Burn: The pilot moves the vessel forward a bit and turns it 180 degrees, surprising enemies who might have been in its wake.

Flyby: A dangerous stunt, this takes your ship very close to an enemy vessel (through its hex), which lets a gunner fire any of his ship's weapons at any shield arc of the foe, regardless of where the two ships end their movement. Executing this stunt poorly allows the enemy vessel to get a free shot on you!

Slide: The pilot moves the ship at an angle without changing the way it is facing, like a racecar drifting. This stunt is very useful for ships that aren't very maneuverable.

Turn in Place: Firing up maneuvering thrusters, the pilot alters the direction the ship is facing without moving it from its hex, possibly allowing a specific weapon to make an all-important shot.

Especially talented pilots can also attempt an "audacious gambit," flying the ship in ways never intended by those who built it. But you'd have to be crazy to try something like that!

Since a pilot is nothing without a ship to helm, the Starfinder Core Rulebook also presents both rules for customizing your own starship and a handful of prebuilt starships ready for PCs to use or fight. Shown here are just two examples.

The Drone Mk III is a smaller ship fabricated by shirren manufacturer Starhive. As befits their name, Drones are extremely common and used as freighters, personnel transports, light colonial defense vessels, and more. Despite the ships' mass production, Starhive takes a natural shirren pride in making sure each ship's iridescent paint job is unique.

Built by the vesk munitions company Vindicas, the Tyrant is a dreadnought feared across multiple star systems. Huge weapon batteries tear through even the most formidable capital ships, while its hangars unleash squadrons of fighters to mop up foes too insignificant to be worth the Tyrant's direct attention.

Starhive Drone Mk III and Vindicas Tyrant
Illustrations by Ben Wootten

Finally, if you want to see the starship combat system in action, check out the video of when I ran a brief demo for the folks at Game Trade Media. Benjamin Loomes of Syrinscape also sat in to provide excellent sound effects and atmospheric music! Content warning: This video features amateur rapping.

Thanks for reading and keep watching this space for more Starfinder previews in the months to come!

Jason Keeley
Editor

More Paizo Blog.
Tags: Ben Wootten David Melvin Starfinder
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that link doesn't work...


24 people marked this as a favorite.

Too soon...

It's always too soon for a Wash joke.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

5 people marked this as a favorite.
Mythic JMD031 wrote:

Too soon...

It's always too soon for a Wash joke.

Don't worry. It all comes out in the wash.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I call Captain!

Mister Sulu, ram us into the ground!

D'oh!


7 people marked this as a favorite.

fires spear through this thread, laughs uproariously

Grand Lodge

7 people marked this as a favorite.

I'm losing my mind with anticipation. It's like I'm 14 and Kelly LeBrock is planning to take a shower in my house while my parents are away... but not until August.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

one word WOOOOOW nice picture of starship Ben wooten, really thumb up man.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

I am super excited for space combat. I hate naval combat, but you give me naval combat in space and I am hooked, so I was excited to read about the ship roles and ship customization.

then you made a Wash joke, and I now I'm sad.

Thanks for the emotional rollercoaster, stupid Paizo!

*tongueincheek*


Sweet!

So, Iseph is the pilot.

Quig is the engineer.

Obozaya is the gunner.

I think Navasi is the captain.

Raia is probably the science officer.

Altronus seems like another gunner.

And I don't know what Keskodai would do. Thoughts?


3 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber Subscriber

I've recently learned that the often misconceived barrel roll is actually an aileron roll. BUT that doesn't change my excitement!!


Vrog Skyreaver wrote:

I am super excited for space combat. I hate naval combat, but you give me naval combat in space and I am hooked, so I was excited to read about the ship roles and ship customization.

then you made a Wash joke, and I now I'm sad.

Thanks for the emotional rollercoaster, stupid Paizo!

*tongueincheek*

continues to impale thread to put audience in anguish


Piloting looks great, and gunning is always fun, but can we get any sort of preview of what a turn looks like for an engineer or science officer?

I'm sure they'll be helpful members of the crew, but I'm hoping they'll have meaningful decisions to make every turn, or at least every fight.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Maybe we should be watching some Space Opera so we can get some ideas. Anyone for some Firefly? Or the Serenity Movie? Maybe even Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda?


Do we know if there will be rules for one person ships? Like an x-wing?


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber Subscriber
GM Cwethan wrote:

Piloting looks great, and gunning is always fun, but can we get any sort of preview of what a turn looks like for an engineer or science officer?

I'm sure they'll be helpful members of the crew, but I'm hoping they'll have meaningful decisions to make every turn, or at least every fight.

I'm sure anyone who enjoys playing a Bard, Cleric, a caster with glitterdust or haste, or whatever else you can think of will devour those roles. These the ones I'm most excited about personally.

MageHunter wrote:
Do we know if there will be rules for one person ships? Like an x-wing?

Ditto, in the demo they have solo goblin flyers so odds are that's how it'll go. A mixture out pilot and gunner. The flexibility to choose pilot + another role would be huge though.

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Card Game, Class Deck Subscriber

GOBLINS IN SPAAAAAAACE!

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber, Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber

My problem is with the fact that presumablely space combat would take place in three dimensions. There appears to be no consideration for attacking from above or below. Space combat in two dimensions feels like it loses something important.


About time for a ship name, class, make and stat for each role generator. :)


Pathfinder Companion Subscriber
EltonJ wrote:

Maybe we should be watching some Space Opera so we can get some ideas. Anyone for some Firefly? Or the Serenity Movie? Maybe even Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda?

For me, space opera can best be summed up with two words: Captain. Harlock. Arcadia of my youth is, quite frankly, a masterpiece.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Those ships are LOVELY!

...

Looks for how to hotwire them.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Vrog Skyreaver wrote:
EltonJ wrote:

Maybe we should be watching some Space Opera so we can get some ideas. Anyone for some Firefly? Or the Serenity Movie? Maybe even Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda?

For me, space opera can best be summed up with two words: Captain. Harlock. Arcadia of my youth is, quite frankly, a masterpiece.

do you like harlock?

Do you have a 3ds?

Then play INFINITE SPACE!


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Mine all mine...don't touch wrote:
My problem is with the fact that presumablely space combat would take place in three dimensions. There appears to be no consideration for attacking from above or below. Space combat in two dimensions feels like it loses something important.

They apparently do have rules for that.

Also..."If you're wondering how he eats and breathes and other science facts, just repeat to yourself it's just a show, I should really just relax."


Last I heard, Ruins of Azlant is coming out at close to the same time as Starfinder, and it will have a 3-D combat system (for underwater use, in this case).


4 people marked this as a favorite.

First thing I'm gonna do is create rules for grappler ships from Outlaw Star. SHIP PUNCHING

Grand Lodge

*sighs* August cannot get here soon enough.

Silver Crusade

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber
Mythic JMD031 wrote:

Too soon...

It's always too soon for a Wash joke.

SQQQQQQQUUUUUUUEEEEEE!

*glomps*

Welcome back!


2 people marked this as a favorite.
McBugman wrote:
I've recently learned that the often misconceived barrel roll is actually an aileron roll. BUT that doesn't change my excitement!!

Gunner: I can't get a clear shot, do a barrel roll!

Pilot: Actually, it's called an aileron roll. The two are ofte...

Gunner: Do it Toragdamnit!


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber, Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Quad.Almighty wrote:
I'm losing my mind with anticipation. It's like I'm 14 and Kelly LeBrock is planning to take a shower in my house while my parents are away... but not until August.

Oh I loved that movie.

Weird Science ftw


Malik Doom wrote:
Quad.Almighty wrote:
I'm losing my mind with anticipation. It's like I'm 14 and Kelly LeBrock is planning to take a shower in my house while my parents are away... but not until August.

Oh I loved that movie.

Weird Science ftw

one of my mom's favorite movies. So many memories.


"Hope your artificial gravity is turned on!"

Eh.... What?

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Captain = Bard
Science Officer = Rogue
Engineer = Cleric
Gunner = Fighter
Pilot = Wizard

I understand better now :-)


Mine all mine...don't touch wrote:
My problem is with the fact that presumablely space combat would take place in three dimensions. There appears to be no consideration for attacking from above or below. Space combat in two dimensions feels like it loses something important.

Pretty much every PnP game with space combat I have played (Traveller, Star Trek, Star Wars D6/Star Warriors) uses one or two dimensions only.

Without a computer it's pretty much impossible to keep track of a 3rd dimension.

The "Flyby" manoeuvre appears to represent attacking from above or below.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

Mk III Drone: you can have it in any colour as long as it's not black.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32

11 people marked this as a favorite.

You really only need three dimensions once you have four important "points" in your space battle. A PC ship vs. up to two foes can always be modeled as happening within a plane.


Jason Keeley wrote:
Turn in Place: Firing up maneuvering thrusters, the pilot alters the direction the ship is facing without moving it from its hex, possibly allowing a specific weapon to make an all-important shot.

I am somewhat disappointed that this isn't called a Crazy Ivan.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber, Campaign Setting, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber
Goddity wrote:
Jason Keeley wrote:
Turn in Place: Firing up maneuvering thrusters, the pilot alters the direction the ship is facing without moving it from its hex, possibly allowing a specific weapon to make an all-important shot.
I am somewhat disappointed that this isn't called a Crazy Ivan.

I expect having your pilot come up with their own names for these maneuvers is going to be part of the fun...


Goddity wrote:
Jason Keeley wrote:
Turn in Place: Firing up maneuvering thrusters, the pilot alters the direction the ship is facing without moving it from its hex, possibly allowing a specific weapon to make an all-important shot.
I am somewhat disappointed that this isn't called a Crazy Ivan.

And "Flip and Burn" isn't called Immelmann, but they have clearly chosen generic rarther than culturally specific names for manoeuvres. It will probably make localisation easier.


Time to pull a Crazy Ivan! Go for hard burn!


I wonder who of our team is going to be the first to suggest "The Barn Swallow"?


4 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

"the pilot can always fly normally"

Shouldn't that have been "the pilot can always, I don’t know... fly casual."?


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

those are pretty close stand ins for Royal N-1 starfighters up there too... which isnt that bad a thing, i often thought they flew in the wrong direction anyways. And i really like the Zentraedi vibes from that Tyrant, cant wait to see how large scale ships handle squadrons of fighters!


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Quote:
Kelly LeBrock...
Quote:
...Royal N-1 starfighters... Zentraedi vibes...

I just like that I can be in a thread with these references and there's no need to say the source material cause we all know it.

But if someone didn't know the reference and asked, they would not be ridiculed. What a great community!


This is so exciting! So is adventuring in Starfinder getting off the ship and exploring new worlds?


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
trams wrote:
This is so exciting! So is adventuring in Starfinder getting off the ship and exploring new worlds?

Or politicking and exploring the seedy underbelly of Absalom Sation or exploring ruins on Akiton or Eox or scouting for a hidden pirate base in an asteroid field. Think of all the locations you could set on adventure in on Golarion, now add just as many places on each planet in the system plus their moons and larger asteroids and then multiply that number by the amount of stars your GM wants to have in reach of your Drift drive. Plus plain old adventurers in open space or inside of the Drift.

I am already putting together a rough plan for a game set around a hover bike racing league that is helping return some investment to Akiton but the sponsors of the race are building mini drift drives that are biased towards the lower planes and their continued use is starting to pull more and more evil towards Akiton.

Silver Crusade

1 person marked this as a favorite.
The Raven Black wrote:

Captain = Bard

Science Officer = Rogue
Engineer = Cleric
Gunner = Fighter
Pilot = Wizard

I understand better now :-)

I think you have the wizard and rogue backwards. Wizards are the brainy know it alls, like the science officers. Rogues are the ones doing the tricky acrobatic stuff, but in this case, pilots do that with an entire ship.


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Another way of looking at it is every role is bard or rogue since they all sound charismatic or skill based :P

Paizo Employee Editor

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Goddity wrote:
Jason Keeley wrote:
Turn in Place: Firing up maneuvering thrusters, the pilot alters the direction the ship is facing without moving it from its hex, possibly allowing a specific weapon to make an all-important shot.
I am somewhat disappointed that this isn't called a Crazy Ivan.

I'm not saying we don't have a Crazy Ivan maneuver, but didn't want to hit that particular nail on the head too hard.

Jason Keeley wrote:
Especially talented pilots can also attempt an "audacious gambit," flying the ship in ways never intended by those who built it. But you'd have to be crazy to try something like that!

WINK. WINK.


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Jason Keeley wrote:
Goddity wrote:
Jason Keeley wrote:
Turn in Place: Firing up maneuvering thrusters, the pilot alters the direction the ship is facing without moving it from its hex, possibly allowing a specific weapon to make an all-important shot.
I am somewhat disappointed that this isn't called a Crazy Ivan.

I'm not saying we don't have a Crazy Ivan maneuver, but didn't want to hit that particular nail on the head too hard.

Jason Keeley wrote:
Especially talented pilots can also attempt an "audacious gambit," flying the ship in ways never intended by those who built it. But you'd have to be crazy to try something like that!
WINK. WINK.

Darn, i feel like he is trying to tell us something with this post... but i just... can't... quite... understand it.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Fromper wrote:
The Raven Black wrote:

Captain = Bard

Science Officer = Rogue
Engineer = Cleric
Gunner = Fighter
Pilot = Wizard

I understand better now :-)

I think you have the wizard and rogue backwards. Wizards are the brainy know it alls, like the science officers. Rogues are the ones doing the tricky acrobatic stuff, but in this case, pilots do that with an entire ship.

Indeed I had these two the other way around at first because of that same brainy trope. Until I read the stunts and realized that they deal with changing the conditions of the fight to something that will benefit your team aka Controller Wizard.

With this in mind, I was more comfortable with the skillful and sneaky Rogue being the one that target specific systems aka Sneak Attack


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber, Campaign Setting, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber
Jason Keeley wrote:
I'm not saying we don't have a Crazy Ivan maneuver, but didn't want to hit that particular nail on the head too hard.

My first pilot is going to call his version of it a "Bootlegger" anyhow. ;)

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