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Universal Polymer Base, manufacturing this trade good


Rules Questions


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Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Do you guys/gals think UPB can be created using the Engineering skill at a rate equivallent to your check for "Earning a Living"?

They're trade goods. Mechanically, it's no different than earning a salary and turning around and purchasing them.

Some skill must be used to craft them.

Maybe my Engineering toolkit includes a small 3D printer and they require constant fine tuning (skill check)...


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber

I'd allow it. I approve of your entrepreneurial spirit. : )


Pathfinder Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Hmm. The ability to produce UPBs is huge if you're stranded somewhere, so that would be a huge advantage over civilization-dependent professions. On top of that, you're rolling it in to one of the game's more useful skills. I'd say no for my rules answer. In a home game, I'd house-rule 10% rate for producing from scratch out in a desert, but full rate if you have access to what we'll call NUPB, or Non-Universal Polymer Bases- you can turn a profit by refining a more specific material to general use.

Grand Lodge

Making a manufactured trade good the fundamental unit of currency in the game was really one of the design decisions that I think was a bad one - it's like having steel pieces sub for gold in Dragonlance.


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Phase 1: collect underpants
Phase 2: ?
Phase 3: profit!

I finally figured out phase 2!! Craft UPBs!


I think I'll make manufacturing UPB a separate Profession: UPB grower. It should require specialized tools and access to basic compounds - hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, plus traces of other minerals. Silica and iron could be helpful too.


Kittyburger wrote:
Making a manufactured trade good the fundamental unit of currency in the game was really one of the design decisions that I think was a bad one - it's like having steel pieces sub for gold in Dragonlance.

Not really unless you ignore the crafting rules - you don't create trade goods out of nothing, you still need the requisite materials which costs as much as the finished product. Manufacturing UPB really only changes the form of the wealth you own without producing it.

Grand Lodge

Drejk wrote:
Kittyburger wrote:
Making a manufactured trade good the fundamental unit of currency in the game was really one of the design decisions that I think was a bad one - it's like having steel pieces sub for gold in Dragonlance.
Not really unless you ignore the crafting rules - you don't create trade goods out of nothing, you still need the requisite materials which costs as much as the finished product. Manufacturing UPB really only changes the form of the wealth you own without producing it.

In the first edition of Dragonlance, "steel pieces," i.e. literal coins made of steel, whose value came from their steel content, substituted 1:1 with gold pieces. A steel piece weighed 1/10 of an ounce, as did (and still does) a gold piece.

That means that a steel longsword weighing 3.5 pounds per the rules cost the equivalent of 1.5 ounces of steel. You could literally grow rich by buying longswords, cutting them into steel blanks, and repeating the process ad infinitum, because at 560 steel out and only 15 steel in, you were making literally 35 times your investment back.

When Dragonlance went to 2nd Edition, the currency went back to gold pieces because of this.

Basing currency off of trade goods sounds like a great idea and... it really isn't, for a lot of real-world economic reasons.


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Not sure how that applies here, Kittyburger. Once he UPB has been converted to manufactured goods, you can only scavenge 10% of the value from the item. Just as easy to sell it.

I don't see the harm in allowing the manufacture of UPD, as long as the spirit of the crafting rules is met. That is, in order to craft UPD, you'd need to have on hand an equal value of silica, gold, water magically purified by the sun priests in the Radiant Cathedral, goblin luck stones, glue, 37 differently sized papecllips, and whatever else strikes the GMs whim. Also it might require a specialized workshop.

So, doable, but as Drejk said you're really just converting your wealth from one form to another without gaining you anything but portability.

Edit: heck, I'm going to go ahead and head cannon that most UPB is manufactured by the government who has a natural monopoly on it. Not because they're greedy, but because the technique is so inherently inefficient that profit is more or less impossible.


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QuidEst wrote:
Hmm. The ability to produce UPBs is huge if you're stranded somewhere, so that would be a huge advantage over civilization-dependent professions. On top of that, you're rolling it in to one of the game's more useful skills. I'd say no for my rules answer. In a home game, I'd house-rule 10% rate for producing from scratch out in a desert, but full rate if you have access to what we'll call NUPB, or Non-Universal Polymer Bases- you can turn a profit by refining a more specific material to general use.

If you're going with the "stranded" scenario, then you're already getting into an unreasonable realm of the rules, as it's designed to be a game mechanic, not anything that makes any real amount of sense.

By the rules, if you want to make a hundred pounds of lizard jerkey (let's call that six weeks worth of rations), you need 6 credits worth of UPB to turn into beef jerky. If your GM consents, you could salvage that lizard monster you killed and the trees you cut down for spare parts at 10% efficiency and use its meat to make jerky, far less effectively than using universal polymer base to make food.

UPB is more efficient at making things than using the literal parts and materials that make the thing, which makes no sense.

What's more, there are many, many ways to ply a trade outside of touch with civilization. This is a space game, with long spans of down time as you go from point A to point B that don't require you to forage and tend horses and set up camp like you do in Pathfinder, leaving you time to do all sorts of things that are great roleplay and character development. My Space Etsy account is still up while I'm in deep space. I can make artisinal soaps while we're out gallivanting across the universe, and fill the orders with the stock I've amassed when we get back. That doesn't make Profession: Soaper overpowered. It's just a little different. It's not like the Profession skills are a balance-breaking source of income.

And, quite frankly, if you're stranded, you have options and resources that are not properly represented by the rules or the UPB as the only efficient method of making stuff by a factor of ten. You have a cargo bay full of abstracted out spare parts, and the resources of a planet to tap, and your party's inevitably considerable technical expertise to work with. Fabricating a substance that can't be that impossible to manufacture since it's what everything is made of isn't such a stretch, nor is it really unfair. Deep space explorers are, by their nature, meant to be much more self-sufficient.

Kittyburger wrote:
Basing currency off of trade goods sounds like a great idea and... it really isn't, for a lot of real-world economic reasons.

The problem there isn't trying currency to a trade good. It's that they didn't follow through on the ensuing logic. If you set steel as a standard, then you have to follow through in the products, and ask, "Does this use steel? How much? How much is that worth? How much do we add for labor?" Rather than, "What number did Gary Gygax pull out of his rectum in 1974?"

In the case of Starfinder, "Does this use nonsense space fluid plastic stuff?" "Yes." "How much?" "SPACE!" "How much is that worth?" "Precisely as much as the item, by definition." "How much do we add for labor?" "Literally nothing. Nobody in the galaxy turns a profit making things, and there is only an economy because we say there is. Or possibly a very healthy resale market."

It doesn't run into the same problem.


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I don't see it as creating something out of nothing. Sure you need access to types of unrefined matter, but not an equivalent value of trade goods.

Like in Pathfinder; profession lumberjack needing a forest, profession miner needing a mine, fisher needing a body of water. Professions fed mats to crafters, that then made the finished goods.

I'd agree that if you're trapped somewhere with zero access to matter, then yeah, no crafting anything (gear or UBP).

I was thinking more along the lines of salvaging or recycling scrap materials (broken down starships or equipment you didn't care to sell).

At the end of the day, whether your skill check to "Earn a Living" (pg 146) comes from providing a service or from creating some kind of trade good, I don't think there's a game mechanic difference.


Just like the purchase rules in Pathfinder, the Crafting Rules in Starfinder assume that the character's are Adventurers (the quintessential Consumer)... not merchants and craftspeople.

The prices we see aren't actual market values, those are the values merchants offer Adventurers... people the game assumes don't have the patience to make their own gear, or the facilities to do so as efficiently as the manufacturers can.

I seriously doubt Items actually cost as much in materials as their resale value. What I do believe though is that Adventurers get charged three or four times as much as they should be for said materials because history has shown (in that universe at least) that Adventurers will pay it.

On a realistic note; in my experience supplies for home-made objects often end up costing more than buying a mass-produced version of the same objects would have (and to make matters worse the machine usually does a better job of assembly than I). This isn't because those materials are truly so expensive... but because the companies that sell them know that I as a consumer don't have access to the resources they do, and I'll likely have to pay whatever price they name if I want the materials.


Starfinder actually wrote into the crafting rules their rationalization for why adventurers can't make things for a profit. It's economy of scale. UPB producers start price breaks at 1 million units, so the company making 10,000 laser pistols a day has a profit margin, we do not.

Since Engineering isn't a money making skill, I'd use profession Chemist to make UPB. Of course, to make the UPB into anything you need an appropriate skill.


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Page 146, 2 paragraphs before "Earning a Living": "A Profession skill should not overlap with existing skills. For example, if you want to play a scientist, you should put ranks into Life Science or Physical Science rather than create a Profession (scientist) skill."

From the Earning a Living paragraph: "At the GM's discretion, you can use other skills (such as Computers or Engineering) to earn a living following the same guidelines."

I think it's kind of wonky to say you shouldn't make a profession that is redundant with an existing knowledge or craft... then two paragraphs later say it is GM's discretion. Granted, all rules are subject to rule zero...

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Card Game, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

I don't see it as too game breaking. In one week (7 days) you can create about 50-75 UPBs. Considering that after level 2 everything is at least 1000cr/UPBs you need a long time to build them from "nothing"


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Zombie Lord wrote:

Page 146, 2 paragraphs before "Earning a Living": "A Profession skill should not overlap with existing skills. For example, if you want to play a scientist, you should put ranks into Life Science or Physical Science rather than create a Profession (scientist) skill."

From the Earning a Living paragraph: "At the GM's discretion, you can use other skills (such as Computers or Engineering) to earn a living following the same guidelines."

I think it's kind of wonky to say you shouldn't make a profession that is redundant with an existing knowledge or craft... then two paragraphs later say it is GM's discretion. Granted, all rules are subject to rule zero...

It makes sense to me. Profession shouldn't substitute for existing skills like the sciences, but at a gms whim all other skills can substitute for the profession skill. Your soldier earns a living doing jumping jacks with her athletics skill? Sure why not?


Does the profession skill cover being the owner of a massive industrial complex?

Because that's probably what you need to make all of the UPBs you need by yourself.


It doesn't have to be all of it.

You can totally supplement your needs. Using Life Sciences to make moonshine may not cover all of your alcohol-related needs, but it can certainly help reduce the demands on your beer money.

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