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Starship Shields and Armor Conceptually Inverted?


Starfinder General Discussion

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Card Game, Class Deck, Maps, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Legends Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Armor as DR would perhaps have been a solution that would gel with the OP's intuitions more.

For me, I'm happy to ignore it. I can see it's an issue if you think about it too hard, but I'm content to leave my analysis at:

"We were hit, but our shields took the damage!"

without thinking too hard about the fact that adding armor inside the protective bubble would somehow have saved our shields.


Basically everything about space combat in this game makes zero sense conceptually and the system exists to let you tell compelling stories. The structural integrity field idea is what I'll go with, for my sanity. Otherwise I'll just have to reinvent the system from the ground up where armor is another set of damage absorption that comes into play after shields and I really don't feel like doing that right now.


Micheal Smith wrote:

Yes it deflects it so it doesn’t do damage to the Systems. With out armor you would hit the critical systems. It’s the same concept as a fighter in full plate protects hit vital organs.

[b]Pease read the full sentence.[\b] It doesn’t say that it deflects the laser and deal no damage,

Look at X-wing. When you roll damage your opponent has a chance to evade. If they roll more evade than you the laser never hits your ship. If the attacker rolls more hits then you deplete shields first. So many systems use similar mechanics.

Armor still has to be hit in order to do damage. If you do t hit you don’t do damage. When a laser hits your hull it will damage you. Seriously people. Either you hit or you don’t. If you hit you deal damage, if you miss you don’t do damage.

Again when you go to fire you have to target the ship. If you target the ship when you pull the trigger, hit the button, or whatever is used to fire, your laser travels almost instantly and hits. There is NO SPEED for lasers like missiles.

You either hit the ship and do damage or you miss the ship entirely. That’s why you have 5e pilots ranks in the AC, to simulate you evading the shot. Then evasive maneuvers is an even more elobaorate move to help dodge.

When you hit the shields, energy shield, absorbs the damage.

Please get out of the mind set that you physically hit before you damage. Shooting lasers vs swinging a sword are 2 different concepts. Star Trek is a perfect example, dark matter as well. We will even throw in the Orville, they all target the ship, then fire then damage shields, then hull.

Also you are combating physical bodies to a invisible force field.

Page 297

“Armor protects a ship from direct-fire weapons (see Type on page 303), deflecting their energy and preventing damage to critical ship systems.”

Later, that same page
“Armor is a passive system and does not require any PCU to remain functional. It provides protection primarily through mass,”

So no, I will not get it out of my head that you physically hit before you do damage. Physically hitting is exactly what the armor is there to prevent. That’s the whole point of that game mechanic being given that in-universe explanation. It represents the difference between an incoming shot hitting the ship and being deflected, glancing off or otherwise physically withstood by the intervening armor such that no damage was sustained, and an incoming shot hitting the ship and causing damage because there was nothing in the way.

I mean, you understand that these aren’t just randomly selected numbers with pretty names attached to them to be ignored, right? You get a bonus based on the pilot’s ranks in piloting to represent how skillfully the ship is being flown. You get a modifier based on how big or small the ship is. You get a bonus if you were doing any evasive manuevers. The attacker takes a penalty if he’s far away. He takes a larger penalty if he’s farther away. Those things exist in the game mechanics to represent in-universe factors.

Okay, well, one of those in-universe factors is the armor your ship has. And being not just a pretty number pulled out of someone’s derriere but a representation of something in-universe, it is therefore subject to the ramifications that follow its in-universe description. It is described as deflecting energy primarily via mass, no power required. That means that whatever in-universe thing it’s accomplishing and however that in-universe factor is represented in the game mechanics, it MUST definitionally be accomplishing it when the incoming fire makes physical contact with the armor on the ship, not before, not after, but at that moment.

That also means that any factors that, in-universe, apply prior to said physical contact MUST definitionally not be subject to said physical contact as though the physical contact happened first. It simply doesn’t follow.

Here’s an example to illustrate: you know how you and I are not in the same room discussing this face to face. There’s the walls surrounding the room I’m in and, unless you’re outside, the walls of the room you’re in, plus the hundreds to thousands of miles between and probably a portion of the Earth’s bulk in the way, too.

Okay, that phenomenon? It’s the same thing that says that if shields are a thing that accomplish something represented somehow through game mechanics (which in Starfinder are floating shield points but could easily have been a bonus to AC or a flat out miss chance instead) and accomplish this something BEFORE the introduction of the in-universe factor referred to as “armor”, then they MUST not be subject to the armor’s success or failure. That is simply how space works, sir. I’m sorry. I wish I wasn’t limited to three-dimensional movement and causality, too.

But until then, please put it out of your head that these things get to ignore their obligation to sense and logic. They are not just game mechanics, they represent things happening in-universe and are therefore subject to those ramifications. They cannot NOT be subject to those ramifications.

Luke Spencer wrote:
I disagree with this, is it not reasonable that with the level of technology available a computer could know if an incoming attack would damage the hull or bounce off and raise/lower the shields accordingly? This seems like a perfectly reasonable and fairly grounded solution to the entire problem.

There are scifi settings where something like that would be plausible, something like Firefly or Star Wars where the technology that exists and is known is all that has to be accounted for. A setting like Star Trek, on the other hand, would have new technologies and/or new space-born lifeforms (which, by definition, would not be something a shield-controlling shipboard computer would be able to model and predict). Given the existence of a Science Officer and his role to, among other things, scan enemy targets and learn useful information about them that would arguably not already be known, I’d say that Starfinder would seem to be leaning more towards Star Trek than Star Wars.

Besides, there are a couple of quirky ramifications to this model. First, if the shields are controlled by something able to accurately model incoming fire to the point of being able to tell if the shields are necessary or if the ship’s armor can take it instead, doesn’t that argue for this sort of pertinent information being known by the ship already. And if that’s the case, what purpose is there in the Science Officer doing all the scanning necessary to learn the enemy’s armaments?

“Warning! Incoming Mk IIB 52-isoton-yield Sharknado-series photon torpedo! Press “I” to identify the enemy ship’s armaments.”

Doesn’t this just make the Science Officer into Tawny Madison from GalaxyQuest? Except, instead of being the only one able to talk to the computer, she has to sweet-talk into telling her what it already knows.

The other ramification is that this model ties shield functions to the sensors, which would seem to make the shields also subject to any malfunctions the sensors are suffering. Granted, this would be easy to model. Just figure out the ship’s AC without the armor bonus. Then, whenever the shields wouldn’t know when to lower themselves to let the ship’s armor take an incoming shot instead, have that be the ship’s working AC until either the sensors get fixed or the shields go down.

Adrick wrote:

armor deflecting shots (causing no hurt/hit) can't happen until after a shield bubble has been hit and lost some integrity. the shield bubble doesn't/shouldn't benefit from armor. So either shields should have their own AC until collapse or the ships should be easier to hit until shields drop and so forth. but that gets needlessly complicated pretty quick.

So for ease of use just say armor also includes some projectors energy lattices whatever you want that provide strengthening(ac) for the deflection of any overlapping shields. mysteriously always the same ac bonus as bare armor. whatever techno babel you want to close the conceptual gap in the rules.

That could work. Star Trek (at least by TNG) had the shields represented by grid lines on the hull. So if we say that Starfinder shields are projected from a similar place (the surface of the hull or the armor if the ship has armor), we can then say the shields provide an amount of protection exactly equal to and dependent on the armor it’s sitting on. Maybe the shields act in a shock-absorber-like method, transmitting any external forces to the hull/armor and therefore applying precisely the armor’s resistance back out. Any incoming fire that hits the ship but wouldn’t get past the armor is likewise stopped by the shield envelope with no damage to the hull or loss of shield points (similar to the G-Diffuser spin in Starfox). Anything that would get through the ship’s armor likewise makes the shield buckle, forcing the shield to consume energy (shield points) until it withstands the damage or drops, sending the rest through to the armor (which would also fail to stop it, being the same as the shields) and causing damage.

So you would start out with a “shield AC” until the shields in that arc went down, then you have an “armor AC” (which is the same AC as the shield AC). In this model, shields wouldn’t be protected by the armor; shields get their magnitude of protective ability from the armor, and then stand as the first line of defense over everything else, the armor included. As would make sense when you have shields outside the ship and assume that space works normally.

Well done, Adrick. I think I need to see about suggesting to a dev that this or some other explanation be included in a future book for the benefit of anyone else who might have the same conceptual problem and didn’t see this thread.


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber

OK WOW.

Then go with this. When the armor is hit and damage would be done the shields absorb the blast.

You really are trying to make since of something that isn't real, that is just science fiction. Other then that I don't know man. You are OVERTHINKING something that is really irrelevant.


Micheal Smith wrote:

OK WOW.

...
You really are trying to make since of something that isn't real, that is just science fiction. Other then that I don't know man. You are OVERTHINKING something that is really irrelevant.

I share your sentiment, but I think the "problem" here is that it ISN'T science fiction. In that, it's not science.

Basically, it's space opera, so stuff doesn't have to make sense. And the mechanics are as they are because they're a port of personal combat mechanics (that also didn't make sense).

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Yeah, hitting a person's armor in combat would still reduce their stamina. It doesn't make "sense" that armor protects from stamina damage.


Tectorman wrote:
That could work. Star Trek (at least by TNG) had the shields represented by grid lines on the hull. So if we say that Starfinder shields are projected from a similar place (the surface of the hull or the armor if the ship has armor), we can then say the shields provide an amount of protection exactly equal to and dependent on the armor it’s sitting on. Maybe the shields act in a shock-absorber-like method, transmitting any external forces to the hull/armor and therefore applying precisely the armor’s resistance back out. Any incoming fire that hits the ship but wouldn’t get past the armor is likewise stopped by the shield envelope with no damage to the hull or loss of shield points (similar to the G-Diffuser spin in Starfox). Anything that would get through the ship’s armor likewise makes the shield buckle, forcing the shield to consume energy (shield points) until it withstands the damage or drops, sending the rest through to the armor (which would also fail to stop it, being the same as the shields) and causing damage.

Star trek has always had something like this: in Enterprise there's an energy field that stiffens the hull as it's main defence. By TNG the stability field is still there, if it wasn't, the ship would be completely ****d once the bubble goes down (i.e. single torpedo vaporizes most if not all of the hull).


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KingOfAnything wrote:
Yeah, hitting a person's armor in combat would still reduce their stamina. It doesn't make "sense" that armor protects from stamina damage.

That makes perfect sense. Wearing armor doesn’t 100%. Getting hit with armor is still going to take out of you. A lot why back in medieval times they used bludgeoning weapons against full plate, i bast the armor in and cause internal bleeding from the impact. In those times internal bleeding was very difficult if not impossible to deal with.


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Its an interesting point. I understand that the system is an abstract concept but i would still prefer something like, "Pilot check acts as AC for the turn but targeted weapons ignore this and instead are countered by TL DC, then come shields against any hits that land and finally damage that would get past shields is reduced by armor hardness."

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Micheal Smith wrote:
KingOfAnything wrote:
Yeah, hitting a person's armor in combat would still reduce their stamina. It doesn't make "sense" that armor protects from stamina damage.
That makes perfect sense. Wearing armor doesn’t 100%. Getting hit with armor is still going to take out of you. A lot why back in medieval times they used bludgeoning weapons against full plate, i bast the armor in and cause internal bleeding from the impact. In those times internal bleeding was very difficult if not impossible to deal with.

But why does armor increase Armor Class then? Wouldn't armor as damage reduction make more "sense"?

/s


Armor class abstraction is huge.
But it is convenient abstraction.


KingOfAnything wrote:
But why does armor increase Armor Class then? Wouldn't armor as damage reduction make more "sense"?

Yes, yes it would.

But Pathfinder inherited it from D&D3, and Starfinder wasn't going to have such a radically different mechanic from pathfinder, because then it wouldn't be simplified pathfinder in space.

So what we have here is a legacy oddity that was curiously inevitable.

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