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Starship Shields and Armor Conceptually Inverted?


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Okay, I’ve just read up on the starship combat section and I find myself very confused by how armor and shields work for starships. Namely, how they appear to come into play in pretty much the exact opposite manner of how every scifi series I can imagine has them working.

The first problem: A starship is a certain difficulty to hit (or rather, to hit in a fashion that does damage) due to its AC which is influenced in large parts by the pilot’s skill and by the ship’s armor. Perfectly reasonable. Weapons fire either misses outright or it hits, glances off, and does no harm. Makes sense. And with ships that don’t have shields, the entire order of operations is coherent and sensible. But let’s say that the starship has shields. Well then, they come into play after we’ve determined that the ship took a damaging hit.

Let me repeat that: a starship’s shields do not come into play until after it’s been established that the ship took a hit. Okay, simple question: how is that even happening? How does a ship’s armor do its job before the shields? Aren’t the shields the energy barrier projected OUTSIDE the physical ship? And isn’t the ship’s armor the dense plating on the outside of the ship (but you know, still INSIDE said energy barrier)? What, are we supposed to be imagining that all starships in Starfinder have their armor out on spars far away from the hull, then a shield envelope, then the ship itself? From what scifi franchise did they pull this from?

The second problem: A starship’s armor has zilch bearing on its ability to withstand tracking weapons. The armor, as we’ve established, is on the outside surface of the ship. Pretty obvious, right? A missile or torpedo exploding and damaging the inside of the ship must first have done something to the outside of the ship, which I thought was where all that armor was. Okay, so why does no amount of armor have any bearing on tracking weapons? Actually, it’s worse than that. You can take an exploding missile better with less protective armor. What’s going on? Do all Starfinder tracking weapons work like the Skipper missiles from Wing Commander or the transporter bullets from DS9, teleporting inside their targets right before exploding and therefore bypassing all that ostensibly protective hull armor? Are all Starfinder starships built with a courtesy exhaust port for missiles to fly into Death-Star-style so they can bypass the armor that way?

Conceptually, this is very difficult for me to take the numbers and terms this part of the game is throwing at me and envision it as something sensible. So my questions are: if you ever noticed this and was bothered by it, too, how do you explain those two problems away? or alternatively, what did you change to make the system make sense?

For example, I can see potential in switching the terms for armor and shields. Shields are what direct-fire weapons glance off of, and armor is what takes some of the hurt that makes it through before the rest becomes actual damage. This has the added benefit of making armor (previously referred to “shields”) also work against missiles and torpedoes, thereby resolving problem 2. Unfortunately, this comes at the cost of begging the question of why shields don’t take energy and impose movement limitations while armor takes energy and can somehow be redistributed. Not to mention why shields do nothing against missiles.

As another example, what about scrapping the term “shields” altogether? Based on the order of operations and how they don’t do jack to prevent the ship from actually taking a hit, they seem to act more like a structural integrity field, so should we just call it that and consider the designation “shields” to be a Princess Bride mistake? It would at least make more sense for an SIF to do its thing after armor and be a system influenced by energy costs and subject to redistribution. Still doesn’t answer why armor doesn’t protect against missiles, tough.


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So the deal with Shields is it is to protect damage done not prevent hitting. The shields and armor basically share the same slot effectively. It's not like this:

h = hull s = shields

h s
h s
h s
h s
h s

Again shields only stop damage not actual targeting. Now there may be a way later on where shields have a way to disrupt weapon systems and help.

The concept for TL is using countermeasures like Phalanx CIWS (The NAVY uses this) or use flares, like some fighter jets use, to blow up or provide a false target. These don't ALWAYS work. So lets say the TL is 21, and you get a higher attack roll basically this could simulate your failed attempts to hit the missile with a Phalanx CIWS style weapon of the flares, countermeasures failed the missile collides. At this point in time it is irrelevant what armor you have because if you get hit with a missile than the explosive ordinance deals damage. Missiles are not let me hit you and damage me. They have explosives and deal radius. So even if you could remote detonate a missile before contact you could still take damage. The concept of missiles are they will hit their target unless something interferes with it or it fails to reach its target.

This then makes the Science officers job that much more important. IF he can scan the weapons and see if they have missiles and see the range he could potentially tell the pilot park it out side its range and out run it. Antimatter mega-missile has a speed if 6 hexes. If you can stay at 7 hexes away they fire it will move 6 hexes a round. If you can move 6+ hexes then you have to keep making gunnery checks to have it chase.


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I honestly like how heavier armor makes a tracking weapons easier to hit with. It represents the armor providing a stronger sensor return.

As for the armor/ shield mismatch that goes back to core mechanics. Most DnD based games have armor make it harder to hit rather than DR. Sure Starfinder could have made starship armor provide DR but that would directly compete with ablative shields and stack with the inherent DR of larger ships.

Could it be that Shields are not a protective bubble at some distance from the hull? If that was the case shouldn't they make it easier for any weapon to hit the ship. Instead shields could be more like the structural integrity fields. In that case a weapon would have to hit the ship for the shields to act.


I think the fact SF starship combat is intentionally designed to be abstract and non-realistic makes this a nonfunctional discussion.

AC to hit, Shield points as stamina and hull points as hit points. Follows the basic design of the PC-level combat.


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It is design with some realism. I explained it above.

Missiles when fired have a target. They will continue to that target till something impedes their movement. This is where the countermeasures come into play. If a missiles movement is not impeded than it will hit its target and deal damage.

Shields cover the Armor there is no gap between shields and armor.

AGAIN SHIELDS ONLY PROTECT FROM DAMAGE. Nothing more. They are depleted when taking damage. Then they can be redistributed to other sides of the ship if needed.

EC Game Guy got it right with the Shield points are like Stamina points


I imagine part of the underlying assumption is, missiles and other tracking weapons basically don't care how much armor you've put on the outside of your ship. They either use anti-armor mechanisms, or else they just explode in a big enough area that you can't deflect/dissipate, because every part of that side of the ship is getting zapped at once. Whereas a laser or railgun shot, can be deflected or hit at an off angle, or be soaked up by the armor before heat leaks through, because the attack is on a fairly narrow spot for a fairly brief time.

You can resist missiles via ship design, but its through fundamental ruggedness of the ship, which is to say, hit points.


I agree that they are conceptually inverted, but this stems from a conceptual inversion inherent to Starfinder, inherited from Pathfinder (and ultimately, from D&D.

Armor doesn't make you harder to hit.

The guy in plate mail isn't harder to hit with a paint pellet than the guy next to him in a speedo.

The system has ALWAYS had an attack roll to reflect the chance of landing a damaging attack. That's the basic mechanism of combat in the system.

It then almost IMMEDIATELY introduced separate mechanics to reflect certain things being resistant to certain attacks (+1 weapons required to hit, etc) and also introduced saving throws that reduced damage on things that often automatically hit (which is ANOTHER, entirely different way, of representing the chances of landing a damaging hit). And it also introduced resistance, which was ANOTHER way of representing the protection that you might have from an attack (and which worked on BOTH things that required to hit rolls, and things that allowed saving throws).

But the conceptual mechanism for armor in the game has always (I'm sure there are exceptions, duly noted, for grognards) been armor makes you harder to hit. It's weird, but it's LEGACY WEIRD.

See GURPS for a much more simulationist treatment of armor vs. defensive actions taken vs. an attack. I like it much more, to be honest, but it's always been easier to run and play in a D&D style game for me.


Lane_S wrote:

I honestly like how heavier armor makes a tracking weapons easier to hit with. It represents the armor providing a stronger sensor return.

As for the armor/ shield mismatch that goes back to core mechanics. Most DnD based games have armor make it harder to hit rather than DR. Sure Starfinder could have made starship armor provide DR but that would directly compete with ablative shields and stack with the inherent DR of larger ships.

Could it be that Shields are not a protective bubble at some distance from the hull? If that was the case shouldn't they make it easier for any weapon to hit the ship. Instead shields could be more like the structural integrity fields. In that case a weapon would have to hit the ship for the shields to act.

“Shields” being a protective bubble outside the ship (and therefore, something that interferes with the ship getting hit BEFORE armor comes into play) is a sci-fi staple, I thought, and was why I was asking if any sci-fi franchises out there actually had their “shields” operate in Starfinder’s manner. I was never asking for an explanation of the mechanics on the out-of-universe side, but what in-universe thing I could visualize to grok why Starfinder so-called-“shields” come into play at a point that is counter-intuitive, based on the usual sci-fi staples. Merely telling me that the game mechanic for shields is that they intervene after the hit and only mitigate damage is insufficient.

For example, you mention the possibility of Starfinder shields not being the bubble. Okay, what sci-fi has ever done that? Give me something to visualize. Because even if the shields are an energy barrier that precisely conforms to the exterior of the hull, they still intervene before armor does (since armor is explicitly described to function by virtue of being really thick, that means that damage must be going through that physical object and therefore the armor succeeds or fails AFTER the shields do their thing). And the only imaginable way otherwise is with a ship protected by a shield envelope with armor struts extending out past said envelope (unless someone has another example). Which is clunky but at least would get it right. It also is not a visual direction the art of the book leads us towards.

I’ll take that they’re not shields but a structural integrity field instead, but if we’re going with that, then that means that using the term “shields” is a Princess-Bride-poor choice of term.

EC Gamer Guy wrote:

I think the fact SF starship combat is intentionally designed to be abstract and non-realistic makes this a nonfunctional discussion.

AC to hit, Shield points as stamina and hull points as hit points. Follows the basic design of the PC-level combat.

That would work if it were described better. Stamina points represent something in-universe that other things also in-universe interact with in a way that makes sense for stamina points to be referred to as stamina points (such as what effects do and do not restore them). That is what’s missing with the game mechanic existing in starship combat (which I do not have an issue with) and being referred to as “shields” (which I have a problem with for the above-mentioned reasons).

Essentially, if you told me your game had a magic “wizard” class and it ended up working more like a combination of Macgyver and the Wizard of Oz, I would have the same objection. Not to a combination of Macgyver and the Wizard of Oz (would probably be awesome, in fact), but to advertising that as Harry Potter.

Micheal Smith wrote:

It is design with some realism. I explained it above.

Missiles when fired have a target. They will continue to that target till something impedes their movement. This is where the countermeasures come into play. If a missiles movement is not impeded than it will hit its target and deal damage.

Shields cover the Armor there is no gap between shields and armor.

AGAIN SHIELDS ONLY PROTECT FROM DAMAGE. Nothing more. They are depleted when taking damage. Then they can be redistributed to other sides of the ship if needed.

EC Game Guy got it right with the Shield points are like Stamina points

Okay, let me explain my objection by comparing this to Starfleet Battles, since that game has all the elements you’re talking about.

To hit any starship with any weapon, phasers or torpedoes, you have to hit. Piloting skill doesn’t really come into play in SFB due to the nature of the game besides things like Evasive Manuevers (though it would make sense if they had), but things like the size of the ship and its signal-jamming and other countermeasures do. It both makes sense that these things exist and that they enter into the equation at this point. If you hit, you have to beat their shields. It both makes sense that this thing exists and that it enters the equation at this point. Beat that, and then you get to start damaging the hull starting (with any excess hull points not tied to crucial systems taking the damage first, operating a lot like how armor would). And again, it both makes sense that this things exists and that it enters the equation at this point.

I’m not objecting to what in-universe elements they decided to put into their representation of starship combat. I’m objecting to the order they’re coming into play and the counter-intuitive ramifications that follow. I mean, if you’re playing in a game that has rules for system shock or massive damage, does it make sense to roll for that before the enemy even hits you?

Again, don’t tell me that shields only mitigate the damage. Tell me why. Tell me what’s going on in-universe that this makes sense. I mean, imagine you’re a GM running a game with starships that have shields. You are asked the very simple question of “What does my starship’s shields look like?”. Would the intuitive, typical answer be “a protective bubble/generally ship shape-conforming bubble outside the ship”? Does it then follow (not from a game mechanic perspective because I was never asking about that, but just looking at it in-universe) that your shields outside the ship don’t do diddly until your armor on the ship have done their thing?

Metaphysician wrote:

I imagine part of the underlying assumption is, missiles and other tracking weapons basically don't care how much armor you've put on the outside of your ship. They either use anti-armor mechanisms, or else they just explode in a big enough area that you can't deflect/dissipate, because every part of that side of the ship is getting zapped at once. Whereas a laser or railgun shot, can be deflected or hit at an off angle, or be soaked up by the armor before heat leaks through, because the attack is on a fairly narrow spot for a fairly brief time.

You can resist missiles via ship design, but its through fundamental ruggedness of the ship, which is to say, hit points.

Okay, see, this works as an explanation for why armor does nothing against tracking weapons. Thank you; that resolves my second problem.

Come to think of it, another explanation could be that no ship’s armor is all-encompassing and therefore has at least some gaps. Direct-fire weapons travel to their target nearly instantaneously, but tracking weapons take longer and can therefore line up their approach better to always go after those gaps.


It doesn't really make much sense. If shields acted like Star Trek shields, they would be more like AD&D mage armor, which gave you a good AC until you took damage.
It's an artifact of the combat system which uses armor for AC. At a certain level of abstraction, it's fine. Maybe it would be better if shields influenced "hitting" but the only difference is whatever marginal bonus you would be assigning. It would be a wash in a lot of cases. Further, pilot skill might include angling the ship so the shields take less impact.


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I imagine shields as a bubble that wraps very close to the hull, and if an attack lands the shield absorbs some of the energy from the projectile making it less effective. Kinda like covering the ship in a layer of bubble wrap.


RJGrady wrote:

It doesn't really make much sense. If shields acted like Star Trek shields, they would be more like AD&D mage armor, which gave you a good AC until you took damage.

It's an artifact of the combat system which uses armor for AC. At a certain level of abstraction, it's fine. Maybe it would be better if shields influenced "hitting" but the only difference is whatever marginal bonus you would be assigning. It would be a wash in a lot of cases. Further, pilot skill might include angling the ship so the shields take less impact.

No, it’s not a fundamental artifact of the AC system. I’ll give you an example of shields being integrated in that same system in a more sensible way.

Shields provide a bonus to AC dependent on their grade (light +1, medium +2, or heavy +3), as well as a floating pool of shield points (from 20 to 400). Every time your opponent fails to hit you by only the margin of the shields, the shields take the damage that would have been inflicted and your floating shield points are reduced by that amount. When this pool reaches 0, your shields are down.

There you go. Still AC, but shields now come into play when they intuitively would, instead of the insanity that is a laser hitting your ship, breaking through your armor, then somehow teleporting outside again to hit the shield envelope and then teleport back inside to hurt the hull.

Shields outside the ship? Why do I keep harping on that?

Luke Spencer wrote:
I imagine shields as a bubble that wraps very close to the hull, and if an attack lands the shield absorbs some of the energy from the projectile making it less effective. Kinda like covering the ship in a layer of bubble wrap.

Because it’s the standard interpretation, apparently (just see above). And for shields to be outside, even if they’re also very close to the hull, they still do their thing before armor. It’s not an issue with shields absorbing incoming hurt, it’s an issue with why and how armor does anything before the shields in front of the armor.


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It makes more sense if you imagine ship AC like character AC, it's not just whether or not a shot pierces your armor but how hard you are to hit. A ship with high AC might be just absorbing the hits, or they might be dodging the shots in which case shields would only need to take effect if the ship was actually hit. Alternatively you could argue that the computer detects incoming attacks and only puts up shields if the attack is likely to cause damage.


Doesn't personal combat have similar thematic problems, with force-fields giving you temporary hit points that only kick in if the enemy gets past your armor?


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Shields are energy. They deflect or absorb attacks and expend energy to do so. They don't make you miss the ship, they are part of the ship. They're temporary HP.

Meanwhile, AC is essentially Challenge Rating not just to hit something, but to hit and damage something. Smaller ships are harder to hit. More maneuverable ships are harder to hit. Ships with skilled pilots are harder to hit. But ships with heavy hulls are plenty easy to hit but hard to damage.

A ship with a decent AI should know enough to only waste it's shield energy deflecting and absorbing things that will actually damage the ship.


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Your Answer is: Shields are invisible force field that surrounds the ship till depleted. Why do you need to see something for it to work? Shields in this setting DO NOTHING FOR ARMOR. THEY PROTECT DAMAGE.

Why are you over complicating a simple thing?

Quit thinking they are to help with the let me hit you problem. THEY DON"T PROVIDE ARMOR. Just a means to protect you from damage.


Micheal Smith wrote:
Shields in this setting DO NOTHING FOR ARMOR. THEY PROTECT DAMAGE.

This is not in dispute.

The question is, how does the armor protect the shields from taking damage?

(Perhaps the shields are an internal force field designed to prevent depressurization during a hull breach?)


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Matthew Downie wrote:
Micheal Smith wrote:
Shields in this setting DO NOTHING FOR ARMOR. THEY PROTECT DAMAGE.

This is not in dispute.

The question is, how does the armor protect the shields from taking damage?

(Perhaps the shields are an internal force field designed to prevent depressurization during a hull breach?)

Is this meant to be serious? Shields are meant to take damage. Shields are your first line of defense vs damage.


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Mechanically, your armor is your first line of defense. Shots that penetrate your armor class then damage your shields - your second line of defense.


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Please read what I put. They are your first line of defense vs damaged


And what the others in this thread are saying is that from an in-universe position having it only apply against damage when whatever the attack is has to check against the armor (that is usually in sci-fi within the shields) makes no sense. Not about what it should or should not apply to, just that it makes no sense to affect the shields after checking the thing inside the shields.


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Having read the entry again: "Damage is first applied to any shields the target starship has in the quadrant hit by the attack" which I interpret as if the attack is going to hit the ship, it first has to get through the shields, so if the shields absorb all the damage the attack doesn't hit the hull itself, it just gets dissipated before it reaches the ship. I get what you mean by shields not contributing to AC but the AC of a ship is as much the pilot's ability to dodge as it is the ships ability to absorb a blow, so if the pilot is dodging all the attacks then shields don't help, and if the attack is going to get absorbed by the ship's armor and not do damage the computer could detect that and shut the shields off anyway.

Sovereign Court

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Shields are smart. They only expend energy if the Armor couldn't take the hit.

Dark Archive

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So I dig that this is all an abstraction, but it is a little wonky. Your physical armor prevents attacks from landing. Presumably, that's because it deflects off of the armor. Which would require touching it.

So, if we assume the armor is part of the hull, and that the shields are outside the hull, how can an attack pierce the shields, bounce off the armored hull, and do no damage to the ship or shields?

That's the core conceptual issue I'm getting from Tectorman. Why does armor (which is inside the shields) affect how hard it is for an attack to land on the shields?

Dark Archive

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Maybe I'll start to think of shields as the space-fiberglass insulation between an external wall and internal sheetrock.


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It does makes perfect sense. You still have to target the SHIP not the shields.The shields and the armor are in the same position. Again its not like the shields have 5 feet in-between the hull. You can't target an invisible force field or sorts.

You target the ship when you hit the lasers hits the shield. When you are firing lasers you have to aim the lasers at the ship. That is what it happening when you fire. How does the shield effect that in any way shape of form? IT DOESN'T. The shields only come into play when the ship is hit. if you miss the ship than the shields don't matter. You have to hit before you do damage.


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bonehorse wrote:

So I dig that this is all an abstraction, but it is a little wonky. Your physical armor prevents attacks from landing. Presumably, that's because it deflects off of the armor. Which would require touching it.

So, if we assume the armor is part of the hull, and that the shields are outside the hull, how can an attack pierce the shields, bounce off the armored hull, and do no damage to the ship or shields?

That's the core conceptual issue I'm getting from Tectorman. Why does armor (which is inside the shields) affect how hard it is for an attack to land on the shields?

Because the shields only need to activate if the attack would actually deal any damage. Imagine oobleck, if you throw a ball at it it'll solidify and the ball will kinda bounce off, but if you slowly push the ball it'll pass right through, it's that kind of idea. There's no need to waste energy stopping an attack that won't deal damage.


Micheal Smith wrote:

It does makes perfect sense. You still have to target the SHIP not the shields.The shields and the armor are in the same position. Again its not like the shields have 5 feet in-between the hull. You can't target an invisible force field or sorts.

You target the ship when you hit the lasers hits the shield. When you are firing lasers you have to aim the lasers at the ship. That is what it happening when you fire. How does the shield effect that in any way shape of form? IT DOESN'T. The shields only come into play when the ship is hit. if you miss the ship than the shields don't matter. You have to hit before you do damage.

And if you’re going to tell me that the shields are not a protective bubble outside the armor outside the ship, then I ask again for you to show a scifi where shields operate like that. You have the entire Internet. You have all of scifi history. And I’m only adking for one example.

Otherwise, I ask you to explain the following:

Me

(line of orcs extending to the horizons)
Orc Orc Orc Orc Orc Orc Orc Orc Orc Orc Orc Orc Orc Orc Orc Orc Orc Orc Orc Orc Orc Orc Orc Orc Orc Orc Orc Orc Orc Orc Orc Orc

Macguffin

Without tumbling through, jumping or flying over, tunneling underneath, teleporting past, or using a nearby portal whose other end is on the other side, how can I get to the Macguffin before I encounter any orcs? I’m not overcomplicating anything; this is how space works. Something in between two other things will be encountered by one of the two other things before they encounter each other. That’s axiomatic.

I fully agree that I have to hit before I do damage. I can’t possibly do damage before I hit; that makes no sense. There is a logical order to these things. That’s my whole point. The first thing I hit is not the armor but the shields outside the armor (again, if that’s not the case, please demonstrate), so they MUST be doing something before the armor does something.

Otherwise, I’ve been misunderstanding the nature of how space works my entire gaming career and should fully expect to get to the end of my next dungeon before encountering any of its inhabitants, right?


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Okay, consider this: It's established in-universe that when a shield is hit, it's SP is depleted. With this in mind, having the shield active and taking hits that wouldn't deal damage to the hull anyway is redundant since you would drain the SP whilst protecting the hull from no damage. The logical way to counteract this problem is to have the shields on a sort of standby mode until the sensors detected an attack that would both hit and damage the hull at which point it would activate the shields to absorb some of the incoming damage to protect the hull. I think this is a reasonable explanation for the order of events, do you have any thoughts on this?


How about this mechanic for shields.

The shields form a charged energy field around the ship. Within this field is a small amount of gas. When a projectile hits the shield it deforms the energy field. A near miss will enter one side of the shield and exit the other. A strike that would hit the hull causes the field to bend inward until the energy potential is enough to bridge the gap. At this point there is a discharge between hull ans shield which destroys the projectile. In the case of lasers the attach ionized the gas providing a path for the energy discharge. By modulating the frequency of the discharge it creates an interference pattern with the laser reducing it's strength.

This would explain why the shield energy is only consumed when a weapon would actually hit the ship.


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I can't be anymore clear on this. You don't target Shields. So why would the shields have any bearing on what you hit or not. They have one job, to absorb damage.

You all keep thinking that to hit the ship you have to actually fire the weapon. When you fire the laser it travels at immense speeds. So think of it like this, you are locking on with the weapon. When you roll to hit is when you fire the shot. Then once the shot if fired the shield, if any then absorb damage.

Dark Archive

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I don't think anyone's disputing that, Micheal. We all agree that you target the ship.

What affects whether you hit is the piloting ranks and armor of the ship. Not the shields. We all agree on that. Ship AC = 10 + (size mod) + (piloting ranks) + (armor bonus). We all agree that the shields don't have any bearing, in the combat system, on whether you hit.

What we're confused about is how the armor plating on a ship makes an attack miss.

Shields are described like this: "Projectors mounted around the ship create a barrier that absorbs damage from attacks." (p. 302).

Armor is described like this: "Armor protects a ship from direct-fire weapons ..., deflecting their energy and preventing damage to critical ship systems. It grants an armor bonus to a ship’s AC... Armor is a passive system and does not require any PCU to remain functional. It provides protection primarily through mass..." (p. 297).

So armor is a passive system of mass added to the ship to deflect attacks. Shields are projected around the ship.

So why does the armor make it harder for an attack to do any damage to the shields? The armor works by deflecting attacks. That means that an attack has to touch the armor, and be bounced off. That's how AC works. But how can that be the case if the attack would have to go through the shields to touch the armor?

It's an artifact of the system treating dodging the same as weapons bouncing off, I figure.

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bonehorse wrote:
That's how AC works. But how can that be the case if the attack would have to go through the shields to touch the armor?

The shields let it go through to touch the armor.


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If you don’t hit the AC you miss the ship entirely. So therefore shields are irrelevant. Direct fire is like instantaneous. You pull the trigger it hits. If you miss then you miss the ship entirely. Stop thinking Pathfinder where a miss bounces off or so. Either you hit the ship don’t. There is no bouncing off or deflecting off armor.


If this were real life an ontarget hit will affect shields first, but how do you represent that in rules?

Abstract rules that represent very small margins of time are not necessarily going to happens strictly chronologically. How do you know the shields will come into effect unless you know that the attack hits?

The whole rule system breaks down if you assume that the actions you resolve happen cimematically in the order you resolve them.

In the same way that in a fight I(the character) don't wait politely for a few seconds while my opponent acts before I take my attack against them - it's all a big back and forth that the rules break down into discrete parts so I (the player) can resolve them.

Don't over think it - resolve it and then edit it to a cinematic whole.

Dark Archive

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Yeah I accept that this is all an abstraction, and I was hoping to illustrate it for some folks who didn't seem to be following the OP's point. I'm thinking that's just about a losing proposition at this point.


So I've been looking around myself, and I think I've found an example that sort of works. And it's actually amazingly simple: Star Wars. To be more specific, Star Destroyers. Turns out, they have one of the few examples of a form-hugging Shield in their Deflector Shields. So close in fact they usually don't even protect their shield generators, Empire engineering at its finest. So close in fact, that the shields would in fact be no easier or harder to hit than the ship itself is, and indeed, if we work off the guess that a forcefield in Starfinder is less solid wall, more dampening field (not unbelievable IMHO, given in Pathfinder we had the Wall of Force to show the solid wall and Force Fields are clearly not that, even within that very system) then it would in fact be close enough that any hit on it would still affect the armor. Take it a step further with the idea that the ship's computer is in fact adjusting where the shields are stronger or weaker based on incoming projectiles (which I can again reference Star Wars for a series where this is possible, as Han has on occasion referenced "Angling the shields" for the Millenium Falcon) then it's quite reasonable they would redirect power from a place with little to no real threat to bolster the places where there's a legitimate threat.

As for Shields functioning as Temp HP in general... as much as I actually dislike that system, it's actually easy to show usage of. Heck, go to the iconic shields in Sci-Fi, Star Trek. They can only take so many hits before they go down, probably (I'm not enough of a trekkie to say for sure) because of overloading the system.


Think of shield like an energy strengthening. Miss? No worries. Dodge bonus. Hit part of the ship where the armor is thick? no worries. Like natural armor/a suit of armor. Score a hit on a seam? would do damage, but the shields prevent it. But it saps the energy to do it.


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or do the galaxy quest where the shield is part of the armor.
in the movie the captain says put all power to the armor


Micheal Smith wrote:
If you don’t hit the AC you miss the ship entirely. So therefore shields are irrelevant. Direct fire is like instantaneous. You pull the trigger it hits. If you miss then you miss the ship entirely. Stop thinking Pathfinder where a miss bounces off or so. Either you hit the ship don’t. There is no bouncing off or deflecting off armor.

It literally says on page 297 in the armor section of the Starships chapter, "...deflecting their energy..."

There IS deflecting shots. It comes out and literally states it.

The thing that is being called into question is, why does the armor add to the AC required to hit the shields?


CactusUnicorn wrote:
Micheal Smith wrote:
If you don’t hit the AC you miss the ship entirely. So therefore shields are irrelevant. Direct fire is like instantaneous. You pull the trigger it hits. If you miss then you miss the ship entirely. Stop thinking Pathfinder where a miss bounces off or so. Either you hit the ship don’t. There is no bouncing off or deflecting off armor.

It literally says on page 297 in the armor section of the Starships chapter, "...deflecting their energy..."

There IS deflecting shots. It comes out and literally states it.

The thing that is being called into question is, why does the armor add to the AC required to hit the shields?

Exactly. Or to carry over my analogy with the orcs and the Macguffin, why and how does the moat surrounding the Macguffin protect the orcs outside the moat from me?


Might be able to say that the AC bonus is part armor and part of the energy shielding.

Let's say deflectors built into larger hull armor also resonate with and strengthen the shield bubble. deflect all but direct hits.

direct hits damage the bubble. "drop" the shields but some small amount of energy bubble deflection is maintained from the matrix threaded through the armor.
Heavier armor has more sub deflectors along with the heavier plating.


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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.


Micheal Smith wrote:
You either hit the ship and do damage or you miss the ship entirely.

I'm still a bit confused...

Imagine I fire a laser from point-blank range at a huge slow-moving ship with massive armor protection, and I 'miss'. Do you imagine the laser hits the armor (but fails to penetrate or strike a weak point, so does no damage to the ship's systems)? Or that the beam doesn't even hit the armor and goes whizzing away into space?

(I can only imagine it as the former; otherwise putting on more armor would somehow make you better at dodging, and that makes no sense.)


As others have mentioned in most d20s game AC is how hard it is for you to be hurt/take a damaging hit. not necessarily how hard it is to just be hit. see the paintball example.
which is why most touch attacks in versions of d20 ignore armor and only account for dex and maybe a class defense bonus.

A ship with more armor is probably getting hit more often but not taking damage unless the hit finds a chink in the armor. thus the higher AC to hurt not necessarily just to hit.

the issue for the first poster is this makes the energy shielding not taking damage before hit/damage is determined really weird if you can't ignore it in your head.

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.


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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.

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.


If that were the case why couldn't the computer actively control which arc the shields were protecting? why would the engineer have to do this?


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baggageboy wrote:
If that were the case why couldn't the computer actively control which arc the shields were protecting? why would the engineer have to do this?

The engineer is likely to set the shields before the computer can fully scan the enemy vessel(s). A whole ship is much more work to analyse than a single projectile so the engineer makes a snap decision otherwise the computer would possibly not get the shield arcs set up in time whilst still trying to do everything else it needs to do. Same reason the science officer manually changes the shield orientation, the computer takes longer to determine the position of other ships compared to itself and the positions of their weapons than a living creature just looking out the window. Scanning a projectile and determining if it's force or energy is above a certain value is a much more straightforward task.


I think being able to tell what direction another ship may be able to fire from would be much easier than to be able to tell if a nearly instantaneous laser attack would be above some damage threshold.

It is a simplification for ease of play simple as that. Does it make sense? No, but neither do many of the simplifications required to run a table top rpg it's ok. You just have to accept a certain amount of such simplifications, or you you would never be able to play for having to do math.


Matthew Downie wrote:
Doesn't personal combat have similar thematic problems, with force-fields giving you temporary hit points that only kick in if the enemy gets past your armor?

Of course! But the simulationist combat nerds* who get upset by that either quit long ago or at least stopped complaining long ago. Whereas this ship thing making no sense is a NEW thing that irks a slightly different kind of people.

WH40K used to generate similar arguments, because the force field/armour save was rolled after the roll to see whether the injury was significant.

* a category that includes me

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