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Drone Equipment Limitations


Rules Questions


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Cards, Companion, Maps, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

What limitations are there on what equipment you can give to a drone? I know about weapon mounts for melee/ranged weapons and the limitations there, as well as manipulator arms - but I mean things like giving a drone a null-space box so it can be your gun-caddy, etc. Can you give drones an augmentation? What about prosthetic limbs, etc? It seems like the answer should probably be "no", but I've yet to find a clear statement of what is/is not allowed.

Liberty's Edge

From page 77 of the CRB:

Quote:

Cargo Rack (Ex)

Your drone is outfitted with cargo space. The drone’s Strength
score counts as 4 higher for the purpose of how determining
much bulk it can carry, but all of this extra bulk must be stored
gear and cargo, not mounted weapons, armor mods, or the like.
This does not affect the drone’s actual Strength score in any
way, merely how much it can carry. Due to its size, a drone
might still be unable to carry awkward or unwieldy items.

I'd interpret this to mean that your drone can't really carry anything other than what is attached via a mod.

As for augmentations, some of what's available is already covered by the drone mods. Most of the rest would not be applicable to a drone (Respiration Compounder, for example.)

Any limbs a drone has are already prosthetic. If you're wanting something like a hideaway limb, I'd say that's covered by the Smuggler's Compartment mod.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Cards, Companion, Maps, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
LordRiffington wrote:

From page 77 of the CRB:

Quote:

Cargo Rack (Ex)

Your drone is outfitted with cargo space. The drone’s Strength
score counts as 4 higher for the purpose of how determining
much bulk it can carry, but all of this extra bulk must be stored
gear and cargo, not mounted weapons, armor mods, or the like.
This does not affect the drone’s actual Strength score in any
way, merely how much it can carry. Due to its size, a drone
might still be unable to carry awkward or unwieldy items.

I'd interpret this to mean that your drone can't really carry anything other than what is attached via a mod.

As for augmentations, some of what's available is already covered by the drone mods. Most of the rest would not be applicable to a drone (Respiration Compounder, for example.)

Any limbs a drone has are already prosthetic. If you're wanting something like a hideaway limb, I'd say that's covered by the Smuggler's Compartment mod.

I'm not sure how the cargo rack is responsive here? All it does is let the drone carry more stuff than normal - which A) is not the same thing as being equipped anyway and B) implies that there is some normal amount of stuff the drone can carry anyway, right? Why would drones not be able to carry items according to the standard rules for bulk and encumbrance?

I agree that there are a number of augmentations etc that don't make much sense to put on a drone, for any number of reasons. What I'm asking, though, is if there is actually anywhere that clearly delineates what a drone can/cannot be equipped with.

To be clear about what I'm asking - I'm not really interested in trying to hash out what should/shouldn't be allowed, or anything like that. I'm really just interested in this one very limited question: Is this a grey area, or are there rules somewhere that I missed?

Liberty's Edge

If you're talking about literally strapping something to the drone, then you'd use the normal rules for bulk/encumbrance.

As far as giving the drone equipment to use, that's covered under mods. If you could just attach equipment to the drone for it to use, then why bother having mods for things like manipulator arms or weapon mounts?

You could probably attach a null-space chamber to it, but you'd have to activate it yourself if the drone didn't have a manipulator arm.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Cards, Companion, Maps, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
LordRiffington wrote:

If you're talking about literally strapping something to the drone, then you'd use the normal rules for bulk/encumbrance.

As far as giving the drone equipment to use, that's covered under mods. If you could just attach equipment to the drone for it to use, then why bother having mods for things like manipulator arms or weapon mounts?

You could probably attach a null-space chamber to it, but you'd have to activate it yourself if the drone didn't have a manipulator arm.

Well, again, this is what I'm driving at - if I give a drone manipulator arms, what can/can't it equip/use? Like, if it has 'hands', does that mean it can equip a ring of resistance? Why or why not? Can I replace one of its hands with the prosthetic that allows hands to form multiple tools? Again, why or why not? If you have a medium sized combat drone that you flavor as being humanoid in shape, can it wear armor, even though it wouldn't be proficient in it? Can a drone with manipulator arms use tools with those hands? If I give a drone a backpack, can it carry things for me? If I give it manipulator arms, can it get things out of the pack and hand them to me? Can a drone with the proper skill unit control a spy drone (drone-ception!)? If a drone has a riding saddle, manipulator arms, and a skill unit for piloting, can I ride the drone while the drone rides a hoverbike?


The root of this question is that the rules set the drone up as having power that is tied to the skill level of the Mechanic, and even though it seems like it should be an expensive piece of equipment, the Mechanic can rebuild it for free if it's destroyed. They do this because the root assumption of d20 games, SF included, is that characters gain huge increases in power from leveling up.

Overall, I think it's pretty clear the design intent is that the only upgrade you buy for your drone with credits is weaponry, and the rest of the upgrades come from leveling up. If they wanted you to upgrade your drone with cash, the obvious solution would be to just assign a cash value to every mod. I mean, installing a cargo rack makes way more sense than putting a backpack on your drone.

Any in-game explanation for why you can't buy an expensive combat drone, or why you can't use cash to make big upgrades to your drone, is going to sound contrived. Incompatibility issues! Good drones are unusable unless you build them yourself for 0 credits! I don't know.

In the end, you have to either have to accept it as being part of the game's balance, join a group that's prepared to modify the game's balance, or go play a game like Shadowrun, which is much more focused on gearing up and much less focused on leveling up. Some people like Shadowrun, and it probably does make more sense on a lot of points than SF, but I can't seem to have fun with it.


This is going to be a question that will depend on the specifics. There isn't going to be a general answer.

Can you give a drone an augmentation? For the most part, No since they don't have the requisite body parts. Or they have a mod that performs the same function.

Armor? No, they have a mod for that.

Drones can use tools if they have the skill mod for the skill. I think that is mentioned under the skill mod entry. Imagine R2's little widget that popped out when he was hacking computer systems.

In general, a lot of your useful drone additions are from leveling, not purchasing.

The Null space chamber would be fine, but remember it goes to the drones hand when it takes the action to activate it.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Cards, Companion, Maps, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
EC Gamer Guy wrote:

This is going to be a question that will depend on the specifics. There isn't going to be a general answer.

Can you give a drone an augmentation? For the most part, No since they don't have the requisite body parts. Or they have a mod that performs the same function.

Armor? No, they have a mod for that.

Drones can use tools if they have the skill mod for the skill. I think that is mentioned under the skill mod entry. Imagine R2's little widget that popped out when he was hacking computer systems.

In general, a lot of your useful drone additions are from leveling, not purchasing.

The Null space chamber would be fine, but remember it goes to the drones hand when it takes the action to activate it.

So, sorry, but this is not really a convincing argument - the existence of a mod that does "X" is not a compelling reason why you cannot do something similar to "X" - for example, the existence of a mod that increases your drones armor without impacting its other stats in no way implies that you couldn't also (for some reason) decide to put your drone in heavy armor that it was not proficient in, in the same way that the Barricade feat does not imply that nobody else can interact with the environment in any advantageous way (including flipping over a table for cover).

Again, I'm not saying that drones definitely are allowed to wear armor, and I'm not arguing that they SHOULD be allowed to wear armor. I'm asking if there is anywhere in the rules where it says that drones cannot equip/use anything that isn't in the mod list, more or less. I know some people will say that the rules set is strictly permissive, but again, that's not compelling - a strictly permissive rules set creates absolutely absurd situations, and in any case it still runs up against the question of what manipulator arms really allows. Same issue with saying that drones can't take an augmentation because they lack a body part - the rules for drones explicitly let you describe the drone as having any appearance you want - so if you describe it as being generally humanoid (think T-800, maybe), what parts do you lack? Heck, the discussion of the null chamber is a great case in point - why is a null chamber fine (despite there being a cargo rack mod), but the use of armor not fine? How are you making that distinction?


1) It would help if you actually read the Drone entry. Under AC it specifically states drones cannot wear armor, nor increase their armor class in anyway beyond mods.

2) Everything under cybernetic augmentations must be "integrated with the flesh and bone of the recipient." It later states "living host's own organs."

3) Biotech augmentations "include modifications to your DNA" which a drone doesn't have. Might leave Androids out also?

4) Magic items are more of a grey area. There are a few that logic states wouldn't work, i.e. Mindlink due to a lack of brain.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Cards, Companion, Maps, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
EC Gamer Guy wrote:
1) It would help if you actually read the Drone entry. Under AC it specifically states drones cannot wear armor, nor increase their armor class in anyway beyond mods.

See, this is the kind of thing you could have referenced in your last post, but I suspect strongly you didn't actually see it there either until you went back to look again for something that would confirm our suspicion that you couldn't do this. So thanks for finding it - for anyone else's reference, it's under the bullet point for AC under the "Drone Base Statistics" header - not the under "Drone Chassis". Note that this only solves the issue for armor, not for anything else - and the existence of this rule could be (mis)interpreted as tacit permission to give drones any other equipment not expressly forbidden.

EC Gamer Guy wrote:

2) Everything under cybernetic augmentations must be "integrated with the flesh and bone of the recipient." It later states "living host's own organs."

3) Biotech augmentations "include modifications to your DNA" which a drone doesn't have. Might leave Androids out also?

And that last question is exactly why using flavor text as rules is a bad idea - I know that some people would argue exactly that - that as artificial beings, the extent to which Androids have flesh, bone, and DNA is debatable, and as engineered beings anyway it doesn't make sense for them to be augmented further. Also, does this mean that the inevitable undead elebrians show up as playable races, can they not have (for example) a cybernetic arm? Enshrining this as an actual rule restriction seems to be at best throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and I'm unconvinced that it was intended to function that way.

EC Gamer Guy wrote:


4) Magic items are more of a grey area. There are a few that logic states wouldn't work, i.e. Mindlink due to a lack of brain.

Right, but your logic and my logic don't necessarily line up, is what I'm saying. Also, this isn't just magic items - mundane items too - how do you address a drone with manipulators using tools with those hands? How do you address a drone with manipulators picking up a backpack that was dropped on the ground - can it now not open that bag, because that would be too much like gaining a "cargo rack" mod for free?

To be clear - the scope of my question isn't really "what should we allow drones to have", as if there is a grey area here, that question is one that each group is likely going to have to work out for themselves. I'm just asking if there are restrictions actually written into the rules that I'm just missing (like with armor), or if it's more up in the air.


RAW is King, not intentions. Besides apparently arguing just to have an argument. If we include intentions, it seems to be that the intended way to upgrade drones is by mods only. But that is dependent upon the fact that mods cover a large percentage of options, including things like invisibility.

As far as picking up a backpack and emptying it? Sounds like a job for 2 manipulator arms. And since that uses up a mod slot and gains you nothing (like a +4 to your max encumbrance) why would you?

Using tools? Having a Tool Arm seems the most straight forward way, even gives you a free item. Manipulator arm is a bit dicey given the "simple hand" but should work if you buy the tools and the skill mod.

MrTsFloatinghead wrote:
EC Gamer Guy wrote:


Enshrining this as an actual rule restriction seems to be at best throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and I'm unconvinced that it was intended to function that way.

EC Gamer Guy wrote:


4) Magic items are more of a grey area. There are a few that logic states wouldn't work, i.e. Mindlink due to a lack of brain.
Right, but your logic and my logic don't necessarily line up, is what I'm saying. Also, this isn't just magic items -...


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Cards, Companion, Maps, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
EC Gamer Guy wrote:
RAW is King, not intentions.

I agree, which is why I'm asking about what the rules say, not about what you think the rules say based on your interpretation of what the designers intended.

EC Gamer Guy wrote:
Besides apparently arguing just to have an argument.

I'm not trying to have an argument with you, I'm trying to explain to you what my question is and why much of what you are saying is non-responsive to that question. This whole thing from my perspective is that I asked a question like "Do you have a red car?" and you answered "Yes, because my tricycle is purple". The "Yes" part might still be true, but the answer is still nonsense. I'm not actually arguing that drones should be allowed to do these things. I'm not trying to get some advantage or anything like that. I'm just asking are really simple question - is there anywhere I'm missing in the rules where it more clearly delineates what kind of equipment a drone (specifically a drone equipped with manipulators) can use, or is that a grey area that groups are going to have to work out themselves. That's it. As I said before, the bit about drones not being able to wear armor is the kind of thing I'm looking for (and again, thank you for pointing it out, if not necessarily being the nicest about it - but I'll give you a pass on tone there if you will concede that maybe you're reading an attack from me where maybe none exists?)

EC Gamer Guy wrote:
If we include intentions,

No, let's not - if only because I think it muddies the water. To be clear, I don't think you're wrong that it's a bad idea to allow drones access to a bunch of these things, but I think it's fair to say that just because a mod lets you do something similar doesn't mean you can't achieve the same end through different means. Again, the example of the Barricade feat is apt here - I don't think you can argue that because that feat exists, we are supposed to assume it takes a rank in engineering and a feat to know how to turn over a table. Yes, using a table for cover is similar to what the Barricade feat does, but it's really not identical - there aren't always tables around, for example, so Barricade will work in more places.

EC Gamer Guy wrote:

As far as picking up a backpack and emptying it? Sounds like a job for 2 manipulator arms. And since that uses up a mod slot and gains you nothing (like a +4 to your max encumbrance) why would you?

Using tools? Having a Tool Arm seems the most straight forward way, even gives you a free item. Manipulator arm is a bit dicey given the "simple hand" but should work if you buy the tools and the skill mod.

YES!! This is what my question is all about - these are exactly the kinds of things I am asking about! As you note in the second one, that seems a bit dicey, but maybe should work, right? So it's a grey area, then?

As to why you would use manipulator arms to carry a backpack instead of use a cargo rack, I think there are a lot of reasons. Manipulators are multi-functional, and frankly seem like they should be required on all drones. If I can carry a backpack, it's like a cargo rack lite. If I can give it a null space chamber, then it's even better than a cargo rack. Plus, it can open doors, it can maybe drag a downed ally back behind cover, it can potentially throw grenades (badly, but as the saying goes, "close" counts with grenades!), etc.

It's also worth noting that the tool arm mod only allows the use of a tool of bulk "L" or less - so, for example, not a medkit (and yes, you can get medicine as a skill on a drone at 10th level, plus at earlier levels a medic themed mechanic could use a drone to do remote lifesaving with direct control). Thus, if you want to use a wider range of tools, you need manipulator arms - but then if you can use those tools with the arms, what's the point of the tool arm mod, right? I mean, it still gives you the item for free, but I think typically looking at the items a mod slot is way more valuable than the credits at those levels. Further, I can see someone arguing that some skills (like engineering) require both fine motor control and the tool kit, so you have to have both the arms and a tool mod, or something. Oh, and the tool arm mod still requires the skill unit mod if you want the drone to use the tool independently - it says it give the drone the programming to use the tool, but then goes on to say that if you want it to make skill checks, it needs ranks in the skills (which you only get from skill units).

Basically, my question is coming from a place of me looking at this and thinking that it's possible that drones will vary wildly in utility depending on how groups parse out what the limits really are, so I'm asking if the limits are actually clearly defined anywhere.

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