Players and fear of taking damage in Starfinder


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When I've had to run a GM Iconic to make up the fourth for Society games, I've always had the character keep 1 resolve point so they could automatically stabilize. Later in the session, if they've gone done and recovered and they're out of resolve points, I have them role-play that they know they're on their last legs.


Abraham spalding wrote:
Perhaps it's just starfinder needing maturing, and some adjust to how I think of role playing games, but lots of parts feel extremely metagamy to me.

Some of it does, but I think it's serving a broader purpose. Along with Themes, the design seems specifically crafted to motivate people to build parties -- and create adventures -- for a narrative range beyond the Pathfinder dungeon crawl and for things other than pure combat, and also to present classes in Starfinder as their own thing rather than "Starfinder's version of such-and-such from Pathfinder." I think that's generally to the good.

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Jhaeman wrote:
When I've had to run a GM Iconic to make up the fourth for Society games, I've always had the character keep 1 resolve point so they could automatically stabilize. Later in the session, if they've gone done and recovered and they're out of resolve points, I have them role-play that they know they're on their last legs.

I can just imagine this:

RP-less PC: "Okay, I'm not doing anything dangerous now. Get 'em, team!"

Party: "But... you're the main firepower and focus of our team!"

RP-less PC: "Sorry, outta Resolve, outta Stamina, get 'em. Someone's gotta report, right? Good luck!"

Party: "...."


Presumably that would get them some GM side-eye if they're supposed to be playing a non-coward. :) If you're only a hero when you have nothing at risk, you're not a hero. (If OTOH they are supposed to be playing a less-than-brave character then fair cop, I guess.)

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"There are no old, bold pilots."


And probably not many old Starfinders. :)

It is an adventure game at the end of the day. I mean this might also be my own inclinations as a player speaking: I'd rather lose a character attempting something cool and heroic (and have done, though not in Starfinder) than have a character grow to old age taking no risks.

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Except there's 'taking a risk' and 'committing character suicide'. The arrow seems to tilt that direction more if both Pathfinder and Starfinder are put on scales and weighed.

And losing a whole bunch of characters in the first few levels REALLY kills any sort of excitement for a game system that is trying to grow.

It 'doubles down' during OrgPlay, because the resources/restrictions are even greater.


But again, how many instances of losing a whole bunch of characters in the first few levels have there really been? I could get feeling an enhanced sense of threat if you were down to your last RP or none; but like I said, I've yet to see a real strain on RP resources in any game I've played in during the last four months or so. (Maybe this is different in OrgPlay, I can't speak to that.)

Take that scenario in "Into the Unknown" you spoke of. I can't actually quite see how it's a "TPK waiting to happen" given the weaknesses and penalties built into the adversary in that encounter.

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The scenarios seem to one of two levels of difficulty...

Either 'wow, we're probably going to lose the party to RNG' or 'this thing is a cakewalk'.

Oddly enough, it's a lot more nerve-wracking than Pathfinder, though I only have the above mathing to go by?


CeeJay wrote:
Abraham spalding wrote:
Perhaps it's just starfinder needing maturing, and some adjust to how I think of role playing games, but lots of parts feel extremely metagamy to me.
Some of it does, but I think it's serving a broader purpose. Along with Themes, the design seems specifically crafted to motivate people to build parties -- and create adventures -- for a narrative range beyond the Pathfinder dungeon crawl and for things other than pure combat, and also to present classes in Starfinder as their own thing rather than "Starfinder's version of such-and-such from Pathfinder." I think that's generally to the good.

Yeah, but it's a very weird point to put niche protection. Anyone can build things, yes a few classes are better than others but anyone can. The skills are good, combat feels a part of it but not the only focus already.

But having SP be harder to recover than HP and having resolve so tied in really throws in a "fifteen minute adventure day" vipe to it.

It's weird they would build it back in in such a way when it's something they've tried to combat in other games.


CeeJay wrote:

But again, how many instances of losing a whole bunch of characters in the first few levels have there really been? I could get feeling an enhanced sense of threat if you were down to your last RP or none; but like I said, I've yet to see a real strain on RP resources in any game I've played in during the last four months or so. (Maybe this is different in OrgPlay, I can't speak to that.)

Take that scenario in "Into the Unknown" you spoke of. I can't actually quite see how it's a "TPK waiting to happen" given the weaknesses and penalties built into the adversary in that encounter.

Could be a GM vs Player perception issue too.

What the GM knows taints his perception of any encounter. It's a new game with wonky mechanics where SP is billed as a "shake it off" resource... but is actually harder to regain. Therefore if a player is like "wow I have little to no SP now and that was a weak early encounter, and OMG what is this??" Without looking at things like a GM or someone that understands that SP is wonky then much of the perception of "this is suicide" makes more sense.


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Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Wei Ji the Learner wrote:
Jhaeman wrote:
When I've had to run a GM Iconic to make up the fourth for Society games, I've always had the character keep 1 resolve point so they could automatically stabilize. Later in the session, if they've gone done and recovered and they're out of resolve points, I have them role-play that they know they're on their last legs.

I can just imagine this:

RP-less PC: "Okay, I'm not doing anything dangerous now. Get 'em, team!"

Party: "But... you're the main firepower and focus of our team!"

RP-less PC: "Sorry, outta Resolve, outta Stamina, get 'em. Someone's gotta report, right? Good luck!"

Party: "...."

Ha! That would be mean. No, I still have them do their duty to their teammates (usually I run Obozaya because she's simple), but I use the lack of resolve points to ratchet up the dramatic tension and heroism that a character is still fighting at the front even though on death's door.


Abraham spalding wrote:
Could be a GM vs Player perception issue too.

That's part of why it confused me the more: I was a player for some months before I got behind the screen and never felt any sense that SP was all that hard to regain, since it really isn't and the RP and minimal time it requires seems to be rarely in play with an economy of massive RP scarcity. (Indeed I was genuinely confused for a time about Resolve Points and what they were for, since I almost never had to use them for anything.) However it is possible that I just had an overly-forgiving GM and that warped my initial sense of the system somewhat.


Wei Ji the Learner wrote:
the gun wasn't a help because of firing into melee

I'm not personally familiar with the encounter in question, so there may be other factors (like Cover, either Hard or Soft) I'm not familiar with, but "Firing Into Melee" is not itself a penalty anymore. Which I am glad about, given the extra focus on ranged weapons now.


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Wei Ji the Learner wrote:


So instead of -CON damage, it's 'any point past 0'?

I think that explains a definite fear of taking any damage, then?

On an average CON score in Pathfinder, that'd be 10 more HP to 'buffer'. Most folks start with at most 4 RP, which they also need to power abilities AND restore SP. So the furthest they could go is -3 HP (because they need at least one to stabilize...)

Yeah, I can see the fear of damage, especially in such a potentially lethal environment.

It doesn’t work like that.

Damage never takes you to negative hit points.

Normally it take you to 0 and you are unconscious and dying. If the remaining damage was greater than your maximum hit points, you die from massive damage.

On your next round, if you are still dying at the end of your turn you lose one Resolve. If you are out of Resolve you die.

During your turn you can spend 1/4 of max Resolve (min 1, max 3) to stabilize.

This does have some effects:
* Stabilize spell is a lot more useful since you have less rounds to bleed out.
* People can’t be left bleeding out as long as you could in Pathfinder
* You can usually afford to spend Resolve to stabilize

There are a couple of other things involved, I really suggest reading the full rules on pg. 250-251.


BretI wrote:


* People can’t be left bleeding out as long as you could in Pathfinder

Also on this, NPCs usually don't even have Resolve. As such they generally die automatically on hitting 0 (unless the last blow is Nonlethal.) At GM discretion they can instead have 3 rounds to be stabilized.


I don't get the "better not spend resolve in case I need it to not die" thought process. If you spend resolve to heal Stamina, that is putting you further from death, if you spend resolve to kill an enemy before it hits you again, that is putting you further from death, if you spend it to reroll a failed save (or whatever power) that is putting you further from death.

Grand Lodge

I think that in Starfinder it is pretty "normal", that in difficult fights (CR+1 or 2) encounters, one or more characters go down for a round or two.


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Where are you people getting this idea about negative hit points? I swear people don’t even read the books anymore


Malk_Content wrote:
I don't get the "better not spend resolve in case I need it to not die" thought process. If you spend resolve to heal Stamina, that is putting you further from death, if you spend resolve to kill an enemy before it hits you again, that is putting you further from death, if you spend it to reroll a failed save (or whatever power) that is putting you further from death.

And then the Soldier with the giant Doshko crits you, knocks you down to 0 HP, and because you spend all your resolve on those other things you die the next round. Like, I'm not going to say never spend Resolve, but it is good to maintain that buffer. Preferably one large enough to stabilize.


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A buffer of Resolve large enough to stabilize is definitely a good idea.

There is nothing wrong with spending Resolve to recover Stamina if you are fairly far down. This does tend to cause a situation where some people will have some minor injuries (only down 15% or so in Stamina) while others are fully healed between fights.

It feels different than Pathfinder, where people would always try to fully heal between battles, but that isn’t all bad.


Shinigami02 wrote:
Malk_Content wrote:
I don't get the "better not spend resolve in case I need it to not die" thought process. If you spend resolve to heal Stamina, that is putting you further from death, if you spend resolve to kill an enemy before it hits you again, that is putting you further from death, if you spend it to reroll a failed save (or whatever power) that is putting you further from death.
And then the Soldier with the giant Doshko crits you, knocks you down to 0 HP, and because you spend all your resolve on those other things you die the next round. Like, I'm not going to say never spend Resolve, but it is good to maintain that buffer. Preferably one large enough to stabilize.

Thankfully enemies have standardized damage.


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We better clarify how dieing works in Starfinder before delving deeper into this discussion:

Quote:

DYING

If your Hit Points reach 0, you are dying. You immediately fall
unconscious and can take no actions.
While dying, you lose 1 Resolve Point each round at the end
of your turn. (If your Hit Points reached 0 during your turn, such
as from an attack of opportunity you provoked, you do not lose
a Resolve Point until the end of your next turn.) This continues
until either you die or stabilize

How to solve it on your own:

Quote:

Stabilize

If you are dying and you have enough Resolve Points, you can
spend a number of Resolve Points equal to one-quarter your
maximum (minimum 1 RP, maximum 3 RP) on your turn to
immediately stabilize. This means you’re no longer dying, but you
remain unconscious and at 0 HP. If you don’t have enough Resolve
Points remaining, you cannot use this option and continue to lose
Resolve Points as normal as per the dying rules.

Stay in the Fight
If you are stable and have enough Resolve Points, or if you were
knocked unconscious from nonlethal damage,
you can spend 1 RP at the beginning of your turn to regain 1 HP.
You are no longer dying, immediately become conscious, and
can take the rest of your turn as normal. You can spend Resolve
Points to regain Hit Points only if you are at 0 HP and stable,
and you cannot regain more than 1 HP in this way. You can’t
spend Resolve Points to stabilize and to stay in the fight in the
same round.

What happens if you take damage while having 0 hit points:

Quote:

TAKING DAMAGE WHILE DYING OR STABLE

While you are dying, if you have any Stamina Points, any damage
you take still reduces those first. The first time each round you
take Hit Point damage (whether from an attack or from continuous
damage, such as from a bleed effect), you lose 1 Resolve Point. At
any point after that in the round, if a single source (such as one
attack) deals Hit Point damage greater than half your maximum
Hit Points but less than your maximum Hit Points, you lose 1
additional RP
. As mentioned earlier, if you would lose Resolve
Points but have no Resolve Points remaining, you die instantly.
If you take damage equal to or greater than your maximum Hit
Points from a single attack, you also die instantly.
If you take damage while unconscious but stable, you are once
again dying and no longer stable.

Just to be clear that RP never work like HP or SP - they soak in a lot more damage for each point - and it's pretty hard to lose them to regular attacks (after the first one) while unconscious.


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My favorite ways to get my players over losing SP include comparing Stamina Points as "shield points" for their real HP. Players savvy to that mechanic from a bajillion other games don't sweat it so much of they're not "at full health". Also, explain that your SP is more like how tough you FEEL. Would you go to the ER if you feel run down? No, you go there so they can address damage to your bodily health (hp). You call up your buddy, the Envoy to psych you up when you feel down! Now your feeling like your old self again, and while you're at it, GET EM!! :)


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Jofo wrote:
My favorite ways to get my players over losing SP include comparing Stamina Points as "shield points" for their real HP. Players savvy to that mechanic from a bajillion other games don't sweat it so much of they're not "at full health". Also, explain that your SP is more like how tough you FEEL. Would you go to the ER if you feel run down? No, you go there so they can address damage to your bodily health (hp). You call up your buddy, the Envoy to psych you up when you feel down! Now your feeling like your old self again, and while you're at it, GET EM!! :)

That's actually a good perspective. I think that will jive with my players.


I can however easily see it backfiring. I think it will come down to "know thy players."


Something I am considering (and will depend strictly on if I GM):

The 10 minute refresh doesn't cost resolve, and as a full round action you can spend a resolve to restore SP.

It removes resolve as the means of limiting the adventure day, which I don't like, means they can quick refresh if they want without having to find the time between events to do "nothing", stuff can keep moving.


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I'll admit 10 minute wait is a huge drawback in my mind. 10 minutes should mean cops/reinforcements arrive, the bad guy escapes or the bomb explodes. If you can sit around and do nothing for 10 minutes in practical terms it means the encounters aren't meaningfully linked together.

When looking at character durability you need to look at hits to incapacitation. We might have many more total effective hp than pathfinder but enemies are hitting harder and vastly more often so characters don't feel nearly as durable.

And there is also the frustration that everything you fight feels superior to you. The npc has the better to hit roll. And often has abilities/perks you don't even have the option of taking. My players were so annoyed at level 1 when bad guy laser pistols did 1d4 +1 damage in their hands but on 1d4 in the pc it nearly ended the game right there.


Abraham spalding wrote:

Something I am considering (and will depend strictly on if I GM):

The 10 minute refresh doesn't cost resolve, and as a full round action you can spend a resolve to restore SP.

It removes resolve as the means of limiting the adventure day, which I don't like, means they can quick refresh if they want without having to find the time between events to do "nothing", stuff can keep moving.

I think thats okayish at low levels. But do you really want players to be able to heal 60+ SP for Full Action at lvl 10 (lowest possible example.) Thats really big. I mean an equivalent level mystic would heal around 50HP for 1 of their 2 highest level spells at that point. It's also more than a same CR (so likely single baddie) can put out in damage a round.


Malk_Content wrote:
Abraham spalding wrote:

Something I am considering (and will depend strictly on if I GM):

The 10 minute refresh doesn't cost resolve, and as a full round action you can spend a resolve to restore SP.

It removes resolve as the means of limiting the adventure day, which I don't like, means they can quick refresh if they want without having to find the time between events to do "nothing", stuff can keep moving.

I think thats okayish at low levels. But do you really want players to be able to heal 60+ SP for Full Action at lvl 10 (lowest possible example.) Thats really big. I mean an equivalent level mystic would heal around 50HP for 1 of their 2 highest level spells at that point. It's also more than a same CR (so likely single baddie) can put out in damage a round.

It is a concern, but it can be addressed at that time. Have to get there first! Honestly I think once shields come online as a regular thing that will help too.


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Maezer wrote:
I'll admit 10 minute wait is a huge drawback in my mind.

Yeah, no. No. Come on. The ten-minute wait is immensely forgiving and a frankly rather unusual rules feature, as is providing automatic DR against archaic weapons and a number of other things Starfinder does.

Of course it doesn't cover all contingencies or ensure that you will never have to make difficult decisions or face any adversity or a situation that can't be solved with a buff. That is not a reasonable expectation, and a game that met those conditions would be a broken game. Yes, you will sometimes be in situations where you can't take a ten-minute rest. That doesn't mean the game is systematically predisposed to demand character suicide out of you.

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The 10 minute refresh of SP DOES cost 1 RP, though, right? I didn't misread that?


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Do you actually have to do nothing during that 10 minutes in order to recover stamina? Or can you perform light activity, such as moving from one scene to the next?


There's an SFS adventure that calls out that you can take a 10-minute rest while traveling "via a series of long lifts" (elevators).


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

So walking about (from one lift to the other) is probably considered okay too then? :)


That's how I read it.


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Coming from D&D and their short rest/long rest, I consider the 10 minute break as any short moment of safety where the PCs can catch their breath and discuss how to proceed.
It's a standard trope of many tv and movie fictions as well. Usually accompanied by the comment "we should be safe here for a moment".
The same goes for long rests/ 8 hour rest. It requires safety. Standing in the middle of a dungeon/evil lair or whatever, is not a place where you can get a good night's rest.


Ravingdork wrote:
So walking about (from one lift to the other) is probably considered okay too then? :)

I'd rule that as fine. Although as a GM I wouldn't hold back on them bumping into something before the rest is done. Did something similiar where the players made an estimate on how quickly the enemy could break through the cave in they caused. They opted to set up traps instead of resting.


Agreed. Things like scratch-building a grenade (Soldier) or quick-fixing a drone (Mechanic) are meant to be part of a 10-minute rest, so can't qualify as strenuous activities.
If those are okay, walking, driving or shuttling from a place to another shouldn't be a problem either.


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Wei Ji the Learner wrote:


The 10 minute refresh of SP DOES cost 1 RP, though, right? I didn't misread that?

Yes, it does. That is one of the reasons that I prioritize my Key Ability Score over constitution, it works as a multiplier on my stamina. At early levels, that can be a huge difference assuming you can rest enough.


As a potential approach to keeping 'mooks' in combat you could do a mix of 'brought wrong weapon to the fight' and 'disadvantage of range'.

Then applying that, you add reasonable NPC thought process.

For example, lets say like the first AP, you want to add gangers. But giving them all guns, even lower item level still potentially means they equally zap, if not more, your party because they have more mooks firing at you than you have party members firing at them.

If You've got a party of 5 with a 80 percent chance to hit vs a mook squad with 8 dudes and a 60 percent chance to hit, you can still end up dinging the PCs quite a bit.

on the other hand, if you find ways that not all 8 mooks are attacking at the same time you can have tension but lower the danger potentially. Like, billy the thug is hiding behind a crate because he has a knife, it might be a nice knife, but hell if he's going to go run across the cargo bay through s%%@-tons of crossfire just to stab some guy. And holy crap he just saw Johnny PC run across the cargo bay with their power plasma axe and smite down Ricky the Thug, that PC dude is crazy, I'm getting the hell out of here!

Or in that same example Ricky the Thug has a longrifle/sniper, but due to poor placement when the combat began, instead of being in the back where he can support, he was stuck out in front and before he could reposition, Johnny the PC killed his butt.

Generally tho this only works for things that might have 'humanoid' thought processes that include fear and stuff. A swarm of animals might still go zerg rush on you and things can end badly for the PCs, or things that don't care like Laser Gatling security droids might just go, "Exterminate Exterminate" and not mind if they all get shot at too.


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As a universal tip to avoid mook crossfire death: *PCs should use cover*.

Seriously, a lot of discussions about how Starfinder is 'broken' seem to assume that all fights occur on flat featureless planes, and that PCs just run around in the open all the time. If you behave like that, you really shouldn't be surprised that you get shot. Use cover. Spend movement getting to cover. Even when charging the enemy, try to at least position yourself so the enemies provide you cover against each other.


Metaphysician wrote:

As a universal tip to avoid mook crossfire death: *PCs should use cover*.

Seriously, a lot of discussions about how Starfinder is 'broken' seem to assume that all fights occur on flat featureless planes, and that PCs just run around in the open all the time. If you behave like that, you really shouldn't be surprised that you get shot. Use cover. Spend movement getting to cover. Even when charging the enemy, try to at least position yourself so the enemies provide you cover against each other.

The initial post was about the players being over cautious because they were fearful of combat, so presumably they were already using cover. So a reminder to use cover is not really a solution to the 'how to make the PCs feel less like I'm going to TPK them everytime." and near as I can tell, this isn't a "Combat is Broken" thread.

My suggestion was "Enemy npcs don't need to be optimized in action every single round."


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Also, if it takes two or three times longer to reach your targets, you may end up getting shot more than if you'd just charged in in the first place, even though you are harder to hit.

The longer a battle goes on for, the more opportunities an enemy has to hurt you and yours. Simple gaming strategy 101.


Yeah, I'm far from thinking Starfinder is broken and my player group most certainly does use cover and tactical acumen. I'm just trying to figure out if I'm seeing over-caution and how I might be contributing to it.

@Losobal, your suggestions are solid and just to be clear, I un-optimize NPC actions pretty frequently. If I'm putting the PCs up against a high-CR adversary I will usually complicate something for the adversary, allow the PCs to taunt them into rash action that nullifies a range advantage and so on. (If anything I was getting worried about doing too much of this, but I guess maybe I needn't have been.) In the fight that brought this question on for me, the PCs were outnumbered but I kept the opposition disorganized and confused for as long as I reasonably could to give the party time to recover, but it just didn't happen.

I think probably what happened is that it was the first fight they wound up in without all their gear and armour. (They weren't technically supposed to run into a fight at all but things went a little sidewise that way.) One of the players -- and it wasn't one of the combat specialists -- did hit on the idea of knocking out a mook and taking his gun, which I thought more of them might do but... I guess not.

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Yeah, I could easily see being *exceptionally conservative* in play-style if forced into a situation sans armor, equipment, weapons.

Truth-in-text: It happened to our party in RotRL. It took us nearly five levels AND having a crafter in the party to get us *past* that mindset.


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I think Starfinder wants players to get comfortable with the idea that their heroic characters are going to get knocked out every once in a while and they'll need to dig into their 'resolve' to carry on.

Players need to have curatives on hand to cure HP damage of course and worried about their HP when they start to run low on cures. they shouldn't be too stressed about losing SP *until* they start running low on RP though.

This means that for a fun game, in which the players feel some level of real threat to them as they go about accomplishing their goals, the encounter design *should* sap their Stamina Points a decent amount. That's what will prompt them to spend their Resolve points. That should lead to a good mix of feeling cocky at the start of the adventuring day and feeling scared by the time they get to the boss.


CeeJay wrote:
I un-optimize NPC actions pretty frequently.

This sort of thing would make me more cautious, not less. It suggests a situation where the enemy will probably kill me if he ever gets his act together. I'm basically gambling my life on him being incompetent/suicidal.


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I've got a level 6 vesk soldier in my group for Legendary Planet and we have a lashunta solarion acting as "tank." The solarion took heavy armor prof at 1st level and has generally focused on AC and HP. My soldier was built for ranged, but increasingly finds himself in melee and has put a decent investment into armor, as well.

The simple fact of the matter is that it's hard to get "good enough" AC in Starfinder. At every level, no matter how much investment we've put into AC, I've watched the solarion get decimated in melee on relatively average GM rolls to hit. The solarion has taken to using total defense and moving into useful positions while waiting on attunement to come up to full because this is the only way she doesn't consistently get wrecked by the opponents. Were I not also in melee, it would be far, far worse, but my AC is slightly lower because I've invested less of the party's resources into my AC than the solarion. I have to put myself at pretty substantial risk, even with investment, to enable the rest of the party to function and there's not a lot I can do to mitigate that risk.

In some regards, I'm a big fan of the item simplification that came out regarding armor, but there's a degree to which it feels...off. I love that there's no more "ioun stone + neck + ring" nonsense. I dislike that there are no shields currently.

Combine this with the healing conundrum: in combat, roughly half of your combined damage pool cannot be healed by a mystic and it's not reliably able to be healed in combat because of limitations on the envoy's ability. This amplifies concerns about spike damage dramatically. My party has a mystic but not an envoy, so damage goes from "I can't do anything about that" to "oh crap, I'm dangerously close to dying" very quickly. Your effective HP is VERY low once you consider how those in-combat factors work. Out of combat healing is a lot nicer with the option of rests and helps mitigate the need for a mystic, but it's an interesting change in balance overall from Pathfinder.


That's a good point, Azih.

Serisan, outside of the question of damage mechanics, how is that Legendary Planet stuff? Worth shelling out for?

Matthew Downie wrote:
CeeJay wrote:
I un-optimize NPC actions pretty frequently.
This sort of thing would make me more cautious, not less. It suggests a situation where the enemy will probably kill me if he ever gets his act together. I'm basically gambling my life on him being incompetent/suicidal.

Oh, I very much doubt the players actually notice I'm doing it. It's not like I have the bad guys doing obviously stupid things or engaging in pratfalls or something. Other times it's just statistical.

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