Spell attacks


Rules Questions


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It doesn’t say specifically anywhere in the book as far as I can tell so

What do you add to a ranged or melee spell attack roll?

I’m assuming they went the same way as most of the other modern streamlined systems since they did away with touch attacks/ac which would be

D20 + Bab + spellcasting modifier

Using str for melee and dex for ranged and int/wis for save dcs would make it impossible to make a caster that could hit reliably especially since their save dcs fall behind monster saves so badly at high levels

Please correct me with references if I’m wrong


Pathfinder Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber

Unless the spell grants a specific exception, you're still making a melee or ranged attack, so you use STR or DEX respectively.

For an example on a spell that does make a specific exception, see Disintegrate

Disintegrate wrote:
When you cast this spell, a thin, green ray springs from your pointing finger. You must make a ranged attack against your target’s EAC, but you can add your key ability score bonus to this attack instead of your Dexterity modifier if it is higher. (...)


Robert Gooding is also wrong when he says it is "impossible to make a caster that could hit reliably" if they have to use DEX or STR to hit. For example, an Android, Ysoki, or Elf technomancer can start with 16 DEX and 18 INT. Over the course of their career, such a character is (on average) only -1.5 to hit over what they would get if they could use their key attribute to hit. A caster who uses longarms might even prefer to give DEX top priority over their casting attribute.

A spellcaster can be at the bleeding edge of either to-hit or save-DC, but can't quite do both. I say that's a feature, not a bug.


Yes but comparing hit probability of spells especially since it’s a very limited resource to that of weapons which are almost unlimited, they come off extremely poorly, in no other system is it this difficult to hit with a spell compared to other attacks. How does that make any sense?

Scarab Sages

Robert Gooding wrote:

Using str for melee and dex for ranged and int/wis for save dcs would make it impossible to make a caster that could hit reliably especially since their save dcs fall behind monster saves so badly at high levels

You have to pick your targets wisely. Starfinder isn't set up so a spellcaster can be the offensive tank that they can be in pathfinder. Think of the spellcaster as more a support character, like Gandalf, who occasionally brings the hurt with magic, but mostly uses spells in a support capacity.

You should still be using a weapon for most combats. Weapons are just cheaper than spells and, in Starfinder, they are more offensively impressive.

Regarding spells, you can lower enemy saves/AC via other debuffs (magic or otherwise), which allows your spells to have better results. Starfinder is definitely designed to use more synergy than Pathfinder - it doesn't reward direct, unsupported attacks against full strength enemies.

And you don't need to trick them per say, just perform actions that encourage the opponent to make logical choices. For example, shooting at them with ranged attacks encourages opponents to drop prone (for the +4 AC vs ranged attacks), once they are prone, a low BAB character with a subpar strength shouldn't have too much trouble delivering a melee tab. If not enough, add another debuff. Perhaps entangle them with a sticky bomb. It shouldn't be too hard to debuff enemies enough where melee attacks are easy for any class.


None of that helps for spells


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Are you talking about a certain spell or are you just talking in general? Because generalizing rules and dice rolls doesn't really give the whole picture.

For instance Force Blast: it targets KAC. Its your caster level + main attribute. Force Blast is a 2nd lvl Spell and you get access to those at lvl4.
A creature with a CR4 has a KAC ranging from 16-18.
So you basically have to roll a 9-11 to at least hit. Seems pretty standard to me. What's the big deal?


The deal is that’s one specific exception spell and most of them don’t have that, so casters have a list of spells that only a few can reliably hit


And with a system that’s supposed to be streamlined why would they have different spells have different attack rolls?


Malk_Content wrote:
No he is not correct. He is assuming spell attacks are D20 + bab + primary modifier. Which they aren't.

Sorry, I mixed the names up. I meant you were correct, and he was not!


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Robert Gooding wrote:
The deal is that’s one specific exception spell and most of them don’t have that, so casters have a list of spells that only a few can reliably hit

Well no. I just don't think you have read the spells thoroughly.

Here is another. Crush Skull.
5th lvl Spell available at lvl13.
Ranged attack but you can use your class ability instead of Dex.
BAB 9 + (let's say +5 Wis)= 14
CR13 enemy's EAC is 26-27.
Meaning you need either roll a 12-13 to hit.
But! If you upgrade your wisdom with a Mk 2 upgrade you could drop it to 10-11.

So my suggestion is to read the book and roll some dice. Write some things down and actually do the math. To me, it seems you kind of skimmed the book because you aren't giving specific Spell names that are a problem.


The following spells use non-primary stats to roll to hit:

Ranged (Dex):
Caustic Conversion (Technomancer 2)
Energy Ray (Technomancer 0)
Explosive Blast (Technomancer 3), but only to fit the battery through a small aperture.
Hurl Forcedisk (Mystic 2)
Ray of Exhaustion (Mystic 3)

Melee (Str):
Inject Nanobots (Technomancer 2; can be thrown in a grenade using a spell heck, which is still Str to hit, and so far as I know, launched from a grenade launcher, which would be Dex)

All other spells I found with hit rolls allowed primary modifier overrides, such as Fatigue or Disintegrate.

Hurl Forcedisk is a particularly interesting stand-out, because the only Mystic example with it claims Dex isn't an important stat for it, and it actually completely relies on hitting for its output - you need to hit 5 times in a row to get full use out of it! I struggle to imagine any Mystic choosing it over Force Blast or Mind Thrust, although spell DCs do have worse scaling than ability DCs, for unclear reasons.

Scarab Sages

Robert Gooding wrote:
None of that helps for spells

You are incorrect, debuffs do help spells function. They indirectly increase the DC of spells or the roll needed to hit with attacks.

For example, if I target the enemy with a Stickybomb, it will Entangle my opponent. An Entangled opponent is notably -2 Reflex.

-2 Reflex makes the save DC of Overheat effectively +2 over how it would function on a non-entangled opponent. You could further boost the effective DC of Overheat by using Intimindation to apply the shaken condition (notably -2 to all saves), so now the target is -4 reflex, or rather you are effectively casting at +4 DC.

Entangled also lowers AC by 2, which in turn makes spells like Jolting Surge or Energy Ray more effective.

A prone opponent that was also entangled would be -6 to their melee AC, so Jolting Surge could easily attack most opponents with only minor.

Scarab Sages

Robert Gooding wrote:
Using str for melee and dex for ranged and int/wis for save dcs would make it impossible to make a caster that could hit reliably especially since their save dcs fall behind monster saves so badly at high levels

Most spells that require an attack roll don't require a save, if you haven't noticed. This is true in pathfinder too.

There are a few exceptions.

Fatigue requires both an attack roll and a DC, but Fatigue specifically grants the option to use Wisdom instead of Strength on the attack roll.

Magic Missile has no save or attack roll.

Probably some others. The main thing is that most spellcasters will focus on EITHER high DC or in easy spell attack rolls (High Str or Dex, often not both). High attack rolls makes using normal weapons easier, while high DC has it's own moments of glory.

Pathfinder and Starfinder alike, do not allow characters to be good at everything, even within their own class. This promotes diversity in character creation, which is good.


So an envoy is good at all aspects of buffing/debuffing
A soldier/solarion are good at all aspects of combat
An operative is good at all aspects of skill monkeying
But a mystic/technomancer shouldn’t be good at all aspects of casting spells?

Am I following you correctly?

Scarab Sages

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Robert Gooding wrote:

So an envoy is good at all aspects of buffing/debuffing

A soldier/solarion are good at all aspects of combat
An operative is good at all aspects of skill monkeying
But a mystic/technomancer shouldn’t be good at all aspects of casting spells?

Am I following you correctly?

No.

And those other classes have the same issues.

A Soldier has to pick which stats they want to focus on. The stats they pick determine which weapons work best for them. You won't find a soldier that is good at ALL aspects of combat, but they are able to be very good in an area of combat, maybe a few, but not everything. All the classes are like this.

A Mystic/Technomancer, by the limition of their limited spells known alone, should already be specializing in the spells that work best for their character.

Regarding spellcaster builds, the general ones are as follows:

1) Attack Vs AC ranged build (High dex)

2) Attack Vs AC melee build (High Str)

3) Spells that rely on DC build (High Casting Stat)

4) Harmless Spell build (no need to focus on any stat, since harmless spells usually don't need to hit or have spell DC)

And that's it. You can usually mix a focus to cover 2 or 3 of these, but speading your attributes too thin makes the other builds less effective.

Additionally, in Starfinder, there is the need to consider Starship Combat and how your character's build can fit in there.

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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

The reason "good at all aspects of spellcasting" is not a valid 'specialty' is because "spellcasting" is not a clearly defined, limited category. Going by tradition, it tends to be nearly identical to "good at everything", with spells able to substitute for any other function.

Another way to think of it: "cast spell" is not something a PC does. "Win fight", or "Overcome skill challenge," or "Negotiate with NPC", those are things a PC does. A spellcaster shouldn't be able to do all tasks equally well, just by saying the words "cast spell".

Now, what a spellcaster *should* be best at, just like a Soldier/Solarian is best at "Win Fight"? "Bypass Esoteric Obstacle", which is to say, dealing with magical crap that does weird stuff.


Metaphysician wrote:
Now, what a spellcaster *should* be best at, just like a Soldier/Solarian is best at "Win Fight"? "Bypass Esoteric Obstacle", which is to say, dealing with magical crap that does weird stuff.

Spellcasters and the Soldier are both able to be best a "win fight."

And both have lots of ways to do so. Soldier could be a sniper, a melee, a mid-range, a generalist, and so forth, but each of these are builds. The soldier has limited resources and ability points to make themselves excel within their class.

Spellcasters are no different. Figure out what you want them to do, find the way to do it, and build the character to do that. A spellcaster could still be a sniper, a melee, a mid-range, a generalist, and so forth.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Pax Miles wrote:
Metaphysician wrote:
Now, what a spellcaster *should* be best at, just like a Soldier/Solarian is best at "Win Fight"? "Bypass Esoteric Obstacle", which is to say, dealing with magical crap that does weird stuff.

Spellcasters and the Soldier are both able to be best a "win fight."

And both have lots of ways to do so. Soldier could be a sniper, a melee, a mid-range, a generalist, and so forth, but each of these are builds. The soldier has limited resources and ability points to make themselves excel within their class.

Spellcasters are no different. Figure out what you want them to do, find the way to do it, and build the character to do that. A spellcaster could still be a sniper, a melee, a mid-range, a generalist, and so forth.

While this is true to an extent, the point is that a Spellcaster should not *also* be able to Solve Problems and Talk With People and be best at those *also*, while Winning Fights. They should be just as specialization-dependent as any other class. If a given Spellcaster can Win Fights as good as a Soldier, its because they are *not* as good at Skill Obstacles or Social Challenges or Esoteric Crap.

The problem with being Best At 'Cast Spells' is that this almost always translates into 'Solve Any And All Problems', rather than an actual specialty. Its a means, not an end.


Metaphysician wrote:

While this is true to an extent, the point is that a Spellcaster should not *also* be able to Solve Problems and Talk With People and be best at those *also*, while Winning Fights. They should be just as specialization-dependent as any other class. If a given Spellcaster can Win Fights as good as a Soldier, its because they are *not* as good at Skill Obstacles or Social Challenges or Esoteric Crap.

The problem with being Best At 'Cast Spells' is that this almost always translates into 'Solve Any And All Problems', rather than an actual specialty. Its a means, not an end.

One of the things I both like and dislike about Starfinder is how every class can basically fill any role. Sure, your 2 spellcasting classes are inherently able better at spell casting, but if we ignore the spells and look at what is actually being done, we note that they aren't doing much that can't be done by other classes or skills or via feats.

Weapons cover lots of damage types and access to magical weapon upgrades is cheap. Healing isn't as needed due to stamina points, both because stamina points are easy to replace without magic and because they can't be replaced without magic. Healing Serums are effective and easy to administer, even at range. And there's the Medical Expert feat which allows any 1st level character to heal as a full round action.

And even if spells are needed 0-1st level spells can be cast via spell gems in a Spellthrower weapon, by non-spellcasters and 0-3rd level spells can be put into spell-ampules to be injected without being a spellcaster. And there are feats to gain spells as a non-spellcaster (Minor Pschic chain, Technomatic Dabbler, and Connection Inkling).

So far, haven't been in a SFS session where the spellcaster was needed. They've helped, just as much as any other character, but they weren't *needed* as we could have done just as well with another character filling their spot.

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