CeeJay's page

Organized Play Member. 601 posts. No reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 1 Organized Play character.

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Vidmaster7 wrote:
I feel like saying or forcing all ancestries to be the same is being disrespectful to their uniqueness and culture.

And sure enough, elves, halflings, dwarves and gnomes, half-elves and (in the somewhat-more-progressive now-about-time) even goblins and half-orcs can all be distinct from each other and possessed of their own particular ranges of characteristics and flaws with none of them having to read like Christian Identity fanatics writing about the darkies. Which is because there's a long way between "races shouldn't be canned racist stereotypes" and "fantasy ancestries shouldn't have any differences," and it's never necessary to defend or tolerate racism for the sake of variety.

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Deadmanwalking wrote:
I feel like when every single book takes the more nuanced approach except one, the one in question is the exception rather than the rule, even if that one is the Bestiary.

Well. Except for the part where it's absolutely not the exception to larger fantasy RPG tradition. Those problematic Bestiary entries don't exist in isolation; they have the weight of long tradition pressing in behind them. The trope "Orcs are literally and truly everything your Fox News-watching uncle thinks is Just Facts About the Ghetto" has been reproduced ad nauseam for decades, with the major exception being the odd "Blizzard-style green Klingon" orcs (who are kind of a Noble Savage trope with its own issues, but that's outside the scope I'm discussing here).

It's asking a lot of exceptions to this appearing in a couple of other setting books and player guides to do the work of dispensing with the massive inertia of that tradition. So you'll forgive me if I can't give a lot of weight to protestations that "I think you're reading way too much into a single page of a single book here." Whether or not it's just a mistake or deliberate cowardice I guess is kind of a side issue; it significantly confuses the supposed mission of the game to pursue a diversity-friendly approach. Esp. with its appearing in a fairly basic-utility book like the first Bestiary for the new system, as opposed to arguably more optional content like World Guides or Advanced Players' Guides. (In the sense that you really don't need the Lost Omens World Guide to build adventures for a PF2e campaign; doing without the Bestiary content is a bigger ask.)

Expecting better than this does not, by the way, require the orcs to be retroactively made into misunderstood Good Guys, that's something of a strawman. You don't have to do that to make a people into something more than a litany of crude, vicious, venom-spitting racial stereotypes. Other peoples have complicated societies with good and bad actors that aren't "mostly" any one thing. Implementing a similarly diverse standard for "monster races" just has to hold out the possibility that different events and conflicts might have different interpretations and complex causes, for instance. That there might be layers to events or personalities or peoples previously touched upon that we haven't previously seen. That even your existing history, even if it once subscribed to Tolkien Orcs But Cruder, still admits of possibilities for better, more nuanced storytelling.

That's a good thing, I think. It's surely one of the reasons you build a fantasy setting with millennia worth of often ambiguous and deliberately obscure history to play in and with.

Paizo has already started down this road, so I'm a hard sell that Pathfinder is painted into a corner by its prior stories here. They've essentially committed to retconning the previous standard position that Goblins are baby-eating raiders who cannot be good... even if the current version is still only the minimal concession that there might be a few "good" ones. There is, as you've correctly pointed out, already some confliction of the stereotypical Orc going on in PF2e material. Which tells me there's plenty of room for the proposition of taking Goblin personhood beyond that limited concession, and likewise for (say) making Drow into something more potentially interesting than cruel, soulless sadists, or for simply not reproducing the Standard Orc in anything they publish, be it by "mistake" or not.

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@Deadmanwalking: I quite agree that the game has made some strides in not reinforcing certain stereotypes *mechanically* for certain "ancestries" (although I also agree with the OP that some approaches to, say, Human Backgrounds undercut that achievement in a way that suggests Paizo as a whole isn't on the same page about what a "game for everyone" really means). That description of the approach to the Orcs seems promising.

That said, *opens Bestiary*:

Deadmanwalking wrote:
And the Bestiaries tend to be focused a bit on those of the group in question that are likely to become adversaries. In fact, going to your goblins comparison, the goblin description in the Bestiary is actually pretty similar, because many goblins are still very unpleasant culturally.

*Most,* in fact, according to the Bestiary entry. Which sort of raises other questions, e.g. why the Bestiary continues to assume goblins and orcs as likely enemies and doesn't assume anything similar for most other playable races. And even setting that aside, why the Bestiary actually can manage nuanced, non-derogatory descriptions of, say, Catfolk adversaries but won't do the same for certain others, despite their getting more sympathetic treatment in other supplements that demonstrates Paizo is capable of hiring writers who don't basically rely on adjusted Eighties Monster Manual copy.

This... yeah. Feels like trying to have it both ways, basically. Goblins are *mostly* evil but you can play as one of the "good ones." Orcs are *mostly* subhuman sword-fodder filth and you have to buy the right supplements to get a different picture of them (the Bestiary includes *no* qualifying language about this or that group of orcs, for example, a courtesy it at least manages to extend --albeit in incredibly dubious "there are a few exceptions" fashion -- to the goblins).

If you've recognized that "monster races" as-received actually tend to reflect and reinforce at-the-table racism (which factually, they do, and of which the baby-steps toward playable "monster races" that aren't stereotypes are a tacit recognition) that would also have to involve recognizing that these kinds of "exceptions" are already native to racist discourse. Basically they provide scope for your PCs to say "hey, my best friend is a [goblin or orc or whatever]" but still indulge most of the standard laundry-list of stereotypes and D&D cliches.

Committing to diversity is going to have to mean committing fully to diversity at some point, hopefully soon. They've already got the basic track on how to do this: you can have people in the game have stereotypes, false beliefs and/or genuine grievances with and about each other without having the game world simply side in both fluff and mechanics with one group or the other. You can still tell rich stories about cultural conflict without having your game declare the racist interpretation to be the correct one; in fact, the game is generally enriched by avoiding that. PF2e still seems to want to dance on either side of the fence, which should've stopped being a thing a long time ago.

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Someone mentioned above that there have been changes to orcs in Pathfinder 2e. Have there? I'm just dipping my toes into the new system and I see there have been changes to how half-orcs are handled (and implications that the stereotypes of them are unjustified), but it's rather undercut by the fact that orcs themselves seem to obey the same s$*! "collection of things white supremacists say about 'savages'" pattern they always have, for example: https://2e.aonprd.com/Monsters.aspx?ID=324.

This is particularly weird with Goblins now getting to be actual people in 2e.

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Archpaladin Zousha wrote:
I've been wondering recently whether the exclamation point in "Zo!" is pronounced or not.

Little-known fact: due to an obscure quirk of Eoxian, all visible letters of the name are silent and it is actually pronounced "fan-shaw."

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"Dr." Cupi wrote:
So what if another player is better or just as good as you at something? Roll the check anyway! You want it, then get it. If you don't want to be caught in a perpetual aid another situation, then just don't aid another. Surprise, there are other ways of playing than the optimum. Just relax, and play the game.


The thing I've kind of refrained from mentioning but is kind of important at Starfinder tables I think is: "don't let mania for optimization get out of hand." Personally, I find the mentality that stews in resentment of another character getting to be as good at something as mine... rather on the petty side. And needlessly so.

I mean, I play a Solarian at a table where she's consistently competitive with our Cha-focused Envoy at certain social skills (b/c I built to maximize my key stat and powers). I have never once had to field complaints from that player when I "beat" him at a Bluff or an Intimidate check. Because, why would I? We've both got plenty of other space in the system to expand out and strut our stuff.

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SuperBidi wrote:
For me, a jack-of-all-trades is someone good in all skills, but specialist in none.

Yeah, and here's the thing: I don't believe there's a big market for playing someone who has a bunch of skills but basically sucks at all of them. What you have then is a character whose skills are marginally useful in any context but probably constantly outclassed by at least one other specialist party member on any given occasion. The "master of none" in this sense seems to me to be rarely seen at tables for just this reason. It's uselessness. It's the opposite of getting to play a heroic character.

The point of being an Operative with a skills focus is being Space James Bond. You have a wide skill set on which you can consistently deliver. An Envoy or an Operative focused on being a "skill monkey" will inevitably become this kind of character. If you have people at the table who are going to resent that character or feel like they're overshadowed, then aside from planning and communication, it may also be worth remembering that skill checks are only a small subset of the class powers and abilities that make up the game.

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Honestly, a better solution for my money instead of ripping the guts out of one of the classes is just to have some pre-consultation about people's builds and roles.

One of Starfinder's best features is that you can produce a wide variety of character concepts using many different classes (and you're allowed to be competent in combat and good or even better at other things), which means you can be one of the galaxy's bestest hackers with an operative, a technomancer, an envoy or a mechanic equally easily. But this does mean that if someone is going to be upset if someone else's character is going to be able to compete with an ability they wanted to be exclusive in, that's going to take some planning and some clarity about concepts and niches.

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Or not. :)

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Tom Gantert 146 wrote:

But I've come upon a stumbling block that I can't get around, which is the basis for the game.

And that is technology in the the science fiction role playing has to be severely limited to allow for character interaction but that's not realistic for that universe.

A lot of things are taken care of by Starfinder's being a science-fantasy setting. You can have en-souled AIs, cyber-enhanced organisms, robots, androids, extra-planar scions and star shamans and straightforward meatsacks with extraordinary capabilities all inhabiting the same space. The game is deliberately Made of Tropes for this very reason, to allow you that freedom. You aren't bounded by Science alone. It's one of the game's most basic and IMO most profound features. In that sense, the simple answer is not to try to play it all as Hard SF. You're missing out on one of Starfinder's most basic benefits if you ignore that advantage.

(That said, when questions about technology come up, I generally tend to favor the solution that most favors tech we have today or can plausibly imagine having The Day After Tomorrow. For example, I generally let players in my game do anything with a comm-link that a present-day smartphone could do.)

I've found what's best is not to get hung up on those minutiae and to treat science-fantasy as a gateway drug to the kinds of stories (sci-fi or sci-fantasy) that fantasy roleplayers would not normally encounter. This can be very rewarding. I've introduced my players to:

- A far-future-cyberpunk story featuring an alien ship whose governing AI was infinite iterations of the consciousness of a slain Starfinder;

- A one-shot on a deep space rogue planet inhabited by "monsters" who turned out to be the lonely descendants of a long-destroyed civilization who had lived for the last 21 million years under their planet's crust;

- An intricate long-arc quest that involved an ancient interplanar war between factions from a far-off star situated at the very edge of "the Vast" above the galactic disk, a world that had once been run by Humanoids but was now being run by a rigidly-programmed android descendant society that had replaced them;

- An ecological parable about corporate greed and counter-corporate extremism on Castrovel;

- (more science-fantasy style) A one-shot on Eox that showed an undead society living endless Unlives of Quiet Desperation in which the party's objective was to stop an illicit "Samsara Ring" that was reincarnating the undead as living slaves;

And so on. Most of them aren't accustomed to stories that go beyond "Dark Lord blah blah find an artifact blah blah Defeat Evil blah blah," and the rewards of sneaking in more strictly sci-fi story arcs (or unorthodox fantasy ones) under the science-fantasy coating have been inspiring. It's worth not sweating the smaller details to have those larger opportunities.

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Okay, December 23rd and January 6th. :) We had to reschedule the session on the 30th to today.

We got a fourth member on this outing: a Wis-based human Biohacker (and Xenoseeker) to complement our existing (Int-based) Biohacker.

First off, we wrapped up the end of our 8th level session which had the original party of three in battle with a young blue dragon and his Dragonkin "Stepsons." The dragon came pretty close to killing them, but they prevailed: even at eighth level, the Vanguard can dish out some obscene damage with just a little lucky break on the rolls (or even without it), the Witchwarper can be very hard to lay a claw on, and the Biohacker's healing, buffs and debuffs are less spectacular but come in undeniably handy.

We then embarked on the last leg of our playtest journey: 14th-level play. We tried the party out in starship combat, running a Tier-appropriate Explorer ship against a trio of starfighters, on their way to investigate the hulk of a lost Starfinder ship.

This was a little more straightforward than starship combats I usually run, but even though a couple of our players were inexperienced with starship combat we had a fine outing full of fly-by strafing, close calls, creative use of Engineering and clutch Captain and Gunnery actions. Our Int-based Biohacker ran Engineering, our Witchwarper made a fine Captain, our Vanguard was a strong gunner and our Wis-based Biohacker... forgot to build for starship combat and drank tea. :) All in all, though, pretty solid.

Afterward, aboard the hulk, we faced a set of undead opponents and then a rogue faction of Jinsul (not yet known by that name, here they were "Unsubs"):

1) The Vanguard at 14th-level inhabited their super-tough tank role ever-more-perfectly and delivered some nasty surprises for opponents with their Vanguard Disciplines.

2) The Witchwarper had a cornucopia of fun toys to play with. Their Infinite Worlds and Alternate Outcomes powers were just a few that got a solid workout. They proved untouchable in the first combat encounter and close to it in the second, even when specifically targeted by a powerful enemy Technomancer.

3) The Biohackers were very effective de-buffers, especially in the second combat, who degraded the enemy's capabilities dramatically the longer an encounter went. It reached a point where they had the opponents in the second encounter afflicted by so many simultaneous conditions at once that they could no longer mount a serious offensive, despite having plenty of HP and other resources left.

The Witchwarper on balance proved the most single impressive class for our group. The Vanguard was next, though getting some of its abilities into play frustrated the player at certain points. The Biohackers had fun but overall felt like they had the shortest menu of available options in our scenario, and felt the class' abilities were often more "situational." (This is partly a function of running short, combat-focused one-shots; I feel like in longer and more story-oriented adventures they would have had more opportunities to shine.)

In all our group enjoyed the new classes and the adventures we had with them quite thoroughly. Thanks to the Paizo team for the chance to take part in this playtest.

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Just wrapped the first of two planned playtest sessions for the new classes.

We're running a group of Starfinders composed solely of new-class characters; it would've been nice to have some more "traditional" characters to compare and contrast, but unfortunately we don't have enough players free in this time-frame in our regular group(s) to accommodate that.

The adventures are a series of short scenarios at the low, mid and high levels of play: 3rd, 8th and 14th levels respectively. I wanted quick snapshots of how play runs at each of these levels. The premise is a retrospective on the career of a Starfinder group that drops into and out of the major scenes in a long story arc.

Our characters were an SRO Vanguard (Momentum Aspect), a human Biohacker (Pharmacology field) and a human Witchwarper. Today's session covered the entire 3rd-level adventure and part of the 8th-level scenario. Takeaways:

1. In terms of class abilities and features, the Witchwarper was probably the MVP and really impressed at both 3rd and 8th levels. Interestingly enough, the Infinite Worlds ability didn't see use in either scenario. However, the Paradigm Shift "Lessen Injury" proved extremely useful in both outings, as did the "Summon Creature" spell. Charming Veneer was helpful in the low-level encounter. 8th-level play saw clutch uses of Alternate Outcome, Augury and Displacement.

2. The Vanguard was a very tough tank and effective melee fighter. Thus far, aside from the protection afforded by their shield, we've seen their Aspect Insight and I think the Accelerate discipline in action: both were effective, but I have the feeling we're going to see much more of their class powers in play in the second session as the player gets more familiar with the class (and has a clearer head -- they were a champ today and were fighting through sickness to be with the group).

3. The Biohacker's scientific skillset saw lots of non-combat use, and they're also the party face. Their other class-specific abilities saw less frequent use, again probably because the player is still getting used to them, but their Field Dressing and Counteragent abilities have seen clutch use in the 8th-level scenario already.

I'm thus far pretty impressed by this small party's performance overall, both in and out of combat -- the encounters I've thrown at them have ranged from Challenging to Epic and required solid teamwork and creative play -- and the glimpse I've gotten of the Witchwarper's class abilities has been both impressive and flavorful. I think I'll have a fuller picture of each class after our second session, when our Vanguard and Biohacker players have gotten more comfortable with their class abilities. All the classes seem really fun and interesting thus far, though.

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Yqatuba wrote:
I'm not saying it's a bad thing. It's just that a lot of it seems to just be different for the sake of being different.

It's simplified. Pathfinder's system of bonuses in particular was kind of a trainwreck.

It's also broadened to include scenarios that weren't commonly part of Pathfinder, like starship combat and vehicle chases.

The math is tighter so that it at least marginally makes sense to be rolling d20s to decide anything at mid- to high-level play.

The magic system is rebalanced so that magic-using classes are effective at low levels and don't vault above everyone else to godhood at high levels.

It's different for the sake of being an improved system that can run science-fantasy effectively.

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Yeah, Roll20 isn't that complex. If a techno-peasant like me can use it, anyone can. Believe me. :)

I do highly recommend using the "basic" Starfinder sheet. The "officially-sponsored" sheet has so many weird, elliptical and counterintuitive assumptions built into its design that in practice it's close to useless. Someone else is going to have to come along and design a new sheet from the ground up with the end user actually in mind. (Apologies to the creator if they should happen across this, I wanted to like it and I don't say this with malice. But it's true.)

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For a more "local" example of enigmas from the Gap: there are still Elves, dragons, and of course Eoxian undead and various extraplanar beings old enough to have lost memories to the Gap. In fact, it's perfectly possible that Bone Sages exist whose unlives actually span the Gap, before and after. (Though probably no such figure will ever appear in official materials.) The Gap didn't wipe out all information evenly and there are pockets or "caches" of data that survive and can be reconciled with each other.

In light of this, one interesting character-driven hook could be discovering such a "cache" within the memories of several immortals at once: perhaps a particular intense shared memory of a spot on a certain world where the various entities interacted that could provide a clue to a major interplanetary war, or a summit of great powers, or clues to the origins of a specific threat that survived into the post-Gap universe. How this particular "memory cache" could come to light would be a story unto itself.

In the meantime, such entities still retain memories from during the Gap that would hint at *possible* events, but those memories would be fuzzy and indistinct and would change on any attempt to recall them, much like dreams. That could be a source of countless contradictory but suggestive and compelling accounts of events during the Gap which might well provide all sorts of fuel for archaeological attempts to verify one narrative or another.

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One day, I hope some devs in Paizo can create some examples of the contradictory and nonsensical information that made it out of the Gap so players (who care to) can internalize the same things as people living after the Gap.

Technically, contradictory and nonsensical information is always making it out of the Gap. Any view of any star from more than 317 light-years away is a view of that star before the Gap. This means the Gap would have to be constantly "present," in a sense, randomizing or confusing data whenever it's observed at that distance.

This would play serious havoc with astronomy. In fact, astronomy as we know it would be impossible, since in this universe you cannot get consistent readings on the planets orbiting stars at any significant distance in light-years. Maybe the data varies every-so-slightly for different observers at different times; likely the stars look "normal," but closer investigation reveals that you're looking at a foam of quantum indeterminacy that never resolves into a single picture.

That would be the primary (and most alien) example of contradictions coming out of the Gap. It would add a whole other layer of enigma to Ibra the Inscrutable in particular, who may be directly responsible for randomizing or confounding information about distant cosmological phenomena. It would be why Ibra's "followers worship through appreciation of the cosmos, and disregard all notions of moral alignment in place of simple questions about the patterns and properties of celestial bodies — questions Ibra's followers must simply ask, as the answers themselves are immaterial."

"Historical records are mixed up and contradict each other" is pretty small potatoes by comparison (and not all that different from normal-universe history as Raving points out).

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Xenocrat wrote:
The Aeon Guard was designed by someone like you who didn’t understand the rules.

While I'm certainly amused by the singular qualities of "you clearly know nothing about the rules, just like the designers of the game" as a riposte... it's not really a good look, mate.

Anyway, the very passage you quote as supposedly proving Armor in class grafts doesn't affect AC says this:

you can skew the creature’s gear by a few levels, though you might need to make other adjustments to its statistics if you do so.

Because the class grafts affect the creature's statistics. All of them. As if it was wearing gear. Which, sensibly, is the reason gear would be part of class grafts. Your highly esoteric reading of the towering importance of one use of the word "attacks" is at odds with all other evidence of how class grafts work. Which strongly suggests that your highly esoteric reading is mistaken.

The armor and underlying dex bonus determining AC as with a PC calculation?

It's pretty clearly not "as with a PC calculation" since PC calculations aren't based on the stats in creature arrays, and class grafts are. But hey, if you're happy applying every element of armor except its AC bonuses to your NPCs, you do you. Just don't try to tell the rest of us we're wrong for following the clear intent and actual application of the rules as written.

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The Drunken Dragon wrote:
Xenocrat wrote:
Getting armor is part of the graft. Adjusting stats is not. Only damage from weapons selection is adjusted. The Aeon Guard was designed by someone like you who didn’t understand the rules.
Alright, no need for anything personal. CeeJay does have a point in that the RAW of class grafts say you do adjust things with armor and weapons as well. However, I would still argue that this adjustment is large wnough to warrant a CR change.

Hey, everything is optional. :) One can always house-rule them.

That said, I've been designing NPCs "wrong-according-to-Xenocrat" (e.g. by the actual rules) for more than a year of weekly SF sessions and have yet to run into the class graft adjustment that breaks CR. (I have effed up CR in other ways from time to time, mind you... but not that way. :D ) That experience has left me fairly sure that the CR system has already been designed with class grafts, gear and their results in mind, so FWIW it's not something I'd worry about.

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Very good. Bones rolled, as it were.

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kadance wrote:
Scummed all the applicable gear, 'ware, etc. from the 5th ed shadowrun books and pasted it into a big 'ol word doc.

Well, this is remarkable. I'm not sure how the balance with Starfinder's economy is working out, I'll have to check in more detail when I have the chance. But the level of detail is certainly impressive.

Be interesting to see what you wind up doing with Essence.

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I'm more familiar with Starfinder than Pathfinder 1e, but I'm willing to learn and this seem like an interesting opportunity.

I'd actually be really interested in reading the consolidated advice thread at the tips link, but at the moment none of the links indexed in the first post of that thread seem to work. Just FYI.

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MER-c wrote:
I think we need to move this all to the Homebrew section soon. We're getting down a rabbit hole at this point and it's rapidly turning dystopian on us.

Although arguably any setting that treats Hellknights as normal is already dystopian. The ideas here are really just logical extensions of what they could get away with in such a setting.

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Dracomicron wrote:
...for feat prerequisites. Like I keep saying.

In point of fact I used my Theme bonus on a Solarian character to position them for the Connection Inkling feat in precisely this way.

(I mean, the Theme bonus applied to my key stat and freed up a point to spend on Wisdom. Point being the resulting stat arrays are not functionally equivalent.)

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CeeJay wrote:

I wouldn't expect it to be relevant very often at lower tiers. When you have a total of twenty SP to work with, you either have someone tasked to keep the shields up or you're dead, pretty much. There's not a ton of wriggle room.

It could quite easily become relevant at larger scales, though. I can easily see constructing race-against-time scenarios for a ship with SP in the hundreds. It might well not be the players' ship at issue.

For instance:

"The crew of the Sunrise Maiden are glumly waiting for spaceport clearance on Verces after a rather officious Steward frigate pulled rank on them, claiming urgent business planet-side. A few minutes later, though, they're watching in horror as an internal explosion shakes that very ship and its systems seem to go dead... all save a desperate distress call from its burning bridge, pleading for help.

"A scan by the Science Officer shows the situation is dire. The vessel's shields, engines and life support appear to be down and it's headed fast toward Verces' atmosphere. A quick conference with its captain confirms their chief engineer is not responding and shields will not recharge themselves quickly enough to keep the vessel from burning up on entry.

"Swallowing his pride, the Constable-Captain grits his teeth and says: 'We need your help, Starfinders. Please.'"

Et voila. You have an orbital rescue encounter with a nail-biting time limit. Just one possibility.

Heck, I might actually use that one. ;)

Report-back, for the sake of completeness: I actually did run this very encounter with my group in our last session, with the ship in question being an interplanetary luxury liner.

It was super-fun. They got to use the Interstellar docking music as they boarded the ship :) -- our Captain player had it all ready to go, he'd apparently been waiting for a scenario like this for months -- struggled their way through a panicking crowd and did battle with a group of terrorists on a heavily-irradiated engineering deck as they tried to restart the ship's engines (they had five turns total to get it done) all while the ship was in a flat spin, its "inertial dampeners" inoperative and its spins throwing all the combatants this way and that from turn to turn, with more Bludgeoning damage each turn.

Incredibly tense and satisfying, I recommend it.

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Part of the attraction of being a Solarian or a spellcaster.

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I put together this document about "dress code" and weapons etiquette informed by what I learned from running my first (still-ongoing) campaign.

(What I learned being basically to adopt some clear guidelines upfront that seem consistent with the setting as presented. I like being able to challenge my players with situations where they won't always be bristling with weapons and armour but didn't think to make this part of our pre-game campaign discussions, something I would do if running a fresh campaign.)

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Big Lemon wrote:
I don't know what your experience level with non-DnD-based systems (as PF and SF are) is, but what I'm trying to express might be more difficult to explain if you haven't played any "talk-focused" systems like World of Darkness.

No, it's not difficult to explain. It's just I think you're mistaken.

I mean yes, obviously, the tactical rules are a major part of the system. I'm not saying otherwise. They suck up a lot of detail even after much of Pathfinder's excess has been trimmed out -- indeed "combat" now also means three distinct sets of sub-rules, one of which is radically different from the others and favours completely different character abilities. Whether or not this means they're the "primary draw" of the game is questionable (I'll come back to that) but certainly there are large tracts of the system that are tightly designed around tactical detail.

But OTOH, look at what you do here:

Imagine taking a thick, black marker and crossing out everything that applies only to combat: health, weapon proficiencies, primary class features, talents that improve damage, etc.

No. Class features don't apply "only to combat" unless you're a Soldier. Health doesn't apply "only to combat." It also applies to survival scenarios like coping with disease and hostile environments. And it is not a minor detail that Starfinder allows characters to be built from 1st to 20th level with minimal emphasis on combat powers.

I mean, there's a reason certain sorts of Pathfinder players can be found on Starfinder forums complaining endlessly about, say, the Envoy, or about the profusion of Tricks and Revelations and other class features that aren't relevant to a dungeon-crawling combat grid. The tactical detail is there, but substantial chunks of the CRB are also devoted to environmental and hazard rules, starship building, computer construction, and all manner of things with only tangential combat relevance or potentially none at all.

Now yes, I've played systems that aren't descended from the wargame like DnD and its many brethren and children, and aren't designed to simulate tactical detail or particularly concerned with combat. You know what I notice? You don't really need much in the way of rules to simulate something like social conflict. I mean I've seen many systems that try to use "social combat" rules -- Burning Wheel's Duel of Wits, stake-setting systems, certain forms of PBtA "Moves" and "Playbooks" -- and they all have advantages and disadvantages, but the more elaborate systems are not in fact particularly more useful for social roleplaying. Often they tend to confuse roleplaying as much as anything.

Devoting "design space" to something can therefore be misleading as an indicator of emphasis -- much less of effectiveness -- and for my money it's a mistake to conflate the two. For example, you can largely ignore the elaborate weapons and equipment lists and play a group focused on wilderness exploration, diplomatic encounters with strange aliens, scientific problem solving and hacking strange alien computers in long-lost ruins if you want. You are not "wasting" all the "design space" devoted to combat if you do this, it's still there for you on those occasions when you might need it; you are just leaning in to different parts of the system that are also there for that purpose.

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johnlocke90 wrote:
The system falls apart if you compare it to real world laws.

Well, there's no part of Starfinder that's designed to be compared with "real world laws." That much is certainly true. :D

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I dunno. Presumably people always knew what Tusken Raiders looked like under those masks, but the masks were cooler and more iconic than whatever they concealed. I feel that way about Kasatha, a little.

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yukongil wrote:
. . . which allows the rest of the group to escape with the information and a couple of doggie bags.

This right here. This is what it's all about.

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I wouldn't expect it to be relevant very often at lower tiers. When you have a total of twenty SP to work with, you either have someone tasked to keep the shields up or you're dead, pretty much. There's not a ton of wriggle room.

It could quite easily become relevant at larger scales, though. I can easily see constructing race-against-time scenarios for a ship with SP in the hundreds. It might well not be the players' ship at issue.

For instance:

"The crew of the Sunrise Maiden are glumly waiting for spaceport clearance on Verces after a rather officious Steward frigate pulled rank on them, claiming urgent business planet-side. A few minutes later, though, they're watching in horror as an internal explosion shakes that very ship and its systems seem to go dead... all save a desperate distress call from its burning bridge, pleading for help.

"A scan by the Science Officer shows the situation is dire. The vessel's shields, engines and life support appear to be down and it's headed fast toward Verces' atmosphere. A quick conference with its captain confirms their chief engineer is not responding and shields will not recharge themselves quickly enough to keep the vessel from burning up on entry.

"Swallowing his pride, the Constable-Captain grits his teeth and says: 'We need your help, Starfinders. Please.'"

Et voila. You have an orbital rescue encounter with a nail-biting time limit. Just one possibility.

Heck, I might actually use that one. ;)

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I'll post the adventure we ran in about a week's time. In the meantime, here's a summary of the course we took through it (and some GM thoughts I've journalled).

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Things I learned from running on Eox:

1. It's as much fun as a setting as you'd think.
2. Creative suggestions from this thread helped make it moreso, so thanks, everyone.
3. Holy crap, Mindbreaker Mystics are formidable. One of the group ran as one and high Resolve plus the Share Pain ability is a pretty sweet combination right there, never mind the damage she could dish out with Mind Thrust.
4. Holy crap, Marrowblights are formidable. I put my group up against one as part of the final encounter -- dialed him *back* from the version in the Dead Suns AP -- and wound up killing my first PC. (Kinda thankful it was a one-off!) That mofo managed to dish out 62 points of slashing damage to the party's tank in one of the latter combat rounds, killed them on the spot.
5. Investigation adventures are a lot of work, but it was worth it. Eox is suited to the noir crime thriller like few other planets.

I was concerned Pact Worlds would superannuate most of what I was doing, but it turns out not to be the case, so I think I'll post the adventure here for others to use if they'd like. Thanks again to everyone who helped me think through Eox on this thread.

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Ravingdork wrote:
CeeJay wrote:

It seemed outlandish until I realised there were two entirely different and non-compatible creation myths in the Bible.

Oh? Care to elaborate?

Going into detail might take the thread off-course, but there's a useful introduction starting here (the first of three posts that were clearly meant to introduce a longer series which never happened, but he covers the essentials).

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SirShua wrote:
What you guys think? Are these Efreet different from the ones we know in pathfinder?

The efreet described in Pact Worlds seem to be basically Space Arab traders whose territory is the Plane of Fire and the Sun. I highly doubt they're wish-granting genies. It seems likelier they are comparable to ifrits from Pathfinder, and to the other half-caste Outsider races therein.

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I have yet to see much on the archetype lists that I would give up a Stellar Revelation or Magic Hack or Connection Power or other core class feature for, but it's getting closer. If one was a Soldier, it looks as though the Star Knight's features are at least a true match for the combat feats they'd be replacing.

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Ravingdork wrote:
On another note, I absolutely hate it when the defining trait of an alien race is not well represented in the race's PC equivalent. The reptoid disguise duration is one great example, especially in light of the new astrazoan race from the Pact Worlds book . . .

I dunno about the astrozoans, but for reptoids if anything I would extend some version of the PC limitation to the NPCs -- or just play that limitation ad hoc As Drama Dictates -- rather than the other way around.

This is at odds with the claim that reptoids can spend more of their lives in other shapes than in their own shape, but I think it gets closer to why the limitation is there and why that's a good thing. The classic cinematic shapeshifting-infiltrator trope is that the shapeshifter has limits, and the Heroes happen across one of them in their True Form. And the moving parts that the conspiracy requires to operate around that limitation -- maybe a cell of reptoids needs to rotate playing the same guy, whose memory of key events will show telltale inconsistencies a a result, to keep the role inhabited around the clock -- makes it more possible for the Heroes to stumble across the truth.

And in the moment of reveal: Horror! The Unseen are here! Can they get anybody to believe them? Can the aliens silence the Heroes before the operation is exposed? And will Dex Chandling finally confess his true feelings to the beautiful lashunta scientist Dalya? Limitations on the reptoid ability would be ideal for stories like that. (Well, not necessary for that last beat, but you get the idea.)

Likewise for hero-character shapeshifters. The old Liam Neeson classic Darkman was great for this, because the hero could imitate anyone... but only for an hour before his false face started to melt off. Imparted lots of tension where an unlimited ability wouldn't have. If the astrozoans have none of that going on that would seem less interesting, unless their ability has to be maintained by concentration or has some other inbuilt vulnerability.

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Pantshandshake wrote:
Also, the vast majority of NPCs don't get to gain levels or go shopping. Or find love.

And isn't that, when it all comes down to it, the greatest Feat of all? *stares mistily into the middle distance and sheds a single manly tear*

What's that you say, no mechanical bonuses from Love? Ah, screw it. I'll just get the wyrm gland.

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I can't speak to Kitsune in particular -- well I mean I could, in that being able to spend just two feats to get unlimited casts of Alter Self as swift actions does look broken as hell to me, but I mean I can't speak to it from actual play experience of how any of that or their version of Change Shape worked out -- but in general Starfinder does feel to me like they learned some lessons from ridiculously overpowered races in Pathfinder (Aasimar, Tieflings, Strix and such), and chose balance, drama and character challenge over "consistency" and the priorities of the powergamer. Whether they're the right lessons is a matter of opinion, but in most cases I don't find myself sympathetic to many of the "we should get what the monsters get" stuff around the AA races. The conversation upthread about Dragonkin is a perfect example.

All of that said, I think I could agree with you about Sarcesians and being able to spend a Resolve Point to hang in void conditions longer. That's not a super-radical or obviously OP mechanical shift and brings some interesting dynamics with it.

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Wouldn't "properly" work again seems to mean "aren't sufficiently OP to outperform all the other player races." It just goes around in circles. :D SMH

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Fuzzypaws wrote:
It's a glorified robot, albeit one with a soul of sorts.

I can see the Android Liberation Front still has some hearts-and-minds work to do... ;)

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JiCi wrote:
I used the term "Unplayable" to refer to "underpowered".

I know. It still doesn't make sense. You're still basically trying to justify begrudging having good abilities "because the monsters" and that's fundamentally just wrong-headed AFAICS.

(EDIT: Basically when someone wants to talk about what's "underpowered," always ask the question "compared to what"? Compared to other players of comparable levels? Compared to the threats one is likely to encounter at any given level? If the answer to this is "my level 1 character can't compete with the stats of the CR9 monster in the book" you're dealing with silliness. Act accordingly.)

I do not know how the dev team selects which ability remains for a playable alien

Doesn't seem all that hard to figure out to me. Try thinking "would having a 120 ft. flight speed and a 9d6 innate breath weapon make a character ridiculously over-powered"? If so, chances are you cannot have those things and they will make changes to the playable version for that reason. Most other such decisions have similarly clear rationales.

The fly speed... is pretty useless.

The flight ability is surely more about positioning than speed. You are basically getting the equivalent of early-level Defy Gravity as an innate racial ability. I think that's a pretty freaking incredible thing to grouse about, personally. And instead you want something that (IIRC about Glide) won't allow you to change elevation or give you as much flexibility in Zero-G? *shrug* You do you.

The breath weapon... is weaker than a level 1 pistol.

A level 1 laser pistol does 1d4 F damage, has limited charges and doesn't have a cone effect. Casting about for reasons to begrudge stuff like this makes a person say extremely silly things.

The breath weapon of course is significantly toned down from the CR9 Dragonkin we see in the "monster" stats (who you will note line up exactly with the stats of a "standard" dragon gland), but basically an innate racial breath weapon is a bonus any way you slice it. And yes it does scale like a natural weapon, doesn't it? Isn't that nice? I'd far rather have it than a Bite personally, although there are trade-offs, it seems to me that if having Bite instead is really important you could probably switch one out for the other.

I get your point about the "genetic engineering" thing not being reflected in the actual racial stats and size, but frankly I'd rather have the advantages that come with Large size. And the hindrances too. More interesting and makes the race more distinct and better explains the scale of the STR bonus. There's plenty of room in Large size for differences of mass anyway.

About the only thing I'd house-rule is to allow people to change their type of breath weapon based on their Dragonkin type. Apart from that most of your proposed changes don't seem like improvements at all to me. They would create a different race with a different flavour and that's fine, but beyond that, attempting to justify powergamer-grousing is going to be a flawed exercise more often than not. Rise above... or Glide above, I guess. Whatever works. ;)

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JiCi wrote:
What I mean is that the playable version can be seen as "severely nerfed", to the point of being called "unplayable".

"Unplayable" != "less interesting to power-gamers who want a bunch of OP racial traits on top of all the powers they get as heroes." I'm perfectly happy get a race that can fly, has a breath weapon, has the bonding ability and gets the reach advantages of Large size. I don't get the mindset that is gnashing its teeth about getting those things because one-off monsters with no player abilities get other things.

I understand the balance

Okay. Understanding the balance would seem to be different from calling race "unplayable" for not being wildly over-powered relative to other player races, I think. If you would like a different concept for this or that race, that has nothing to do with whether the ones in the AA are "viable."

Speaking of the Dragonkin, I actually wanted them to be nerfed.

Actually it just sounds to me like you want to homebrew a different player race. You can totally do that if you want to, the one you describe sounds just as interesting.

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And? That has nothing to do with whether they're playable. Obviously they get all kinds of powers and feats as PCs that they wouldn't get as "monsters." If they keep the flavour and stay balanced with other player races they're fulfilling their role.

I would love to play a bonded Dragonkin sometime, I think. Or an Urog. Some of the larger, more "alien" aliens would present interesting challenges.

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Deranged Stabby-Man wrote:
but if at level 20 your shots in a perfect min-max scenario only has a 50% chance of hitting a CR 20 target

... then if you're that dedicated to a combat build, you probably also have abilities like multi-attack mastery or knockout shot that compensate you handsomely for any such deficit; the built-in ability to switch exploits out at will once per day even if didn't originally build with this in mind; and the built-in ability to attack four times in a round while incurring only the basic full attack penalty. I have a lot more sympathy for the "Operatives are over-powered" guy, frankly, although he's wrong too.

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We need to hook you up with the "Operatives are over-powered" thread and let y'all fight it out.

Envoys do just fine, I wouldn't hesitate to play one. The only problem I've noticed with them is that some of the Improvisations are a little hard to use ("Get Down!" is one because it requires the recipient to drop Prone, and as it turns out characters rarely want to do this) and it'd be nice to have a broader selection, hence this. Apart from that, no complaints.

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Brother Willi wrote:

So I have run two starship combats. The first was fun, tense, and enjoyable. The second was a bit of a slog, with the party falling into set patterns trying to bludgeon the enemy into submission before they got disabled. I'm not sure why the difference.

Any suggestions on running space ship combat effectively? At-the-table procedures that might help?

Things that have made it easier or more fun for me:

I have incorporated the updated DC's into custom "action cards" in-game to minimize flipping back and forth between the errata and the CRB. I believe Jimbles has a calculator set up for this as well, which I think is posted somewhere on the Starfinder server in Discord.

Having complications to starship combat is also useful. Navigation hazards that both ships have to work around is a good one. (I see Raving beat me to mentioning this.) I'm keen to try running a session where the players have to cope with a hostile running around on their ship while they're in starship combat... not totally sure how to make that work yet but I will figure something out.

We run on a virtual tabletop and I've customized initiative rolls, with help of one of my players, to automate the process of doing the piloting contest each round while keeping ourselves reminded of how the turn order works. (Basically it just puts up Engineering and Gunnery as 1500 and 3500 in the turn order and adds the Piloting checks to 2500; sort Ascending in Roll20 et voila, you have an easy-to-grasp turn order.)

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Characters are balanced just fine against NPCs if they make effective use of teamwork, tactics and leveraging a whole suite of abilities and feats which the NPCs rarely have. The way Starfinder is set up considerably encourages this, and combat is thus considerably more interesting than Pathfinder was for my money.

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I think it's the DC scaling that makes it kind of questionable. By the time you're at a level where it's a feasible roll, you can still only reliably use it on pretty weak mooks well below your level, which makes it considerably less attractive than it might otherwise be.

I guess that there is what the Peepoe call "situational." It would need a pretty specific sort of situation to be useful, and the GM would have to anticipate those situations and provide them. I'm all about this in terms of adventure design, but there's a certain limit.

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Have to go contra-Quindraco here. That's just a perverse reading of the rules. It does not remotely follow that if you can use something Untrained, you can't use it Trained. If you're Trained you just have an added bonus (moreso if it's a Class Skill). The wording of rules does sometimes seems to have been done with certain common-sense assumptions in mind, and this seems like such a case.

Hiruma Kai wrote:
However, I'd argue the medicine skill and a medkit is at a minimum more useful than a single 50 credit expendable at 1st level, because that expendable is only usable once, while the medicine skill can be reused over and over.

Yes. To Hiruma you listen!

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