Quite so. I stand corrected.
. . . That struck me as a particularly big red flag, but if you don't see it I'd like to hear more.
Hmmm. Somehow the invitation to that particular dance with a poster who introduced themselves as you chose to do is... not a high priority? Besides, I rather have the impression that your "bit" is to lead with insulting caricature and then affect surprise that for some unfathomable reason, nobody wants to "debate" with you. If that's in fact the case, I'd hate to deprive you of the pleasure, at least in the short term.
Still, that does strike me a fairly egregious twisting of what the OP said and it should probably, in general, be addressed. Past my bedtime but maybe I'll have a go at it after work tomorrow if this thread is still open by then. If my impression of you thus far isn't a fair one, I'll be open to pleasant surprises.
and you basically accusing them of being disingenuous in that regard over one page of text seems like a vast overreaction.
All due respect: if I wasn't clear enough about this earlier, I'm not much interested in your opinions about what does or doesn't constitute "overreaction." The reflexive scolding of people who raise the issue for "overreaction" is one of the habits that kept progress on this issue as utterly, embarrassingly primitive as it has been for decades.
And I'm neither discounting the positive steps Paizo has taken nor particularly impressed that "positive steps" by the early third decade of the 21st century still consist of "our game is for everyone, as witness the vary partial and marginal paring back of aggressively racist tropes that we previously treated as perfectly normal." They are, of course, better than most RPG companies, still. Unfortunately, this is mostly evidence of the across-the-board horrorshow that has been TTRPG race politics until this point.
Paizo never had a position that any race/ancestry 'cannot be Good', so they don't need to retcon it.
Depends on the specific publication. I can certainly recall APs in 1e that make this case in very explicit, direct terms. The Drow entry in the bestiary still, very explicitly and without qualification, makes the case that Drow are the result of the corruption of Elves to evil, and only this. So yes, Paizo has at various points published things that take exactly this position.
What they had the position on was that, culturally, a variety of specific species in the Inner Sea region were primarily composed of Evil members.
There's no significant difference between "mostly" and "all" in terms of degree-of-racism. You may think there is. There really isn't. "Some of them, I'm sure, are nice people" doesn't obviate racist characterization or its effects.
That position has not substantially changed, because doing that really would be a huge retcon, and one that smacks of covering up atrocities, which again is every bit as troublesome a trope as any of the issues with race.
Actually the current description of Belkzen in the Lost Omens world guide no longer feels like a description of a primarily Eeeeevil society. It's in fact one of what I would call the brighter spots as this sort of thing goes, precisely because it does manage to provide complexity to a society without this somehow being "every bit as troublesome" as sticking to racist depictions without which you'd somehow be "covering up atrocities."
(There's never a choice between choosing massively racist language and "covering up atrocities," what a silly thing to say. It's much the same as recognizing, say, the Aztecs or the Spaniards of our history as fully human and complex actors doesn't need to involve "covering up atrocities," or with any other two groups that have ever come into violent conflict that involved atrocities.)
Outside of changing that page of text in the Bestiary, what more do you want them to do?
WotC recently had the sense to announce a general tacking-away from "monster races" as a concept at all. That's a good idea. Not having attempts to tack towards diversity go by way of further racist tropes (such as "a few [such-and-such] are a credit to their generally evil and largely disposable people") would also be nice. And I'm getting rapidly sick of your constant attempts to deflect to "one page of the Bestiary."
Basically, I will see it as a golden day when I don't have to choose TTRPG products by the standard "whose content requires the least homebrewing to remove all the embarrassing, awful racist shizzle?" Paizo, right now, wins that contest. But by Gods it will be a beautiful thing if we ever get to the place where that's simply not something the POC part of the player base has to do.
(EDIT: There will, of course, be winners and losers in this. It will mean that racists will have to do more work to re-insert racist tropes into the resulting products, for instance. The illusion that one can appeal to one viewpoint without at some point pushing back against the other is just that. But Paizo already professes to have chosen its side in that tradeoff. It will be great when it all lines up.)
All of that feels like a reasonable change to the world, and there were still huge numbers of people upset about it. And most of those complaints weren't coming from a racist place, just a realism one 'Wait, goblins were universally hated but can now be PCs, what changed?'
Hint: many of those complaints probably were, in fact, coming from a racist place, with 'realism' as an excuse. That's how that kind of apologetics generally works. Don't get me wrong, I generally get why Paizo might be skittish about changing certain things: everyone is not always their bravest selves and racists can throw up epic quantities of chaff and general bull$#!t even in relatively small numbers.
They've done a good job so far, IMO, but it hasn't been without its issues and people feeling it was too fast.
The sort of people who will always "feel it was too fast" may not in fact have worthwhile or informed, or sometimes even good faith, perspectives on what made the racist tropes harmful in the first place.
Speeding up is one way to go, but I'm not at all sure it's the right one.
Good for you! But again, with all due respect, I really wasn't asking.
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.
@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*:
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.
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.
Picking up on the OP's original starship names intent (though it's amusing that they started with Serenity, heh, I'm still into the spirit of the thing):
(All in-campaign names. Some of them were for 'mechs when we playtested the Mechfinder homebrew, but I think they work just as well for ships.
* Names excluded from the main sequence b/c they're actually based on Seventies bands or prog rock concept albums, but hey. Still fun.
** Name of an alien ship that was actually a literal description of the AI piloting it.)
Anybody got any personal ideas for Shadow Absalom Station? I find that place pretty interesting.
I used the Shadow Plane pretty extensively in my current campaign. The way it tended to work -- it wasn't a true inversion of the Prime Material but it often worked as a mirror image -- was that locations that were full of life and bustle in our plane were often dead and half-destroyed on the Shadow Plane, inhabited only by shadow creatures of negative energy. By contrast, sometimes there were locales that seemed dead and ruined on the Prime Material that were still active and full of some kind of "life" on the Shadow Plane.
I never got to do a Shadow Plane version of Absalom Station, although I planned for the possibility: the adventure just didn't move that way. If I'd gotten to do it, though, the Shadow Plane version of Absalom Station would have been abandoned and half-wrecked, warped and weird, portions of it open to the void and the remainder overrun by various creatures of Shadow, with a very few Kayal-type humanoids forming expeditions and bridgeheads. So, that's one possible way to go.
The Shadow Plane was serving a very specific plot function in my adventure, though. If I were doing the scenario in isolation I might take it further over-the-top and deeper into horror territory and have the station overrun by Kytons and their minions.
I get the OP's objection. It's worth keeping in mind that the Gap opens up storytelling possibilities, but unavoidably there are some it forecloses. It's a tradeoff not everyone is obligated to like, though it hasn't been a dealbreaker for me.
It was my impression that 'The gap' exists to give a reason for technology to have risen.
Technology was already rising in Pathfinder before the Gap happened. Starfinder just makes it way more ubiquitous and central to the setting. It's basically a continuity device, as others have mentioned.
Tom Gantert 146 wrote:
Though I understand the reasoning behind it, the Gap isn't how I would have approached the problem either, personally. If you're trying to fill it in, there are hints at what seem to be about the 3 - 5 millennia that are lost therein.
The easiest way to gather those hints is to pick up the Distant Worlds Pathfinder supplement and compare the settings therein to the Starfinder setting in the CRB and in Pact Worlds. The results provide some pretty clear hints at what was going on, at least in loose outline, in the interim (and suggestions for certain weird mysteries about what happened where you can fill in the blanks yourself).
Another, IMO rather easier, way to introduce deep history into the setting is to simply go out into the Vast, create something with a detailed pre-Gap history of your own invention and plunge the players into that. Sci-fi and science fantasy are well-suited to epic storylines about Big Dumb Objects, weird alien phenomena and ancient lost civilizations on time scales far beyond anything fantasy tends to be comfortable with. You can throw your players into dramas hundreds of thousands or millions of years in the making without having to painstakingly recreate Golarian history. That's the approach I prefer; it also has the virtue of preserving some of the more weird and interesting story options that the Gap does offer (and it does).
Or of course, you can just make your own custom setting and ignore the Gap or be deliberately vague about it. I'm doing that for my next campaign, but that's mostly because I want to be able to eventually publish it as third-party content. I don't know that I would do it for something that's strictly a home game.
The Azlanti Star Empire would have had to split off from the Azlanti at the height of their culture's power, long before the days of Aroden. New Thespera was founded by a high-tech Azlanti expedition thousands of years ago, whereas Aroden's story stems from the collapse of Azlanti civilization.
There are narrative ways to make even high-level players feel the danger.
In Starfinder, the much-maligned gear chase also means that likely enemies and their weapons are levelling up along with the characters. Such enemies even in small numbers can still present a real and even deadly threat to a party.
Even if the guy in front of you is someone you could, all other things being equal, diss and dismiss, it's about more than the one gun in your face, the one sword at your throat: there is often something much larger behind them that the PCs still have to reckon with. If killing some random guard means getting into a war with an entire army, or an entire planet's law enforcement, or some far more powerful entity yet... even just the prospect of getting the more heavily-militarized units called in on them should give them pause. And they should have experiential reasons to have that pause.
It's a problem that can be solved with narrative and encounter-building as much as raw mechanics. You can of course build a system where, no matter how high-level you are, that one gun in one punk's hand can end you. Stars Without Number is your ticket, there... but baking that extent of "realism" into the mechanics can have serious drawbacks. It's certainly very hard to run that kind of system in the kind of heroic register that Starfinder delivers; SWN is very frank with GMs about the need for them to build the game around frequent character death, with combat something to be avoided at almost any cost.
If skill checks were all there was to the game. Which, of course, is not the case.
At a table that specifically uses almost no other parts of Starfinder, of course, such a character would be legitimately OP. If that's your table, then certainly feel free to hate Int-based Operatives with the intensity of a thousand blazing suns. But it's going to be of limited relevance to most other tables, since Starfinder is pretty clearly designed (and I would speculate with some degree of confidence, more usually played) with a more balanced approach in mind.
"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.
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.
For me, the only problematic Operative is the Intelligence-based Operative. This one is overwhelming, having all skills to levels equivalent to the ones of his companions.
Uh, jack-of-all-trades is one of the basic sci-fi archetypes Operatives are supposed to be able to fill. It isn't "problematic" that they can do so. It would be "problematic" if they made trade-offs against their key stat (around which all their combat stuff is built) and still couldn't do so.
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.
Do they use a "hive-like" gender structure to procreate? I can't actually think of a parallel to Maraquoi gender among insects, and there's nothing else about their society that indicates a "hive." In fact the complexity of sex and gender in Maraquoi society is as alien to insects as we know them as it is to mammals as we know them, and carries a clear psychic aspect that seems more designed to highlight a spiritual-phrenic dimension to the species, not an analogue to insects (and Starfinder is already replete with much clearer insect-analogues).
This is kind of a serious question: In Maraquois' description, there's nothing about their eyes. But both Maraquoi hunter and mystic features this strange kind of eyes/eyewear. Do Maraquoi have fly-like eyes or is it just fancy goggles they love to wear?
I choose to interpret them as goggles or some kind of traditional mask made from a local predator, personally. It just fits better with the race as described, in which there's a) no mention of compound eyes in their Alien Archive description (unless it's in online SRDs who've inserted such mentions after the fact), and b) there's no reason at all for them. The art so far is arguably portraying compound eyes but since that's silly and unnecessary, I have no problem at all with ditching that assumption.
It might make sense for them to have large eyes to go with their Low-Light Vision, as would befit nocturnal hunters. But that's different. You don't need compound eyes for Low-Light Vision. Another nice feature of the goggles "theory" and/or retcon is that it would make sense for a species with that kind of nocturnal hunting vision to favor goggles in daylight to cut glare. So it works that way, too.
Tom Gantert 146 wrote:
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.
Tom Gantert 146 wrote:
Do you have gods who show up and interact with the players in a divine intervention manner, or are they silent and not seen but grant powers?
Gods making direct appearances are rare in my philosophy, and generally manifest as the result of some major story arc having happened. The Pact World pantheon (I play in the Pact Word setting) is replicated across the galaxy and beyond in endless variation, where the variation sometimes strays into whole new deities or totally different concepts.
But the Gods turning up directly should be rare and I particularly enjoy having the Gods mediated through fast-food kiosk-like easy-access belief, where massive temples are a rarity but little local "shrine ports" or "kiosks" are common.
My campaign has some issues because it's based historically on Earth which has a very limited pantheon
Or does it? Don't underestimate Earth's inventiveness. For example, every God that everyone ever conceived in a fictional setting could become a "real" god at some future point, with enough followers to feed it as a "real" thing. Think of things like the Church of the Subgenius, Dudeism or Jedi-ism, all of which started as larks before people lost track of the line between irony and reality.
For that matter, there's nothing to stop you introducing D&D and Pathfinder deities from the same route. Deities that started out as fictions and later acquired substance. There's nothing to stop your general framework from functioning in that instance.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
Roll20 ought rightly to have way more Starfinder content by now. At the very least an "official" sheet that actually works and doesn't require a user's manual. So it goes.
That said: Roll20 is still the friendliest platform I know of. Been running my campaign on it for more than a year and it's reasonably easy and intuitive to use, has plenty of good features, and is easy for potential players to access. I still recommend it.
I'm looking for some suggestions here. I'd like to playtest the new classes over a short span of time when my main group will be on break due to the holidays, and I'd like to do the test as "snapshots" of a Starfinder group's career so we can try out builds at different levels of play.
I think I know what I'll be running as the low-level starter adventure, but everything I've run with my current group (who have just hit level 11) has been homebrew and I'd like to explore doing this with some published adventures. Does anyone have experience with published adventures they recommend for mid-level (7 -14) and high-level (15 and up) play?
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.
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).
The only evidence of class grafts working this way is the Aeon Trooper and a few other low CR creatures built the same erroneous way.
The way that approach would break down at high CR does decidedly favour your point. Conceded. [And I guess I'm lucky the sfrpgtools guy agrees with you. ;)]
I find that only very, very rare NPCs are worth the trouble of statting as PCs. NPC allies will still contribute their fair share to combat -- though with nothing like PC versatility and durability -- and I think that's okay, it keeps the focus on the party. The exceptions are long-term mentors and recurring characters who may need to adventure with the party for more than an encounter or two.
But the type of armor and its stats had nothing to do with how hard he was to hit, just like natural armor, deflection bonuses, size bonuses, dex bonuses, and all that no longer have anything to do with why a monster is hard to hit.
Well, it's wrong of me to say you're definitively wrong, since there's fuel out there for either view at this point: a closer look at the creatures in AA2 shows they don't apply armor to AC in the way creatures with class grafts in AA1 do. I personally have no problem with the way it's done in AA1 and it seems clearly in line with the building rules to me, but someone who wants to do it your preferred way clearly has some justification for going that route.
Snark Cannons powering down. Have a nice day. :)
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.
The Drunken Dragon wrote:
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.
The class grafts all explicitly include both armor and weaponry as part of the gear. AA p. 141, the Soldier:
It's not really debatable. Armor is factually part of class grafts. It is visibly applied this way to creatures.
Of course it's up to GMs whether they apply that aspect of the rules as written, but there isn't an argument to be made that it's not there. It's there, and it was clearly applied to the Aeon Guard.
Lord Fyre wrote:
Yep. What you've cited is not in conflict with my statement. The gear IS one of the adjustments from the grafts. It's the result of having a class graft.
It has been applied in exactly this way to the Aeon Guard. The base numbers have been pulled directly from the array and then adjusted according to the gear from the class graft. It's not a typo. It's very, very clearly the way the grafts work.
The Drunken Dragon wrote:
I would like to point out that said section also cautions GMs against making substantial changes that throw off the CR balance . . .
Given that the monsters published in the front of the book are created by the designers, who are aware of the potential threats to balance of raising the AC of a creature to 6 points above the recommended range for that CR, this still seems like an oversight.
The "recommended range" is before the application of gear. Aeon Guards have a soldier class graft and gear appropriate to their CR (note their AC, speed et cetera are consistent with the Heavy Armor presented in their entry). Class grafts plus the appropriate gear are meant to make opponents tougher than the baseline for their CR. You can also see the same phenomenon in action with the Kalo Sharkhunter, which likewise has AC higher than the base numbers for its CR and for the same reason.
The whole idea of using gear to adjust creature abilities is, in other words, already built into CR. In fact the CR balancing rules make specific mention of the kind of gear adjustments that would have to raise or lower a creature's CR. The Aeon Guard doesn't meet those criteria, because what you're seeing is a basic application of the creature building rules.
That's not to say they aren't tough as hell for a CR3 monster, because of course they are. That's a thematic decision. The Azlanti are supposed to represent a major threat whenever they appear, they are a Serious Business setting villain. They can be expected to be built to present the biggest threat their CR will allow, and GMs are also expected to be aware of and thinking through specific details like that when building encounters. That, too, is a specifically stated part of using CR.
I'm planning to put an unknown planet of free Orcs out in the Vast somewhere (the Conditioned Focus ability, otherwise pretty cool, could be re-fluffed without too much difficulty for their circumstances). I don't much care for every Orc in existence being under the thumb of the Drow now, either. It *is* a relief not to have Orcs that are just flat-out Dumb Evil Brutes.
Interesting idea. Might it be a concept better fitted for an Archetype? Starfinder classes are generally designed to be able to accommodate a wide range of backgrounds and flavours in ways that classes in other RPGs are not. Some of the features here would make standout Archetype features that would actually be worth giving up regular class features for.
-You shouldn't have to dip into blitz soldier to make the character functional.
Is this notion still floating around? I would have thought the experience of players who didn't have to dip levels to make the character "functional" would have penetrated this "one true build" static by now.
The "Solarians need fixing" threads have retreated because the angst over the Solarian was largely misplaced, and the more people have play experience with them the clearer this becomes. A bit harder to build (but not that significantly) and there's a couple of Revelations that could use clarification or re-tuning.
First fell in the love with the system while playing with (some) people who hated it, and a GM who dumped on the system for his own unrelated failings. Even then I could see the potential and knew I wanted more. Now seven months and nearly thirty sessions into my own campaign, and I've never looked back. For most of the reasons of you've stated.
There are a few little things I'd like to punch up. There are some class abilities that tend to put people on rails of least mechanical resistance and maybe something could be done about that. The Envoy needs a broader selection of abilities. That stuff will come, though. Bottom line, it's the first system ever to persuade me to get a sci-fi / sci-fantasy game off the ground and really commit to it. Huge fun.