The players wanted to play with their characters again, and I had a level-10 adventure in the kitty, so we did more. Again, characters are:
I built the leader biohacker like a level 9 PC, while the underlings were using a scraped-together class graft on CR5 experts. This of course meant that the biohacker sub-boss was the second best armored thing in the entire adventure, barely behind the CR13 adult dragon. The frustrating thing was that the biohacker sub-boss was initially planned on being someone to buff dragonkin "brute" enemies, but he missed his buddies several rounds in a row even against monster KACs. All that was my behind-the-screen annoyance, though, the players had fun.
The vanguard built directly up to level 10 all in-class. He boosted strength twice and, after a lot of debate, enhanced his CON (to 23) first behind his DEX (to 21). He found his mobility much less of an issue at level 10, with the reach entropic strike thingy plus the lunge feat giving him an enormous range to truly mess people up with. He wryly commented that his character must have deep neurosis about the levels before 7 (lunge and haste), however. He was a horror of a tank, dealing out 3d6+19 damage against EAC to any intruding on his range. Having multiple reactions also helped his Bodyguard feat usage; the after the first combat the mystic nailed herself to his tail permanently. With his heavy armor, maxed dex, shield, and otherwise vanguardiness even the multi-attacking dragon missed. He eschewed a haste circuit because the mystic was supplying it for the party, but haste was a massive deal for him to actually get up into range.
The witchwarper had gone all-in on spells still, bringing himself to 24 charisma (!), which along with Spell Focus meant even the bigger threats were still occasionally failing their saves. As with anyone trying to be a pure caster in Starfinder, he still found himself with a tough row to hoe. The 18-wisdom mystic felt herself to be about equally effective with her focus on summons and buffs. That said, the witchwarper had a lot of fun, even getting off a successful baleful polymorph on the dragon (briefly). Slow was the MvP, because slow is always the MvP. Infinite Worlds with a 20ft radius was excellent, preventing the dragon from escaping in the very end even. The volcano hazard was unfortunately not used as a lightning volcano, but the "step down heat" function let the life-bubbled party bypass an otherwise very damaging chamber. Given the number of dice being thrown at upper levels, Lessen Injury still felt like the go-to Paradigm Shift...it got used 8 times, compared to Flash Teleport (2) and Inhibit (6 tries, landed 3). It was particularly funny when they fought an operative enemy.
Plus side for the speed issues of the dwarves there are a lot of ways to mitigate that even without class dipping. In close quarters type fights it should not be that much of an issue but for more open stuff shield move penalty plus armor move penalty do hurt.
I had ruled that the dwarven steadiness let him ignore the shield penalty, too, perhaps generously. I actually really liked his idea of an Operative dip. That costs him a point of BAB and the discipline progression, but does net a very accurate boost to those entropic strike hits with a compatible trick attack type (the 1d4 damage mitigates the entropic strike reduction), and he gets a good solid speed boost plus all those awesome skills.
Well, it is lowered from "absurd", but the vanguard is by far and away the toughest class to hit, and it all comes online pretty fast. A good thing, class works as intended.
Since we had both a vanguard and a witchwarper, didn't think this belonged in either class forum; feel free to move if desired.
I ran a nice long one-shot session (my own adventure) over the weekend, a six-hour session with a good mix of combat and exploration/talking. My players picked their own characters, level 4 with bog-standard WBL, and we wound up with:
Ship combat went well; Vanguard gunner, Soldier engineer, Mystic pilot, and Witchwarper captain. The witchwarper was relieved that there wasn't an envoy, who would have been a better captain...felt like that was pretty much the only role he could play with any efficacy. Then again, that makes him less screwed that any non-Star-Shaman mystic.
Upon defeating the enemy ship they followed with a boarding action; the witchwarper LOVED that his Infinite Worlds ability wasn't just land, but would work for sea, air, or vacuum by RAW. There's a lot of applications in free-fall, if free-fall is a common adventuring environment. The witchwarper did get excited at first that vacuum does damage, something he could change to a region of flames. Looks like that isn't doable as-is, though, given vacuum does bludgeoning damage, not energy.
The poor dwarf vanguard did get frustrated about his speed at times; his blitz buddy was often reaching the enemy a full round before he did; he joked that he should have taken the Momentum aspect “even with the useless skill”. Talking afterwards, the soldier suggested a dip into blitz or taking the Fleet feat; the vanguard actually said if he was building again he'd actually take an operative dip for the speed boost plus trick attack accuracy. With Attracting Shield and Interfere, he really did feel like he was an effective tank once he got there. His damage was lower that the solider's, of course, but he loved his accuracy (players like hitting).
We noticed that with Charming Veneer we have a return of the old Enhance Diplomacy. Does it work in starship combat? I dunno. But it's basically an always-cast for the party face. Our witchwarper appreciated the default +1 bonus on his talking, but found it fiddly to always cast. The witchwarper generally enjoyed his casting, although he avoided taking some spells on the list because they “felt too techno”. He did take Spell Focus immediately, of course, and he felt like Spell Penetration was there way earlier than it needed to be. As the loon had gotten up to a 20 in his casting stat he actually had enough spells to keep casting, and as his other feat was Extra Resolve he was able to Lessen Injury a lot. Even with that 9 RP at level 4 (!) he felt resolve-limited.
The solider and the mystic both did more raw damage in fights than the two new classes, but that's what they built for. For what it's worth, everyone wants to play with these four characters again; I might let them level up a bit first.
1. Which warper?
2. So from my player who is making one; Inhibit basically just is enforcing move/standard/swift, correct? So the only things prevented are full-attacks and double-moves? Finally, you say it can at level 8 cast Slow, as the spell...meaning multi-target, Fortitude, etc? My player was excited about having the option to slow vs. Will or Fortitude with this paradigm shift and the spell, but I think it just means you get to cast Slow, as in the spell, with all its effects.
I'd hope the spell list would be the best of the lot; keying off Charisma tends to be a lot weaker than Intelligence (skills) or Wisdom (Will, and
I'm building a level 4 character for a fantasy game of Starfinder, I think I'll got for one of these here scarlet witches. There will be an envoy, so I won't be taking the face spells, but there's a lot of hard choices even so.
How fast did highest-level combats go? There was a bit of puffy-sumo feeling in the last book of Dead Suns, but that could just be that our group had less rockets to play tag with than others. My own homebrewed game is smoothly plugging along at 7, but I eyeball the math ahead and worry a bit.
I do enjoy the Unchained monster building tables, much as my heart will always first love the original 3e "monsters and heroes are built alike". It's gotten to the point where if the players fiddle with something and I need an encounter I can smoothly just run it on the fly, building the monster in Notepad in the initiative-and-scene-setting minute.
I wouldn't demand optimization from Starfinders, but what I do recommend is "max DEX or Heavy Armor". My players built with that rule of thumb in mind for my current game and they've been completely comfortable. If your primary stat isn't DEX, then DEX should at least be a 16; I've got a melee mystic running around in heavy armor which is also fine. Your envoy with an 18 (now 19?) Cha is rocking waaaaay more than needed. It's something the Core Rulebook doesn't emphasize, sadly. Which is a pity, because all the classes have secondary stats called out...it should basically always be "need more DEX, bro".
You said the math is frustrating, but you also said the Skreesire was a fun, challenging fight. Unfortunately, I think you'll be less frustrated but ultimately less challenged as it goes on, that was the last time multiple people in our (5-person) party dropped during the entire AP.
Using the excellent role cards for quick reference, I've never had a group that didn't *love* starship combat. My current campaign, they actually enjoy it the most. One thing that I think helps is that I gave them two ships early on; this ensures that everyone is working a critical role every single round, with some real tough decisions.
Jason Keeley wrote:
Will there also be some suggested hooks/prequelbait in Signal of Screams? We're looking to hop in direct there (love the 3-book-AP format and level 7 feels like the Starfinder Sweet Spot).
I already know more people with 3D printers than with 2D printers. At this point the Starfinder team might be best served to sell 3D models. Our own minis at current are paper printables plus 3D minis from the Starcraft II Wings of Liberty game files.
Just keep in mind, it is supposed to flee at 50% hitpoints!
Indeed. To counter-signal a bit, our group (5 level 2s) had a blast with the boss. It's one of only two times in Dead Suns we had multiple characters go down (other was at the end of chapter 1, book 3), felt frantic and thrilling. When it began to flee, we had an incredibly difficult time chasing it down to kill it, were it not for operative speed and a lucky crit it would have escaped. Keeping calm and shooting it, I think most groups do fine; it's when players panic that this will eat parties.
Jason Keeley wrote:
Puppeteer ship design! Larry Niven contribute to this one?
I would try to convert some of the futuristic Starfinder weapons into short bows, longbows, crossbows, and a variety of exotic weapons. You could also transform the laser pistols into flintlocks and such.
Reskin works, my brother just cut the tech and embraced the "old" stuff. The envoy used a crossbow(lter), etc. I think it'd get stale for a long campaign, but for a six-session arc as planned, there's plenty of content.
It's how 5th level Necromancers in 5e manage to beat Pit Fiends, so makes sense. That said, the subtext of Undarin seems to be that the heroes don't expect it to be a death funnel.
I'd love to see reports of groups that were informed, though. "This is going to be a brutal high-level death funnel, design your characters with this and nothing else in mind."
SFS content is first rate and our local Society does very well. I'll be jumping in to help GM for them at the local cons this fall.
My own home campaign is a blast. I've actually found Starfinder easier to teach to newbies than Pathfinder, literally everyone I've introduced has been clamoring for more.
In Pale Mountain’s Shadow
How long did it take to play this part?
5 hours. Three players makes for faster play.
How long did it take to prep this part?
1 hour. Because, still lazy.
How many sessions for this part?
1 session, of course.
How many Hero Points did you give out?
3, one for the hostess with the mostest, one for Siegfried’s homebrewed IPAs, and one for Siegfried’s brave attempt to self-sacrifice. (Each PC had one to start with by default)
How many times was a player reduced to 0 HP?
How many PC were killed?
0 died. The horrible burns probably made Hero wish for death.
Did the PCs beat the rivals to the site? By how much?
Yeah, by a solid two days.
***Hyenas and the Hyeanadon were pretty standard to fight, I used the Pathfinder Bestiary 1 versions. Bite-to-trip worked on the surprise round against Siegfried, so that caused panic for a bit, but the littles died and then the big ‘un got focus-fired. I usually run my own games with random encounter tables so having to draw out the map was standard practice for me. Importantly, the party healed up to full.
***The quicksand Anhkrav presented an issue. In Pathfinder: Origins that’s a CR 9 critter. I could have blindly subbed it in; I’ve tossed CR 9 monsters at level 4s and had them survive before. I noticed that this feller was supposed to be CR 3, though, so I swapped in an Anhkeg. Which means it got sprayed. And thus neutered. Then comical flailing in the quicksand using the OG Rules would have made for a nice fight wrinkle, but eh. I wish I had tossed the Anhkrav.
***Nobody speaks Gnoll. And this party couldn’t stealth by a dead body. But they can do a ranged duel. Sally the Dwarf begins the fight critting on snowball+arrow ranged spellstrike that took out the giant scorpion in a single hit. I used the gnoll elites as written in the adventure; those battle axes were nasty with pack attack. If one of the elites hadn’t been standing there drooling due to color spray, they might have dropped someone. As it was, everyone ended up low on hit points and decided to rest for the night. I might mention now, nobody packed a happy stick, because they dislike them, but maxed out treat deadly wounds plus care plus Siegfried burning the last of his spells on healing made everyone start out the next day at full.
***There difficult climb bit that comes next has a point of confusion for me. No idea why each character would be expected to make these checks for the cliffs; the party discussed sending one person up and dropping ropes. Either way, though, they’ve had excellent time thus far and Hero has first-rate survival, so they opted to take the easy way instead. And hello the manticore.
The manticore was a manticore fight. Brutal, nasty, and short. Having a good archer hurt the manticore badly at first, and he focused on her to hit detriment. Siegfried levitated up (gnome FCB got it early)…color spray stun, fall out of the sky, dead. Hero feels small and ineffective, which serves the player right for picking that name.
***For our next trick, the gnolls are Old School Gnolls, but Zakfah gets run out of the adventure book. I called his Bark Orders a swift action, which let him move his one conscious (COLOR SPRAY) minion into flanking position. Hero’s bad, crummy, nofun, messed up, worst day ever continues as he gets himself crit into negatives. I ruled Pack Attack as precision (sneak attackish) damage, but 4d6+8+1d4 still hurts. By the way, I am a little annoyed by the “more dice” trend for these monster attacks, the players got excited by the weapon then I had to tell them the extra d6 was from Gnoll Boi being just that swole. That tense moment aside, Sally calmly dropped the minion gnoll and then Zakfah got himself focused down.
***The players handled the trap well, detecting both the latch and the magical trap. The old-school players not being fools, they roped the latch, climbed to the side, and yanked, setting off the bazzzap. Glad I didn’t screw with them here, as despite their lowering resources they opted to forge ahead into the tomb. Not a great idea guys…
***So the players are careful, as we’ve established. They noped out of both elemental rooms at first, but the “puzzle” was three fails and a success (earth) given the initial DCs. They didn’t quite know how the elemental rooms were going to help, but they figured fire and wind would be in C3. What followed was one of the closest fights I’ve run to a TPK.
The whole lesser/minor nomenclature for the elementals clearly had the fire elemental as large and the air as medium, so I used Pathfinder I equivalents. The fight was fun and frantic. The initial reaction to the medium air elemental was apathy, as the party focused mainly on the fire elemental. Hero dropped to negatives before snowball shots killed the large fire horse, but then Siegfried failed his reflex save and got picked up in the whirlwind…and dropped into a lava stream, going unconscious. Comedy time! Hero heals Siegfried, drops again due to lava damage. Siegfried heals Hero to consciousness, drops to the air elemental’s slam. Hero heals Siegfried, and then getting the hell out of Dodge eats an AoO and drops. Sally finally remembers how to shoot a bow again and at last drops the air elemental. Everyone is yelling in triumph. I have the air gem drop into the lava. GM gets himself murdered.
…okay, the last bit didn’t happen when Sally used mage hand. The party solves the puzzle except for water but opts to wait on using the solution until a new day dawns.
***So the party wakes up at nearly full health but dreading the incoming elemental fight in C2. They opt to try the water side one more time first though, and Sally nails the check with a natural 28. DCs might have to be adjusted going forward but so far, so good. Awesome, now it’s into the tomb kids.
***There isn’t a good mummy guard CR 2 equivalent off the top of my head in Pathfinder: A New Hope* and damned if I’m sending four mummies at three level 4 PCs, so I ran these yobs from the Playtest Bestiary. I…think if I do that again I’m going to go with “vulnerable to fire” rather than “weakness 10”, because Sally had been prepping fire spells to deal with a water elemental and the result was…less than pretty. After that insultingly easy slap fight left the part with little more than scratches and a teeny weeny case of the mummy rot (lesser), negotiation with Mabar was fittingly anticlimactic. The players wanted to set an ambush for the rival party but they didn’t have the patience to wait two days more for the baddies, and it was getting late. So here’s a countdown clock, guys. Don’t break it please. Now let’s research it. Cue another montage to level 7…
*Empire Strikes back is Advanced Class Guide, and Return of the Jedi is Unchained?
The Lost Star
How long did it take to play this part?
3 hours. Three players makes for faster play.
How long did it take to prep this part?
2 hours. Because, see above, lazy.
How many sessions for this part?
1 session, naturally.
How many Hero Points did you give out?
2, one for the host and one for Hero bringing some first-rate Tennessee whiskey. (Each PC had one to start with by default, naturally)
How many times was a player reduced to 0 HP?
4 times, although one was only at 0 and staggered rather than into negatives.
How many PC were killed?
0 died. Of course, level one, so a bad crit could have vaporized a PC.
I kick this off with a filth wave, which is funny given the slow slow slow party. Hampered is an easy condition to port over to Pathfinder Original Flavor. I have the ooze use his standard action for it, and I can already see I’m going to want to figure out a rubric for converting 1/2/3 action stuff back into swift/move/standard, but it feels like this is a SLA, so standard action. I told the PC who failed (Siegfried the 4-Dex) to take move-equivalent actions to de-muck. The ooze managed to chase down poor Siggy and smash him to -2, but after that poor slow critter got all 40 HP whittled down by arrows and starknives.
***The four goblins are a four-goblin fight. I used Pathfinder the First goblins. They were detected and shot by Sally the Magus Dwarf, so they charged. Two got themselves color sprayed (scroll), other two clanked uselessly against Hero. After they got dispatched, the party found the ring (upped to 5gp) and a cure light wounds potion. No finding of the claw. Amusingly, Siegfried picks up a small dogslicer, his first weapon (player bought armor and scrolls).
*** The side rooms didn’t get a lot of interaction. The basic strategy of “throw in a torch” showed the centipedes “we nope the hell out of there”, the drained bodies “they don’t move? Eh, still don’t want to touch that…”, and the fungus. Which then exploded. Sally the dwarf made her save (even though she wasn’t in the room, I ruled the explosion puffed spores out).
***The nasty fountain was fun. Hero the Desnan Warpriest wanted to clear the fountain and he found the idol. They were all careful and poked it with a dogslicer first, and then when nothing happened Hero grabbed it, releasing the quasits. The Standard Issue Fight With Tiny Demons follows, with a looooot of missing but with Old Pathfinder reach/tiny/AoO rules the party managed okay. Sally got crit into 0 HP, but that was the last gasp.
I didn’t think that they’d see the pure fountain but they opted to stay in the room for Treat Deadly Wounds (successful). As that lasted an hour, they saw the fountain go clear. I let them roll Knowledge Religion to get an inkling that the fountain would be good to drink, so they all drank up and got healed to nearly full. Then they left via the east door, after every one of them saw the noise alarm trap. Good trap is good, props on the dungeon writing.
***In the corridors, the roomful of skeletons got noped out of when they saw six skeletons rise up. Winning initiative let them retreat before any actual fighting occurred. Because they’d all drunk of the pure fountain, they didn’t trigger the statue trap. There was some fun discussion about trying to bring the goblins they heard in A7 in front of the trap, but they opted instead to go force the door. Kudos for another fun trap, writer.
***Forcing the door open into Drakus’ room was a strength check, which I foresee will be a conversion problem going higher. But for now, they bopped in and charged.
Drakus was nasty; I used the dire rat to flank for him and hitting at +10 for 1d8+1d6+3 is pretty horrible for a level 1 OP&F character to endure. There was a funny up-down where he put Hero into negatives, Siegfried healed Hero, then Drakus promptly put Siegfried down and Hero healed him back up. By then, though, the dire rat was down from Sally’s arrow fire and with focus the PCs took out Drakus’ hefty 40 HP. He failed his evil eye save thanks to a hero point, which helped against his AC. They got lucky to avoid crits, and the claw I ruled was Drakus’ secondary attack, so only something he could do full-round-attacking. The players had fun and were pretty breathless by the end of it all, completely out of spells and blessings. I’m curious to see how things go next for part 2.
***Wrap up was simple, and the party was pretty happy to get some decent loot. They decided to keep the +1 ghost touch dagger for the next part, good on ‘em. They’re all cheerfully signing on as members of the Esoteric Order. Next stop, Pale Mountain (cue cutscene of a couple years’ adventure).
So I’m clearly not in Paizo’s prime target demo here. I mostly write and run my own stuff in Pathfinder, although I’ve been having a lot of fun with Starfinder lately. I’m not interested in setting material, and long APs. Since Paizo discontinued the module line, I’m not much interested in their adventures. And Pathfinder 2 appeals to me less than D&D 5e. But Doomsday Dawn interests me. I love raiding Dungeon for adventures to sprinkle into my home games, and Doomsday Dawn is like the first Dungeon we’ve seen in a long while, just with a nice metaplot linking the adventures. Some look to be stronger than others, but this seems like something I could run. And hey, I never get the chance to run level 17 stuff. So why not see how Doomsday Dawn runs as a Pathfinder adventure?
Now, converting on the fly should be interesting. I intend to do this thing actually on the fly. I don’t want to write up big statsheets to swap in and out, none of that noise. I get annoyed enough with the industry standards of spreading statblocks and keys well away from the maps* (in my publications I put the stats on the map and the key on the adjacent page), so if I can’t convert things from off the Doomsday Dawn (or Playtest Bestiary) page, I’m just going to hit the online SRD and grab the nearest thing. We’ll see how the conversion goes. I’m sure it’ll break at later levels, but that’s useful information too. I used to run 3.5 modules right off the page, so let’s see.
I’m going to run this with a group of three fairly hardcore players. Unless they start dying, I’m going to let them use the same three characters in all seven parts of the adventure; the story is pretty flexible on the matter. The players are allowed to optimize pretty hard after the starting constraint, which one they enjoy; the PCs are rolling stats of 4d6 drop 1 in order. So that in mind, we wound up with:
The party is going to be given their standard WBL every time we time jump, along with whatever gear they snag in the previous adventures. Traits are going to be standard Pathfinder traits, but I’m gave them the option to take the Doomsday backgrounds as backstory. They enthusiastically agreed they all wanted to be survivors of a mindquake. Cool, I’ll buy it. We don’t usually use hero points, but they are options in Pathfinder so I’ll give them here. By consensus, my players don’t want to use them to prevent death though. So with that said, let’s get in to it.-
* Review of Doomsday Dawn as reading material.
Going by that criterion, Doomsday Dawn still reads like a Paizo Pathfinder adventure. The changes in how monsters, hazards, and traps are displayed don’t significantly change how reading flows, and the way that neat abilities get highlighted in the statblocks is fun to read. The adventures are closer to Society scenarios than AP installments in their story flow, but I think the secondary (or primary?) market that buys APs for the reading will be quite content with second edition.
So I recently introduced my SciFi-loving brother to tabletop with Starfinder (set in the Starcraft universe), and the bug bit deep. His girlfriend and her own brother and another friend were interested in the RPG part as my brother described it, but wanted to play in fantasy. I told him that Pathfinder exists of course, but he surprised me by being happier instead to just ban all guns and grenades, reskin, and roll in to a low fantasy game with the Starfinder rules. His players were a dagger-using operative scout, a bow-using solider sharpshooter, and an envoy that was definitely a classic bard in personality.
I'm not sure how far you could take this kind of back-porting, but I was definitely charmed. The fast-paced rules and simpler math makes Starfinder a fine enough choice for what he wanted to do. Anyone else seen this?
I like the concept, a great deal. Our Dead Suns group, freshly finished, all agree we would play a 12-16 three-part AP in a heartbeat, we love our characters and are sorry to see them go.
I'd imagine there will be Signal of Screams and Dawn of Flame groups that feel likewise. It's a perfect moneymaking opportunity, guys.
The interrogator in the hangar section would have been a lot more intimidating if a quick scan of his name didn't result in him being dubbed "Keith". Combined with his inability to roll above a 2 and a crazy-high roll on the 10d10 collision from the corridor-sized fighter we were given, that was the single most hilariously short and humiliating fight of the campaign.
"Handsome" Twik wrote:
I made one of those for my players in our Starcraft game. Creative commons covered, so have fun.
Generally, feels like warlock, scientist, and something occult are classes required.
I'm boggling at the attempts to shut down requests for new classes here. The existing seven are all fairly flexible, yes, but let's not pretend you can make anything like a kineticist yet. There are just seven classes now. Even Baby's First D&D, 5th Edition, has twelve classes. Starfinder needs more classes.
I would love to port in a void kineticist, very space.
Staffan Johansson wrote:
Ah, no. Basically, there are great themes for "I used to be a scientist". There's nothing for "I adventure with science!" You need a Daniel Jackson class.
I guess since I ported in a System Lord you can raid D20 Stargate for the crappy classes too.
It's a flexibility thing, naturally. A mechanic going heavy on skills with a skill-focused drone will do some things better skill-monkey-wise than an operative too. But the operative is able to be really good at both by default.
I like to baseline other class builds against operatives, not because operatives are overpowered, but because they have a ridiculously high optimization floor; it's hard to make a bad one. Making a good drone mechanic on the other hand requires a certain amount of planning and care.
Double-pike combat drones are pretty fun too, by the way.