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Jenner2057 wrote:
I poured my soul into it to make it great and it's my favorite AP for that reason. I also had a fantastic table of players that were very involved and invested.

This is the key to converting a flawed adventure path into a great campaign.

And one part of pouring one's heart, mind, and soul into a campaign is asking for advice, as I assume Lord Fyre is doing here.

On a side note, I am preparing to run a Strength of Thousands campaign starting next month, so I am studying Lost Omens: Mwangi Expanse, including the parts about Anthusis (once called Eleder) and Sarenth-Yhi. It makes me think of what might have been in Serpent's Skull.


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I texted with my daughter and she had the following comment about Serpent's Skull, "I don't recall enough details of that module for a proper opinion, but I do remember each section transition feeling disjointed. After a bit I didn't really care about where the enemies I was fighting were."


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I played a little bit of Serpent's Skull. My wife and our elder daughter had played it from the beginning, the wife with her halfling sorcerer Wealday Addams and the daughter with her gnome barbarian Muffin. Then my daughter moved to another state during the 3rd module, City of Seven Spears and left her character sheet with my wife in case Muffin ever needed to return. A few months later my wife talked me into joining the game during the 4th module, Vaults of Madness, so I played Muffin. We finished that module, began The Thousand Fangs Below, but about one quarter of the way through we ourselves moved to another state.

The adventure path was missing something in Vaults of Madness. I got the impression it was repeating themes already covered in City of Seven Spears.

I asked my wife. She remembers being annoyed that after leaving the port city of Eleder to seek the lost city of Saventh-Yhi the party was accumulating wealth and could buy nothing with it because they were deep in the jungle. I do recall that our party visited the Pathfinder camp, our rivals in searching Saventh-Yhi, because they were the only people willing to sell us supplies. But she cannot point to when the adventure path lost its spirit. She had been too busy making her sorceress interesting despite the plot.

I can guess from the marks left by character development. Wealday Addams was insane, a halfling raised as a lab experiment that gave her abberant bloodline powers. Wealday escaped but never learned how to fit into society, so she stuck with her friends from the island. Muffin was a survivor. Her rage powers were selected not to pummel foes in battle but to survive in the jungle. I asked my daughter about this unusual wilderness-survival build, in order to play Muffin correctly. She said that Muffin constantly had to chose defensive and athletic rage powers in order to not die. The party lacked a cleric PC, so they hired a low-level cleric who could cast a few healing spells. No temple or magic shop was available for purchasing healing. Getting a good night's sleep was difficult because the serpentfolk frequently found the party's camp for night raids.

All this gives a sad impression of the PCs versus the module, surviving rather than thriving. Exploration and survival at 1st and 2nd level can be exciting. But at higher levels the party needs more victory than successful exploration and survival. They need to be tightening the campaign story threads into a cohesive yarn.


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Ascalaphus wrote:

The manipulate trait is weird, actually. It's defined as:

Manipulate wrote:
You must physically manipulate an item or make gestures to use an action with this trait. Creatures without a suitable appendage can’t perform actions with this trait. Manipulate actions often trigger reactions.

It does sound like raising a shield would have the manipulate trait, doesn't it? You're physically manipulating an item. You can't really use a shield without some kind of suitable appendage.

But the same goes for making a Strike with a sword, doesn't it?

It's one of those logic snags. All manipulate actions involve using "hands" to handle something. But not all actions involving handling something have the manipulate trait. ...

The manipulate trait is not exactly weird; rather, it is misnamed. Its use in combat really refers to the times that the character has his hands and attention diverted from their personal defense. Their opponent can take advantage of that lapse in their defense. Weapons and shields manipulated in combat are part of the defense, not a distraction from the defense, so their manipulation does not create an opening.

I have never participated in real combat, but I have had to care for active toddlers. I have undertaken quick chores that momentarily took my attention from the child, "Let me rinse this dish in the sink," and discovered that in a single second the toddler has zipped off out of my line of sight. PF2 manipulation actions are like that, but with a sword in the gut rather than a toddler on the loose.

Drawing a weapon from a proper sheath is designed to take place in combat, so I don't really see why it has the manipulate trait. Sheathing the weapon, on the other hand, is more distracting and intended for after combat, so it rightfully has the manipulate trait.

I suspect that Paizo named the trait "manipulate" because they associated it with the somatic component of spellcasting, which provoke attacks of opportunity because the spellcaster is waving his arms around in a magical pattern that does not permit dodging nor parrying. And because I cannot think of a good single word for taking one's eyes off of an opponent for a quick chore. "Diverting" and "Distracting" sound like something to be done to an opponent rather than doing to myself.


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Jader7777 wrote:

I also had the issues where my players much prefer the original games material, adult adventures written for adult players.

...
PF2e feels like a slide towards the Disney Cocomelon Fantasy PG-13 demographic with PCs being offered to be flowers or dolls, which is no doubt better for younger players or family groups- but we're 30 to 40 something year olds who want sex, blood and naughty words in our RPG; not trying to figure out how to make friends (Fist Full Of Flowers... never again).

<begin parody> Youngsters these days always wanting blood and gore instead of real roleplaying. <end parody>

My core group of players is in their 60s. The eldest of them at age 65 said that A Fistful of Flowers was amusing. Our Leshy mini-campaign was played with a more thoughtful investigative tone than our previous Ironfang Invasion large-scale war story. I continued the mini-campaign after A Fistful of Flowers and A Few Flowers More by sending the leshies north to Galt, land of guillotines. I wrote a third chapter based on the Scarlet Pimpernel (he was a pimpernel leshy, of course) and a fourth chapter based on The Seven Samurai (the players decided to massacre the bandit camp rather than train the defenseless villagers in defense).

Roleplaying combat is relaxing because the goal is straightforward survival. A hack and slash session is a good way to unwind. The tense roleplaying situations are cleaning up and rebuilding afterwards to ensure that the rescued people stay safe.

My wife, a sweet youthful 60-year-old, began playing Dungeons & Dragons in 1978 at 15 years old. She has played in over two dozen different systems and is a tactical mastermind. Our daughters, now in their 30s, grew up on Dungeons & Dragons, the younger beginning before she could read. We have many decades of experience in our group. Mere sex, blood, and naughty words are too basic for exciting stories. Tactics, heroics, and narration are where the action is. We have recruited younger people interested in learning about tabletop roleplaying games, though the teenager in our group left for her freshman year that the University of Toronto.

The leshies and poppets are not children's toys. They are exotic species even stranger than the elves, dwarves, and halflings based on J. R. R. Tolkien's books. And remember, Tolkien's first fantasy novel in Middle Earth was a children's book, The Hobbit. The leshies in A Fistful of Flowers are the native species of the Verduran Forest protecting their kin from heedless humanoids. What can be more mature than that?


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Dr. Frank Funkelstein wrote:

ChatGPT does not lie, it has no concept of truth. It is a Large Language Model, it tries to complete a sentence you have written with words that sound like natural language.

You can compare it to autocomplete on your smartphone, which is very helpful a lot of the time, sometimes really annoying and certainly not a source of truth.

Yes. The surprising aspect of ChatGPT is that its answers to questions are right so often, because its purpose is to emulate human writing rather than to answer questions correctly.

ChatGPT writes sentences on a topic by surveying its database of human-written sentences and seeing which sentences and paragraphs resemble what its user asked for. This unintentionally crowdsources what people said about the topic. Majority opinion is often the correct answer, so ChatGPT often answers questions correctly. However, if its database has too few sentences about a topic, or too many sentences on a different topic that use the same words, it will sample the wrong topic and give the wrong answer.

ChatGPT writing about "Raise a Shield" would survey sentences about "Draw a shield" or "Don a shield" too. Drawing a shield or weapon is an Interact action with the manipulate trait, and donning a shield means strapping the shield to one's arm, which is also an Interact activity with the manipulate trait. Thus, ChatGPT could easily accidentally overgeneralize and think that anything with a shield has the manipulate trait.


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One of my players played a PF2 Champion from 3rd level to 20th level and her 9th-level Divine Smite ability to deal persistent good damage almost never mattered. The less common Unholy trait replacing evil as the requirement will make it matter less.

Most of the Champion's abilities against specifically evil creatures come from feats, such as Fiendsbane Oath or Shining Oath. My campaign involved fighting against hobgoblin armies, so we saw few fiends or undead besides an occasional barghest. The goblin champion Tikti never took those specialized Oath feats. That did leave the player disappointed in the remaining lackluster feats, such as taking Divine Health as filler at 4th level. She really wanted more feats to improve her animal companion.

I have a description of Tikti at How does a Liberator Champion Deal with Slavers? comment #45. Tikti was a strong character because she good use of her Champion's Reaction and Shield Block. Divine Smite and Oath feats were not necessary for the character.


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Sibelius Eos Owm wrote:
Mathmuse wrote:
3. The Brinewall Legacy in Jade Regent had goblins from the Brinemarsh swamp raiding caravans on the route to Sandpoint. Innkeeper Ameiko Kaijitsu (one of those founding family members I mentioned above) organized a raiding party of her own to take out the overambitious goblin chief....
An excellent list, but unless I recall incorrectly, the bounty on the goblins was posted by Sheriff Hemlock again - in wake of a string of attacks by firework-wielding goblins. Ameiko enters the picture when the source of the fireworks is traced back to their origin and that involvement mainly takes the form of organising a caravan to travel across Varisia based on the information uncovered. ...

Sibelius Eos Owm is more correct about The Brinewall Legacy than I was. For example, the Licktoad goblin tribe lived in the Brinestump Marsh, not the Brinemarsh as I misremembered the name.

The Brinewall Legacy, Part One: Fires Over Brinestump, page 9 wrote:

Starting the Adventure

To deal with the goblin threat, Sheriff Belor Hemlock has restored Sandpoint’s old “goblin bounty” after several years of inactivity—it was suspended when a group of eager but too-young adventurers were swept out to sea while in pursuit of goblin ears. The town of Sandpoint will pay 10 gp for every relatively fresh goblin ear delivered to the town hall—with an additional reward of 300 gp for the group who can bring in the head of the Licktoads’ leader, Chief Gutwad.

The next paragraph suggests that the PCs can begin in Ameiko Kaijitsu's tavern, The Rusty Dragon, where Ameiko can encourage them to follow up on the bounty. Putting her in the first scene ensures that the players know the Kaijitsu family name, because the plot hook for Part Two was discovering her family's long lost ship stuck in the Brinestump Marsh.

Putting a bounty on all goblins when only one of the four local goblin tribes was raiding the caravans is tragically unfair to the other tribes, so that qualifies as racist government.

In my own Jade Regent campaign, one player played as a goblin from the new Pathfinder Advanced Race Guide and became the new chief of the Licktoad goblin tribe when the player had to drop out of the campaign. He switched the tribe from raiding caravans to opening a coffee bar along the caravan route to gain wealth honestly (Paizo Blog: Sleep No More, comment #11). As I said, my players clean up the corruption they find in the setting.

And related to this discussion of corruption is Paizo moving away from the Always Evil Races trope. The Dungeons & Dragons standard was that goblins are plain evil, always wanting to kill humans. When Paizo invented Golarion, they redesigned goblins as zany pyromaniacs with a lot of barbaric traditions, such as hating horses and forbidding reading. They were cute with their big sharp-toothed grins and became a mascot for Paizo. They became a playable race with the Pathfinder Advanced Race Guide, so we gained examples of civilized goblins. They became a core ancestry in Pathfinder 2nd Edition Core Rulebook, which put them on equal footing with elves and halflings. And the elimination of racism was extended to other species such as orcs and minotaurs.

Nowadays a bounty against another species would be restricted to a particular tribe and provide evidence of that tribe's crimes.


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The use of "immune to poison and disease" for creatures that lack organic chemistry in their biology seems way too broad to me. I think that silicon-based life forms would come from a world with silicon-based diseases, so they are not exactly immune to all disease. Categories might be a better way to go.

Characters and creatures would classified into three main biological categories, with some overlap and some outside the categories.
1. organic trait meaning life based on carbon-chain molecules;
2. silicic trait meaning life based on silicon-chain molecules;
3. cyber trait meaning life based on circuits and software.

Some creatures, such as elementals, do not fall into these categories. Others fall into two or more categories, such as androids are both organic and cyber. A character who gains cybernetic parts also gains the cyber trait.

Poisons and diseases affect creatures according to their life traits. An organic poison or disease affects organic creatures, but has no effect on non-organic creatures. A silicic poison or disease affects silicic creatures, but has no effect on non-silicic creatures. A cyber poison or disease affects cyber creatures, but has no effect on non-cyber creatures.

Some poisons affect more than one life category. Arsenic is an organic silicic poison that affects organic creatures and silicic creatures. Chip-eating bacteria is a silicic cyber disease that affect silicic creatures and cyber creatures. A poison or disease labeled as universal means that it affects all creatures, regardless of life category.

This is not balanced. Since organic characters vastly outnumber non-organic characters in Starfinder games, organic poisons and diseases would have a much greater game effect as a hazard. But if cyber poisons are useful against rogue nanotechnology, then such poison could be a common clean-up tool and be easily added to traps, too. But then Starfinder 2nd Edition would have to give free-standing nanites their own hit points.

Nan-Away Item 0
Alchemical, Consumable, Poison
Price 3 credits
Usage held in 1 hand; Bulk L
Activate [one-action] Interact
This fluid deals 1d6+1 cyber poison upon contact. DC 16 Fortitude save negates the poison damage. The bottle is a thrown simple weapon with range increment 5 feet that deals 1 bludgeoning damage and delivers the Nan-Away upon a hit.


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Driftbourne wrote:
I'm curious if the top played species suggest they are popular due to being seen as stronger or just are fun to play for other reasons.

For a single sample, I asked my wife. She said that she chose to play a Kiirinta because she wanted an exotic alien who seemed like a natural pilot. She wanted to play a pilot in our mini-campaign.


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Teridax wrote:
Mathmuse wrote:
I played an adventure with disease heavily factored into it: Prisoners of the Blight. The party had to seek answers in a forest infected with Darkblight. Pushing through blighted undergrowth would call for a Fortitude save. The champion in the party had a high Constitution and class-based bonuses against disease, and Darkblight's Fortitude DC was fairly low (DC 15 in the PF1 module, I raised it to DC 25 in my conversion to PF2), so the champion had little chance of catching it and if she did catch it she could fight off the effects soon. She had no fear of the darkblight. Yet the rest of the party had to take precautions. The champion took into account the risk to her teammates. Therefore, Darkblight was still as scary as the writer of the module intended.
You're using a PF1e adventure that you personally homebrewed to discuss 2e's balance... why? Putting aside the many unknowns tied to adapting this adventure to 2e, why didn't your champion just go seek the answers themselves? What happens when disease or poison are the challenge to solving an environmental puzzle and the champion can just waltz through it without breaking a sweat? Champions in 2e have good Fort saves but nothing approaching immunity, so I'm already doubting this quite severely, but your anecdote also ultimately doesn't address the problem that's been brought up.

I use a PF1 adventure path as a PF2 example because most of my experience with PF2 was with that adventure path. I started playing PF2 in October 2019 when Age of Ashes was the only PF2 adventure path published and I wanted a different story more to my players' taste, so I converted.

I did not bring the disease resistance into that game. The PF2 champion choose Divine Health class feat 4, which gives more critical saves against disease. PF1 paladins are more extreme against disease, becaust they all get, "Divine Health (Ex): At 3rd level, a paladin is immune to all diseases, including supernatural and magical diseases, including mummy rot," so converting Prisoners of the Blight to PF2 reduced the champion's defense against disease.

The champion could not just waltz through Prisoners of the Blight alone. She needed the other party members' skills and combat prowess for the other challenges of the blighted forest. The gnome rogue needed to steal, the halfling rogue/sorcerer needed to disguise them with a Veil spell, the monk needed to punch froghemoths, etc.

Teridax wrote:
Why is it up to the GM to fix a balance problem brought up by your party ...

I would be a terrible GM for Pathfinder Society or Starfinder Society, because I honed the wrong skills: improvisation and customization. They are not suitable for running scenarios as written in Society games. In my campaigns I constantly alter, AKA fix, the module to give my players the story that they want to play. I see that as the GM's role.

The sand fleas and the rust mold are a suggestion in case the players wanted to face disease despite choosing species that resisted disease. Or, maybe instead they want to fun of feeling special due to their disease resistance.

thistledown wrote:
When something hits the party and I get to say "Oh, I'm immune to that" it feels really great. Though I recognize it can occasionally mess up a story when the plot needs everyone to be hit with something.

Obligatory Order of the Stick example: Evade!

My players love narrative control of the campaign, so they mess up the story even without disruptive abilities, such as, "No, we are not going to sneak into the robber gang's warehouse. We are going to the town authorities with our evidence and let them handle it." In addition, I ran a few PF1 campaigns in which the PCs could specialize their abilities to more extremes than in PF2 (I don't know how extreme Starfinder gets). Story-breaking powers are more common in PF1.

If the PCs break the story as written, then I piece together a new story out of the setting to continue.

Fortunately, my players avoid disrupting the story just to show off. They change the campaign's story only to make it better.

WatersLethe wrote:

As a perma-GM: I *definitely* want to err on the side of making it easier to balance games. One of the whole reasons we finally abandoned PF1 is because I got tired of having to *always* hand-hold my players through every character decision because it could have huge impacts on my workload if they messed something up.

I would rather say "Poison corrodes circuitry", "All adventure-relevant diseases of this age have found a way to harm most ancestries", and "Everything bleeds some kind of liquid, gas, powder, or magic" than have to look over my players' shoulders to make sure they're not hard-countering the adventure I've planned purely by accident.

I have had robots bleed sparks. The bleed strike had caused a short circuit.

What is a balance problem? Balance has two aspects. Intra-party balance means that each and every member of the party is pulling their weight in service to the party's goals. If one character is five times as useful as another character, then the party feels out of balance. However, a temporary imbalance is fine. Imagine that the party is in a tomb gathering macguffins that are each behind flames. One party member resists fire enough to reach into the flames to grab the macguffins. At those moments, that party member is especially useful. But when the whole party is necessary to reach the flames, that imbalance is not broken. It merely feels lucky.

Encounter balance means that the GM can judge how difficult an encounter will be in advance. We want challenging combat that makes the PCs strain and we also want to avoid a Total Party Kill by mistake. We GMs can customize the encounter beyond simply summing up CR, since we are familiar with the party. A GM would know that due to the SRO frontline character in the party, a venomous creature won't be as big a threat as against other parties and can add more threats. But this does not necessarily trivialize the venomous creature, since its fang attack still deals piercing damage.

On the other hand, a module writer does not get to see the parties that will play through the module. Thus, a tight system that makes the power of any random character with known level predictable against a creature of known level aids the writers in making consistent adventures. Immunity or strong resistance against all the creature's good attacks would throw off the encounter calculations. And as I explained in comment #18 a creature will have only two or three good attacks. Thus, creature design requires a careful matching game: their attacks need to be foiled by appropriate tactics but not automatically foiled by a common feature of many species.

Some resistances can be treated as a creature design problem rather than solved by a ban on those resistances at low levels. SF2 offers a chance to redesign problematic creatures. Um, which ones are problematic? Do the Alien Archives have creatures that rely mostly on bleed, poison, or disease?


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Teridax wrote:
Mathmuse wrote:
Which stories are the best examples?
If we want to go big, classic sci-fi films like Alien and Terminator are all about how the different physiology of alien species or machines changes how they can be approached, but my personal favorite is an Asimov short story called Segregationist, where a surgeon reveals himself to be a robot by placing his hands into an oven to sterilize them. Your xenomorphs have acid blood that can chew its way right down to the hull of a ship, your robots can survive in conditions that would kill organic lifeforms pretty much instantly, that sort of thing. I'm not asking to implement this in Starfinder, by the way, so much as pointing out that a lot of sci-fi paints in even broader lines that SF2e is unlikely to capture due to 2e's generally subtler framework.

Ah, I have Isaac Asimov's story Segregationist in one of my collections. The theme was humans and robots asking the surgeon for features of the other group, as if each species envied the best features of the other. The surgeon complained that humans should be entirely organic and robots should be entirely mechanical. The surprise at the end was the surgeon sterilizing their metal hands by direct heat. Without that sentence I would have assumed that the segregationist opinion belonged to an old-fashioned human surgeon; instead, the opinion was from a robot, making its impact more startling.


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I have studied the mathematics of PF2 encounter balance. I had to, because I spent 3 years and 10 months adapting the PF1 Ironfang Invasion adventure path to PF2 rules, and that meant converting and balancing the unique creatures in the adventure path. And I also like studying math for math's sake. PF2 has a strictly defined power level for each character-and-creature level. A 5th-level creature has the same encounter difficulty (within a 15% error) as two 3rd-level creatures or four 1st-level creatures. But power level is not purely about raw power. The non-player creatures have better numbers, such as a higher Strike bonus, than the player characters of the same level. This is because the player characters gain an advantage from versatility and teamwork. I had to analyze how that versatility advantage worked so that I could maintain balance.

Non-humanoid alien shapes, hands, and locomotion fall under versatility much more than under raw power.

I presume that Starfinder developers are still debating ideas about creatures with four or more arms. But what about tentacles or crab claws or paws? Players will want their characters to be able to handle common gear such as a laser pistol, so every intelligent species should have at least one fully functional hand. But maybe their other appendages are less functional than hands, just for variety. Imagine an intelligence crab with one small claw that is a hand and one large claw that is a claw unarmed attack. How would that affect combat if the character's claws could not handle two-handed weapons, but the large claw dealt as much damage as a two-handed weapon? The power difference would be minor, but the different fighting style would make for interesting ancestry feats for each type of claw. Yet though the large claw would not wield weapons and magic items, maybe it should be allowed to Interact to open doors. It could have custom rules for that, or the rules could have already covered that some appendages are hands and others are grippers.

Flying and climbing and high speed can evade some enemies for direct combat advantage, but swimming is mostly about crossing rivers and burrowing will probably be rare. Leaping and Crawling are other movement types that are often trivialized. I figure that all species can Crawl 5 feet, since for game mechanics Crawling is essentially emergency movement. But varying Leaping by species could be fun.

How does this fit the mathematics of victory through versatility? Once in Fort Nunder in Fangs of War the party needed to fetch a key from a hook the end of the corridor. But the hook would release a trap door into a 30-foot-deep pit without the weight of the key. The halfling rogue with Trap Finder rogue feat spotted the trap door. They could have made rolls to disable the trap, but the tailed goblin champion said to not bother. She had Climb 10 feet from her Tree Climber goblin ancestry feat. She climbed the wall around the trap door and fetched the key. The math is that the rogue made a successful perception check that saved the party from the trap. Ordinarily next would come a skill challenge to bypass the trap, but instead the tailed goblin had an ancestry ability that solved the challenge without a skill check. Trap Finder removed the true danger of the trap door, but after the danger the tailed goblin PC got to look awesome through natural abilities rather than one of the two rogues looking awesome through Thievery skill.

I described a good example of versatility and teamwork in combat back in August 2020 with the same party as the previous paragraph but during the earlier module Trail of the Hunted.

Mathmuse wrote:
Two weeks ago, my party fought a high-level rogue with Twin Feint. They discovered a weakness in the tactic. Our ranger was fighting the enemy rogue with our liberator champion nearby. When the enemy damaged the ranger with the first Strike of Twin Feint, the champion used Liberating Step to give the ranger a Step. The ranger stepped out of range of the second Strike of Twin Feint. The enemy rogue ended up using two actions for what was essentially an ordinary Strike. And he would have had to use his third action to move into range again, so he had no way to make a second Strike that turn. The enemy rogue had to give up on Twin Feint and just make plain Strikes in order to have more than one Strike per turn. The ranger, in contrast, had Twin Takedown with no champion saving the enemy from the second Strike.

Claxon pointed out that the enemy rogue boss should have combined Twin Feint with Reactive Pursuit so that when the ranger stepped away in the middle of the Twin Feint then the boss could stride along with him to finish the Twin Feint. (Actually, that would not have worked, because Step does not trigger reactions and therefore won't trigger Reactive Pursuit, but let's ignore that.) The real reason why the boss lacked a response to the Liberating Step is because opposing NPCs are deliberately short on feat-like abilities. They lack versatility. The boss's best tactic was sneak attack enabled by a flank from a minion, but the rest of the party was keeping the minions away through teamwork. The Twin Feint was his backup tactic to enable sneak attack. An enemy probably has only two good tactics, and then becomes less effective when forced onto a mediocre third tactic. The party selected their tactics to nullify the enemy's tactics.

And they didn't plan this. The party knew how to combine their abilities just from working together so much.

Tactics have countertactics, sometimes many countertactics. The advantage of an enemy who flies is nullified by flying or by ranged attacks. The party can respond to an enemy archer by taking cover and returning ranged attacks, but fast movement or sneaking to close in on the archer are other countertactics. Liberating Step from a champion teammate was an unexpected countertactic to Twin Feint. The mathematics of victory through versatility is graph theory to match up countertactics to tactics. The graph network shows that a well-distributed diverse set of abilities increases the change of one of those abilities serving as an appropriate countertactic.

A party of weird alien characters and a token humanoid ought to have a lot of physical versatility from ancestry. Maybe one PC could fly, one PC could have natural camouflage to sneak, one PC could have uncanny senses, and the humanoid PC could be a generalist so that the team would have a good response to a variety of challenges through ancestry alone.

I like that victory through versatility usually requires teamwork. One party member has a key advantage and to get maximum efficiency out of it, the party has to work together. I had a recent adventure where the entu colony party member with blindsight (emotion) could detect the enemies a room with magical darkness that foiled normal darkvision except at close range. The entu colony would have been hard pressed to fight all the creatures hiding in the darkness herself. Instead, she shot some threats and pointed out others for her teammates. And she was the final authority on declaring the room clear.


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Jenny Jarzabski wrote:

Interesting discussion. I find that it's a bit tricky to maneuver around this as on the one hand, we absolutely want Starfinder to be full of playable aliens who feel unique to play and not just a "human in an alien mask," but adding in innate traits like being resistant or immune to a type of damage or condition tends to disturb any sense of balance quickly, and completely ignore parts of the game in ways that makes designing challenging and fun encounters in our adventures a bit more difficult.

It's definitely something to ponder for those of us who are staff designing the game, independent publishers considering adding to the content available on infinite, or even GMs homebrewing for their own tables.

Immunities and resistances come up in this thread because some species, such as SROs, seem like candidates for inherent immunities. In this thread, I instead wanted to play with weird shapes, a feature less likely to unbalance an encounter.

I cut my teeth on my father's science fiction collection written in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. Those old-fashioned stories shaped my notions about adventuring in science fiction settings. For example, E.E. "Doc" Smith wrote the Lensman series from 1948 to 1954. The main character Lensman Kimball Kinnison often teamed up with uncanny alien Lensman: Worsel, a serpentine Velantian; Tregonsee, a matter-sensing four-legged Rigellian; and Nadreck, an ultracold constantly-shifting Palainian. I don't expect SF2 to handle Palainians, but I hope for species like the Velantians and Rigellians. And SF1 had already done a good job in that direction.

One of the benefits of Pathfinder 2nd Edition over Pathfinder 1st Edition is that PF2 has a solid foundation built to support new developments. The foundation for PF1 based closely on Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition was not build for ever-increasing variety. It bent into ambiguity under the new classes and gear added in later PF1 rulebooks. I want the foundation for ancestries in SF2 to colorfully, clearly, and consistently handle weird aliens. The Humanoid Assumption works fairly well, but I want a greater sense of non-human physiology.

And then there is the math <rubs hands gleefully>.


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Teridax wrote:
Mathmuse wrote:
The differences between ancestries can make for good stories. I think that making balance more flexible is worth the effort so that Starfinder can roleplay stories like them.
What you're describing is a matter of resistances, not immunities, and is the kind of story that can already be told with the bonuses androids are given in 2e. I certainly agree that you could establish an even starker contrast between ancestries, but the story you shared isn't really the best example of that.

Which stories are the best examples?

Teridax wrote:
While I also agree that Starfinder could work to make ancestries deviate even farther from the norm, I would also curb my expectations when it comes to getting exceptionally powerful benefits at early levels: you do get to have powerful bonuses from your ancestry, but those are likely to come about at higher levels, so we need to combat the expectation that our ancestry will give us immunity to certain things at level 1.

I have been saying immunities due to some legacy immunities in Pathfinder, such as creatures without blood cannot bleed. However, I understand the necessity of toning down or counterbalancing absolute features such as immunities at low levels, because the opponents that the party fights would be quite mundane. Their special feature, such as a negative-1st-level viper's venom or a negative-1st-level giant rat's disease, should matter. That is also why 1st-level adventurers lack armor that snakes and rats cannot bite through.

Teridax wrote:
Mathmuse wrote:
I don't see a serious imbalance with, "If the enemy bites with venom, then the silicon-based party member immune to organic poisons serves as the protective front line." We simply need to balance the silicon-based species with a few weaknesses of its own, so that its species in not blatantly superior to humans.
I do. If you find yourself in an adventure, or part of an adventure where disease and poison are heavily factored into the balance of many challenges, then your silicon-based party member would trivialize those challenges, much as many early-level challenges in Pathfinder would be trivialized by flight.

I played an adventure with disease heavily factored into it: Prisoners of the Blight. The party had to seek answers in a forest infected with Darkblight. Pushing through blighted undergrowth would call for a Fortitude save. The champion in the party had a high Constitution and class-based bonuses against disease, and Darkblight's Fortitude DC was fairly low (DC 15 in the PF1 module, I raised it to DC 25 in my conversion to PF2), so the champion had little chance of catching it and if she did catch it she could fight off the effects soon. She had no fear of the darkblight. Yet the rest of the party had to take precautions. The champion took into account the risk to her teammates. Therefore, Darkblight was still as scary as the writer of the module intended.

If the SF2 party visiting a disease-laden world consisted entirely of silicon-based life forms and mechanical beings all immune to disease, then the players would have a solid reason why their party was selected for the mission. They would want to prove themselves as capable as humans and vesk on this special mission for some fun roleplaying flavor. That would be a different flavor than fear of disease, but it would nevertheless enhance the campaign. And the GM could add sand fleas that are parasites on silicon life and a rust mold that grows on steel in order to restore the disease challenge with two exceptions to their immunity that mission-granting humans had not noticed themselves.

Silicon-based life probably has its own poisons and diseases on its home planet. The rulebook that gives these ancestries could clarify that though they are immune to carbon-based diseases, they are fully affected by silicon-based disease that carbon-based life is immune to. This is not a balancing effect, since silicon-based diseases will be rare in the scenarios. A more appropriate balancing effect would be the difficulty of finding silicon-based food. The carbon party members could be sick and the silicon party members could be starving. Though, the developers of the silicon-based Urog gave them a consume-almost-any-object ability to avoid starvation.

Teridax wrote:
"Mathmuse wrote:
If the difference in this case is small, why cannot we summarize it as:
Notice how your model does not actually simplify the description at all, and in fact introduces far more ambiguity: what is locomotion here? What is its purpose if you have to explain all of the different movement types anyway? What does serpentine locomotion mean here: is it just the bonus against grabbed or prone, or does it also include the listed speeds?

In writing my examples in a discussion thread rather than in a rulebook, I have to be redundant. A rulebook can explain keywords in an introductory paragraph, such as aquatic means breaths water but not air, amphibious means breaths air and water, and lack of an adjective means breaths air. And I had not yet figured out what serpentine locomotion means. Instead, I kept it close to the Sacred Nagaji heritage as written and made my system look uninspired.

The PF2 Remasters Player Core has a paragraph about Speed entries:

Player Core, Playing the Game chapter, Movement, page 420 wrote:

Speed

Most characters and monsters have a Speed statistic that indicates how quickly they can move across the ground. This statistic is referred to as land Speed when it’s necessary to differentiate it from special Speeds.

When you use the Stride action, you move a number of feet equal to your Speed. Numerous other abilities also allow you to move, from Crawling to Leaping, and most of them are based on your Speed in some way. Whenever a rule mentions your Speed without specifying a type, it’s referring to your land Speed.

Locomotion would have a similar description in SF2.

Quote:

Locomotion

Characters and creatures have a Locomotion entry that describes the limbs or other features that let them move at more than a Crawl. Some entries describe different limbs that have different movement types. Each limb includes a speed for a movement type, which gives the maximum distance that the creature can cover in one action, such as a Stride or Leap, that uses that limb for that movement type. Further notes might enhance or limit those actions due to a non-conventional locomotion.

Whenever a rule mentions your Speed without specifying a type, it’s referring to the speed of your Stride.

I changed my notation a little. Now the Sacred Nagaji would have, "Locomotion Serpentine for Stride 25 feat, Leap 10 feet. You can Climb without free hands. You can Stride or Step while prone and rise from prone while doing it." The +2 circumstance bonus against becoming prone or grabbed is dropped in favor of being able to Stride or Step while prone. I don't see anything about a lower snake body that makes grabbing the Sacred Nagaji more difficult.


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Kishmo wrote:
I think this is a solution to a problem that SF1 had already (mostly) solved. One of the chief ways this is handled in SF1 is a set of default assumptions that are laid out regarding what species can (or can't) be assumed to be able to do. There's this bit, which is printed (in one form or another) in all of the Alien Archives books:
AA4 wrote:
This book continues the Starfinder tradition of presenting players with a multitude of alien species to choose from when creating their characters. See page 158 for a list of the playable species in this book. As always, it’s up to the GM to decide whether to allow player-character versions of these aliens in their game. While there is a preponderance of nonhumanoid aliens with strange morphology, all playable alien races are considered to be able to hold and wield two hands’ worth of weapons and other equipment (unless otherwise noted). Similarly, any playable alien can purchase and use the equipment presented in the various Starfinder books regardless of their specific physiology. A character might have to adjust armor originally created for a different species before they can wear that armor effectively; see page 196 of the Core Rulebook for rules on adjusting armor. At the GM’s discretion, these rules can be used as a baseline for adjusting other types of equipment for similar reasons. The GM can also opt to treat nonhumanoid player races as humanoids for the purposes of spells and other abilities.
(Emphasis mine.)

I am glad to see that the Starfinder developers acknowledge the humanoid assumption and for rules on adjusting armor and other gear. I am disappointed that the solution is that the character acts humanoid regardless of its actual shape unless called out as a special feature. Starfinder 2nd Edition can do better.

EDIT: To clarify my last sentence, "Starfinder 2nd Edition can do better," the solution of saying that characters with strange morphology can do humanoid actions is the best workable solution for a game system written for humanoid characters. But if Starfinder 2nd Edition is written with more flexibility in the first place, then playing insectoid characters, serpentine characters, fish characters, and robot characters will be more natural. And by foreseeing the differences, such as fish never drowning and robots never getting poisoned, the developers can still balance the game without trivializing the differences.


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Zoken44 wrote:

There are a lot of assumptions baked in with Starfinder, and for that matter Pathfinder playable ancestries

1: You are a member of a sentient species with a culture and civilization

I am happy with that assumption. A requirement often mentioned in Session Zero before a campaign is that the player character has to want to go adventuring with the party and can work with the party. Lone wolf types who follow the party at a distance to have independent encounter are unworkable. Jerk characters who start intra-party fights are also excluded. Culture and teamwork go hand in hand. Civilization and technology are also linked.

Zoken44 wrote:
2: If you are people have a culture and civilization, they must have some way to build and manipulate and ambulate and perceive the world.

"Some way to" is quite vague. I want a system that spells out the ways that the character uses.


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Teridax wrote:
I completely agree that there is this fundamental assumption that every player character in 2e is a humanoid that eats, breathes, sleeps, bleeds, and so on, and I'd argue this goes even deeper: not only is this a key design assumption for player characters, it's also held as the standard for player character balance, where any one deviation costs a significant amount of an ancestry's power and complexity budget. This is why Pathfinder 2e has skeletons that can breathe, bleed, and suffer disease and poison, because simply resisting some of those effects is considered hugely powerful, let alone gaining complete immunity to them.

On the issue of different ancestries having different immunities, I recall the 1941 short story Jay Score by Eric Frank Russell. A spaceship that traveled the solar system gained a new crewman, a big guy named Jay Score. He was new to the job, but smart, tough, and friendly. He liked to spend his spare time in the low-pressure quarters for the Martian crew playing chess with them. This crew was multi-ethnic and multi-species.

Disaster struck when the spaceship traveled a tight orbit around the sun. A meteoroid struck their propulsion system and despite repairs, their new course would pass too close to the sun and turn most of the spaceship into an oven too hot for humans and martians. The crew could protect themselves in a refrigerated section, but someone had to man the controls on the unrefrigerated bridge for a course correction. Jay Score volunteered as the toughest person on the ship.

Afterwards, Jay's friends found him severely injured but not dead. They take him back to Earth, where Jay's father said that he can be repaired as good as new. The twist ending is that Jay was not human. He was the first robot crewman, labeled J20, and his father was his designer rather than his biological parent.

The differences between ancestries can make for good stories. I think that making balance more flexible is worth the effort so that Starfinder can roleplay stories like them.

Teridax wrote:

It is this balancing philosophy that is going to make designing certain ancestries in Starfinder very difficult, I suspect, because some ancestries are never going to fully do what some players want from them right out of the box: we already saw how androids need to eat, breathe, and sleep, and can still get poisoned or diseased, because just resisting some of that is strong enough to also warrant a debuff. When we get to the funkier ancestries who have little in common with your typical humanoid, like the stellifera, there are likely going to be some very weird-looking compromises.

With all of this said, though, I feel the current rules can be expanded, rather than rewritten to better accommodate non-humanoids, even if it wouldn't give everyone what they'd want: ...

I have seen this balance act work in practice in four years of running Pathfinder 2nd Edition. The tight math of PF2 means that a creature of the same level as the party is as powerful as an individual party member, with 95% accuracy. In fact, the creature has better numbers: more hit points, higher AC, and a higher Strike bonus than the average of the party members. The advantage that the party has is their versatility. They have more feats and features and trained skills. They can switch to a fighting style that nullifies their opponent's best attacks. If the enemy is a melee expert, the party keeps their distance and makes ranged attacks. If the enemy is a ranged expert, the party takes cover and sneaks up. If the enemy deals serious damage, then the party heals up.

I don't see a serious imbalance with, "If the enemy bites with venom, then the silicon-based party member immune to organic poisons serves as the protective front line." We simply need to balance the silicon-based species with a few weaknesses of its own, so that its species in not blatantly superior to humans.

Teridax wrote:

For starters, I think we need to collectively accept that the default is for an ancestry to need to eat, breathe, and rest daily, and to be susceptible to bleeding, disease, and poison, along with other assumptions like having a mind and a soul for the purpose of certain effects like resurrection. An ancestry can resist some of these effects as part of their power budget, but will likely never be immune to them in 2e.

  • I'm not sure we need to specify means of locomotion, as the Sacred Nagaji is proof that you don't need legs to play by 2e's movement rules....
  • Consider the differences between a default, a standard, and an assumption. A default means that the features hold unless explicitly mentioned as different. I want to set up a system for making changes with minimal effort. A standard means that everything keeps to the standard except for carefully vetted exceptions. I am okay with vetting the changes. An assumption means that no-one thinks about adding a difference.

    Teridax presented the Sacred Nagaji heritage for nagaji ancestry as an example.

    Impossible Lands, Nagaji heritages, pg. 48 wrote:

    Sacred Nagaji

    You stand out from most nagaji, with the upper body of a beautiful human and the lower body of a green or white snake. Legends claim your ancestors were faithful snakes uplifted by Nalinivati rather than nagaji created by the goddess. Instead of a fangs unarmed attack, you have a tail attack that deals 1d6 bludgeoning damage, is in the brawling weapon group, and has the finesse and unarmed traits. You gain a +2 circumstance bonus on your Fortitude or Reflex DC against attempts to Grapple or Trip you. This bonus also applies to saving throws against effects that would grab you, restrain you, or knock you prone.

    Also see the illustration at https://2e.aonprd.com/Images/Ancestries/Nagaji02.png.

    A sacred nagaji exchanges legs for a snake tail and also loses their fang attack to balance gaining a tail attack. They gain a +2 circumstance bonus against being tripped or grabbed, including by means other than a direct Trip or Grab. That's it.
    Can a sacred nagaji climb a tree? Can they leap a chasm? Nature says yes. Can they climb with their hands full, since the snake body can warp around a tree better than legs? Nope, Combat Climber still requires one free hand. Can they wear magic boots? Well, we can redesign the boots as one of those rings worn as a decoration on the tail of the illustration. Can that massive tail constrict like a python. Nope, I don't see an ancestry feat that allows that. Can the nagaji stretch to reach ten feet up, which the height of the illustration implies? Nope, not a feature. Can a sacred nagaji in a Starfinder setting use an emergency spacesuit designed for two-legged humans? Yes, because the tail does not matter. The humanoid assumption says that the tail only makes the differences mentioned in the heritage, nothing else no matter how realistic.
    If the difference in this case is small, why cannot we summarize it as:

    SACRED NAGAJI heritage
    Nagaji
    You stand out from most nagaji, with the upper body of a beautiful human and the lower body of a green or white snake. Legends claim your ancestors were faithful snakes uplifted by Nalinivati rather than nagaji created by the goddess. Your locomotion becomes, "Serpentine (+2 circumstance bonus against becoming prone or grabbed) for Land Speed 20 feat, Leap 10 feet, and Climb regardless of free hands." Instead of a fangs unarmed attack, you have a tail attack that deals 1d6 bludgeoning damage, is in the brawling weapon group, and has the finesse and unarmed traits.


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    Driftbourne wrote:

    I like that some of your examples have different uses for different sets of arms. Another possibility for that is to require more arms per bulk. For example, a skittermander might need to use 4 arms to hold a 2 bulk heavy weapon and all six arms to use a 3 bulk heavy weapon.

    Another idea I had was one set of arms would be strong and the other dextrous, I think one of your examples had something like that, but it could be taken faster and have one set using only Str bounces and the other only using Dex bonuses, and you can't mix them for the same task.

    Some species have different kinds of arms; for example, Trox have, "Vestigial Arms A trox’s four vestigial arms can be used to hold, draw, or put away items of negligible bulk, but not to make attacks, wield weapons, or use items." I figured MANIPULATION should be the place to describe such differences. Note that the Trox's vestigial Arms offers precedent for arms that can hold only limited bulk.

    A character with some stronger arms and some more dextrous arms would be hard to describe. Pathfinder 1st Edition allows penalties and bonuses to Strength modifiers and Dexterity modifiers, but Pathfinder 2nd Edition gave a hard pass to such changes and uses conditions instead. PF2 uses Enfeebled condition instead of Strength penalties and Clumsy condition instead of Dexterity penalties, and has nothing that acts like Strength or Dexterity bonuses. I presume Starfinder 2nd Edition will copy that.

    I suppose one set of arms could be Clumsy 1 and another set could be Enfeebled 1. Each condition would affect any action that uses those arms.

    Driftbourne wrote:
    The core rule book isn't going to have the more extreme species in it. But a book like Interstellar Species could be a good place to also add variant rules for species dealing with many of the examples you have shown.

    The playable species in the Starfinder Core Rulebook are androids, humans, kasathans, lashuntas, shirrens, vesk, and ysoki, so it appears that Starfinder started with all humanoids, though the androids and kasathans have some differences. The Starfinder Core Rulebook was published in August 2017 and the second book, Alien Archive, came out two and a half months later in October 2017. Alien Archive included non-humanoid species such as barathu, contemplative, formian, urog, and wrikreechee. It also included the multi-armed humanoid skittermander and witchwyrd. So Starfinder branched out to aliens of other shapes pretty quickly.

    The Starfinder 2nd Edition Player Core will probably be 100 pages shorter than the Starfinder Core Rulebook. It would have little room to explain non-humanoid alien features, so it would cover only humanoid ancestries. Thus, it could use the Size and Speed format with no Body Shape, Manipulation, or Locomotion entries. But I would appreciate a paragraph that said, "The ancestries in this chapter are all humanoid. They have one head, two or more arms, and two legs. Their arms have hands for manipulating items and their legs walk to provide a land speed. Humanoids breathe air. They need to drink water and eat food every few days. They sleep during a night's rest to recover from fatigue. Their circulatory systems can bleed. Non-humanoid ancestries in later rulebooks could have different features."

    And then the first rulebook with non-humanoid ancestries can use Body, Manipulation, and Locomotion entries.


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    Starfinder Field Test #3 lists the initial features of an ancestry as Hit Points, Size, Speed, Attribute Boosts, Attribute Flaw, Languages, Traits, and a few special features. It copies the system in the Pathfinder 2nd Edition Player Core.

    The PF2 Remastered Player Core also has Gear Statistics in the Equipment chapter starting on page 287. One of those gear statistics in Hands, which lists how many hands it takes to use the item effectively.

    What if ancestry entries had a Hands entry to describe what hands the character possessed. Well, since those manipulating appendages might not be hands, I would call the entry Manipulation instead.

    What if instead of Speed the ancestry listed Locomotion that mentioned what kind of limbs the ancestry used for movement along with their speed? What if instead of Size the ancestry used Body that gave both size and shape?

    The change to ancestries to accommodate non-humanoids would simply be renaming some entries and adding more details.

    Vesks would be ordinary, since they are humanoids. Their tail does not matter for manipulation nor locomotion.
    BODY
    Medium humanoid
    MANIPULATION
    Two hands
    LOCOMOTION
    Two legs for Land Speed 20 feet and Leap 10 feat.

    Kasathans would follow the same pattern except for their hands.
    BODY
    Medium humanoid
    MANIPULATION
    Four hands
    LOCOMOTION
    Two legs for Land Speed 25 feet

    One of my players plays a six-limbed winged fey Kiirinta:
    BODY
    Small insectoid
    MANIPULATION
    Two hands on forelimbs
    Two gripping midlimbs (can hold but not use items)
    LOCOMOTION
    Two legs for Land Speed 25 feet and Leap 10 feet
    Two wings for Fly Speed 15 feet

    Another player plays a winged Formian, The typical formian is not winged.
    BODY
    Medium insectoid
    MANIPULATION
    Two hands
    LOCOMOTION
    Four legs for Land Speed 25 feet and Leap 10 feet

    The alternative racial trait that gives wings would become a heritage.

    WINGED ALATE heritage
    Uncommon, formian
    Some formians develop functional wings that are segmented and partly fold into grooves in the carapace between the shoulders when not in use. You gain wings that let you fly through the air in short bursts at Fly Speed 25 feet. If you don't end your movement on solid ground, you fall at the end of your turn.

    The stellifera are diminutive aquatic cuttlefish. They mimic humanoid form with a hydrobody, water held in humanoid form telekinetically.

    BODY
    Diminutive aquatic fish (breathes water)
    MANIPULATION
    Tentacles that act as one hand
    Hydrobody has one hand of telekinetically shaped water
    LOCOMOTION
    Fins and tail for Swim Speed 25 feet
    Hydrobody has fluid flow for Land Speed 25 feet and Leap 5 feet.

    HYDROBODY You can telekinetically shape a Small-sized bubble of breathable water around yourself. The bubble can also extend a watery hand for manipulation. The hydrobody repels inhaled poisons. You can maintain the hydrobody underwater or in vaccuum, and while helpless or unconscous. It stores 1 hour of breathable oxygen when cut off from the oxygen in air or water. The hydrobody does not interfere with your Swim Speed.

    I moved some abilities of the SF1 hydrobody to ancestry feats.

    HUMANOID HYDROBODY ancestry feat 1
    Stellifera
    With sufficient water, you can expand your hydrobody into a Medium humanoid shape with two arms, two legs (Land Speed 25 and Leap 10), and a head. (Note: SF1 gives the hydrobody a greater Strength modifier than the stellifera's Strength modifier, but PF2 resists changing the Strength modifier except durin a level-up, so we will assume the telekinesis is weaker in SF2.)

    DIMINUTIVE DODGING ancestry feat 1
    Stellifera
    A stellifera inside its hydrobody can be tough to pin down. A creature targeting you in your hydrobody with an attack, spell, or other effect that lacks the mental trait must make a DC 5 flat check. If the check fails, the attack, spell, or effect doesn't affect you. Area effects aren't subject to this flat check. You lose the benefits of Diminutive Dodging while unconscious or helpless.

    Before tackling the very difficult entu ancestry, let me give some easier examples.

    Gastropod Osharu
    BODY
    Medium mollusk
    MANIPULATION
    Two hands
    LOCOMOTION
    Gastropod for Land Speed 20 feet, Leap 5 feet, and Climb 5 feet

    Leaping Frogfolk (different species than Grippli)
    BODY
    Medium amphipian humanoid (breathes in air and water)
    MANIPULTION
    Two hands
    One gripping tongue, reach 5 feet
    LOCOMOTION
    Jumping legs for Land Speed 10 feet and Leap 25 feet

    I had also been putting a Crawl Speed under Locomotion, but everyone ended up with Crawl Speed 5 feet, so that should be a default.

    Now on to the entu colony and the entu symbiont. The symbiont reminds me of Hunter from Hal Clement's novel Needle. And in the forward to its sequel Through the Eye of a Needle Hal Clement said that though he had said, "symbiote" in Needle but biologists had explained that "symbiont" was more correct.

    BODY
    Tiny ooze
    MANIPULATION
    None, see heritage
    LOCOMOTION
    Fluid flow for Land Speed 5 feet, also see heritage

    SYMBIONT You can live as a symbiont in the bloodstream of a willing larger host creature. This is often a lifelong partnership. You and your host count as one target and use your host's defenses. The effects on the host, such as damage or healing, are duplicated on you. You can see use your senses and communicate telepathically while inside your host, but you lose your own manipulation and locomotion.
    Entering or leaving your host requires one minute of skin contact.

    SYMBIOTIC AID Once every ten minutes you can use one of the following abilities while inside your host:
    Cellular Restoration [two actions] Restore a number of Hit Points to your host equal to your level.
    Improve Condition [two actions] Grant the host an additional save against an ongoing affliction with a +2 circumstance bonus.
    Fortify Defenses [reaction] Grant the host a +2 circumstance bonus to Fortitude, Reflex, or Will saves until the end of your next turn.

    LIMITED TELEPATHY Entu have limited telepathy with a range of 30 feet.

    ANIMAL SYMBIOSIS heritage
    Entu, symbiosis
    You have a well-trained animal as your favorite host. Choose a creature of Small size or larger with a bloodstream from the animal companion list as your host. You live inside the bloodstream of your host. The partner follows animal companion rules for its features and abilities, but it is not an animal companion nor a minion. You play both the symbiont and host, they have a total of three actions and one reaction on their shared turn, and they share their multiple attack penalties. The animal acts as a trained animal when you are outside of telepathy range.

    Strangely, SF1 appears to lack animal companion rules, so SF2 entu with Animal Symbiosis heritage will have to wait until a supplement introduces animal companions. I remember a lot of characters in science fiction novels who had semi-sapient animal companions, such as David Weber's Honor Harrington and her treecat Nimitz. Hosteen Storm and his genetically engineered animal companions in Andre Norton's 1959 novel The Beast Master were probably the inspiration many beast master characters in fantasy.

    ARMORED SYMBIOSIS heritage
    Entu, symbiosis
    Your gear is designed to work with many temporary hosts, such as fellow party members. Your Diminutive armor gains the symbiosis trait that lets it latch onto a willing character's clothing or armor so that you can flow into the character's bloodstream yet still use the integrated features of the armor. You can don and operate symbiosis armor without hands.

    COLONY heritage
    Entu
    You grew into a colony of entu oozes that can function without a host. You are a Small amorphous ooze. You can shape yourself into humanoid form with two hands for manipulation and two legs for Land Speed 25 feet and Leap 10 feet. You require 10 minutes to flow inside a host, and you are Drained 1 until you leave the host.

    PARTNER SYMBIOSIS heritage
    Rare, entu, symbiosis
    You have a lifelong sapient partner. You and your GM work together to create non-player character of Small size or larger with a bloodstream as your host. This partner has the Weak template at 1st level, and remains one level below you at higher levels. You play both the symbiont and host, they have a total of three actions and one reaction on their shared turn, and they share their multiple attack penalties.


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    On Tuesday, January 23, I asked my seven players what they thought about the humanoid assumption. Two liked giving other shapes equal consideration, two said that they could work with assuming humanoid and making exceptions, two did not understand what I was asking about, and one was annoyed when I said that Starfinder 2nd Edition would probably remove some 1st-level abilities and gradually introduce those abilities back with ancestry feats. That player in my PF1 Iron Gods campaign had played a strix who could fly since 1st level, and she greatly dislikes that PF2 nerfed low-level strix flight.

    So only 3 out of 8 (37.5%), counting myself among us, care about this issue. It is not worth a major effort.

    But I would be happy with a minor effort. We don't need to write fresh rules for each body shape. We need consider only how different shapes interact with gear and actions. Any other aspect of the shape can be flavorful rather than mechanical.


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    In playing Pathfinder 2nd Edition, I occasionally encountered gaps in the rules regarding non-humanoid characters. The Pathfinder Core Rulebook, including the newer Player Core, has only humanoid ancestries, so the rules were written for humanoids. It assumes that characters eat every day, sleep every day, manipulate objects with two hands, walk on two feet, breathe air, hold their breath in water, etc.

    For example, during the playtest of the Summoner class, I created a summoner with a beast eidolon in the shape of a goat, Cirieo Thessadin, Summoner. What can the goat Fluffy do with its abilities? Can it climb? A Goat animal companion, published years later in Highhelm has Climb 15 feet. But that is a Climb Speed. Without a Climb Speed, the Climb action requires two free hands. Goats lack hands. On the other hand, maybe Fluffy has hands, because I am merely roleplaying that the beast eidolon is a goat, and officially the rules say nothing about whether a beast eidolon has hands or functional substitutes for hands or nothing.

    The party in that game later gained a new player character who was a leshy. Do leshies bleed? They have no blood. Well, they have no immunity to bleeding, so by PF2 rules they do bleed. We decided that they bleed sap.

    I wrote of this issue before in Starfinder 2e classes and Pathfinder 2e classes? comment #36, where I have some other examples.

    Ordinarily, I could simply make table rulings to fit each non-humanoid character into humanoid-based rules, but in December we started playing Starfinder. My players love the weird aliens. They are playing an alate formian, an entu colony, a kiirinta, a stellifera, a strix, a vlaka, and a witchwyrd. The strix, vlaka, and witchwyerd are humanoid if we ignore the wings on the strix and the extra arms on the witchwyrd. The entu colony keeps to a humanoid shape by flowing inside humanoid space armor, and the stellifera mimics a humanoid form with its hydrobody. But the formian and the kiirinta are more insectoid than humanoid. I would prefer that these species fit the rules smoothly rather than awkwardly, and not always by pretending to be humanoid as the entu colony and the stellifera do.

    My players have envisioned NPCs as non-humaniods, too. In Skitter Crash the PCs needed to find an osharu research station after they crashed on Varkulon 4. I said, "You see some boot prints." But the module described the osharu as "Several years ago, a cadre of sluglike osharu (Starfinder Alien Archive 2 92) scientists discovered this anomaly and established a research base on Varkulon 4 to study the Drift cyclones, as they named the storms," and I had used that same "sluglike" adjective in my description. The players pointed out that sluglike people would not have feet and would not leave boot prints. So I corrected myself, "You see the gastropod trail marks of an osharu."

    Skitter Crash had a head picture of osharu scientist Ponatia as its only illustration of an osharu, but after that session I went to Archives of Nethys's entry Osharu to find a picture for other osharu. I saw that osharu walked on two legs, just like humans. So I asked my wife: did she prefer osharu as gastropods or should I revert to the official two-legged version? She preferred gastropods, writing, "I like thinking of them as gastropods, imagining how such a being would evolve and how they would cope with the technological advances needed to be spacefaring." I made tokens for other osharu by modifying a line drawing of a sea slug. My players declared the cartoon drawing to be cute.


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    Errenor wrote:
    Mathmuse wrote:
    PF1 Iron Gods... so they invested in crafting feats and often took two months of downtime to craft the gear they wanted themselves. ... Sadly, crafting occurs much more slowly under PF2 rules, so players have less reason to become crafters in PF2 adventure paths.

    Huh? Much confuse. Do not compute.

    Crafting in PF2 now takes one or two days. Where does more than two months of downtime come from?

    The PF2 Craft activity has the line, "After any of these downtime days, you can complete the item by spending the remaining portion of its Price in materials." (The Player Core remastered version is, "You can pay the remaining portion of the item’s Price in materials to complete the item immediately, or you can spend additional downtime days working on it.") The PF1 Craft skill had no such shortcut built into it, so it took several weeks to craft a mundane item and several days to craft a magic item. I was running the PF1 Iron Gods adventure path before PF2 was published.

    Thus, PF2 crafting has the advantage over PF1 crafting that a crafter willing to play full price plus the price of the formula can finish the item in merely four days. That is assuming that the formula is available, which is not likely for high-level items. PF2 Remastered cut that down to 2 days and does not require the formula for common items. However, Paizo has not yet published an adventure path that uses Remastered rules, so we don't know how much Remastered adventure paths will give opportunities for Crafting. The Remastered Craft activity does require: "You have an appropriate set of tools and, in many cases, a workshop. For example, you need access to a smithy to forge a metal shield, or an alchemist’s lab to produce alchemical items."

    Ravingdork wrote:
    It comes from wanting to make Crafting actually do something useful and sensible, like save money.
    Errenor wrote:

    Well, having a useful thing you can't get otherwise is useful and sensible for me. And the moment you've spent an additional day you've saved some money.

    That crafting can't be made the best way to get items (or shouldn't, probably) has been discussed several times alreasy, so I won't go there.

    Also, Magical Crafting requires a feat. Crafting a 9th-level item also requires master Crafting and crafting a 17th-level item requires legendary Crafting, so that costs two or three skill increases, too. To require that the PCs invest a feat and skill increases so that the PCs don't fall behind in the gear expected by level means that they cannot spend those benefits on the original character concept, unless the character concept included magical crafting (or technological crafting as was the case for two Iron Gods player characters).

    On the other hand, the party probably needs a magical crafter to transfer runes, so someone has to take the Magical Crafter feat.

    Calliope5431 wrote:
    Crafting and earn income and anything else that lets you convert downtime into cash is just generally a pain to balance. Because although it's not as silly as PF 1 (where you'd often rather be level 10 with an extra 100k gold than level 13), money is still the best superpower.

    The players in my Iron Gods campaign limited their downtime themselves. The 1st module, Fires of Creation, had some urgency, and so did rushing over to the 2nd module, Lords of Rust. After Lords of Rust they spent weeks of downtime in Scrapwall, and just as they finished their goal, I had a team of Technic League wizards show up to chase them away. The 3rd module, The Choking Tower, was a two-part adventure and they needed the black market in order to sell their technological loot after the first part. Then with cash in hand, they spend two months crafting gear appropriate for the level of the second part.

    When a party runs out of cash in PF1, they cannot buy the raw materials for crafting, so they have to stop crafting. In PF2 they could switch to Earn Income, but going off to loot a dungeon earns money much more quickly in internal game time, and the players want to adventure anyways.

    My Iron Gods party took another two months of crafting downtime between The Choking Tower and Valley of the Brain Collectors. For the 5th module, Palace of Fallen Stars they cleverly avoided the notice of the Technic League by giving up their technological items and pretending to be ordinary people (Inconspicuous PCs Unmotivated in Palace of Fallen Stars), so they did not craft before that module. They fled the 5th module with the Technic League chasing them, so they immediately rushed into the mile-long crashed spaceship Divinity, the setting of 6th module The Divinity Drive. In that module, instead of fighting the final villain Unity, they asked Unity for employment as repair crew, so they had immense amounts of repair crafting during that massively rewritten adventure. After work hours, they sneaked into a forgotten science lab in an especially deadly part of the Divinity in order to have their own secret workshop for their own crafting. My campaigns get weird, and this time the weirdness made crafting part of the plot.

    I apologize for diverting this thread from the availability-of-runes topic. I had brought up The Tarnished Halls black market as an example of the extremes that GMs go to in order to provide a market for the PCs when the adventure path fails to do so.


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    PossibleCabbage wrote:
    The Raven Black wrote:
    Nidalese.
    A significant percentage of the Nidalese population are just regular folks (Desnans even) just trying to keep their heads down and make it through the day. But if you made the kid already thoroughly indoctrinated into the cult of ZK, it could work.

    I read Liane Merciel's Nightglass about a sorcerer from Nidal, and the early chapters highlighted that the regular folks are extremely trained as children to keep their heads down, so much that hiding their true beliefs is a way of life. This would cause trouble with adopting a Nidalese orphan because the orphan would secretly distrust people of power, such as the party members, while pretending to trust them. I have read of real-life foster children who had been starved so often that they routinely hid food in their rooms regardless of being fed well by the foster parents. I think a Nidalese orphan would be like that and would steal a knife to be able to stab party members if necessary.

    Likewise, a Droskar-worshipping Hryngar child would probably be accustomed to hard labor. If the party coddles the child instead of forcing heavy chores on the child, the child will think that something is seriously wrong. They might imagine that the party is fattening them up as a sacrifice or something equally sinister, especially since the party members don't worship the proper god Droskar.

    Extremely devoted dwarven followers of mother goddess Folgrit would have the patience and might have the training to persuade such children that they are in safe hands and do not need to have a backup plan to escape or murder people in the night.


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    The most fun item in my campaigns was a special materials item rather than a magic item. The item was a mithral waffle iron.

    They had killed a blood hag who would prey on visitors to her inn (I happen to have a chronicle at this link because the incident was during the Kineticist Playtest). The beautiful hag liked luxuries, so I had put items such as fine wine and the mithral waffle iron into her room as loot.

    They were also escorting a fungal-nymph priestess of Cyth-V'sug due to a side quest. They had been trying to persude the priestess to let them cure her darkblight disease, but she had been involuntarily forced into servitude to Cyth-V'sug and was too afraid to defy him.

    The ranger in the party was trained in Cooking Lore, so he decided to try out the mithral waffle iron in the kitchen of the inn. He rolled high, so the waffles came out absolutely wonderful. The priestess realized that if she continued following Cyth-V'sug she would never eat anything as delicious as the waffles again, and that revelation let her listen to the party's arguments against Cyth-V'sug. She defied her evil god and agreed to a cure. Victory through waffles!

    The party kept the waffle iron along with breakfast supplies in their bag of holding. They needed to distract an ancient black dragon, so they served the dragon waffles. They were negotiating with foreign dignitaries, so let's talk over a waffle breakfast! They were celebrating a victory, so let's have waffles! The mithral waffle iron was so bizarre that the players laughed whenever their characters made waffles.

    This mostly shows that players bring their own fun to items.


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    Sanityfaerie wrote:
    ...though... there *is* the matter of money. Like... if the players manage to capture the enemy ship and bring it in as a prize... that's potentially quite a lot of money-equivalent. Might want to put some thought into how to make the economies make at least some kind of sense before pulling the trigger on "disabling a ship without destroying it is actually surprisingly easy"
    Garrett Guillotte wrote:

    There were a few things I did in campaigns to subvert this.

    First, the players started the campaign in _deep_ debt. Any money they made past equipping themselves and their ship went toward servicing their debt, until they became powerful enough that money in general wasn't their biggest concern. Flipping that around, you could have them sponsored by someone or something with enough money that they don't need a ton of money of their own. In either scenario an NPC will have either a strong case to take a significant cut of a captured ship's profit, or a reason to complicate selling it.

    Second, most ships that were good enough for the players to even want to keep belonged to a larger organization. ...

    I remember when statting out the starship Clutch for my Starfinder mini-campaign, I read every rule and guide on starship design that I could find. I cannot find the quote again, but someone explained that starships don't cost credits, because throwing in a reasonable price for a starship into a party's finances would totally unbalance the economy of Starfinder. I did find a similar sentiment in Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 305, Refitting and Upgrading Starships, "As the PCs go on adventures and gain experience, they need an increasingly powerful starship to face tougher challenges. When the characters’ Average Party Level increases, so does the tier of their starship." The party, simply by leveling up, gains more build points to upgrade their starship to the next tier. No money is actually spent.

    And since starships don't cost money in the game mechanics, I apply the same principal to taking a starship as a prize. The players cannot sell a starship for money. Nor can they sell it for build points. Starships come and go for plot reasons.

    In Skitter Shot my PCs had the tier-2 starship Clutch, owned by their employer Nakonechkin Salvage. But the PCs were also founders and stockholders of Nakonechkin Salvage, so they partially and indirectly owned the Clutch. They rescued the Trendsetter Expeditions starship Emerald Empyrean, but that gave them a reward rather than a claim on the Emerald Empyrean. They disabled the pirate ship Nova Witch, but the authorities confiscated the pirate ship as evidence rather than letting the PCs claim it. In Skitter Crash they had a new starship Helping Hand, purchased with the unspecified reward money and other company profits. It promptly ran into a disaster and was destroyed. Okay, I altered the plot for MORE SCIENCE and they recovered the Helping Hand and the other pirate ship Nova Warlock. So now Nakonechkin Salvage owns three starships: the Clutch, the Helping Hand, and the Nova Warlock. But the party gets to use only the Helping Hand. And the next chapter, Skitter Home, is on the surface of Vesk 3 with no starships will be involved.

    Thus, the Nakonechkin Salvage company lets me sweep all starship costs and revenues under the rug and into a plot hole.


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    ElementalofCuteness wrote:
    What should it be renamed too then?

    The attack trait could be renamed vigorous or strenuous. That would explain the multiple attack penalty as being from taking too many strenuous actions rather than from having trouble coordinating many attacks.

    Of course, if we called the trait "strenuous," then the multiple attack penalty would be multiple strain penalty, and its acronym msp would be hard to pronounce. We could go with intense or arduous to keep a vowel in the middle of the acronym.


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    That reminds me less of the cantina in Star Wars: A New Hope and more of the 1st episode of The Mandelorian. In the catina we see exotic aliens of many shapes, but the customers are pretty much acting like a Earthling crowd of outlaws and lowlifes and the aliens playing in the band act like Earthling musicians. No obvious cultural differences. In contrast, Din Djarin AKA The Mandalorian has a strict code to never remove his helment in front of other people. He says, "This is the way." He works with alien Kuiil who has a strong philosophy of his own, marked by his phrase, "I have spoken."

    We don't know anything about Kuiil's species, but Din Djarin is a human. It is the cultural part of his ancestry that gives him his code, and that culture is a tiny minority of the Star Wars humans. Not even all Mandalorians follow the Children of the Way in which Din Djarin was raised. So would the Mandalorian Edicts and Anathema be the strict Children of the Way code or would it be a looser code?


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    Twiggies wrote:
    I'm so pleased about the "Match the Mythology" point! Everything being just based on pop culture stuff and not being any accurate to the actual sources has always been such a pet peeve of mine so I'm so so so excited to see this going forward!

    Pop culture mythological creatures fall flat disappointingly often. The storyteller wants a creature and steals the name from mythology without retaining the mythological depth of the original.

    I have an example where Paizo was guilty of this, though since it was Pathfinder 1st Edition, the oversimplification might has started in Dungeons & Dragons.

    In Assault on Longshadow, 3rd module of Ironfang Invasion, the party encounters a maenad holding a feast with four enthralled dwarves. However, the PF1 maenads are insanely bloodthirsty killers. Their feasts are an aspect of their madness. In contrast, the mythological maenads were priestesses of the Greek god of wine Dionysus. They went into drunken religious frenzies in which they would rip animals apart to consume them. Later myths include them ripping human enemies apart, too, because stories of raving women who would kill men with their bare hands delved into men's fear of untamed women. The mythological version better suited an encounter with my party, so when I converted the PF1 maenad to PF2 (description here), she partially reverted to priestess of indulgence. They bartered with her, promising her sheep in exchange for the captive dwarves.

    Thus, I look forward to mythological depth in Paizo's remastered monsters.


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    Karmagator wrote:
    I know ^^. I'm thinking of the time of the playtest. As I understand it Paizo usually release a playtest adventure? We have a good year or so to fill and it's very possible that that single adventure won't last my group that long.

    The playtest adventure for PF2 was called Doomsday Dawn. I participated in it. As an adventure, it is weak. The individual chapters were designed to test an aspect of character design or gameplay. Thus, they are biased toward an awkward theme and not as entertaining as the Paizo modules written for entertainment. It drove me to rant once: Mathmuse on Chamber of the Sunken Stones at Pale Mountain.

    (Curious. I have been harping in another Starfinder thread that Starfinder 2nd Edition should not copy Pathfinder 2nd Edition in treating humanoid form as the default. In that ancient playtest rant, one of my complaints is about a fish-shaped water elemental, asking what it can do when its form lacks hands? That PF2 assumption about humanoid form has been bothering me for a long time.)

    Karmagator wrote:
    But that guide sounds like a good idea in any case. I don't know how similar the SF1 conversion will be to the PF1, but I'm pretty sure any aspiring converters would be thankful for any amount of help you can provide. If no-one else, then the PF1->PF2 conversion discord server would likely be very thankful.

    That PF1->PF2 conversion discord server would be Ediwir's A Series of Dice-Based Events, right? I joined it but have never been active in it.


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    Karmagator wrote:
    DawidIzydor wrote:
    I really want to play a few of Starfinder 1e adventures with the new mechanics, especially since I know a lot of players that know Pf2e and not a single one that knows Starfinder well to fix my mistakes. Sf2e will be close mechanically to Pf2e so switch should be easier
    That sounds like a great idea. To the people who actually know SF1 APs/adventures, which one(s) would you highly recommend?

    The first module of the first SF2 adventure path will be published at the same time as the new Starfinder 2nd Edition rulebook. That adventure path will be the easiest choice.

    Converting a SF1 adventure path to play under SF2 rules is extra work. I did that with my first PF2 campaign. The plot of the first PF2 adventure path, Age of Ashes, was not the kind of campaign my players liked, so I decided to convert a PF1 adventure path to PF2 rules.

    When talking with my players about which adventure path, one suggested picking one with most of its creatures already in the PF2 Bestiary. Thus, we played Ironfang Invasion in which the combat was against hobgoblins armies and wild animals. Hobgoblin Soldier and many animals were in the PF2 Bestiary. My first creature conversions required advice from other people on the Paizo forums. By the time the PCs regularly fought less common opponents, I had mastered converting PF1 creatures to PF2 rules by myself.

    But if any GM decides to convert a SF1 adventure to SF2, the conversion will probably be similar to converting PF1 to PF2. My experience should come in handy, and I will write up a guide if anyone wants one.


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    GameDesignerDM wrote:
    Jacob Jett wrote:
    It isn't free. It's part of the class design budget. Like you get this or you don't. But if you don't, are you much of a game designer?

    I very much do and am - and someone up thread, Mathmuse, I believe - already explained what the fighter's class design is and how the first-level feats and the chassis plays into that - and the Fighter is one of the cleanest designed classes in PF2E.

    It's pretty clear 'fight guy' knows how to use a shield, and so they get access to it.

    However, Jacob Jett is arguing at a deeper level than my previous explanation, so I ought to respond in greater depth.

    Jacob Jett wrote:
    Like this is design 101. Everything is part of the budget and thereby needs a, "why I am here and who am I for." Personally I either would have made parry my go-to here or wrapped Shield Block into the collection of feat choices.

    I once was a member of a board game design club, but most of my work there was serving as a playtester. My true experience was in algorithm design, inventing new mathematical techniques to calculate the right answer. I like applying my experience to analyzing how games work.

    Players in a resource-management game have a budget. They have in-game resources, they have turns, they have moves, and they have to allocate those to to maximum effect toward the winning condition. In d20 roleplaying games, that winning condition is often surviving combat with minimal loss of hit points and other resources.

    The game designers are not playing a resource-management game. They apply as many mechanics and flavorful tropes as they want in order to make the game playable and fun. Giving a fighter an additional feature, such as Shield Block, consumes only a tiny piece of the ample resource of the player's attention. (One of my players had Attention Deficeit Disorder. He sometimes forgets his character's abilities. We give him time to review his character sheet during his turn.) The Pathfinder designers don't have a character budget; instead, they have a goal. That goal is Balance.

    Balance means that the strength of the character is predictible within a narrow range. Balance has two purposes. First, it keeps the party members equally valuable in the party, which makes for more satisfying roleplaying. Everyone pulls their weight. Second, it makes the overall strength of the party predictible to aid the GM in encounter design. We don't want any Total Party Kills due to GM misjudgment.

    Sometimes balance means giving a character class more features than another character class. For example, most martial classes simply pick up a weapon, such as a warhammer. The monk class is designed for unarmed combat, so it gains Powerful Fist, "The damage die for your fist increases to 1d6 instead of 1d4." At 3rd level they gain Mystic Strikes so that their unarmed attacks cound as magical, and at 9th level they gain Metal Strikes so that their unarmed attacks count as cold iron and silver, and at 17th level they gain Adamantine Strikes. That is a lot of free features simply to stop the monk from giving up on their fists and picking up a weapon instead, because we want monks to be playable at all levels as an unarmed combatant.

    Part of the flavor of the fighter is their mastery of the tools of war. They are good with all weapons, all armor, and all shields. As others have said, Shield Block is the closest ability to the shield proficiency in PF1, so that feature signals that fighters are good with shields.

    Does giving Shield Block to all fighters break balance? The designers could have chosen to make sword-and-board style more costly by requiring a 1st-level fighter feat to learn Shield Block. The answer is that shield use has a heavy price in other ways than costing a feat. It occupies a hand, so that the fighter cannot use two-handed weapons. It requires a Raise a Shield action, so that the fighter cannot use that action for a third Strike (or a Second Strike if the fighter had to move). Shield Block itself requires investing in a sturdy shield--100gp minor at 4th level, 360gp lesser at 7th level, 1000gp moderate at 10th level, up to 40,000gp supreme at 19th level--or shield runes that are just as expensive. And someone should learn Crafting to keep that shield in repair.

    In addition, 1st-level characters are easily killed in combat. Giving the fighter Shield Block to survive 1st level, and serve as a tough frontline protecting the other party members, makes 1st level more playable. Adding a feat cost to fighter's Shield Block would make that temporary choice to protect the party painful to any non-shield character concept.

    Concerning parrying instead of shielding, some weapons, such as Bo Staff, have parry built in as a weapon trait. And for other weapons, the fighter can learn Dueling Parry or Twin Parry.

    Jacob Jett wrote:
    Now it's clear that Shield Block is primarily here to provide access to Reactive Block.

    Both Shield Block and Reactive Shield cost a reaction to use. Thus, they cannot be used together until the fighter learns the 8th-level fighter feat Quick Shield Block. Both abilities serve a shield bearer, but one does not support the other until 8th level.

    And in an earlier comment:

    Jacob Jett wrote:
    Unfortunately, my interpretation of your diatribe is that the "correct" fighter build is "sword and board," to which I say, piffle. The hallmark of bad design are universal features that are only used by a minority of the population. When this pattern emerges, it's a clear indication that the universal feature should have been an optional one.

    Pathfinder 2nd Edition tactics require adaptability. Perhaps sometimes a fighter uses a shield. Other times the fighter might be an archer. Other times they might need to hit hard with a two-handed weapon. Those three combat styles are free to the fighter at 1st level. Requiring that the fighter spend feats to gain that versatility, as the case with dual wielding or freehand dueling, would mean less versatility.

    Versatility can win battles without ruining balance. The fighter role in the party becomes more than damage dealer. Sometimes the fighter is a protective bulwark instead. Sometimes the fighter is the strong athlete who can swim across a river trailing a rope to pull non-swimmers across. Sometimes the fighter is the fierce face of intimidation.


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    The reason is game design. Ruzza explained it, but let me go into more detail.

    The combat abilities that a fighter automatically gains at 1st level are expert proficiency in simple and martial weapons and unarmed strikes, trained proficiency in advanced weapons, trained proficiency in all armor and unarmored defense, Reactive Strike, and Shield Block. The fighter can also chose a 1st-level fighter feat that opens up a new combat style or favors an existing one. This lets the fighter specialize.

    Combat Assessment makes the fighter more tactical with knowledge about the opponent.
    Double Slice opens up dual-weapon fighting.
    Exacting Strike favors making multiple Strikes during a turn.
    Point Blank Stance favors ranged attacks from nearby.
    Reactive Shield saves the fighter from Raising a Shield as an action.
    Snagging Strike can make an opponent off-guard to a freehand fighter's second Strike.
    Sudden Charge gives more mobility on the battlefield.
    Vicious Swing favors high-damage-dice weapons, such as two-handed weapons.

    But the advantage to specialization is capped by so-called tight math. In order to keep the effectiveness of each class inside the bounds predetermined for the character's level, specialization gives only a small reward. The PF2 design does not let any 1st-level fighter fight as well as a 2nd-level fighter, regardless of the tradeoffs they are willing to make.

    Sometimes the fighter might even abandon their specialty because circumstances favor another style, such as a Sudden Charge fighter standing still and sheathing their sword in order to pull out a bow against a flying opponent. The tight math has no objection to using many different combat styles, because the 1st-level fighter fights at 1st-level strength in most combat styles. With the specialization, the fighter is at the top strength for their level, and without the specialization the fighter is at the average strength for their level, but they fit within the bounds of the tight math.

    And don't scream "Useless!" because Shield Block is not useless to a two-handed-weapon fighter. Imagine that the fighter is facing a creature that deals massive damage. It is a level-appropriate encounter, so that massive damage is balanced by an awful AC and low hit points. And the fighter's job in the party is to prevent that creature from hitting their teammates, who have fewer hit points than the fighter. So what does the fighter do if they have a round to prepare? They sheath their greatsword and pull out their backup shield, which is stored next to their backup shortbow. Shield Blocking is the best tactic, regardless of what the 1st-level fighter chose as their specialty.

    PF2 strategy requires switching tactics based on the opponent's strengths and weaknesses.

    Most edged, straight swords are slashing weapons with Versatile P or piercing weapons with Versatile S, because in real life a straight sword with an edge can be used for slashing or for thrusting. I think Versatile was left off the bastard sword because its Two-hand d12 ability makes it so powerful that any additional weapon traits would be overkill. Remember that two-handed-weapon fighter who had to pull out their backup shield? If that fighter had wielded a bastard sword rather than a greatsword, then they would not have had to spend a action drawing a one-handed weapon to go their shield.

    Prices in PF2 typically are based on the level of the item, and the level of the item is based on the level at which a character is expected to start using it. The two-handed d12 trait on the bastard sword feels like an advanced technique, so the designers priced it halfway between a 1st-level permanent item such as Consumed Aeon Stone, 9 gp, and a 0th-level mundane item such as a longsword, The bastard sword's price is in the same range as the advanced melee weapons, such as dwarven waraxe 3gp and sawtooth saber 5 gp. If a character wants an advanced technique, then the game makes the character pay for it in feats, action taxes, or gold.


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    My timing in trying out Starfinder was awful. I blame Wizards of the Coast for their OGL crisis causing Paizo to accelerate their timetable.

    In summer 2023 as my PF2-converted Ironfang Invasion campaign was wrapping up, I considered our next campaign. I had run two and a half PF1 adventure paths and one PF2 adventure path. I have played Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition, Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition, Call of Cthulu, Legend of the Five Rings Roleplaying Game 4th Edition, GURPS Dungeon Fantasy, Traveller, Rifts, and Serenity Roleplaying Game over the decades, and my wife has played three times as many different roleplaying games.

    We had a loose thread from our PF1 Iron Gods campaign that the Dominion of the Black would invade Golarion in about 300 years. I considered adapting Starfinder's Attack of the Swarm! adventure path to play out this story 300 years in the future. But first, I needed some practice with Starfinder. We had had a little fun with the Free RPG Day modules A Fistful of Flowers and A Few Flowers More as a break after a long campaign. I decided to run Free RPG Day modules Skitter Shot, Skitter Crash, Skitter Home, and Skitter Warp to practice with Starfinder. We would finish those modules in March and I could start a Starfinder campaign in April.

    But the announcement of the upcoming Starfinder 2nd Edition playtest in summer 2024 threw a monkey wrench in that schedule. I like participating in playtests. Would my players and I be willing to pause my Dominion of the Black campaign after 3 months to participate in the playtest? Or should we do something else during those three months?

    I proceeded with the Free RPG Day Skitter modules, since those would help both the Dominion of the Black campaign and the Starfinder 2nd Edition playtest. After that, my plans are uncertain.

    Building encounters under PF2 rules is easier than building encounters under PF1 rules. If Starfinder 2nd Edition follows that pattern, then running the Dominion of the Black campaign under Starfinder 2nd Edition would be easier. But the official release of Starfinder 2nd Edition would be summer 2025, which is too far away.

    Right now my goal is to use my limited experience with Starfinder to encourage Paizo to keep all the fun parts of Starfinder 1st Edition in Starfinder 2nd Edition.

    For a second complication, an old friend in Maryland talked me into running a Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition campaign via Roll20 for his Maryland group. I have never played D&D 5th Edition. I purchased Battlezoo's Jewel of the Indigo Isles adventure path and have run one session of it already.


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    Sanityfaerie wrote:
    No. It's not about having it fit the real world. It's about having it show some internal consistency, and having the world behind it make sense.

    I began playing Starfinder with my regular players, Trying out Starfinder in a Mini-Campaign, and I have learned that they demand more sense out of Starfinder than they did out of Pathfinder. Science fiction has different themes than fantasy, and one of those science-fiction themes is deducing how things around you work.

    Consistency in small details is tactical, too. Fort Nunder in the module Fangs of War is a square with a watchtower at each corner. The party was fighting trolls who had taken over the fort, chronicled at Cirieo Thessadin, Summoner, comment #10. My wife's 5th-level rogue/sorcerer Sam was casting the Produce Flame cantrip on the trolls to stop their regeneration, but it has only a 30-foot range which put him too close to the trolls for safety. He tried hiding, tried retreating to the room at the base of a watchtower, but then (I skipped this in the chronicle) the trolls entered the room. We had the following conversation about details.
    WIFE: This is a watchtower, right? The rangers would have a lookout on the roof.
    ME: Yes.
    WIFE: Where is the ladder to the roof? I don't see it on the map. Sam wants to climb up there.
    ME: I guess the mapmaker forgot to draw it. The logical place would be here, where Sam is standing.
    WIFE: I thought so. Sam climbs up to the roof.

    Details can save the lives of characters.

    BigNorseWolf wrote:
    I think the PF2 model of a species having one cool defining thing is the roadblock here.

    That model required a lot of handwaving. For example, a player played a leshy in my Ironfang Invasion campaign and later all players played leshies in my A Fistful of Flowers mini-campaign. The leshy's special ability is Plant Nourishment by which it does not require daily rations so long as it has daily sunlight. It also has low-light vision, but so do a lot of other ancestries. Anything else special comes from its heritage and ancestry feats, which adds up to three special traits at 1st level. On the other hand, leshies are not immune to bleed, despite having no blood. Thus, for believablilty we claimed that leshies bleed sap and that sap loss does as much damage as blood loss, despite hundreds of real-world maple trees having a history of massive sap donation. We also had a silly discussion about leshies wearing Hats of Disguise despite not necessarily having a head on top of their body.

    Thus, PF2's allocation of special abilities to an ancestry is sometimes inadequate for PF2 species. Part of Starfinder's appeal is its exotic species, so Starfinder 2nd Edition's ancestries ought to be more robust about exotic features such as wings, multiple arms, or not breathing air. Pathinder 2nd Edition came out in 2019. We have had 4 and a half years of actual gameplaying to learn additional ways of maintaining balance in the game beyond making every creature close to human.

    I had a strix PC in my PF1 Iron Gods campaign with a Fly Speed 60 feet from the beginning of 1st level. High-speed flight was a handy ability but it did not break the balance. In constrast PF2 restricted the flight of strix PCs. The strix ancestry says that wings let a strix Leap 5 feet and Long Jump 10 feet farther than usual. First-level strix ancestry feat Nestling Fall lets the wings prevent falling damage. Fifth-level ancestry feat Fledgling Flight allows half-speed flight provided the strix is back on the ground at end of turn. Ninth-level ancestry feat Juvenile Flight allows full flight once per day for 10 minutes, at your land speed but faster if your have Fledgling Flight. And finally, 13th-level ancestry feat Fully Flighted allows unlimited flying.

    In contract, the 2nd-level creature Strix Kinmate has Fly 25 feet with no limits.

    The develpoers of PF2 explained the restriction on flight. They wanted to include traditional monsters who could not fly and had no ranged attacks. A flying party could defeat those monsters trivially by taking to the air and making ranged attacks out of the monster's reach. They did not want to alter the low-level monsters to defend against that tactics, so they made flying first available at around 7th-level with the 4th-level Fly spell and other temporary means of flight, such as the strix's 9th-level Juvenile Flight. Victory through flight came at a cost. Permanent flight came later, because the high-level monsters could defend against aerial assault.

    In contrast, I would expect that in a science-fiction setting, a low-level party facing a traditional ground-bound monster would set out in a flying aircar and shoot it with rifles. That solution would be common sense, and I remember it being a plot point in The Lion Game by James H. Schmitz (The intelligent telepathic aliens dubbed "lions" did not mind big game hunters killing them on foot in a fair fight where the lions won half the time. But then the scientists showed up using aircars to grab specimens). Flying cars are commonplace in science fiction stories.

    Science fiction provides tools. People are currently discussing how SROs (what do those initials stand for?) can walk around in vacuum. The module Skitter Shot began with a space walk to a starship in trouble, so the PCs all wore space armor that protected them from vacuum. And I assumed that the armor was self-sealing so that enemy attacks in vacuum would not be quickly fatal. What is so extraordinary about the SRO not breathing when everyone can gain that ability with standard equipment?

    in comment #326 Thurston Hillman provided an example of when multiarmed characters could unbalance the game:

    Thurston Hillman wrote:

    Say for example, if we wanted powerful one-shot missile launchers in our game (and why wouldn't we), then having multi-armed characters who can fire with no penalty makes balance a more tricky proposition.

    Let's assume that we introduce a "mega death missile" into the game that is balanced around being a one-shot weapon with a high-reload time. So that your character has to take actions to reload the weapon or swap out to another weapon in order to help balance the action economy around such a weapon. If the Skittermander PC can triple-wield and fire these launchers without any penalties (and without any investment in feats or other abilities) then the game meta quickly changes to everyone and their dog wanting multiple arms, because clearly the most effective damage dealing is based around getting these one-shot weapons and stacking them. If you can end a fight in 3 rounds, then having three mega-death missile launchers, becomes the best build. Heck, let's just stop upgrading the other PCs and funnel all our credits into the Skitter-Death-Missile Machine™.

    My mathematics say that that example is not as bad as it sounds. PF2 Remastered Player Core, page 268, provides the Interact to Swap Items action. A two-armed human with one of those two-handed Megadeath Missile Launchers could have one in his hands and two holstered on his armor. The human shoots the first one, Interacts to swap it with a second one, and shoots the second one. On his next turn, they swap to the third one and shoot it. Then they have to start reloading. The skittermander holding three Megadeath Missile Launchers can take three shots in only one turn, but that third shot would have a -10 multiple attack penalty, so perhaps it ought to wait until the second turn like the human would. Okay, Hillman said, "fire those launchers without any penalties," but perhaps removing the penalties would be the problem rather than skittermanders having six arms. Besides, if we add, "Gripshaker A Strike with a Megadeath Missile Launcher causes your grip on other weapons to slip to one hand, so that you must Interact to Change Your Grip on any two-handed weapons to Strike with them," to the Megadeath Missile Laucher, the skittermander would be as slow as the human.

    Thurston Hillman wrote:

    Please be aware, when we're designing rules, our focus is on how they'll be used mechanically. Realism and verisimilitude are important, but at some point we need to acknowledge how players will use those rules at a table (especially something like OrgPlay, which is generally the space where players will take extreme builds as GMs have more restricted control of the overall game state).

    ...
    What we don't want to have happen, ever, is a table state where people are pressured to play in an optimal way that just funnels the fun in one direction or forces a specific means of play.

    My players learned in PF1 that teamwork is much more powerful than individual character optimization. When PF2 put tight limits on individual optimization, we didn't even notice until other people posted in the Paizo forums about their powergamed characters dropping during Moderate-Threat encounters.

    When I dug deep into the mathematics of optimizing for teamwork, I found that the best method is to build interesting characers that are natural to play. Teamwork requires knowing what the other PCs want to do in combat, and that is best communicated by a character played naturally. PF2 hit a sweet spot.

    Driftbourne wrote:

    I feel the Pathfinder players are more focused on the balance part as it pertains to Pathfinder and Starfinder players are trying to maintain as much of the feel of Starinder while moving to PF2e rules. Somewhere there is a compromise between balance and pushing limits and it sounds like some of those limits will not be the same in both games. But we won't know what those limits are unless we push them.

    I think some of the frustration of Starfinder players is dealing with people who don't have experience playing Startinder and only see one side of the argument. I appreciate that some of those people are taking the time to learn more about Starfinder. ,,,

    My players who came out of Pathfinder and have played only five sessions of Starfinder so far think that Starfinder's exotic alien species are a lot of fun. They are the teamwork experts who break encounters, so balance is not important to them.

    My younger daughter gave a complaint about Pathfinder 2nd Edition is that her characters don't feel special in PF2 like they did in PF1. Special means that they feel extraordinary in a uniquely individual way. In PF2, though high-level characters have amazing abilities, to her they seem ordinary for their level. I see potential in Starfinder ancestries restoring specialness via less human-centric design and more unique design.


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    Two years ago, I plotted out an Iron Gods sequel Numerian Steel, about building a railroad in Numeria. keftiu shot the idea down with two objections: (1) mundane steam technology steals the thunder away from Numeria's alien high technology, and (2) railroads were associated with unfairly taking land away from natives.

    This thread gives me a chance to fix that. I still want to play with steam engines, but a steamboat should be less intrusive than a railroad.

    Hot Iron River
    The fall of the Technic League in Numeria freed its people to experiment with the alien technology littering the barbaric land. Elderly Captain Fitch after years of trial and error built a working steamboat powered by perpetually hot skymetal, and now he and his crew ply the Sellen River. But the captain is not the only one taking great risks for new opportunities, and some are less scrupulous.

    Full Steam Ahead (1st level) The steamboat Endeavor deals with peculiar business and threats as it travels up the Sellen River in Numeria.
    Scrap and Ruckus (4th level) With the Endeavor docked in Scrapwall port for renovation, the adventurers are caught in a conflict between the town and its barbarian Ghost Wolf neighbors.
    Technic Difficulties (8th level) Technic League renegades in Chesed steal the Endeavor's power source.
    Sovereign of Steel (12th level) Kevoth-Kul, the barbarian Black Sovereign, enters Chesed to quell challenges to his rule.
    Library of Mists and Veils (15th level) The Endeavor is hired to recover the spaceship Alexandria and its data banks sunken in the Lake of Mists and Veils.
    Moon River (18th level) The demigoddess Casandalee sends the Endeavor on its longest journey yet: to Golarion's moon.

    I also want to avoid the mistake of the Extinction Curse adventure path in sidelining its circus theme as the adventure continued. The steamboat Endeavor will remain relevant throughout the adventure.


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    moosher12 wrote:

    I am curious what your general strategy is for converting such to PF2E. I myself have been considering doing a conversion game of Rise of the Runelords for one of my tables, but was not sure how I'd want to go about it when it came time for the monsters. ** spoiler omitted **

    As a loose aside, I'd predict the closest option to a 2E medusa would be the Stheno, which appears in Bestiary 3 as an NPC

    As The-Magic-Sword said, Sthenos already exist in PF2, but as a creature rather than as a playable ancestry. I needed some extra monstrous humanoids in my Ironfang Invasion campaign and didn't want to repeat previous species, so I statted up Melusine and Raymondin, Stheno Cultists, Creature 7, for that encounter.

    The principles of creating any creature in PF2 are in the PF2 Gamemastery Guide under Building Creatures. The tables in that section list what is expected of a creature at each level, such as skill bonuses, AC, saving throws, hit points, Strike attack bonus, and damage per hit. This works great for a large animal with natural weapons, such as claws and jaws.

    Adding class abilities requires designing class-related tactics for the creature. The subsection Basics of Ability Design gives advice but no true guidelines. An interesting and essential piece of advice is "Avoid abilities that do nothing but change the creature’s math." For example, a ranger's iconic Hunt Prey ability, which lets the ranger select a target and activate feats and features against that target is not good on a creature because as far as the players can tell, the creature simply wasted an action doing nothing. The Hobgoblin Archer in the PF2 Bestiary is clearly a ranger, but it lacks Hunt Prey. Instead, it has Crossbow Precision and Perfect Aim abilities that would ordinarily be dependent on Hunt Prey, but work without a hunted prey on the hobgoblin.

    Generalizing the principle, the design goal of a creature with class levels is to blatantly show off that it has both the abilities of its species and the abilities of its class.

    Ogre Cattle Rustlers:
    For example, Fortress of the Stone Giant has CR 7 Ogre Cattle Rustlers, described as ogre barbarian 4. (I have the D&D 3.5 version of Rise of the Runelords, so this might differ from more recent versions of the adventure path.) If I wanted to port them over to PF2, I could check out the 7th-level Ogre Boss, but he does not feel like a cattle rustler. So I start with the 3rd-level Ogre Warrior and boost its numbers up to 7th level. For example, Table 2–5: Armor Class says that a 3rd-level low AC 16 improves to a 7th-level low AC 22, so the Ogre Warrior's AC 17 would improve to AC 23. Its ogre hook Strike, "Melee [one-action] ogre hook +19 [+14/+9] (deadly 1d10, reach 10 feet, trip), Damage 1d10+11 piercing," improves to "Melee [one-action] ogre hook +25 [+20/+15] (deadly 1d10, reach 10 feet, trip), Damage 2d10+15 piercing."

    But that is merely a 7th-level Ogre Warrior. I need to add abilities that make it a barbarian, preferably abilities that fit the cattle rustling theme, such as training in Nature for handling the cattle and training in Survival for wilderness flavor. Of course, it gets Rage ability. Technically, Rage merely changes the math, but I can roleplay the ogre bellowing, its face turning red, and its eyes glistening with bloodlust to get across that it raged. It gains barbarian class features Deny Advantage and Juggernaut, but I skip the Brutality and instead give it +4 damage while raging instead of +2. Weapon proficiency increases are handled automatically by the Building Creatures tables. The ogre warrior has trained Intimidation, so let me give the ogre cattle ruslter Raging Intimidation. Sudden Charge screams barbarian, too.

    And that is all. Creatures gain fewer feats than PCs. Likewise, the ogre barbarian does not gain an Instinct. It is already a 7th-level massive-damage dealer, I don't want any feat, such as Attack of Opportunity, that would increase its damage to more than the party can survive. I just want to make obvious that it is a barbarian.

    Stone Giant Wizard:
    Spellcasters are more difficult. Most of them require a complete spell list. Consider the 15th-level stone-giant wizard Mokmurian. His backstory said, "Mokmurian is a powerful giant, though one would not initially come to this conclusion from his stature. At just over 10 feet tall, he towers over humans, but in stone giant circles, he’s a runt." So his 15th-level martial stone giant abilities would follow the Low column on the tables for offense and Medium column for defense to balance out that he is a 15th-level wizard who can cast 8th-level spells. (In Fortress if the Stone Giants he can cast only up to 7th-level spells, but cutting off the top of the spell list greatly weakens spellcasting in PF2. Better to reduce spells per level instead.) Nevertheless, to show off his giant strength, he would prepare a few spells like the 7th-level Wooden Fists that let him exploit that strength.

    This thread is about Starfinder 2nd Edition ancestries, so what Starfinder lessons can we learn from building creatures with class levels in PF2? The main lesson is that abilities are about flavor and style more than about power. However, that has a hidden lesson inside a lesson, because flavor means versatility, and versatility enables powerful teamwork tactics. The flavor from an ancestry has to matter enough that it can give a character an additional side role in a party. The role might seldom come into play, but occasionally, it will be the linchpin to an effective tactic in an unusual situation.

    For example, suppose I play a Starfinder 2nd Edition Android with the Renewed Android heritage. That gives immunity to the wounded condition once per day. I could plan on taking the 9th-level Repair Module ancestry feat for fast healing and the 13th-level Revivification Protocol ancestry feat for getting up from dying. My android would not mind being knocked to dying once, provided that my teammates had something like PF2 Battle Medicine to get them back on their feet. This flavor won't overshadow the android's class abilities, but it would make my android popular among their teammates as the person willing to take punches so that the others don't have to. Add the Diehard general feat so that this strategy is less likely to backfire.


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    moosher12 wrote:
    Granted, I'm not saying it is impossible, but NPC rules in the 2E system just are not so accomodating. There are rules for making pure NPC monsters and pure classed NPCs, but not quite clean rules for making a monster with classes.

    Designing monsters with class levels is more an art than a science, Nevertheless, I spent 3 years and 10 months adapting the 16-level PF1 Ironfang Invasion adventure path into a 20-level PF2 adventure path, so I mastered that art. Ironfang Invasion had a lot of monsters with class levels.

    Once example is worth mentioning because this thread is already talking about medusas: Balancing a Seventeenth-Level Medusa. However, the ghost medusa Elacnida ended up with mostly ghost and medusa powers with very little of her spy-master class abilities active when converted to PF2.

    A more enlightening example was Ishgahkah, creature 15, from the same module. He was a gug, a 10th-level abberation, but he was also a cleric who could cast 5th-level divine spells. The PF1 Ishgahkah was described as a CR 14 gug savant sorcerer 7, so I made the PF2 Ishgahkah a 15th-level creature and switched him over to divine caster because he summoned the demon Kalavakus before the encounter.

    The design key was to force him to use both cleric tactics and gug tactics. I gave him divine spells powerful enough that he would begin combat with them, but only one per level so that they would run short. Then he would switch to fighting like a gug.

    Ishgahkah, gug savant, Creature 15:
    Ishgahkah, gug savant, Creature 15
    CE, Large, Aberration
    Based on Gug, Bestiary pg. 198, and Ishgahkah, Siege of Stone page 47
    Perception +24; darkvision
    Languages Abyssal, Undercommon
    Skills Acrobatics +24 (+28 to Squeeze), Athletics +29, Diplomacy +28, Intimidation +28, Religion +21, Stealth +24, Survival +21
    Str +7, Dex +3, Con +5, Int +0, Wis +2, Cha +6

    AC 36; Fort +28, Ref +24, Will +25
    HP 275; Immune disease, poison; Resistance electricity 5

    Attack of Opportunity
    Speed 40 feet, climb 20 feet
    Melee jaws +28 (reach 15 feet), Damage 3d10+15 piercing
    Melee claw +28 (agile, reach 15 feet), Damage 3d6+15 slashing

    Divine Spells DC 36 Attack +28
    8th (1/day) summon fiend (Kalavakus only, 1-hour duration) https://2e.aonprd.com/Spells.aspx?ID=323 --used
    5th (1/day) abyssal wrath (non-focus) https://2e.aonprd.com/Spells.aspx?ID=492
    4th (1/day) divine wrath https://2e.aonprd.com/Spells.aspx?ID=86
    3rd (1/day) slow https://2e.aonprd.com/Spells.aspx?ID=289
    2nd (1/day) enlarge https://2e.aonprd.com/Spells.aspx?ID=102
    1st (1/day) fear https://2e.aonprd.com/Spells.aspx?ID=110
    Cantrip (8th) acid splash https://2e.aonprd.com/Spells.aspx?ID=3

    Divine Rituals DC 27; 5th planar ally https://2e.aonprd.com/Rituals.aspx?ID=16

    Eerie Flexibility Despite its size, the gug’s multiple joints allow it to fit through tight spaces as if it were a Medium creature. While Squeezing, it can move at its full Speed.
    Furious Claws The gug makes up to four claw Strikes, each against a different target. These attacks all count toward the gug’s multiple attack penalty, but the penalty doesn’t increase until after the gug makes all its attacks.
    Rend claw

    It was a memorable battle.

    For Starfinder 2nd Edition character design, I would love for some alien ancestries to seriously break the rules for humanoids. For example, one player in my Starfinder campaign is playing a Stellifera, a tiny fish that walks around in a humanoid hydrobody made of water held in shape telekinetically, but she can revert to a fish whenever handy. Another plays an Entu Colony. Two play insects, Formian and Kiirinta. Breaking away from humanoid characters is part of the fun of Starfinder.

    Breaking away from expectations can alter encounters, even if the special abilities, such as a stellifera dropping its hydrobody to swim like a fish, are not powerful. The entu colony could see in greater darkness better than the shadow creeper monsters hiding in the dark due to her emotion-sensing blindsight. I thought that that was delightful rather than disruptive. I want aliens to do things differently than humans.

    Driftbourne wrote:
    But the point here is you would be playing more to the ancestry than class so class levels are less important.

    That is the key. The ancestry abilities have to add spice to the character actions, but they have to be something that does not sideline class abilities. For example, several PF2 ancestries have natural unarmed strikes, such as claws. But since most classes can fight with weapons as well as those ancestries can fight with claws, the claws don't change the class tactics. The classes that are bad with weapons have other options, such as cantrips or elemental impulses, that also make the claws more a curiosity than a disruption.

    Suppose Starfinder did have a medusa alien. They would have a 1st-level Focus Gaze ancestry feat that would force their target to make a Fortitude save versus their Class DC. On a failure, the target would be Slowed 1 for 1 round, so the medusa would essentially use an action to maybe make their target lose an action. Notice that Focus Gaze has the incapacitation trait so it works poorly against higher-level opponents. At 5th level they could gain Petrifying Gaze, but still only for Slowed 1. Further investment in the petrification ancestry feats could maybe have the medusa turning targets into stone for one minute at 9th level. The medusa's class abilities would always be stronger than their gaze, but the medusa and their allies could develop a combat style that takes advantage of slowed opponents.


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    Batman is often the voice of wise experience in Justice League episodes. He has also served as a mentor to many superheroes, such as the Outsiders, which is a wisdom role.

    But a classic Justice League episode (also Batman Beyond) that features Batman's wise compassion is, Batman comforting the child villain Ace as she dies.

    Batman craves vengeance against the kind of criminals who killed his parents, but he always strives for fair justice rather than brutal revenge.


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    Ed Reppert wrote:
    There's a discussion of this somewhere, but I can't find it, so...

    A relevant previous discussion was Remaster Dying with Wounded from November 8, 2023. It was all rendered moot with the errata, Remaster Dying with Wounded, comment #150, that removed adding the Wounded value from the Dying condition upon failing a recovery check or further damage. Wounded value is added to the Dying value only when the character gains the Dying condition.


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    Another instance of intelligent starships is Anne McCaffrey's brainship series of short stories and novels, which began in 1961 with The Ship Who Sang. In that future, children born with defects that would leave them paralyzed for life were sealed into life-support capsules and their brains wired into controllers so that they could run machines. This procedure was not free, so the so-called shellperson ended up indebted until they could earn their independence. Serving as the brain of a starship was one of the better paid jobs, so many became brainships.

    In 1992 Anne McCaffrey collaborated with other authors to revive the series. A subplot in The Ship Who Searched co-authored with Mercedes Lackey has the shellperson Hypatia invest heavily in prosthetics. Her company invented a humanoid robotic body that a shellperson could run remotely. This would allow a player to play a starship brain that still could participate in non-ship adventures.


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    D3stro 2119 wrote:
    On a related topic, besides classes, how do you think races and such will be handled in Starfinder? I remember there were complaints from Starfinder 1e that a majority of the races weren't very distinctive or detailed, and Pathfinder 2e has given them much more detail. One thing I think might happen, considering rnaged attacks and such, is that races with innate fly speeds (and other ""exotic"" movements) will be much more common at level 1 in starfinder.

    I have not commented in this discussion mostly because I have been sick with a virus but also because I have barely dappled in Starfinder, having played it for only three game sessions--and I cancelled today's game session after a holiday break due to me still recovering from the illness. But my players love the exotic species in Pathfinder and they selected even more exotic species in Starfinder.

    The seven player characters are:

    Anti, an entu colony solarian,
    Dekoorc, a witchwyrd envoy,
    F'yn, a stellifera mystic,
    Kii Kii, a kiirinta precog,
    Nikko Lightclaw, a vlaka solarian,
    Slix, a strix technomage,
    Tk'Pan "Panic", an alate formian nanocyte.

    Pathfinder 2nd Edition has a small flaw with exotic player species. The rules were built around humanoid player characters and don't necessarily mesh with non-humanoid shapes or biologies.

    Consider the Leshy. Leshies can be assumed to be close to humanoid because the magic that awakened them shaped them into humanoid form. Nevertheless, they lack the Humanoid trait. How close to humanoid are they? Does a leshy have a head on which to wear a magic hat? Yes, because we want the character to wear the hat, though the picture of a cactus leshy shows their face on top of a neckless cactus body. Does a leshy bleed? Sort of, we decided that they bleed sap. This led to a weird conversation between a Mandragora Swarm and the fey-blooded leshy sorcerer in the party. Mandrogoras love to drain the magically-charged blood of sorcerers and fey creatures, but a Mandragora finding that the doubly-delicious fey sorcerer had the wrong type of circulatory fluid was hilarious.

    I finished a PF2-converted Ironfang Invasion adventure path in which one of the final villains was a dark naga arcane sorceress Zanathura. Nagas lack arms and hands. Some spells have somatic components, defined as a specific hand movement or gesture with the caster's hands. Material components are more extreme, requiring a free hand, but sorcerers can replace material components with somatic components. Technically, Zanathura could not cast her spells. Practically, I just wrote a line on her PF2 conversion that she did not need hands to cast spells.

    So, we would have a ton of similar questions to ask about non-humanoid alien PCs. Can a fish-like Stellifera wear Magboots? Sort of, I would let its psychokinetic humanoid hydrobody wear them. How about magboots on moth-like Kiirinta? Yes, but only after the party engineer adjusts them for her foot shape.

    As for my Starfinder mini-campaign, the first game session had an encounter in a mystically darkened room in which even darkvision could see only 20 feet. The Shadow Creeper monsters in that room normallly had 60-foot darkvision, but the room limited them to 20 feet, too. In contrast, Anit the entu colony solarion has blindsight (emotion) with a range of 60 feet. That was not shortened by the mystic darkness. Anti could shoot Shadow Creepers that could not yet see her.

    Karmagator wrote:
    Wait, I actually have found a post that even confirms level 1 flight will be completely unrestricted. Or at least was at that point in time, things are still in development after all.

    Thank you for the link. Alas, Thurston Hillman's statement, "A good example of this would be that we're going to allow for 1st-level characters with certain ancestries to get unrestricted flight. In PF2's meta this would be an immense change and break all semblance of balance. In SF2, well... guns exist and it's not really a massive game-breaking option," misses the reason why flight is restricted in PF2. After all. in PF2 bows exist and are as useful as guns. The problem is that a lot of low-level monsters in Pathfinder lack both flight and ranged attacks, so if a party could take to the air and shoot the creature, it would have no counterattacks available. The developers want to avoid risk-free fights, such as Anti being able to shoot unsuspecting Shadow Creepers.

    Starfinder offers more opportunities for alien monsters with ranged attacks or flight. But that is just a side point. The essential reason that low-level access to flight is no problem is that science fiction stories are different from fantasy stories.

    In fantasy, a party trudging across a swamp and battling a giant lizard in a random encounter is expected. Flying over the swamp would be skipping the adventure.

    In science fiction, the party traveling over the swamp in a hovercar, zipping past the giant lizard before it can even blink, is expected instead. Even if circumstances left them trudging on foot, half of the party avoiding the mud and the giant lizard thanks to their natural alien wings would be just fine.


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    As a GM, I have had to create 16th-level NPCs from scratch. I use the Building Creatures rules from the Gamemaster Guide for creating hostile and neutral NPCs, but I discovered that if an NPC is going to travel with the party as a guide or temporary party member, building that character via the player characters rules makes a more rounded character who interacts better. I also occassionally build NPCs via player rules for theorycrafting. Thus, I have experience.

    I don't use an app. I create the character in a text file while consulting Archives of Nethys.

    Don't build the character one level at a time. That would involve a lot of erasing. But some rules are easier to follow in level order. For example, to determine the character's attribute scores at the final level, a 16th-level character would start with attribute boosts from the usual 1st-level sources: ancestry, background, class, and 4 free boosts--and then get the additional boosts at 5th, 10th, and 15th level. Do this before figuring out their skills, so that they get the full level to proficiency, rather than having to add +1 fifteen times.

    Likewise, establish the character's trained skills using their final Intelligence and their 1st-level initial proficiencies. Then count the character's total skill increases up to final level and decide which skills gain those increases.

    The key to building a high-level character is to decide on their style. You want their abilities to work together. I have a theorycrafting example over at Thoughts on Time Oracle? comment #36. I was reading this thread about the new time mystery for oracles, and I realized that it fit an existing character who would be visiting the party again.

    Mthmuse wrote:

    Yet, I have a PF2 NPC for whom time oracle would be a good fit.

    In Assault on Longshadow, the 3rd module of my PF2-converted Ironfang Invasion campaign, I used the map of Longshadow on page 64 in the article on Longshadow. That maps measured 1410 feet by 1870 feet on the scale I used in Roll20, And enemy Brigadier General Kosseruk attacked three different walls of Longshadow, splitting the party for the defense. On that scale, the players could not afford the time to run across the city to communicate with each other, so I invented a messenger NPC named Amelia who did that for them--one advantage of roleplaying in a city is that NPCs are plentiful. Amelia moved around Speed 150 feet, six times human normal, with the players and I ignoring the impossibility for our convenience.

    I wanted to build Amelia at 8th level as a time oracle with emphasis on speed but also as a reliable combatant because my players loved reassurance that their old friends in Longshadow could guard the city in their absence. I explained my reasoning for her build choices at the end of that comment #36. She had a martial backstory, the assault on Longshadow, so she would wield a weapon rather than fight with spells. Her oracle curse could render her enfeebled, so she would go for Dexterity-based attacks rather than Strength-based attacks. And for a fast character, staying out of reach would be easy, so she would attack at range. But oracle is not a weapon-using class, so I had to add a multiclass archetype. As so on. Her backstory made some feats seem more fitting than others.

    Likewise, a high-level character's backstory will suggest about half their feats and skills, and their personality will suggest a few more. Then playtest the character, even if they still have a few empty spots in their feats and skills. This will reveal what needs to be added or changed to make the character work well.

    Many years ago, Beth Moursund wrote an article in The Duelist magazine called, Playing Your Pet: Rough-Testing A Magic Deck that explained how to playtest a Magic: The Gathering deck by yourself. The simplest pet was her goldfish, which did nothing, so the simplest playtesting gained the nickname "goldfishing." Start playtesting your 16th-level character with goldfishing. Just pretend they have something to attack, and start rolling to see if that character has a smooth interacting of abilities. For example, does sustaining spells leave the character with too few actions to cast new spells?

    Next, you can pull some level-appropriate creatures from the Bestiary to see how the character fares defensively. Also figure out how to handle obstacles, such as a raging river. Can the character swim it, jump over it, or summon a Phantom Steed to ride over it with air walk?

    Testing how well the characte works in a team would be great, but that is too difficult. Just make sure the character has some way to contribute to teamwork.


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    Zoken44 wrote:

    Okay I don't know if anyone else wants this but...

    Ship-role feats. Like a special set of feats you can take at certain levels (not replacing other feats) to improve your performance in a ship-role and customize your crew's play style.

    I want ship performance to depend on the player characters rather than the equipment. And the best way to handle that would be with ship-role feats.

    With tight math like PF2 letting a ship remain at a lower tier due to lack of a convenient shipyard would imbalance ship encounters. But if most of the ship effectiveness relies on the PC's ship feats, then the next tier would come automatically with the PCs taking feats that improve their ship roles.

    The developers of Pathfinder 2nd Edition separated ancestry feats, class feats, general feats, and skill feats mostly for balance reasons but also to reduce the amount of text players had to read to chose feats. Combat optimizers would want to spend all their feats on combat ignoring the flavor of ancestry and skills if they didn't aid combat.

    A Starfinder 2nd Edition player who intends only face-to-face combat would likewise ignore ship-role feats. Or a player who intends to be a great starship pilot or science officer or gunner might skip some useful face-to-face combat feats in order to gain ship-role feats, and end up weak in face-to-face combat. That does not fit the tight math. So we apply the same solution: class feats and ship-role feats ought to be separate tracks of feats.

    But "ship-role" is an awkward name. Let's name them like ancestry feats and class feats after a choice the player makes at the beginning: theme feats. I noticed that a lot of themes in the Starfinder Core Rulebook matched up to ship roles.
    Ace Pilot <=> Pilot
    Bounty Hunter <=> Gunner
    Icon <=> Captain
    Mercenary <=> Gunner
    Outlaw <=>
    Priest <=> Magic Officer
    Scholar <=>
    Spacefarer <=> Science Officer
    Xenoseeker <=>
    Themeless <=>
    It would be interesting to let each theme offer a ship role at 1st level. Further theme feats could offer a second ship role or an improvement to the ship role.

    Let me make some examples. One problem I noticed in my one and only starship combat is that the 2nd-level formian nanocyte Tk'Pan "Panic" lacked any ability to perform a ship role well. Nanocyte's key ability score is Constitution, and Panic's attribute scores are Str 14, Dex 13, Con 18, Int 10, Wis 8, Cha 10. With Int 10, she is not suited for Engineer nor Science Officer despite Engineering and Computers being class skills. With Dex 13 she is weak as a Gunner despite BAB +2 and Piloting being a class skill. She did train those three skills. Her Theme is Career Trooper, which gives +1 Con.

    Career Trooper Theme for 2nd Edition
    You are a career member of a military and have been embroiled in conflicts and military bureaucracy for many years. During your enlisted time, you have trained with top ground troops, participated in war games that have turned deadly, and been privy to military intelligence given only to commanders. You are prepared for almost anything on the battlefield that your own commanders or your enemies able to throw at you.
    You gain an attribute boost to Constitution.
    You are trained in the Computer skill and the Warfare lore skill. You gain the Diehard Analyst theme feat.

    Diehard Analyst Theme Feat 1
    You learned to think despite pain and pressure. You can use your Constitution modifier instead of your Intelligence modifier on Intelligence-based checks for Starship actions.

    In contrast, the kiirinta precog Kii Kii wanted to be a pilot from the beginning. Her Theme is Ace Pilot. Precog's key ability score is Dexterity. and Kii Kii's attribute scores are Str 10, Dex 17, Con 10, Int 16, Wis 10, Cha 10.

    Ace Pilot Theme for 2nd Edition
    You are most comfortable at the controls of a vehicle, whether it’s a starship racing through the inky void of space or a ground vehicle zooming between trees, around boulders, and across dusty badlands. You might be a member of an elite military force, the recipient of intense courses of training. Alternatively, you might be a total amateur with innate skills that make you a much-admired hotshot.
    You gain an attribute boost to Dexterity.
    You are trained in the Piloting skill and the Vehicle lore skill. You gain the Stunt Pilot theme feat.

    Stunt Pilot Theme Feat 1
    You practiced your favorite stunt to perfection. Chose a Pilot stunt such as Back Off, Barrel Roll, Evade, Flip and Burn, Flyby, Slide, or Turn in Place. When you roll a failure for that stunt, you get a success instead. If you are an expert in Piloting, also when you roll a critical failure for that stunt, you get a failure instead. If you are a master in Piloting, instead all rolls for that stunt are in improved by one degree of success.
    Special You can select this feat multiple times. Each time select a different stunt.

    I should give higher-level examples.

    Striking Gunnery Theme feat 4
    When you deal damage with a Starship weapon, increase the number of weapon damage dice by one.

    Spinning Gunnery Theme feat 4
    When you deal damage with a Starship weapon, you may rotate the target 60 degrees in either direction.


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    I began a Starfinder mini-campaign this month to try out the system before committing to a long-term campaign. Yesterday, Tuesday December 19, we had our first starship combat. Now that I have played starship combat, although only once, I have real experience for commenting in this thread.

    My wife, a grandmaster of many roleplaying systems, summarized the combat as "clunky." She says that it will run more smoothly after more practice, but that would be growing accustomed to the clunkiness rather than removing it.

    I myself had been worried about teaching the players the new subsystem. Six of the seven players were experiences in Pathfinder 1st and 2nd Edition, so they had no problem with the character rules of Starfinder. But starship combat is a subsystem not found in Pathfinder. I wrote up a two-page quick-start guide for them. They seemed to grasp the rules well enough.

    Let me look over WatersLethe's document.

    SF1 Starships: The Good
    Hex-based movement and maneuvering is fun at first
    So long as the system uses facing ("heading" in Starfinder terminology), a hexagon grid is better than a square grid.

    Round-by-round initiative augments maneuvering importance
    We found the round-by-round initiative awkward. Since it does not match non-ship Starfinder rules nor the PF2 three-action system, I would not mind if it was dropped.

    Difference between guns and missiles is interesting
    The fight was within the speed of the light cytplasm weapon I put on the Clutch, so the missile did not seem different than the direct-fire coilgun. The Emerald Empyrean and the Nova Witch lacked missile weapons. I lack experience here.

    Many options for ship customization and personalization
    Yes. So long as the players own the ship, we want it customized.

    SF1 Starships: The Bad
    Lack of non-pilot agency in combat
    In quickly teaching the players about starship combat, the limits on the roles were handy. But most of the role actions were indirect effects, such as a +1 or +2 bonus to someone else's action. We can make stories out of indirect effects, such as in PF2 we often had, "Because Binny rendered the target flat-footed, Zinfandel's shot hit," but direct action more readily lends itself to stories.
    Besides, +1 and +2 bonuses are not the 2nd editiion style.

    Ship building is complicated and often pushed off to one player
    I built the Clutch in my game. I have experience with this from boardgames, such as Steve Jackson's Car Wars. But balancing both cost and power requirements is a puzzle rather than straightforward design. It ought to be dropped.

    Limited integration with regular Starfinder rules
    This is the big one. Learning a separate subsystem was not the only problem. The alate formian nanocyte, Tk'Pan "Panic", is a melee combatant. She had a good BAB but dumped Dexterity. She fit no role in starship combat. No Computer skills for Science Officer, no Diplomatic skills for Captain, no Engineering skills for Engineer, no Mysticism skills for Magic Officer, no Piloting skills for Pilot, and no Dexterity for Gunner. She served second gunner, but she missed more often than the first gunner. She had been built for face-to-face role not a starship combat role. In contrast, the two ranged combatants could use their ranged-attack bonus as Gunners, two other high-Dexterity players had deliberately trained up their Piloting skills, the strix technomancer was good at both Computing and Engineering, and the witchwyrd envoy taunted as a captain, despite not being in command.

    High GM workload
    I am used to that.

    However, I often build my own creatures in PF2 (technically, I ported them over from PF1). Building an enemy starship for combat is much more difficult than building an enemy creature. It should be made as easy as building an enemy creature.

    Uninteresting combat maps that don’t evolve during the fight
    My players often take advantage of terrain in face-to-face combat. Starship combat lacks rules to take advantage of terrain. My battle took place inside a dust cloud which had no effect. (In retrospect, I could have applied Asteroids and Debris rules from Starship Operations Manual but they make dust clouds annoying rather than tactical.) Imagine a tight orbit around a small moon for a fast maneuver. Imagine blowing up an asteroid to create a debris field.

    Lack of magic
    The player whose stellifera mystic characer could have served as a Magic Officer was out sick yesterday. Thus, I did not see how magical a Magic Officer is.

    Starship building “solvable” for combat
    "Solvable?" Does that mean that optimization is obvious and excludes many fun builds? That is not the 2nd Edition style.

    Combat capability and amenities drawing from same pool of build points
    Also not 2nd Edition style.

    Difficult to reward combat victories (salvage can unbalance the game)
    Skitter Crash begins with "After the skittermanders Dakoyo, Gazigaz, Nako, and Quonx—employees of the vesk Nakonechkin Ginnady, owner of
    Nakonechkin Salvage—rescued a handful of civilians from a rogue AI aboard a luxury cruise liner [in the module Skitter Shot] about a year ago, their employer gave them command of their own vessel. The skittermanders had earned it." I suspect that narrative rewards are more balanced than cash rewards.

    Low gameplay value versus time spent
    Our starship combat was slow due to inexperience. Does it stay slow?

    Overly encourages uninteresting 1v1 ship fights
    I knew that in Skitter Shot my players would think, "Hey, we have two ships, Clutch and Emerald Empyrean. Let's send some crew back to the Clutch and use both against the pirate ship." So I got the Clutch ready for combat. My only starship combat was 2 versus 1.

    Nevertheless, that combat seemed a lot like the PF1 combat where the characers stand still to be able to take full-round actions with multiple attacks. The movement of the ships helped aim weapons and at one point the Nova Witch turned to expose an intact shield to the other ships rather than balancing shields, but it was not as significant as face-to-face movement.

    Transportation (Drift Speed Specifically)
    Why does Drift speed improve with level anyways? Travel really happens at the speed of plot.

    Player Housing
    Eight of the 75 build points of the tier-2 Clutch went into a medical bay. The players wanted one, saying it made sense for a salvage ship because of the risk of on-the-job accidents. Does that count as player housing or combat readiness?

    Starship Encounter/Combat Basics
    Combat effectiveness should not be determined by how well the group min-maxed their build points five sessions ago at the spaceport
    I let my player characters level up in the middle of dungeons, and gear is gathered continuously, but leveling up a starship sounds like it needs a space dock. Hm, what if the effectiveness of starship systems depended not on their purchase value but on their user's level or skill. It would be like Automatic Bonus Progression in PF2.

    Every player needs to have meaningful agency every round of combat
    See my comment above on "Limited integration with regular Starfinder rules." Solving the integration might help this, too.

    Starship combat should use as many normal rules as possible
    Ditto

    Enemy ships should be simple, so that the GM can focus on making combat engaging and fast
    That has a contradiction. If the player characters running a starship have meaningful agency, then the enemies should also have meaingful agency, which is complicated. Perhaps we need generic enemies that the GMs grow accustomed to playing inside a starship.

    Varying win conditions, battlefield shaping, and hazards should be heavily encouraged
    My creative playerw will devise them anyway, once they have some tactical elements to play with.

    Failure and defeat should typically lead to additional storytelling, not auto-TPK
    That is a bold goal beyond most RPG game design.

    To be continued another day ...


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    Deriven Firelion wrote:
    Even in PF2 you do feel pretty damn strong at level 13 plus or so. CR-2 to CR-4 enemies even in fairly large groups get carved up by higher level PCs even with lots of hit points. Solo bosses are pretty easy to kill even CR+3 to +5. The still hard encounters tend to be the CR+2 backed up by the CR equal or CR+1 help, especially with spells.

    Wait, this is not how the Encounter Budget system in PF2 is supposed to work. Something is broken if a level+5 boss, i.e., a creature five level higher than the party level, is easy to defeat. A level+4 boss is supposed to be exactly as powerful as a 4-member party. The clever tactics that my players use can reduce the damage to the party and enable tougher opponents, but the tough fights are still hard won.

    Or does CR mean something besides level? PF2 does not use Challenge Rating (CR). It uses levels.

    Perpdepog wrote:
    I might even go down to level 11. I remember playing a summoner in an Age of Ashes campaign, and the one-two punch of getting access to Weighty Impact followed by Chain Lightning felt pretty darn awesome.

    I don't see a synergy between Weighty Impact and Chain Lightning.

    The most decisive 10th-level feat in the Ironfang Invasion was the rogue feat Precise Debilitation, available to our thief rogue Binny. With it, Binny could make her targets flat-footed to everyone for a -2 to their AC, much like how Weighty Impact could make targets flat-footed to everyone by knocking them prone.

    I admit that Chain Lightning is a good spell, one of the favorites of the druid in my Ironfang Invasion campaign in which the party often fought squads of enemies.


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    Deriven Firelion wrote:
    Mathmuse wrote:
    This month, in discussing our next campaign, my 36-year-old younger daughter commented that she preferred Pathfinder 1st Edition to Pathfinder 2nd Edition, because PF1 is better at making characters feel fantastic. In PF2 a character can be good for their level, and reaching high level is a major accomplishment. However, since opponents are around the same level, being good for the level does not feel like an accomplishment. It is a flaw in PF2.
    I can create the illusion of feeling powerful or as your daughter terms it "fantastic" on the backend with encounter design. It's far easier as a DM to create encounters you know the players will crush by populating the encounter with lower level enemies than to have to figure out how to take supposedly challenging enemies and figuring out how to deal with a mass hold monster or a dazing spell fireball without using tactics to...

    No, my players do not lack for power. They mastered both teamwork and tactics, so they can defeat Extreme-Threat encounters by splitting them into two consecutive Moderate-Threat encounters.

    Instead, some of my players want their characters to feel special via individual flavor. The tightly enforced power by level unfortunately also keeps the flavor bounded, too. It is as Mjarn said:

    Mjarn wrote:
    i dont thing the feats are very intresting or even useful so every lvl feels pointless

    The class feats are useful in a carefully balanced amount, but balance prevents game-changing effects.

    In my PF1 Iron Gods campaign, my wife created a battlefield-control gunslinger. She did not deal much damage, but she debuffed opponents by grappling them with a technological autograpnel gun. She was one of the greatest technological crafters in all of Numeria. This was a wild flavor unimagined for a PF1 gunslinger. In PF2 my wife created a magical trickster, a scoundrel rogue with sorcerer dedication and Magical Trickster feat who could sneak attack with cantrip spells. Aside from roleplaying, the trickster was unique only in that Nirmathas probably had no other magical tricksters. My younger daughter was not in the Iron Gods campaign, but she created a leshy sorcerer with very strong ties to the Fangwood Forest in her backstory. But her class feats were literally forgettable in that she often forgot the character had them because they did not enhance the flavor of her character. When I tweaked the plot so that the goddess Gendowyn, Lady of Fangwood, supported the Fangwood leshy becoming another demigod of Fangwood, my daughter was quick to drop three forgettable class feats for homebrew Godhood archetype feats that were not more powerful in combat but had more flavor that suited the character.

    Part of the fun of an adventure path is finding a reason why your own particular character ought to complete the adventure path.


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    Sanityfaerie wrote:
    - In PF2, trying to excel by being the badass that carries the party on the strength of your character optimization skills... doesn't work. There's a bit of CharOp to be had, here and there, but it's thin. Party optimization is much stronger. Look for ways to make your buddies stronger while they make you stronger, and you're wind up being a lot more effective overall. This is a significant break from 5e in particular (and even more of one from 3e and 4e). Look for advantages to be gained at the tactical level against specific monsters and specific situations, rather than at the strategic level from iterating on a single build strategy over and over again.

    This month, in discussing our next campaign, my 36-year-old younger daughter commented that she preferred Pathfinder 1st Edition to Pathfinder 2nd Edition, because PF1 is better at making characters feel fantastic. In PF2 a character can be good for their level, and reaching high level is a major accomplishment. However, since opponents are around the same level, being good for the level does not feel like an accomplishment. It is a flaw in PF2.

    PF2 has a property called tight math. Player character of the same level have a narrow range on their bonuses for combat proficiencies they are good at. A 5th-level barbarian with Strength 18 also has a +14 to hit with their +1 striking greataxe. A 5th-level swashbuckler with Dexterity 18 also has a +14 to hit with their +1 striking rapier. A rogue with Dexterity 18 also has a +14 to hit with their +1 striking shortsword. Only the fighter with Strength 18 or Dexterity 18 does better with a +16 to hit with their +1 striking weapon. The system lacks any level-appropriate tricks to push that bonus higher. And that +14 of a non-fighter martial character will often be against AC 22 for only a 65% chance of success before a multiple attack penalty applies. Rogues specialize in getting their opponent flat-footed ("off-guard" in the new Remastered language) so that they have a 75% chance of hitting instead, like a fighter would, and their sneak attack damage makes up for strength and weapons that deal less damage. The abilities are carefully balanced so that the classes usually do the same damage.

    Spellcasters have spell proficiencies instead of weapon proficiencies, but it works out the same. They sometimes perform battlefield control or healing instead of damage dealing.

    Optional abilities given by feats or rogue rackets are not powerful enough to upset the balance. Any build made with reasonable sense (a Strength 10, Dexerity 10 fighter will be awful) will perform about the same. The end result is that builds don't win the fight. Tactics win the fight.

    The different builds are for fun in roleplaying, not a secret key to unlock a powerful character.

    Scoundrel racket is one of the weaker rackets. Getting an opponent flat-footed by flanking is more reliable than Feinting. My wife played a scoundrel rogue Sam with sorcerer dedication in my PF2-converted Ironfang Invasion campaign, and she tried the Feint only twice in 20 levels. Thief racket is one of the stronger rackets, but it is not majorly better. Another player in the campaign played a thief rogue Binny and she applied Dexterity to damage only three times in 20 levels. Binny was a sniper. She Hid so that her Strike with her shortbow would catch her target flat-footed. But thief racket applies only to melee attacks, not to ranged attacks.

    By the way, the Remaster changed the Scoundrel racket by giving it an extra perk: "If you Feint while wielding an agile or finesse melee weapon, you can step immediately after the Feint as a free action." Thus, if the Feint fails, the scoundrel rogue has an easier time flanking as a backup plan.

    When I tell stories about my campaign (I tell lots of stories about my campaigns) I don't talk about how Sam or Binny dealt massive damage to an opponent. I instead tell about how Sam bluffed his way into a korred festival (Friday, December 1, 2023) or how Binny rode on the back of a the sorcerer transformed into a dragon to foil the offenses and defenses of a boss (Monday, November 27, 2023).


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    Ravingdork wrote:

    Now, if a player approached you (the GM) beforehand, and explained that they were planning to make a witch that went to great lengths to deceive others into believing her to be nothing more than a harmless old crone, would that impact the ruling you make when the enemy being harried by the party martials sees a hissing cat?

    If you'd like specifics, let's assume I'm talking about a character that uses things like Subtle Spell, spells without obvious observable stimuli (such as inevitable disaster), a clandestine cloak, disguise magic, illusory disguise , and mundane disguise kits and tools to make herself appear to be little more than a harmless servant (such as a cook, porter, or armor cleaner) to the rest of the heroes with all their glowing high level gear. What's more, she most often appears to cower and hide during combats while her cat appears to try and protect her with threatening hisses.

    Would you then automagically go to "witch and familiar" still, thus invalidating any chance the player could ever have had to enjoy such a character? Or would you take all the variables into consideration, rule based on the current context, and maybe let the player have some fun from time to time?

    Ravingdork's witch character reminds me of an elderly innkeeper of the same name from Avatar: The Last Airbender. I suspect that Ravingdork based his character on the Avatar character.

    I pulled the same plotline of innkeeper who was secretly an evil witch in Prisoners of the Blight. Kusana (CR 13 female blood hag witch 9) was supposed to encounter the party outdoors near a landmark on the edge of the Blighted Area, but when I ported her to PF2 as a 13th-level blood hag fervor witch with patron Gyronna, I gave her an inn next to the landmark. Blood hags have a Borrowed Skin ability that lets them wear another person's skin to assume their form. Kusana occassionally preyed on a customer, killing them during the night to steal their skin, to maintain her beauty.

    She had recognizably evil customers in her inn, so the party did not mistake her for innocent, but I did manage to hide that she was a major threat for a little while (details at Collin Playtest Kineticist comment #7). She had some scars from an encounter mentioned in her backstory, so she was interested in stealing the unmarked skin of the elf in the party. She tried to lure him alone with a seductive offering of sharing some excellent wine in her room. That did not work, so she tried drugging the party, and they noticed the drugs.

    As for an elderly crone trying to look harmless while traveling with an adventuring party, well, everyone in an adventuring party in a dangerous location is assumed to be powerful enough to face the dangers. The hireling who watches the horses for the party while they are in a dungeon never enters the dungeon himself. The disguised witch would need to disguise her comrades as non-adventurers, too, or the opponents will just assume that she is another adventurer of a class that does not need armor or weapons, such as a sorcerer or witch.

    For example, in my Iron Gods campaign the party was trying to avoid the attention of the powerful Technic League. When they left their hometown Torch for the 2nd module, Lords of Rust, they adopted false identities. Between modules, they returned home for downtime for crafting, reverting to their true identities but pretending to still be 1st level or 2nd level. Finally, in the 5th module, Palace of Fallen Stars, they had to enter the captial city Starfall, the location of the headquarters of the Technic League. By then the Technic League had heard of their adventures and wanted to capture them. They slipped under the notice of the Technic League by entering Starfall under their harmless Torch identities (except for very distinctive strix Kirii), leaving their high-level gear behind, and trying very hard to not act like an adventuring party (Inconspicuous PCs Unmotivated in Palace of Fallen Stars).

    The characters Kirii and Boffin had non-human leadership cohorts and the characters Juran and Val had familiars. Boffin and Juran left their companions behind. Human bloodrager Val Baine disguised her clockwork familiar as a turtle familiar and pretended to be a 1st-level wizard with a familiar. Strix skald Kirii disguised herself as a 3rd-level winged aasimar cleric of Desna named Dove and claimed that her lyrakien cohort Tay was a divine guide from Desna.

    The Technic League never did figure out the identity of the party members, but they did arrest Boffin for illegal possession of alien technology. Her Wirejack Tendons were surgically installed, so she could not leave them behind. Unanticipated circumstances revealed the cybernetic tendons at a good place in the plot to end the deception.

    Maintaining a false identity can be lots of fun roleplaying, so we GMs should not make it impossible.


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    Raiztt wrote:
    Finoan wrote:
    Yes, many of my spellcaster characters do not even carry weapons. The ones that do rarely use them. Making weapon attacks as a spellcaster is certainly not mandatory. But making a weapon attack is a viable option in the spellcaster's toolbox. And cantrip damage isn't intended to out-perform martial character's weapon damage.

    Cantrips are absolutely intended to be the caster's go-to combat option. It is their "i swing my sword", "i shoot my bow", basic attack action. That's why they are unlimited now instead of having a fixed number of uses. This change goes back to PF1e and this was the reasoning then.

    There is a long history, that extends back before PF2e, of trying to find some sort of equivalent for casters vis a vis a basic attack. 3.5e implemented a new system for at-will cantrip level casting in the complete mage and then PF1e went further and just made cantrips infinite/free.

    You can argue about whether or not that SHOULD be the case, but if you're operating under the assumption that it IS NOT the case, you are mistaken.

    I am an old fogey who began tabletop roleplaying with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons in 1979. My wife has played even longer, because her older brothers brought AD&D home from college in 1978. When she was in college, she played under a DM who decided to try out the new Cantrip suggestion in an issue of Dragon magazine. The original purpose of cantrips was to be trivial little spells that could be cast over and over again. They were flavorful rather than useful. Despite that intention, my wife's party cast 100 Crack cantrips on the cliff over an enemy patrol so that the cliff fell on the enemy and killed them.

    We played in the old days when wizards would pack a crossbow so that they could contribute to combat after they ran out of spells, or while conserving their spells for a big battle later. The cantrips officially introduced into D&D were intended to substitute for that crossbow. A wizard should be attacking with magic, no matter how trivial, rather than resorting to the weapons of levied peasant soldiers. And some cantrips, such as Prestidigitation, were designed for flavor to imply that a wizard would wash his clothes with magic rather than scrubbing them in the nearest stream.

    Cantrips were not meant to be the equivalent of a 0 MAP shortbow in the hands of a ranger or 0 MAP shortsword in the hands of a rogue. They were meant to be a more flavorful alternative to a crossbow in the hands of a +1/2-per-level Base Attack Bonus class that did not invest in Dexterity.

    However, cantrips evolved with each edition of D&D and Pathfinder. Pathfinder 2nd Edition does not have +1/2-per-level Base Attack Bonus bonuses, so the baseline changed. Therefore, cantrips had to change.

    I cannot figure out intentions. Given the way Paizo playtested the PF2 rules among their fans, they often changed their intentions based on playtest experience. Let me talk about experience.

    My PF2-converted Ironfang Invasion game had three spellcasting player characters (the other four PCs were a ranger, a rogue, a monk, and a champion with only two focus spells). The gnome stormborn druid Stormdancer attacked with her spell slots and her Tempest Surge focus spell. At low levels, her cantrips filled in for when she used up those other spells. At higher levels, she liked to cast a cantrip to test for resistances before committing to using a high-level spell against an enemy. The leshy fey-blooded sorcerer Honey played support and healer. She would cast a support spell, such as Haste, early and then save her spell slots for battlefield control or healing when opportune. The damage-dealing cantrips gave her something to do when neither battlefield control nor healing were reasonable.

    These two PCs used cantrips regularly, but cantrips were not their primary combat contribution.

    The halfling rogue/sorcerer Sam was the one who depended on cantrips. My wife had a development arc planned for Sam from the beginning. He started as a rogue with the Scoundrel racket giving him high Charisma. At 2nd level he took the Sorcerer dedication with the Draconic Bloodline and learned the cantrips Produce Flame and Telekinetic Projectile. Those two cantrips were better than shooting with his shortbow (the party preferred to attack from a distance before the champion and monk joined them) so they became his favorite offense. At 4th level he took Magical Trickster rogue feat 4 to apply sneak attack damage to his cantrips. I had to houserule that if he cast a spell from hiding then it caught the target flat-footed (off-guard) like Striking from hiding; otherwise, Magical Trickster would have been mostly useless to Sam.

    The Remastered Player Core lacks the Magical Trickster rogue feat.

    At 6th level, Sam took the sorcerer archetype's Basic Bloodline Spell that let him manifest flaming Dragon Claws as a focus spell. That gave him an alternative to attacking the cantrips. It wasn't until 8th level that he took Basic Sorcerer Spellcasting to one 1st-level, one 2nd-level, and one 3rd-level spell slot.

    Thus, cantrips were the essential offense for Sam from 2nd to 5th level and still important after 5th level. But he added sneak attack damage to them to make them effective.

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