Vernor Vinge's Zone's of Though books, mainly Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky.
I just started the audiobook of "Fire Upon the Deep" and immediately recognized it as perfect for the general tone of Starfinder. Lots of aliens in both the "humans with funny foreheads" and "what the hell is THAT" categories; a broad variability in individual worlds' tech levels that doesn't preclude interaction between them; monstrous Elder Things in the Outer Dark Better Left Unknown. All sorts of goodness in this one.
Over the weekend I ran a long Starfinder convention mini-campaign at TotalCon in Marlborough, MA USA. As the grande finale I ran a big fat space battle. I know some folks have had some reservations about the space combat system, so I thought I would offer up this example.
First of all, there were 3 factions in the Battle for Nebula City -- the invading Azlanti Fleet (played by me, the GM), a fleet of pirate vessels that were wild cards (four players) and a station defense fleet (four other players). I allowed each player 5 tiers of ships and most of the players took 2 ships each (a 2 and a 3 or a 1 and a 4), while my invading force consisted of 6 Tier 1/2 fighters, 2 tier 6 battleships and a tier 7 flagship. The invader's goal was to destroy the defenders and run off the pirates. All told there were about 25 or so ships on the table at the start of the battle. I held a Nova Spawn in reserve in case it looked like the invaders might go down to easy.
The introduction and ship choosing phase took about an hour. Some folks had played Starfinder before but few had done much space combat. The ships came from the main book and APs as well as some commercially available on DriveThru. Most seemed generally balanced. The first round of combat took quite a while -- another hour -- while players tried to figure out their vessels in action and all the different phase action choices. It was a little clunky and frustrating -- not least because 3 of 4 almost immediately the pirate players decided they would focus fire on defender ships (even though they had been offered amnesty for helping fight off the Azlanti). The second round of combat went faster -- I trusted the players to take care of the department/crew actions that only affected themselves and enforced a "roll attack and damage at the same time" rule. By the end of that round a couple pirate vessels were dead, a couple Azlanti fighters were dead and one defender ship was very close to fireball city.
We took 10 as I got checked out of my hotel room. When I return a couple players had left for lunch and another game and had been replaced by a couple people who had been hoping to get a slot. the newcomers just took over existing ships in the pirate fleet. Two of the three players that had left were children, and while I like gaming with kids and encourage them, things sped up considerably once they were no longer at the table.
From there it was pretty smooth, exciting sailing. As the weaker ships got knocked out the battle grew more intense. As players got comfortable with the basic rules, they tried more and more options, including piloting maneuvers and stuff. The game system held up pretty well, having the same swingy quality of the RPG parts of play. Note that I let players use Resolve points to buy rerolls and such in play and so gave each player some "awesome points" to do the same thing. This certainly sped things up as some misses turned into hits and hits into crits, but many of these awesome points fizzled (you can still roll low on a reroll or a d30!) and I don't think it made the game unrecognizable.
In the end the pirates and defenders joined forces and focused fire on the pirates. Focusing fire is essential in Starfinder space combat, since it is trivial in most cases to re balance shields. So if you can get a ship's shields down and hammer that same quadrant you can do real damage and cause critical system failures. Had the pirates kept fighting the defenders or even fled the outcome was in no way certain.
In general I don't think Starfinder ship combat is especially deep, and as such it might grow stale if played constantly. That said, I was impressed on how it handled a lot of players and vessels and think it makes a good addition to the game. A space combat every few sessions can change up the pace of the game and offer a nice diversion.
I ran (non Society) Starfinder at TotalCon in Marlboro MA all weekend (six 4 hour sessions) and the last one was a massive space battle. As GM I had 3 capital ships with fighter escorts and among 7 players there were 15 or 16 ships (some fighters and some not). It was glorious, but in a very EVE Online kind of way (read: slow).
Assuming a more traditional leveling progress rather than the Star trek assumption of starting out as officers and department heads, the party could be *the* away team, a dedicated cross departmental unit specializing in first contact and forward observation. The party ship is a shuttle which gets upgraded as they level.
How do you build the SFS Enterprise, or is it just a setting rather than an actual statted ship?
Star Trek in Starfinder: how would you do it?
I don't mean a literal Star Trek Universe game. Rather, a Starfinder campaign set solidly in the game setting using the core rules as the primary tool, but intended to recreate the feel of Star Trek (go ahead and pick your poison as far as what that means specifically -- me, I am a TNG guy mostly, though I do love the Cardassian War seasons of DS9).
To me, Star Trek is defined by a generally positive future, a sense of wonder and exploration, a big ship as mobile home base, a pseudo-military command structure (which almost always moves out of the way for story purposes) and the occasional really large space battle. It has room for everything from pulpy action to political intrigue to social commentary (sometimes a little ham-handed), all wrapped up in a benevolent military sci-fi uniform.
What parts of Starfinder would you focus on? What parts would you sort of ignore? How would you integrate things like the Drift and magic in general into a Star Trek feel? What about religions and factions and powerful species?
"The Void Adamant is a private vessel under the command of Captain Bolg Murphy, one of the most notorious mercenaries and privateers in the Pact Worlds and beyond. It is home to a motley assortment of soldiers of fortune, outlaws, adventurers and treasure hunters. The Adamant goes wherever the work is to be had, from rescuing pilgrims in over their heads to salvaging lost vessels to fighting wars on the side of the highest bidder.
When a player asked for tone, I responded: Aliens meets Guardians of the Galaxy meets Event Horizon meets Ice Pirates.
Paul Wilson wrote:
I have not. I almost bought it recently since I knew some Starfinder stuff would be coming from there, but opted to spend the money on buying EVERYTHING for SF. ;) I have not played Pathfinder since 5E D&D came out, and was never compelled to keep current with supplements (except the APG and GMG) or APs, so Starfinder will be kind of a fresh view for me.
I had not seen that. I am inclined to listen to the developer, of course, unless the rule is not fun. In which case I won't say it is "wrong" I'll just do it my way.
As an aside: the language of combat casting suggests readying an action to interrupt a spell caster is a viable tactic. I wonder if there was a late in development change and some of the previous language persists, creating the confusion.
Anyway, let's consider what the impact on play is of the rule as it is written and intended. Simply put, one cannot prepare to stop a caster from unleashing a spell. The only real option aside from counter-spelling is to place melee fighters within reach of casters. This has the benefit of keeping melee viable in a world of guns and grenades, which is a net positive I think. It also strongly suggests that casters do not travel alone, or even without enough allies to block incoming melee fighters. Casters become quarterbacks, essentially.
Be that as it may, it is kind of a clumsy rule and it is going to need adjudication in play, at least at my table.
It presents some interesting questions that individual GMs will likely have to adjudicate. What if you are in a mexican standoff with SpaceOrc, Ally and You. Is it a "defensive" action if you want to kill SpaceOrc before he can kill Ally? That sort of thing.
I don't envy StarFinder Society GMs, though. Those folks will have to worry about official rulings.
Although even that does not seem to suggest you would get the attack off.
By RAW, spells require concentration. I imagine caster cells, cuffs etc... are equipped with things that make concentration difficult or impossible. Maybe they are fitted with a helmet that assaults them with debilitating audio and video, or they are drugged with a neural agent. Also, the nauseated condition makes spell casting impossible.
How steep or shallow is the learning curve, assuming one has experience with 3.5/PF/other d20? I plan on picking up my books at GenCon and some hours later camping in Open Gaming to run some Starfinder. I don't expect to be wanting for players considering how quickly the official events sold out, but I hope to be able to grasp at least the basics relatively easily.
IMO, extras, allies, creatures and villains should have stats that support their particular role in the campaign/adventure/encounter. There is no reason to build a shopkeeper as a 4th level commoner or whatever when all the shopkeeper needs is a "+4 vs haggling and shoplifting" or whatever. Likewise, monsters and beasts should have abilities, feats and skills that emulate their place in the ecology, not based on their class and level. Does an arboreal needler need to be higher level (and thus have ore hit points and bigger attacks) just because it has climbing, camouflage and a ranged area attack? Villains are not PCs. Generally speaking they don't go around adventuring. Their suite of abilities should not be tailored to that.
tl;dr I'm pleased.
It seems strange to me that some folks actively ignore the straight up D&D-inspired spellcasting and other magic when thinking about or describing Starfinder. To me that's the main selling point. There are hundreds of hard SF and space opera settings and games out there. "D&D in futurespace" is far less common. I agree with the above poster that it is space opera equivalent of Shadowrun, not Star Wars.
I don't think I am alone in the opinion that the PFACG is one of the most fun, best designed games to appear in recent years. I was just curious if Paizo was actively considering giving Starfinder the PFACG treatment? obviously it would not appear for at least a year (until after the first AP is complete) but is it something the company has thought about?
I will running Starfinder at Carnage Con in Killington, Vermont in November. When I run games at that convention, I do multiple connected but episodic session. In the past I have focused on D&D hexploration, but here I will try something more mission oriented.
Following is the con book blurb:
“The Dropship Murphies”
It is a big galaxy out there, full of weird science, alien magic, ancient ruins and very hungry native life forms. Despite all that, people from the Pact Worlds push out into the Vast, colonizing and capitalizing. Sometimes, they get in deep trouble. That’s where you come in: the Dropship Murphies are the toughest, hardest bunch of mercenaries in the Vast, specializing in pulling naive pilgrims, greedy suits and lost explorers out of the fire -- for a price.
“Dropship Murphies” is an ongoing adventure for the Starfinder space fantasy role-playing game by Paizo, Inc. Sessions are connected but episodic, so players are free to join for as many or few as they want. Accept a client, plan the drop and then try and keep Muphy’s Law at bay long enough to get paid. Pre-generated characters will be provided. Keep an eye on www.ianeller.com for previews and other updates.
Tom Kalbfus wrote:
All ships in Starfinder that can enter Drift Space have FTL sensors, since there is fighting in Drift space and pieces of planes of existence are in Drift Space. There is no going faster than the speed of light outside of Drift Space, FTL sensors are the same as STL sensors that are used in Drift Space. This leads to another interesting question. What about FTL communications?
I think FTL travel with no FTL comms is a great adventure seed generator. Suddenly you need the pony Express to deliver messages, and colony worlds can get cut off from the larger culture pretty easily.
I was surprised and disappointed that the Starfinder games sold out so quickly. But I have a solution: I am going to pick up my preordered book and about 6 hours later set up in open gaming to run the thing. I don't imagine I will have too much difficulty finding interested parties and we can learn the game together.
The only thing that has me concerned so far is that while the art is awesome from a production standpoint, it is almost completely devoid of fantastic elements. Both the core book cover art and the iconics lineup say "Space Opera" much more loudly than "Space Fantasy" -- especially a space fantasy where the fantastic elements are born of D&D tropes. Where are the dragons versus mechs? Cobbled together goblin corvettes hitting gnome transports? A chainsword wielding paladin making a stand against a cyborg oni on a collapsing space elevator? Like that.
I am probably in the minority is wishing we had shorter books. There is no reason you cannot create a functional, fun, gorgeous RPG in 128 pages. Big giant core books make games inaccessible and intimidating and a pain to actually use at the table.
That said, I understand that is not going to happen. I am just glad Starfinder will be OGL so I can use an SRD and other resources at the table rather than having to find some obscure rule buried in Chapter 14 under subsection G.
Steven "Troll" O'Neal wrote:
I actually feel the opposite. I mean, I love the cover, it is gorgeous, but it looks like pretty much straight up Space Opera. I was expecting some element that made it obviously Science Fantasy -- wizards and robots, dragons and starships, that sort of thing. I agree that it has a powerful GotG vibe, which is good, but I hope interior art and other pieces embrace the fantasy aspects more directly.
1) No. I want guns to be ubiquitous because it fits the genre, but I don't want them to dominate -- or kill PCs left and right. HP are abstract enough that action movie physics work just fine.
2) I am not looking to simulate what guns do in the real world so much as I am trying to get them to do what they do in the fiction. Being able to expend extra bullets to increase the chance to land a hit is both easier to adjudicate and does not overpower semi-autos. In general, I don't like combat mechanics that us to-hit penalties as the balancing factor. Those kinds of systems tend to disincentivize doing cool stuff because the potential whiff factor. Mechanics with other costs are easier for players to decide whether it is worth it ($2 in bullets, drawing an AoO, etc...).
3) I am trying to stick to the Core + APG just because that is what we usually play with. Besides, it seems like a bad idea to include a gun-centered class when I want all the PCs to be packing.
Here's the rough first draft of the character generation rules I came up with, for those that might be interested:
The goal of character generation for the post apocalyptic Pathfinder game is to make as few changes to the rules as possible so that players will be able to consult their Core books, APGs, etc… without having to worry about reams of extra and conflicting material. As such, the following are the basic guidelines for character generation, which will likely get tweaked as we go through the process:
Ability Scores: There are no changes to ability scores. They should be generated by way of 4d6-L, in order, with the option to switch two scores.
Race: Only Humans are allowed. Note the ability score bonus and keep in mind any changes to skills and feats when choosing those benefits.
Classes: The following classes are allowed essentially unaltered from the Core book with options available from the Advanced Player’s Guide: Barbarian, Fighter, Ranger, and Rogue. Rangers should be of a sort that do not acquire spells and barbarians should not take options that give them overt extranormal powers. The flavor of PA we are going for here is more grounded, at least where PCs are concerned, with a decidedly sci-fi bent, rather than the gonzo Gamma World style.
A note on Rangers: for the purposes of Favored Enemies, monsters will be used right out of the Bestiaries. Most Humanoid type enemies will in fact be some flavor of cannibal mutant thing, so Humanoid (Goblinoid) becomes Mutant (Goblinoid). Undead will exist even if the explanation is more horrific superscience than magic, but they are still a viable enemy type.
Other allowed classes include the Alchemist, the Bard and the Monk. These three classes require much more care and buy in to the milieu to ensure they strike the right tone. The Alchemist is a student of pre-war tech. His “magical” abilities are re-skinned as concoctions and ancient, barely understood super-science. The Bard, rather than being a jack of all trades, is the descendent of a psychic commando engineered for the Final War. A bard’s abilities and spells represent psychic powers and only performances and spells should be chosen that can be reasonably explained as ESP, telepathy, psychokinesis and the like. Monks are a special case, representing genetically engineered super soldier bio-droids that have been wandering aimless for nearly a century since The End. A PC monk must be one that recently resurfaced with little or no memory of its prior existence.
Other classes are generally not allowed unless a player has a very compelling explanation for the character and a way to build it and describe it that does not destroy the admittedly already tenuous verisimilitude of the game.
Skills: Skills, including what are class skills for the various classes, remain mostly unchanged with a few exceptions. Knowledge (Arcana) is renamed Knowledge (Technology) and is used to discern and identify pre-End tech. Spellcraft has been eliminated entirely -- any of its uses that come up will be handled by Knowledge (Technology) -- and Use Magical Device becomes Use Technology and is a universal class skill and is usable untrained with the caveat that terrible failures always result in bloody hilarity. Add the Drive (Dex) skill, which is a class skill for anyone with the Ride skill. Fly becomes Pilot.
Feats: Generally speaking, all feats in the Core and APG are allowed and work as described in those sources. Note that some flavor changes may be required. In addition, firearms are considered bows and crossbows for feat purposes, and bullets are considered arrows (so, yes, Monks and others may Deflect Bullets).
Gear: Most equipment will work as explained in the book, with whatever necessary flavor changes get it in the right genre (ex: the alchemical items become technology). The big ones, of course, are guns.
All guns are martial weapons -- they are easy to fire but hard to master, so making them martial demands training or taking a -4 non-proficiency penalty. For the time being, I am going to simplify the types of guns into the following categories:
Pistols, Rifles and Shotguns
and the following firing modes:
Single Shot, Semi-Automatic and Automatic.
These combine to create 9 basic weapon types, costs, ammo capacities and range increments:
Pistol, Single Shot: revolver 50 gp, 6 rounds, 50 ft
I realize this is an oversimplification of epic proportions, but it should get us started.
Pistol damage = 1d8/19-20. Rifle damage = 1d10/x3. Shotguns do 2d6/x4. Note: the shotgun critical multiplier is reduced by one per full range increment away to a minimum of x2 in the third range increment or farther. Ammunition is determined by category: all pistols use the same ammo, etc… Different ammo types can increase penetration (to hit), impact (damage or threat range), or add energy damage (ex: incendiary). Basic ammo costs 1 gp per round.
Firing Modes: It is a standard action to fire a single shot. Semi-automatic weapons may be”fired wild” as a full round action, consuming 3 rounds for a +2 to hit. Automatic weapons may fire a burst of 3 rounds for a +2 to hit as a standard action, or be fired on full auto (consuming 10 rounds or 50% of the ammo in the weapon, whichever is greater) as a full round action. Against a full auto attack, targets lose their dexterity bonus to AC, if any, and take double damage (triple on a successful critical hit).
If a character possesses the Point Blank Shot feat and is within 30 feet of his target, the threat range of a firearm is increased by 1.
A note about currency: the different types of coins in Pathfinder stand for different thing in this setting. CP (copper) = crappy pieces. SP (silver) = shiny pieces. GP (gold) = good pieces. PP (platinum) = perfect pieces. “Pieces” refers to bits of useful salvage, from transistors and copper wire to nuts, bolts and bullets. If a character is out of ammo, roll percentile against the number of GP the character has on hand (actual pieces, not just value in other treasure). If it is equal to or less than, then he has found a bullet in his pieces. Reduce the character’s GP by 1. The character may continue to search for a bullet in his GP until the first failed percentile roll. He may not check again until after finding more GP. This is a move equivalent action.
After running through the SRD I started to come to the conclusion that that's probably the best course: explain what the setting and campaign are intended to be and ask the players to make something appropriate, with guidelines and input, re-fluffing and re-skinning as necessary. If I maintain veto power and work with them on their characters, it should work fine with players I know.
Now, what about guns? They are quintessential to the style of PA I am going for. Anyone know how Infinite Futures or Broken Earth handle them? Do you think I can just use the gear list from Darwin's World 2E (based on d20 Modern)?
I only meant that they want to be able to use their pathfinder books at the table, hence my desire to rely primarily on flavor reskinning and selective options. Given how option deep Pathfinder is, even in the core book, it should be doable.
I'll definitely have to think about firearms. My concern is striking a balance between genre-verisimilitude and, well, balance. I'm tempted to reskin wands for rare high tech weapons and just say regular guns work like crossbows and stuff.
I am putting together a potst-apocalyptic campaign using the Pathfinder rules and I was hoping to get some insight and opinions. First off, let me establish two important things:
1) By "post apocalyptic" I mean nuclear wasteland (and other calamities) destroyed Earth inspired by the likes of CRPGs like Wasteland and Fallout, and other media like the movie Hell Comes to Frogtown and the comic Wasteland. So I mean a sci-fi post apocalypse, with plenty of weirdness and super-science, but no magic and with protagonists (aka PCs) that are primarily human -- so NOT Gamma World type mutants.
2) I want to mine information from Paizo published materials and the Pathfinder SRD because the players want to play Pathfinder, not a different game using the Pathfinder engine.
Also, i should note that I am totally aware of the upcoming technology Guide and Iron Gods AP, which will certainly have some useful stuff to incorporate, but we plan on starting sooner than August.
All that said, I am hoping to put together a list of character options. I am going to limit race to humans, but I want to collect enough non-magical classes and class archetypes to make sure there are plenty of options for everyone while keeping all of the meta-game archtypes (including healers) in the mix. I think I'll need to allow alchemists of some sort, given a high tech paint job, in order to achieve this. I am not totally against converting some spellcaster class into a psychic if it seems appropriate and necessary.
I figure it won't be too hard to paint most monsters as mutants, and a lot of magic items can be re-skinned as high-tech. Guns might be a problem, though, up to and including rocket launchers and plasma rifles, so any suggestions would be helpful.
I am headed to TotalCon in a couple weeks and decided to sign up for 2 sessions of Pathfinder society (mostly to experience it as a player tosee if I want to do it as a GM). As I understand it, you can show up without a character and get a pregen even if the scenario is not for 1st level. Is that true? And if so, is it better to do that, presuming I don't really are about having an ongoing PC? What are the advantages of having your own character versus using a pregen?
Tangentially: what do I need with me besides event tickets? Do I need a membership card (I know I joined a while back) or anything else? Thanks.
There are occasionally threads about converting classic D&D adventures to Pathfinder, but less often is there discussion about running Pathfinder adventures or APs in classic D&D. In my case, classic D&D is B/ X but I think this discussion could easily apply to AD&D (1e or 2e), BECMI, OD&D or the various Old School simulacra.
Has anyone run an AP using an old school D&D? If so, which one? How did it go? Was it simply a matter or swapping out stat blocks or was the conversion process more involved?
My gut suggests Kingmaker might work best for a B/X (plus Companion set domain and War Machine rules) but I don't know for certain.
Thanks and good gaming!
Thanks everyone. I appreciate the detailed feedback. When it comes to option bloat, my biggest concern is that I, as GM, will fail to account for an element or thing that will end up playing havoc with the inherent balance amongst the PCs. My most preferred version of D&D (and I consider Pathfinder to be an iteration of D&D) is B/X, where such issues are essentially nonexistent. So I sometimes fail to be as vigilant regarding player mechanics as I could be.
I have so far avoided using the Ultimate books when I run campaigns (I am taking a break but was running two concurrent games, and will soon be running again). Option bloat is something that concerns me. At the same time, I have not bought the oops or even really examined the various options in the reference doc.
So, people that are familiar with those books and options, what am I missing? Why should I be allowing or using things from those books? Why not? How will allowing Ultimate resources effect my campaign?
Thanks a bunch.