Drone AI and its Skill Unit


Rules Questions

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

It's unclear how the various levels of drone AI and the Skill Unit ability work. I can read it a couple of ways:

1. Does the Skill Unit is only specify a skill that can be used under Limited, Expert, or True AI? If so, you can't tell a drone to "fix the ship" and go off on an away mission since it would stop working once you go out of range unless it has True AI.

2. Does the Skill Unit specify a skill that the drone can use completely without direction? If so, it can fix stuff while you're on away missions. That also implies that it can take actions on its own related to those skills.

Scarab Sages

There are three states of command for your drone: No Control, Basic Control, and Direct Control.

A Drone in a state of No Control stops taking actions as soon as it loses communication with you (the range of which extends as you level). Even if you give it standing orders and leave a handheld custom rig behind, it isn't getting updated instructions as needed, so it stops altogether.

A Drone under Basic Control can use its ranks as normal so long as you can give basic commands, so a Drone with a Perception Skill Unit can keep looking for threats, a Stealth Drone can keep being stealthy, and a Computer Unit allows it to hack while you're busy with something else.

When you Assume Direct Control of your Drone with Master Control, it can use your skill ranks (with any skill, looks like) as long as it has the proper tools. However, it looks like it's just your ranks with its ability modifier and does not include a class skill bonus.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Forty2 wrote:
There are three states of command for your drone: No Control, Basic Control, and Direct Control...

That's how I believe it's supposed to be, but this system is built on general rules and exceptions. If the general rule is that a drone can only do the things outlined in its level of AI and the Skill Unit is an exception to that general rule, it would allow you to assign a drone a task that it could keep working on when you leave.

If it can "use this skill when not under your direct control", that would cover the first two states, you listed.

Scarab Sages

Gjorbjond wrote:
Forty2 wrote:
There are three states of command for your drone: No Control, Basic Control, and Direct Control...

That's how I believe it's supposed to be, but this system is built on general rules and exceptions. If the general rule is that a drone can only do the things outlined in its level of AI and the Skill Unit is an exception to that general rule, it would allow you to assign a drone a task that it could keep working on when you leave.

If it can "use this skill when not under your direct control", that would cover the first two states, you listed.

No Control is similar to Unconsciousness: both conditions render the subject unable to take any actions. An unconscious character can't engage in a profession because it can't take actions. A Drone under No Control is in a similar "sleep mode;" it can't use any skills because it can't take actions. Skill Unit does not supersede that.

Grand Lodge

Limited AI ability states "your drone cannot take ANY actions until you are again able to command it or it is once more in range" emphasis mine. So it's not just it can't recieve new commands, but that it can't do anything if you're out of range.

So no leaving it in the ship (unless you're high enough level that it's within your control range while still in the ship)


If Skill Unit does not override Limited AI, a Drone can never use Computers or Engineering. (except to ID things)
Everything else takes Standard or Full actions to do. Until a Drone gets True AI, it can't do those. It can take a standard action to attack, and then at Expert AI can take a full action to attack.
Unless Skill unit lets it take its own Standard or full actions, then it is useless until it gets True AI


You might allow it to take triple time, "building" a full action with of work over three rounds by converting its standard action into lower actions.


Drones don't get standard actions, except to attack. Move actions can't be converted to Standard actions.

Scarab Sages

Tali Wah wrote:

If Skill Unit does not override Limited AI, a Drone can never use Computers or Engineering. (except to ID things)

Everything else takes Standard or Full actions to do. Until a Drone gets True AI, it can't do those. It can take a standard action to attack, and then at Expert AI can take a full action to attack.
Unless Skill unit lets it take its own Standard or full actions, then it is useless until it gets True AI

At no point does Skill Unit state that its options are limited to what it can normally do in a round. That leads me to believe that it adds skill-based actions to the actions it can take while under Basic Control, regardless of action economy. Of course, it can still only take one action at a time without being under Direct Control.


I'd read the text under Skill Unit to be adding to what the Drone can do with Limited, Expert or True AI, otherwise there doesn't seem to be any purpose to the Skill Unit.

The ability could definitely do with some clarification though, because Limited (etc) AI references the drone's combat routine, while skills are more likely to be used outside combat.


I believe that your Hover drone should be able to hover, your stealth drone stealth, and any drone use its Skill Unit, overriding the Limited AI's rule of:
"If you become unconscious or otherwise unresponsive, or if your drone is ever out of range, your drone cannot take any actions until you are again able to command it or it is once more within range."

If it is overriding other parts of the Limited AI, why pick and choose? :)

Scarab Sages

Tali Wah wrote:

I believe that your Hover drone should be able to hover, your stealth drone stealth, and any drone use its Skill Unit, overriding the Limited AI's rule of:

"If you become unconscious or otherwise unresponsive, or if your drone is ever out of range, your drone cannot take any actions until you are again able to command it or it is once more within range."

If it is overriding other parts of the Limited AI, why pick and choose? :)

Adding something that can be done does not mean that anything is overwritten.

Restricted Activity pg244 wrote:
In some situations, you may be unable to take all of your actions (for example, when you are paralyzed by a hold person spell or are acting in the surprise round of combat). The condition or ability that restricts your actions explains which actions you can or can’t take. Regardless, you can’t take a full action if you’re unable to take a standard action, a move action, and a swift action.

"Any actions" doesn't leave any room for exceptions. If it were clarified to say "any action that doesn't keep the drone in the same state (such as hovering or remaining hidden)," that would be one thing. However, if a Drone could still use any skill it had without even basic control, there would be nothing stopping it from doing whatever it wants with the skills it has, including flying, swimming, or climbing to freedom from its cruel, neglectful master.

Grand Lodge

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Skill Unit adds X skill actions to the list of actions you can take with your AI (In addition to Move or "standard action to attack" with Limited. Move, standard to attack, or Full Attack at -6 from Expert. Etc).

Nothing is being overwritten, and nothing is modifying the part that discusses not being able to take Actions when Mechanic is out of range or unconscious.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Computers and Engineering are options and there are tool arm mods available, so it's clear that making a repair drone was intended to be possible. The Skill Unit says that the skill can be used "when not under your direct control". If the drone doesn't have the actions to use that skill because of the limits of its AI, it implies that for them to actually use the skill, the Skill Unit has to be an exception to AI's limitations. Otherwise the skills can only actually be used under True AI at 20th level.

I believe it was intended that the AI was just supposed to limit actions in combat. It's like the AI panics in those situations and can't figure out what it should do without direction and ends up wasting a good portion of its time being indecisive.

If the Skill Unit is an exception to the AI's limitations, it might clear up one of the complaints brought up in a different thread about the hover drone. Since the hover drone has Skill Unit (Acrobatics), allowing it to make Acrobatics checks to hover on its own independent of the actions the Limited AI is doing would allow it to hover and shoot with a Limited AI.

Scarab Sages

Gjorbjond wrote:

Computers and Engineering are options and there are tool arm mods available, so it's clear that making a repair drone was intended to be possible. The Skill Unit says that the skill can be used "when not under your direct control". If the drone doesn't have the actions to use that skill because of the limits of its AI, it implies that for them to actually use the skill, the Skill Unit has to be an exception to AI's limitations. Otherwise the skills can only actually be used under True AI at 20th level.

I believe it was intended that the AI was just supposed to limit actions in combat. It's like the AI panics in those situations and can't figure out what it should do without direction and ends up wasting a good portion of its time being indecisive.

If the Skill Unit is an exception to the AI's limitations, it might clear up one of the complaints brought up in a different thread about the hover drone. Since the hover drone has Skill Unit (Acrobatics), allowing it to make Acrobatics checks to hover on its own independent of the actions the Limited AI is doing would allow it to hover and shoot with a Limited AI.

No. It let's your Drone use a skill that isn't already a move action (which hovering is) in place of its normal actions (either a move action or an attack) during that round. Example: you need to hack a computer while a group of enemies rush toward you. Time is of the essence. You send your Drone to do the hack while you set up defenses and provide covering fire. You're using all of your actions, but your Drone can keep plugging away at the hack. Your drone can't then turn around and shoot the enemies while its busy hacking, because that's two actions. (not to mention more than a full round of actions)

Your interpretation would mean that there's no reason to take Direct Control in combat, since a Flying (or Climbing, Hiding or Swimming) Drone could take a move action and a standard action on its own. It gets even more ridiculous when you throw in Expert AI - allowing said Drones to take a move action and a (lesser) full attack completely autonomously, but lose the ability to do that if you take control. (basically getting a constant "Hurry Up" from an invisible Envoy that stops as soon as you butt in)

The other thread has (almost) come to the consensus that a Flying Drone can Hover OR Shoot under Basic Control. Doing both requires Direct Control.

Grand Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Forty2 wrote:
Your interpretation would mean that there's no reason to take Direct Control in combat...

And your interpretation means there's no reason to ever take Skill Unit Computers or Engineering. All the checks with those skills are full actions. If you have to be using Master Control for the drone to get full actions it uses your skill ranks anyway and has no need for a Skill Unit to select that skill.

Scarab Sages

Gjorbjond wrote:
Forty2 wrote:
Your interpretation would mean that there's no reason to take Direct Control in combat...
And your interpretation means there's no reason to ever take Skill Unit Computers or Engineering. All the checks with those skills are full actions. If you have to be using Master Control for the drone to get full actions it uses your skill ranks anyway and has no need for a Skill Unit to select that skill.
I wrote:
It let's[sic] your Drone use a skill that isn't already a move action (which hovering is) in place of its normal actions ([those normal actions being] either a move action or an attack) during that round.

I understand why the parenthetical would be confusing, but if you read on, you'll see that I use hacking as an example and even call out how hacking and shooting would be more than a full round of actions.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Forty2 wrote:
I understand why the parenthetical would be confusing, but if you read on, you'll see that I use hacking as an example and even call out how hacking and shooting would be more than a full round of actions.

I get it. To do anything that takes multiple round to accomplish it uses a full round action on each of your turns until you've completed the action in question. If you don't have full round actions to give, how do you adjudicate that? Does it take twice as long?

Also, how do you feel about stealth drones using their Limited AI to snipe with their standard actions? It's not using any more action economy, but it does violate the "standard action to attack" of the limited AI.

Scarab Sages

I'd say that attempting an Int-based skill check with an int penalty is painful enough, and let it take the same amount of time. It's not that the drone moves slower - just that it can't do more than one thing without Direct Control.

Sniping is an interesting case, but since a stealth check can be rolled as part of the attack (and is part of that action), that seems all right.


Forty2 wrote:
When you Assume Direct Control of your Drone with Master Control, it can use your skill ranks (with any skill, looks like) as long as it has the proper tools. However, it looks like it's just your ranks with its ability modifier and does not include a class skill bonus.

I'm having a little trouble finding this verbiage. Where do the rules say that the drone can use your skill ranks while it is under direct control?

Grand Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Fighting Chicken wrote:
I'm having a little trouble finding this verbiage. Where do the rules say that the drone can use your skill ranks while it is under direct control?

It's in the description of Skill Unit instead of under Master Control:

Quote:
Additionally, whenever you are directly controlling your drone, it can use any of your skill ranks if you wish, assuming it has the appropriate tools to do so (a drone without manipulator arms cannot use Engineering to disable a device, for example).


Ah, thank you, Gjorbjond, much appreciated! I wonder how this interfaces with the Skill Synergy feat, which allows a drone to designate two skills as class skills?

Example:

For the sake of argument, let's say that my drone, named T14, has a manipulator arm, allowing it to use engineering to unlock a door. We come across a locked door, and fearing that door is rigged with explosives, I decide to use T14 to unlock it, as I can always build a T15 later, if my drone gets exploded.

T14 has a manipulator arm, the skill synergy feat (with one of the class skills designated as engineering), and no ranks in engineering. I, the mechanic, have one rank in engineering.

Would the check be made at:

#1) dice=1d20+1 (my rank in engineering, with no bonuses or penalties)
#2) dice=1d20+1-1+3 (my rank in engineering, drone's int mod, class skill bonus from T14's Skill Synergy feat)
#3) dice=1d20+1-1 (my rank in engineering, drone's int mod)

It seems to be that the check should either be made as option #1 or option #2. Option #3 seems least likely, as if I have to use the drone's int mod to make the check, I should be able to use other mods the drone has as well.

Grand Lodge

I would rule #2 - the ability says the drone uses your rank, so I would say what would the exact bonus of the drone be if it had 1 rank in the skill (taking all ability mods and feats into account)

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