Mr Owl, how many nukes does it take?


General Discussion


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Reading over the starship rules and the enviromental rules I ran into a rather entertaining situation. Ship weapons are very poor at actually blowing up buildings without sustained fire.

A Tactical Nuclear Missile does on average 220. A Concrete wall (A very common building material in a sci-fi game) has 540 HP. It takes 3 nukes on average to knock down a 10ft section of that wall.

If you move up to a Heavy Nuclear Missile Launcher it gets better. You can take down that concrete wall in 2 nukes. Better but that's still a lot to try and knock down a wall. How about we bring the big one out?

The Nuclear Megamissile Launcher, a weapon so large it can only be mounted on static mounts on capital ships. THAT means you can actually take down a concrete wall in a single hit. 2200 Damage is enough to take down a concrete wall (And then some) BUT it will fail to blow up a Research Station wall (Which is hardness 35 and 2400 HP).

So it takes 2 Nuclear Megamissiles to bring down a 10ft section of wall to break into a Research Station.

Starfinder nukes are very weak or Starfinder building unions need to get paid a LOT more.


The nukes are weak.


Are building stats at ship damage levels or player damage levels?


Durathinel wrote:
Are building stats at ship damage levels or player damage levels?

I was assuming at Player Damage levels, so the ship weapons get the x10 damage in those calculations. Otherwise a nuke would bounce off a concrete wall a non-negligible amount of the time.


Considering that a High Explosive missile does 4d8 and a Tactical Nuclear missile does 5d8, it seems clear that they are *very* small nukes (compared to what we are used to).

It's believable in a sci-fi setting in at least one regard: The hard part about initiating a nuclear reaction like that is pressure. The less material you have, the harder you have to squeeze it to get it to go supercritical. Presumably with the level of technology available, it can be done with minute amounts of fissile material (under unbelievable pressures).

If refined plutonium is still "a little hard to come by", then it's not too wacky to have tiny nukes (with massive detonators).


Needs more Casaba Howitzers. Turns a tactical or other low yield nukes into a single use particle gun. It also gets around several point defense systems. http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/spacegunconvent.php


On pg 292, in the note box, "... if starship weapons are ever brought to bear against buildings or people, the deal Hit Point damage equal to 10 x their listed amount of damage. However, starship weapons are never precise enough to target a single individual (or even a group) and can, if the GM decides, be simulated as deadly hazards instead of weapon attack."

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Society Subscriber

In case of doubt, 12m long tunsten rods from orbit.


vashtheblackseed wrote:
On pg 292, in the note box, "... if starship weapons are ever brought to bear against buildings or people, the deal Hit Point damage equal to 10 x their listed amount of damage. However, starship weapons are never precise enough to target a single individual (or even a group) and can, if the GM decides, be simulated as deadly hazards instead of weapon attack."

Ikiryo's calculations factor that in.

It takes that long after multiplying damage by ten.
It would take dozens, if not hundreds of nukes without multiplying damage.


vashtheblackseed wrote:
On pg 292, in the note box, "... if starship weapons are ever brought to bear against buildings or people, the deal Hit Point damage equal to 10 x their listed amount of damage. However, starship weapons are never precise enough to target a single individual (or even a group) and can, if the GM decides, be simulated as deadly hazards instead of weapon attack."

That was accounted for. That's why it's not bouncing off the walls hardness.


Ikiry0 wrote:
A Concrete wall (A very common building material in a sci-fi game) has 540 HP.

Looking it up the book says concrete walls are usually at least 1 foot thick, and the HP is 15 x thickness(inches). While a 3 foot thick wall(pretty thick actually) would have 540 HP, a minimum thickness wall would only have 180 HP.


Shadowkire wrote:
Looking it up the book says concrete walls are usually at least 1 foot thick, and the HP is 15 x thickness(inches). While a 3 foot thick wall(pretty thick actually) would have 540 HP, a minimum thickness wall would only have 180 HP.

Good point. A nuke can just knock down a minimum thickness concrete wall.


Did anyone play the old OGRE tabletop wargame? As I recall, part of the game's lore was that modern armor materials were so tough that it took the equivalent of tactical nukes to penetrate them.

Somehow I doubt that these concrete walls are made of that material, however.


Ikiry0 wrote:
Shadowkire wrote:
Looking it up the book says concrete walls are usually at least 1 foot thick, and the HP is 15 x thickness(inches). While a 3 foot thick wall(pretty thick actually) would have 540 HP, a minimum thickness wall would only have 180 HP.
Good point. A nuke can just knock down a minimum thickness concrete wall.

I do agree that it is a bit weird that nukes are so ineffective. I will probably be homebrewing that starship weaponry vs character scale would be times 50, not times 10.

To balance this out so that players don't just zoom in on a ship and blow everything away I will probably make it so that just about every settlement and base makes it a priority to set up an anti-air weapon system.

[edit] Maybe more like x30, the tactical nuke sounds more like the mini-nukes used in Starship troopers. While powerful I would expect such a weapon to break through 3 feet of concrete(540 HP) but maybe not 5 feet(900 HP).


The book does explicitly say that starship weapons aren't precise enough to target individuals or even groups. So the only time a starship orbital blast or such would work is if you need to wipe out an entire settlement. And TBH most settlements are probably going to be either armored or underground, just in case some hostile force with a spaceship does come looking to raid.


Give anti-structure weapons a 'siege' quality, multiplying their damage against terrain and fixed structures.


With nukes you don't need so precise targeting of individuals :). And for nukes it should be at least x100. Thousands of years in the future with FTL technology and what not, it's logical that bigger nukes should be able to obliterate and radiate majority if not all of the planet surface.


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A planetkiller nuke maybe, but chances are high that's not what's being thrown around in a ship-based combat (which is what the weapons in the CRB are for, even the Capital Ship ones). Ship-to-Ship combat is more medium-sized weapons, probably a step down from Nagasaki and Hiroshima TBH. A planetkiller would be more a plot-based super weapon.


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Ithnaar wrote:

Considering that a High Explosive missile does 4d8 and a Tactical Nuclear missile does 5d8, it seems clear that they are *very* small nukes (compared to what we are used to).

It's believable in a sci-fi setting in at least one regard: The hard part about initiating a nuclear reaction like that is pressure. The less material you have, the harder you have to squeeze it to get it to go supercritical. Presumably with the level of technology available, it can be done with minute amounts of fissile material (under unbelievable pressures).

If refined plutonium is still "a little hard to come by", then it's not too wacky to have tiny nukes (with massive detonators).

Another possibility is that those are genuinely clean fusion weapons that don't use a fission trigger, but some other means to bring the material up to the right temperature for a fusion reaction - probably based off their fusion reactor technology. If so, you could theoretically get a very small nuclear detonation by using a miniscule amount of fuel - you could even make a fusion grenade with the same power as a normal hand grenade.


Shinigami02 wrote:
A planetkiller nuke maybe, but chances are high that's not what's being thrown around in a ship-based combat (which is what the weapons in the CRB are for, even the Capital Ship ones). Ship-to-Ship combat is more medium-sized weapons, probably a step down from Nagasaki and Hiroshima TBH. A planetkiller would be more a plot-based super weapon.

Most definitely planetkiller nukes are not used in ship vs. ship combat but, even when we are talking about nuclear missiles designed primarily for blowing up space (battle)ships, damage they do to buildings (and on direct impact) when scaled is ridiculously way to small. Seems like some numbers are just messed up (scaling of the ship's mass compared to it's size also comes to mind).


vashtheblackseed wrote:
However, starship weapons are never precise enough to target a single individual (or even a group) and can, if the GM decides, be simulated as deadly hazards instead of weapon attack."

I think the point of this post wasn't the calculation, which was handled, but the fact that the GM can hand-wave Starship weapons to do whatever damage needs to be done in non-Starship settings. So the GM is not bound to treat it as damage or even calculate it, just say "and ten city blocks are now gone." or some such.


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I feel like the problem is less with the nuke's damage and moreso with the amount of hit points that a concrete wall has. Why does it need over half a grand of HP? It should have just been described as "at least 1ft. thick" and have it take up a 10ft square as normal, so then it can be described as anywhere from 1-10ft. of thickness without changing the HP amount.

Not sure why something like a concrete wall has to scale its HP like that, not sure what that adds to the game. If you don't want your players to casually blow through walls, a GM can simply apply this rule:

Ineffective Weapons wrote:
Certain weapons can’t effectively deal damage to certain objects. Most low-level melee weapons have little effect on metal walls and doors. Certain pieces of equipment are designed to cut through metal, however.


Just for the record, I'm having flashbacks to the early days of playing Rifts back in the '90s when heavy "nukes" in the core rules had barely enough punch to reliably slag standard infantry armor...


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I think it boils down to "inanimate objects have too many hit points", mostly. Call it a legacy cruft from D&D, probably inspired by a desire to keep players from tunneling through and around dungeons. While it would take a lot of reworking to be functional, my inclination would be the vastly reduce the HP, and just rely on the hardness. Maybe something along the lines of "For large objects or structures, double the effective hardness against attacks that do not effect an area or come from devices designed for demolition", and set the HP per 5x5 block, rather than per inch thickness.

Liberty's Edge

Tactical Nuclear Missiles are tiny little nukes. Yeah, they only do 50-400 damage, but then they don't usually wreck even 20 foot fighter ships without shields in a single shot either. And can reliably target something only 20 feet long. In short, they're super tiny for nukes just in general. Such things are theoretically possible in real life, and are certainly portrayed consistently in terms of what they can destroy in game terms.

Real nukes, the kind you think of when you hear 'nuke' would be the 'nuclear mega-missile launcher' under capital ship weapons. Which, at PC scales, does 4d8 x 100 damage, for an average of 1800. That should be destructive enough for just about anyone.


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I can see these doing very little damage to buildings. They are TACTICAL nuclear warheads for starship combat.

If we designed nukes to shoot at battleships which wouldn't sink them, and didn't even render them uninhabitable by the crew, those would be roughly equivalent.

So they are really small, really precise, nuclear weapons. I'm not surprised that they don't blow down walls that easily.


Deadmanwalking wrote:

Tactical Nuclear Missiles are tiny little nukes. Yeah, they only do 50-400 damage, but then they don't usually wreck even 20 foot fighter ships without shields in a single shot either. And can reliably target something only 20 feet long. In short, they're super tiny for nukes just in general. Such things are theoretically possible in real life, and are certainly portrayed consistently in terms of what they can destroy in game terms.

Real nukes, the kind you think of when you hear 'nuke' would be the 'nuclear mega-missile launcher' under capital ship weapons. Which, at PC scales, does 4d8 x 100 damage, for an average of 1800. That should be destructive enough for just about anyone.

I mean, when I think of tactical nukes, it should be reasonable to assume that it's more or less a tactical nuke that would come to mind for most people instead of assuming it was intended to be something entirely different labeled "tactical nuke." That to me says maybe some weapons should scale a little different against tiny or so ships.

Since they would have a hard time destroying tiny unshielded ships, a GM can use the following rule

Vulnerability to Certain Attacks wrote:
Certain attacks are especially strong against some objects. In such cases, attacks deal double their normal damage and might ignore the object’s hardness.

That handles the problem much easier.

Even the heavy nuclear launcher may have issues destroying tiny ships if you get a less than average damage roll. Like I said above, a different scale for tiny ships or just use the aforementioned ruling.

I'm not going to assume the mega missile nuke launcher is the only legit nuke that represents a real world one. These small little changes and proper use of rules I find to be more effective, rather than assuming all these starship weapons are just half assed versions of sci-fi weaponry that we've all seen in movies.

"Hey, remember that scene where they nuked those bugs in Starship Troopers with that nuke that really wasn't a nuke? Yeah, that's what your tactical nuke is."

Yeah, I'm not buying that. I have heavy doubts that was their intention when designing these weapon stats.

Liberty's Edge

Real nukes have been made that only equate to about 10 or 20 tons of TNT, and such nukes are in fact referred to as tactical nuclear weapons (so are some that are much larger, but expecting perfect accuracy in game terminology is weird). They haven't been used much at all, but they've been made. Using something that size on starships for inter-starship conflict actually makes a lot of sense.

The nukes you're thinking of, which equate to tens or hundreds of thousands of tons of TNT, are pretty well represented by the capital ship class nuclear weapons, and thus it seems silly to change fundamental game rule assumptions like ship size and the damage weapons deal buildings to reflect something the rules already handle perfectly adequately, just with names you disagree with.


Deadmanwalking wrote:
Real nukes have been made that only equate to about 10 or 20 tons of TNT, and such nukes are in fact referred to as tactical nuclear weapons (so are some that are much larger, but expecting perfect accuracy in game terminology is weird). They haven't been used much at all, but they've been made. Using something that size on starships for inter-starship conflict actually makes a lot of sense.

That's why I say "more or less" when talking about the size and power of a tactical nuke. Whether it's a smaller or larger one, let's keep it simple, and just use one statblock for it. Also, what does that make the Heavy Nuclear Launcher? Is it going from a tiny, micro nuke to a slightly bigger micro nuke? I don't know why every tactical nuke has to be the weakest possible type ever known of.

Deadmanwalking wrote:
The nukes you're thinking of, which equate to tens or hundreds of thousands of tons of TNT, are pretty well represented by the capital ship class nuclear weapons, and thus it seems silly to change fundamental game rule assumptions like ship size and the damage weapons deal buildings to reflect something the rules already handle perfectly adequately, just with names you disagree with.

The "changes" I suggested are very, very minor and pretty much bare no changes in the gameplay. Most of my suggestions are already existing rules in this game. The whole bit about a walls health total or how some weapons should deal double damage in certain cases are all apart of the game. Applying those rules achieves exactly what I'm talking about, so I don't know where you got that notion of me being "silly" and essentially homebrewing rules to change the entire game.

Also, what's silly about any of that? Don't you think that this thread is here for a reason? Because people think how they function is silly. Exactly how some people think falling damage or damage from lava immersion in Pathfinder is silly, or should they be expected to believe gravity in Pathfinder is different and lava not as hot as real world lava?


Nukes don't work as well in space. If starship weapons are doing x10 starhip nukes should be doing x20


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Eh, even the smallest nuke should absolute demolish any likely building that isn't a hardened bunker or made of supertech material. Even a nuke that is "only" 50 tons yield will reduce a big concrete building to a crater and scattered debris. And while, in science fiction, its perfectly plausible to have "micro-nukes" that have yields down in the single ton range, at that point the logic of them as ship-mounted weapons starts to break down.

Really, its simply that the object damage rules are way too overblown for structures.


Starship weapons use different scale that normal game

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