A Long Winded Discussion On PF / SF Comparison...


General Discussion


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EDITED: I goofed on my math breakdown of ability scores. Adjusting.

This thread is an in-depth discussion about the comparisons between Starfinder and Pathfinder and why those comparisons may or may not be correct, incorrect, or fair.

Let us begin this discussion with a simple statement that I believe is true after having spent a considerable amount of time crunching numbers and making correlations...

Thesis statement: Starfinder is not Pathfinder.

While Starfinder uses some similar mechanics to Pathfinder the two games are not the same. The two games radically diverge on a number of points, so many points actually, that cause the games to function differently at a core and base level. This means that things, such as character design philosophy, in Starfinder must be radically redesigned.

Key systematic differences:

1. Character ability point distribution.

In Pathfinder it was very common to want to become "SAD" or Single Ability Dependent. In fact this is why many classes were more highly regarded. One wanted the single highest bonus because those single highest bonuses mattered in so many ways. Characters were generally limited harshly in what they could begin with and as such were forced to hyper prioritize if they wanted to reach optimal, or even near-optimal, levels of performance.

2. Ability point gains.

There were three kinds of ways to raise ability scores in Pathfinder. The first was ability point gains. The second was enhancement bonuses from items. The third was wishes/tomes.

In Pathfinder every 4 levels a character gained 1 ability point. This, over the course of their lifespan, granted them potentially +5 points distributed across their ability point array from levels 1-20.

In Starfinder every 5 levels a character may raise 4 separate ability scores by +2 points (for characters below 17 points) or by +1 point (for characters at 17 points or higher) this allows for potentially 4 raises in a character's life span and the potential addition of up to +32 points.

This allows a much greater flexibility in stats and removes, almost completely, the SAD/MAD comparison. Indeed a character that begins with a stat array of 16, 16, 12, 10, 10, 9 after Race/Theme could gorw:

lvl 05: 18, 18, 14, 12, 10, 09
lvl 10: 18, 18, 16, 14, 12, 11
lvl 15: 18, 18, 18, 16, 14, 13
lvl 20: 18, 18, 18, 18, 16, 15

This is far higher than any character from Pathfinder would have without magical enhancements.

Enhancement bonuses from items are also a major concern. In Pathfinder items were limited only by stacking and wealth. Again, this directed players to compound for the highest bonuses possible. There were a number of ways to enhance bonuses, but the typical ones were as follows:

Enhancement Bonuses, a character could purchase enhancement bonuses of +2, +4, or +6 to an ability score.

Tomes, by reading certain books characters could gain bonuses of +2, +4, or +6 to an ability score.

Wishes, a character could also obtain up to +6 from wishes and other sources. This allowed a character to gain up to +18 to a single ability score.

In Starfinder this is not possible. Characters are limited, at the most, to a single +6 in one score, a single +4 in another, and a single +1 in a final one.

There are no wishes or tomes or other sources that I have found at this time in Starfinder. This lowers overall maximum scores which narrows the gap in power level considerably. Indeed it was very possible in Pathfinder to have a stat start at 20 and then raise to 25 naturally, then be raised in other means to 43.

Such is not possible in Starfinder. The absolute maximum a character could have in a stat is 24 before enhancements, and up to a 30 with the +6, but such a character would be severely limited in many other categories. In order to do this a character would have to start with the following array:

20, 12, 13, 10, 10, 10 - If Human
20, 12, 12, 11, 10, 8 - If not.

(Technically they could get 20, 14, 10, 10, 10, 8 as well... Or a few other combinations, but you get my point)

Using the human array this still can yield an impressive character:

05th: 21, 14, 13, 12, 10, 10
10th: 22, 16, 15, 14, 10, 10
15th: 23, 18, 17, 16, 10, 10
20th: 24, 18, 18, 18, 12, 10

This character is perfectly functional. Is it optimal? Maybe. That is hard to tell. What we do know about this build, however, is that it will be lacking in other areas. It isn't bad, but the overall benefit from all of this is a grand total of a single +3 over a more balanced character. A +1 at 5th, a +2 at 10th, and a +3 at 20th. While at the same time being a set of +2's behind in other categories. Overall the gain may or may not be worth it.

The above section is incorrect. I goofed and applied the racial bonuses after spending points. The array should, in fact, look like this.

01st: 18, 14, 11, 10, 10, 10
05th: 19, 16, 13, 12, 10, 10
10th: 20, 18, 15, 14, 10, 10
15th: 21, 19, 17, 16, 10, 10
20th: 22, 20, 18, 18, 10, 10

In that case the cumulative gain is only +2 higher.

The point is the same. You can do this, but it will hurt you.

Regardless the gain is far less pronounced than it would otherwise have been in Pathfinder and can be even worse if a character tries to maximize 2 stats, as it renders it impossible to naturally gain a +5 stat bonus in more than one stat.

In any event, this radically changes ability maximums and how such things should be considered.

2: Dual Role Functionality.

The next important issue to discuss is that every class has dual role functionality in Starfinder. Realistically every class needs a way to fight in both melee and ranged combat. With the possibility for attacks at excessive ranges it is only a natural consideration. Especially when we consider that an entire subsection of the game is fighting in space combat on crew operated vessels. Something that did not exist in Pathfinder as a common play aspect.

3: Skill Distribution.

This is the elephant in the room. Skill distribution is a huge part of Starfinder. Not only do classes have much greater expanded class skill lists, but also the number of distribution points changed radically. In Pathfinder many classes had only 2+ Int modifier in skill points per level, this was compounded by the fact that many of the classes that had this did not have a reason to increase Int as well. This causes some classes, IE Fighter, to dump Intelligence as well, meaning some classes could gain as little as 1 skill point per level. This rendered many characters with few skill options.

In Starfinder every class gains at least 4+ Int modifier in Skills and with the already explained different Ability Point distributions it is easy, without even moderate inconvenience, for the meatiest of meatheads to have +5 - +6 skill points per level by level 15.

This adds a lot of variable paths for characters in both a roleplaying sense (My meat headed warrior also has a habit of studying the cultures of other races, primarily to learn about their weapons and tactics, but learned that he had a deep interest in history as well...) and a raw mechanical sense.

4. Combat.

Combat in Starfinder is similar to, but different from, combat in Pathfinder. The Attack of Opportunity tree has been pruned. The action economy has been modified. Full attacks are not as powerful, or as necessary, as they previously were and have drawbacks aside from action economy concerns for example.

One large alteration is that Starfinder characters are far more durable than Pathfinder equivalents. A Fighter in Pathfinder would have HP equal to 10+Con Modifier, +1d10+Con Modifier/Level (typically 6+Con Modifier per level) meaning at a +4 Con at maximum level that class had around 204 HP. This is impressive, but comparatively pathetic compared to the Starfinder equivalent that would typically have 151 HP and 220 SP for a total of 371... This is not taking into account the prevalence of effective health regeneration (force shields) and such that exist as options in the setting.

5. Spellcasting.

This is still something I am studying but a combination of lower overall spellcasting levels available to PCs with things such as spell shields and the like as well as a greatly reduced spell list (particularly in the utility area) spellcasting in Starfinder is simply not as effective as it was in Pathfinder. It also is not as easily interrupted.

In closing:

We keep looking at Starfinder through the lenses of Pathfinder. The truths of Pathfinder are not necessarily the truths of Starfinder. We need to begin considering Starfinder in a vacuum as it is its own entity and not simply Pathfinder IN SPACE™

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and please discuss.


I appreciate this I'm going to read it thoroughly.


Seems nifty. How are you getting that 20 ability score at first level in Starfinder, though? I don't recall seeing any options that let you buy higher than an 18.


HWalsh wrote:

In order to do this a character would have to start with the following array

20, 12, 13, 10, 10, 10 - If Human
20, 12, 12, 11, 10, 8 - If not.

"You can divide these points up however you want, but you can’t make any individual score higher than 18. (Later on, as you level up and gain ability-boosting gear, your ability scores may rise above 18, but 18 is the highest value any character can start out with."


LittleMissNaga wrote:
Seems nifty. How are you getting that 20 ability score at first level in Starfinder, though? I don't recall seeing any options that let you buy higher than an 18.

You're right. I flipped the order of operations when I was doing this in my head and applied the racial score last instead of first. Nobody's perfect heh. I thought it looked odd as I typed it, and it altered my conclusion as I wrote slightly. Should have gone with my gut when it didn't look right.

Thanshin wrote:
HWalsh wrote:

In order to do this a character would have to start with the following array

20, 12, 13, 10, 10, 10 - If Human
20, 12, 12, 11, 10, 8 - If not.
"You can divide these points up however you want, but you can’t make any individual score higher than 18. (Later on, as you level up and gain ability-boosting gear, your ability scores may rise above 18, but 18 is the highest value any character can start out with."

See above. I goofed. I knew that didn't look quite right.


This is a good write up, HWalsh. The same thing happened when 5e came out - people kept looking at it through the lens of 3.5/PF, and doing so caused a lot of problems and errors in understanding the game.


bookrat wrote:
This is a good write up, HWalsh. The same thing happened when 5e came out - people kept looking at it through the lens of 3.5/PF, and doing so caused a lot of problems and errors in understanding the game.

Everyone makes mistakes. I made a similar mistake when first designing characters for SF. After some discussions on here I started to re-evaluate what I was doing. I find a more balanced and less hyper-optimized approach much more rewarding.


The versatile array (base 14, 14, 14, 11, 10, 10) plus race and theme winds up decent at 1st level:

Human/single +2 race bonus, +1 theme = 17, 14, 14, 11, 10, 10
Other (+2/+2/-2 race adj.), +1 theme = 17, 16, 14, 11, 10, 8

After 4 level advancements (20th character)

Single +2 race adj, +1 theme = 21, 20, 20, 18, 10, 10
(+2/+2/-2), +1 theme = 21, 21, 20, 18, 10, 8

mk 3/ mk 2/ mk 1 personal enhancemnts

Single +2 race adj w/ +1 theme = 27, 24, 22, 18, 10, 10
(+2/+2/-2), +1 theme = 27, 25, 22, 18, 10, 8

Of note is how relatively affordable the personal enhancement series are. I suspect it will often prove that characters will have the entire set in place by about 10th level, resulting:

10th level +2 race, +1 theme = 25, 22, 20, 16, 10, 10
10th level +2/+2/-2 race, +1 theme = 25, 23, 20, 16, 10, 8


Starfinder Charter Superscriber
The Mad Comrade wrote:

The versatile array (base 14, 14, 14, 11, 10, 10) plus race and theme winds up decent at 1st level:

Human/single +2 race bonus, +1 theme = 17, 14, 14, 11, 10, 10
Other (+2/+2/-2 race adj.), +1 theme = 17, 16, 14, 11, 10, 8

After 4 level advancements (20th character)

Single +2 race adj, +1 theme = 21, 20, 20, 18, 10, 10
(+2/+2/-2), +1 theme = 21, 21, 20, 18, 10, 8

mk 3/ mk 2/ mk 1 personal enhancemnts

Single +2 race adj w/ +1 theme = 27, 24, 22, 18, 10, 10
(+2/+2/-2), +1 theme = 27, 25, 22, 18, 10, 8

Of note is how relatively affordable the personal enhancement series are. I suspect it will often prove that characters will have the entire set in place by about 10th level, resulting:

10th level +2 race, +1 theme = 25, 22, 20, 16, 10, 10
10th level +2/+2/-2 race, +1 theme = 25, 23, 20, 16, 10, 8

Umm, race and theme are not included in the versatile array, you just use the scores given, see this quote from page 19: "Under this method, choices like race and theme don’t affect your ability scores—you just choose which score goes in which ability, and you’re good to go."


The Mad Comrade wrote:

The versatile array (base 14, 14, 14, 11, 10, 10) plus race and theme winds up decent at 1st level:

Human/single +2 race bonus, +1 theme = 17, 14, 14, 11, 10, 10
Other (+2/+2/-2 race adj.), +1 theme = 17, 16, 14, 11, 10, 8

After 4 level advancements (20th character)

Single +2 race adj, +1 theme = 21, 20, 20, 18, 10, 10
(+2/+2/-2), +1 theme = 21, 21, 20, 18, 10, 8

mk 3/ mk 2/ mk 1 personal enhancemnts

Single +2 race adj w/ +1 theme = 27, 24, 22, 18, 10, 10
(+2/+2/-2), +1 theme = 27, 25, 22, 18, 10, 8

Of note is how relatively affordable the personal enhancement series are. I suspect it will often prove that characters will have the entire set in place by about 10th level, resulting:

10th level +2 race, +1 theme = 25, 22, 20, 16, 10, 10
10th level +2/+2/-2 race, +1 theme = 25, 23, 20, 16, 10, 8

When using the versatile array you don't edit it for Race/Theme.

I never use that, strictly sticking to the 10 pts +Race/Theme


What ... damn what a rip off. Teach me not to read more closely.


The Mad Comrade wrote:
What ... damn what a rip off. Teach me not to read more closely.

Well it isn't a rip off...

It is the same amount of points you get for the 10 point buy.

See:

14 (4 pts), 14 (4 pts), 14 (4pts), 11 (1 pt), 10 (0 pts), 10 (0 pts)

Total points: 4+4+4+1 = 13

So, let us look at a themeless human:

We'll give +2 to our first, and +1 for themeless, to our second:

12, 11, 10, 10, 10, 10

Now, we have 10 points to spend:

12 -> 14 (2 pts)
10 -> 14 (4 pts)
10 -> 14 (4 pts)
11 -> 11 (0 pts)
10 -> 10 (0 pts)
10 -> 10 (0 pts)
---------- (10 pts)

So you don't get any bonus for using the versatile array. Same points you would have spending the 10 yourself.


HWalsh wrote:
The Mad Comrade wrote:
What ... damn what a rip off. Teach me not to read more closely.

Well it isn't a rip off...

It is the same amount of points you get for the 10 point buy.

See:

14 (4 pts), 14 (4 pts), 14 (4pts), 11 (1 pt), 10 (0 pts), 10 (0 pts)

Total points: 4+4+4+1 = 13

So, let us look at a themeless human:

We'll give +2 to our first, and +1 for themeless, to our second:

12, 11, 10, 10, 10, 10

Now, we have 10 points to spend:

12 -> 14 (2 pts)
10 -> 14 (4 pts)
10 -> 14 (4 pts)
11 -> 11 (0 pts)
10 -> 10 (0 pts)
10 -> 10 (0 pts)
---------- (10 pts)

So you don't get any bonus for using the versatile array. Same points you would have spending the 10 yourself.

Meaning " I ripped myself off by not reading more closely".


I would say the first and most important step in understanding this game is mastering ability scores.


Yep. I'm getting to that. Looks like the power curve is much shallower than I'm used to in Pathfinder re: ability scores.

It'll be interesting to see if the monsters' power curve has been adjusted accordingly. Making DC 25 saves is going to be a heck of a lot harder in Starfinder than it is in Pathfinder.


Both Wish spells and Tomes give inherent bonus, so they shouldn't stack, and this bonus' cap is +5 (not +12 as you considered). Except for this, very interesting post :)


Lemme see if I've got my brain wrapped around Starfinder's ability score power curve a bit better than earlier:

1st level array (10 pb), 14 (4), 12 (2), 12 (2), 12 (2), 10, 10
Human 14 +2 key = 16 +1 theme = 17, 12, 12, 12, 10, 10
Other 14 +2 key = 16 +1 theme = 17, 14 (12 +2), 12, 12, 10, 8 (10 -2)

5th level advancement; +2 enhancement to tertiary ability score
Human 18 (17 +1 5th), 14 (12 +2 5th), 16 (14 +2 5th +2 enh.), 12, 10, 10
Other 18 (17 +1 5th), 16 (14 +2 5th), 16 (12 +2 5th +2 enh.), 12, 10, 8

10th level advancement; +4 enhancement to secondary ability score
Human 19 (18 +1 10th), 20 (14 +2 10th +4 enh.), 16, 14 (12 +2 10th), 10, 10
Other 19 (18 +1 10th), 22 (16 +2 10th +4 enh.), 16, 14 (12 +2 10th), 10, 8

15th level advancement; +6 enhancement to key ability score (in ‘reasonable expenditure’ terms this could happen as early as 13th or 14th level; applied at 15th level for brevity)
Human 26 (19 +1 15th +6 enhancement), 21 (20 +1 15th), 16, 16 (14 +2 15th), 10, 10
Other 26 (19 +1 15th +6 enhancement), 23 (22 +1 15th), 16, 16 (14 +2 15th), 10, 8

20th level advancement = profit.
Human 26, 22 (21 +1 20th), 18 (16 +2 20th), 18 (16 +2 20th), 10, 10
Other 26, 24 (23 +1 20th), 18 (16 +2 20th), 18 (16 +2 20th), 10. 8.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber

You get to raise 4 stats at level 5/10/15/20.

Below arrays are without the personal enhancements.

1st level array (10 pb), 14 (4), 12 (2), 12 (2), 12 (2), 10, 10
Human + theme: 16, 13 (to qualify for feats), 12, 12, 10, 10
Other + theme: 16, 14, 12, 12, 10, 9

5th level
Human: 18(16+2), 15(13+2), 14(12+2), 14(12+2), 10, 10
Other: 18(16+2), 16(14+2), 14(12+2), 14(12+2), 10, 9

10th level
Human: 19(18+1), 17(15+2), 16(14+2), 16(14+2), 10, 10
Other: 19(19+1), 18(16+2), 16(14+2), 16(14+2), 10, 9

15th level
Human: 20(19+1), 18(17+1), 18(16+2), 18(16+2), 10, 10
Other: 20(19+1), 19(18+1), 18(16+2), 18(16+2), 10, 9

20th level
Human: 21(20+1) (wasted), 19(18+1) (wasted), 18, 18, 12(10+2), 12(10+2).
Other: 21(20+1) (wasted), 20(19+1), 18, 18, 12(10+2), 11(9+2)

Now let's not waste that last point by redoing 15 and 20
15th level
Human: 19, 17, 18(16+2), 18(16+2), 12(10+2), 12(10+2)
Other: 19, 19(18+1), 18(16+2), 18(16+2), 12(10+2), 9

20th level
Human: 20(19+1), 18(17+1), 18, 18, 14(12+2), 14(12+2)
Other: 20(19+1), 20(19+1), 18, 18, 14(12+2), 11(9+2)

Using the personal upgrades:
Human: 26, 22, 20, 18, 14, 14
Other: 26, 24, 20, 18, 14, 11


Seems like the theme bonus at 1st is assigned to the secondary ability score/dump stat (which seems ... off)?

Otherwise, looks pretty sweet.


Either assign your odd point to a stat where you need it as level 1 or 5 to qualify for a feat or put it in strength where it can help with max encumbrance or when wearing a backpack.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber
The Mad Comrade wrote:

Seems like the theme bonus at 1st is assigned to the secondary ability score/dump stat (which seems ... off)?

Otherwise, looks pretty sweet.

Yeah. Because the jump from 16 to 18 is the same as 17 to 18 I went with the theme point into a secondary ability to qualify for feats that require 13 / 15 / 17 in that stat if it isn't your main stat.

With the others that wasn't really necesary (given that they got a 14 there) so I just raised the dump stat a bit as that point doesn't do anything the entire range of levels.


Thinking about the Ace Pilot with a Dex of 9 :) I see where you're coming from on the secondary ability for feat qualification!


Theme bonuses are unimportant. You only want a +1 in one of your 4 stats AND only if you need feat prereqs (note: you can move that odd stat to wherever)


MR. H wrote:
Theme bonuses are unimportant. You only want a +1 in one of your 4 stats AND only if you need feat prereqs (note: you can move that odd stat to wherever)

Almost true. In strength it stacks with a backpack it gives you one extra bulk for max encumbrance. If you don't use it to qualify for a feat always put it in strength where it can theoretically provide a marginal bonus.

Liberty's Edge

The Mad Comrade wrote:

Yep. I'm getting to that. Looks like the power curve is much shallower than I'm used to in Pathfinder re: ability scores.

It'll be interesting to see if the monsters' power curve has been adjusted accordingly. Making DC 25 saves is going to be a heck of a lot harder in Starfinder than it is in Pathfinder.

If it helps, DC 24 is a high save DC for a foe to have at CR 13 (based on the necrovite), and DC 29 is similarly high for CR 20 (based on the Goblin Monark).

So, yeah, save DCs are down a bit, but people are indeed gonna have difficulty making some saves.


Yes no need for precise shot anymore. Also from what I hear operative might not make the best sniper.


Xenocrat wrote:
MR. H wrote:
Theme bonuses are unimportant. You only want a +1 in one of your 4 stats AND only if you need feat prereqs (note: you can move that odd stat to wherever)
Almost true. In strength it stacks with a backpack it gives you one extra bulk for max encumbrance. If you don't use it to qualify for a feat always put it in strength where it can theoretically provide a marginal bonus.

You can also just move the odd from another stat too strength.


Vidmaster7 wrote:
Yes no need for precise shot anymore. Also from what I hear operative might not make the best sniper.

Best sniper is Technomancer, because they can snipe fireballs explosive blasts.


I think a mechanic with the (can't think of the name of it not drone but the other one) onboard computer thingy looks like they can be pretty good at it. It seemed to give a lot of bonuses in that department.


Vidmaster7 wrote:
I think a mechanic with the (can't think of the name of it not drone but the other one) onboard computer thingy looks like they can be pretty good at it. It seemed to give a lot of bonuses in that department.

Exocortex?


Vidmaster7 wrote:
Yes no need for precise shot anymore. Also from what I hear operative might not make the best sniper.

There's a need for it - the soft cover rules are in Starfinder. ;)


Is their soft cover rules? I haven't found them yet. what do they look like?


The Mad Comrade wrote:
Vidmaster7 wrote:
I think a mechanic with the (can't think of the name of it not drone but the other one) onboard computer thingy looks like they can be pretty good at it. It seemed to give a lot of bonuses in that department.
Exocortex?

That is the word yes!


Vidmaster7 wrote:
Is their soft cover rules? I haven't found them yet. what do they look like?

They're buried in the combat section somewhere. I stumbled across them writing up a sample combat scene for my conversion of the Ruins of Azlant AP to Starfinder.

My pet peeve is that it seems inconsistent in applying bonuses to defenders that are - for me - more easily handled as penalties on attack rolls. It's the same thing, but I prefer as much KISS as possible.


Vidmaster7 wrote:
Is their soft cover rules? I haven't found them yet. what do they look like?

They're in the cover section on Page 254.

Cover is +4 AC, +2 Reflex.

Soft cover is +4 AC, no change in Reflex. Soft cover is provided by another creature.

Partial Cover is +2 AC, +1 Reflex.

Improved Cover is +8 AC, +4 Reflex.


Wow seems solid no % rolls eh? That much AC is pretty good without it.


Concealment does the % rolls thing, not cover. ;)


See now my wires are all crossed. didn't cover used to give concealment?


Vidmaster7 wrote:
See now my wires are all crossed. didn't cover used to give concealment?

Both can be used for Stealth.


Concealment is on page 253.

Total cost concealment gives a 50% miss chance. Partial concealment gives a 20% miss chance. Some other situations may give a different amount, and the GM is empowered to make the decision for some other percent miss chance. This is called Varying Degrees of Concealment.

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