Combat Tactics, Mechanics, and a Drone


Advice


So I recently changed my combat drone to a hover drone. My combat drone rarely hit an enemy at range, and it was quite disappointing.

With my combat drone, I would often use movement and positioning to get soft cover (+4 AC) from it, or provide cover for my drone if it was heavily damaged. However, since the combat drone rarely hit enemies (+5 attack at level 5), this ended up be self defeating.

I have had success using Overcharge on the party Soldier as a move action, and then using a standard action to use it on myself and fire. an extra 2d6 damage a round certainly helps.

Since my hover drone is tiny, can it share a square with me? Basically, perch on my shoulder and fire its weapon? While I use Overcharge on the soldier, and then myself. Or, should it just be used as a mini turret while i use Overcharge on us?


+5 to hit is less than what a Soldier will have, but its not terrible. Are you sure the GM didn't overturn the AC of his encounters? Also, did you consider giving the combat drone Weapon Focus?


Metaphysician wrote:
+5 to hit is less than what a Soldier will have, but its not terrible. Are you sure the GM didn't overturn the AC of his encounters? Also, did you consider giving the combat drone Weapon Focus?

Yeah, I think +6 to hit at level 5 is the max any drone can have. Soldiers and Solarians can hit +10, everyone else is at +8. Drones will always have lower attack bonuses, but remember the cheap that animal companions used to pull in Pathfinder.


The combat drone had weapon focus. +3 BAB, +1 Dex, +1 from focus, total +5. The hover drone has +7, from the higher Dex, same gears and BAB. The encounters were somewhat high in CR, but still. I've yet to see how the hover drone does.

In any case, the numbers don't answer the question of tactics, and what I can do to increase efficiency. I don't think I can get soft cover from the hover drone since it's tiny?


Use it to fly around to find a perch to fire from above them to get around their soft covers., Or find yourself soft cover, and give up your move to let it fly around shooting a bit (though it will not have cover in the air so careful.. Well unless somehow you give it a sniper rifle or something and have it fly soooo far in the sky its difficult for them to shoot back.)
Honestly, mine is mostly a utility thing for sneaking in and hacking at a distance or observation, or planting explosives.

You could give it little arms and have it carry and drop some bobms armed to your detenator.


I've given it a Corona Laser Rifle. 120 ft range, +7 to hit, 2d6+5 damage... +1d6 if I use a move to give it Overcharge. Range isn't really the problem, ha.

Hence I'm wondering if it can perch on me? Since its tiny, I'm pretty sure it can occupy the same square as me, but that might be a PF thing.


I legit know of no rules on that topic.. I actually don't remember coming across that...
Off hand I would say, it likely won't let you have it on your shoulder. but possibly in the same space.

.... well didn't the iconic mechanic's flight drone have like.. a handle to hold and fly on it? or something? I didn't see that on the actual list when i just did a quick look through but it should be there somewhere I assume.
Maybe you can use that to hold it.. you'd have to use a pistol or something instead of a long arm yourself though.


What mods does your hover drone have? Keep in mind that without using one of your 3 mods on Weapon Proficiency, drones other than combat versions don't have any proficiencies.

So you need to spend a mod to get the +7 to hit, otherwise it's only +3.


Cathulhu wrote:

The combat drone had weapon focus. +3 BAB, +1 Dex, +1 from focus, total +5. The hover drone has +7, from the higher Dex, same gears and BAB. The encounters were somewhat high in CR, but still. I've yet to see how the hover drone does.

A level 5 drone has a BAB of +4.


d'Eon wrote:

What mods does your hover drone have? Keep in mind that without using one of your 3 mods on Weapon Proficiency, drones other than combat versions don't have any proficiencies.

So you need to spend a mod to get the +7 to hit, otherwise it's only +3.

"Your drone is proficient in your choice of small arms or basic

melee weapons, and it gains specialization in that weapon type
once you reach 3rd level"

They all have at least one form of proficiency.
The combat drone just gains an EXTRA profiency on top of that (allowing for an ugprade to adv or longarms. Then can spend an extra for heavy weapons if one chose to.

Though on that topic. Eventually putting a grenade launcher on it would be pretty amusing. If you drop grenades semi often.


Huh, missed that. Haven't really looked over the mechanic stuff much.


I have flight x2, weapon mount. Mods: weapon Mount. Those are initial.

the ones I've chosen, are Weapon Mount (x2), Proficiency Longarms, and Enhanced Armor. Thus, I can use a Laser Rifle.

Feats, the Drone has Focus: Longarms, and Versatile Specialization.

And yes, BAB +4 for a drone at level 5, thank you.

Dark Archive

In the same spot as you? Yes as far as I know. Riding on you? That's more of a GM call as I it allows you to move and shoot as well as have the drone move ( by your legs) and shoot


You could use the drone primarily as a debuffer with harrying or covering fire, going into suppressive fire. The lower ACs make your drone more likely to hit and can really help out your teammates who are full attacking.


Cathulhu wrote:
Since my hover drone is tiny, can it share a square with me?

Tiny creatures are still assumed to have a reach of 0 unless specified otherwise (pg. 255); they must be able to enter other creatures' squares to attack them in melee. Therefore, they should also be able to share space with allies.

Aligning with your experience: the Hover Drone appears to be the One True Drone Choice. This would be true even if it couldn't fly, on the basis of its high dexterity alone.

It is better at combat than the Combat Drone: +2 to hit, +2 AC, +4 reflex > +1 mount, +1 weapon proficiency, +2 fort, especially in the long run, when you can afford to spend a mount and feat to give Long Arms to the Hover Drone. Due to how hard drones are to repair, a melee drone doesn't appear viable.

Hover Drones are also better for most uses of Stealth than the Stealth Drone, if you pick Stealth as its initial skill: +1 to Stealth > +9 if you haven't acted.

Grand Lodge

It's 2 Mods to get a non-Combat Drone Longarms.

Weapon Proficiency needs to be taken as a Mod for Drones, not a Feat that a Drone can take, so you're giving up a fair amount of utility on your Drone to keep up with Combat Drone. That means you can't take Longarms until level 3, and you can't take your first utility Mod until 5th level.

Yes the Combat Drone can't fly, but the flying doesn't do you much good if you have no Tool Arms/Camera/Medical Subroutine to take advantage of it.

Opinions may vary on how much 2 Mod slots is worth vs 10% accuracy but I would say there is at least room for discussion.

The Exchange

Slurmalyst wrote:
Cathulhu wrote:
Since my hover drone is tiny, can it share a square with me?

Tiny creatures are still assumed to have a reach of 0 unless specified otherwise (pg. 255); they must be able to enter other creatures' squares to attack them in melee. Therefore, they should also be able to share space with allies.

Aligning with your experience: the Hover Drone appears to be the One True Drone Choice. This would be true even if it couldn't fly, on the basis of its high dexterity alone.

It is better at combat than the Combat Drone: +2 to hit, +2 AC, +4 reflex > +1 mount, +1 weapon proficiency, +2 fort, especially in the long run, when you can afford to spend a mount and feat to give Long Arms to the Hover Drone. Due to how hard drones are to repair, a melee drone doesn't appear viable.

Hover Drones are also better for most uses of Stealth than the Stealth Drone, if you pick Stealth as its initial skill: +1 to Stealth > +9 if you haven't acted.

I can't really agree with you here. The Hover drone is, in my view the worst drone choice. While it does have a higher dex, the flight cost you an action each round, so it's the only drone that doesn't give you an extra action each turn. And if you can't find a place to perch it out of reach of the opponents, something I think will be common as we may often fight inside ships or buildings, all the enemies need to do is stand ontop of it. Then you can't shoot or move without getting hit. And you can't get a climb speed to latch onto a wall. I myself am a bit skeptical of stealth with the thing, since the description specifically calls it out as being noisy, but I'd have to look for the penalty caused by creating extra noise.


Peat wrote:
It's 2 Mods to get a non-Combat Drone Longarms.

You're right. You can have it by Level 3, along with Versatile Spec. Your drone wouldn't have much utility, but it would probably be better at ranged combat than the combat drone, which was my point.

After level 3, the Combat Drone's only edge in combat is that it can use heavy weapons, and it can afford to pick up some of the defensive mods earlier than a longarm-using Hover Drone.

Heavy Weapons (after factoring in Weapon Spec) offer something like a 10-15% damage boost vs. Longarms; for a pet that already has trouble hitting things, the +2 to hit counts for more.

Heavy Weapons do have some Explode options though (Plasma and Shock), which conveniently are also not very sensitive to attack bonus. So what I'm taking away is that this is where the Combat Drone shines, once you get to mid levels.

Darkling36 wrote:


While it does have a higher dex, the flight cost you an action each round, so it's the only drone that doesn't give you an extra action each turn.

It has a land speed equal to the Combat Drone. Its flight can only ever help you in combat by offering additional tactical options. If those options don't arise, then keep it on the ground.

Darkling36 wrote:


I'd have to look for the penalty caused by creating extra noise.

You won't find it. A GM could make something up, but it appears to be pure fluff to indicate that it doesn't have Stealth by default (but it can still pick it at level 1). And even if its flight system made extra noise, it could still walk more quietly than the Stealth Drone.

Grand Lodge

It seems like the takeaway is that if the Hover Drone spends a chunk of its progression (2 mods on Longarms instead of utility Mods or a Skill Unit on Stealth rather than something like Computers/Engineering) its Dex bonus makes it 5-10% better at those things. If all you want is a stealthy turret (which to be fair is probably two of the most common situations you'll be in) then yea it's the winner by that extra +1 or +2, no argument.

However, a Combat Drone with Climbing Claws and a Riding Saddle, or a Camera and an Engineering Tool Arm is going to give you options both in and out of Combat that could be worth the tradeoff of +2 to hit. By the time you have enough Mods to take those on Hover (if you even can qualify for them in a couple cases) you're already 50% through your character's progression if you're playing the AP.

I always weigh that heavily in my build choices. Not necessarily what is most powerful or optimal in a vacuum, but am I going to be miserable cause I have to wait a year of biweekly game sessions before I can do the "cool" stuff with my character. All a matter of taste of course, like I said your build is better at two of the most common things in RPGs (sneaking and combat) so definitely makes sense too.


I think that's fair. But don't forget you can rebuild the drone as you level. I'm mainly looking at a Mechanic for SFS, and in practice I suspect the Drone won't be used for much besides combat. But the nice thing about Mechanic is I can retool some if I'm seeing opportunities for those utility mods. Or if I'm just getting bored with the character.

On reflection, the trade-offs between Hover Drone and Combat Drone are probably fair enough. The Hover Drone may only turn out to be better at combat for levels 3-5 or so, thanks to the Combat Drone getting Heavy Weapons with the Explode ability.


Level 5 hover drone, with Longarms Proficiency, a second Weapon Mount, Weapon Focus, and Versatile Specialisation
+8 to hit, corona laser rifle 2d6+5, 80 shots

Level 5 combat drone, with Heavy Weapons, Extra Ammo, Weapon Focus, and Versatile Specialisation
+6 to hit, corona artillery laser 2d8+5, 40 shots

If we assume the hover drone hits 60% of the time, it'll get (0.55×12)+(0.05×12×2)=7.8 average damage.

The combat drone would get (0.45×14)+(0.05×14×2)=7.7 average damage. The combat drone has the option to full attack though, giving it 9.8 on those turns.

Going to level 20, the hover drone would max out at +22 to hit, with a zenith laser rifle doing 11d6+20 damage.

The combat drone would get to +20, with a zenith artillery laser doing 9d8+20 damage.

Assuming the same to hit chances, the hover drone would do 38.025.

The combat drone would do 33.285, or 42.35 on a full attack.

The hover drone's higher attack bonus seems to be offset by being unable to hover and full attack, and its inability to get better than longarms.


Quote:
The hover drone's higher attack bonus seems to be offset by being unable to hover and full attack, and its inability to get better than longarms.

Again, as I wrote above, the Hover Drone has the same land speed as the Combat Drone. Its flight can only ever help it in combat. If it's not helping, then have it walk on the ground. Though in reality, I think it's going to be pretty rare for a drone to full attack, especially if the Mechanic is built for combat, and/or the Drone is using an unwieldy weapon (which I think at least a Combat Drone should be doing by midgame).

Hitting 60% of the time is pretty much best-case for a Hover Drone -- expect numbers in the 30-50% range to be more common, especially if Cover or Range are issues, but even at that rate, the Hover Drone's +2 counts for more than the increased damage on Heavy Weapons (though in some cases the difference is slight, as you point out).

But the Combat Drone easily outdamages the Hover Drone -- even on single target damage -- if it uses a Heavy Weapon with the Explode property, once those become available at mid levels. I think those weapons are balanced against other Heavy Weapons by being Unwieldy and the assumption they will be used by Soldiers with good attack bonuses and lots of attacks, but on a Drone with poor attack bonuses and that isn't penalized so much by Unwieldy, they look to be amazing.

One thing I will add to the Combat Drone discussion: the Riding Saddle may turn out to be very handy in combat. My initial reaction was that it's a gimmick, but in my (limited) experience so far, Mechanics and their Drones generally spend at least one action per fight moving into firing position. The Riding Saddle effectively translates to a bonus move action every turn that you would otherwise need to move both Drone and Mechanic, which in turn translates into more actions spent firing.

Also, I was expecting there to be penalties for firing from a mount, but I can't find any.

The Exchange

Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Slurmalyst wrote:

One thing I will add to the Combat Drone discussion: the Riding Saddle may turn out to be very handy in combat. My initial reaction was that it's a gimmick, but in my (limited) experience so far, Mechanics and their Drones generally spend at least one action per fight moving into firing position. The Riding Saddle effectively translates to a bonus move action every turn that you would otherwise need to move both Drone and Mechanic, which in turn translates into more actions spent firing.

Also, I was expecting there to be penalties for firing from a mount, but I can't find any.

I'd be careful with this as the rules for the riding saddle are pretty ambiguous at this point, a lot of people I've talked with are convinced you still have to worry about encumbrance, so unless you're small sized (and even then) you're probably going to be taking at least a 10 ft movement penalty and probably more likely only going to overburden the drone.

Dark Archive

Slurmalyst wrote:

One thing I will add to the Combat Drone discussion: the Riding Saddle may turn out to be very handy in combat. My initial reaction was that it's a gimmick, but in my (limited) experience so far, Mechanics and their Drones generally spend at least one action per fight moving into firing position. The Riding Saddle effectively translates to a bonus move action every turn that you would otherwise need to move both Drone and Mechanic, which in turn translates into more actions spent firing.

Also, I was expecting there to be penalties for firing from a mount, but I can't find any.

The more I think about this, the more awesome it becomes. I'm imagining a Ysoki mechanic riding on a drone who's portions involve 70% legs while the body portion tops off with something shaped a motorbike. There's a really neat picture of something like that somewhere on my computer. I'll have to fish it up.

Heck, you can use it for cover. And carry two small riders, letting your BFF Bleachling soldier make full attacks while moving.


Shaudius wrote:
Slurmalyst wrote:

One thing I will add to the Combat Drone discussion: the Riding Saddle may turn out to be very handy in combat. My initial reaction was that it's a gimmick, but in my (limited) experience so far, Mechanics and their Drones generally spend at least one action per fight moving into firing position. The Riding Saddle effectively translates to a bonus move action every turn that you would otherwise need to move both Drone and Mechanic, which in turn translates into more actions spent firing.

Also, I was expecting there to be penalties for firing from a mount, but I can't find any.

I'd be careful with this as the rules for the riding saddle are pretty ambiguous at this point, a lot of people I've talked with are convinced you still have to worry about encumbrance, so unless you're small sized (and even then) you're probably going to be taking at least a 10 ft movement penalty and probably more likely only going to overburden the drone.

I'd not worry about encumbrance until rules specifically dealing with mounts appear. If memory serves (granted, this isn't Starfinder), mounts could carry more simply by virtue of them being a mount...so to worry about anything other than the rules as printed is premature. Right now, a saddle lets you ride your drone like a mount.


Mounts will need to get some bonus to their carry capacity, or else they'll need a STR of like 40 to comfortably carry a medium-sized creature. While PF is a different system, it's supposed to be translatable enough, and PF's light riding horse (STR 16) can't physically carry a PF male human of average weight (120+2d10*5 = 175 lbs.), by Starfinder rules (based on 1 bulk = 10 lbs). Even a heavy warhorse (STR 18) would require that human to be naked.

That said, it's true that a GM might come in with the strictest possible reading (especially for SFS). In that case, you could still make this work with a Ysoki and a longarm-using Combat Drone. And Longarms are OK for a Combat Drone at low levels; by the time you're high enough level that Heavy Weapons are called for, hopefully more rules will be out.

Liberty's Edge

Slurmalyst wrote:
Mounts will need to get some bonus to their carry capacity, or else they'll need a STR of like 40 to comfortably carry a medium-sized creature. While PF is a different system, it's supposed to be translatable enough, and PF's light riding horse (STR 16) can't physically carry a PF male human of average weight (120+2d10*5 = 175 lbs.), by Starfinder rules (based on 1 bulk = 10 lbs). Even a heavy warhorse (STR 18) would require that human to be naked.

Quadrupeds and large creatures already both get increased carrying capacity in Pathfinder. Indeed, a Large Quadruped can carry three times as much as a Medium Biped of equal Str in Pathfinder.

If they just maintain that rule, that's a carrying Capacity of Bulk 24 before a Horse is Encumbered and 48 before it's overburdened.

Grand Lodge

Or the Bulk system just doesn't affect NPCs just like the Stamina, Level, Equipment, and many other systems.

EDIT - To be clearer, it doesn't affect NPCs the same way. I.e Mounts just can carry a rider based on size category, no bulk calculation needed.


I think the answer is more likely "10 pounds is an approximation, not a conversion rate". A 200 pound humanoid is not 20 Bulk.

The Exchange

Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Deadmanwalking wrote:
Slurmalyst wrote:
Mounts will need to get some bonus to their carry capacity, or else they'll need a STR of like 40 to comfortably carry a medium-sized creature. While PF is a different system, it's supposed to be translatable enough, and PF's light riding horse (STR 16) can't physically carry a PF male human of average weight (120+2d10*5 = 175 lbs.), by Starfinder rules (based on 1 bulk = 10 lbs). Even a heavy warhorse (STR 18) would require that human to be naked.

Quadrupeds and large creatures already both get increased carrying capacity in Pathfinder. Indeed, a Large Quadruped can carry three times as much as a Medium Biped of equal Str in Pathfinder.

If they just maintain that rule, that's a carrying Capacity of Bulk 24 before a Horse is Encumbered and 48 before it's overburdened.

What about a medium Strength 14 construct of unknown pedalness (there's no defined rules that say it has to be a quadraped it can even have wheels or tracks).

Liberty's Edge

Assuming wheels or treads count as being a quadruped, Pathfinder would indicate that at x2. So...14 Bulk before being encumbered, 28 before being overburdened.

Grand Lodge

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The only restrictions Riding Saddle Mod has is around size categories. It doesn't say anything about not exceeding Bulk limits, riders costing a certain amount of Bulk, or anything like that.

Folks keep using Pathfinder as an example, but Starfinder went out of it's way to simplify carrying capacity compared to PF. It seems very counter to the design to do all that, then say 'If you're ever riding a vehicle/mount, you have to approximate your character's weight, convert it to Bulk, add your gear, then calculate the mount's carrying capacity, multiply by a modifier based on creature category etc etc.'

In my opinion it's much more likely we'll just see "This is a mount that can carry a rider equal to/X categories smaller than itself." Bulk is for gear, and a rough analog for how much you can lift/drag at a given Strength. I think we're reading too much Pathfinder into it and seeing rules that aren't there.

The Exchange

Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Peat wrote:

The only restrictions Riding Saddle Mod has is around size categories. It doesn't say anything about not exceeding Bulk limits, riders costing a certain amount of Bulk, or anything like that.

Folks keep using Pathfinder as an example, but Starfinder went out of it's way to simplify carrying capacity compared to PF. It seems very counter to the design to do all that, then say 'If you're ever riding a vehicle/mount, you have to approximate your character's weight, convert it to Bulk, add your gear, then calculate the mount's carrying capacity, multiply by a modifier based on creature category etc etc.'

In my opinion it's much more likely we'll just see "This is a mount that can carry a rider equal to/X categories smaller than itself." Bulk is for gear, and a rough analog for how much you can lift/drag at a given Strength. I think we're reading too much Pathfinder into it and seeing rules that aren't there.

I agree with you that it is designed to be able to hold a rider, but I think a lot of people are looking at the bulk rules and applying them to the drone because it has a strength score and in some ways it makes a lot of sense.

How much can a drone carry if the bulk rules don't apply to it? How much can it carry with a rider?


The backpack is the model here; properly worn, it counts for negative bulk, but carried in the hands, it adds to bulk.

So there's a handwave that says for a mount properly trained and equipped to carry a rider of a given size, that rider doesn't count against bulk. Makes sense enough, and I expect that's the rule that will eventually come out.

This probably also includes all of the rider's gear, as long as the gear is still held on the rider's person.

It's a good rule; games always grind to a halt when people start getting on horses and then someone asks, "Wait, how encumbered is the horse now?" Then we look up the horse's strength, and we have to remember the multiplier for large quadrupeds, and someone never wrote down a weight for their character, or the weight for their character is absurdly high/low, and we start debating that and maybe decide to roll randomly, pretty soon 15 minutes have gone by due to a decision to get on a horse.

I'm happy to sacrifice that bit of realism.


All drone start with either basic melee OR small arms proficiency. You need to read the drone section more closely. You've complained about a number of problems that were your mis-reading of how drones work.

d'Eon wrote:

What mods does your hover drone have? Keep in mind that without using one of your 3 mods on Weapon Proficiency, drones other than combat versions don't have any proficiencies.

So you need to spend a mod to get the +7 to hit, otherwise it's only +3.


and combat drones can start with either advanced melee or longarms proficiency.

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