Power Armor Design Niche


General Discussion


Starfinder Power Armor is currently just a curiosity in the rules. Some fleetingly interesting frames and rules that mostly are just place holders for future splats since there's currently not enough options for a PA build to be remotely considered.

However, lets pretend for a moment that some people are trapped at say L2/10/15 and that PA is a possible and viable choice. What's the niche PA is intending on filling? It's certainly not doing favors for CC Soldiers or Solarians who will be investing heavily in strength and thus outpacing the inbuilt strength mod the frames have. Ranged combatants may find the weapon mounts amusing but are unlikely to appreciate the lower dex caps they have to AC. Other classes (gun solarians, envoys, operatives, drone mechanics, and the casters) are pretty much dead in the water due to the extreme feat requirements (2 for PA +however many you want for Adv melee, longarms, and/or heavy weapons)

The only places I can vaguely see PA being palatable are for exocortex mechanics and switch hit soldiers where they're MAD enough to appreciate the fixed strength mod but they still run into issues with the dex cap.

And this is without going into the other disadvantages PA has already (batteries, possible size issues, WBL issues to arm the thing and have a decent set of light armor under it).

So I open this to the rest of you. What's Power Armor's purpose supposed to be? At the moment it simply doesn't look like it fills any niches and even if it did, it's simply far too expensive to take advantage of the few pros it does have.

The Exchange

To me the real issue with PA is the operational limits, or how long they can operate before they run out of power. But presuming you have a solution for that.

I think they have a lot of uses. Anything that doesn't really want to go whole hog into str or dex, or for some of the armors just str. The spider harness for instance has a max dex cap of 5, that's just a bit below most light armors foor that level. And the str is only 2 below what someone whose focused on str the whole time. A high dex limit only helps as much as you have dex. I've seen plenty of solarions whose first feat is heavy armor, it's only one more feat for PA, and the difference in str is only two. So you could have 13 str at 1 and heavy armor, bump to 15 at five and power armor, and suddenly you've got a lot more free attribute points to plan with for other parts of your character. Maybe that solarion wants more cha now, or more con or int for the respective points.

You might be a few points behind others who put their upgrades on those two stats, but that just means you can use those upgrades elsewhere.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Powered Armor (except for the Battle Harness) is ment for short forays (say 15 minute adventuring days).

I'm hoping to see upgraded battle harnesses for level 8, 11, 14, 17 and 20.


Power armor for the bigger types other than the battle harness seem to be something you would pop out for immediate high threat combat situations. Say you are doing a hostile boarding of a ship or need to break into a bunker/building. You are not just traipsing around in it you put it on when you are about to get into the thick of it and want maximum armor and also the ability to have weapons mounted while keeping hands free is nice as well.

Its not your every day armor you just jaunt around with unless they add stuff like the battle harness in a variety of levels. Most of the stuff is your in case of emergencies type gear.

Also their batteries can be swapped in the field so easy enough to give somebody in your group some extra batteries to swap you out during a lull in a fight if needed.


The problem I have with the "only for emergencies/niche in and outs" theory is that...well the price. A suit of PA basically costs the same as an identical suit of on level armor. I can't really see the justification for having say a Jarlslayer (125k) for high threat boarding actions and also having a regular day adventuring suit (95-126k) That's almost half of your WBL right there and you still need your weapons and other gear too.


If they weren't going with this asymmetrical design thing I'd say it was for NPCs.


The issue is, when deciding whether to spend the credits on PA or not, it seems like "not" is going to be the right choice nine or ten times out of ten.

But the more I think about it, the more I think that Starfinder GMs are expected to throw fistfuls of random items at PCs as loot. It sells for peanuts, so the PCs can pick a grab-bag of items off dead NPCs or out of lockers without making too much progress toward the next level+2 gun. It just seems like there's a lot of equipment that's interesting to use if you pick up, but you wouldn't keep leveled at great expense.

Now, people who invest one or more feats in PA deserve to see a payoff, so level 8/11/14/17/20 battle harnesses feel like a necessity, but for the rest, they might be cool if you wander into one, and otherwise, save your credits.


I guess I can sort of see PA being the equivalent of staves in PF (things no one ever buys but will use if they come up generally). Problem is, unlike a stave, PA costs at least one feat (2 for non-soldiers and 0 for armor storm soldiers) and the requirements aren't exactly cheap (S15 and heavy armor). There may be less MUST HAVE feats than PF, but that's still a pretty hard sell for a rainy day vanity purchase basically.


I am guessing until there is a tech book or a lot of fleshing out power armor is kinda a trap at the moment and not something most people are going to wind up using. There is enough there to give you the gist of them but not enough to really utilize.

I think they may wind up having to change/update some of the endurance times. Most are just to short for any reasonable engagement outside special use boarding actions or high threat activities. You would just chew through so many batteries for even an 8 hour day on most of them as to just not be worthwhile cost wise.

The battle frame endurance is very reasonable and if they were all more similar to that if you can afford the armor you can afford to keep it fed easy enough.


Would rather see PA as an add-on to heavy armor - keep the base heavy armor you have, but have the ability to don the power armor piece and function for a limited time. That way you are only paying the difference and not paying for a completely new set.


Hell, I'd want to see PA do something that can't be trivially replicated with armor augs or cybernetics. I mean, the AC it provides isn't much better than equivalent armor and I don't see the strength setting as much of a benefit. I'd even be okay if PA was basically crutch armor with it setting your dex and your str to something a couple of points below a dedicated specialist in either category while still providing competitive AC. Fully dumping stats is still discouraged due to feat and stat prereqs and fully taking advantage of either is still going to hit WBL issues to provide arms. Still, could open some builds by letting people on both ends moderately switch hit.


Ok so ive got some quick ideas about addressing this issue: PA grants a character HP equal to its level (only hp, no stamina) and allows the character wearing it to ignore the "unweildy" weapon quality.


I feel like taking away the unwieldy property is unbalanced, because then soldiers could grab a doshko or swoop hammer and just wreck everything


Another option could be to have PA frames come with proper hardwired weapons baked into their weapon slots at purchase (letting them be swapped out if desired). As of currently, taking advantage of the hardpoints (plus a carried weapon) is basically not possible due to price constraints and even then, 1 hardpoint is replicated by a cheap (compared to power armor anyway) pair of cyber arms or being a kashtha. Also allows some design space to allow for more tempting weapons that aren't available stock (like say a higher level flame longarm)


I agree That PA should come with a standard loadout for its hard points, that helps the wbl issue some. I still think giving it the hp boost and the ability to ignore unweildy is a good idea, it conveys that the armor has a compensatory effect that other armor lacks (setting it apart and giving it a neiche). As for it being unbalanced, im not sure I buy that based on the operational time limit PA has. If it really bothers you i suppose it could come at a charge cost from the suits battery.


MagicA wrote:
I feel like taking away the unwieldy property is unbalanced, because then soldiers could grab a doshko or swoop hammer and just wreck everything

My first thought was oh my god yes, if this were an option, I don't know how I could make the choice to play anything other then a Soldier with a swoop hammer.

Then I thought, okay, putting aside the fact that there aren't enough armors and batteries are a pain, would I go Armor Storm and have to charge as a full-round action until level 9, or Blitz and have to buy proficiency? And could I really afford to dump Str and gimp my effectiveness outside the powered armor?

Probably it's still OP, but hey, I thought about it.


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Swoop hammer sure would be impressive without the unweildy property, and i guess it wouldnt bother me seeing an armor storm soldier, or PA solarian demolish an encounter with it, i mean the character is devoting significant advancement resources to be able to DO that. I feel like the player should be rewarded for that investment.


Gareufen wrote:
Swoop hammer sure would be impressive without the unweildy property, and i guess it wouldnt bother me seeing an armor storm soldier, or PA solarian demolish an encounter with it, i mean the character is devoting significant advancement resources to be able to DO that. I feel like the player should be rewarded for that investment.

Okay, point taken. I understand how a Blitz Soldier wrecks enemies: ditto for Bombard and Sharpshooter, and theoretically Hit-and-Run, and Arcane Assailant is a weird, flexible kind of style. But how does an Armor Storm Soldier excel? Before level 17, they get a decent unarmed attack, PA proficiency, an extra discounted armor slot, better bull rushes, extra damage with bolted-on weapons, and KAC vs maneuvers. Which is a pretty long list, but frankly, most of it is situational and/or trash.

If we added something to PA to give it a wow factor, that might be what's necessary to make Armor Storm look like a legit specialization and justify the two feats anyone else would have to invest. Is removing unwieldy the right wow factor? Idk. But there's room for one.


I could see being okay with that especially on the larger model PA. You are paying a lot of resources/proficiencies/attributes to use power armor. What is unwieldy for a normal sized person maybe should not be for power armors like the jarlslayer. It would be a pretty decent power boost for those willing to go the power armor route.

I expect though that power armor does not get fleshed out until a tech book is released.


You know id really like to know the rules behind rolling up a power armor suit as a gm, thatd go a long way to dealing with the lack of variety. Theres a lot of room to fill out tge roster presented in the book.


Kalderaan wrote:

Would rather see PA as an add-on to heavy armor - keep the base heavy armor you have, but have the ability to don the power armor piece and function for a limited time. That way you are only paying the difference and not paying for a completely new set.

Yeah, currently it is only for Light armor/ Armor Solarians.

Shadow Lodge

I feel like I'm missing something, but how is power armor only good for short forays? The battle harness lasts for 20 hours on one battery. The other frames last for an hour and 40 minutes. So it takes a dozen batteries to last for the same 20 hours. Doesn't seem terribly unreasonable to me.

Comparing power armor to the best (highest AC) light and heavy armors at the levels power armor is presented (assuming you have the max dex for all of them):

Level 5
light: D suit I- EAC20 KAC21
heavy: Lashunta ringwear II- EAC20 KAC22
power: Battle harness- EAC21 KAC24

Level 10
light: freebooter armor III- EAC28 KAC29
heavy: defiance series, specialist- EAC27 KAC30
power: spider harness- EAC25 KAC28

Level 11
light: kasatha microcord IV- EAC28 KAC30
heavy: Lashuta ringwear IV- EAC30 KAC32
power: flight frame- EAC25 KAC32

Level 15:
light: hardlight series, elite- EAC35 KAC35
heavy: enginerunner- EAC35 KAC36
power: jarlslayer- EAC32 KAC38

So level 5 power armor is the highest AC you can have. After that, power armor is worse AC than everything else.


Technically you can layer on equivalent level light armor and end up with a higher EAC but that once more hits the price tag problem. Also, power armor is heavily restricted in its upgrade slots compared compared to its level equivalents. So basically you're paying for generally worse AC, batteries, and less upgrade slots for a mediocre unarmed attack, 1-3 pairs of cyber arms, a set strength score, and maybe one other augmentation/cybernetic built in.


gnoams wrote:

I feel like I'm missing something, but how is power armor only good for short forays?

It seems as i read it that and upgrades to the armor run off the PA battery and cost charges to use.

As an example look at the forcefeild upgrades - they list charge costs.

Shadow Lodge

My feeling with starfinder so far is that there are a lot of options that exist for story/rp/fluff, but don't have the best rules. The difference between the best and the worst options is only a matter of +1 or 2. In a d20 system that's only 5-10%. So it's not a big deal to take a worse option because it's cool, it fits your character concept, you just feel like it, or whatever.
Currently the only niche I see is that there is no other option in the game that lets you pilot a huge flying mecha.


Sry sry, i didn't mean to quote all that, im on my phone.

And my point was moot anyway, just reread the upgrade capacity section


Very nice research, gnoams. It also shows that maxed-out light and heavy armor are never more than 2 points apart, and it's usually in heavy armor's favor.

Frankly, I figured the battle hardness and the jarlslayer would have very competitive combat stats for their levels and the other frames would be relegated to a utility role, but if the jarlslayer is so consistently going to be hit by energy attacks... I mean, that's one of the low-endurance armors. It should be impressive, for all the power it draws!


So one of my players is going to get power armor. He is a custom small alien race who has skinned a human and is using his skin on the power armor as a disguise similar to men in black (the galaxy is on orians belt). This will allow him to continue his studies interacting with the pack worlds.

Shadow Lodge

I've only played 2 sfs games so far, but Thea is planning on hopping in a suit of power armor as soon as she hits level 5. Even after comparing the numbers, I still think there are some good benefits to power armor that are worth trading the lower AC for.

The power armor gives you a great strength score. Yes you could have a 22 str on your own at level 10. That would be starting with an 18, levels ups at 5 and 10, and a +2 personal enhancement. Or you could have that in dex instead. You get the 22 str with your suit of armor and free up stats to put into other ability scores. That 22 is pretty much as good as you can get at level 10. At most you could have 2 higher with a +4 personal enhancement. For other levels, the strength that power armor gives you also looks like it's pretty close to the top of what you can achieve for said level. Looks pretty good to me.

Dex cap: as a ranged character you are going to run into it, and it really doesn't matter. It doesn't cap your bonus to saves or to attack rolls. All it does is determine your AC, and your total AC is all that matters, not where that AC came from. Even if you could somehow get a 40 dex at level 10, you would still get better AC from wearing power armor.

Cost(looking at the same armors I compared above): the battle harness costs 480 more than the lashunta ringwear II (about 16% more), the flight frame costs the exact same amount as lashunta ringwear IV. The jarlslayer costs 4,600 more than enginerunner armor (that's about 4% more). So actually, cost doesn't look like it's really an issue either.

Also you get to be a giant mecha pilot.


You are aware you need to fully power the suit to even walk, right? And that you'll need Light Armour as well for when you're not in the Powered Armour?
Also, better AC at 10th level...?
Powered Armour: Item Level 10th 'Spider Harness' with the maximum of +5 Dex bonus gives you EAC +15 and KAC +18.
Light Armour: Item Level 10th 'Freebooter Armour III' with the maximum of +6 Dex Bonus gives you EAC +18 and KAC +19. Item Level 10th 'Carbon Skin, White Carbon' with the maximum of +5 Dex Bonus gives you EAC +17 and KAC +19.
Heavy Armour: Item Level 10th 'Defiance Series, Specialist' with the maximum of +2 Dex Bonus gives you EAC +17 and KAC +20.

Also assuming the maximum Dex bonuses for each respective armour:
The 11th Level 'Vesk Overplate III' and 'Lashunta Ringwear IV' match or beat the 11th Level Flight Frame without the hindrance of being Huge.
15th Level 'Jarlslayer' has some more KAC with less EAC than Light and Heavy Armours of the same level and, being the highest level Powered Armour, is surpassed by 16th level and higher Light and Heavy Armour.

All this and Light/Heavy Armour generally has more upgrade slots and less Armour Check Penalty.


Also for talking about the stat investments vs the set strength score, bear in mind that for a person who completely dumped strength (starting at 10), it's taking your theme and two level up bonuses (or one and a +2 aug) to qualify for the prereqs (Armor Storms need not apply). Sure it's easier on some races (Vesk, Kashtha, etc) but it's still not exactly a cheap buy in for something that was more than likely designed for people who didn't focus on strength to start with.

Shadow Lodge

Bloodrealm wrote:

You are aware you need to fully power the suit to even walk, right? And that you'll need Light Armour as well for when you're not in the Powered Armour?

Also, better AC at 10th level...?

I'm guessing you did not read my previous posts...

The better AC comment was only to explain that max dex on armor isn't a detrimental factor. I was only comparing wearing power armor to not wearing any armor. Maybe it made more sense in my head. I was trying to address some of the downsides that the OP mentioned.

As for talking about level 10, I was thinking of the flight frame, not the spider junk. If doing power armor, I would buy the flight frame at level 10. Heck, you might be able to get it at level 9. The rules do say you have access to level+1 items, +2 in large cities. I would definitely skip the spider harness, because it is terrible.

I was not thinking of power armor for any class besides soldier. Needing a strength score or taking feats to get it is not part of my consideration. I don't think it is a particularly good choice for anyone who doesn't get it as a bonus feat.

At any rate, I don't think that power armor is a "trap" option. It gives some bonuses over normal armor, with some trade offs. The thing that makes it seem bad is that it would make sense to think that power armor means better AC. Instead AC is one of the things it looses out on in trade for strength and carrying extra weapons.


gnoams wrote:

I was not thinking of power armor for any class besides soldier. Needing a strength score or taking feats to get it is not part of my consideration. I don't think it is a particularly good choice for anyone who doesn't get it as a bonus feat.

At any rate, I don't think that power armor is a "trap" option. It gives some bonuses over normal armor, with some trade offs. The thing that makes it seem bad is that it would make sense to think that power armor means better AC. Instead AC is one of the things it looses out on in trade for strength and carrying extra weapons.

So what you're saying if that if you don't have to spend a feat and meet prereqs for PA proficiency, which is to say if you're an Armor Storm or Guard soldier of at least 5th level (or at least 13th, if this is your secondary specialization), then PA is not a trap option?

That's a ridiculously weak statement. Imagine if charging was so bad that Blitz soldiers and Stellar Rush managed to bump it up to the level of "not a trap option?" Or if Operatives did roughly the same amount of damage whether or not they used Operative weapons? We would be howling. I would, anyway.

Characters deserve to excel with the equipment they specialize in, and characters using equipment they don't specialize in should still be able to get some situational benefit from it. The Armor Storm soldier should be amazing in PA, and, as far as I can tell, it's just an unintuitively good switch-hitter whose punching and bull-rushing will help as often as enemies dramatically monologue on the lip of Mount Doom.

Plus, Powered Armor is in a uniquely bad position to benefit from someone saying "hey, we just found a suit of this, I guess I'll give it a try," because its proficiency is so hard to get, and even if you happen to have it, you'd really like to have a null-space generator full of space batteries to run most of them. So, given that people who aren't AS or Guard Soldier will loot a suit of Powered Armor and think, "is this really going to sell for enough credits to justify dragging onto the ship?" I'd say it should be impressive for the minority of characters who'd, you know, consider using it.


McAllister wrote:
and characters using equipment they don't specialize in should still be able to get some situational benefit from it.

I'm gonna stop ya right here. I'm gonna assume you've played Pathfinder, because generally that's a pretty safe assumption on this board, and TBH I don't think the general situational effectiveness of gear has changed that much so let me ask you: Would you ever put a Wizard in Full Plate? Or a Monk? How about giving an Unchained Rogue a Butchering Axe? Or the Swashbuckler a Greatsword? And I can't imagine the Barbarian or Fighter, who probably dumped Charisma because it's an easy dump stat, to try using Wands or Scrolls. Because not every class can use every piece of equipment for even a "situational benefit."


Hellknight signifer recently got buffed so fullplate wizard can be reasonable (Arcane Armour training no longer eats swift). So, yes, I would.


Shinigami02 wrote:
TBH I don't think the general situational effectiveness of gear has changed that much

I'm gonna stop ya right there ;) and point out that selling gear is worth considerably less of its value in Starfinder than Pathfinder, so the relative utility of selling it vs. using it is different. It's much more tempting to find a use for on-level gear than sell it for peanuts if it's useful at all. Did you want a crossbolter? Well, if it's a few levels higher than your current weapon and a significant damage boost, sure, maybe you use a crossbolter for now.

Shadow Lodge

There is a section on equipment for solarion only. I don't see how having equipment that is soldier only makes it bad.

I suppose I have also mainly been thinking about terms of society play, where you don't get to keep anything you find. Society play lends itself to specialization. I can definitely see power armor not being a good choice in a home game if you have to rely on using what you find rather than purchasing what you want. That would, of course, vary from home game depending on your gm/play style.

To me, the thing that currently holds power armor back is that there are only 5 of them. Compared to the 42 light armors and 38 heavy armors. Assumedly a future Paizo publication will add another 30+ choices and fix that. Until then, I'm still going to play around with what there is and have fun with it.


The difference between a weapon crystal and power armor is that literally no other class can get a solar weapon. As in, physically not possible. Any class can take power armor presuming feat expenditure. On that logic, I'd expect there to be some decent application PA can give to people who paid the not-inconsiderable price to access it. Obviously an Armor Storm soldier should make it sing the best, but there should be some application for the rest of them. At the moment, even if Paizo adds another 30 suits in some later splat, the benefit doesn't look to be there going off the pattern presented in the CRB.


You guys are all assuming single class characters that are truly the best at what they do but can't do anything else. As I always did in Pathfinder, I shall continue to multiclass into awesomeness in Starfinder!

Soldier/Technomancer Icon wielding heavy weapons in Power Armor FTW!.


Part of the problem with powered armor past battle harness is the size. Flight frame is 15x15. You won't be able to use that armor inside many facilities, making it's use very situational.

The main bonus powered armor gives is STR. However, if you are a character that utilizes STR (melee), you are probably better off buying STR - which makes powered armor have almost no place in my book.


nicholas storm wrote:

Part of the problem with powered armor past battle harness is the size. Flight frame is 15x15. You won't be able to use that armor inside many facilities, making it's use very situational.

The main bonus powered armor gives is STR. However, if you are a character that utilizes STR (melee), you are probably better off buying STR - which makes powered armor have almost no place in my book.

Agreed. Not just that, but it reminds me of the bonded mount feature of Pathfinder. Most cases, you couldn't bring your mount with you, such as in social situations or, as nicolas pointed out, in situations where spacing was an issue (which was a LOT).

IMHO, it needs to be a viable supplement to existing equipment and not a completely different path.


I'm assuming power armor grants Strength in part to accommodate the bulk from fully equipping all of the weapon mounts, but you again run into the money problem.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

The power armors in the Core Rulebook can be beneficial, but only at certain level ranges.

The battle harness is probably one of the better options from about 5th level (when soldiers or weapon solarians* can qualify for Powered Armor Proficiency) until about 8th level (it provides comparable protection as 7th-level heavy armors at about half to two-thirds the price). 7th level is the point at which an envoy, mechanic, mystic, operative, or technomancer could qualify for Powered Armor Proficiency.**

The spider harness is (IMO) overpriced for the climb speed. Advanced iridishell with jump jets, plus falcon boots***, provides superior mobility and slightly better protection at about the same total cost.

The flight frame is slightly weaker in protection (low EAC) than 11th-level heavy armors, but not completely terrible (sustained flight is better than a jetpack, for instance). However, it's thoroughly outclassed as soon as the character can afford a forcepack on comparable or better armor; probably as soon as 12th level.

The jarlslayer, other than the slightly higher Str than possible for a character (18 at 1st, +1 each at 5th/10th/15th, and a +6 Personal Upgrade gives 27 Str; vs. 29 Str for the jarlslayer) doesn't have much to recommend it. Protection is about the same as 15th-level heavy armors (a bit better KAC, a bit worse EAC), but it's horribly slow compared to characters with Speed Suspension cybernetics (even without class and/or feats that boost land speed) and can't fly.

*- who will likely have invested in Str and Heavy Armor Proficiency; the 18 Str from the power harness allows them to invest in Cha and Dex a bit more

**- As it stands right now, it's probably not worth keeping the proficiency past 8th level, however; with the ability score boosts at 10th/15th and Personal Upgrades, by the time you can afford the spider harness or flight frame, the granted Str is something the character can probably have without much effort and the effectiveness range is much narrower. Luckily, the mnemonic editor mk 1 is pretty reasonable at 500 cr; and even the mnemonic editor mk 2 (if the character has already changed some things) is fairly affordable at 3,000 cr.

***- detailed in Incident at Absalom Station

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