Do you have to have a Captain during Starship combat?


Rules Questions

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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

The rules allude to the fact that you must have a Captain and Pilot at all times, but it never really comes out and says that directly.

From what I can tell you always need a Pilot, but I don't think you need a Captain.

We have a group and none of them are built for Captain. Is there an official rule saying that a Captain (to a lesser extent, Pilot) must be roles that are filled?


The "must have a Captain" implication is probably because you're going to fail most checks without a Captain buffing you at higher levels.

.....

Okay, rant about how skill DCs scale aside, I'm not seeing anything saying that you absolutely have to have anybody in a given roll.
Not having a Captain just means that there's nobody to support the ship's crew.
Not having a Pilot doesn't sound like a good idea, but the section on the Helm Phase actually has rules for ships without a Pilot. My guess is that the ship is still able to move through either maintaining its momentum or some kind of autopilot.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Without a Captain, nobody can take Captain actions. That generally means that you would have to attempt skill checks with no buffs from the Captain. As things stand now, these buffs generally become useless at higher levels as the Captain has no way to succeed at the skill checks needed to grant you the buffs needed to make other skill checks.

Without a Pilot, nobody can take Pilot actions -- but note that there is a minor action that a non-pilot can take to maneuver the ship under those circumstances.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

The captain only needs a dc10 check to aid others with the appropriate skill. And that should only get easier over time.

That said I think a captain is required. Just a slot that can only be filled by a single person.


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Maezer wrote:
The captain only needs a dc10 check to aid others with the appropriate skill. And that should only get easier over time.

The Encourage action (starship combat equivalent to aid another) does have a static DC of 10, so it quickly becomes reliable. The problem comes with scaling of the more potent Demand, Orders, and Moving Speech actions.


I'm not sure you truly need any ship role. And remember, you can change roles in the middle of combat.

A ship without a pilot simply sits still and gains no bonus to its AC. That might not be a bad tactic if you are out-maneuvered anyways and have room for an extra gunner.

Also, with smaller groups, 3-4, it gets difficult to be effective and the captain is one of the least important roles. Pilot, 2 gunners and an engineer/science officer are a minimum crew. (We've found most engineers can switch hit to science officer to balance shields when needed fairly successfully.)


I do not think you need a captain, nor do I think one is required by rules.

The captain role seems a default position for the face PC or those that lack Dex+Piloting or BAB, maxed Computers, or maxed Engineering.
If a PC does have the ability to play another role, arguably that role is more useful to the starship!

Played in a quest with a 4-gun ship. If we'd had a captain (yes, we had no face skills!), we'd have been a weaker ship. Our engineers kept those shields bolstered while the gunners blazed away. Arguably my pilot would have been more useful some rounds gunning too, especially since the enemy pilot was so good. With turrets and wide arc guns, a good argument could be made for focusing just on guns & shields w/ a minor action piloting, especially in the initial rounds before there are vulnerable sides.

Silver Crusade

You don't need a captain and often won't have one.

Even my Envoy goes to the guns at times in ship combat (especially when he has already demoralized the other ship).

The pilot role is very, very often the most important role in combat. In general (there are definite exceptions) it is CRUCIAL to go last in a round. In fact, my Envoy almost always encourages the pilot on that initiative roll because, while intensely boring, it is the most effective thing that he can do.

Liberty's Edge

The do not require a captain. The rules only say that there can be ONLY one captain. Same with pilot. Only one pilot.

Liberty's Edge

pauljathome wrote:
The pilot role is very, very often the most important role in combat. In general (there are definite exceptions) it is CRUCIAL to go last in a round. In fact, my Envoy almost always encourages the pilot on that initiative roll because, while intensely boring, it is the most effective thing that he can do.

Hate to break this to you but the pilot skill check at the beginning of the Helm phase is not an "action" taken by the Pilot. It happens before the Pilot takes any actions.

Captain Action, pg 317 of CRB wrote:

Encourage (Any Phase)

You can encourage another member of the crew to give her a bonus to her action. This works like aid another (see page 133), granting a +2 bonus to the check required by a crew action if you succeed at a DC 10 check using the same skill. Alternatively, you can grant this same bonus by succeeding at a Diplomacy check (DC = 15 + your starship’s tier). You can’t encourage yourself.

The Captain can encourage a Pilot on crew actions, which begin on page 324.


Like others said, you don't need a captain. Imagine someone operating a fighter. They will pretty much always be the pilot and using the Snap Shot minor action to shoot at a -2 penalty.

Silver Crusade

Gary Bush wrote:


Hate to break this to you but the pilot skill check at the beginning of the Helm phase is not an "action" taken by the Pilot. It happens before the Pilot takes any actions.
Captain Action, pg 317 of CRB wrote:

Encourage (Any Phase)

You can encourage another member of the crew to give her a bonus to her action. This works like aid another (see page 133), granting a +2 bonus to the check required by a crew action if you succeed at a DC 10 check using the same skill. Alternatively, you can grant this same bonus by succeeding at a Diplomacy check (DC = 15 + your starship’s tier). You can’t encourage yourself.

The Captain can encourage a Pilot on crew actions, which begin on page 324.

It looks like you're right. Darn. Played and run with a lot of different people and thats the first time that was noticed.

Durn.

Well, that makes the Captain an even less important role (by a significant margin). I guess my Envoy will just take a gun from now on. Sigh.

Liberty's Edge

I wouldn't say that. A properly timed flip and burn can put the ship in the right positions.

Or helping to hold the power core together can save a ship.

The captain's role is an important one.

Silver Crusade

Gary Bush wrote:

I wouldn't say that. A properly timed flip and burn can put the ship in the right positions.

Or helping to hold the power core together can save a ship.

The captain's role is an important one.

Aid another is the kind of thing you do because you have nothing else to do. I guess fortunately starship combat tends to last quite a few rounds so that means that in a normal combat the captain gets to turn one failure into a suceess. Obviously that COULD be crucial but lets be honest and say that its going to be pretty rare that matters much.

Better (assuming there are enough guns) to shoot a gun. Probably will hit about 5 times in that same combat. That is likely to be a LOT more value than 1 success.

Liberty's Edge

I think you are minimizing the role of the captain too much. The captain can act in any phase and help any character perform actions they need to do.

Silver Crusade

I agree with the captain being nearly useless in combat.

I have a mindbreaker mystic with good social skills and no tech skills, so captain is the only role I can play on a ship. The one time I played her in a scenario with starship combat, I had to make the DC 17 to encourage my allies or the DC 19 to debuff the enemies, with +8 skills in diplomacy and intimidate, so I was succeeding roughly half the time. I kept track and realized that my buffs NEVER made a difference. Not sure about the debuffs to the enemies, as those might have helped against one or two shots.

Given how long the combat lasted (2.5 hours!), that was a LOT of rolls, and I realized I probably would have been better off just gunning in the hopes that we had the right firing arc for a third gun using my +0 dex and +0 BAB every round.

Silver Crusade

Fromper wrote:

I agree with the captain being nearly useless in combat.

My mystic has maximized ranks in piloting (a non class skill) PRECISELY so that he can actually do something useful in combat (be a moderately decent gunner).

Pretty much all characters (Soldiers and Solarians excepted, of course) who can manage to afford the skill point a level should thing strongly about doing this. Almost all starships in SFS and Dead Suns have more gunnery positions than characters so being an extra gunner is a decent option.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

The captain can demand from the pilot, because that is listed as a bonus to any check. This is only once a combat, though. I have to think that the captain is intended to be able to encourage the piloting check for initiative, but they didn't get the wording quite right.

Liberty's Edge

Redelia wrote:
The captain can demand from the pilot, because that is listed as a bonus to any check. This is only once a combat, though. I have to think that the captain is intended to be able to encourage the piloting check for initiative, but they didn't get the wording quite right.

I think they got what they intended for the pilot skill check (not an initiative roll BTW) at the beginning of the Helm phase. I don't think it is a mistake. It does not make sense to give the pilot an almost automatic +2 to that roll because of an aid from the captain.

Besides, the captain has better things to do by helping the rest of the crew perform their maximum abilities.

Keep in mind that the Demand is once per captain per character. So a new captain can demand the character again.

Liberty's Edge

Fromper wrote:
Given how long the combat lasted (2.5 hours!), that was a LOT of rolls, and I realized I probably would have been better off just gunning in the hopes that we had the right firing arc for a third gun using my +0 dex and +0 BAB every round.

Funny thing is if there was a captain to encourage you, you could get a +2 to the roll and that could very well make a difference.

Just because the players roll high enough that the +2 didn't seem to factor in, it could have. And it is that one time that the +2 was not there that could make the difference.


If there is a gun available, the Captain should be a Gunner.
Example, 4th level
Good Gunner: BAB or Piloting 4, Dex 18; Attack +8
Good Captain/Bad Gunner: BAB 3, Dex 12; Attack +4

GG full attacks to use two weapons: +4/+4 (This is most optimal unless there's a large discrepancy between the guns.)
BG captain boosts GG: +6/+4 (with minor failure rate) or +8/+4 1/battle
BG helps GG by using secondary weapon: +8/+4 every round

I'm running a Captain for Dead Suns, and am built for it as our group thought we needed that role filled. I doubt I shall ever build to play that role again as I'm not sure if my help has ever been the difference for any roll ever. The only joy I get is out of having a valid RP reason to offer tactical advice. It'd be great if I helped with some pivotal roll, but know what's even better? A second roll by a skilled PC, which could have been me had I known.

Other than a taunt to the enemy pilot or gunners (depending on the build & firing arcs of both ships) I don't see any Captain action being more useful than having another Engineer repairing shields or another Gunner jumping on a secondary (or even tertiary) weapon. Dex & Int are the starship stats, and the Captain role is for the schmuck that bumped neither.

Silver Crusade

Gary Bush wrote:


Keep in mind that the Demand is once per captain per character. So a new captain can demand the character again.

While I think that is a valid interpretation I don't think it is the only interpretation nor the intended interpretation. I'd certainly rule that the "Once per combat" limitations apply to the position, NOT the individual filling that position. Musical captains seems inherently wrong and silly to me.

Liberty's Edge

pauljathome wrote:
Gary Bush wrote:
Keep in mind that the Demand is once per captain per character. So a new captain can demand the character again.
While I think that is a valid interpretation I don't think it is the only interpretation nor the intended interpretation. I'd certainly rule that the "Once per combat" limitations apply to the position, NOT the individual filling that position. Musical captains seems inherently wrong and silly to me.

Looking at page 322 of CRB and what the captain actions are, I think it is pretty clear that the limit is on the individual character, not the role of captain.

Captain Actions, page 322 wrote:
As a captain, you can take any of the following actions, depending on your character level, during any phase of combat.
Demand, page 322 wrote:
You can make a demand of a crew member to try to improve his performance. You grant a +4 bonus to one specific check by succeeding at an Intimidate check (DC = 15 + 2 × your starship’s tier). You must use this action before the associated check is rolled, and you can grant this bonus to an individual character only once per combat. Demand might result in negative consequences if used on NPCs, and you can’t make demands of yourself.
Changing Roles, page 322 wrote:
You can switch between roles (or assume a role if you don’t already have one), but this change must occur at the start of a round before the engineering phase. You can switch to the captain or pilot role only if that role would otherwise be vacant (or if the character in that role is unable to take actions).

In all three instances, "you" is used to mean the character, not the role. If two character serve as captain at different times, why shouldn't each have the option to demand more from a character?

Silver Crusade

Gary Bush wrote:


Looking at page 322 of CRB and what the captain actions are, I think it is pretty clear that the limit is on the individual character, not the role of captain.

I disagree that it is clear. You is a very ambiguous term in this context. Especially since there is no way obvious to me to say "The role of captain, regardless of who fills it" that isn't awkward and bad writing. Just replacing "You" with "The Captain" wouldn't change anything.

In general, in almost all cases where some say "Its clear" and others say "Its not clear" then its NOT clear. Not in all cases, granted. But in nearly all.

Liberty's Edge

If we can’t agree on what the meaning of “you” is than it will be unclear for one of us. And it could very well be me. Hopefully we will get a clearer direction on what “you” means in this area of the rules.

I am not hopeful of that however.

All I understand is the rules are written in a first person view point (for the most part).

I believe the captain is an important role while others are looking for ways to devalue the role of captain. Don’t mean that comment to be a dig towards any particular person but as on observation.

Silver Crusade

Gary Bush wrote:


I believe the captain is an important role while others are looking for ways to devalue the role of captain.

I won't speak for others (although some of the postings and reasoning above make me think this likely DOES apply to others) but I am most certainly not trying to devalue the role. I've just had some experience in the role and observing it as a GM and I am finding it wanting in practice. The Taunt action IS very useful but its usually done pretty early in the combat. After that if there are guns available the character is more useful at the guns.

How much actual play experience have you had in the role of captain? If it is a reasonable amount, what was it that made it fun for you?

The net being what it is, that last question is quite genuine. My character in Dead Suns is an Envoy and hence the Captain. If there is something I'm missing that would make it more fun to me I'd really like to know.

Liberty's Edge

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As a player, none.

But as GM, I have over 10 tables of the Quest Pack and 1-00. Both have significate space combats. So a fair amount of running NPC Captains.

My experience has been giving a little extra to the NPC ships. The taunting, when it works, can really hose the other crew for a few rounds. This could easily give your ship the upper hand. Timing is critical.

I have also seen players in the role of captain really come out in a RP fashion. The making of a timely roll to assist/encourage/demand has turned the tide.

The captain role is the most dynamic in space combat. The captain can have an impact in all phases.

My suggestion for playing a captain is to understand what everyone is doing. Know what is happening with your ship and the enemy ship. Don't start with a taunt right out the bat. Pick the right time. Each combat is different.

And by all means, if having an extra body at science, engineering or gunner will help, jump down and do it. A captain does need to be well rounded with skills in Computer, Engineering, Piloting, Diplomacy, and Intimidation. This is why Envoys make good captains. They have the skill points to meet a demanding role.

Silver Crusade

Gary Bush wrote:

As a player, none.

But as GM, I have over 10 tables of the Quest Pack and 1-00. Both have significate space combats. So a fair amount of running NPC Captains.

My experience has been giving a little extra to the NPC ships. The taunting, when it works, can really hose the other crew for a few rounds. This could easily give your ship the upper hand. Timing is critical.

I have also seen players in the role of captain really come out in a RP fashion. The making of a timely roll to assist/encourage/demand has turned the tide.

The captain role is the most dynamic in space combat. The captain can have an impact in all phases.

My suggestion for playing a captain is to understand what everyone is doing. Know what is happening with your ship and the enemy ship. Don't start with a taunt right out the bat. Pick the right time. Each combat is different.

And by all means, if having an extra body at science, engineering or gunner will help, jump down and do it. A captain does need to be well rounded with skills in Computer, Engineering, Piloting, Diplomacy, and Intimidation. This is why Envoys make good captains. They have the skill points to meet a demanding role.

Thank you

The Exchange

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

I think it's worth noting that demand says "you can grant this bonus to an individual character only once per combat."

Because it talks about granting a bonus, I think a perfectly valid reading is that you can try to demand as many times as you want until you succeed since by failing this check you have not granted a bonus.


My experience in ship combat is mostly with 4 people crews. 2 Gunners, a Pilot, and Usually a Mechanic or Technomancer jumping between SO and Engineering. Not enough people for someone to be Captain. When we have had 5 we would have a SO to balance Shields and a Engineer who usually spent his time boosting the shields.
The only time we had a Captain he was playing the Pre-Gen Mystic who, while good at diplomacy, didn't have the other skills to really make the Captain shine.


Captains can shine. I did once this last session. Yes, once.
I made all my Captain rolls except one, taunted the enemy gunners for 4 rounds, and with that and all my bonuses to all my crew buddies I altered the result of a die roll once. When (had I known the game better) I could have built a PC actually contributing another significant roll instead.

Sorry, but Captains are lame (other than for RP Captain talk). It's akin to fighting in a combat and limited to only doing Demoralize (once/foe) & Aid Another while pointing out what others should do (when others generally know their one best option).

Whenever there's another role available (or the shields/a system needs fixing for Engineer), the PC is contributing more by taking up that role instead of Captain. Even if their stats don't support the skill, I think a maxed out skill rolling its own check helps more than a +2 (+4 once) to somebody else's.

The Captain seems the role for the PC with nothing to do on a Starship. The effort to build a great Captain would gain better results just building a backup Engineer/Gunner.


The trouble is less that the Captain is bad and more that the other roles have more immediately powerful effects and gunners are stackable.

Captain might be more relevant if instead of having X gunners you had a star trek style tactical officer who handled all the weapon systems simultaneously.

Silver Crusade

swoosh wrote:

Captain might be more relevant if instead of having X gunners you had a star trek style tactical officer who handled all the weapon systems simultaneously.

Then you'd need more roles for a party of 6. And if they came up with more roles then a party of 4 would likely be in trouble.

Its not as if every character has to be particularly effective in every situation. A big part of the problem is that a starship combat takes too long (they all seem to last at least an hour). Thats a long time if you feel that you're not contributing much.

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