Medical Officer & Alternate CT Rule- AKA: giving the mystic something to do in starship combat


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I have GMd a few sessions of Starfinder for Society, and am now swinging a home-game into full gear. A common complaint I have heard while GMing, and in talking with fellow players and GMs, is that the Mystic (particularly the pregen Mystic) does not have a true role in starship combat: Their class skills do not lend them to being great at any of the main roles on the ship, and in most parties they end up being a back-up gunner.

Now for my home game, one player has decided to be a shirren-mystic, and takes a stance against being the ship's back-up gunner as they are drawing from the pacifist flavor of some shirren from the core rulebook. So my problem becomes how do I keep them engaged in starship combat?

The answer I've landed on is homebrewing a Medical Officer role. I have heard a few people comment on the lack of a Medical Officer role aboard starships. You have medical officers playing big roles in classic sci-fi shows like Star Trek, so why isn't there one in Starfinder?

Short answer is that there is only a very low chance to inflict damage to PCs/NPCs during starship combat so there is only a cinematic need for a medical officer and not a mechanical need. Hence the need for an alternative rule that having a Medical Officer supports.

Alternative Rule: Player Damage on Critical Thresholds
During cinematic space fights across many sci-fi genres, you will find camera shots that go into the ship and show the crew being tossed around after taking a hit from enemy fire. This might be punctuated by a console exploding and throwing someone back, or by an explosion followed by a stream of cloud-like gas venting.

In this alternative rule set, when a ship receives critical damage (from either a critical hit or by reaching a critical threshold), the crew takes damage after the results of the impacted system are determined.

If a system is brought to Glitching, the officers responsible for that system take 1 point of damage. Bringing a system to Malfunctioning system deals 1d4 damage to its responsible officers and 1 damage to all other officers. Wrecking a system deals 2d6 damage to its responsible officers, and 1d4 damage to all other officers. Finally, if any system rolled was already wrecked, then in addition to moving further up the chart to find the next system impacted, crew damage is inflicted as if the wrecked system hit was a wrecked power core (see page 321 of the Starfinder Core Rulebook).

On capital ships (size huge or larger) where there are more crew members than PCs usually, a wrecked system results in 3d4 incapacitate crew members that support its associated system, and a damaged system that was already wrecked results in an additional 3d4 incapacitated crew members spread evenly across the crew. These crew members are not dead, just temporarily unavailable to assist officers. This may result in a ship not having enough crew members to support all of the officers - or may prevent the ship from being immediately operable in rare circumstances.

Alternative Starship Role: Medical Officer
Your role during starship combat is to keep the crew alive, and to attend to any critical injuries to the crew. A starship can have multiple medical officers and can act during the engineering phase. A medical officer takes penalties associated with damaged life support systems and is responsible for those systems along with the captain. A ship is not required to have a medical officer, but it is encouraged if you are using the Player Damage on Critical Thresholds alternative rules above.

Medical Officer Actions:

Maintain Life Support (Engineering Phase):
You can use your knowledge and understanding of healing and anatomy to push life support systems back into functional range for short periods. This functions as the Hold It Together action for the engineer role except that the medical officer can substitute the Life Science, Medicine, or Mysticism skill in place of an Engineering check, and the action can only target the life support systems of a ship.

Restore Life Support (Engineering Phase, Push):
By succeeding at a Life Sciences, Medicine, or Mysticism check (DC = 15 + 2 x your starship tier), and spending a point of resolve, you can repair the life support system of a ship by two steps. This repair remains in effect for 1 hour.

Assign Medical Teams (Engineering Phase, Minor):
On capital ships, a team of 3 crew members can form a medical team on command to attend to incapacitated crew members. With a Medicine or Mysticism check (DC = 15 + your starship tier) you can assign a medical team to restore 1d4 crew members back to active duty in a singular system role of your choice. For every 5 by which you beat the DC, you restore an additional 1 crew member to active duty.

Treat Bridge Crew (Engineering Phase):
You can actively attend to the effects of stressful combat on the ship's officers. With a Life Sciences, Medicine, or Mysticism check (DC = 10 + 2 x your starship tier), you can restore either 1d4 stamina points to a singular officer, or 1 stamina point to all officers (including yourself). If treating an individual officer, you restore an additional 1d4 stamina for every 5 by which you beat the DC. This can restore stamina to a maximum amount of stamina equal to what their stamina score was at the start of starship combat.

Mid-Combat Surgery (Engineering Phase):
If you have at least 6 ranks in Medicine, you can use the Treat Deadly Wounds function of the Medicine skill once during a starship combat encounter. This action costs 1 resolve point, but takes only a singular round of starship combat.

Faith Shielding (Engineering Phase, Push):
By being particularly devout, you can momentarily increase the shields of your ship. By succeeding at a Mysticism check (DC = 20 + 2 x your starship tier) you gain an amount of temporary Shield Points equal to 5% of your ship's PCU rating. These points are evenly distributed at first but can be reassigned by the science officer as normal. Treat these Shield Points as temporary and subtract from them first. Any temporary Shield Points remaining at the end of the round are lost.

I do believe that I shall be using this when I GM. Thanks.

Nice work Justin. Thank you!

In my game I let the Mystic use Mysticism for the Science Officer checks. Magic Shields. But you got a lot of good ideas.

While I'm all for the Mystic having more to do, the repeated inclusion of Mysticism doesn't make much sense in any of these. Apart from Faith Shielding, which in itself is just totally out of place for a Medical Officer. It seems less of a ship role designed to make sense, and a ship role tailor made for the Mystic.

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Our Mystic is our pilot.

I have to say, very solid work. In my game, I'd probably tweak it just a smidge to fit my group better.

One thing I would suggest though is altering the Shielding action. I'd call it Mystical Shielding, just to make it a little less Priestly (but that's a personal thing, and not too relevant). However, I would make it an action available to any spellcaster in either the Captain or Science Officer roles. I tend to agree with Malk_Content in that it doesn't really feel like a Medical Officer's duty to maintain ship shielding.

I do have one more comment though, if this were used in conjunction with a Bio-Mechanical ship from the Infinite Space: Warp Speed PDF, I'd say this role becomes a little more crucial.

Malk_Content wrote:
While I'm all for the Mystic having more to do, the repeated inclusion of Mysticism doesn't make much sense in any of these. Apart from Faith Shielding, which in itself is just totally out of place for a Medical Officer. It seems less of a ship role designed to make sense, and a ship role tailor made for the Mystic.

I agree. This feels like at least two roles fudged together - Mysticism doesn't heal people outside of ship's combat, why do it inside of it?

I'd be more inclined to support bio-ships, like the Oma. They could allow Life Sciences instead of Computers for Science Officers and/or Medicine instead of Engineering for Engineers. Outside of that, if you want to include crew damage, I'd only allow Medicine to treat them as a skill, but I would also definitely permit healing spells to do similar work. As it is, we need better rules for crews responding to the ship being irradiated, and the ship's Medical Officer should be in charge of dealing with that.

Mysticism's primary job is magic items - identifying, creating, swapping fusions around, etc. I would involve Mysticism in magical ships, and have the ship's Magic Officer(s) use it. For example, you could have a ship that uses a magic mirror to scry rather than sensors, so you need people with Mysticism to perform the relevant checks, or you could introduce some sort of weapon enchantment on a ship scale, and let the ship's Magic Officer move the enchantment to a different gun as an action. That sort of thing.

I could see rules for different sorts of ships shifting the skill for various actions.

While I like the core idea for the cinematics, I do agree with people that using the Medicine skill instead of Mysticism would be more appropriate for medical officer duties.

keep it for later

While it's 3PP, the Gamer Printshop Starships, Stations and Salvage Guide by Edward Moyer includes rules that apply to actions that mystics and technomancers can perform on a starship. Either spending spell slots to grant temporary enhancements to starships weapons and defenses. By spending BP on acquisition of spell-primed Shield Bay and spell primed science bay, which grant abilities to starships such as invisibility, greater invisibility, a limited blink ability, holographic images that work like mirror image. Instead of identifying new odd crew positions, this way the spellcasters can actually use magic to enhance the capability of your party starship.

This is a great idea, I really like it and I'll ask my group whether they'd like to implement it in our games. I would suggest, though, that the damage scale. 1 point of damage is basically nothing even for level 1 characters, and once you get beyond level 5 or so, 1d4 is nothing and 2D6 is basically irrelevant as well as long as it only happens a couple times.

I suggest the damage scale based on the ship's tier - that would reflect the increased mass tossing the players around more when it shifts, or more sophisticated systems that blow up in more spectacular ways when they pop. Plus it makes it all the more important to have a medical officer designated (even if it's an NPC for smaller groups).

Also, based on the new DC scales in the Starfinder FAQ, probably you should adjust the action DCs to be X + 1.5 x tier instead.

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