Starship Combat Roles and Drone Mechanics


Rules Questions


1 person marked this as FAQ candidate.

Looking through the Starship section of the CRB I came across an interesting question. The description of Roles on pg. 316 says that you should declare your Role when you board the ship, but it doesn't mention anything about occupying multiple Roles at the same time. Normally I would take this to mean that PC's only occupy one Role at a time, but then the section on Rounds and Phases on pg. 317 ends with this:

Rounds and Phases wrote:
Each character aboard a starship typically acts in only one of these phases, depending on her role on the starship.

Does this mean that a PC could occupy two or more Roles at the same time?

The obvious case for this is the Drone Mechanic who equips their drone with the manipulator arms and camera mods. Does this mean that the Mechanic could act in two Role phases by placing their drone at one of the other stations and directly controlling it during that phase?

As a followup, per the rules for larger starships with larger than 5 man crews, can a Drone Mechanic use their Drone to assist a PC in another Role while occupying their own Role?


I think it's referring to the minor actions whereby the pilot of a single seat ship can fly it and fire the guns.

Liberty's Edge

Drones are a class feature and cannot be used in starship combat (see page 322 under Actions).

When you breakdown a starhip combat round, it has 3 phases.

Engineering: where Engineer(s) role can take actions.

Helm where the Pilot and Science Officer(s) can take their actions.

Gunnery where the Gunner(s) can take their actions.

The Captain can take an action any phase but can only take one action per round.

So no, PCs can't take more than 1 role during a round.


Gary Bush wrote:

Drones are a class feature and cannot be used in starship combat (see page 322 under Actions).

When you breakdown a starhip combat round, it has 3 phases.

Engineering: where Engineer(s) role can take actions.

Helm where the Pilot and Science Officer(s) can take their actions.

Gunnery where the Gunner(s) can take their actions.

The Captain can take an action any phase but can only take one action per round.

So no, PCs can't take more than 1 role during a round.

You should look at that page again, theres a blue section at the top labeled "Other Actions in Starship Combat" that says you can use class features in combat if you want to, and that they get slotted in before the engineering phase. That seems like it should cover multiple starship role actions though.

Sorry for the late response, not sure how I missed this post for over a week :/

Liberty's Edge

Ridiculon wrote:
You should look at that page again, theres a blue section at the top labeled "Other Actions in Starship Combat" that says you can use class features in combat if you want to, and that they get slotted in before the engineering phase. That seems like it should cover multiple starship role actions though.
ACTIONS IN STARSHIP COMBAT wrote:
While your role determines what actions you can take during a starship combat encounter, on occasion you might want to perform some other kind of action, such as casting a spell or using a class feature. The GM has the final say on what kind of regular actions you can take, but generally, you can take only a move or standard action in a single round, and you can take only a minor crew action see page 326) during that round. You aren’t assumed to be adjacent to any of your allies during starship combat, so the GM might also decide that you need to take an additional round to get close enough to an ally to affect him with an ability or spell. Any such action is resolved at the beginning of the round, before the engineering phase.

To me this means that a character could take an action that is outside the actions defined as part of space combat. If a character did this, then they are not filling any role during that round.

Looking at Actions section that is at the bottom of page 322, it clearly states "Class features and items affect crew actions only if specifically noted in the class feature or item." Nothing in the class feature for a drone indicates that it can be used in space combat. This makes sense because a drone has to be directed by the mechanic. If the mechanic is busy trying to divert power to shields, they are not able to focus enough to also direct a drone to repair a system.

If the mechanic wanted to not take a role in combat and direct their drone, then maybe they could. But the mechanic is likely going to be much better at making the necessary DC in space combat than a drone. This is stretching it and I personally would not allow a player to do this.


Gary Bush wrote:


To me this means that a character could take an action that is outside the actions defined as part of space combat. If a character did this, then they are not filling any role during that round.

Looking at Actions section that is at the bottom of page 322, it clearly states "Class features and items affect crew actions only if specifically noted in the class feature or item." Nothing in the class feature for a drone indicates that it can be used in space combat. This makes sense because a drone has to be directed by the mechanic. If the mechanic is busy trying to divert power to shields, they are not able to focus enough to also direct a drone to repair a system.

If the mechanic wanted to not take a role in combat and direct their drone, then maybe they could. But the mechanic is likely going to be much better at making the necessary DC in space combat than a drone. This is stretching it and I personally would not allow a player to do this.

Thanks for the response, although i personally don't think its a stretch to tell a drone to do something for a starship combat role every GM runs their own game.

If the mechanic is controlling the drone directly then it uses the mechanic's skill points, its only when the drone is told to do something without direct control that it isn't as skillfull (although it definitely still has its own skill points). I don't think flying an X-Wing should be impossible in a sci-fi RPG but to each their own.


It is not impossible to fly an x wing, you just have to choose which action you want to take and which minor action you want to take. Personally (and I know most people disasgree) I believe you can take multiple minor crew actions as long as they don't overlap with a full crew action. If you use my interpretation it means you can glide shoot and engineer all in one turn by yourself. Granted glide sucks and snap shot is only ok, but you could do it. Also the minor crew actions at "computer aided" so you could easily play them as the ships AI helping you in a way you have specified, kinda like an R2 unit.

Liberty's Edge

@Ridiculon I play in Society so it is important to me that all GMs run the adventure the same way. By RAW, a drone, which is a class feature, can't be used in space combat.

For home games, the GM is fully within their means to do otherwise.


Hmm.
I do wish that a drone could be allowed to take a fighter out by itself.
or could be allowed to aid another.

or run guns on its own anyway

That seems like it would be a fun drone insert or mechanic talent

Liberty's Edge

Zwordsman wrote:

Hmm.

I do wish that a drone could be allowed to take a fighter out by itself.
or could be allowed to aid another.

or run guns on its own anyway

That seems like it would be a fun drone insert or mechanic talent

Also sounds like something that could be added later in a splat book or "advanced" book.


Gary Bush wrote:

@Ridiculon I play in Society so it is important to me that all GMs run the adventure the same way. By RAW, a drone, which is a class feature, can't be used in space combat.

For home games, the GM is fully within their means to do otherwise.

Gotcha, yeah this is a weird case for society, do yall just not get to acknowledge the GM fiat blue sections as a general rule?

Liberty's Edge

Ridiculon wrote:
Gary Bush wrote:

@Ridiculon I play in Society so it is important to me that all GMs run the adventure the same way. By RAW, a drone, which is a class feature, can't be used in space combat.

For home games, the GM is fully within their means to do otherwise.

Gotcha, yeah this is a weird case for society, do yall just not get to acknowledge the GM fiat blue sections as a general rule?

The campaign leadership provides clarifications that are basicly the "GM fiat" that all GMs can follow. With Starfinder being so new, that has not happened yet.

Society GMs are advised to follow the rules as written but there is table variation. It is something that players roll with to enjoy the game. In a lot of cases, what is table variation now will settle down as more players and GM play with the rules and come to great understanding. I know this has happened with me.


baggageboy wrote:
It is not impossible to fly an x wing, you just have to choose which action you want to take and which minor action you want to take. Personally (and I know most people disasgree) I believe you can take multiple minor crew actions as long as they don't overlap with a full crew action. If you use my interpretation it means you can glide shoot and engineer all in one turn by yourself. Granted glide sucks and snap shot is only ok, but you could do it. Also the minor crew actions at "computer aided" so you could easily play them as the ships AI helping you in a way you have specified, kinda like an R2 unit.

I feel like R2 is more a player character than a drone in starfinder. R2 should be a player character, not someone's pet.

Although android is close, I am disappointed that Starfinder Society doesn't have the option to play a "droid" player character like R2-D2 or IG-88 (who would be a great starfinder, by the way).

Anyway, I'm responding to the x-wing example. I think their are two player characters flying the x-wing, one droid player character and one pilot player character. I think it's a stretch to consider the Mechanic's drone equal to R2-D2.


R2-D2 and BB-8 are not normal astrodroids though, all the other astrodroids you see on screen act like drones, thats why I didn't include them in the example. Obviously IG-88 or C-3PO would be player characters, but astrodroids excluding those two hero versions are basically mechanic drones, and you need an astrodroid to fly an X-Wing, but not usually R2-D2 or BB-8


If you consider the astrodroid a player character (and I understand not doing so) then it is very possible to fly a starship. My brother and I ran through a few encounters as a duo and did very well actually. Here's some of what we learned.

Pretty much every good pilot makes a good gunner. This is great because snap shot is only a -2. So when running a duo it is very reasonable for a pilot to also be your gunner. Glide sucks however, so you will very likely not ever take glide and a full gunner action.

The other 3 roles can be handled by a character with only 4 skills, intimidate, diplomacy, computers and engineering. since you can switch roles at the top of the round your second guy/copilot can be doing all of these roles, they just need to cover what is most important for the given round. most of the time my brother (I was the main pilot/gunner) was just pumping the shields back up, and honestly it was not a big deal. Science officer is nice to have, but unnecessary after 1 or two good scans. Captain is great but not key to function.

Also the lowering of the starship combat DCs you don't have to be an absolute skill master to perform a role satisfactorily.


1 person marked this as FAQ candidate.
Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

A lot of this seems contingent upon whether or not the drone is considered a "character" for purposes of this rule. If you consider both PC's and NPCs "characters" for this purpose, the Drone is in a weird space between the two. It is NOT your PC, but it is at the same time not exactly an NPC, as it is typically under the PC's control completely.

What defines a Character in this system? A drone certainly has all the trappings of your usual NPC. It has its own stats, alignment, type, class skills (implying in a way that it also has a class - specifically "drone"), levels, senses, ability to speak and understand language. It is allowed its own suite of actions, even if these are initially limited. I would argue that since it has the type "Construct" it is in fact a creature. Are all creatures characters? Are all intelligent creatures characters? Does the fact that it depends so heavily on the player being conscious and issuing commands make it more of a tool than a character? Does the fact that this limitation goes away at level cap change things? Or is it the fact that it was created by means of a class feature that prevents it from taking part, plain and simple, hard line in the sand?

In terms of taking independent action: The Drone's Skill Unit should allow it to carry out Engineering tasks while not under the Mechanic's direct control, this is mentioned explicitly in the rules for skill units. All you need to do is be able to communicate with it.

I think that it seems extremely clear to me that your drone should be allowed to participate in starship combat as a character. In fact I feel as though they are designed, in part, for this very purpose. It gives the Drone Mechanic a very distinct advantage in starship combat over the Exocortex Mechanic, who has in turn a more distinct edge in a Character v. Character fight. That seems very intentional.

I think that the rules for the Starfinder game are so full of ambiguities, outright errors and contradictions that you really can't be that pedantic about your interpretations of the RAW. Organized play is a trickier spot, since players expect consistency. But honestly Paizo didn't really make it easy on you guys to walk a hard line in the sand. There is going to be GM interpretation happening from the sounds of it no matter what, at least for the time being, and you're going to have to use your best judgement until this gets a clarify. In LARPing we have a rule we follow staff side:

Do your players want to do it? Will it make them feel awesome? Will it drastically hurt game balance? If the answers are Yes, Yes, No, then let them do it.

Is using their drone really any different from having the players find an extra NPC to aid in ship repairs? No, not really. And it'll make your drone mechanics feel like they're contributing in a significant way. I say do it.

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