A Concern With Starship Combat


General Discussion


SO I have noticed that with the new wording for divert power to shields, and with the updated DCs it's very possible to hit your divert almost automatically. This is a concern because with a large power core and strong shieds you can make what becomes a nearly invulnerable ship compared to ships of equal tier. Either way it turns starship combat into a slog that can go on for a VERY long time.

Has anyone else noticed this?


Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Yep. Part of the problem is that most starship guns don't really do a lot of damage compared to the shields and hull points of ships of the same tier, and that starship weapons don't multiply damage on a crit. Making it easy to divert power to shields adds to the issue. In the starship combats I've run as a GM for SFS, I've rarely managed to get through the PCs' shields, and even when I do, it's not for much damage. It's part of the reason that starship combats are "plink-plink" slogs sometimes. (and I say this as someone who is really keen on Starfinder)

Now if every ship packed multiple missile launchers, things might be more fun :)


Hmmm, never ran into this issue myself, but then again, I have not played a whole lot.

Would ships with a focused fire design (using any BP meant for weapons on great forward weapons) instead of spreading their weapons all around be able to counter this?

Silver Crusade

Jhaeman wrote:
It's part of the reason that starship combats are "plink-plink" slogs sometimes. (and I say this as someone who is really keen on Starfinder)

One thing that I do, even in SFS, is to offer to call starship combats once they've

a) gone on long enough and
b) its obvious who is going to win (if after 10 rounds the PCs have scored 3 crits and the NPCs have managed to get 2 points of damage past the shields, its obvious :-) :-))

I give the players the choice but, so far, they've ALWAYS decided to take the win :-)


Starfinder Charter Superscriber
pauljathome wrote:


One thing that I do, even in SFS, is to offer to call starship combats once they've
a) gone on long enough and
b) its obvious who is going to win (if after 10 rounds the PCs have scored 3 crits and the NPCs have managed to get 2 points of damage past the shields, its obvious :-) :-))

I give the players the choice but, so far, they've ALWAYS decided to take the win :-)

Ha, I imagine so.

I have thought about "calling" starship battles sometimes, but I wasn't sure if it fits within the tenets of organized play or not.


Starfinder Charter Superscriber
WhiteWeasel wrote:

Hmmm, never ran into this issue myself, but then again, I have not played a whole lot.

Would ships with a focused fire design (using any BP meant for weapons on great forward weapons) instead of spreading their weapons all around be able to counter this?

Putting everything on forward weapons could be risky if the other ship has a much better pilot and stayed out of that arc. But just dumping everything for as many missile launcher turrets as you can could end things in a hurry.


Just ran the second spaceship battle on the free quest pack last night, and it went fast. My recommendation for any player group: two gunners, firing 3 or 4 weapons every round. If your ship doesn't have two turret weapons, get back to dock and install that sucker up.

Now I'm only wishing NPC spaceships had their own rules, like regular NPCs. Having to control all roles by myself is kind of a pain. I pre-roll all science officer, engineer, pilot and captain actions, leaving only the piloting check for helm movement and the actual attack rolls for the table. This saves so much time... I have 10 rounds of pre-rolls ready before combat.

I did restore shields a couple of times, but the focused fire from the players tore through it without problems.


Jhaeman wrote:
WhiteWeasel wrote:

Hmmm, never ran into this issue myself, but then again, I have not played a whole lot.

Would ships with a focused fire design (using any BP meant for weapons on great forward weapons) instead of spreading their weapons all around be able to counter this?

Putting everything on forward weapons could be risky if the other ship has a much better pilot and stayed out of that arc. But just dumping everything for as many missile launcher turrets as you can could end things in a hurry.

Missile launchers actually suck, as a general rule. IIRC, the only kind of ship where they're worthwhile is Tiny/Small, because you can't mount heavy or capital weapons. Heavy and Capital both have better direct fire weapons than targeted.

To answer whiteweasel: one of the problems is that, as a general trend, your shield points per build point increase as you buy bigger and bigger shields, while almost everything else on a ship, including the guns, trends the opposite way, with diminishing returns on better stuff.

Disregarding other costs like the chassis, 5 Pulse Prismatics and Superior Shields 600 on an Explorer Chassis will cost you 230 BP, and give you 150 SP per arc while balanced, 420 max when forced into 1 arc, with Divert restoring 75 SP a shot; you need a capital ship's weapons to punch through that - twin persistent particle beams only deal 70 damage a shot, on average, and twin grasers only deal 77 a shot, while suffering terrible range. And that's after needing to hit the ship, which is complicated by ac/tl, as well as any point defenses, and thrusters (since you can literally run away from torpedoes).

Most of starship combat needs a deep overhaul. For example, why does Barrel Roll "wear off"? Does Triune grab the universe and rotate it around you?


Barrel roll doesn't bother me, as it's a full 360 and you are doing your gunnery and hits mid spin, timelines are a bit fuzzy in space combat with most of actions actually happening simultaneously. Overall I think the DC updates were good, but I think should values or at the divert action needs an update. Its just too easy to become basically invulnerable.

One thing I'm doing with the campaign I'm running is giving the PCs two ships instead of 1, and lowering the twits for both. This means they will be squishier. If will also mean they need to have a very balanced team, but it also means they can hit DCs easier as the ship tiers are lower. So they get to feel like bosses by pulling sweet stunts, but never get to be too cocky when 2 solid hits could disable one of their ships.


Pathfinder Starfinder Maps Subscriber
baggageboy wrote:

Barrel roll doesn't bother me, as it's a full 360 and you are doing your gunnery and hits mid spin, timelines are a bit fuzzy in space combat with most of actions actually happening simultaneously. Overall I think the DC updates were good, but I think should values or at the divert action needs an update. Its just too easy to become basically invulnerable.

One thing I'm doing with the campaign I'm running is giving the PCs two ships instead of 1, and lowering the twits for both. This means they will be squishier. If will also mean they need to have a very balanced team, but it also means they can hit DCs easier as the ship tiers are lower. So they get to feel like bosses by pulling sweet stunts, but never get to be too cocky when 2 solid hits could disable one of their ships.

While I GM, I'll more often have the PCs outnumbered (probably 3 or 4 to the PCs one ship) by fast, smaller ships (like fighters or interceptors, maybe 3 tiers lower) using some limited fire weapons (like linked tactical nuclear missiles), and a noticeably larger ship with some direct fire weapons (probably one tier lower than the PCs).

The players won't be able to always redirect power to the same shield arc, and once the enemy fighters are out of missiles, I can probably call the fight, and it's time to roleplay between ship captains.


Jhaeman wrote:
I have thought about "calling" starship battles sometimes, but I wasn't sure if it fits within the tenets of organized play or not.

I'd say it comes under the rules of calling a fight when the only enemies left don't pose a serious threat to the PCs, and within the organised play tenets of "get this thing finished in the time allowed" :)


quindraco wrote:


To answer whiteweasel: one of the problems is that, as a general trend, your shield points per build point increase as you buy bigger and bigger shields, while almost everything else on a ship, including the guns, trends the opposite way, with diminishing returns on better stuff.

Disregarding other costs like the chassis, 5 Pulse Prismatics and Superior Shields 600 on an Explorer Chassis will cost you 230 BP, and give you 150 SP per arc while balanced, 420 max when forced into 1 arc, with Divert restoring 75 SP a shot; you need a capital ship's weapons to punch through that - twin persistent particle beams only deal 70 damage a shot, on average, and twin grasers only deal 77 a shot, while suffering terrible range. And that's after needing to hit the ship, which is complicated by ac/tl, as well as any point defenses, and thrusters (since you can literally run away from torpedoes).

Huh, that seems like an oversight. As a budding GM I'd probably house rule using divert consecutively would put too much strain on the shield generator and overload it as it's meant only to take that kind of power in short bursts. Sorta making it behave like protect, reducing the chance of success with each consecutive attempt, with say, increasing the DC of the divert check by 5 each time it's consecutively used on the shields. And upon a failed check, the shields are depleted, and require a (DC = 20 + 2 × starship’s tier) engineering check to bring back online.


It sounds like they intended focus fire (many guns in one arc + turret) to overwhelm shield mechanics at par levels. Or alternately smaller ships with less guns per arc, but more ships to compensate.

if you already have 1 ship easily able to punch through on its own, that means multiples of that tier (or even slightly less) would rather easily be able to pummel a ship down.

Grand Lodge

My experience is as well: NPC's shoot almost through the shields and do 0 hull damage. The PC's then patch up the shields back to FULL. Continue round in and out.


quindraco wrote:


To answer whiteweasel: one of the problems is that, as a general trend, your shield points per build point increase as you buy bigger and bigger shields, while almost everything else on a ship, including the guns, trends the opposite way, with diminishing returns on better stuff.

Disregarding other costs like the chassis, 5 Pulse Prismatics and Superior Shields 600 on an Explorer Chassis will cost you 230 BP, and give you 150 SP per arc while balanced, 420 max when forced into 1 arc, with Divert restoring 75 SP a shot; you need a capital ship's weapons to punch through that - twin persistent particle beams only deal 70 damage a shot, on average, and twin grasers only deal 77 a shot, while suffering terrible range. And that's after needing to hit the ship, which is complicated by ac/tl, as well as any point defenses, and thrusters (since you can literally run away from torpedoes).

Looking over that more closely, how did they get 5 pulse prismatics on an explorer frame? It looks like they at most could have two.

Starfinder SRD wrote:

POWER CORE

The power core is the most important system on a ship, as it provides power to every other system. The table below lists the ship size each core is designed for, as well as the PCU it provides and its cost. Each Large and smaller ship has room for only a single power core by default, but Medium and Large starships can be fitted with an extra power core housing (see Expansion Bays). Huge starships can have up to two power cores, Gargantuan starships can have up to three, and Colossal starships can have up to four. Though some ships are exceptions to this standard, they are rare in design. A power core typically has a backup battery system for use in emergencies that can provide limited power—enough for life support, gravity, and comms, but no other systems—for 2d6 days.


WhiteWeasel wrote:
quindraco wrote:


To answer whiteweasel: one of the problems is that, as a general trend, your shield points per build point increase as you buy bigger and bigger shields, while almost everything else on a ship, including the guns, trends the opposite way, with diminishing returns on better stuff.

Disregarding other costs like the chassis, 5 Pulse Prismatics and Superior Shields 600 on an Explorer Chassis will cost you 230 BP, and give you 150 SP per arc while balanced, 420 max when forced into 1 arc, with Divert restoring 75 SP a shot; you need a capital ship's weapons to punch through that - twin persistent particle beams only deal 70 damage a shot, on average, and twin grasers only deal 77 a shot, while suffering terrible range. And that's after needing to hit the ship, which is complicated by ac/tl, as well as any point defenses, and thrusters (since you can literally run away from torpedoes).

Looking over that more closely, how did they get 5 pulse prismatics on an explorer frame? It looks like they at most could have two.

Starfinder SRD wrote:

POWER CORE

The power core is the most important system on a ship, as it provides power to every other system. The table below lists the ship size each core is designed for, as well as the PCU it provides and its cost. Each Large and smaller ship has room for only a single power core by default, but Medium and Large starships can be fitted with an extra power core housing (see Expansion Bays). Huge starships can have up to two power cores, Gargantuan starships can have up to three, and Colossal starships can have up to four. Though some ships are exceptions to this standard, they are rare in design. A power core typically has a backup battery system for use in emergencies that can provide limited power—enough for life support, gravity, and comms, but no other systems—for 2d6 days.

That's an unsolved rules problem I've been waiting on a FAQ for, actually. The rules quote you just provided implies that only Medium and Large starships can take exactly one housing, and Huge or larger can't take any but don't need to. But the rules on the housing itself say otherwise.

p299 wrote:

Power Core Housing

An expansion bay can be set aside for an additional power core (which must be purchased separately) and the associated wiring and safety apparatuses. A power core housing can be installed on only a Medium or larger starship.

So can Huge, Gargantuan, and Colossal ships spend expansion bays on power core housings? The rule you quoted implies not, but the one I did implies yes. How many housings can you put on a ship that can take housings? Both your rule and my rule say "an", which could mean at most one, but does not have to mean at most one - and we have rules precedent that expansion bays use that wording without meaning at most one, because it's the same wording Hangar and Shuttle Bays use, and we have example starships with multiple of those (e.g. a VINDICAS TYRANT has 2 hangar bays, despite hangar bays also saying "a" hangar bay can be installed).

Meanwhile, it also remains unsolved how you actually resolve the divert action with multiple power cores on your ship, so it's not even necessarily clear what the RAI was, in terms of balance. Shields are the only good reason I can think of to have more than 2 cores on a medium ship, since the only other big power draw is the guns, and you won't have enough crew for gun spam on a ship that small.


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The power core is the most important system on a ship, as it provides power to every other system. The table below lists the ship size each core is designed for, as well as the PCU it provides and its cost. Each Large and smaller ship has room for only a single power core by default, but Medium and Large starships can be fitted with an extra power core housing (see Expansion Bays on page 298). Huge starships can have up to two power cores, Gargantuan starships can have up to three, and Colossal starships can have up to four. Though some ships are exceptions to this standard, they are rare in design. A power core typically has a backup battery system for use in emergencies that can provide limited power—enough for life support, gravity, and comms (see page 430), but no other systems—for 2d6 days.

You didn’t finish the paragraph


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So I ran the last starship combat for "Into the Unknown" last night for my group and instead of the single tier 4 ship they were supposed to have they had a tier 3 ship and a tier 1 ship. One ship had a crew of for the other a crew of 2.

I found that having two ships did a lot for starship combat. First there was more firepower for the team so the were more able to damage my ship. Second because the individual ships they had were less durable than the single larger ship they were also more vulnerable and thus there was some real threat. Thirdly there were more real choices to be made by the players. Because they didn't have a full crew in either ship they had to decide what roles would be the most important each round, along with deciding specific action whithin each role. I found this to be an improvement over the very limited choices that there were making before. It allowed them to be much more involved in each round and the overall strategy.

Liberty's Edge

It is likely that you imbalanced the encounter. I am not sure what the CR ratings are of ships, but two ship should have a a higher CR than a single ship, even if the tiers totals were the same.


Well I had seen some guidance somewhere that you could add a second ship at a reduced level of 2 steps when you reduced the tier of the original ship by 1. I will say I've run that same encounter with the original ship that was provided, the outcomes were similar, but there was a lot more fun in the version of the encounter that used two weaker ships in place of the original.

My original concern with space combat, namely that it is easy to obtain a nearly invulnerable ship using a large core, and strong shields, still remains valid. I'm just noting that using two ships in place of one which I had proposed as a method for mitigating this issue seemed to be effective and overall more enjoyable.


baggageboy wrote:
So I ran the last starship combat for "Into the Unknown" last night for my group and instead of the single tier 4 ship they were supposed to have they had a tier 3 ship and a tier 1 ship. One ship had a crew of for the other a crew of 2.

I'm considering this lately. It certainly takes the spaceship combat away from the Star Trek realm back to the Star Wars that is used every other way in Starfinder.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I’ve run four Starship Combats now, and usually it’s been against multiple lower tiered ships. The players have always had a blast but the smaller ships rarely did any major damage unless they focus fired on one side of the ship.

It also meant that if my players faced a squadron of three fighters and knocked out two, the third would usually send a surrender signal and bug out. It was up to the players to give chase or not,


Re: divert shield. The easy option would be increasing the DC. Another would be to take the added shield point out of excess PCU (the one you're not using), rather than the produced one.


LMondoux wrote:
baggageboy wrote:

Barrel roll doesn't bother me, as it's a full 360 and you are doing your gunnery and hits mid spin, timelines are a bit fuzzy in space combat with most of actions actually happening simultaneously. Overall I think the DC updates were good, but I think should values or at the divert action needs an update. Its just too easy to become basically invulnerable.

One thing I'm doing with the campaign I'm running is giving the PCs two ships instead of 1, and lowering the twits for both. This means they will be squishier. If will also mean they need to have a very balanced team, but it also means they can hit DCs easier as the ship tiers are lower. So they get to feel like bosses by pulling sweet stunts, but never get to be too cocky when 2 solid hits could disable one of their ships.

While I GM, I'll more often have the PCs outnumbered (probably 3 or 4 to the PCs one ship) by fast, smaller ships (like fighters or interceptors, maybe 3 tiers lower) using some limited fire weapons (like linked tactical nuclear missiles), and a noticeably larger ship with some direct fire weapons (probably one tier lower than the PCs).

The players won't be able to always redirect power to the same shield arc, and once the enemy fighters are out of missiles, I can probably call the fight, and it's time to roleplay between ship captains.

Minor note, you can't link tracking weapons like tactical nukes.

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