Are the Captain and science officer Superfluous?


General Discussion


Is it me, or are you better off filling up all of your gunner slots before you bother with having a captain or science officer?


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Captain is superfluous. Science Officer is useful for initial scans (to determine your best approach arc) and shield rebalancing after that. That said, abandoning the Science Officer role after initial scans to do something else is a valid tactic, especially if you aren't getting hit.


Serisan wrote:
Captain is superfluous. Science Officer is useful for initial scans (to determine your best approach arc) and shield rebalancing after that. That said, abandoning the Science Officer role after initial scans to do something else is a valid tactic, especially if you aren't getting hit.

Glad I'm not the only one doing that.

I picture my ysoki asking the pilot to tilt left, so his office chair with phone books can slide into the other room...

Shield rebalancing seems superfluous with the engineer restoring them.


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Captain gives Altronus a chance at hitting with the guns. It can also be very useful if you need to go for a tricky crew action such as Flyby. It isn’t always needed, but can be useful.

Science Officer is very useful at the beginning to find out about the enemy weapnry and shields. After that, switch the person between that position and Engineering.

In most cases, you have a limited number of guns that can fire. Any gunners past that do nothing for you.


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Anyone who thinks the captain is Superfluous hasn't played with an optimized captain. Makes a world of difference forcing the enemy to take penalties to attacks for 1d4 turns.


Sven Vincent wrote:
Anyone who thinks the captain is Superfluous hasn't played with an optimized captain. Makes a world of difference forcing the enemy to take penalties to attacks for 1d4 turns.

But not as big a difference as putting the dead or busted condition on the enemy ship with a weapon blast.

Opportunity cost is a thing, and I would appreciate it if you could support your position with something besides alleging a lack of experience.

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BigNorseWolf wrote:
Sven Vincent wrote:
Anyone who thinks the captain is Superfluous hasn't played with an optimized captain. Makes a world of difference forcing the enemy to take penalties to attacks for 1d4 turns.

But not as big a difference as putting the dead or busted condition on the enemy ship with a weapon blast.

Opportunity cost is a thing, and I would appreciate it if you could support your position with something besides alleging a lack of experience.

Having played as both the captain and the science officer - my experience is that I couldn't be the gunner even if I wanted to, since most of the time there were only two guns that could fire on the enemy ship, and there were already two gunners firing them.

This also happens a lot when you have 6 characters on your starship.


Are buffs and actions other than firing in combat superfluous?

No.

Are there some situations where they might be more important than others?

Yes.

What's the difference between those situations? FWICT usually that you're not having combat in a flat featureless plane with nothing else happening. Same thing that makes buffs and character abilities other than "roll to hit" interesting in any other context.


I have not run any real table ship encounters yet but my theory work on ships has centered on linked fire or single high value weapons in turrets, specifically to optimise the ship for smaller crews. Having science officer and captain provide their +\- conditions are a big part of that strategy. In theory if provides greater flexibility than just having three gunners. Especially if there aren't any opponents in any of those gunners arcs. I had a very tier three transport with a turretted 10D6 particle beam that I was very confident in. Of course I also dropped countermeasures for a laser net so maybe I am just shipping wrong?


Torbyne wrote:
I have not run any real table ship encounters yet but my theory work on ships has centered on linked fire or single high value weapons in turrets, specifically to optimise the ship for smaller crews. Having science officer and captain provide their +\- conditions are a big part of that strategy.

My group did precisely this at the table. I'd have to say that in our case, the theory proves out.


BigNorseWolf wrote:
...Shield rebalancing seems superfluous with the engineer restoring them.

I agree with this after the FAQ corrections to the shield restoration rules. Previously, it was absolutely necessary to rebalance the shields whenever they were restored. I for one liked the hand-in-hand nature of combat shield maintenance and the significance it lent to the Science Officer position but also appreciate the new, simpler method.

CeeJay wrote:
Torbyne wrote:
I have not run any real table ship encounters yet but my theory work on ships has centered on linked fire or single high value weapons in turrets, specifically to optimise the ship for smaller crews. Having science officer and captain provide their +\- conditions are a big part of that strategy.
My group did precisely this at the table. I'd have to say that in our case, the theory proves out.

I also agree with this. Captain's bonuses have proven very useful in critical moments.


In situations where your pilot goes last, is it not a valid tactic to have your science officer then re-balance the shields so that you have more protection on the side(s) facing the enemy before the gunnery phase?

I'm not sure if that's necessary, but it seems like a good idea to me, in situations where you can do that.


pithica42 wrote:

In situations where your pilot goes last, is it not a valid tactic to have your science officer then re-balance the shields so that you have more protection on the side(s) facing the enemy before the gunnery phase?

I'm not sure if that's necessary, but it seems like a good idea to me, in situations where you can do that.

It's a good idea but almost anything else is a better idea.

Maybe because i play SFS where the ships have two or three guns pointing all over the place, but there's usually a few empty seats on the bridge crew somewhere.


But, unless the opposing pilot did the flyby stunt (where they can hit you on any arc) or if they have missiles they can only hit you in the arc(s) facing their ship, right?. Am I missing something? I haven't actually run a SS Combat yet, I want to make sure I have it down before I do.

Liberty's Edge

Captains and science officers are great to repel boarders =P


Is it a SFS problem where you have a pregen ship that you have to make do with? Or is it an actual math issue when facing an equal tier enemy that you get better results with three gunners on their own weapon vs a single gunner with a boosted weapon roll?


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Serisan wrote:
Captain is superfluous. Science Officer is useful for initial scans (to determine your best approach arc) and shield rebalancing after that. That said, abandoning the Science Officer role after initial scans to do something else is a valid tactic, especially if you aren't getting hit.

This.

My captain PC (5th level Envoy) has nailed most every roll, and since we roll in the open I know that my contributions have only aided once. Ever. (My captain nevertheless claims credit for each successful roll.)

I'm not saying there shouldn't have been more times when the plus or penalty swung a roll, but it just hasn't occurred (and our battles have never been close enough for single rolls to matter anyway). The captain role is about as useful as having a combatant in a normal battle who would only intimidate (once per enemy) and aid another.
Sure, those could have an effect, but it's just better to have another combatant (gunner) or healer (engineer). I use the captain role more as an excuse to give good advice to other players via RP (or bad advice in an easier battle for humor).

As for science officer, we have gained lots of tactical info from initial scans since many of the ships come with some weakness that we can exploit. We barely need to balance the shields because we maneuver well, and the computer person also has engineering so they do that alongside the main engineer which means we'll repair shields with regularity. Since we're often at full shields because of this, the science officer can help with a weapon boost, but that's such a tiny boost there'd be no point if needed elsewhere.

So yeah, getting a gunner for each gun and having a spare engineer are more important than having a captain, and a science officer only has limited use.

In a PFS scenario with a different set of players, we joked that we had no leader, we were a truly democratic ship. This became funnier when another ship insisted on talking with our captain.


Torbyne wrote:
Is it a SFS problem where you have a pregen ship that you have to make do with? Or is it an actual math issue when facing an equal tier enemy that you get better results with three gunners on their own weapon vs a single gunner with a boosted weapon roll?

If you have three guns, it's definitely better to man them all than man two and boost one of those. If a gunner has to fire two guns, that's a major penalty that can't be offset by the bonus. Even with a mediocre attack roll (or heck, a bad one), it's better to jump alongside.

A gunner fires two weapons at -4/-4. If he adds an ally who fires -4 worse than he does, they fire at +0/-4 together (and that +0 is on the best gun).
The exception might be if the best gun is so superior to the others that the +10% attack outweighs the % chance of the other gun being effective.
I would not expect to see this ever.

Facing an equal tier ship is actually meant to be a really hard fight (unlike with CR). I've only seen battles against lower tier ships or damaged ships of similar tier.

Most ships are prestatted until the PCs have time to do their own upgrades. Since shipbuilding is complex and would require GM editing too, SFS pretty much has to supply pregen ships.


One of the ways Captains could be a lot more useful would be if Taunt had to roll against the defending Captain, instead of the defending Ship - somehow, higher Tier ships are simply resistant to being mocked over the radio, regardless of the crew inside, and likewise, a Tier 1 ship full of level 20s are going to have a rough time ignoring even relatively shoddy insults. If every Captain in space had a Taunt gun ready to fire (so it would need to work on the same ship in the same combat again somehow) and was the ship's only defense (aside from turning the radio off, which turns off your own Taunt gun) against Taunt guns, a Captain could easily be more useful than a second Gunner. Instead, right now, the only infinitely spammable Captain action is Encourage, which you can accomplish with a Tier 7 AI computer module - there's no need for a body in that seat.


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I have a party of 4 PCs. Since they do not have all of the positions covered, there is a fair amount of swapping of roles between turns. They have gotten pretty good at it.


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I have a party of 4 too. I added the goblin they saved in the Drift Rock (playing Dead Suns) to the crew.

He is the Captain now. At least, his only job in the ship is barking orders to everybody.


I've had a few starship combats to think back on since my prior post.

SFS quests:
there are two starship combats that I recall here, one of which is a complete canned fight (mostly disabled ship with no rear arc gun). The other one is sorta challenging, but you dramatically outgun them. I was pilot in both cases. Pilot was highly valuable, gunner was next, everything else seemed optional.
Captain had no real impact, science officer determining weapon locations was good.

SFS 1-03:
This dramatically unbalanced encounter was essentially optional with no real consequence of failure other than slightly diminished loot. It literally didn't matter what we had where because we ran out of missiles and couldn't actually deal with the mechanics of the fight. It's a bad encounter, showing off the worst of the starship combat mechanics.

Mid-spoiler spoiler alert: 4 terrible pilots in 4 ships is better than 1 good pilot in a good ship because of how AoOs work.
They just line up in front of the good ship and chuckle as it provokes on the way through. This is especially true when the actual target is actively running away from you for the entire combat.

Home game:
Tier 6 ship vs a couple tier 3s. It was the first starship combat that the GM had run. We had a crew of 5 with 1 in each role. I was science officer and I swapped to secondary gunner midway through combat. The captain had a lot of fun, but I think the bonus only worked out once. We had a lot more going on than the enemy did in every regard.

So yeah, perhaps I'm jaded by grossly imbalanced (one way or the other) starship combats. That might be why I think so poorly of the Captain role in particular.


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...if you just line up in front of a ship, why would it move forward? It is definitely not required to do so.

That only makes sense in the specific case where they are chasing something else, and willing to risk plasma-related death, to that end.


I think all roles are necessary from a GM perspective to keep your players engaged. Not all players are going to be useful as gunners. I find the buffs quite useful however since they completely over corrected the ship maneuver DC's to way to low these bonuses are far less necessary now and it diminished their importance quite a bit.


All I really want is a role for my strength based solarion that isn't Captain, since the Envoy does that.

No seriously. I have 4 skill points. None of them are ones that do anything for starship combat. Even being a gunner isn't a good option since anyone who puts ranks in piloting and has a dex score is better off than me. My group house ruled giving me ranks in engineering only for the purposes of Starship combat.


Claxon wrote:

All I really want is a role for my strength based solarion that isn't Captain, since the Envoy does that.

No seriously. I have 4 skill points. None of them are ones that do anything for starship combat. Even being a gunner isn't a good option since anyone who puts ranks in piloting and has a dex score is better off than me. My group house ruled giving me ranks in engineering only for the purposes of Starship combat.

yeah gunner is your only real viable option. However assuming you didnt completely ignore Dex for AC reasons you should be still a fairly competent gunner.


HammerJack wrote:

...if you just line up in front of a ship, why would it move forward? It is definitely not required to do so.

That only makes sense in the specific case where they are chasing something else, and willing to risk plasma-related death, to that end.

Spoiler:
The target was the ship releasing the drones that were lining up in front of us.

Vexies wrote:
Claxon wrote:

All I really want is a role for my strength based solarion that isn't Captain, since the Envoy does that.

No seriously. I have 4 skill points. None of them are ones that do anything for starship combat. Even being a gunner isn't a good option since anyone who puts ranks in piloting and has a dex score is better off than me. My group house ruled giving me ranks in engineering only for the purposes of Starship combat.

yeah gunner is your only real viable option. However assuming you didnt completely ignore Dex for AC reasons you should be still a fairly competent gunner.

I have a dex of 13 I think. My stat spread is 16 str, 13 dex, 10 con, 10 int, 10 wis, 16 charisma. The problem with my character being a gunner, is that in a 4 man party you can't really afford to have 2 gunners. And compared to any non-melee character who puts ranks in piloting I'm a worse gunner (since you can substitute your ranks in gunner for your BAB).

Anyways, to the original point of the thread, the captain and science officer aren't strictly necessary. Really the only truly necessary roles are gunner and pilot. Everything else isn't strictly essentially, but engineer offers big benefits which are too good to ignore. Captain can boost someone's action to really help them succeed on something important. And science officer can provide useful information.


To add further, the biggest problems I see with space combat are Solarions and Mystics. Mystics are likely to have a decent dex, and get enough skills they can sacrifice 1 to piloting or another skill allowing them to be relevant (if not great) in at least 1 aspect of Starship combat, but their main abilities score (Wis) doesn't lend itself to anything and so the next thing is being a gunner. Solarions only options are gunner or captain, but due to a strength focus you will be behind any other charisma based characters that might appear. And with a need for charisma and strength you make a poor gunner at best, making up for things basically only with your full BAB.

Any other characters classes can perform a Starship combat role pretty easily, without someone else easily stepping on their toes but they really needed to add something for mystics and solarions to do.

I'm hoping some sort of boarding action thing can come into play for melee solarions (and soldiers) to contribute to space combat. Maybe it can be a distraction tactic. Or maybe you have the character sabotage the enemy ship with explosives. I dunno. But it could definitely be better.


Solarians by design are meant to have a decent dex. This is evidenced by their only having light armor proficiency. Granted a solarian that wants the most damage capability in melee is likely to "dump" dex and go heavy armor (truly it's not a dump, rather a not boost, but you understand). That's a character choice that a player makes deciding that they will emphasis regular combat over space combat. It's not a wrong choice, but it is a choice.

What can a solarian do well in space combat without a great deal of investment?
Gunner: you don't have to spend any skill points, just ensure you have a decent dex. You probably won't be the best at this, but passable.
Captain: you have a decent cha mod and only need two skills, diplomacy and intimidate. You will probably be the best at this except for envoys, however since you can only have one captain this may not be the best thing to bet on.
Pilot: you can be a decent pilot, it requires investing one of you limited skills into it, and maintaining a decent dex. However pilot is the most important role on a ship and you can only have one. Since that is the case, unless you went ranged solarian, you probably aren't the best choice.
Science/Engineer: these emphasis intelligence. Since this isn't an attribute a solarian can usually justify investing heavily in you probably won't want to do these. But you can have extra people in these roles. With the new DCs it's actually pretty easy to hit the DCs needed for the basic functions like divert. It can actually be very beneficial to have a non expert engineer do the divert action so that your main engineer can focus on patching something. Also you can scan as much as you want, so having extra hands doesn't hurt even if they aren't the best at it. So you could do these roles, but the cost is high. You will only be able to really use these skills as a second string in space combat, as in regular play you will always have your expert fill those functions, and since you only get 4 skill points it hurts a lot more.


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People are talking about the captain bonus not making a difference. In most of the space combats I've run, it has made a difference at least once and probably more.

Something that I've done in order to make the Captain feel a little more relevant is have them distribute the computer bonus. If there is no captain, they can still use it. If there is, I ask that player to make the decision.

When I've seen it used, the Taunt can be very effective. I've seen it used both against the enemy pilot and the enemy gunners. The trick is to use it at the right time.

I don't think it is a necessary role, but I do think it is a useful role. When teaching new players, I tend to mention how you can and sometimes should swap roles. I specifically mention Science Officer swapping to Engineering and Captain to Gunner when appropriate.


In the one and only starship combat I've played the captain was superfluous. I know this because our captain dropped out just before that combat. My character was the science officer, and because I'd maxed out computers hard I'd have been less useful as a gunner.

I can see the argument that you could do without a science officer after the first round though.


baggageboy wrote:

Solarians by design are meant to have a decent dex. This is evidenced by their only having light armor proficiency. Granted a solarian that wants the most damage capability in melee is likely to "dump" dex and go heavy armor (truly it's not a dump, rather a not boost, but you understand). That's a character choice that a player makes deciding that they will emphasis regular combat over space combat. It's not a wrong choice, but it is a choice.

What can a solarian do well in space combat without a great deal of investment?
Gunner: you don't have to spend any skill points, just ensure you have a decent dex. You probably won't be the best at this, but passable.
Captain: you have a decent cha mod and only need two skills, diplomacy and intimidate. You will probably be the best at this except for envoys, however since you can only have one captain this may not be the best thing to bet on.
Pilot: you can be a decent pilot, it requires investing one of you limited skills into it, and maintaining a decent dex. However pilot is the most important role on a ship and you can only have one. Since that is the case, unless you went ranged solarian, you probably aren't the best choice.
Science/Engineer: these emphasis intelligence. Since this isn't an attribute a solarian can usually justify investing heavily in you probably won't want to do these. But you can have extra people in these roles. With the new DCs it's actually pretty easy to hit the DCs needed for the basic functions like divert. It can actually be very beneficial to have a non expert engineer do the divert action so that your main engineer can focus on patching something. Also you can scan as much as you want, so having extra hands doesn't hurt even if they aren't the best at it. So you could do these roles, but the cost is high. You will only be able to really use these skills as a second string in space combat, as in regular play you will always have your expert fill those functions, and since you only get 4 skill points it hurts a lot more.

It's a choice to go with a lower dex you're right, but one that's reinforced by the character class. A melee focused solarion needs strength and charisma. And then would also like to have dex and constitution. And then would also like to have int for skills and wisdom for will saves. The last two never make it.

At character creation you get a total of effectively 13 points to distributes between attributes (or 15 if you choose a race with bonuses to two attributes that you care about and a penalty to either int or wisdom).

I guess instead of 16, 16, 11, 10, 10, 10 I could have gone with 14, 14, 14, 11, 10, 10. But now I'm worse at melee, worse at social skills, worse at revelation DCs, have less resolve points, and have increased my ranged attack rolls, some skills, & AC by 1. The opportunity cost is too high.

I mean, I will be increasing dex with my 5th level up bonus but it's the 4th most important skill. And even if I had made a 3 out of the 4 attributes equal, it still wouldn't be enough to make me good at space combat as a gunner.

As you evaluated each position, it seems like you agree with the observations I made. Basically the only roles you can fulfill are gunner and captain. Which are hugely limiting when you have another class which is likely to have better charisma and be a better captain. And the other role is one you're character isn't likely to have the stats for unless you go ranged solarion (which when you want to play a Jedi isn't an option).

If they had just given the Solarion 5 skill points per level, they could have devoted 1 to a space combat role without much trouble. But it's a bad situation for how it is now.


It's still about choices. You can contribute as a solarian in space combat, but you have to build for it and that will likely mean compromising elsewhere. You mention going 14, 14, 14, 11, 10, 10 as being a bad option and one (though not the only reason) is that you will lose out on social skills, but at the same time you worry about not being captain because there is an envoy. As a solarian you have flexibility in what you can chose to be good at, but you can't be good at a lot. Basically, you have to narrow your focus.

The way I see it there are 3 areas for characters to shine in, combat, skills, and space combat. Skills and space combat have a lot of overlap, but there are provisions made for those that don't have high skills to contribute. In regular combat the solarian shines just fine as one of the highest damage classes in the game. In the skills department a solarian can be good at social skills but may be overshadowed be a true specialist. They can also be good at any str or dex based skills. But you are limited in how many you can chose. In starship combat you can find a role usually in any set party and stick to it. The real difficulty arises when you play SFS as you can't know ahead of time which role you will fill. If you are playing SFS I would suggest thinking about picking up either computers or engineering if you want to be guaranteed something to do besides being an backup gunner. The engineer and science officer roles can both be helped by a second string player now that the DCs have been adjusted.

All that said I don't think that it's a "wrong" decision to basically ignore space combat as a solarian. It's not what the class is really good at, and if you want to be the absolute best at regular combat then that's not a bad thing to do. Just remember that other classes give up some of their combat ability to be good at skills and space combat. They have to make choices too. Though to be fair I do agree that the solarian does have to think a lot harder about the cost and benefit than most.


Space combat is basically an add-on to the main game. You shouldn't have to make major sacrifices to the majority portion of the game in order to have a playable character for Space Combat.

The Mystic, the Solarion (and the melee Soldier) are the classes who really get the shaft on this by:
1) Having less skill points then the other classes (and not beign intelligence based)
2) Having their main attribute score not contribute in any way to space combat

My whole point is I shouldn't have to make sacrificial decisions that make me worse at the majority of the game (everything but space combat) to be competent at space combat. Everyone else doesn't really have to make this choice. They have enough skill points to be able to put 1 aside for space combat, and usually have attribute scores which support it.


They make the choice when they chose their class. An operative can't keep up with a solarian in regular combat, a solarian can't keep up with an operative in the skills department.


An Operative keeps up just fine with Solarions in the damage department, until somewhere around level 10. Basically it's when damage dice really start to jump that Operatives fall behind.

And that's another separate problem that needs to be addressed, but wasn't really relevant to the topic of this thread.

In either event, I think the trade off for the main game of better at combat vs better at skills is OK. But the problem is this extra little bonus game that was tacked on that the Mystic and Solarion classes, almost completely agnostic of player choices, are bad at.

And the solution is actually pretty simple. Just make some sort of damn strength based and wisdom based actions for melee characters and mystics to perform in space combat.


Just wait for the Starfinder Starships book, there'll be plenty of new options - they haven't even included magic in space ships combat yet.


Vesk need to invent a personal personnel torpedo that launches you into the other ship so the solarion has something to do...


BigNorseWolf wrote:
Vesk need to invent a personal personnel torpedo that launches you into the other ship so the solarion has something to do...

Highly unlikely, for a couple reasons:

1. The time scale in space combat is deliberately vague, introducing this would require locking it down

2. Being outnumbered sucks, and unless the enemy ships has a PC Party-sized crew, you *will* be outnumbered

3. Do you *really* want to stick your PC in a missile that can miss, or be shot down?


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Metaphysician wrote:

3. Do you *really* want to stick your PC in a missile that can miss, or be shot down?

wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

The Concordance

Metaphysician wrote:
BigNorseWolf wrote:
Vesk need to invent a personal personnel torpedo that launches you into the other ship so the solarion has something to do...
3. Do you *really* want to stick your PC in a missile that can miss, or be shot down?

Well... depends on how much you like them ;)

But a bit more seriously, having "boarding pods" would not be bad... essentially an escape pod, but it can be used to board ships... like any tiny vessel, can still be disabled.


It makes sense as a thing to exist in the setting. Not so much something a player would actually want to use, given the high likelihood of being killed while so doing. Also, I'm not at all sure that the rules section on "what happens to a ship reduced to 0 HP" would actually apply to boarding pods, or escape pods, anymore than it would apply to a truck carried in your ship's hangar. If the craft isn't at least ( Ship Scale ) Tiny, its not a ship.


Honestly, this personnel torpedo sounds far more goblin than vesk.


Maybe my experience with starship combat has been out of the norm, but the biggest swing in the fights I've seen (aside from the engineer keeping us alive with shields) is the science officer targeting the power core of the opposing ship.

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