Starships, Starfinder, and their flaws.


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Xenocrat wrote:
More dials on the instrument panel to distract you, and the power draw on that big new CPU is making other ship systems erraticlyy slower.

Reach if I've ever heard one. You can try to handwave it away, but at the end of the day, it's a bad system. A computer that offers better bonuses does not increase all DCs. Even if you say at first it does, according to that logic all of the new features are a permanent distraction ad infinitum.

To Ravingdork, the quote is from the end of the build your starship section and says in at least 2 places that the tier is solely based on APL not points spent.


Dread Moores wrote:
Hyrus wrote:
For my game of Dead Suns, I've told my players that, for Starship DC calculations, every instance of Starship Tier, replace it with -2*AC/TL modifier.

Just looking over the existing ships in material, doesn't this nearly always work out to a flat -3 to the base DC (10 or 15, generally)? AC and TL aren't too often drastically far apart often enough to seem to change this. I'll admit a little confusion on how this helps, as it seems to effectively drop a huge number of DCs to just a flat 7 in most cases. Most ships have AC and TL equal, so you're looking at 1 there, so -2. Then the usual x1.5, so -3. 10-3 ends up at 7, or 12 if it's base 15.

What am I missing here? Because that seems to swing too far the other direction.

It's definitely not a perfect solution, and I've been working on refining it a bit, though I haven't found anything that's worked better without complicating things further. Although I suppose if I'm willing to do the grunt work, complications wouldn't really impact gameplay.


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Ravingdork wrote:

Huh? I got it in my head that the ship didn't actually increase in tier until AFTER you upgraded it. I suspect that, that actually isn't the case, and that you're probably just reading the rule a mite too strictly.

Ship's tiers reflect their power. If you haven't upgraded your ship yet, it is not appreciably more powerful, and thus should not have a higher tier.

Yeah, me too.

I think the point of that quote is just to make clear that you don't 'track' a ship's progress, nor should you hold back on advancing a ship's tier. It should improve alongside the PCs as they level. Nonetheless - it's still whatever tier corresponds to its build points.

The first AP grants PCs a tier three ship. They're expected to be around level three by then, but there's no reason that has to be the case. If the correlation was intended to be as strict as that sentence could be interpreted, it would be "a ship with a tier equal to the PC's level".


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"Captain, we've successfully taken the cargo hauler and moved the cargo to our little shuttle. Should we scuttle it?"

"No, we will board her, for the moment we set foot upon her bridge, it will become our new and deadly dreadnaught!"

"Well...why did you make us move all this cargo then?"

No, I think not.


You can not run the rule as strictly as written, and I don't, but them's the RAW.

None-the-less, the system is incredibly flawed and broken.


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Mr Jade wrote:
Reach if I've ever heard one. You can try to handwave it away, but at the end of the day, it's a bad system. A computer that offers better bonuses does not increase all DCs. Even if you say at first it does, according to that logic all of the new features are a permanent distraction ad infinitum.

Jade, is it the actual DC numbers that bother you, or the design theory behind using tier for DCs?

I ran through most of the published ships last night, and the DCs at almost any tier level don't seem off from what Pathfinder characters would find at similar levels. Skill checks and DCs tend to leave the general expected range of requiring a roll of 8 to 12 for a success. d20 systems have generally been built on 10 as the desired roll for as long as I can remember. So it doesn't appear to be delivering any kind of unusually difficult to reach DCs here.

If it's using tier itself that is the problem, then I guess I'd wonder how you dealt with the inevitable rise of DCs in PF? Common tasks frequently end up with much higher DCs at later levels, even in published APs, just to reflect higher skill ratings. There's no real logic or mechanic behind it, other than "everybody's better, so we need tasks to be harder." How is that so different from approximating using ship tier?


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Dread Moores wrote:
If it's using tier itself that is the problem, then I guess I'd wonder how you dealt with the inevitable rise of DCs in PF? Common tasks frequently end up with much higher DCs at later levels, even in published APs, just to reflect higher skill ratings. There's no real logic or mechanic behind it, other than "everybody's better, so we need tasks to be harder." How is that so different from approximating using ship tier?

Generally, a higher DC indicates a task that's objectively more difficult. A 1st-level rogue might have to balance across a 4-inch beam to get to the adjoining house, while the challenge in a 10th level adventure would be to balance across an ice-covered tightrope at a moderate slope. The 1st level character faces a DC of 15, and the 10th-level character a DC of 27, but at least it's an objectively more difficult task.

In other cases, the DC does go up a bit with the situations you face at higher levels, but not as fast as your skills do. For example, many uses of Spellcraft have a DC of X + spell level of whatever you're trying to figure out, but your Spellcraft skill usually increases a lot faster than the spell levels you face.

But the increase to DCs in ship combat in Starfinder is completely arbitrary. It's just "+2 x tier" (in the book; mostly 1½ x tier in the FAQ), for no discernible reason. I would rather have a system where 1st-level characters are glad to pull off a simple maneuver like a Slide but experienced pilots have no problem doing it, and perhaps make advanced stuff like Flyby DC 25-35.


If you're going to use a sliding scale DC in the existing system, I'm just not sure if there's a number as easily gauged as tier.

So what would the ideal be then? A chart listing specific DCs for each action? Not meant to be sarcastic there. I'm genuinely curious to see other ways to handle it.


Dread Moores wrote:

If you're going to use a sliding scale DC in the existing system, I'm just not sure if there's a number as easily gauged as tier.

So what would the ideal be then? A chart listing specific DCs for each action? Not meant to be sarcastic there. I'm genuinely curious to see other ways to handle it.

You already have DCs listed for each action. Just uncouple the DC from the ship tier and spread the DCs out some more.

Some other things you could do would be:

* Reduce the bonus granted by computers. In the current rules, higher-tier ships can have better computers which can offset some of the increased DC, but if tier is no longer relevant for DC you don't need computers to provide as high of a bonus.

* Increase the bonuses/penalties for maneuverability. While you can have a small-ish high-tier ship, there's a correlation between high tier and size/maneuverability (if nothing else, because big ships cost many BP which means higher tier).

* Allow multiple stunts or other crew actions for a higher DC.

* Some actions would need to be rewritten. For example, Divert allows an engineer to (among other things) refresh some amount of shield power depending on the ship's power core (so a higher-tier ship will probably have a bigger core which means more shield points restored. But you could instead have a lower, fixed DC, and restore shields based on how much you exceed the DC by.


Dread Moores wrote:

If you're going to use a sliding scale DC in the existing system, I'm just not sure if there's a number as easily gauged as tier.

So what would the ideal be then? A chart listing specific DCs for each action? Not meant to be sarcastic there. I'm genuinely curious to see other ways to handle it.

If DCs had a higher base and went up at 1xtier, then players would gradually get better at piloting, so you would get a feeling of improvement.


Dread Moores wrote:
Jade, is it the actual DC numbers that bother you, or the design theory behind using tier for DCs?

Absolutely the design theory behind in. In Pathfinder, 5e, and 3.Xe, all DCs are based on an objective difficulty of a given task. So to cross a wooden beam that is 2–6 inches wide, whilst it is slightly slippery or wet, it takes a DC 20 (15+5), and you move at half speed. No matter what level you are, it is the same check. 1st, 10th, 18th. DC 20.

However, in Starfinder, a character trying to rebalance 30 points of shield from the back to the front faces a DC that is constantly changing. A 1st level ship has a DC of either 17 or 16, depending on FAQ usage or not, but the same rebalance action for the same amount at level 18 suddenly is either a DC 51 or 42 depending again on the FAQ.

This makes no sense. There is no example of an equivalent task being arbitrarily harder as you get better outside of 4e, for which it was widely ridiculed for. Treadmills or Red Queen's Races are bad game design.

Sure, in a PF game you'll be making progressively harder checks, but that is become you are accomplishing objectively harder tasks. In SF, that isn't the case. If a first level character tried to cross a chasm, then came back at 20 and did it again, it would incredibly easier the second time around. However, in SF, repeating the same task, rebalancing shields of a given amount, the DC varies depending on APL for the same objective result. This is madness.

SF either needs to redo the DCs to make rebalancing a given amount of shields a given DC, or make the DCs dependent on the equipment. As again, according to the rules, the ship does not need to be upgraded to leap up a tier, it is calculated solely on the APL of the party. However, even fixing that, upgraded equipment should not be harder for higher level characters to use.

Again, even excluding my personal tastes of equipment based DCs and the reading of the tier rules, it is still a treadmill/RQR. It is poor design, both from an in-universe perspective and a game-design one.


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So, you're going to skip starship combat or homebrew a new system? Just asking.

More complex ships, more complex rolls. Doesn't bother me.

Only real problem I got with the system is the lack of useful things to do against enemies for anybody outside of gunner and pilot roles. Add some hacking enemy ships options for science officers and engineers, some more taunt-like actions for the captain, and crate a role based on mysticism already.


House ruling these checks by rolewouldnt be too hard:

Captain, flat DC for a +2 each round. Making a demand is based off the character being demanded.

Pilot, flat DC determined by the action they are taking, this would effectively lock a lot of stunts beyond low levels. I am ok with this, being a better pilot let's you do more things.

Gunner, DC set by enemy ship.

Science officer, DC set by enemy ship.

Engineer, DC set by tier of your ship, as the complexity of your ship goes up so does the difficulty in maintaining it.

Overall this is a very small change but it seems like it addresses Mr. Jade's concerns


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Mr Jade wrote:
Dread Moores wrote:
Jade, is it the actual DC numbers that bother you, or the design theory behind using tier for DCs?

Absolutely the design theory behind in. In Pathfinder, 5e, and 3.Xe, all DCs are based on an objective difficulty of a given task. So to cross a wooden beam that is 2–6 inches wide, whilst it is slightly slippery or wet, it takes a DC 20 (15+5), and you move at half speed. No matter what level you are, it is the same check. 1st, 10th, 18th. DC 20.

However, in Starfinder, a character trying to rebalance 30 points of shield from the back to the front faces a DC that is constantly changing. A 1st level ship has a DC of either 17 or 16, depending on FAQ usage or not, but the same rebalance action for the same amount at level 18 suddenly is either a DC 51 or 42 depending again on the FAQ.

This makes no sense. There is no example of an equivalent task being arbitrarily harder as you get better outside of 4e, for which it was widely ridiculed for. Treadmills or Red Queen's Races are bad game design.

Sure, in a PF game you'll be making progressively harder checks, but that is become you are accomplishing objectively harder tasks. In SF, that isn't the case. If a first level character tried to cross a chasm, then came back at 20 and did it again, it would incredibly easier the second time around. However, in SF, repeating the same task, rebalancing shields of a given amount, the DC varies depending on APL for the same objective result. This is madness.

SF either needs to redo the DCs to make rebalancing a given amount of shields a given DC, or make the DCs dependent on the equipment. As again, according to the rules, the ship does not need to be upgraded to leap up a tier, it is calculated solely on the APL of the party. However, even fixing that, upgraded equipment should not be harder for higher level characters to use.

Again, even excluding my personal tastes of equipment based DCs and the reading of the tier rules, it is still a treadmill/RQR. It is poor design, both...

You’re taking:

“When the characters’ Average Party Level increases, so does the tier of their starship...”

To mean the same ship instantaneously gets harder to fly.

It doesn’t mean that. It means that when the party’s APL increases, they upgrade their ship (alongside their PCs). It doesn’t have to happen immediately, but it’s describing a fact, not prescribing how you improve starships (the tier - build points table does that).

In prosecuting your case that the rules lead to absurdity, you claim to be presenting RAW, but are ignoring those sections of the rules which don’t fit with your interpretation in favour of a passing, descriptive comment.

What you are illustrating is the downside of taking a book written in ordinary English (replete with its contradictions, ambiguities and vagueness) and parsing each phrase as if it were a legal text.

RAW isn’t even well defined, in my view but if you try and insist that it exists, you will always strike something like this in any sufficiently complicated game (evidence: every RPG forum ever). There’s this fallacy that determining RAI requires interpretation that RAW doesn’t. English doesn’t work like that.

Trying to read the rules as the designers meant it to be read is always going to be a better experience than hunting through for a potentially ambiguous phrase, adopting the most silly interpretation and then demanding the rules be rewritten.


Steve Geddes wrote:


Trying to read the rules as the designers meant it to be read is always going to be a better experience than hunting through for a potentially ambiguous phrase, adopting the most silly interpretation and then demanding the rules be rewritten.

The point is that rebalancing 30 points of shields on a Tier 16 ship is harder than a Tier 4 ship and it is nonesense.

Even ignoring the RAW discussion you are missing the forest for a single tree.


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You can stick to a Tier 4 ship and get easy checks if you prefer.


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Mr Jade wrote:
Steve Geddes wrote:


Trying to read the rules as the designers meant it to be read is always going to be a better experience than hunting through for a potentially ambiguous phrase, adopting the most silly interpretation and then demanding the rules be rewritten.

The point is that rebalancing 30 points of shields on a Tier 16 ship is harder than a Tier 4 ship and it is nonesense.

Even ignoring the RAW discussion you are missing the forest for a single tree.

I’m really not. Just because I disagree with your argument doesn’t imply I disagree with your aesthetic preferences. I wasn’t engaging with your point on whether it’s a good design choice to make higher tier ships difficult to fly. I’m disagreeing with your claim that the same ship spontaneously gets harder to fly, even if it hasn’t been changed in any way. That’s not the rules and requires misinterpreting one descriptive sentence and ignoring a whole bunch of other rules.

In terms of the issue you raise here (a feature of the game I also don’t like) - one of the traits of a tier 16 ship is that it’s harder to operate than a tier 4 ship.

You and I may not like that choice, but it’s not nonsensical. I suspect you have an idea of what “tier” represents that doesn’t incorporate that in-world fact.


I don't know it kind of makes sense to me. A 40 foot yacht might be equivalent to a Tier 1 or 2 ship, whereas a naval aircraft carrier is probably Tier 14+. I'd think driving an aircraft sensibly is much harder to do than to operate a 40 foot yacht. I think a Tier 14 ship should be harder to fly than a Tier 4 starship... why does that not represent in-world fact.


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Tier is correlated with size, but here we’re talking about the same size ship - a tier 14 explorer vs a tier 4 explorer, for example.

If you have a tier eight yacht and you upgrade it to tier nine (by say boosting its computer and it’s shields) it gets harder to fly. I don’t find that intuitive at all.


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gamer-printer wrote:
I don't know it kind of makes sense to me. A 40 foot yacht might be equivalent to a Tier 1 or 2 ship, whereas a naval aircraft carrier is probably Tier 14+. I'd think driving an aircraft sensibly is much harder to do than to operate a 40 foot yacht. I think a Tier 14 ship should be harder to fly than a Tier 4 starship... why does that not represent in-world fact.

It does represent an in-world fact. My point to Mr Jade was that he needs a model for what “tier” represents that incorporates it. (I suspect he doesn’t have a decent such model).

You’re suggesting size here, but it doesn’t explain the same ship getting harder to fly over time. I prefer to use tier as a proxy for “complexity” (so a tram might be low tier and a bus may be high tier, even though they’re the same size. You can do more with a bus, but it’s harder to drive one). It’s unsatisfying, but it’s the best I’ve come up with.


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I think complexity is a good measure. TIE fighters are fairly simple craft, no life support, no hyperdrive, limited computing for targeting relay only and com systems. A TIE is considered easier to fly and can pull off greater maneuvers than it's competitor.
the T-65.

A T-65 would be considered a higher tier craft, it has more armaments than a TIE, larger engines, a hyperdrive, full life support, complex systems to simulate gravity in flight. And a more advanced targeting relay.

It is a lot harder to pilot a T-65 than it wold be to fly the comparably more simple TIE.


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Complexity is how I reconcile it and does okay with similar sized-ships of reasonably close tier.

It's a bit weird though when you construct extreme examples - a massive freighter with nothing but basic engines and cargo holds can be 'more complicated' than a single-crew fighter decked out with a full complement of shields/weapons/defenses.


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Mr Jade wrote:

Maybe I'm approaching Starfinder from the wrong perspective, but I love a good sci-fi RPG, especially one that has a lot to do with starships.

Starfinder, unfortunately, seems to be rather weak in this area. Some of the scaling issues bother me, specifically making a light carrier isn't really possible, because the hanger bay just cannot fit on ships smaller than gargantuan.

Quote:
The scaling absolutely makes no sense. Why can't a 300 foot ship carry 8, 20 foot interceptors? No reason at all, aside from nonsense RAW. Why does a 15,000 foot ship max out at 40, 20 foot ships, meaning that in a straight line the ships take up 5% of the ships entire length?

Just gonna note that this was not a permanent design decision, just something to do with Shuttle Bays in particular. With the release of Pact Worlds we were given a system for making carrier ships as small as Large size (with nothing saying you can't go smaller) for a small price of hull points when your smaller ships detach (think the Ghost and the Phantom from Star Wars Rebels).


You add bigger, more complex engines, ship systems, weapons - it get's more complicated, whether measureable as per tier level, maybe not, but, lots of what works for rules, isn't necessarily logical, just that it works.


After finally finishing building about four different factions worth of ships for my newest campaign (lightly inspired by Runelords), I'm starting to find more issues with the expansion bay systems (and why some things even require a bay) than the direct tier/DC issues. Expansion bay issues become even weirder once you get to the capital type ships of Huge and larger.


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We had a similiar problem with the pilot checks and someone here at the forums suggest to make the pilot checks not based on the ships tier, but ships size.

And we are running with this system now and it feels really good.

Short summary:
Exchange the "tier" with a fixed number based on the ships size and modify the base number a little bit.
Example:
Barrel Roll (original) = 10 + 2x Tier
Barrel Roll (houserule) = 15 + 2x Ship Size Mod

Ships size Modificators:
Tiny: 1
Small: 3
Medium: 5
Large: 7
Huge: 10
Gargantuan: 14
Colossal: 18

Maybe something similar can be done with the other actions (e.g. Engineering based on the ships power core, science based on the ships Computer Tier (+ Bonus from Science Lab)).


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gamer-printer wrote:
You add bigger, more complex engines, ship systems, weapons - it get's more complicated, whether measureable as per tier level, maybe not, but, lots of what works for rules, isn't necessarily logical, just that it works.

Fully appreciate that. It’s not a huge deal for me. (The prices of high tier weapons is another thing I just accept on the grounds that “its a game” and don’t think about it too much.

I mainly wanted to comment on the erroneous idea that a ship instantaneously increases in tier, even if you haven’t yet spent build points to upgrade it once the crew goes up a level. (Or if it gets stolen by PCs of a higher level).


Installing antihacking, a heavy anitpersonnell weapon, door locks, a self destruct, and three medical suites is 61+ points. That can take a ship fom T5 to T9 and increase the DCs by 6 or 8 points, depending on faq usage.


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Mr Jade wrote:
Steve Geddes wrote:


Trying to read the rules as the designers meant it to be read is always going to be a better experience than hunting through for a potentially ambiguous phrase, adopting the most silly interpretation and then demanding the rules be rewritten.

The point is that rebalancing 30 points of shields on a Tier 16 ship is harder than a Tier 4 ship and it is nonesense.

Even ignoring the RAW discussion you are missing the forest for a single tree.

Why? The Tier 16 ship is vastly, vastly more complicated with more numerous and powerful systems. Why is it so unthinkable that operating all that tech is harder than a Tier 4 ship purchased used from a used ship lot?


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Telok wrote:
Installing antihacking, a heavy anitpersonnell weapon, door locks, a self destruct, and three medical suites is 61+ points. That can take a ship fom T5 to T9 and increase the DCs by 6 or 8 points, depending on faq usage.

While the real answer is "you can corner case anything", how about this: sure, none of those systems directly effect the maneuvering engines. That's the word, though: directly. Several of them require a more complex computer system to operate ( especially the self-destruct, you certainly want *much* more software safeguards ). Several of them require sizable amounts of power, thus requiring a more complex power-handling system to manage the additional draws. Several of them even add a significant chunk of added mass, effecting the ship's inertial balance.

All those changes collectively make it harder to pilot.


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Level 20
15 + 1.5 * tier DC = DC 45

Level 20 Operative
16 Dex + 5 from stat growth +6 from stat item = 27 Dex or +8

+20 ranks + 3 from class skill = +23
+1 Ace Pilot
+6 Operative Edge
+1 Piloting an Explorer

That's already passing on a 6 or better without captain boost or a computer.

With a captain boost and the computer any character with max ranks and class skill can use the maneuvers without failure.

Star Shaman mystics and operatives are the best pilots but with technology and a little help anyone who practices enough to have max skill ranks can do it.

The starship rolls are pretty easy to make when you actually go to play and people are playing roles that make sense.

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