Starships, Starfinder, and their flaws.


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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, the increasing difficulty of combat actions as you level up, and the gamey "can't cross BP with credits".

As I said above, starship combat doesn't really work in Starfinder, in that as you level up, it becomes increasingly harder to successfully pull off skill checks. For example, balancing shields requires a DC 15 + 2 x tier level check to succeed.

Let's take a sample tier 4 ship with a 4th level science officer. He has 4 ranks in computers, he gets a +3 bonus, a +3 from his stats, along with a computer that adds +3 to his check. So he must roll a DC 23 Computers check to succeed, and is rolling with a +13 bonus, he succeeds 55% of the time. The ship is currently spending 8% of it's BP on the computer.

Taking this same ship across all levels/tiers, and keeping the same computer budget means that we generate a curve of success chances. It ranges from 60% at level one, all the way down to 5% chance of success at level 20. I have baked in better computers, ranks, ability point increases, etc. Here's the chart.

Now, this trend could be countered by picking up skill focus and magic items to boost your ability scores, but that will cap out at a total +5 over all 20 levels, so you end at a 30% chance of success, still down from a high total of 75%.

All in all, the fact that it becomes progressively harder to succeed is very irritating from a starship combat/roleplay/utility point of view. You average losing ~2.5% chance of succeeding per level (but this is a bit false, there are just some levels where you don't lose any chance, but most levels step it down by 5%).

Lastly, this doesn't take into account the need for multiple crewmen to be using the computer's bonus, but unfortunately again, the math just doesn't work out. You have to double the amount of BP you are willing to spend in order to make it to where a single other player can gain that bonus. Here is the success rate without the computer's bonus.

To put it another way, without paying at least 16% of your budget, only a single player can have the bad chances above. However, it simply isn't possible after level 15 for 3 players to gain the bonus, even though Engineers make a DC 15 + 2 x Tier check, as do Captains.

All in all, the math of the crew actions work poorly, as does many of the features of the starship design and creation.


Are you using the corrected DCs from the FAQ that lowered everything a few months ago? I thought the hardest checks now were 15+ (1.5x tier) and those aren't all checks, just a few. Also, they clarified that you get class feature bonuses for skill checks, just not attacks in ships.

So, a level 4 mechanic could have 4 ranks, 3 int mod, 3 class bonus, 3 skill focus and possibly a racial bonus or other random odd and end for a few points more. Even without a feat you'll have the class bypass bonus. So, pretty easy to have a +10-13 bonus against a DC of 21, haven't even used the ship's computer or a captain motivating which could add another 2-5 points. If you wanted to max it out with a feat and a lashunta you'd have a +15, use your +3 computer and a plus to from the captain and have a +20 mod at level 4... pretty easy DC at that point.


My issue with ships comes more from, the game pushes for these designs with lots of guns in all the arcs but the BP and Power Core limits coupled with generally small parties means almost everything will be built with one or two large turret guns and nothing else. This removes most of the need to maneuver around unless every fight has weird space clouds and asteroids everywhere...

And on a more minorn note, the sense of scale for ships is really weird. Large ships should have lots of space and probably either more expansions bays or expansion bays that do more when on a larger ship. I just looked at the deck plans for a Large ship from the AP and it's actually much smaller than the Medium ship the PCs have. More of an annoyance than anything else though, the BP and PC system is more frustrating.


Torbyne wrote:
Are you using the corrected DCs from the FAQ that lowered everything a few months ago? I thought the hardest checks now were 15+ (1.5x tier) and those aren't all checks, just a few. Also, they clarified that you get class feature bonuses for skill checks, just not attacks in ships.

1. No, I downloaded the rulebook again today and am using that copy, so I assumed it would be updated with any errata.

2. It is just a few checks, but many of them need to happen most or every round to be effective.
3. And yes, I'm assuming that it applied to everything, not just attacks.

So recalculating based on a 1.5 x tier gets you two new charts, this first one where it isn't awful, but you still become progressively more inept.

The one where you can't use the computer, which is a fair assumption for many ships, is still bad.

Even with the fix: Why wasn't it added to the Core Rulebook PDF and why does it still not work?

Dark Archive

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Mr Jade wrote:


As I said above, starship combat doesn't really work in Starfinder, in that as you level up, it becomes increasingly harder to successfully pull off skill checks. For example, balancing shields requires a DC 15 + 2 x tier level check to succeed.

(blast - ninja'd)

Many of your numerical concerns have been addressed in a FAQ post, in which most of the target DCs were reduced to 1.5 x DC.

Here's the link

http://paizo.com/paizo/faq/v5748nruor1hi#v5748eaic9w55

As to why it hasn't been added to the pdf, Paizo typically doesn't alter their pdfs until they do a new printing of the book.


Torbyne wrote:

My issue with ships comes more from, the game pushes for these designs with lots of guns in all the arcs but the BP and Power Core limits coupled with generally small parties means almost everything will be built with one or two large turret guns and nothing else. This removes most of the need to maneuver around unless every fight has weird space clouds and asteroids everywhere...

And on a more minorn note, the sense of scale for ships is really weird. Large ships should have lots of space and probably either more expansions bays or expansion bays that do more when on a larger ship. I just looked at the deck plans for a Large ship from the AP and it's actually much smaller than the Medium ship the PCs have. More of an annoyance than anything else though, the BP and PC system is more frustrating.

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?

The entire ship building system is incredibly flawed, because as you said, you need a PC to effectively man a gun, and the way that the BP and PCU systems work, synergized with the number of players, tends towards only a few, powerful weapons being equipped and the rest of the points being put into other systems because you cannot effectively utilize them.

The fact that ships also have artificial minimum numbers without giving them roles is beyond annoying too. Why does a bulk carrier need 20 men to run it? Modern supertankers often do not have crews that large.


Joe Jungers wrote:

Many of your numerical concerns have been addressed in a FAQ post, in which most of the target DCs were reduced to 1.5 x DC.

Here's the link

http://paizo.com/paizo/faq/v5748nruor1hi#v5748eaic9w55

As to why it hasn't been added to the pdf, Paizo typically doesn't alter their pdfs until they do a new printing of the book.

Problem is, that it still doesn't work out mathematically, as there is a very good chance that you need to have 3 or more PCs making the DC 15 + 1.5 x tier checks, and your budget for a computer that allows for even 3 players is approximately 25% of your entire ship.

It just doesn't work still.


I don't follow your charts.. I mean, at level 1, 1 rank, 3 ability mod, 3 class skill, 1 class bonus feature (bypass, operative's edge etc.) Gives a +8 vs at highest a DC 16. At level 5 that should be at least a 14 against a DC of 22. Before computer or captain.

Assume you raised you skill mod to a +4 at level 5 and maybe even put your +2 augment in that slot, a feat or class ability for a +3 skill bonus. So that level five character brings a +16 against a DC 22. If it is really vital then you can ask for the +2-4 from captain and computer. If it just has to be done let the captain demand it and you've got a +20-22 vs DC 22.

At level 10. 10 ranks, 5-6 ability mod, 3 class skill, 3-4 skill boosting feat or class ability. Likely minimum of +21 vs DC 30. Maybe up to 23? 25 for a lashunta or other racial bonus race, and again, if you cant risk failure, +2-7 between captain and computer.


Torbyne wrote:
I don't follow your charts.. I mean, at level 1, 1 rank, 3 ability mod, 3 class skill, 1 class bonus feature (bypass, operative's edge etc.) Gives a +8 vs at highest a DC 16. At level 5 that should be at least a 14 against a DC of 22. Before computer or captain.

At level 1, I'm assuming a +7 before computer vs a DC 16. It continues from there. Adjusting the number to a +8 before computer only adds a flat +5% to every data point from there on out.

And the captain can add a +2 to any one person per round, so again, that just adds a flat 10%. That none-the-less still ends in very bad numbers without having a computer to add to you. If you want the captain to succeed at giving you a +4, he would need to roll on the without computers chart, meaning he is increasingly likely to fail also to do so.

The numbers still are not balanced, because in the most munchkin of cases, you are still becoming progressively more incompetent.

My players do not munchkin, so their numbers are lower than this better than average set of chances.


Sorry, posting on my phone, I have to post something that's just a few lines first and the. Edit for the rest of my thought. Weird issue... any ways, when I look at the math, it stays about the same at most levels.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Though the BP system is a bit handwavium, it is a lot easier to manage and helps maintain system balance. Otherwise, nothing would be stopping the PCs from selling their ship and spending the fortune on hookers and blow an early retirement.


Mr Jade wrote:
Torbyne wrote:
I don't follow your charts.. I mean, at level 1, 1 rank, 3 ability mod, 3 class skill, 1 class bonus feature (bypass, operative's edge etc.) Gives a +8 vs at highest a DC 16. At level 5 that should be at least a 14 against a DC of 22. Before computer or captain.

At level 1, I'm assuming a +7 before computer vs a DC 16. It continues from there. Adjusting the number to a +8 before computer only adds a flat +5% to every data point from there on out.

And the captain can add a +2 to any one person per round, so again, that just adds a flat 10%. That none-the-less still ends in very bad numbers without having a computer to add to you. If you want the captain to succeed at giving you a +4, he would need to roll on the without computers chart, meaning he is increasingly likely to fail also to do so.

The numbers still are not balanced, because in the most munchkin of cases, you are still becoming progressively more incompetent.

My players do not munchkin, so their numbers are lower than this better than average set of chances.

I don't think you can use the term munchkin with Starfinder just yet, the distance between ground and ceiling on optimization is one floor with an unfinished basement and an overhead crawl space.

Assume a +2-4 in the skill's ruling stat, increase it every five levels and assign it at least your secondary stat augment. This is really bare minimum, if your players are upset they cant pass a skill check for an off class skill that they have a 13 or less in than no one can help you. Assuming you are in a ship role that benefits from theme bonus (forget that in previous posts, add an extra +1 to maximum values) or a class bonus, (operative, mechanic, technomancer, mystic and envoy will all start with this, and a +8 at level 1 is really, really easy to come by. If it is a skill they expect to be using often, computers or engineering being two of the most common skills in the game, skill focus isn't that hard to imagine. Even without that, about half the classes in the game get automatic scaling bonuses that will match skill focus soon enough. The closest to "munchkin" you can claim is a species with a racial bonus, which by my math just makes ship checks ridiculously easy.

Look at pilot role again, at level one with a ranged character, the default assumption for this game, a 16 starting Dex which isn't yet maxed out. Assuming they are an Ace Pilot and then your looking at an easy +10 (1 rank, 3 class, 3 ability, 1 theme, 1-3 misc feat/racial/class) from the get go. If you want to really munchkin with it, a racial +2, a maxed out stat and either operative or skill focus can bring that up to +14 for a Core Only optimization. Assuming a 7 baseline kind of lowballing things.

Sure, you can front load things a bit so that you start off with slightly better odds than you'll have at later levels but the odds are staying good without the captain or a computer as long as you are playing a class strong class or spend a feat to compete. That's not too much of an investment.


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Ravingdork wrote:
Though the BP system is a bit handwavium, it is a lot easier to manage and helps maintain system balance. Otherwise, nothing would be stopping the PCs from selling their ship and spending the fortune on hookers and blow an early retirement.

Oh, totally, BP saves you from a weird headache of trying to balance use of wealth and massive debt over a scaling level and value system. How can you justify buying a new particle beam, and turret mount for it no less, when your basic ship still has a 25 million credit loan on it?

But it is also somewhat limiting, you generally have one, maaayybee two weapon rolls each round; the game doesn't model scale at all with an interceptor not being too different from a destroyer until you get around tier 8 or so when the twin linked plasma from the smallest ship falls behind the firepower of a ship around twenty times its size; The PCs don't have any easy by the book way of piloting Large+ ships which puts an artificial cap on how much firepower they can bring to a fight... I would say a tier 20 ship for a party of 4-5 isn't bringing much more dakka to the table than a tier 12. The higher level just gets better shields and a few extra hexes of movement or a small boost in computer bonuses. And as always, you cant readily model a light carrier or squadron based game in the current rules, even with a sensor net and launch tubes you are going to need a lot of GM fiat... and tiny ships stop being a threat to large ships after a certain point due to weapon restrictions.

Still, all things considered, the ship system is in a good place for how little there is for it so far.


Developers have noted several places that starship combat was more of a "in addition to" sort of system, rather than a purpose-built one. Trying to compare Starfinder to Traveller or any of a dozen or so other systems with purpose built starship combat rules is likely going to be an exercise in frustration. The design philosophy and inspiration was never the same.

Battletech probably has a more technical starship combat system...and that's not a compliment, from a system that has a fighter's main thrust torch capable of melting clear through to the mantle in a matter of minutes (or alternately, power an entire city for a month).


Dread Moores wrote:

Developers have noted several places that starship combat was more of a "in addition to" sort of system, rather than a purpose-built one. Trying to compare Starfinder to Traveller or any of a dozen or so other systems with purpose built starship combat rules is likely going to be an exercise in frustration. The design philosophy and inspiration was never the same.

Battletech probably has a more technical starship combat system...and that's not a compliment, from a system that has a fighter's main thrust torch capable of melting clear through to the mantle in a matter of minutes (or alternately, power an entire city for a month).

This is actually the first I've heard that the ship system was anything other than a core part of the design. It does fit with ships not interacting with any other part of the game but I had chalked that up to the few resources available so far. I still expect a "highguard" style book to come out and greatly expand on the rules and options for ships.


I still think the system works quite well. I don't mean to imply that it was something bolted on at the last minute with no real work. But if you're looking for a Traveller level of interaction...then you're probably looking in the wrong place. Starfinder is a great space fantasy game, that also happens to have ship combat and creation rules. Traveller is a sci-fi game with hardwired ship rules. Two very different design philosophies there, and two very different end results.


I think that I expected ships/vehicles to be more integral to the design philosophy of Starfinder than it clearly was, as did my players.

We love Pathfinder, and were really looking more for Pathfinder in space, not a redesign of the basic fantasy/RPG systems and an ad hoc ship system.

I might take a look at Traveller and try to homebrew some sort of Starfinder/Pathfinder/Traveller mixture. I really love the d20 base for classes, and really loved Pathfinder's improvements onto 3.X, however everyone in my group including me are fairly disappointed with Starfinder itself.

Up to and including the immersion breaking scale issues, ship building issues, and also the seemingly untested numbers published in the RAW.

As to the numerical issues, we've been running Starfinder games on and off again since release, and this is the first I've heard of a fix for this problem. Paizo needs to be a bit more aggressive about fixing these things. I've already had 3 players express that they are no longer interested in a Starfinder game in the future from the myriad issues.


Dread Moores wrote:
I still think the system works quite well. I don't mean to imply that it was something bolted on at the last minute with no real work. But if you're looking for a Traveller level of interaction...then you're probably looking in the wrong place. Starfinder is a great space fantasy game, that also happens to have ship combat and creation rules. Traveller is a sci-fi game with hardwired ship rules. Two very different design philosophies there, and two very different end results.

Whoops, my bad. I thought you were implying it was a last minute bolt on. I fully agree with you, Starfinder and Traveller may both be Science Fantasy games but they have very different feels and ways of going about things.


Mr Jade wrote:

I think that I expected ships/vehicles to be more integral to the design philosophy of Starfinder than it clearly was, as did my players.

We love Pathfinder, and were really looking more for Pathfinder in space, not a redesign of the basic fantasy/RPG systems and an ad hoc ship system.

I might take a look at Traveller and try to homebrew some sort of Starfinder/Pathfinder/Traveller mixture. I really love the d20 base for classes, and really loved Pathfinder's improvements onto 3.X, however everyone in my group including me are fairly disappointed with Starfinder itself.

Up to and including the immersion breaking scale issues, ship building issues, and also the seemingly untested numbers published in the RAW.

As to the numerical issues, we've been running Starfinder games on and off again since release, and this is the first I've heard of a fix for this problem. Paizo needs to be a bit more aggressive about fixing these things. I've already had 3 players express that they are no longer interested in a Starfinder game in the future from the myriad issues.

I have never seen it myself but there is supposed to be a D20 Traveller system out there... which is a weird thought, Traveller does not lend itself well to things like leveling up or much in the way of growing stronger, it is more of the encourage you to figure out what to do with a character that has very little to offer outside of an interesting backstory style of play. Some editions are more bounded and biased towards capable characters but in almost all editions rewards are in money and prestige, you don't really upgrade from basic starting gear aside from maybe getting your hands on some military grade or artifact grade stuff if the GM makes it available. Normally the party is several million in debt for a starting scout vessel and most caplmpaigns are based around how to make the next payment on time and not get any of your people killed to do it. Saving or overthrowing the galaxy is just a byproduct of paying the bills.

As for Starfunder, aside from the ship system, what is off putting for your players?


Torbyne wrote:
As for Starfinder, aside from the ship system, what is off putting for your players?

I think we have a couple of issues.

1. We didn't expect the level of overhaul that occurred going from PF to SF, in that we were originally engaged in a PF campaign that we decided to port into SF via time-travel adventures. The transition was more abrupt than expected so that game ended up trailing off into the mists. Even after that it caused some friction for two of my players, the sum total differences I mean, and they are no longer interested in SF.

2. I was sold on a different concept than what was delivered. Most of us like the older Star Wars movies, and the thought that we could have similar adventures was very stirring to us, however like above the classes were quite a bit more different from PF than expected, and the entire ship system was extremely underwhelming, so much so that the next game that I ran (for a different group of players) ended up dying too.

I'm not really sure the exact game that Starfinder lends itself to as a Pathfinder in space wasn't it, and so wasn't high flying space adventures either. I guess if you are looking for a ground-based system like Pathfinder, but set in the far future you'd be good, but we'd rather just play Numenera if that is the option.


I can see it as a very abrupt shift from Pathfinder. I think my group had a softer landing since we spent some time going over expectations prior to the first session so they jumped right in to using cover and single attacks. But also, the kind of game it defaults to excludes some styles.


Torbyne wrote:
I can see it as a very abrupt shift from Pathfinder. I think my group had a softer landing since we spent some time going over expectations prior to the first session so they jumped right in to using cover and single attacks. But also, the kind of game it defaults to excludes some styles.

I don't mind either of those changes, it was more the radical shift in casting and the dual hit point system. We were also trying out 5e at the same time and just found SF to be a relatively more unpolished and unfinished system.

We also are having some real difficulties managing ranged and melee damage, because half the party specced to be extreme range and the other melee, magnifying an issue that D20 systems have had with ranged vs melee damage.


Mr Jade wrote:
Torbyne wrote:
I can see it as a very abrupt shift from Pathfinder. I think my group had a softer landing since we spent some time going over expectations prior to the first session so they jumped right in to using cover and single attacks. But also, the kind of game it defaults to excludes some styles.

I don't mind either of those changes, it was more the radical shift in casting and the dual hit point system. We were also trying out 5e at the same time and just found SF to be a relatively more unpolished and unfinished system.

We also are having some real difficulties managing ranged and melee damage, because half the party specced to be extreme range and the other melee, magnifying an issue that D20 systems have had with ranged vs melee damage.

That's interesting, I was posting on another forum earlier in praise of how Starfinder handled ranged and melee. Melee specialists flushing gun users out of cover to be picked off by allies and creating choke points to hold off monsters to defend the ranged players has kept everyone involved and feeling like their movements were just as important as their attacks. They have really rolled over some encounters by changing angles of attack to get around cover or using the surprise melee rush to break a formation... freaking solarian grenade. It's too bad that your group has not enjoyed the system, I think it's pretty good as is with a lot of potential for improvement over time... but I acknowledge that you all don't have to like what I like ;)


Mr Jade wrote:

I think that I expected ships/vehicles to be more integral to the design philosophy of Starfinder than it clearly was, as did my players.

We love Pathfinder, and were really looking more for Pathfinder in space, not a redesign of the basic fantasy/RPG systems and an ad hoc ship system.

I might take a look at Traveller and try to homebrew some sort of Starfinder/Pathfinder/Traveller mixture. I really love the d20 base for classes, and really loved Pathfinder's improvements onto 3.X, however everyone in my group including me are fairly disappointed with Starfinder itself.

Up to and including the immersion breaking scale issues, ship building issues, and also the seemingly untested numbers published in the RAW.

As to the numerical issues, we've been running Starfinder games on and off again since release, and this is the first I've heard of a fix for this problem. Paizo needs to be a bit more aggressive about fixing these things. I've already had 3 players express that they are no longer interested in a Starfinder game in the future from the myriad issues.

But it is Pathfinder in space. Pathfinder ship combat rules are terrible too. And outside of that, its very similar to Pathfinder.


Mr Jade wrote:
We love Pathfinder, and were really looking more for Pathfinder in space, not a redesign of the basic fantasy/RPG systems and an ad hoc ship system.

And setting all of the rest of the technical issues aside (not to minimize them, simply for ease of this response), that's going to continue to be a sticking point.

Starfinder is definitely not Pathfinder in space. It definitely wasn't meant to be. There are a high number of similarities, but at the core, we as a community need to be clear about this point.

I think this point causes a great deal of issues when folks look to convert Pathfinder AP (or module) material to Starfinder as well. If you're handling the GM's chair, then you need to be aware going in that one easy key to success for Starfinder games is recognizing the differences. Mechanical issues can be addressed (and there are some good notes on how to do so here already). But there is definitely a divide between the two games, and ignoring that can cause a lot of problems down the road.

Edit: And obviously folks may disagree on this point. *grins and points up*


johnlocke90 wrote:
But it is Pathfinder in space. Pathfinder ship combat rules are terrible too. And outside of that, its very similar to Pathfinder.

I'd disagree vehemently. Dual HP systems, large shifts in class design and philosophy, a large magical overhaul, and many more small changes.

Dread Moores wrote:
Starfinder is definitely not Pathfinder in space. It definitely wasn't meant to be. There are a high number of similarities, but at the core, we as a community need to be clear about this point.

I know that I was no aware of it being a radical departure until release, and none of any of my gaming groups did either. I don't know if we just missed the memos or if it wasn't communicated clearly. I don't really care to blame Paizo, so ultimately it doesn't matter.

I think that SF has a place, but I just don't know where. It doesn't do a good job of simulating anything heavily involving ships or vehicles, and in my experience combat is difficult to balance well.

To the melee/ranged issues, my PCs and my opponents use a lot of verticality when it comes to range and this presents many issues, as simply does the sheer range at which the PCs can engage. In one of my games I had two soldiers that both went sniper, and would choose to accurately engage enemies at 1,000 or more feet. Even for an operative moving at 45+ feet per action, or sprinting at 225+ feet per round, that's still 5+ rounds in order to get into combat, and often my players were sprinting at 80 feet per round.


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Mr Jade wrote:
2. I was sold on a different concept than what was delivered. Most of us like the older Star Wars movies, and the thought that we could have similar adventures was very stirring to us, however like above the classes were quite a bit more different from PF than expected, and the entire ship system was extremely underwhelming, so much so that the next game that I ran (for a different group of players) ended up dying too.

I'm not really sure why you couldn't run space fantasy style games in the vein of the older Star Wars flicks. I haven't found any real stumbling blocks in that particular direction. Small crew ships, much like the Falcon, are one of the places that the ship rules succeed. Fleet actions and multi-heavy/capital ship combat is...a great deal more challenging. I find it a lot easier to fit SF classes to a Star Wars style game than PF classes (which are very clearly built for a cinematic European medieval setting).

The ship rules (building and combat) are definitely more narrative in style. But not at a level of anything like Fate or even the Cypher system games. I think there's a level of adjustment needed to realize that it isn't a heavy mechanical crunch system. But I may be a bit biased, because I tend to come at this from a background with Shadowrun and Eclipse Phase that really opened up my eyes towards how different games are in a post-scarcity or maker-tech economy. And Starfinder is definitely not a scarcity economy like Pathfinder. So I can square the gamification needs of the BP system pretty easily for my own needs.


Mr Jade wrote:
To the melee/ranged issues, my PCs and my opponents use a lot of verticality when it comes to range and this presents many issues, as simply does the sheer range at which the PCs can engage. In one of my games I had two soldiers that both went sniper, and would choose to accurately engage enemies at 1,000 or more feet. Even for an operative moving at 45+ feet per action, or sprinting at 225+ feet per round, that's still 5+ rounds in order to get into combat, and often my players were sprinting at 80 feet per round.

This seems like more a tactical change needed than any particular issues with Starfinder. This sort of situation has been an issue in any kind of modern or post-modern game for as long as I can remember. If you've got snipers working with close-combat or close-range stealth, then those elements need to be in a position to actually engage in their specialty. Snipers can easily be "off-map", or not engage until CQB elements are in position. If you're charging across 1,000 feet of space, that's definitely an issue. But that's all about positioning prior to combat or tactical planning (an issue common in everything from d20 modern to Traveller to Shadowrun or Delta Green and on and on).

I've dealt with a sniper, a close-range solarion, and a heavy blitz soldier all in one group. Struggles with these kinds of tactical issues aren't unique to Starfinder, but to any group that is dealing with modern (or similar) weapon ranges.

I have a feeling that I can't help as much with ship combat concerns. Much of what you see as failings, I don't see quite the same way. I think the rules model narrative space combat fairly well. It's a cinematic style of combat, much like that found in Star Wars or any other space operas. There are definite failings, no doubt. (Really?! Tracking weapons cannot do bearings-only fire into other arcs? REALLY?!) But unless you're utterly opposed to narrative style vehicle combat (which is exactly what Pathfinder's rules for this were as well), I don't see quite the same level of issues there.


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Dread Moores wrote:
I'm not really sure why you couldn't run space fantasy style games in the vein of the older Star Wars flicks. I haven't found any real stumbling blocks in that particular direction. Small crew ships, much like the Falcon, are one of the places that the ship rules succeed. Fleet actions and multi-heavy/capital ship combat is...a great deal more challenging. I find it a lot easier to fit SF classes to a Star Wars style game than PF classes (which are very clearly built for a cinematic European medieval setting).

We ran into a few issues with the Star Wars-esque simulation in that they wanted to run a small squadron of individual interceptors, which isn't supported by RAW as far as we could tell. A Falcon/smuggler style would work pretty well, but they wanted to ramp up and have a more military style Star Wars ship combating Star Destroyer analogues if not a squadron.

Again, I don't think that SF is bad ipso facto, just that what the groups consistently wanted to do didn't gel with SF's intended design.

Dread Moores wrote:
This seems like more a tactical change needed than any particular issues with Starfinder.

And I agree, like I said earlier it has "an issue that d20 systems have had with ranged vs melee damage". We played d20 Modern for a while, but kept consistently running into this issue too.

My suggested solution would be to emulate Star Wars in this design, purposefully make ranged weapons very short ranged. You don't really see Stormtroopers engaging at a distance, nor Clonetroopers, etc.


Mr Jade wrote:
We ran into a few issues with the Star Wars-esque simulation in that they wanted to run a small squadron of individual interceptors, which isn't supported by RAW as far as we could tell. A Falcon/smuggler style would work pretty well, but they wanted to ramp up and have a more military style Star Wars ship combating Star Destroyer analogues if not a squadron.

Oh, totally agreed then. Fighter squadrons (much like fleet actions) are definitely one of the places the system has a number of stress points. It's not going to model military campaigns well, because it was pretty clearly designed with the narrative focus of small ships as a main area of focus (ala Serenity or the Falcon or whatever other one you'd like to reference). Plus...the whole issue with SF fleets clearly being limited in fighter carry capacity.


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It just seems that in starship combat the pilots and gunners are the only ones that really effect the combat.

The pilot gets/has to do all the tactical stuff and thinking.

The gunners just attack

The engineer keeps making a skill check to restore the shields. More dakka adds very, very little actual value to the damage done.

After the initial scan the science officer is kind of superfluous. Yeah hitting the power core is okay but if you're not getting through the shields it does nothing and if you are getting through the shields you'll run the other ship out of hullpoints in another round anyway.

The captains bonus is meh.


I just don't get why ship's tier is included in the DC at all. This feels completely at odds with the rest of the system, which either uses static DCs or DCs based on the target's abilities (generally either CR or an opposed check). The result, even when using the revised DCs, creates a Red Queen's Race where you're running faster just to stay in the same place. I don't like that at all - I feel that a 10th level pilot should be able to do things with their level-appropriate ship that a 1st-level pilot could only dream about.

I mean, when we see some of the stuff Han Solo or Wash pull off with their ships, we go "Damn, that's a good pilot." We expect high-level pilots to perform better than low-level ones, but in Starfinder they don't.


Mr. Jade, not for everything, but I (Gamer Printshop) published a 3PP Starship Guide that has fixed many of your issues, but it isn't official that's for certain.


Staffan that's what I'm saying here. Before it was increasing invompetency no matter what, now at best it is a Red Queen's Race. Either solution is not good.

Why shouldn't the difficulty of the task be based on the equipment and how good or poor it is? That way you could vary checks between ships, but it is varied based on the chosen plan.


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Staffan Johansson wrote:

I just don't get why ship's tier is included in the DC at all. This feels completely at odds with the rest of the system, which either uses static DCs or DCs based on the target's abilities (generally either CR or an opposed check). The result, even when using the revised DCs, creates a Red Queen's Race where you're running faster just to stay in the same place. I don't like that at all - I feel that a 10th level pilot should be able to do things with their level-appropriate ship that a 1st-level pilot could only dream about.

I mean, when we see some of the stuff Han Solo or Wash pull off with their ships, we go "Damn, that's a good pilot." We expect high-level pilots to perform better than low-level ones, but in Starfinder they don't.

Han Solo and Wash are high Pilot skill guys flying relatively low tier ships, so of course they succeed at those maneuvers.

The reason a high tier ship has higher DCs is because you're adding in a lot of extra mass and complexity as you add in those extra systems.


Playing a technomancer in space combat is pretty boring. On the first round you scan the enemy ship, then it's all either diverting power to shields or balancing shields. I may end up writing an app to take over for me while I read or something.

Although I did realize something interesting. Because the starship stuff is so divorced from everything else you could drop the current system completely and put in a lightly refluffed Spelljammer ship combat system with almost no modifications required. At least then people would have more to do than just roll one skill every round.

Liberty's Edge

Mr Jade wrote:

We ran into a few issues with the Star Wars-esque simulation in that they wanted to run a small squadron of individual interceptors, which isn't supported by RAW as far as we could tell. A Falcon/smuggler style would work pretty well, but they wanted to ramp up and have a more military style Star Wars ship combating Star Destroyer analogues if not a squadron.

Again, I don't think that SF is bad ipso facto, just that what the groups consistently wanted to do didn't gel with SF's intended design.

Dread Moores wrote:
This seems like more a tactical change needed than any particular issues with Starfinder.

And I agree, like I said earlier it has "an issue that d20 systems have had with ranged vs melee damage". We played d20 Modern for a while, but kept consistently running into this issue too.

My suggested solution would be to emulate Star Wars in this design, purposefully make ranged weapons very short ranged. You don't really see Stormtroopers engaging at a distance, nor Clonetroopers, etc.

Except that we do see a sniper in action in Rogue One. Ordinary troopers aren't going to have the intensive training in long distance shooting that a dedicated sniper will, so they get used in ranges more suitable for mixing with melee types. As noted elsewhere this isn't a system problem, it is a tactics problem. D20, Shadowrun, Traveller would all have the same problems with those tactics. Snipers with those tactics are also a limited use specialty. Try those tactics clearing a building or in the corridors of a starship, and see how well they work. And that has been well over 50% of what I have seen in scenarios.

Wayfinders

BigNorseWolf wrote:

It just seems that in starship combat the pilots and gunners are the only ones that really effect the combat.

The pilot gets/has to do all the tactical stuff and thinking.

The gunners just attack

The engineer keeps making a skill check to restore the shields. More dakka adds very, very little actual value to the damage done.

After the initial scan the science officer is kind of superfluous. Yeah hitting the power core is okay but if you're not getting through the shields it does nothing and if you are getting through the shields you'll run the other ship out of hullpoints in another round anyway.

The captains bonus is meh.

Except that in the second most recent starship combat I was in, as Captain I basically crippled each of the fighters with Taunt, making the Pilot and Gunner's jobs trivial when eliminating them, and in the most recent one, working as the Engineer, one boost weapons roll effectively nearly doubled the ship's damage output (a lot of 1's on that 4d4 roll).

I will concede that I shift out of Science officer after round 1, generally, but that is basically the result of travelling with a bunch of Pilots and gunners, and a rare few engineers. 2 Mystics really hurt the stations, especially when neither has computers and only one has any sort of engineering score.


Toshiro the Kitsune wrote:
As noted elsewhere this isn't a system problem, it is a tactics problem. D20, Shadowrun, Traveller would all have the same problems with those tactics. Snipers with those tactics are also a limited use specialty. Try those tactics clearing a building or in the corridors of a starship, and see how well they work. And that has been well over 50% of what I have seen in scenarios.

Aside from the new Disney films, Stormtroopers and Clonetrooper engage at close range. This is also beside the point.

Making ranged weapons shorted ranged helps with the issue, and that's just a fact.

Obviously clearing a ship doesn't work well for snipers, which is a problem too, because most of the time the combat is either/or. You can't effectively use the snipers or ranged specialists in the same combat as melee specialists.

The Captain is a very critical role in starship combat. Science Officer adds little, but it wouldn't take much to make them effective, have them use the scanners to "target the weak spot" on a ship, doubling threat range and adding to a critical roll, or increasing damage on that ship. Lots of solutions.


Xenocrat wrote:
Han Solo and Wash are high Pilot skill guys flying relatively low tier ships, so of course they succeed at those maneuvers.

I might grant that Serenity is a low-tier ship, but not the Millennium Falcon. That baby is loaded to the gills with modifications. I could see those modifications making Engineering checks harder, but not Piloting checks.

Quote:
The reason a high tier ship has higher DCs is because you're adding in a lot of extra mass and complexity as you add in those extra systems.

Mass is accounted for in the ship's size category, which does affect the stat that ought to be the only one affecting piloting: Maneuverability. It's ridiculous that a high-tier fighter would be harder to pilot than a mid-tier transport.

I would rather see piloting stunts have more varied base DCs (maybe 10-30 or 40), and maneuverability have a greater effect on Piloting checks, and not involve ship tier directly. The only piloting skill check I can see involving tier in is Flyby, based on the opposing ship's tier.


Piloting checks should be based on the ships' equipment, so engines, computers, base frame, etc. rather than the arbitrary tier.

Even assuming that extreme maneuverability would make a fighter harder to control, how does only changing something that doesn't affect mass at all, like installing a better computer when the tier increases, decrease pilot effectiveness?

A pilot of given rank 10 can somehow pilot a ship of tier 4 better than tier 5, even though the only difference between the two is a better computer. That doesn't make any sense outside of abstract gamey-ness.


Mr Jade wrote:
Piloting checks should be based on the ships' equipment, so engines, computers, base frame, etc. rather than the arbitrary tier.

I'd agree 100% on this, if you're looking for a system that is intending to better model accurate physics. Starfinder definitely isn't that system. While I'm not sure if I'd go with tier as the determining factor for skill checks if I were purpose building it myself, it is an easy way to get a quick read on a ship's upper and lower bound.

One of the things my groups have liked in SF is finding that they feel like their skill checks matter. That their roles are important on the ship. We've found captain roles pretty useful, and a lot of fun for flavor.

Two minor suggestions I'd make.

1. Retain the role of science officers to need to rebalance shields (in contradiction to the FAQ, meaning don't let engineers restore shields in whatever numbers they want), as this keeps them involved longer, without feeling the need to switch roles.

2. Someone wrote up a stargazer role that fills in quite nicely for mysticism inclined characters, down in the homebrew forums. We've used the role for a while now, and it's been a really welcome addition.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Piloting in Starfinder, an anology:

You get a plain-Joe farmer out of his fields and put him into a high performance race car, and he's going to crash the car. It's just too much for his abilities. He'll turn and end up over-steering into a wall. He'll max out the speed, then panick, break too hard, and destroy the car. Whatever happens, it won't likely end well.

Put an experienced race car driver into the race car, however, and he can pull off some rather amazing stunts.

Put an experienced race car driver into the farmer's beat up old truck, and he won't be able to do what he can in the superior race car, but he could probably do a lot more stunts with it than the farmer can (and more easily too).


Cars and drivers were exactly the analogy I used to explain it to one of my more gearhead minded players. I'd being willing to put a tiny wager on an idea along those lines having been a part of the design phase for these very rules.


Raia of Jabask wrote:


Except that in the second most recent starship combat I was in, as Captain I basically crippled each of the fighters with Taunt, making the Pilot and Gunner's jobs trivial when eliminating them

With a -2 or a -4 to piloting for 1d4 rounds?

It's an okay boost but it won't get you through combat faster than just shooting them more.

Quote:
and in the most recent one, working as the Engineer, one boost weapons roll effectively nearly doubled the ship's damage output (a lot of 1's on that 4d4 roll).

As opposed to actually doubling it by firing a better gun and the same or rolling better.

I mean yes, that one time your two weapon fighting rogue did full attack while flanking and did buckets of damage. That doesn't mean there was nothing wrong with the rogue. One event does not encompass an entire system


Ravingdork: That analogy doesn't hold up, as I'm not arguing that superior ships shouldn't be harder for an inexperienced pilot to fly, but how does changing these that absolutely impact none of the piloting systems make it harder for the pilot to fly. It doesn't even require that the party improve their ships, as the rules state:

Quote:

When the characters’ Average Party Level increases, so does

the tier of their starship...

Meaning that a ship that is fundamentally the same (changes that do not impact performance or mass) handle differently, as does ships that are literally the same. According to the rules, if the party levels up between two ship encounters, the DCs for flying the exact same ship are now harder. That makes no sense.

Again, DCs should be tied into the ship itself, not some arbitrary tier number. This is the same way that all other DCs work. Magic Missile doesn't become harder to cast as you level up, or require you to invest feats or skills in order to cast at the exact same power, in fact, it becomes more powerful as you level up.


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. This way, it doesn't have to be recalculated on every single level-up, someone that focuses on some aspect of starship combat will improve at it as their ship does, and Joe Schmoe, fresh from flight school can't get a stripped down Cruiser to turn on a dime more reliably than Urist McSuperPilot can in his team's suped up racer. Do some things get easier than probably intended, at higher levels? Yeah, but I'm perfectly fine with characters whose abilities far outstrip those of the greatest living pilot in real life can do some sweet tricks in his favorite ship.

So far, my players have appreciated the change!


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

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.


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.


Mr Jade wrote:

Piloting checks should be based on the ships' equipment, so engines, computers, base frame, etc. rather than the arbitrary tier.

Even assuming that extreme maneuverability would make a fighter harder to control, how does only changing something that doesn't affect mass at all, like installing a better computer when the tier increases, decrease pilot effectiveness?

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.

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