Starship Combat Challenge levels


Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild

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***** ⦵⦵

Starship Combat has become to one sided for the players. Can this be rebalanced?

Starting with the special - NPC ships have been weakened and the players have a bunch of boons that boost their firepower.

One result of this imbalance is players often can repair their shields faster than they take shield damage. With the added player firepower, Starship combats have become so imbalanced that it’s become pretty laughable.

I’ve now played or run somewhere around 8 starship combats in a row where the players ship walks away entirely undamaged. Not a single hull point of damage and at or very close to full shield points. As a GM I can literally call the encounter over after one round of Starship combat.

Combats go like this:
Round 1
NPC: Shields blown through and some hull damage
Players some shield damage

Round 2
NPC’s: Major Hull damage one or 2 CT’s reached
Players: Some more Shield damage and Shield damage repaired. They can repair it faster then they take it.

Round 3, 4, 5, etc. repeat round 2 until NPC ship is destroyed

Last round of combat Players have no hull damage, no shield damage and the NPC’s are destroyed

A challenge level comparison is it’s like giving the players a 30 AC and letting them walk around a tier 1-2 dungeon. There is no challenge so what’s the point.

I once really loved SFS I’m souring on it pretty fast and the main reason is the recent pushover encounters in starship combat.

***** ⦵⦵

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I should add that a major contributing cause is the players figuring out that outside of a pilot and Engineering. every gun gets manned. Captain and science officer are rarely used. The NPC ships don't have the stats listed in the stat block to also do this same strategy.

***** ⦵⦵

roysier wrote:
I should add that a major contributing cause is the players figuring out that outside of a pilot and Engineering. every gun gets manned. Captain and science officer are rarely used. The NPC ships don't have the stats listed in the stat block to also do this same strategy.

well, the NPC ship fires every gun they have, they just have the crew for it.

But yes, once PCs figure out that the captain sci officer engineer gunner paradigm is FAR less effective there's a signifigant jump in power level.

However, scaling encounters up to meet that power level would leave those still in that paradigm (which is the way the game is intended to be played) as space debris. PCs curbstomping battles is a problem. PCs always losing space battles is a BIG problem.

***** ⦵⦵

Well that's a game mechanic problem that should have been caught and fixed by now.

In SFS where it's run as written there is nothing that can be done about it. It, wasn't such of a big problem until recently where NPC decreased ship powers and Player increased ship firepower exasperated a problem.

Even on the level 2 Drake it's fire power was doubled adding by adding a second turret weapon. It's not one or the other that gets fired. They both get fired.

***** ⦵⦵

BigNorseWolf wrote:
roysier wrote:
I should add that a major contributing cause is the players figuring out that outside of a pilot and Engineering. every gun gets manned. Captain and science officer are rarely used. The NPC ships don't have the stats listed in the stat block to also do this same strategy.

well, the NPC ship fires every gun they have, they just have the crew for it.

But yes, once PCs figure out that the captain sci officer engineer gunner paradigm is FAR less effective there's a signifigant jump in power level.

However, scaling encounters up to meet that power level would leave those still in that paradigm (which is the way the game is intended to be played) as space debris. PCs curbstomping battles is a problem. PCs always losing space battles is a BIG problem.

Stats are not normally provide for a science officer and/or Captain switching to a gunner. I guess I'll set them low and let them fire away whenever the players do it. As a player until the power inbalance is addressed I'll just zone out and read my iphone for 45 minutes I guess. And see if that's enough to keep my interest going forward with SFS.

***** ⦵⦵

roysier wrote:

Well that's a game mechanic problem that should have been caught and fixed by now.

But it wasn't. So the problem with the game isn't in PFSs ability to fix.

***** ⦵⦵

It's a SFS problem not a Starfinder problem. If i was home gaming I would fix the power imbalance. In SFS I live with it or I stop playing. I'm leaning to the later. But I'm not ready to make that decision yet.

I would agree this imbalance brings more starters into the game but it will also drive experienced players away that get tired of the tedious exercise that never results in any other result except the bad guys ships being blown away in the first 2 or 3 rounds of combat.

Dataphiles ****

Eh, fudge some rolls, make them sweat. The PCs don't have to lose, but you can make them think that they will.

***** ⦵⦵

roysier wrote:

It's a SFS problem not a Starfinder problem. If i was home gaming I would fix the power imbalance. In SFS I live with it or I stop playing. I'm leaning to the later. But I'm not ready to make that decision yet.

roysier wrote:

It's a SFS problem not a Starfinder problem. If i was home gaming I would fix the power imbalance. In SFS I live with it or I stop playing. I'm leaning to the later. But I'm not ready to make that decision yet.

roysier wrote:

It's a SFS problem not a Starfinder problem. If i was home gaming I would fix the power imbalance. In SFS I live with it or I stop playing. I'm leaning to the later. But I'm not ready to make that decision yet.

Its a starfinder problem that SFS doesn't allow a fix for , its still a starfinder problem. To fix the rules you need to change the rules to a specific base set , not just "the dm can do what they want" ... that would arguably make things worse. That means the problem is in the starfinder rules, NOT the starfinder society rules.

If you ramp up the difficulty you kill/disapoint people that haven't figured out to leave the paradigm the book presents to you. You can only get saved by NPCs so many times before people lose their sense of danger.

The only starfinder society fix I could see would be to ramp up the difficulty but then include a repeatable where you do a flight simulator 2 ways, one with the captain science officier padadigm and then the same fight again with "all butts in the gunners seats" paradigm

***** ⦵⦵

"Dr." Cupi wrote:
Eh, fudge some rolls, make them sweat. The PCs don't have to lose, but you can make them think that they will.

Nope never. That's not even allowed in organized play. That is in fact cheating.

It's in place to stop GM's with a kill the player mentality from killing players by fudging dice rolls.

I've had 2 of my character die in PFS with GM fudging die rolls because he wanted to win the combat.

***** ⦵⦵

BigNorseWolf wrote:
roysier wrote:

It's a SFS problem not a Starfinder problem. If i was home gaming I would fix the power imbalance. In SFS I live with it or I stop playing. I'm leaning to the later. But I'm not ready to make that decision yet.

Its a starfinder problem that SFS doesn't allow a fix for , its still a starfinder problem. To fix the rules you need to change the rules to a specific base set , not just "the dm can do what they want" ... that would arguably make things worse. That means the problem is in the starfinder rules, NOT the starfinder society rules.

The only starfinder society fix I could see would be to ramp up the difficulty but then include a repeatable where you do a flight simulator 2 ways, one with the captain science officier padadigm and then the same fight again with "all butts in the gunners seats" paradigm

I actually think there should be 2 choices for the GM. Based on player skill set guideline. Or let players choose when they get on their ship what level they want to play. The harder level rewards a better boon or higher credit pay out.

Sczarni ***** ⦵⦵

Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Meanwhile, drive up Highway 80 a couple hours and we win maybe half our Starship Combats.

High Level Starship Combat is nearly impossible to win at unless you have a dedicated starship crew.

The DCs are too high. Gunners can't hit. Pilots lose Initiative. Engineers can't balance Shields. Captains are the most important because the rest of the crew needs their buffs. Science Officers are needed as backup gunners.

It's been my critique since the beginning of SFS, and now we're losing credits and Fame because of it.

**

Starfinder Charter Superscriber

I agree with you in general and have talked about this problem in a lot of my scenario reviews. Starship combat is just a one-sided slog. I’m hoping a future starships book will offer some optional rules that can become SFS official to liven things up.

Sczarni ***** ⦵⦵

Starfinder Charter Superscriber

My 8th level Vanguard as an example has only +10 Gunnery. The Tier 10 ship we just faced had an AC of 28. That's a 15% chance I hit with one attack, and I'm certainly not going to risk full attacking.

If you advocate for more difficult Starship Combats, players are just going to ask to skip them and fast forward to the next part.

***** ⦵⦵

Interesting, yeah where I play there is always a great pilot and a great engineer at every table. Everyone else loads up on the guns. With a last person being a captain assisting gunners. Maybe it's just a function of the area I play in. I have never played a session where the players lost. not a single one. It's something like 36-0

***** ⦵⦵

Nefreet wrote:

My 8th level Vanguard as an example has only +10 Gunnery. The Tier 10 ship we just faced had an AC of 28. That's a 15% chance I hit with one attack, and I'm certainly not going to risk full attacking.

If you advocate for more difficult Starship Combats, players are just going to ask to skip them and fast forward to the next part.

What scenario? I've noticed the ease only in scenarios put out since the special.

***** ⦵⦵

Once you pass 6th level you need the science officer again giving everyone +2 to hit (the same ship) but even a terrible gunner is still better than an amazing captain.


Skill based combat systems are always going to be disparate, groups with high skill bonus' do better than those without. Each group makeup is different. Additionally with how the skill systems in games like these work, roll variation carries a huge impact. Someone who rolls high consistently on a d20 is much much better off in a skills situation rather than a combat situation(in my experience if you roll well for attacks, you roll poor for damage).

A skill based combat system is a great idea, but the problem is balancing it. Skill systems with decent freedom can't be easily balanced for. Starfinder's skill system has made significant headway while maintaining the skillpoint metric, but basing a combat around the median of the mathematics of this system is still dangerous; the extremes are vocal.

I personally really like starship combat, but I can see its flaws and understand the problems other people have with it.

Sczarni ***** ⦵⦵

Starfinder Charter Superscriber
roysier wrote:
Nefreet wrote:

My 8th level Vanguard as an example has only +10 Gunnery. The Tier 10 ship we just faced had an AC of 28. That's a 15% chance I hit with one attack, and I'm certainly not going to risk full attacking.

If you advocate for more difficult Starship Combats, players are just going to ask to skip them and fast forward to the next part.

What scenario? I've noticed the ease only in scenarios put out since the special.

Spoiler:
King Xeros of Star Azlant

When I GMed it, the only way my PCs won was by rolling 60 damage on 5d12.


But that's not the only one. Of the last three tables I've sat at (not including PbP) we lost Starship Combat twice.

My suggestion as a "fix" would be to create some sort of Ally Boon that can participate in Starship Combat as effectively as a dedicated PC, but even then you'll still occasionally encounter a group without that.

I don't know a true fix for this problem.

***** ⦵⦵

Nefreet wrote:
roysier wrote:
Nefreet wrote:

My 8th level Vanguard as an example has only +10 Gunnery. The Tier 10 ship we just faced had an AC of 28. That's a 15% chance I hit with one attack, and I'm certainly not going to risk full attacking.

If you advocate for more difficult Starship Combats, players are just going to ask to skip them and fast forward to the next part.

What scenario? I've noticed the ease only in scenarios put out since the special.

** spoiler omitted **

But that's not the only one. Of the last three tables I've sat at (not including PbP) we lost Starship Combat twice.

.

I haven't played that one yet. So maybe I spoke too soon. Plans were already in place.

***** ⦵⦵

I haven't payed that one yet so maybe I spoke a bit too soon.

Sovereign Court **** Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

Nefreet wrote:

My 8th level Vanguard as an example has only +10 Gunnery. The Tier 10 ship we just faced had an AC of 28. That's a 15% chance I hit with one attack, and I'm certainly not going to risk full attacking.

If you advocate for more difficult Starship Combats, players are just going to ask to skip them and fast forward to the next part.

I played the same combat with a level 8 vanguard with a +14 gunnery (to my knowledge the highest reachable at that level) and we dedicated one of our +2 computer bonuses to him, upping the hit rate to 55%. It felt like a dangerous combat even though we won it without taking any hull damage. The dice roller catching on fire for me helped a lot though, I won every "roll twice take lowest" challenge.

I do agree with you that at higher level the DCs scale to a degree that only total optimization seems to be good enough. If you do, then it works. But I'm not a fan of being forced to do that.

Sczarni ***** ⦵⦵

Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Lau Bannenberg wrote:
If you do, then it works.

If Starship Combat was a solo effort.

But since it's not, it will eventually be impossible.

Or at least such a high level of improbability to essentially be impossible.

At every table you'd need someone to sit down who was a perfect Pilot. Another who was a perfect Gunner. Another who was a perfect Engineer. Another who was a perfect Science Officer, with perfect backup skills. And a perfect Captain, with perfect backup skills.

When that doesn't happen at Level 1, it's doable. When that doesn't happen at Level 8, you're in for a frustrating 2 hours.


Nefreet wrote:
Lau Bannenberg wrote:
If you do, then it works.

If Starship Combat was a solo effort.

But since it's not, it will eventually be impossible.

Or at least such a high level of improbability to essentially be impossible.

At every table you'd need someone to sit down who was a perfect Pilot. Another who was a perfect Gunner. Another who was a perfect Engineer. Another who was a perfect Science Officer, with perfect backup skills. And a perfect Captain, with perfect backup skills.

When that doesn't happen at Level 1, it's doable. When that doesn't happen at Level 8, you're in for a frustrating 2 hours.

Our group is usually 3 PC's and a DM Pregen(to pad us to 4)

roles: Pilot, Engineer, 2 Gunners

and even at high levels and one of the characters being a pregen, we do fine, great even. I think it really does matter on the group, not the system. Which is both a good and bad sign.

Grand Lodge ***** ⦵⦵ Venture-Captain, Online—PbP aka Hmm

From a Player / GM Viewpoint

Yep, Nefreet's at my playtest table of King Xeros where one of the gunners missed on roll of a natural 18. Do you know how painful it is to watch a player roll an 18... and miss? My players were not optimized for Starship combat, and the starship combat just sort of dragged until one of the gunners finally hit with a crit of a heavy weapon when the enemy's shields were down.

Now, I believe that science officers become more important as time goes on. They can target systems, allowing combats to end sooner. At sixth level, they can lock on, and give gunners an additional +2.

But yes... In SFS, it is best to have two gunners to speed up ship combat. Every player who can should prep for two roles in Starship combat so that they can flex as needed.

And I do agree that the least needed role in Starship combat is the Captain... Still a good Captain taunt is a glorious thing that can spice up combat with roleplay. Mechanically, if the Captain aids, they should aiding the gunners.

From a Designer's Viewpoint

The most interesting starship combats have had something else interesting going on -- exploding asteroids, weird gunning turrets, an honor code with a Captain who's challenged you to a ship duel. Unlike the original poster, I loved how the aid tokens in SFS 1-99 sped up that ship combat by having other Starfinder ships shoot at your enemy at the same time you were. It felt fitting.

I enjoy Starship combat, but I spice it up with dialogue from the other ships. To all you wonderful Starship combat writers out there... It's okay to have a starship combat be quick and spicy. They do not have to be tactical chess games where you slowly erode the enemy's defenses. It's better to have fast combats than ones that drag.

Hmm

Starfinder Society Developer

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One thing to keep in mind with Starship combat, is that A LOT of it comes down to starship design, which isn't necessarily caught by the Tier system of how starships work. Having the PCs fight an enemy starship that has a bunch of expansion bays and luxurious crew quarters is way different than having them fight against an enemy starship that is built around a base gun. I once had an author think it would be "fun" to include a bunch of CR 1 ships with nuclear missile launchers...

As a note on the ebb/flow of Starship Combat throughout the campaign so far, here's my perspective in some bullet points:

-One of the first starship combats we ever included was renowned for being a slog that was too difficult and long. I got a LOT of feedback about this, and moved to compensate.

-The subsequent starship combat was highly regarded because it had a lot going on and the opposing starship had a lot of character to it.

-The next starship combat got very little feedback, because it was avoidable and against some lesser starships.

-When we finally did the "OK, this starship means business" encounter we got a TON of negative feedback. Even though the encounter was designed with the PCs losing in mind as a very likely outcome. As with all things, the PCs like to win. But, we also got a solid number of people coming in and saying "Wow, we won handily, but this was the first time we felt even remotely challenged."

Overall, starship combat is still something that we're poking/prodding internally to get the right mix of challenge. Like combat encounters, PC builds RADICALLY alter the difficulty of a starship combat. A few ace pilot PCs in a group where players have made pre-defined starship roles is going to skew things A LOT compared to a table filled with Keskodai pregens. Add on the availability of boons and the tighter math in starship combat... it's a VERY hard thing for us to balance.

As always, feedback is appreciated.

***** ⦵⦵

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HMM wrote:
They can target systems, allowing combats to end sooner.

This doesn't really work.

1) You need to target the power core , and that goes from nothing glitching boom in 3 critical thresholds, plus however many the opposing engineers can duct tape it together. If you've gotten that many thresholds the ship is probably dead anyway

2) the targeting only affects one attack on your ship where (as is kind of the point of this thread) the most optimal solution is firing as many different guns as possible at the bad worse guys at the same time.

The biggest mistake i see is groups putting an Uber captain in and leaving the gunner as the strength based fighter guy who can't do starship combat at all. usually when strength based fighter guy NOT encouraging the captain would still have a dexy envoy as the better gunner, especially if the envoy has ranks in piloting.

If you are a big dumb fighter i recommend picking up engineering. It's a class skill, the DCs aren't that high, and if you can spare skill focus for it you should be on par with a qualified engineer. Most importantly the dcs aren't high because ALL you do is regen shields. The higher level uber abilities other roles get aren't very good for engineers

Sovereign Court **** Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

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In the early meta of starship combat I saw people obsess about piloting. And yeah, it's certainly nice to win initiative, to be able to fire at optimal shield quadrants and outmaneuver ships who don't rely on turrets. But lately I see the "cult of the gunner" loadout work better:

* Enemy ships in "serious" encounters favoring turrets more and more nowadays, so staying out of their front arc is less a thing.

* The Drake Tier 2 got a coilgun in the turret. It's become a reliable ship, especially if you bring the Acquisitives boon for extra rockets.

* At higher levels damage outscales shields, you're likely to punch through the shields on a given quadrant on a single hit with your 10d6 or 10d10 weapon. However, enemy AC increases at a serious pace, so actually hitting becomes more and more the matter.

* You simply cannot win if you cannot hit. You NEED a good gunner. Not a good pilot and an ok gunner, you need a GOOD gunner and an ok pilot.

***** ⦵⦵

Nefreet wrote:
roysier wrote:
Nefreet wrote:

My 8th level Vanguard as an example has only +10 Gunnery. The Tier 10 ship we just faced had an AC of 28. That's a 15% chance I hit with one attack, and I'm certainly not going to risk full attacking.

If you advocate for more difficult Starship Combats, players are just going to ask to skip them and fast forward to the next part.

What scenario? I've noticed the ease only in scenarios put out since the special.

** spoiler omitted **

But that's not the only one. Of the last three tables I've sat at (not including PbP) we lost Starship Combat twice.

My suggestion as a "fix" would be to create some sort of Ally Boon that can participate in Starship Combat as effectively as a dedicated PC, but even then you'll still occasionally encounter a group without that.

I don't know a true fix for this problem.

Yep, got this one in today. I played it at a different location than my normal places with 4 players I have never played with before. We still won pretty easily but it was a nice change of pace from the normal blast out of space in 3 rounds.

*

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Haven't played or ran Xeros yet, so can't say anything about that.

What I have to say is about local meta. We have about ten active players, including the three or so GMs, and at this point most have two or three active characters.

First characters were almost all soldiers, mechanics, and solarians. There was one envoy, and one latecomer technomancer. Out of higher-level characters we have one ranged soldier who can be called a decent gunner. The mechanics and technomancers are good at their jobs, but they can only prolong the battle, not win it. Solarians are melee due to solar weapon being much more interesting than solar armor (+1 AC with light armor only, bleh), and the envoy has a Dex 14 (after raises and boosts) at level 7. The envoy is currently the ranking pilot with this bunch with +12 skill. Nobody else wants the job, since in our experience it is so damned difficult to win any piloting checks against NPC ships.

Second bunch of characters was more varied. More mystics than expected, and even one or two operatives. No new envoys or technomancers, if I recall correctly. (I should take a census, actually.) But the operative players are the least active, and again there are few other characters who can win piloting checks against NPC ships. I think the best pilot here is level 5 ace pilot soldier with +14. Next fight we'll try the cult of the gunner technique and just try to vape the enemy.

Third bunch is still forming. Too early to say anything about it.

What bothers me is since nobody is specialized in ship combat, the PC ship skills tend to vary at 60%-80% at the expected values-per-level. But NPC ships are always crewed by experts.

PC skills are lower than expected for two reasons. Few characters have insight bonuses to piloting (no insight bonus or class skill bonus is available for gunnery). Few Dexterity-focused characters with lots of skill points. While Dexterity is an important ability score, people do not max it for one simple reason; Resolve.

Starfinder combat system tends to either result in cakewalks or people dropping to 0 hp at alarming rates. Due to hair-raising early experiences many players focus on their resolve ability scores to stay alive and regain stamina. This leaves Dexterity often lower than they would like. Only recently some have started investing in Piloting despite feeling they are bad at it due to their poor stats.

Starship fights this far:

Claim to Salvation: Victory. No real challenge.
Into the Unknown: Loss. We were pummeled into submission. We were noobs.
Yesteryear's Truth: Victory. We figured out the drone carrier and killed it before being caught in the infamous slog.
Cries from the Drift: Victory. We didn't even exploit the duel rules. Easy.
Solar Sortie: Victory. No challenge, but took a long time.
Ashes of Discovery: Victory. Unusual opponent.
On the Trail of History: Loss. We were absolutely demolished in about 4 rounds of combat. I'm not certain we even pierced enemy shields.
Dreaming of Future: Victory. Not too challenging.
To Conquer the Dragon: Victory. Barely. We won by expending resolve and had hull points in single digits.
Siege of Enlightenment: Victory. Hard start for PCs, the ram made them sweat. Lost about half of hull points.
Skitter Shot: fun fun fun -> hey guys there's a starship combat -> *four groans* -> we'll skip it since the other ship flees when it sees you in monitors -> yay x 4.

Sidenote: While the DCs have been toned down in ship combat, success is not guaranteed (nor should it, tbh). I still feel like many other DCs in the game are intended to be challenging to a maxed-out character, while being frustratingly unattainable for nonspecialists. Low-tier scenarios are fine. At tier 5-7 CR x 1.5 starts affecting things.

Starfinder Society Developer

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Naal, your spoilerized summary is VERY useful information for me to get.

Appreciate you taking the time to put this post up!

Liberty's Edge *** Venture-Captain, Nebraska—Omaha

My viewpoint is that not every encounters will be won by the characters. Nor should they.

High level combat always has a risk and sometimes players will lose.

I have not seen a space combat go bad, either as a player or a GM. But I have not been in a space combat above 4th level.

Players need to understand that space combat is part of the game and need to build their characters to be play role in that type of encounter.

***** ⦵⦵

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You don't need a character geared for starship combat you need a party geared for starship combat in a SFS regulation vessel.

The vast majority of SFS has done a pretty good job of setting reasonable DCs to compensate for the fact that you are running through a scenario with a bag of mixed nuts, not a handpicked crew that play off of each others abilities. Starship combat DCs though are set by the system, and the system almost seems to include bleeding edge optimization for something to get a 50 50 success rate.

A big part of that is dex. You need a high dex pilot. On an SFS ship you need multiple high dex gunners. Shooting is dex and bab/piloting ranks. There's nothing else that can make up for that very difficult to hit roll.

Sovereign Court **** Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

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@Thurston: since you like these summaries..

Spoiler:

Into the Unknown: one easy and one harder space combat, but doable.

Yesteryear's Truth: difficult victory after a very long slog with the (old) Drake. The Drake is not a good attrition fight ship, its lower PCU means its shields regenerate slower than the Pegasus'. Limited fire rockets were not great when you realize only belatedly that you should shoot at the carrier, not the drones.

Cries from the Drift: good victory with the Pegasus. We did not abuse the "always fly away and fire your turret" trick. Asteroids were fun. Wasn't too easy, we felt the opposing ship was strong enough to be respectable.

Solar Sortie: space combat avoided due to succesful infiltration.

On the Trail of History: lost by an experienced table at PaizoCon UK after we failed to hit for two rounds in a row while enemy was also in single digits. This battle took a gruelling two hours, the first of which the enemy didn't get through our shields. This markes the point where I start talking about gunners being underrated compared to pilots.

Dreaming of the Future: played twice, run once; combat is challenging for a mostly-pregen table but doable. A party that barges straight in and gets surprised by the traps ends up very paranoid, which was fun. Good use of terrain. This one tends to have several suboptimal crew members playing it. ("What, my +5 pilot is the best one we have?") The omnidirectional pegasus saves lives here.

To Conquer the Dragon: we brought the shiny new Manticore and ran into a ship with strong point defenses which shot down 3/5 of the missiles. So we were stuck with an extremely slow (6) poorly turning (2) ship that desperately needed to use its forward weapons. Please PLEASE don't combine poor maneuverability with a focus on forward weapons. One or the other can be a fun challenge, having both of them means you absolutely need the best possible pilot to stand any chance.

Siege of Enlightenment: the ramming prow upsets the traditional WE MUST WIN INITIATIVE dogma, and that's a breath of fresh air. I've run this twice and played it once. The pegasus has a tough time of it, but a party of L1 pregens can win the low tier fight. When we played it this weekend we found out that from our 4P group we had one engineer (the operative who could have done anything), one completely useless guy (Computers +4 was his only shapeship stat) so we made him captain to encourage the gunner. Keskodai was our pilot because we had to have one. His so-so piloting skill was an asset in this combat due to the ram; we won initiative only once. My switch-hitter soldier with Dex 16 BAB +3 hit consistently with the Drake's rockets and we beat the enemy in a model 5 rounds, just before we'd have had to resort to coilgun fire. On the whole I think it validates Cult of the Gunner tactics and two strong PCs could compensate for one useless and one so-so PC. However, this is using the low-tier DCs.

King Xeros of Star Azlant: played this with two vanguards, an biohacker and a technomancer at high tier. After some discussion we promoted my vanguard with maximized gunnery (+14) to gunner, even though I was also best pilot. We promoted the second-best (biohacker, themed) to pilot, the other vanguard (ysoki) to second gunner, and the technomancer to engineer/scientist. The technomancer tried several times to scan the ship but completely whiffed, despite nearly optimal stats. I got a lot of luck with gunnery rolls, as well as computer assistance (to +16) so I needed to roll a 12+ to hit and did so nearly every time. We got lucky with piloting a lot too and managed to stay out of line of their forward arc most of the time (on the Drake, no less) which probably saved us, as well as the enemy crew being a bit weaker than us but in a much bigger ship. Although we didn't take any hull damage it continuously felt like we were one bad roll away from deep trouble. I think this was also the most optimized crew I've ever seen brought to a space battle and DCs were still challenging.

Scoured Stars Invasion: when I GMed at 3-4 tier this I had a table with lots of operatives. They took the drake, easily outmaneuvered the much lower tier opponents, and blew them to bits, usually in just one or two Drake shots. This table was quite good for space combat and the difference in tier was very clear.

Grand Lodge ***** ⦵⦵ Venture-Captain, Online—PbP aka Hmm

Well, since all the cool kids are doing it...

Some thoughts on ship battles.:

Claim to Salvation: A lovely little battle with multiple easy opponents who cannot use engineering to repair themseles. Short and sweet, if a bit on the easy side.

Into the Unknown: A great scenario for learning ship combat, both as a GM and as a player.

Yesteryear's Truth: Single worst ship combat. A terrifying SLOG. My players thought they were going to die, and they nearly did. Even worse, it took nearly two hours. Horrible.

Cries from the Drift: The most enjoyable starship battle ever, as my players obeyed not just the letter of the law but the spirit. Tons of roleplay and banter. They did not exploit the exploding asteroids, though they spotted that loophole from the beginning. They wanted to be just as honorable as their opponent was.

Solar Sortie: There was a space ship combat? Oh... so there was. We avoided it.

On the Trail of History: My party won -- barely -- in this battle, but it was a very good team and we've been pushing the idea at Dreamers that everyone should try to cover two starship roles when developing their characters. One of the best Starship battles ever. I like that enemy tactics were fast and aggressive.

Dreaming of the Future: Interesting tactically. Loved the turrets that Nate put in.

Ashes of Discovery -- Challenging with a sub-optimal party (half the group had not built for ship combat) with a nifty live ship that my party did not want to kill.

Siege of Enlightenment: Loved the ramming ships! Tineke devised a fun ship combat here.

To Conquer the Dragon -- neither played not GMed.

King Xeros of Star Azlant -- My party of Playtest characters had a really rough time with this one. That ship was nigh unhittable for them. Thanks to a couple of nat 20s, and having done well on their research, they pulled victory out of the jaws of defeat.

Scoured Stars Invasion -- I played this in GenCon and we took ALL the combats. It was quite literally a blast for our hand-picked team of Starship combat people. As a GM, both my parties enjoyed the variety of ship combats in here especially the fast-paced fireworks with the aid tokens at the end. Well done.

The higher you go, the more challenging it is to meet those starship DCs. It is becoming painfully obvious that to stay competitive at high tier, you need more than just maxed out skills and dex. Any bonus you can come into the battle with makes a huge difference.

***** ⦵⦵

All right here is my starship combat experience

Spoiler:

Claim to Salvation: GMed this and players ship took no damage, shields healed faster than could be damaged. It was a bit of a slog, it took some time for the players take down all the little ships.

Into the Unknown: Memory fails me I don’t remember details. I do remember the learning quest having to be called due to taking too long.

Yesteryear's Truth: Enjoyed this one. Both as a GM and as Player we were able to take the enemy down in about 30 to 45 minutes of real time.

Cries from the Drift: Fun role playing banter. When I played this we smoked the enemy fast 4 rounds tops. When I GMed it the players struggled a little until they figured to use the exploding asteroids to their advantage. When I GMed this a second time players smoked the bad guys in 3 or 4 rounds.

On the Trail of History: Both as a player and as a GM the player side won but barely. The challenge rating was fun. The look on the players faces when I rolled the damage on the first round of combat (rolled high) and declared 57 points of damage. And the comment was “how much?”, I re-counted and checked I was rolling the correct dice an repeated “57”. And the response was “holly s@*@” was a classic role playing game moment I mind.

Dreaming of the Future: Played this twice the players smoked the bad guys in 3 or 4 rounds with no shield damage. Damage was repaired faster than the enemy could put it out there. No Challenge at all.

Ashes of Discovery – Party smoked the living ship every time. Played this twice and ran it once. No challenge at all.

Siege of Enlightenment: I did not get a good gauge on this one the ram missed all 3 times. The enemy was destroyed in the 3rd round. The players ship again took no damage. Don’t know what the ramming would have done.

To Conquer the Dragon – Party smoked the bad guys both when I ran it and played it. No challenge at all.

King Xeros of Star Azlant – Nice twist. Players were sweating a bit, due to all the damage going into one shield. Once shields were re-balanced things became a breeze.

Scoured Stars Invasion – I played this twice and GMed it once. I don’t recall starship combat standing out with the exception of playing it at tier 7-8. In the second to last starship combat for some reason we were matched against a tier 6 ship (as listed in the scenario). We smoked it so easily (2 rounds) we decided to defend against the boarders because the starship combat was so stupidly easy.

I should add my home store also played the AP’s in SFS mode and all those starship combats have been super easy no challenge at all. 8 Starship Combats in all. All 6 books of Dead Suns (Book 6 was run in campaign mode using SFS rules) and 2 combats in Aeon Thrones book 1.

***** ⦵⦵

I should add that it is very rare in the scenarios I've run or played where the player side Pilot loses the roll off. In almost every turn the players get to choose what facings both starships are firing from.

Sczarni ***** ⦵⦵

Starfinder Charter Superscriber
BigNorseWolf wrote:

You don't need a character geared for starship combat you need a party geared for starship combat in a SFS regulation vessel.

The vast majority of SFS has done a pretty good job of setting reasonable DCs to compensate for the fact that you are running through a scenario with a bag of mixed nuts, not a handpicked crew that play off of each others abilities. Starship combat DCs though are set by the system, and the system almost seems to include bleeding edge optimization for something to get a 50 50 success rate.

A big part of that is dex. You need a high dex pilot. On an SFS ship you need multiple high dex gunners. Shooting is dex and bab/piloting ranks. There's nothing else that can make up for that very difficult to hit roll.

I agree with everything here, and will add that if you're Wis-based, or Str-based, or now Con-based, you may as well just sit out scenarios with the Starship Combat tag, because even if you pump ranks into any of the skills required you will not enjoy your time doing it.

Sovereign Court **** Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

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roysier wrote:
I should add that it is very rare in the scenarios I've run or played where the player side Pilot loses the roll off. In almost every turn the players get to choose what facings both starships are firing from.

This is different from my experience. At low levels the PCs tend to do well, but at higher levels it starts to drop below a 50% win chance.

There's rather a big difference between say, a lashunta (+2 pilot) ace pilot (+1) dex-maxed operative pilot with skill focus (+14 at level 1), which we don't see a lot of anymore, and a "I had dex 16 for ranged weapons and it was a class skill so I took it" +7 at level 1. And I should add that Dex 16 is already a significant investment for a technomancer or envoy.

Another contributing factor is that NPC skills grow at 1.5x tier, which is a bit faster than PCs (generally 1x tier, with some bumps at stat-increase levels). A PC who's not constantly trying to maximize out his starship stat, increasing Insight bonuses etc. is going to fall behind. I'd say operatives can probably keep up due to increasing Insight bonuses, but it's hard for other classes.

Dark Archive ***** ⦵⦵ Venture-Captain, Germany—Rhein Main South aka schattenstern

I have to say the starshipcombat difficulty is ... wierd. There are some encounters, especially yeasteryears truth, which gave the system a VERY VERY bad reputation (we called it after around 3 hours and 11 killed drones).

Most spaceship combats work out rater well in the region but we are VERY clear to all level 1 characters: What does your character do in spaceship combat and what does he do if that role is already taken (and captain is not a role (see below)).

It helps that we have a very DEX based meta so everyone can at least be the secondary/tertiary gunner and with a LOT of 4-Player tables the usual setup is: Pilot (neccessary), 1st Gunner (neccessary), Second Gunner (Better than all alternatives) and the engeneer doubling as science officer for the first turns till the scans are done.

One problem is the ammount of stuff you can do in spaceship combat:
The pilot has to make meaningfull decissions every turn and has the most important roll in the combat (initiative)
The gunner can shoot (and roll crits)
The engeneer will almost always want to repait the shields or patch up crits in relevant systems.

The 2 problem children are the science officer and the captain (especially before level 6):
The science officer can scan (very important but doen after 3-4 rounds) and redistribute shields (helpfull but not always needed)
The captain has the least ammount of decission as he has 1 taunt per combat and after that he is just another mk2 mononode computer that can sometimes fail to work. I have seen a FEW captains go completely afk as they had nothing to do.

The best spaceship encounters were the encounters where either the setup was great (cries form the drift) or you fight against multiple ships and do not get into a routine as fast (Dead Suns 5)
The big problem is that some classes are just BAD in spaceshipcombat (solarian/meele soldier/Mystic/STR Vangaurd) and even with investment they will be at most passable. Trough SFSs nature another problem is that even if you can do one role great that role might be taken by another player so everyone with not much DEX or INT will be hosed sometimes (As with DEX you can be pilot and gunner (and yes I see the piloting skilltax as real) and INT can do the other 2 jobs reasonably well.
And the Boon for WIS/mysticism to gunnery is NOT distributed widely enough to matter in that calculation (Maybe if it were a buyable factionless boon in the guide (that can be bought at level 1))

Grand Lodge ***** ⦵⦵ Venture-Captain, Online—PbP aka Hmm

roysier wrote:
I should add that it is very rare in the scenarios I've run or played where the player side Pilot loses the roll off. In almost every turn the players get to choose what facings both starships are firing from.

My Playtest group lost the roll-off three out four times. It was the first three times, so it felt like they were always losing the initiative roll-off. Interestingly, their poilot and the Xeros pilot were evenly matched -- it was dice luck doing them in.

Hmm

Grand Lodge ***** Venture-Agent, Florida—Melbourne aka trollbill

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Here is the issue I am seeing currently. Several issues combined initially to create a situation where Starship combats became irritating slog-fests:

1) Learning curve: When the game first came out, players, GMs and authors were all learning how a mechanic with no PFS equivalent worked. Naturally, this alone sometimes meant Starship combat took twice as long as normal combats. While this situation has improved, there are always new people that need to learn.

2) GM Requirements: In a normal PFS/SFS combat, the players all have a variety of tactics available to them while the monsters usually only have one boss with a similar number of choices while the mooks only have a few. This makes running the encounter easier on the GM as they don’t have to put a lot of thought into most creature tactics. This is not true in Starship combat. The NPCs have all the same options as the PCs with the possible exception of choices that require Resolve (and then, only at levels 6+). This makes more work for the GM and slows the game down.

3) Building for 2 combat systems: In PFS, you only had to build for combat effectiveness in a single combat system. But SFS has two systems: normal combat and starship combat. This means that, while there is some crossover, you will often be faced with making a choice between the two in a build. And since Starship combat occurs with considerably less frequency in SFS that regular combat, then your starship combat expertise is often what is sacrificed. As a side note, I would love to see more Feats like Sky Jockey that give you worthwhile benefits in normal, vehicle, AND starship combat.

4) Accuracy vs. Shields: The low rate of accuracy for most PC ship weapon attacks (often less than 50%) combined with the relatively easy ability to repair shields means that many Starship combats can turn into battles of slow attrition.

5) Organized play unpredictability: Even more so that standard PFS/SFS combat, Starship combat requires teamwork that assumes people will be able to do effective jobs in each position. This seldom works out well, especially for those builds that are not Dex-focused, have few skill points, or not a good selection of Starship combat skills. Solarians and Mystics especially fall into this category, making them less desirable to play in SFS. While anyone CAN fire a ship’s weapon, the accuracy issue mean you don’t just want anyone doing it. When, if given the choice of having a Science Officer and a Gunner with a +2 to hit, or no Science Officer and a gunner with +5 to hit while someone just sits out the battle, and the latter is the best combat tactic, then there is a mechanical problem.

All of these issues combined early in SFS to make players and GMs dread Starship Combat. I can recall more than one that took over 3 hours for a single Starship Combat. This has caused many GMs to take shortcuts that effect the challenge of the combat. One of the most common I have seen is GMs that simply never attempt to recharge shields. Doing deliberately poor tactics like this speeds up combat, makes less work for the GM and, sadly, often improves the enjoyment of the combat, but it means the combat is easier than intended.

***** ⦵⦵

After round 4 or 5 both ships not maneuvering and just firing at each others fronts sometimes seems like a good trade off between speeding something up and "yeah they might feisibly try that..."

Some things that really didn't help starship combat

The sheer number of different sources you need to have at your fingertips or in your brain

-The combat DCs in the book

-The combat Dcs in the faq, (because they didn't reprint all of them in one place, you need 2 sources. You can use an online one, but half of them still have the old dcs and another quarter of them round up instead of rounding the dcs down)

-The stats for your ship

- Everything NOT in the stats for your ship. For some reason the stat block is missing a lot of useful information

-The shield regen rate of your ship
-the range of the weapons
-the damage of the weapons

-the movement rules
-the movement rules for stunts

***** ⦵⦵

Hilary Moon Murphy wrote:
roysier wrote:
I should add that it is very rare in the scenarios I've run or played where the player side Pilot loses the roll off. In almost every turn the players get to choose what facings both starships are firing from.

My Playtest group lost the roll-off three out four times. It was the first three times, so it felt like they were always losing the initiative roll-off. Interestingly, their poilot and the Xeros pilot were evenly matched -- it was dice luck doing them in.

Hmm

I'm re-thinking what I said here since I'm going from memory. I'd say on average the players will lose 1 pilot roll off per space combat. So they would win around 4 of 5. My area has a few maxed out pilots. One always seems to be at every table I play.

We had one player as an operative take skill-focus pilot. There is an Operative ability you get around level 6 that you can always take a 10 in any skill you have a skill focus. His take 10 in piloting when he first pulled this out was 31. That was around level 6. Most enemy pilots could not beat his take 10. The few that could needed a real high roll. (18+ at least)

This also means he could take 10 on all Pilot maneuvers. Auto making just about anyone he wanted to do and thus further breaking Starship combat.

***** ⦵⦵

After reading everyone's posts I'm realizing my area puts a super high premium on having great Starship combat skills. The result is we are annihilating the competition. It doesn't resolve the issue that we spend 15 minutes setting up,go through 2 rounds of starship combat and it can be called right there with a super lop-sided player victory. I feel we just wasted 30 to 60 minutes of time on a push over encounter. So why did we even spend the time in the first place?

Grand Lodge ***** Venture-Agent, Florida—Melbourne aka trollbill

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roysier wrote:
Hilary Moon Murphy wrote:
roysier wrote:
I should add that it is very rare in the scenarios I've run or played where the player side Pilot loses the roll off. In almost every turn the players get to choose what facings both starships are firing from.

My Playtest group lost the roll-off three out four times. It was the first three times, so it felt like they were always losing the initiative roll-off. Interestingly, their poilot and the Xeros pilot were evenly matched -- it was dice luck doing them in.

Hmm

I'm re-thinking since I'm going from memory. I'd say on average the players will lose 1 pilot roll off per space combat. So they would win around 4 of 5. My area has a few maxed out pilots. One always seems to be at every table I play.

We had one player as an operative take skill-focus pilot. There is an Operative ability you get around level 6 that you can always take a 10 in any skill you have a skill focus. His take 10 in piloting when he first pulled this out was 31. That was around level 6. Most enemy pilots could not beat his take 10. The few that could needed a real high roll. (18+ at least)

This also means he could take 10 on all Pilot maneuvers. Auto making just about anyone he wanted to do and thus further breaking Starship combat.

This highlights the difference between characters optimized for Starship Combat and those that aren't. But since this is SFS, you never know what you are going to get at the table. It also highlights another problem. I built an Operative exactly like this and added the Sky Jockey feat as gravy. But an Operative is Dex based, has tons of skill points and is effective enough in non-Startship combat it can afford to split focus. Classes like Solarian and Mystic don't work that way.

***** ⦵⦵

I personally think the following resolution would work.

Add one tier of starship above the scenario tier so each scenario would have 3 Staship combat tiers. For example a 3-6 would have a tier 4, tier 6, and a tier 8 option. When the GM determines that the players are Starship combat optimized he can give the players the option of moving up one tier. If the players do that and win they get something of the equivalent of + 10% in credit reward at the end of the scenario.

This will let designers continue to design to the average but also let parties who are optimized for starship combat have a challenge if they so desire.

Dark Archive

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Adding for additional info gathering on starship combats:

The Last Starfighter High Score Table:

Claim to Salvation: Opposition was three goblin junkfighters vs. a PC ship that outclasses the opposition. My play experience is that the goblins may get a few good shots in, but most of the time, the PCs will easily take out a fighter every two rounds. It's a good way to introduce PCs to starship combat, since there's really no danger of them losing, but it may lead to a false sense of security when they have a T2 ship and face T1-2 foes.

Into the Unknown: Two good starship combats - the fight against the Corpsefleet ship usually becomes a fait accompli once they learn where the big guns are at, and the fight against the pirate ship is a bit rougher, though the PCs should end up winning.

Yesteryear's Truth: God, this fight. I think part of the problem is that players initially gravitated towards the Pegasus' speed and maneuverability, as well as the additional science and computing power, though that comes at a sacrifice on firepower. In my experience, most players who make it out of this adventure cease using the Pegasus and head towards the Drake. Adding to this is that the drones just keep coming, have better attack bonuses than at-tier PCs, and the "correct" solution is to ignore drones and focus fire on the fleeing space station, and you have a fight that just never ends. I agree with HMM - this fight single-handedly kills player enthusiasm for space combat, but it's very clear that admin knows about this, and have been correcting ever since, so I won't belabor the point any further. (It's a shame, because I really love the remainder of the scenario, but it's gated behind this combat.)

Cries from the Drift: This was a fun encounter - I liked that the starfield map had something on it other than a plain empty grid, and that there were more maneuver choices than "get behind the bad guy". I liked that there were ways to involve the terrain. I liked that there was a caveat to the fight that the NPCs would hold to, and the PCs could choose to honor that - or not! All in all, it ranks high on my list of starship combats.

Solar Sortie: Man, I don't know what we did wrong here. We ended up getting our lunch handed to us by these two ships, and only finally caught up on their damage output once we finally took one of them down. I know I've run this for a different group, but I honestly don't recall how well that went for them - I believe it went better, so maybe part of this was just bad dice on our part.

On the Trail of History: I ran this for my group, and yeah - they lost. It was never close, as I critted at least once on them with the big gun, blowing through their shields and taking them down with ease. I won't say they enjoyed the fight - as noted, players like winning - but it at least had the intended effect upon myself and the rest of the group, as we were worried about facing these things again. It did elicit a very honest comment from one of the players: "For as many people on the fence about starship combat, this encounter might end up pushing them off it in the wrong direction." All in all, I get what the intent was, and I'm fine with it (especially since success or failure here has nothing to do with XP or Fame or anything beyond a boon), but I would caution against doing this again any time soon.

Dreaming of the Future: The ysoki ship never really stood a chance, and while I liked the idea of the hidden turrets in the asteroid field, I didn't actually hit them with them. It was a nice creative choice that made the players pay attention to something other than the enemy ship, which is a refreshing change of pace.

Ashes of Discovery: The Besmaran whelp is an easy fight, honestly - I've played this and run it once, and thus far it has failed to penetrate the PC shields, let alone do hull damage. Regardless, I really liked the fact that this wasn't a spaceship, but a creature that lives in space and feeds on starship energy! Honestly, I'm not sure why it took us this long to finally encounter something like this!

Scoured Stars Invasion: At last, we come to the big one - a friend and I played this one together, and he was one of the PCs I ran On The Trail of History for earlier. That early encounter put the Fear of God into us - we both knew exactly how dangerous these ships were (me even more so, since I vaguely knew the stats!), and we thought long and hard about avoiding the fight, even though we were the highest table at the interactive, and had the greatest responsibility to fight the baddies. In the end, we did, and succeeded - which made the fight one of the most memorable starship combats we've done, even though it was, on paper, one of the most basic, just our starship versus the enemy. We were Big Damn Heroes, and it made up for suffering in that first fight just for succeeding here. Like I said earlier, this payoff helps to ameliorate the distaste for losing in the first mod, but I believe it would be a bad idea to go back to that well any time soon.

So, a quick takeaway:

1. Varied starship battlefields make for more interesting fights. While there should be fights in open space, there should be some with interesting terrain features, either in the Drift or in regular space.

2. Multiple adds can quickly break down the action economy. I think one of the reasons players are ignoring certain starship roles is that the only way out of starship combat is gunnery. Perhaps giving alternate victory conditions, other than shooting, would be a way to encourage players to have a balanced starship team - maybe the science officer needs to decode the ancient Precursor ship Maguffin to go into the Drift, and once the ship is away, the enemy ship peels off, since there's nothing left to fight for. Maybe the ship captain needs to convince a neutral ship to engage in combat for the PCs, or discourage a hostile, third-party ship from attacking the PCs as well.

3. Perhaps part of the SFS rules doc should encourage players to build PCs that can cover more than one shipboard role. I've been doing that with my characters since the outset of SFS, but it might not hurt to make that suggestion explicit.

⦵⦵

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Starfinder Superscriber

Since everyone else is doing it...

First, a general point about Starship combat. My experience so far has been that if the GM doesn't like starship combat, or if the players don't 'get into it', it's a slog almost no matter what the stats on the paper are. Even if everyone is optimized for it, and even if they roll well, without buy-in it becomes obvious that it's just a series of dice-rolls with little interesting story or fun. I happen to really like starship combat, both as a player and a GM, but man when the rest of the group doesn't, it's just painful to play through.

Spoiler:

Into the Unknown: This is the scenario I have the most experience with, by far. I've run it, I think 6 times now, and played it once. The first starship combat is 'easy' in that once you figure out that you just need to be behind the Endless Threnody, as long as you can consistently win init (good pilot), there's no challenge. However, the HP block on the ship means that even if you figure this out, it's going to take 45+ minutes to chew through those hullpoints. Targeting engines can speed this up, a little, as can having every workable gun manned, but it's going to be a slog no matter what. If I could errata this scenario, I'd drop the hull points on the Endless Threnody to 75 or even 60. The point of this combat is to teach everyone the basics and they've long figure out how firing and basic maneuvering work by then, the second half of the fight just feels like punishment. The second combat, with the Lawblight is much more fun, the added complication of the clues though can make this, too, a bit of a cakewalk. It's usually faster though.

Claim to Salvation: I've played this and run it. When I ran, I had the 4-player adjustment and also knew about the errata on the number of Goblins in the fight. It was super easy for the players, and super fun. It only took about 20-30 minutes, and the whole time I had the goblins talking smack and kept 'punishing' them with the tractor beam when I could hit and knock them out of position. When I played it, though, the GM flat out stated at the start that he hated Starship combat, one of the other players agreed and for another it was literally his first game (and he was playing Altronus). It only went downhill from there. I was the only one really experienced with Starship Combat and I was playing Keskodai. It didn't help that the GM also didn't notice the errata on the number of ships, *nor* the 4 player adjustment. The whole thing took almost 2 hours. We were never in much danger of losing, it just took forever. If that were my first experience, I'd be avoiding scenarios with the Starship tag like the plague.

Ashes of Discovery: I've run this, I think 3 times, never played it. Once the PC's figure out that the Whelp can only hit from adjacent hexes, the fight consists of them running away and shooting every round. Super easy fight. Tends to go rather quickly unless the whelp gets lucky early and latches on. (or has the breath weapon)

Skitter Shot: This was my first experience running the game. The starship combat lasted all of 3 or 4 rounds and maybe 30 minutes, as the party had 2 nat-20 crits in a row with the bigger weapon (so more than one crit effect) and managed to take out most of their hull and had their power core malfunctioning by round 2. They were dead before they could even patch the power core.

Dreaming of the Future: I've played and run this one. It was a pretty easy fight both times. But I think the 'morale' line about them 'fighting to the death' was totally out of character for a bunch of pirates. When I played, it was blatantly obvious that we were going to easily win the fight by round 3 or so, but we had to go through 5 or 6 more rounds (and about 1.5 hours of playtime) to actually make it through the end. When I ran it, it went a lot faster 4 rounds and I think they were done in <40 minutes. But I also had a level 4 optimized gunner (operative) playing out of tier in a mostly 1-2 group.

Siege of Enlightenment: I've only played this one. But the fight was simple enough. We maxed out gunners and the pilot was pretty optimized for it. We pulled the 'run away and shoot' trick and I think it was over in 4 rounds. Took maybe 50 minutes.

I know these aren't SFS, but they may help add context.

Dead Suns 1: I've both played and run this one. Playing it seemed to take forever, but I was also doing it PbP, so it could have been that. Running it live took about 50 minutes, but none of my players built for Starship combat (even though I told them to, and how, several times).

Dead Suns 2: Running this fight sucked. My players still hadn't adjusted for the idea of starship combat when this fight came up, and none of them remembered how any of it worked. It took almost 2 hours to get through it. The only one that was in any way into it was the guy playing the captain.

Dead Suns 3: After a long discussion during running Dead Suns 2, and some further explanation, everyone in the party had made some adjustments and we now had a working crew. I also helped them optimize the Sunrise Maiden a bit. They had the pirates out of the fight in one round. When they got to the Corpse Fleet fight, I went ahead and through in a Tier 4 Blackwind Sepulcher to up the difficulty. The second fight still ended up being a cakewalk. The necrogliders were out of the fight by the end of the 2nd round and it only took another 2 rounds to take out the Sepulcher. The whole thing took maybe 20 minutes even with my adjustments.

Against the Aeon Throne 1: This fight was super easy. The drone crit effect of taking cascading damage from crits instead of minuses meant that the drones were out of the fight in maybe 3 or 4 rounds.

I'm going to be running 1-03 Sunday, so we'll see how that one goes. I've run 1-07, but the party easily beat the scenario and avoided the starship combat.

If I were going to offer up some suggested 'fixes' for Starship Combat. I'd first recommend including some of the alternative actions that are available in some SFS and AP scenarios more often (fly casual is something I can't wait to tell my players in DS6). Let people diplomacize or intimidate their way out of more combats once the enemy is at half hull points or something. Pirates don't fight to the death. Solarians and Mystics both need some help in this regard, especially, but that's more a generic rework at the game level. Some of the DC's on the high tier ships need to be adjusted, a little.

As it is, though, even without these changes, I find this aspect of the game quite fun, personally. My main complaint is that the fights can take too long. We're supposed to be done in ~4 hours, but if you have an unoptomized or inexperienced group, or a GM that doesn't like starship combat, that almost never happens in scenarios with the starship tag.

Grand Lodge ***** ⦵⦵ Venture-Captain, Online—PbP aka Hmm

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What an excellent summary, Pithica. I agree with you on the AP star fights, but agree with you even more that GM attitude makes all the difference.

Unlike some others, I came off 1-03 with a furious 'what the hell' reaction and made it my personal mission to learn to love Starship Combat. A little enthusiasm, props and a good set of starship combat cheatsheets goes along way.

But I do agree with the Wolf that knowing the ranges of starship weapons is critical. All statblocks should list them, and they don't. Fortunately, by now I have the weapons mostly memorized, but that does not help our newest GMs learn this stuff.

Hmm

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