What do you think of the space combat in APs?


Starfinder Adventure Path General Discussion


Whats your opinion of the space combat in the APs?

From what I have seen so far most space combat in APs is a chance to earn more XP, but beyond that do not matter much. No matter if you win or lose the outcome is basically the same, maybe with slight alterations. The enemy disables you and is then driven off or you are forced to land and the adventure proceeds like normal with maybe an additional encounter after landing.

One one had it makes space combat easy to ignore if the group is not suited for it, on the other hand if feels rather disconnected.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

it can REALLY DRAG.

there's an encounter in Dead Suns, which was resolved, in i think 5 rounds. but it took us almost 3 hours to run.

after that nightmare experience, we resolved as a group to SHUT UP and let the pilot do the piloting, the engineer do the engineering, the gunner to do the gunning, just like it works in a traditional combat situation.

and we go through the starship combat really fast and its much more fun.

it's supposed to be cooperative, but if you go down that path, it takes ages as players start backseat driving.


Combat-wise, the better the guns, the faster and more interesting it goes.

Story-wise, yeah, didn't see one that matters that much yet - no party captured, no detours in an unexplored alien planet or anything. They could probably work something like that in a module rather than an AP.


We modified our ship to the point of trivializing ship combats, and it's good to me. The less the better.
I really find ship combat to be a chore more than fun gameplay. I would have prefered something similar to the chase rules for ship combats: No map, no repetitive and long turns, and place for every character to shine.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Starfinder Charter Superscriber

We enjoyed space combat loads. It’s another game in the game. And you could not possibly have a future space sci-fi without space combat. My players take a Star Trek like approach to it and it also gives the players some RP opportunities so they can show off their technobabble in their various roles.


I think the only thing I would consider is adding multiple PC ships and balancing combat around them.

My PCs who play as the pilot and gunner have fun, and one of my players is plenty fine being an engineer or science officer. The other two find
space combat boring


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I love space combat, but realize that for some players, "getting stuck" as the engineer, science officer or captain can be kind of boring, everyone wants to *pew pew*. So I just let everyone take the Snap Shot action regardless whether or not a gunner is present and has acted. Speeds up combat and fulfills the need to *pew pew*


yukongil wrote:
So I just let everyone take the Snap Shot action regardless whether or not a gunner is present and has acted.

That is something to consider.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
yukongil wrote:
I love space combat, but realize that for some players, "getting stuck" as the engineer, science officer or captain can be kind of boring, everyone wants to *pew pew*. So I just let everyone take the Snap Shot action regardless whether or not a gunner is present and has acted. Speeds up combat and fulfills the need to *pew pew*

Great idea.


Space combat has been great in our campaigns. It's been a welcome change of pace. In Reach of Empire, one of the space combats is critical to the adventure, so I'm not getting how they are getting looked at through a more critical lens than a XP-filler encounter.

As for "less meaningful" encounters, I'm really tired of low-/no-stakes encounters awarding more XP than a life-or-death encounter at a lower level, simply by virtue of being in a higher AP installment. If such encounters are just going to be XP-filler, there's really no point in tracking XP (regardless of whether it's Starfinder or Pathfinder).


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

I think the space combats in Against the Aeon Throne were far more justified. Some of the Dead Suns ones had pretty peculiar motivations (for example - villains who want something from the PCs choosing to just fly away if they successfully disable the PCs' ship).

There were a few which definitely felt to me that they were just there because "it's time for something different". In Against the Aeon Throne, I think they meshed far better with the narrative - cutting them out of AP issues 7-9 would make the AP considerably worse, I feel.


In Dead Suns, there's a space combat I found kind of silly.
We were attacked without warning (I was captain, and tried to open discussion for no result), and once we won, we discovered the enemy ship was having some very important information to us.
First, we could have blow them up. But, more importantly, the guys tried to blast us, without warning nor discussion, and now we have to make some Diplomacy checks and stuff.
My True Lawful Priest of Lissalla was that close to explain them how she handles what she considered an act of piracy...


SuperBidi wrote:

In Dead Suns, there's a space combat I found kind of silly.

We were attacked without warning (I was captain, and tried to open discussion for no result), and once we won, we discovered the enemy ship was having some very important information to us.
First, we could have blow them up. But, more importantly, the guys tried to blast us, without warning nor discussion, and now we have to make some Diplomacy checks and stuff.
My True Lawful Priest of Lissalla was that close to explain them how she handles what she considered an act of piracy...

That's fair. I can see that.

I think that's more an issue with encounter design than starship combat itself, however. Starfinder is still relatively new but sometimes the application of Pathfinder-dungeon-style encounter design doesn't really work as well for far future science fantasy. I'm hopeful that will improve over time and hopefully will also help improve starship combat encounter design as well.


Space combat has one very major difference with normal combat: It's either a flawless victory or a total party kill.
Also, there are no special resources you can use to "save the day" when a combat looks badly engaged. And you can hardly run away. It's win or die, period.
And, because you make less checks during a starship combat than a normal one, luck has more impact.
Finally, depending on the classes in your party, you can end up with half of the group being lame because they don't have a high Dexterity.
All these reasons makes it very dangerous to design a deadly starship combat in a module. You can easily have 20% of your groups who dies at it...

That's why most starship combats are designed not to be deadly, but it looks weird, like if starship combat was no real combat.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Dead Suns is also the AP of "so hey, this is what you can do in this new game".
If it feels like there's stuff in it that serves little purpose beyond being there... It might be just that. "Look at what space combat is like early on.", "Look at it now, with levels under your belt and an upgraded ship! ", etc.

To the subject : my main issue is that for a science fantasy game, that is an entire - and so very important to the genre - part of the game that is entirely devoid of fantasy.

We now have mystical weapons since AtAT, and that's fine. But using a different number to shoot the same guns is not much, and not enough to satisfy me.
More to do period would be nice too.
Also, having ships be more than weapons platforms. There's more to do with them than merely fighting.
Not an AP specific issue though, and one easily fixed with a few additions in future books.
I'm optimistic, for once.

Sovereign Court

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I think "space combat is all or nothing win or lose" and "there's nothing else to do with ship combat but shoot people" are two faces of the same coin/problem.

You could for example set up a combat where the objective is not to vaporize the enemy, but rather to download data from a number of satellites while a swarm of small enemy ships try to destroy them. Each satellite contains some relevant clues and you're going to need a sufficient amount of them to know where to go later in the adventure, but there's enough clues that you don't need all of them. And they're not just "clue points", each of them also has some actual bit of story in them so every one of them that you download gives some information.

The science officer is busy trying to download data (and after getting it, getting new info on what the situation is really about), the pilot is trying to plot an efficient route because downloading data goes faster if you're close to the satellites, and the gunner is trying to destroy enemies to slow down the attrition rate. And if they can find the "index satellite", they can start making decisions on which satellite is most important to get.


SuperBidi wrote:

Space combat has one very major difference with normal combat: It's either a flawless victory or a total party kill.

Also, there are no special resources you can use to "save the day" when a combat looks badly engaged. And you can hardly run away. It's win or die, period.

This is probably the main problem with space combat. Combined with how disconnected the spaceship is from the rest of the game those are the only two possible outcomes with nothing in between.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Ixal wrote:
SuperBidi wrote:

Space combat has one very major difference with normal combat: It's either a flawless victory or a total party kill.

Also, there are no special resources you can use to "save the day" when a combat looks badly engaged. And you can hardly run away. It's win or die, period.
This is probably the main problem with space combat. Combined with how disconnected the spaceship is from the rest of the game those are the only two possible outcomes with nothing in between.

Um, not even close. Per the SFCRB: "Hull Points: This is the total amount of damage a starship can take before it becomes inoperative. A starship with 0 Hull Points isn’t destroyed, though many of its systems are no longer functioning and it is no longer a threat to its enemies."

Now, for some encounters, that could result in ship destruction and a TPK just like any personal combat with monsters or enemies. It's hardly the binary choice being discussed, however.

Off the top of my head:
1) You can run away if your ship can maintain distance or increase distance over a period of time. Since starship combat and space travel contain hefty doses of abstraction already, a GM could say the encounter ends after a random or set number of turns. Even if pursuit is maintained over a long period, the PCs could be hailing any friendly/neutral ship for assistance, etc.

2) The ship is crippled and the bad guys leave.
2a - The PCs have to make field repairs to get moving again.
2b - The ship is a hopeless wreck. The PCs have to use escape pods which will take them to that mysterious planet...
2c - The PCs have to limp to an asteroid field, moon, or planet and gather resources to repair their ship so that they can resume their journey.
2d - The PCs are stranded in their crippled ship but their distress calls are picked up by an allied/friendly/neutral vessel that can either rescue them, tow their vessel, repair their vessel, or be hostile to the PCs where the PCs will need to try and take the new vessel.

3) The ship is crippled and the PCs plead/taunt/trick the bad guys into a boarding action. Personal combat ensues as the PCs attempt to board the enemy vessel to salvage needed parts, capture the enemy vessel, or capture enemy hostages to bargain for repair parts.

4) Allied reinforcements are detected en route and the bad guys leave before they can arrive.

If Hull Points = 0 = Star Wars ship explosion, then yes, starship combat is pretty binary. Fortunately, Starfinder isn't that way. You are no more limited by losing encounters than you are in Pathfinder or Starfinder personal combat. In fact, in many ways, you are less limited.

You're free to impose whatever limitations on a game/campaign/session that you like, but don't blame the game for imposing a limitation that the GM assigned.


When you have the Sunrise maiden with weird guns pointing all over the place it drags out.

Once you customize it a bit though you pretty much blow everything away in a round.

It also suffers from the same problem as spaceship combat. The pilot has all of the choices, the gunners have most of the effect, everyone else is just making the same rolls to be a small bonus to the gunner.


BPorter wrote:
1) You can run away if your ship can maintain distance or increase distance over a period of time.

Even with a faster ship, it's nearly impossible, as weapons can shoot at 10 times their range increment and we are speaking of 2 to 4 squares per round. Roughly, you need 50-100 rounds to run away, you're blown to pieces long time before safety, especially if you took a few shots before running away.

BPorter wrote:
2) The ship is crippled and the bad guys leave.

Why???

The ship is crippled and the bad guys finish it. They are bad guys...

BPorter wrote:
3) The ship is crippled and the PCs plead/taunt/trick the bad guys into a boarding action.

Why again? I'm the bad guy, I've won the fight, if I don't want to destroy the ship, I ask the crew to just hang outside while I board it easily. As a PC, I always ask that to vainquished ships.

BPorter wrote:
4) Allied reinforcements are detected en route and the bad guys leave before they can arrive.

That's the fairest point. But it's a very special combat situation, unless you want some deus ex machina saving the PCs all the time, but it will be quickly visible.


SuperBidi wrote:
BPorter wrote:
1) You can run away if your ship can maintain distance or increase distance over a period of time.

Even with a faster ship, it's nearly impossible, as weapons can shoot at 10 times their range increment and we are speaking of 2 to 4 squares per round. Roughly, you need 50-100 rounds to run away, you're blown to pieces long time before safety, especially if you took a few shots before running away.

BPorter wrote:
2) The ship is crippled and the bad guys leave.

Why???

The ship is crippled and the bad guys finish it. They are bad guys...

BPorter wrote:
3) The ship is crippled and the PCs plead/taunt/trick the bad guys into a boarding action.

Why again? I'm the bad guy, I've won the fight, if I don't want to destroy the ship, I ask the crew to just hang outside while I board it easily. As a PC, I always ask that to vainquished ships.

BPorter wrote:
4) Allied reinforcements are detected en route and the bad guys leave before they can arrive.
That's the fairest point. But it's a very special combat situation, unless you want some deus ex machina saving the PCs all the time, but it will be quickly visible.

#1 - Being able to shoot at that range and hit at that range are 2 different things. Also, if you're going to take that literal an interpretation of range & escape, you'll have to also take it for initial detection and closing. Both of which would be resolved via a few checks at my table but if you want to adhere to those kinds of scenarios, the PCs should have ample time to assess/scan foes and disengage before combat starts.

#2 - This is no different than any personal combat encounter. Being a "bad guy" doesn't equate to "kill all opponents all the time". If it does, I suspect TPKs and frequent introduction of new characters is a commonplace occurrence, so starship combat doesn't alter that.

You can run NPCs and encounters any way you like, but the things you're citing are mostly GM decisions/choices and not flaws (or features) of starship combat.

Bottom line, where you see a binary outcome, I see unexpected/unscripted role-playing and story opportunities.


BPorter wrote:
#1 - Being able to shoot at that range and hit at that range are 2 different things. Also, if you're going to take that literal an interpretation of range & escape, you'll have to also take it for initial detection and closing. Both of which would be resolved via a few checks at my table but if you want to adhere to those kinds of scenarios, the PCs should have ample time to assess/scan foes and disengage before combat starts.

You've got a point.

Hitting at range is not the issue when you have dozens of round to try. You'll get a few criticals along the way. But it's true that you may consider the players are out of scanners at some point.

BPorter wrote:
If it does, I suspect TPKs and frequent introduction of new characters is a commonplace occurrence, so starship combat doesn't alter that.

Yes, of course. If the players lose a personal combat, they are all dead. But it nearly never happens, as personal combats are not binary, so you can just drop one character or two to scare your players, and they will feel the challenge.


Also, while the range of weapons is 10 increments, the range of sensors is somehow only five, so pay attention to that as the most common limiting factor.


My players modified the Sunrise Maiden to have two turrets with the best guns they can mount. They keep upgrading those turret-mounted guns as they level up the ship. Other systems like engines and shields are still fairly low. They quickly destroy all enemies in the AP. Piloting doesn't matter much because they can aim everywhere and balance their shields, but their pilot usually wins initiative so they rarely get hit in the same shield twice - that's why they can afford to have weak shields.

Even so, it still seems to take an hour or two and most of the players spend that time looking at their cell phones rather than at the Starfinder game.

In book 5, I added extra copies of the enemy ships just to challenge them and I finally managed to inflict hull point damage on them before they won, and half of the challenge was that their gunner rolled a ridiculous number of terrible attack rolls. It was the only time that space combat even woke them up and got their eyes off their cell phones for a few minutes, but it also extended the fight to well over two hours.

I'm not a fan of how most players have so little to do. "I balance the shields. Rolled a 21. Done." 5 or 6 times in a 90 minute battle is not at all engaging.

I'm not a fan of how easy it is to "game the system". Have turrets? Yay, auto-win. Don't have turrets? Bummer, I sure hope your enemy is just a clueless or else, boo, auto-lose. Or, have a very high pilot skill? Yay, auto win. Else, boo...

Have both? OK, let's save ourselves 90 minutes or so and I'll narrate: "It's a short battle, over in just a minute or two of your characters' lives. A few heavy salvos from your turrets disable all the enemy ships who never really had a chance with their poorly designed ships (no turret weapons) and their poorly-trained pilots."

I'm not a fan of how it's all-or-nothing. I don't dare try too hard to win (which hasn't mattered as the fights have never even been close, even with me trying). Especially when they got out far away from the pact worlds. No help in sight, better win the fight. Sure, I can save them if they lose, but they'll know I saved them. Maybe once or twice I could get away with it (enemy doesn't blow them up but boards them and now they capture the enemy ship, or they escape to a nearby planet and find and repair a derelict ship, or whatever). Too often and it's just silly/obvious. How many times did Kirk or Picard lose their ship? A couple, which was actually cool, but only a tiny fraction of their encounters.

I'm not a fan of how the players are encouraged to blow up or ignore the enemy ships (try to rescue/salvage/board and that's when really bad things happen like self-destruct, for example) but then in one fight in one AP, a fairly significant amount of treasure can only be had by boarding - my players blew it all up without even trying.

I'm not a fan of how the whole thing seems to be reduced down to, "If you're close enough to fight, you too close to run away, so now it's a fight to the death." My villains can't escape, the PCs couldn't escape if they needed to. By the time it's going so badly that a ship decides to run away, it takes too many rounds to actually break off combat - they'll certainly be destroyed before they escape. That may also be true for ground combat, but at least enemies have lairs with traps, secret doors, hidden allies just down the hall, or any number of other diversion and distraction that help them get away, none of which work very well in space. Or they can just teleport out or use lots of other magic to break off and escape, none of which seems plausible in space.

None of my players are fans of it either. I guarantee if I ask them "OK, space combat time. Want to just skip it?" that they would unanimously agree, instantly, without reservation. They are definitely enjoying the campaigns and their characters are having fun exploring worlds and fighting bad guys on the ground, but nobody is having fun in space.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Once the players master the "flying death turret with a crappy ship attached to it" build, it's time for the GM to upgrade the enemy's ships as well.

Either bump its tier one or two levels, or redistribute the same BP into more turrets and more missiles.

And the most important thing: give the NPC gunners some resolve points for the Broadside action. Having 6 weapons fired at them (combined with flyby stunts) will put some fear in the player's hearts.


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Starship combat needs serious balancing. My group finds it fun but I had to impose a lot of restrictions on ship upgrading so that it kept enemy ships in APs relevant. Once I did that things went much more smoothly. IF not then yes its oh look a ship, dakka, dakka, dakka.. boom! what ship? and it becomes a yawn fest.

I hope to see a expanded ship book out with proper rails for construction. While the rules work perfectly well for making ships not having any limitations on what they can upgrade, how they upgrade or how much they can upgrade leads to imbalanced ship encounters immediately.

My group loves the RP possibilities and the interaction of scanning, captain giving orders, hailing the ship and all that. If you handle it like any other encounter and spice it up beyond just a combat session they can be loads of fun but yeah it needs balancing badly.

Sovereign Court

The Ragi wrote:

Once the players master the "flying death turret with a crappy ship attached to it" build, it's time for the GM to upgrade the enemy's ships as well.

Either bump its tier one or two levels, or redistribute the same BP into more turrets and more missiles.

And the most important thing: give the NPC gunners some resolve points for the Broadside action. Having 6 weapons fired at them (combined with flyby stunts) will put some fear in the player's hearts.

I agree that when players catch on to the way starship optimization works, out of the book ships don't cut it anymore to challenge them.

However, giving the enemies more guns doesn't really make things better I think, because it just turns space battle into "in two rounds, one of these ships will be the first to be shot to bits". Enemy ships with the same firepower as a PC optimized ships just turn the space battle into a risky coin flip, not into the sort of deep tactical fight that we're looking for.


I think the key is to make sure the PCs ship isn't optimized in the first place.

It still doesn't solve my problem of one or two PCs contributing very little to a starship combat that might drag on for a while.

I think for number of players >= 4, two ships and rebalanced encounters is the way to go to keep all players engaged.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Garretmander wrote:

I think the key is to make sure the PCs ship isn't optimized in the first place.

It still doesn't solve my problem of one or two PCs contributing very little to a starship combat that might drag on for a while.

I think for number of players >= 4, two ships and rebalanced encounters is the way to go to keep all players engaged.

My group is 6 and as they say it all varies dependent on group. I imposed a 3 upgrade per tier limit with each upgrade only being able to be increased up to current lvl +2 in the case of systems with multiple levels like engines or shields. Expansion Bays & security systems do not count.

That seemed to fix the grossly over powered compared to NPC ships issue. As for 2 PCs not having much to do I never see this with my group but they really get into the Star Trek kinda feel with ship combat and like the banter, scanning, engineering shenanigans and what not and I try to feed them plenty of fluff actions to keep things interesting. I think its really all what you make of it but Ive had no complaints from my non pilot, non gunner players so far.

Community / Forums / Starfinder / Starfinder Adventure Path / General Discussion / What do you think of the space combat in APs? All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.
Recent threads in General Discussion