What am I missing with the math in Starfinder?


General Discussion


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I got to play Starfinder when it was released at Gencon 2 years ago and I loved the experience. The pregen characters seemed to make sense and be reasonably balanced, the rules changes were a little odd to get used to after playing Pathfinder for so long, but they made sense and seemed to work. Now I am finally getting an opportunity to play in an extended campaign and looking over the rule book in depth and I have become utterly mystified by the math inherent in the game.

The main issue I have is that the damage progression curve varies WILDLY from aspect to another. The weapons table shows gear based damage increases by level with the first major uptick around 7th, and then again around 11th, and then jumping quite a bit from there on out. It is a rather odd progression, but it seems consistent among the weapon types with price, critical effect, and energy type to balance out the bumps along the curve.

However my objection is to the damage bonuses you get from class features which completely fail to follow that curve and ultimately seem to be practically meaningless because of it. Why do I care about +2 to damage when I am dealing 5d10+my level in damage?

For example soldiers get their first gear boost at 3rd level when they can choose (among other things) a damage bonus with projectile weapons that works out to basically a quarter of your level rounded down plus 1. After crunching the numbers this damage bonus works out to a ~21-24% damage bonus at its peak (4th level) and then steadily drops down to a paltry ~7-8% bonus at 20th level. Similarly melee striker adding half of your Strength to melee attacks is a ~16% boost at 3rd level, but drops to ~5% by 20th.

What really made me take note of all of this however is the options for DR in the game. Mechanics who choose a combat drone get DR for their drones from 1st level. Other drones can choose it as a mod starting at 11th level. It grants DR 1 for levels 1-6, DR for 7-12, DR 3 for 13-15, DR 4 for 16-18, and DR 5 for 19+. At 1st level that is ~22% damage reduction on average, but at 20th it is a measly 7%.

The PC option of the dermal plating cybernetic upgrade is much more consistent. It gives you DR 1 @ 5th up to DR 7 @ 19th. It ranges between ~10%-12% damage reduction with an outlier of ~16% at 9th.

So am I missing something, or did the class designers not talk to the weapon designers?


Well, first of all, most of the game is not played at those high level points, and that +2 damage bonus goes a long dang way before that.

Secondly, why do you use a +X sword in Pathfinder, even though "X" might be a tiny fraction of your damage? Because you can, and because you want to stack as many bonuses as possible to get to those high numbers.

It's the same reason you synergize your gear in a MMORPG. +4% might not seem like a lot, but you stack ten of those bonuses from all your gear slots, now you're talking some big numbers.


For what it's worth, you're going to be using full attack as often as you can to get those damage bonuses twice per turn if you hit. The soldier has fewer abilities to use too which results in more attacks and more chances for bonus damage compared to other classes.

A thing to note about gear is that you're often a few levels behind. Those minor damage bonuses are going to help keep you relevant until you can afford a new weapon.

You're right about the combat drone, that DR proves to be pretty lackluster. A level 7 armor mod(deflective reinforcement) gives 5 DR vs the combat drone's 2 DR at level 7. DR/ER on a player is better though, even moreso when combined with other defensive options.


Tiktik "Overclock" wrote:
However my objection is to the damage bonuses you get from class features which completely fail to follow that curve and ultimately seem to be practically meaningless because of it. Why do I care about +2 to damage when I am dealing 5d10+my level in damage?

They do follow the progression curve. +2 * number of feats you have at high level = +2 * number of feats you have at low level.

And thus avoid non specialized characters to see their damage output drop too significantly compared to specialized characters. Like in Pathfinder where most fighters don't even care taking a bow considering that their damage with it quickly drop to non existent.
So, a specialized character always have 20% more damage output than a non specialized one. It looks legitimate to me.


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Dracomicron wrote:

Well, first of all, most of the game is not played at those high level points, and that +2 damage bonus goes a long dang way before that.

Secondly, why do you use a +X sword in Pathfinder, even though "X" might be a tiny fraction of your damage? Because you can, and because you want to stack as many bonuses as possible to get to those high numbers.

Well for one you use a +X sword in Pathfinder because +1-5 is pretty comparable to Pathfinder damage levels. Second it adds X to attack as well, and Pathfinder uses iterative attack bonuses, so every attack bonus translates to entire additional hits landing. Third, those attack bonuses are traded away for more damage from power attack, etc. But most of all Pathfinder rewards players for wielding high plus weapons because they get to ignore increasingly common DR varieties (DR/cold iron and DR/silver at +3, DR/adamantine at +4, and DR/alignment at +5). And those values all follow the same progression rate that Pathfinder follows pretty consistently.

My problem is that the damage bonus progression that Starfinder offers scales at a rate very similar to typical Pathfinder's bonuses. However Starfinder base damage progresses at a completely different rate such that the damage bonuses dwindle in value as you level up.

Quote:
It's the same reason you synergize your gear in a MMORPG. +4% might not seem like a lot, but you stack ten of those bonuses from all your gear slots, now you're talking some big numbers.

Yes, exactly. Except that is the beauty of bonuses in MMORPGs is that they automatically scale because they are percentages.

Likewise, that is my issue with damage bonus options, when an alternative is an attack bonus option like Laser Accuracy. Attack bonuses naturally scale because each plus 1 increase the odds of landing a whole extra attack by 5%.


SuperBidi wrote:
Tiktik "Overclock" wrote:
However my objection is to the damage bonuses you get from class features which completely fail to follow that curve and ultimately seem to be practically meaningless because of it. Why do I care about +2 to damage when I am dealing 5d10+my level in damage?

They do follow the progression curve. +2 * number of feats you have at high level = +2 * number of feats you have at low level.

And thus avoid non specialized characters to see their damage output drop too significantly compared to specialized characters. Like in Pathfinder where most fighters don't even care taking a bow considering that their damage with it quickly drop to non existent.
So, a specialized character always have 20% more damage output than a non specialized one. It looks legitimate to me.

I am not saying that they don't follow a curve, it is that they don't follow the same curve as weapon base damage. Basically damage bonuses follow a linear curve of: Damage = 1+ [level]/4

Whereas base damage follows an exponential curve of roughly: Damage = [level 1 base amount] * 1.15 ^ [level], in other words roughly a 15% increase per level on average.

If Starfinder damage bonuses were to adhere to that rate they would be something more like:
+2 at 3rd
+3 at 6th
+4 at 8th
+5 at 10th
+6 at 11th
+7 at 12th
+8 at 13th
+9 at 14th
+11 at 15th
+12 at 16th
+14 at 17th
+16 at 18th
+19 at 19th
+21 at 20th

For ease at the table, it seems like they could have made it half your level through 10th, then 2/3 your level through 15th, 3/4 your level through 18th, and finally equal to your level at 19th.


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I think the fact items are effectively gated behind levels is relevant in some hard-to-articulate way. Basically, as you advance in your class you get access to better weaponry, so some of that bonus you're ascribing to weapons is just benefit of becoming more proficient that's been bundled up in equipment. Having said that, I don't really see why the two factors you point out should be comparable.

You seem to be saying that what weapon you use has a greater impact on the damage you do than what training you've received and that these two "aspects" should be closer in magnitude (is that right?)

If that's a fair statement of your objection, I don't see why that should be true - the +2 you get from a class feature might not matter as much as the extra 3d6 you get from upgrading your weapon but that's not the choice you're making - you're choosing between two class bonuses. The +2 is better than what you'd get from choosing a non-martial class.

To me the way you increase your damage is by upgrading your weapon. Advancement within a class offers some minor advantage to damage, but that's not the main feature. It offers other abilities that complement your damage dealing.

EDIT: It occurred to me in writing this out that you need to look at DPR anyhow (not sure if that's what you meant by crunching the numbers). My point being that advancing in a class doesn't just give you a bonus to damage, it also gives you a bonus to your to-hit roll - which will have a significant impact on your expected damage output. Upgrading your weapon doesn't (generally) increase your chances of hitting.


Steve Geddes wrote:


EDIT: It occurred to me in writing this out that you need to look at DPR anyhow (not sure if that's what you meant by crunching the numbers). My point being that advancing in a class doesn't just give you a bonus to damage, it also gives you a bonus to your to-hit roll - which will have a significant impact on your expected damage output. Upgrading your weapon doesn't (generally) increase your chances of hitting.

I don't think the issue is with the class it's with the gear boost which has some pretty harsh diminishing effects as you level.

as far as I can see whether you look at just damage or DPR the percents going to be the same.


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What i mean is that its a package deal. The relevant level in soldier gives you a bonus to hit as well as a bonus to damage. Both will impact on your expected damage output but only the latter affects your average damage on a hit.

The OP was comparing its 'value' against the scaling of weapons which only increases average damage on a hit and doesnt boost to hit chances.

Irrespective - that was an aside. My main point was really to challenge the premise. Why should class boosts to damage scale similarly to equipment increases?


Steve Geddes wrote:
Why should class boosts to damage scale similarly to equipment increases?

Because they are very meh if they don't. Presumably the monsters HP are in line to take a beating from the 17th level gatlin laser 17XtremeX meaning that the 3 or four from a gear boost is kinda pointless, you should have gone with another boost and if that happens often enough, should have gone with another class.

It's like boosting power to weapons as the engineer on the starship. It LOOKS like you're making relevant choices that have an effect on the game but you really don't.


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I think you get more out of being a level 17 soldier than that gear boost (not least of all the bonus to hit, which increases your damage without appearing to do so, but also the non-damage boosting benefits you get).

It seemed to me the OP was suggesting the benefit to damage from ongoing improvements from a class should be in line with the benefits to damage one gets from ongoing improvements to the weapon you're using. I think the position you outline here is more about the relative benefits of differing class options, which is a different argument.

If the "I want to do lots of damage" option for soldier added as much to the average damage as the increase in weapon damage inherent in the gear progression, then it would become the only choice.

FWIW, I think feeling like your choice matters is more important than actually mattering (though I take your point that they should line up).


I like that class features are strongest when taken and lose relative effectivenes over time. That keeps the reward loop going by offering new and stronger abilities later on to increase relative class power back to where it once was.

If all class abilities would scale linear you could remove leveling completely. Or the power difference between levels would be even higher than now.

But some math is definately off like battery priceing (unless I missed an errata).


Tiktik "Overclock" wrote:

If Starfinder damage bonuses were to adhere to that rate they would be something more like:

+2 at 3rd
+3 at 6th
+4 at 8th
+5 at 10th
+6 at 11th
+7 at 12th
+8 at 13th
+9 at 14th
+11 at 15th
+12 at 16th
+14 at 17th
+16 at 18th
+19 at 19th
+21 at 20th

Currently, if I consider a 16 starting Strength Soldier and Melee Striker Gear Boost, the progression is:

+1 at 3rd
+6 at 6th
+9 at 9th
+12 at 12th
+20 at 15th
+24 at 18th

So, it's higher than your progression. To get these numbers, I have considered the Soldier was taking Melee Striker Gear Boost everytime he had to take a Gear Boost (yeah, I know, it's not authorized, it's just a simulation of a character who is taking only melee options everytime he can).
And it's the important part. In Starfinder, specialized characters are not doing 3 times the damage non specialized ones do at higher levels. You have to take more options in your specialty to stay specialized. I personally find that to be a good thing. It allows polyvalent characters to stay competitive at high levels.


Steve Geddes wrote:
I think you get more out of being a level 17 soldier than that gear boost (not least of all the bonus to hit, which increases your damage without appearing to do so, but also the non-damage boosting benefits you get).

The problem with holding up the "to-hit" bonus like this, is that (at least as of the Char-Ops Playtest, and probably the final book since I doubt Vanguard is going to stop being a full-BAB class) 2 and a half classes have the same bonus to attack you have (Solarian, Vanguard, and Exocortex Mechanics). Another can pretend to be on par until level 9 with their main trick; and yet another can pretend to be on-par until level 13 (even surpassing you occasionally) with a couple talents, while even buffing the entire party (Operative with Trick Attack and Envoy with Get 'Em and later Clever Attack respectively.) Granted those last two won't necessarily be as mobile as you are, and can't full-attack, but still. Meanwhile you put your talents into damage which... becomes a drop in the bucket. Especially compared to the damage bonuses Operative is getting with their Trick Attack, though I suppose that's mostly because of how much their weapons kinda suck without the handicap. ^.^;

Steve Geddes wrote:
If the "I want to do lots of damage" option for soldier added as much to the average damage as the increase in weapon damage inherent in the gear progression, then it would become the only choice.

While I agree that flat out doubling your damage would be insane, I do totally agree with others that I really wish the damage options scaled more than their piddling drop-in-the-bucket amounts. It really hurts with this part of your conclusion:

Steve Geddes wrote:
FWIW, I think feeling like your choice matters is more important than actually mattering (though I take your point that they should line up).

After all, if you know that the damage boost you're getting from your gear boosts is only going to save you maybe 1 attack in 20 (possibly hyperbolic, don't have the time to actually calculate things ATM), it's hard to even feel like that choice actually matters. Especially since I doubt many enemies take 20 attacks to take down, meaning it doesn't really save you much at all.


Steve geddes wrote:
FWIW, I think feeling like your choice matters is more important than actually mattering (though I take your point that they should line up).

Eventually people are going to notice.


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Shinigami02 wrote:
I do totally agree with others that I really wish the damage options scaled more than their piddling drop-in-the-bucket amounts.

So do I.

I just don’t agree with the implied premise that it should scale similarly to weapon damage. I think that’s a furphy.

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