The DC's to identify a spell are TOO DAMN HIGH


General Discussion


I've been running a heavily custom game of Starfinder set on Earth in 2045, so their knowledge of magic was very limited.

In the last session they had their first real encounter with magic, and of course their first Mysticism rolls to identify said spells. Now, the DC to identify a spell being cast is "10 + 5 x spell level". In lower levels it's pretty low, 15 or 20 for 1st and 2nd level spells.
But to identify a 6th level spell (the highest on the game) it's a DC of 40. So, at 16th level (when they would probably encounter a 6th level spell for the first time) IF you had a starting INT of 16, AND put all your bonus ability scores on INT until now, AND all the ranks, AND it's a class skill, AND you got a +6 personal upgrade to INT you get a total of +28 and you still need a 12 to identify it... So, less than 50%, even in ideal circumstances.

I was thinking to house rule it back to the Pathfinder style, "15+ 2 x spell level".

Anyone else had the same issue, any other ideas?


You're neglecting the further +5 available at that level from Techlore and Channel Skill.

So:
WIS 26 (With Personal Upgrade) +8
Techlore/Channel Skill +5
Skill Ranks +16
Class Skill +3

That's +32, so you only need an 8.


Nerdy Canuck wrote:

You're neglecting the further +5 available at that level from Techlore and Channel Skill.

So:
WIS 26 (With Personal Upgrade) +8
Techlore/Channel Skill +5
Skill Ranks +16
Class Skill +3

That's +32, so you only need an 8.

Tbh i totally forgot about it. But I didn't involve ANY skill bonuses from any class (like Operative or Envoy) or even the skill focus feat, i wanted to take a look at it as a skill in on it self.

My point is, you need to REALLY focus on it to make it work to identify spells. Maybe it's like this by design, and they want it to get harder as the levels go up.


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NikosBlu wrote:
Nerdy Canuck wrote:

You're neglecting the further +5 available at that level from Techlore and Channel Skill.

So:
WIS 26 (With Personal Upgrade) +8
Techlore/Channel Skill +5
Skill Ranks +16
Class Skill +3

That's +32, so you only need an 8.

Tbh i totally forgot about it. But I didn't involve ANY skill bonuses from any class (like Operative or Envoy) or even the skill focus feat, i wanted to take a look at it as a skill in on it self.

My point is, you need to REALLY focus on it to make it work to identify spells. Maybe it's like this by design, and they want it to get harder as the levels go up.

You need to include those bonuses, though. They're a fundamental part of the system and how DCs are set up. Realistically, the casters are very, very likely to have access to those bonuses (not all Mystics, certainly, but a pretty good number). And Techlore is entirely automatic, as is Operative's Edge. If you are excluding those things from the calculation, you are tilting the calculation away from what the numbers actually are.


Nerdy Canuck wrote:
You need to include those bonuses, though. They're a fundamental part of the system and how DCs are set up. Realistically, the casters are very, very likely to have access to those bonuses (not all Mystics, certainly, but a pretty good number). And Techlore is entirely automatic, as is Operative's Edge. If you are excluding those things from the calculation, you are tilting the calculation away from what the numbers actually are.

I guess you are correct. I'll keep a closer look and see what else i might have missed. Thanks for the reminder friend!


NikosBlu wrote:
Nerdy Canuck wrote:
You need to include those bonuses, though. They're a fundamental part of the system and how DCs are set up. Realistically, the casters are very, very likely to have access to those bonuses (not all Mystics, certainly, but a pretty good number). And Techlore is entirely automatic, as is Operative's Edge. If you are excluding those things from the calculation, you are tilting the calculation away from what the numbers actually are.
I guess you are correct. I'll keep a closer look and see what else i might have missed. Thanks for the reminder friend!

Yeah, they baked a lot of stuff into classes in Starfinder - like Weapon Specialization, which makes it a fundamental part of damage progression and the lower specialization bonus of small arms and operative weapons a major part of the balance between those and other weapons.


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I actually love these high DCs, it always annoyed me how easy it was to auto identify every spell in Pathfinder.

It particularly helps with trying to cast spells in social situations. Bluff about what harmless or innocuous effect you're going to cast in advance so that no one freaks out and gives you permission, then cast your suggestion or charm or dispel magic or whatever and have a decent chance that even trained observers won't be able to say you didn't cast what you originally claimed.

It also makes the Dream Prophet (-5 to DCs) theme even better since it's a rare theme DC modifier that is post common and useful.


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Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

The change I would like to see is a bonus to identify spells that you know.


Those DCs seem a bit extreme to me. Especially with Starfinder's more reined in skill bonuses.


HammerJack wrote:
The change I would like to see is a bonus to identify spells that you know.

It seems like adding your caster level, if you have one, to the check would basically do this, yeah?


Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Pantshandshake wrote:
HammerJack wrote:
The change I would like to see is a bonus to identify spells that you know.
It seems like adding your caster level, if you have one, to the check would basically do this, yeah?

That would do something a bit different from what I was saying. It would work, to make casters more able than other people who just have mysticism skill, to identify any spell.

The change I was saying I would like to see is specifically a bonus to identify only the spells that are on your list of spells known, because of your greater familiarity with that specific magic.


That idea doesn’t appeal to me, for these reasons:
It might lead to game slow-downs as the GM and the caster players/NPCs compare spells known. Not a big deal, probably.

It might lead to this conversation (also not a big deal, it just seems like a waste of time):
Player: Here’s my spells known list, is it one of these spells?
GM: Nope, and without that bonus, you fail the check and don’t know what spell is being cast.
Player: Sorry guys, I don't know what spell is coming!
GM: Ok, the spell goes off, and you’re charmed.
Player: Well, now we know what the spell was.

Lastly, to avoid those two, you could just give your GM an updated spell list periodically, make sure he has it with him or memorizes it, and then he can apply the bonus behind the scenes, as it were. Personally, this one seems like the worst, but that might just be me not wanting to ever give my GM more information about what my character can do than is absolutely needed.

That all said, after typing that stuff out, I can see where my personal bias might be making issues where there are none. If anyone gives this a try, let us know how it goes for the table.


Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

The GM knowing what characters can do is, I think, one of the base assumptions of the game. Some things, like abilities to make automatic perception checks for traps, within a certain distance, or will saves for effects that you only notice on a successful save, rely on the GM having the ability to do them behind the scenes for things to work properly.

Sovereign Court

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Yeah, but the GM knowing some key special senses/abilities is one thing, the GM memorizing the 5-level spell list of three casters at his table is another.


Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Expecting memorization would be pretty silly. Having a list is not.


HammerJack wrote:
Expecting memorization would be pretty silly. Having a list is not.

To clarify, having a list and comparing it to the NPCs they plan to run is an acceptable level of preparation.


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Nerdy Canuck wrote:
That's +32, so you only need an 8.

An 8's not terrible, but given the context I think it's a bit sketchy. The kit you're describing is basically as good as it gets. So this person is literally the best anyone in the universe can possibly be at identifying spells and they only have a 6 in 10 chance of success.

And if you don't have Techlore/Channel it's much worse.

I know you said they're a core part of the system assumptions, but I think it's a serious flaw with the system when it's is built around the assumption that you need to be a certain class in order to effectively perform a skill.

The baseline for way too many checks in SF assumes extreme specialization as the default.


Squiggit wrote:
Nerdy Canuck wrote:
That's +32, so you only need an 8.

An 8's not terrible, but given the context I think it's a bit sketchy. The kit you're describing is basically as good as it gets. So this person is literally the best anyone in the universe can possibly be at identifying spells and they only have a 6 in 10 chance of success.

And if you don't have Techlore/Channel it's much worse.

I know you said they're a core part of the system assumptions, but I think it's a serious flaw with the system when it's is built around the assumption that you need to be a certain class in order to effectively perform a skill.

The baseline for way too many checks in SF assumes extreme specialization as the default.

That's not "as good as it gets", because that's not even level 20.


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Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Right, so the best in the universe would be +42 (9 wis, 20 ranks, 3 class bonus, 1 theme bonus, 2 racial bonus, 7 connection skill). Which would mean that a 6th level spell would be auto identified. They would need to roll a 13 to recognize Wish.


Nerdy Canuck wrote:


That's not "as good as it gets", because that's not even level 20.

For that level bracket it is. Contrast, for example, with trying to build a soldier who wants to identify magic and those numbers rapidly start to become pretty pathetic even with investment because you're not going to have lore and your stat likely isn't going to be nearly as high either.


Squiggit wrote:
Nerdy Canuck wrote:


That's not "as good as it gets", because that's not even level 20.
For that level bracket it is. Contrast, for example, with trying to build a soldier who wants to identify magic and those numbers rapidly start to become pretty pathetic even with investment because you're not going to have lore and your stat likely isn't going to be nearly as high either.

Okay, but know we're getting into "how high level should you be to identify the most powerful spells in the game".

Sovereign Court

Squiggit wrote:
Nerdy Canuck wrote:


That's not "as good as it gets", because that's not even level 20.
For that level bracket it is. Contrast, for example, with trying to build a soldier who wants to identify magic and those numbers rapidly start to become pretty pathetic even with investment because you're not going to have lore and your stat likely isn't going to be nearly as high either.

That's got more to do with skill DCs scaling up at roughly level * 1.5 speed in Starfinder. Mystics, technomancers and mechanics get bonuses to their specific class-related skills that help them keep up with this scale. Operatives and Envoys get more generic skill bonuses as they level that help them keep up. Soldiers don't. At higher levels, they really start to fall behind on the skill/DC curve.


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The whole skill system falls apart for everyone but envoys and people using their 2 granted skills after level 15 or so. Hopefully a high level play book (maybe with a reason to be a high level envoy) will be out.


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BigNorseWolf wrote:
The whole skill system falls apart for everyone but envoys and people using their 2 granted skills after level 15 or so. Hopefully a high level play book (maybe with a reason to be a high level envoy) will be out.

Might be a good idea to at least add some scaling to Skill Focus and Skill Synergy, in a similar manner to the scaling of Spell Focus.


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I think we are playing different games. Or different game styles. Something like that.

I think of TTRPGs as a cooperative story telling game.

For me, a 60% chance for an optimized character to do something at a high challenge rating sounds about right. Having too high of a chance to succeed makes for boring stories.

I can't think of any good books or movies where the heroes don't experience setbacks or have to change plans fairly regularly.

I realize that my way of playing the game isn't the only way to do it. But I seriously don't understand this craving for having characters be able to practically auto-succeed at things.


breithauptclan wrote:

I think we are playing different games. Or different game styles. Something like that.

I think of TTRPGs as a cooperative story telling game.

For me, a 60% chance for an optimized character to do something at a high challenge rating sounds about right. Having too high of a chance to succeed makes for boring stories.

I can't think of any good books or movies where the heroes don't experience setbacks or have to change plans fairly regularly.

I realize that my way of playing the game isn't the only way to do it. But I seriously don't understand this craving for having characters be able to practically auto-succeed at things.

It's also one of the things that's important for a game of specialists: At a certain point, you need to be a specialist to have a decent chance to accomplish certain things, so that the specialization is meaningful.


breithauptclan wrote:
I can't think of any good books or movies where the heroes don't experience setbacks or have to change plans fairly regularly.

Usually in those stories those setbacks and changes are externally driven, not caused because the hyperspecialist character written into the story just can't perform their own tasks.

And even when it is, usually that failure is a driver for some other plot point, not a routine occurrence (at 60% failure isn't going to be that rare and, again, someone who doesn't have that class feature is going to be sitting at 50 or 40% more likely, even with heavy optimization).

That's not to say you can't tell stories that way, but I'd assume a story where the master lockpick constantly fails to unlock doors is closer to slapstick than Starfinder's normal tone.

Quote:
I realize that my way of playing the game isn't the only way to do it. But I seriously don't understand this craving for having characters be able to practically auto-succeed at things.

It's a little ridiculous to try to twist someone thinking that maybe it should be okay to build someone who's good at certain skill without being pigeonholed into very specific optimization paths or that heavily optimized characters should probably be pretty good at the thing they're optimized to do into demanding character should auto-succeed at everything.


Squiggit wrote:

Usually in those stories those setbacks and changes are externally driven, not caused because the hyperspecialist character written into the story just can't perform their own tasks.

And even when it is, usually that failure is a driver for some other plot point, not a routine occurrence (at 60% failure isn't going to be that rare and, again, someone who doesn't have that class feature is going to be sitting at 50 or 40% more likely, even with heavy optimization).

Part of the issue you're raising here is that a character without that class feature isn't a hyper-specialist at thing thing.

Which is, legitimately, a design decision that merits some discussion in its own right.


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I take issue with the implication that wanting to succeed at high level side activities (like recognizing spells) is the same as wanting to succeed all the time at everything.


NorthernDruid wrote:

I take issue with the implication that wanting to succeed at high level side activities (like recognizing spells) is the same as wanting to succeed all the time at everything.

The core question here is still "what percentage of the time should you succeed at that activity at what level".


A success rate somewhere between 60 and 80%, depending on the level of optimization, seems to be about the sweet spot for just about everything, in Starfinder.

At least, as far as appropriate challenges for PCs go, anyway.


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Nerdy Canuck wrote:

Part of the issue you're raising here is that a character without that class feature isn't a hyper-specialist at thing thing.

Which is, legitimately, a design decision that merits some discussion in its own right.

That's sort of the rub, isn't it?

Skill checks seem to be based around optimization, but at the same time that optimization is basically free if you pick the right class. A mystic who wants a high Mysticism skill only has to spend skillpoints. Everything else they get either automatically for picking the right class, or are things they'd do anyways like pumping their wisdom. Meanwhile a Soldier who wants to be good at the same skill is investing two feats and pouring resources into bumping what's essentially a tertiary stat for them and is still going to be rolling in the 'don't bother' range, despite going much further out of their way to be good at that skill.

It's sort of the weird paradox of Starfinder. Ostensibly keeping a tight reign on bonuses compared to all the esoteric ways to boost checks Pathfinder has allows for tighter and cleaner balancing, but it has the effect of meaning that if you can't access what boosters DO exist, you're basically SoL. So on the surface the Soldier looks like they don't have all the issues with skills that Fighters struggle with, but in practice it's even harder for them to go out of their designated wheelhouse.


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Nerdy Canuck wrote:
NorthernDruid wrote:

I take issue with the implication that wanting to succeed at high level side activities (like recognizing spells) is the same as wanting to succeed all the time at everything.

The core question here is still "what percentage of the time should you succeed at that activity at what level".

If I am building a story for a group of players and one of the characters has a 100% chance of succeeding at activity X...

Why would I ever include that as a challenge for the players to encounter? Where would be the suspense? The risk/reward balance? The sense of accomplishment when they succeed? The entertainment?

The interest of the players?

GM: You see a door at the end of the hallway. You can hear the security guards coming down the corridor a ways away, but you can't see them yet. Coming to the door, you find that it is locked.

Frank: Meh, another locked door. James, open this up.

James: I unlock the door.

GM: Well, the DC for unlocking the door is 36.

James: *slow clap* Awesome. That means that I need to roll a -2.

GM: ...

James: So, like I said. I unlock the door. Let's move on.


breithauptclan wrote:
Nerdy Canuck wrote:
NorthernDruid wrote:

I take issue with the implication that wanting to succeed at high level side activities (like recognizing spells) is the same as wanting to succeed all the time at everything.

The core question here is still "what percentage of the time should you succeed at that activity at what level".
If I am building a story for a group of players and one of the characters has a 100% chance of succeeding at activity X...

Right, 100% is the obvious "nope" point. So where's the sweet spot?

95?
90?
85?
80?
75?
70?
65?
60?


Squiggit wrote:
Nerdy Canuck wrote:

Part of the issue you're raising here is that a character without that class feature isn't a hyper-specialist at thing thing.

Which is, legitimately, a design decision that merits some discussion in its own right.

That's sort of the rub, isn't it?

Skill checks seem to be based around optimization, but at the same time that optimization is basically free if you pick the right class. A mystic who wants a high Mysticism skill only has to spend skillpoints. Everything else they get either automatically for picking the right class, or are things they'd do anyways like pumping their wisdom. Meanwhile a Soldier who wants to be good at the same skill is investing two feats and pouring resources into bumping what's essentially a tertiary stat for them and is still going to be rolling in the 'don't bother' range, despite going much further out of their way to be good at that skill.

It's sort of the weird paradox of Starfinder. Ostensibly keeping a tight reign on bonuses compared to all the esoteric ways to boost checks Pathfinder has allows for tighter and cleaner balancing, but it has the effect of meaning that if you can't access what boosters DO exist, you're basically SoL. So on the surface the Soldier looks like they don't have all the issues with skills that Fighters struggle with, but in practice it's even harder for them to go out of their designated wheelhouse.

At the same time, I really don't expect the non-expert to be any more than simply competent at an off-theme skill. The soldier identifying spells probably shouldn't have as good of a chance at identifying top level spells when the mystic has only just learned them. They should have a good chance at identifying a level down, which is -5 comparatively. Unfortunately, I don't think they're only five points behind at level 16.


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Garretmander wrote:
Squiggit wrote:
Nerdy Canuck wrote:

Part of the issue you're raising here is that a character without that class feature isn't a hyper-specialist at thing thing.

Which is, legitimately, a design decision that merits some discussion in its own right.

That's sort of the rub, isn't it?

Skill checks seem to be based around optimization, but at the same time that optimization is basically free if you pick the right class. A mystic who wants a high Mysticism skill only has to spend skillpoints. Everything else they get either automatically for picking the right class, or are things they'd do anyways like pumping their wisdom. Meanwhile a Soldier who wants to be good at the same skill is investing two feats and pouring resources into bumping what's essentially a tertiary stat for them and is still going to be rolling in the 'don't bother' range, despite going much further out of their way to be good at that skill.

It's sort of the weird paradox of Starfinder. Ostensibly keeping a tight reign on bonuses compared to all the esoteric ways to boost checks Pathfinder has allows for tighter and cleaner balancing, but it has the effect of meaning that if you can't access what boosters DO exist, you're basically SoL. So on the surface the Soldier looks like they don't have all the issues with skills that Fighters struggle with, but in practice it's even harder for them to go out of their designated wheelhouse.

At the same time, I really don't expect the non-expert to be any more than simply competent at an off-theme skill. The soldier identifying spells probably shouldn't have as good of a chance at identifying top level spells when the mystic has only just learned them. They should have a good chance at identifying a level down, which is -5 comparatively. Unfortunately, I don't think they're only five points behind at level 16.

But at the same time, it's not great that your class entirely determines what is or isn't on-theme. See: Pilots.

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I would have liked it better if some classes are naturally good at some things, but other classes can be equally good if they invest. However, right now even with investing it's not always possible for especially Soldiers to keep up, because they don't get the scaling bonuses other classes get.


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Ascalaphus wrote:
I would have liked it better if some classes are naturally good at some things, but other classes can be equally good if they invest. However, right now even with investing it's not always possible for especially Soldiers to keep up, because they don't get the scaling bonuses other classes get.

I really wish Skill Focus and Skill Synergy had some scaling to them - they're the same bonus type as the class features, so there's no stacking problem there.

Maybe the Character Options Manual or whatever it's going to be called will have something.


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breithauptclan wrote:
Nerdy Canuck wrote:
NorthernDruid wrote:

I take issue with the implication that wanting to succeed at high level side activities (like recognizing spells) is the same as wanting to succeed all the time at everything.

The core question here is still "what percentage of the time should you succeed at that activity at what level".

If I am building a story for a group of players and one of the characters has a 100% chance of succeeding at activity X...

Why would I ever include that as a challenge for the players to encounter? Where would be the suspense? The risk/reward balance? The sense of accomplishment when they succeed? The entertainment?

The interest of the players?

GM: You see a door at the end of the hallway. You can hear the security guards coming down the corridor a ways away, but you can't see them yet. Coming to the door, you find that it is locked.

Frank: Meh, another locked door. James, open this up.

James: I unlock the door.

GM: Well, the DC for unlocking the door is 36.

James: *slow clap* Awesome. That means that I need to roll a -2.

GM: ...

James: So, like I said. I unlock the door. Let's move on.

Indeed. I am pretty sure that part of the design assumption for Starfinder is "If the task is something the PCs will succeed at almost all the time, don't make it a key part of the scenario challenge". Which doesn't mean you can't have easy tasks, just that you shouldn't really roll them, and they don't grant XP. You just narrate them succeeding ( or let the players narrate themselves succeeding ), and move on. Its no different from how you're not supposed to roll out a combat against radically inferior foes. If a party of Level 5 PCs run into two CR 1 guards, you just go "you beat them up, shove their bodies somewhere, and continue".

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