Batteries, "power cells," charges, and other ammunition issues


Rules Questions


5 people marked this as FAQ candidate.

How do people handle "power cells" referenced in the core rulebook? Either the ammunition and charges rules on pg. 168 are in error by not mentioning and defining power cells, or over a dozen references to power cells throughout the rest of the book are in error as an abandoned legacy system that they failed to remove during development.

It seems there are two options if you want this to be coherent:

1. Power cells exist and have an implied definition. "Power cells" are presumably inherent power sources/storage that exist in all powered equipment and are recharged by inserting a battery. When you put a battery in it transfers all its charges to the power cell, and the weapon, power armor, tech item, or other draws from that power cell, not the battery. (This is how the powered items in the Pathfinder tech guide worked, and was presumably the starting point for how Starfinder worked.)

Example: An energy weapon with a capacity of 40 has a power cell that holds 40 charges. If you drain it down to 8 charges and insert a fully charged standard battery (20 charges) the power cell is immediately replenished up to 28 charges and the battery fully drained. If you insert another one the cell goes to 40, with 8 remaining in the battery, which will automatically refill the cell as you continue to fire.

Implications: This reconciles power cell mentions and preserves all of their various rules mentions, but has the balance effect of effectively doubling the starting capacity of a powered weapon, thirsty tech item, or power armor that has a full power cell and a full max capacity battery plugged in at the beginning of combat. That's a big balance change compared to some projectile weapons that have very small capacities that wouldn't benefit from this (short of an energizing weapon fusion).

This can also explain tech items that have fewer than 20 charges and can't RAW be replenished by batteries that only have 20+ charges. Power cells can be directly recharged via recharging stations, so there's your work around. Transfer charge also at least lets you consolidate charges if you have several sub-20 charge power cell devices.

It also potentially partially solves "do I have charges?" questions related to the Fabricate Tech and Fabricate Arms technomancer hacks - have them created with a full power cell, but not an attached battery (this doesn't solve the ammo issue for non-analog weapons that take bullets, petrol, nanites, etc., so maybe everything gets ammo or nothing does).

2. Power cells don't exist, and all such references really mean an inserted battery. Under this reading, power cells were eliminated late in development but they forgot to remove them from the many, many rules (mostly in magic and technomancer sections, but also in basic recharging rules) that reference them alongside batteries. In this case you treat all references to a "power cell" as just meaning a batter currently inserted into a piece of equipment.

Implications: Current charged weapon ammo/reload balance is preserved. Power cells as an out to explain nonstandard equipment with fewer than 20 charges is lost.

Most significantly, this causes a balance problem with the Charging Jolt 5th level technomancer hack compared to the 2nd level Recharge spell. One or both of them needs an edit if you go this way or a FAQ ever comes down for this option.

Charging Jolt technomancer hack wrote:
As a move action, you can expend an unused spell slot to refill charges in a weapon’s power cell. This requires you to touch the weapon or its power cell. The power cell regains 10 charges per spell level, up to its capacity. You can also use this ability to jump-start or short out an electronic device, allowing you to attempt an Engineering check to disable a device with a bonus equal to double the level of the spell you expended.
Recharge spell wrote:
You restore up to 10 charges to a battery or 5 charges to a technological item capable of being charged by a battery. Since this spell takes your personal energy, you must spend 1 Resolve Point to cast it. If you recharge a battery, there is a 20% chance the battery is destroyed by the attempt. If you restore more charges than the item can hold, the item must succeed at a Fortitude saving throw or take 1d6 electricity damage for each excess charge. This spell provides no knowledge of how many charges an item can safely hold, but you can choose to bestow fewer charges than the maximum allowed to reduce the risk; you must declare how many charges you are restoring before casting this spell.

Note that these are the only two rules in the core rulebook that treat batteries and power cells different mechanically. Nothing else is harmed, as far as I can tell, but just eliminating power cells and treating detachable batteries as the only way to power equipment that uses charges.

But Charging Jolt recharges weapon power cells only at a rate of 10 charges per spell level and a move action. If you make power cells = currently installed battery, this makes it much easier for a technomancer to personally recharge all the party equipment off his remaining spell slots at the end of the day. Insert battery, Charging Jolt, remove, pass around.

For Recharge spell you have to decide whether to use the 5 or 10 charge (with a chance of destruction) option if you do away with power cells. (Note that the 20% chance of destruction on recharge looks like another Pathfinder tech guide legacy that formerly applied to all methods to recharge a battery.) It also raises a minor issue of cross balancing between the spell and the hack, but there's a case for having both options - you may be willing to invest a relatively plentiful 2nd level spell known in a very inefficient method to recharge things rather than your very scarce 5th level magic hack that is much more efficient.

So which of these options do people use in their games?


I treat "Power Cells" and "Batteries" as the same thing, but specific to each item. This being high technology is in a part of the item and just needs to be reloaded (recharged). Also extra powercells can be replaced in the item in a pinch, but they need to be same as the powercell they are replacing. A laser weapon powercell cannot replace the power cell in power armor for example.

Real World example, a cell phone battery or power cell, cannot be used to power a electric car, just as a power cell from a electric car cannot be used to power a cell phone.

I also make it really easy for my players to recharged their items, as long as they as they can hook it up to a power source. Again, high technology, should be relative common in most advanced worlds, and really should not take loads of time.


Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Interesting!

Thought I would add to the topic: that the Energize Spell hack refers to both batteries and power cells as energie sources to cast a spell. I guess they are two different things but with the same function, but I’m not sure.

Energize Spell (Ex) Once per day as a move action, you can use a battery or a weapon’s power cell to power your spellcasting, enabling you to cast one spell you know without using a spell slot. This expends 20 charges per spell level from the battery or power cell and requires you to touch the battery, power cell, or weapon. You must cast the spell before the start of your next turn, or the charges are wasted with no effect.


Huh. I hadn't paid too much attention to it. I always treated a 'power cell' as being the same as a battery.

But yeah. Now that you point it out, I would resolve it with option 2.

Where the rules reference a 'power cell' that is a battery that is currently powering a device. Whether that is a normal removable battery or an integrated non-removable (usually non-standard sized) battery such as is in a flashlight.

Where the rules reference a 'battery' that is a normal battery when it is not currently powering a device.

I'm not completely sold on that part about the batteries needing to not be powering a device though. It could instead mean any normal battery (not including integrated power cells), or any battery at all (including integrated ones like in a flashlight).

In any case, this interpretation still has the problem of 'Recharge' spell being a bit borked. A flashlight is not a battery, nor is it capable of being charged by a normal battery. You have to directly charge the flashlight itself at a charging station. So a flashlight would not be a valid target for 'Recharge'. Also the slow charge of 5 charges could be used to recharge a battery currently in a weapon, but an unplugged battery can only be charged by 10 charges and risks destroying the battery.

But still, even with those remaining problems, I like this interpretation better than the balance problems that you already pointed out for allowing a powered weapon to have an internal power buffer in addition to the plugged in battery.


Xenocrat wrote:
Power cells as an out to explain nonstandard equipment with fewer than 20 charges is lost.

Oh. I sort of mentioned this in passing, but I should probably be more explicit. Dealing with equipment with non-standard sized charges just means that it has an internal battery (a power cell) and doesn't have a battery port. So you can't plug in a battery to recharge it, but the device itself can be charged like a normal battery can.


breithauptclan wrote:

Huh. I hadn't paid too much attention to it. I always treated a 'power cell' as being the same as a battery.

But yeah. Now that you point it out, I would resolve it with option 2.

Where the rules reference a 'power cell' that is a battery that is currently powering a device. Whether that is a normal removable battery or an integrated non-removable (usually non-standard sized) battery such as is in a flashlight.

Where the rules reference a 'battery' that is a normal battery when it is not currently powering a device.

I'm not completely sold on that part about the batteries needing to not be powering a device though. It could instead mean any normal battery (not including integrated power cells), or any battery at all (including integrated ones like in a flashlight).

In any case, this interpretation still has the problem of 'Recharge' spell being a bit borked. A flashlight is not a battery, nor is it capable of being charged by a normal battery. You have to directly charge the flashlight itself at a charging station. So a flashlight would not be a valid target for 'Recharge'. Also the slow charge of 5 charges could be used to recharge a battery currently in a weapon, but an unplugged battery can only be charged by 10 charges and risks destroying the battery.

But still, even with those remaining problems, I like this interpretation better than the balance problems that you already pointed out for allowing a powered weapon to have an internal power buffer in addition to the plugged in battery.

How would you handle Charging Jolt?


Starfinder Charter Superscriber

I'm hoping that (someday!) when there's a second printing of the Core Rulebook with errata, they clean up all the battery/power cell/recharging stuff.


My group treated them as the same thing and just assumed it was inconsistent nomenclature, mostly.

Essentially power cells are for things that rely on charges but don't have a removable battery. Like personal comms. The dont accept batteries and are rechargeable, so they have a power cell.

Anything that uses a battery doesn't hold a charge without a battery being inserted.

Unless the rules mention some differing effects for power cells versus batteries we treat anything that interacts with one as affecting the other in a similar way.


Claxon wrote:

My group treated them as the same thing and just assumed it was inconsistent nomenclature, mostly.

Essentially power cells are for things that rely on charges but don't have a removable battery. Like personal comms. The dont accept batteries and are rechargeable, so they have a power cell.

Anything that uses a battery doesn't hold a charge without a battery being inserted.

Unless the rules mention some differing effects for power cells versus batteries we treat anything that interacts with one as affecting the other in a similar way.

Yeah, Recharge and Charging Jolt are the only things that treat them different. But both assume that weapons have power cells.


As a quick sanity check, interpretation 1 would appear to double the effective Capacity of all energy weapons, which I'm confident we can assume is not intended.


Nerdy Canuck wrote:
As a quick sanity check, interpretation 1 would appear to double the effective Capacity of all energy weapons, which I'm confident we can assume is not intended.

Option 1 requires the smallest rewrite of the core rules but the largest balance change, it's true.

Liberty's Edge

Ok, so I ran into this in my first SF game and I had to devise some way for it to make sense for me and my game so.

I present to you - The ASCII 3814 Power Supply Chart!

-
-
-
-
-
--
---
---
_ _
_ _
_ _
_____
---- --
--- --
-- __]
+===]
=+++++]
=+++++] <-Power Cell x20 Charge Capacity
=+++++]
=+_____] <-Battery Port, Insert Battery Here
=++-----------]
---
---
---
---\
____\

Most equipment has both an internal battery as well as a power cell. The power cell can hold up to 20 charges which are depleted from a battery once it's inserted. An item STILL NEEDS a battery in it, even if the Power Cell is 100% "charged" to complete a circuit. As a powered weapon the Power Cell functions as a Power Supply like on a PC, accepting and converting the energy needed by the equipment and the Battery itself functions as the power source.

I have no idea if this will help anyone but I the Power Cell as a kind of different component than it sounds like others do. I see them as integrated parts of the item they are built into so...

Quote:
Most settlements of any significant size have public recharging stations for batteries and power cells.

By my reckoning what I think this bit here means is that there are ways of both recharging your batteries, as well as connecting the tech equipment directly to the recharging station, however, I don't think I've seen any evidence that Power Cells should be considered as separate from the item they are built into.


I still believe that only equipment that doesn't have removable batteries have "power cells". With the real difference being that power cells simply can't be removed.

I don't think there is an intention to double weapon capacities.


Claxon wrote:

I still believe that only equipment that doesn't have removable batteries have "power cells". With the real difference being that power cells simply can't be removed.

I don't think there is an intention to double weapon capacities.

What is the intention with Charging Jolt, which is limited to weapon power cells?


Xenocrat wrote:
Claxon wrote:

I still believe that only equipment that doesn't have removable batteries have "power cells". With the real difference being that power cells simply can't be removed.

I don't think there is an intention to double weapon capacities.

What is the intention with Charging Jolt, which is limited to weapon power cells?

Is it possible that all batteries are power cells, but not all power cells are batteries?


Honestly, charging jolt should just say 'into a weapon or a battery', and call it a day.


Garretmander wrote:
Honestly, charging jolt should just say 'into a weapon or a battery', and call it a day.

The only balance issue, which isn't very major, is it makes it relatively easy to recharge thirsty tech items and power armor. But weapons are the big charge draw overall, so not much of an issue.

Sovereign Court

I vote for "messy development". If you put each developer in a separate interrogation room and cast Abadar's Truthtelling on them, I don't know if they'll all give you the same explanation of what is "intended".

The whole battery thing feels like at first someone wanted to make a resource management game where you have to scrounge for batteries because you're far from ... your spaceship, which can recharge them?

It feels a bit like a GM who wants PCs to count coppers for food while they're shopping for +3 weapons.


Xenocrat wrote:
Garretmander wrote:
Honestly, charging jolt should just say 'into a weapon or a battery', and call it a day.
The only balance issue, which isn't very major, is it makes it relatively easy to recharge thirsty tech items and power armor. But weapons are the big charge draw overall, so not much of an issue.

Is that a balance issue? I don't think that makes the hack more powerful than other hacks of that level.

Which would suggest the balance issue lies in its current state, instead.


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Rose by any other name still powers an iphone with 1.21 jigawatts.

Sovereign Court

When we found the ancient kishalee batteries that recharge automatically, we were particularly amazed that they fit into any modern device.


Ascalaphus wrote:
When we found the ancient kishalee batteries that recharge automatically, we were particularly amazed that they fit into any modern device.

It was supposed to be an amazing coincidence of parallel design.

Sovereign Court

Garretmander wrote:
Ascalaphus wrote:
When we found the ancient kishalee batteries that recharge automatically, we were particularly amazed that they fit into any modern device.
It was supposed to be an amazing coincidence of parallel design.

Advanced design. Try cross-charging modern smartphones.


Which is why it's 'amazing', I know how absolutely ridiculous it is. The stars have aligned and Cthulhu is free cosmic scale coincidence.

They probably should have involved the crafting rules instead of 'they just work'.


Ascalaphus wrote:
When we found the ancient kishalee batteries that recharge automatically, we were particularly amazed that they fit into any modern device.

I'm always amazed that computer science has advanced so much that a dude with a hacking kit can force his way into alien computers with arbitrary operating systems with no extra time required.


Garretmander wrote:

Which is why it's 'amazing', I know how absolutely ridiculous it is. The stars have aligned and Cthulhu is free cosmic scale coincidence.

They probably should have involved the crafting rules instead of 'they just work'.

Or that everything has a wireless recharging device that's designed to suck power from anything with an electric potential.


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**tries to recharge Iphone with his brain**

No power supply detected

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