Is the science officer the real point of winning the initiative in starship combat?


General Discussion


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Got to play higher level starship combat with a crew working with the intended captain 1 gunner science officer engineer paradigm. (around level 9-10)

One thing that I noticed is the massive amount of shields the ships have at that level. If the science officer rebalances the shields just before a hit they're almost guaranteed to take no damage.

Science officers must act immediately before or after their starship’s pilot, but they can jointly decide the order they act.

So if your pilot has lot initiative you can't usually know what arc you'll be getting pounded on. You can take a guesse and go 50 50 or 1/3 1/3 1/3 which is good but not amazing

But if your pilot goes last you know which arc is taking fire and you can throw 70%? of your shields into that one quadrant to catch the blast And probably take no damage.

Is that working right/ as intended?


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

That is a big part of why I have been considering the science officer to be quite strong after the first few levels, so I think so.

On the one hand, you can only do this a few times, since engineers can't restore your total pool nearly as fast as weapons drain it. On the other hand, this applies equally to your enemies.

On the gripping hand, flyby attack is still a major wildcard. The stunt description says that you can select any arc to fire into during the gunnery phase, so I don't actually see any rules in there that would let you know where to put your shields, in case of flyby.

There is also the question of the ship that flees. In an open space battle (which should hopefully not be every ship combat), a ship with maxed out thrusters, and possibly a sky jockey pilot, can probably force the conflict into a situation where their enemy is guaranteed to be in the rear arc, in fairly short order, by running directly away at maximum speed. This removes the "winning initiative" requirement from putting a lot of shield points towards the enemy, while simultaneously making the combat frustrating and dull.


Yeah but you'll know if they're doing a flyby when your turn to rebalance comes up. Which i suppose means you either need to spread the shields back out or play rock scissor paper and guess where they're going to hit.

During the following gunnery phase, you can select one arc of your starship’s weapons to fire at the enemy vessel as if the vessel were in close range (treat the range as 1 hex), against any quadrant of the enemy starship.

The flyby's attack still happens in the gunnery phase (and it's not an extra attack, as I see some people doing it)


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

I am well aware that flyby is not an extra attack. (I'm still not sure where people keep getting that idea).

I was just noting that it looks like you select the arc to fire into during the gunnery phase, not during the maneuver. This doesn't mean that rebalancing shields is not a very powerful defensive ability (it absolutely is), only that there are counter tactics (especially since flyby is often most attractive to ships that lose initiative), since evenly distributed shields will have a harder time stopping everything, and guessing which arc the enemy will choose to fire into is very risky.


So is it me or is engineering to regen the shields fairly pointless at that level, since the regen rate is laughably low compared to the damage you're taking?

(which makes engineering kinda meh, since overpowering the weapons is blech)


HammerJack wrote:
I am well aware that flyby is not an extra attack. (I'm still not sure where people keep getting that idea).

I suspect that the reasoning that people are using to get to that conclusion is that if you move through the ship space without using the flyby ability, then the enemy ship does get a free attack against you. So they see the flyby maneuver as a 'turning the tables' ability where they instead get a free attack against the enemy.

It is incorrect reasoning, but that is probably where it is coming from.

BigNorseWolf wrote:
So is it me or is engineering to regen the shields fairly pointless at that level, since the regen rate is laughably low compared to the damage you're taking?

I don't even see it as happening only at high levels. We are playing at about ship tier 3 vs two or three tier 1-2 ships. The dismal number of shield points that can be restored doesn't compare well to the amount of damage coming in each round. It is better than nothing and can possibly make the difference between being fine and taking hull damage. But it isn't great.

I haven't played at higher levels yet, but I expect that it is the same story there when going up against ships with heavier weapons. The larger weapons on higher tier enemy ships can do a lot more damage than can be regenerated each turn by the Divert action.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Most of the society GMs I've seen will always take the flyby action when the NPC ship loses initiative. It's really the best thing you can do in that circumstance.


Ravingdork wrote:
Most of the society GMs I've seen will always take the flyby action when the NPC ship loses initiative. It's really the best thing you can do in that circumstance.

It speeds up starship combat (one way or another...), which can really drag in a SFS group of mixed nuts where the gunner is by default the person who doesn't have starship combat skills.


breithauptclan wrote:

I don't even see it as happening only at high levels.

7 and down I've found its the difference between hull damage/having to spend actions later repairing stuff anyway, especially if your gunner is kinda meh or your dice are staging a rebellion.


BigNorseWolf wrote:
breithauptclan wrote:

I don't even see it as happening only at high levels.

7 and down I've found its the difference between hull damage/having to spend actions later repairing stuff anyway, especially if your gunner is kinda meh or your dice are staging a rebellion.

I'll defer to you on this one. You probably have more experience with it than I do.

Our starship combats haven't been all that close. Probably because I am still too timid to give the players something seriously challenging. I'm working on that.


are you letting players build their own ships?


I would say the real point of winning initiative is to go last in the piloting phase, which enables you to position yourself in the most advantageous quadrant of an enemy ship. The one with the lowest shields or weakest weapons, or if you've been lucky all combat they will be the same.

Positioning yourself in a way that the enemy just can't bring their good weapons to bear or always being able to focus on the same (weakened) shield is really huge in my experience.

Of course, this does tie into what you're saying about giving advantages of knowing how to redistribute your shields. Though, as others pointed out, I think what this really means is that whoever loses initiative should pretty much always be using flyby attack. Which means you're probably always redistributing to 1 quadrant. Since I think it's still going to be most effective for the enemy to always attack the same quadrant regardless of whether or not they redistribute 50/50 or equally distribute between all.

Edit: Actually the rebalance command via Starfinder FAQ makes it sound like you can just freely distribute the shield points in whatever way you desire.

Quote:

When an engineer diverts power to shields (page 323), what do the rules mean when they say "...putting any excess Shield Points in the forward quadrant"?

The last sentence of that action should instead read, "You can distribute the restored Shield Points across the shield's four quadrants as you see fit."

So you can always fully top off whatever quadrant you expect the enemy to hit, which would enable you to weak a quadrant at your discretion. The optimal strategy is probably to keep them all equal.


Claxon wrote:
I would say the real point of winning initiative is to go last in the piloting phase, which enables you to position yourself in the most advantageous quadrant of an enemy ship. The one with the lowest shields or weakest weapons, or if you've been lucky all combat they will be the same.

Right, but their science officer can redistribute shields too. So unless you scan them you won't know which one is the weak one.

Redistributing the shields adds a nice rock scissor papers element, but it also leads to the "Death sphere" problem where the pilots positioning doesn't matter: there's a death turret and all the shields are the same, making your relative positions almost inconsequential.

In earlier levels I'd scan once and then slide over to engineering. Now it looks like i'd forgo engineering and use 2 science officers: one scanning for the weak shields and one re balancing the shields. (unless they keep successfully using fly by)


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
BigNorseWolf wrote:
Claxon wrote:
I would say the real point of winning initiative is to go last in the piloting phase, which enables you to position yourself in the most advantageous quadrant of an enemy ship. The one with the lowest shields or weakest weapons, or if you've been lucky all combat they will be the same.
Right, but their science officer can redistribute shields too. So unless you scan them you won't know which one is the weak one.

You force your players to scan every round for updated info? Ouch!


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

Well, yes. Of course. I also don't let my npcs know about rebalancing without a new scan.


Ravingdork wrote:
BigNorseWolf wrote:
Claxon wrote:
I would say the real point of winning initiative is to go last in the piloting phase, which enables you to position yourself in the most advantageous quadrant of an enemy ship. The one with the lowest shields or weakest weapons, or if you've been lucky all combat they will be the same.
Right, but their science officer can redistribute shields too. So unless you scan them you won't know which one is the weak one.
You force your players to scan every round for updated info? Ouch!

I usually don't redistribute shields because it leads to more death sphere play and drags starship combat out. But by the rules I think you need to scan to see when they've moved.


BigNorseWolf wrote:
are you letting players build their own ships?

Yes.

Though I also custom build all the enemy ships too. Sometimes sub-optimally, but not often. Typically they are rather decent ships for their tier. I also use the Alien Archive NPC rules to create stub characters for crew so that they have decent skill modifiers for their level.

Ravingdork wrote:
You force your players to scan every round for updated info? Ouch!

Yeah. They have to do a scan action to get the information in the first place. Why would they automatically get updated information free of charge?

I usually announce the systems damaged in critical system damage, but that is because it is cool and fun to announce. RAW I probably shouldn't do that.

Sovereign Court

HammerJack wrote:
On the gripping hand

<3

The fuzzy ordering of pilot and science officer actions is a bit of a stray thing in the otherwise rigidly ordered phases of starship combat.

The more I think about it the more starship combat feels like an entirely foreign piece of game design.

* Rolling initiative every turn hasn't been part of D&D style games since 3.0; and even White Wolf got rid of it in their newer game systems. What is the reason for this "regression"?

* The whole point of a level-based system is to prevent people from putting all their character build points into maximizing a couple of key things. But that's exactly what optimal starship building is all about. There are no level caps to selecting particular weapons, there's nothing really forcing you to spend your points sort of evenly. The best ships tend to be highly uneven. Compare this to the rest of Starfinder which is somewhat neurotic when it comes to restraining you from getting equipment of the wrong level.


Ascalaphus wrote:
* Rolling initiative every turn hasn't been part of D&D style games since 3.0; and even White Wolf got rid of it in their newer game systems. What is the reason for this "regression"?

Winning initiative is OP?


Ascalaphus wrote:
Rolling initiative every turn hasn't been part of D&D style games since 3.0; and even White Wolf got rid of it in their newer game systems. What is the reason for this "regression"?

I don't remember rolling initiative every round in D&D 3.0 or 3.5. I don't even remember rolling initiative every round in D&D 2.0, but I didn't play that one more than one or two sessions.

I think the reason for doing initiative every round in starship combat is because of the extreme advantage that going last gives. If the initiative was set for the entire combat by one initiative roll at the beginning, then the battle would be entirely one sided.

If you wanted to go to a one-initiative round play, then I think it would work as long as each ship got to take their entire turn uninterrupted - engineering, move, science, captain, gunnery, etc. At that point you would still have a bit of an advantage to the ship that won the initiative same as the advantage going to the character that wins initiative in standard combat scenarios. They get to deal their damage first and if they win the battle, then there is one fewer round of damage dealt by the opponent than if they had lost the initiative but won the battle.


breithauptclan wrote:
BigNorseWolf wrote:
are you letting players build their own ships?

Yes.

Though I also custom build all the enemy ships too. Sometimes sub-optimally, but not often. Typically they are rather decent ships for their tier. I also use the Alien Archive NPC rules to create stub characters for crew so that they have decent skill modifiers for their level.

Most of my ship to ship combat is with SFS and their guns pointing everywhere ships. PC built deathspheres will lower the level at which damage outpaces shield regen to the point that shield regen is a negligable footnote.

Sovereign Court

breithauptclan wrote:
Ascalaphus wrote:
Rolling initiative every turn hasn't been part of D&D style games since 3.0; and even White Wolf got rid of it in their newer game systems. What is the reason for this "regression"?

I don't remember rolling initiative every round in D&D 3.0 or 3.5. I don't even remember rolling initiative every round in D&D 2.0, but I didn't play that one more than one or two sessions.

I think the reason for doing initiative every round in starship combat is because of the extreme advantage that going last gives. If the initiative was set for the entire combat by one initiative roll at the beginning, then the battle would be entirely one sided.

If you wanted to go to a one-initiative round play, then I think it would work as long as each ship got to take their entire turn uninterrupted - engineering, move, science, captain, gunnery, etc. At that point you would still have a bit of an advantage to the ship that won the initiative same as the advantage going to the character that wins initiative in standard combat scenarios. They get to deal their damage first and if they win the battle, then there is one fewer round of damage dealt by the opponent than if they had lost the initiative but won the battle.

Yeah, 3.0 is the one that introduced the "wheel" model of initiative, 2.5 had the "roll 1d10 plus the speed of your weapon, low goes first model" where you could try to interrupt casters by hitting them while casting.

Every time we discuss all the things that are wrong with starship combat I wonder how many of them are a result of this dubious initiative system. It seems like they really really wanted piloting to matter, which I can understand, but that's kinda like "small weapons are faster and that should matter".

I want to try doing "whole ship turns", perhaps while also making ships a bit slower, like on a 4-8 scale instead of the current 6-12 scale. That means that Turn 2 becomes a whole lot heftier, engineering to boost speed makes a bigger relative contribution, but also, turrets become less essential because you can move and shoot without enemies getting to scuttle off in between.


Cool. Give it a go and let us know how it behaves.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

The Scan starship action says that subsequent checks reveal new pieces of information, continuing down this list. It says nothing about getting old pieces of information again. I imagined that was because you never stopped getting it.

Generally, in Paizo games, once you've observed something in combat, you keep on observing it until combat ends. I'm surprised you guys think that's different here.


Ravingdork wrote:

The Scan starship action says that subsequent checks reveal new pieces of information, continuing down this list. It says nothing about getting old pieces of information again. I imagined that was because you never stopped getting it.

Generally, in Paizo games, once you've observed something in combat, you keep on observing it until combat ends. I'm surprised you guys think that's different here.

Or hey you can only know the disposition of the shields once, ever.

IT IS RAAAWWWW


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Not entirely certain what it is you're trying to convey there.


Ravingdork wrote:
Not entirely certain what it is you're trying to convey there.

that you can read the lack of text on what happens if you want to know the status of the enemy shields after you've scanned them a few ways.

One way of reading it with RAW!!!! silliness is that you get information further down the list. You already got the shield information so you can never know that again, EVER.

That you figured out the harmonics/phase inducer/ hardwared the tech on their shields once you know what they are forever is a legitimate reading.

But so is you need to scan them again to know what their shields are now. The rules simply don't say.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

I agree that it could be more clear. I believe I even started a thread about it a while back.


I had never considered that you didn't know the shield state after scanning it once.

That could actually really use some clarity because not knowing that information would actually make combat ...different. It would mean you would want someone to scan virtually every round. Or you just assume the enemy is attempting to use some shield redistributing strategy you can't observe and just attack the same quadrant again and again.

My group only has 4 players. 1 dedicated pilot, 1 science/engineer, 1 gunner/engineer, 1 gunner/science. The slash roles means they move back and forth as needed. Usually we double up on gunners. But if we don't get to continuously know the enemy shield and need to rescan we would probably want 2 dedicated science officers, one to scan and one to tinker with shields. 1 could occasionally do engineer actions, which as pointed out the divert power action just doesn't scale that well for shield recharge at higher levels so it's not critical. 2 gunners would be better, but only if you know which shield is the weak one.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Claxon wrote:

I had never considered that you didn't know the shield state after scanning it once.

That could actually really use some clarity because not knowing that information would actually make combat ...different. It would mean you would want someone to scan virtually every round. Or you just assume the enemy is attempting to use some shield redistributing strategy you can't observe and just attack the same quadrant again and again.

My group only has 4 players. 1 dedicated pilot, 1 science/engineer, 1 gunner/engineer, 1 gunner/science. The slash roles means they move back and forth as needed. Usually we double up on gunners. But if we don't get to continuously know the enemy shield and need to rescan we would probably want 2 dedicated science officers, one to scan and one to tinker with shields. 1 could occasionally do engineer actions, which as pointed out the divert power action just doesn't scale that well for shield recharge at higher levels so it's not critical. 2 gunners would be better, but only if you know which shield is the weak one.

This is a big part of why I believe that once you have the information, you have it until the end of the encounter, without having to make new checks every round.

I feel that if it required checks every round, the scan action would be very differently worded.

Community / Forums / Starfinder / Starfinder General Discussion / Is the science officer the real point of winning the initiative in starship combat? All Messageboards

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