When you scan an enemy ship, how long do you know their shields for?


Rules Questions


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When you scan an enemy ship, how long do you know their shields for?

Changes starship combat and especially the benefit of rebalancing the shields a fair bit if the enemy can/can't see what you're doing


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Rules for scanning only say you get "current" value, so I don't see any way to interpret that as anything but a snapshot. You don't get it going forward at all.
- edit: dangit, "subsequent checks reveal new pieces of information, continuing down the list" could imply you just... know the defenses now. Okay, that does look ambiguous. I'm still going to run it as a snapshot at my table, because I really don't like the tactical implications otherwise, but helloooo FAQ request.


Option A) you learn their shield balance once and never again. This makes that bit of info mostly worthless.

Option B) you always know how their shields are distributed once scanned. You can continue scanning or do other things with your action.

Option C) Their shield distribution becomes 'unknown' every turn. In addition to needing to keep scanning, it becomes a lot harder for pirates to figure out what's in your cargo bays if you keep re-balancing a shield point back and forth.

Edit: Yep, it does say current value, it looks like option A or C it is.

Relevant text:

Quote:

Scan (Helm Phase)

You can scan a starship with your sensors to learn information
about it. This action requires your starship to have sensors (see
page 300). You must attempt a Computers check, applying
any modifiers from the starship’s sensors. You can attempt
this check untrained. The DC for this check is equal to 10 + the
tier of the starship being scanned + its bonus from defensive
countermeasures (see page 298). If you succeed at this check,
you learn the first unknown piece of information on the following
list. For every 5 by which you exceed the check, you learn another
unknown piece of information. Subsequent checks reveal new
pieces of information, continuing down this list.
1. Basic Information: Living crew complement and ship
classification, size, speed, and maneuverability.
2. Defenses: AC, TL, total and current Hull Points, total and
current Shield Points in each quadrant, and core PCU value.


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Option D, by absolute RAAAAW since you learn things further down the list and shields are up the list you can only ever learn them once, EVER!

ow ow ow the sunday edition really? OW OW OW... why didn't we OW OW recycle that.. OW OW OW...


BigNorseWolf wrote:

Option D, by absolute RAAAAW since you learn things further down the list and shields are up the list you can only ever learn them once, EVER!

ow ow ow the sunday edition really? OW OW OW... why didn't we OW OW recycle that.. OW OW OW...

That was option A).


3 people marked this as a favorite.
BigNorseWolf wrote:

Option D, by absolute RAAAAW since you learn things further down the list and shields are up the list you can only ever learn them once, EVER!

ow ow ow the sunday edition really? OW OW OW... why didn't we OW OW recycle that.. OW OW OW...

Next time it's the hose!

Could combine A and C, meaning you only get the snapshot, but each subsequent scan reveals everything again. So (assuming each turn you just meet the DC, or exceed by less than 5), turn 1 you get info "a", turn 2 you get info "a+b" turn 3, you get "a+b+c" etc. I think defenses ("b") are the only ones that are likely to change from turn to turn, but this covers if there's some weird re-configuring ship options in later supplements.


I've always been under the impression that once you succeed a scan, you know whatever information you gained from the scan for the rest of the battle.


Pantshandshake wrote:
I've always been under the impression that once you succeed a scan, you know whatever information you gained from the scan for the rest of the battle.

It mostly comes down to how you want the tactics to run. Do you want scans to basically be one and done (because it's not terribly difficult for a science officer to exceed the DC by 10; computers is a heavily tweakable skill), or have it be a choice to keep yourself tactically up to date at the cost of balancing/targeting/etc?


Generally, in my head, it runs like a Star Trek space fight (which isn’t even close to my favorite kind of space fight, but whatever.)

So you get something like:
Science Person: Captain, a (insert fun details here) has entered sensor range!
Captain: Yellow alert. Any sign of hostilities?
S.P.: They’ve raised shields and I detect weapons powering up!
Captain: Red alert, battle stations, roll me a pilot check!

So the ‘scan’ is less of a ‘push a button and hope your scan gets you a return’ and more of ‘we sit in the middle of a sensor bubble, and as long as your science person is good enough to (either beat the opponent’s… anti…scan... mechanism or interpret the data the computer gives him) then you get to know about the enemy ship. So you’d always know however much you learned from the check, with the potential to know more (or less) on your next check. But whatever was learned becomes real time information as the battle progresses, rather than a snapshot from 10 minutes ago.


Pantshandshake wrote:
So the ‘scan’ is less of a ‘push a button and hope your scan gets you a return’ and more of ‘we sit in the middle of a sensor bubble, and as long as your science person is good enough to (either beat the opponent’s… anti…scan... mechanism or interpret the data the computer gives him) then you get to know about the enemy ship. So you’d always know however much you learned from the check, with the potential to know more (or less) on your next check. But whatever was learned becomes real time information as the battle progresses, rather than a snapshot from 10 minutes ago.

And the Enterprise has a larger bridge crew, so yeah, if you want that feel, your science officer needs to be able to "fire and forget" on the sensors and do other things. Or toss in some NPC crew and have more than one science officer. Or have the captain give commands for extra actions ("Power to forward shields, Mr. Scienceofficer!"). Basically, I'm saying you've got options.

I just had my crew upgraded to a larger ship, which they can barely run by themselves, so they're working on finding trustworthy crewmembers. It's a nice way to go back to NPCs they liked earlier in the campaign and bring them back into the story.


Actually, shields are the easiest piece of information in the list to change, but it isn't the only one that the crew can deliberately change. The Recalibrate Engine mechanic trick can change the speed of the starship.

So with the ability for the characters to change the stats of the starship, would subsequent scans be necessary to get the update information or would that knowledge be given automatically?

And if a stat changes, then it should at least qualify as being given again on subsequent scans. The value of the stat itself is now new information. So that should satisfy the RRRRRRRRRAAWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW.


Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Pantshandshake wrote:
I've always been under the impression that once you succeed a scan, you know whatever information you gained from the scan for the rest of the battle.

Our group believes this as well.

Still ambiguous enough to warrant this thread and a FAQ click.

Sovereign Court

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We had never even considered that you might keep knowing the up to date shield configuration. Scanning seems like a one-time event, just like firing a shot. You scanned a minute ago so you know what it was like back then, but you didn't continue scanning so you don't know the current situation.


Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Seems to me that not knowing adds another level of complexity to an already complex system. For those of you who have to keep scanning, how on earth do you and your gm keep accurate track of so many variables without turning starship combat into a slow quagmire?


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

Hand one of the players a marker to update their shields on the corner of the hex mat, and scratch down the enemy shield values and last scanned plater values in columns down a piece of scratch paper with a pencil behind a screen. Usually there's a moment to update this while players are doing their helm phase, if there's no other good time.

Shadow Lodge

Scans are a snapshot. If you later want an update, you have to scan again.

On the player side though, I'll mark down damage to each enemy quadrant and what I expect the shields there to be. Sure, they COULD be moving them around, but it gives a ballpark.

Sovereign Court

Ravingdork wrote:
Seems to me that not knowing adds another level of complexity to an already complex system. For those of you who have to keep scanning, how on earth do you and your gm keep accurate track of so many variables without turning starship combat into a slow quagmire?

Well, the GM has to keep track of their shields anyway. For the players, we just don't expect enemy shields to be the same as last round anyway. We're counting on them either slowly rebuilding the shields on the side we just hit (engineer) or to be reassigning them from elsewhere (scientist).

We don't really count on being able to accurately pick the arc with the least remaining shields. We mostly try to stay out of the arc of their best gun, since NPC ships are still often focused on a forward gun. And we rely on bringing a bigger-than-expected gun of our own so we just go through the shields.

Since we don't know what arc will be best defended, but assume they're doing emergency realignment, it's fine to just make it as hard as possible for them to guess which arc we'll be hitting next, so they have to defend everything.


Ravingdork wrote:
For those of you who have to keep scanning, how on earth do you and your gm keep accurate track of so many variables without turning starship combat into a slow quagmire?

Running it on a framework that tracks the numbers for me, mostly.


The science officer needing to continually scan but only needing a lower number than his first scan would be a little weird.


Ravingdork wrote:
Seems to me that not knowing adds another level of complexity to an already complex system. For those of you who have to keep scanning, how on earth do you and your gm keep accurate track of so many variables without turning starship combat into a slow quagmire?

Starship combat can NOT be a slow quagmire?

ow ow ow ... okay its 90 degrees get the hose i dare you! ow ow ow ow

Nah, the DM keeps the shield totals behind a screen instead of in front of it. Only difference.


Ravingdork wrote:
Seems to me that not knowing adds another level of complexity to an already complex system. For those of you who have to keep scanning, how on earth do you and your gm keep accurate track of so many variables without turning starship combat into a slow quagmire?

I'll be honest, normally as a GM I only take pilot and gunner actions on ships I run to speed up play.

So, while I support this interpretation:

"Samantha DeWinter wrote:
Could combine A and C, meaning you only get the snapshot, but each subsequent scan reveals everything again. So (assuming each turn you just meet the DC, or exceed by less than 5), turn 1 you get info "a", turn 2 you get info "a+b" turn 3, you get "a+b+c" etc. I think defenses ("b") are the only ones that are likely to change from turn to turn, but this covers if there's some weird re-configuring ship options in later supplements.

My players know I don't typically take engineering and science officer actions. They tend to just attempt to hit the same shield quadrant over and over again without scanning.

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