How unbalancing is it to introduce a handful of technology items to a steam punk level tech game?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


So I’m running a homebrew world game which mixes high fantasy with steampunk. In an upcoming session I’m planning to have players find a crashedt transport aircraft that came from a Rift. Nothing too crazy will be there and the balance will be battery charges.

To keep this a discussion vs. advice can small amounts of technology be temporary introduced (cause when empty its gone) and not throw the game completely off balance.


Depends more on what items you introduce vs. what items you already have in the game, really.

If it's only a marginal improvement on what they already have access to, then I doubt it's going to be cause for alarm.


My idea is a light firearm (pistol on dead pilot), some basic medical equipment which would be expected to be on a plane, and small things like that.

I know balance would be 1) Without the technologist feat (no one on world had a reason to take it) no one can roll over a 10 on a knowledge check so no one will be able to properly identify any of it. 2) attempts at reverse engineering will destroy the item. 3) Limited batteries (1d4)


McDaygo wrote:

My idea is a light firearm (pistol on dead pilot), some basic medical equipment which would be expected to be on a plane, and small things like that.

I know balance would be 1) Without the technologist feat (no one on world had a reason to take it) no one can roll over a 10 on a knowledge check so no one will be able to properly identify any of it. 2) attempts at reverse engineering will destroy the item. 3) Limited batteries (1d4)

So a Revolver in a world where all the other handguns are flintlock pistols? That's definitely an advantage for one of the pistol-wielders in the group and could moderately upset intra-party balance between multiple characters that primarily use one-handed firearms, even if it wouldn't break the game

Granted, I don't see a game getting broken just by the addition of any of the one-handed ranged technological weapons, especially the ones that require nanite cannisters and so really act like a specialty format for magical ammunition that's consumed upon firing.

Consumable medical supplies are probably not worth losing your sleep over even if they are powerful compared to the magic that was already available to them or whatever kind of phlebotinum that the setting normally runs on.


McDaygo wrote:
So I’m running a homebrew world game which mixes high fantasy with steampunk. In an upcoming session I’m planning to have players find a crashedt transport aircraft that came from a Rift. Nothing too crazy will be there and the balance will be battery charges.

Unless these guns you're bringing in are capable of breaking certain game mechanics, such as, say, a wizard's ability to throw up an Emergency Force Sphere as an immediate action (perhaps under your theory that near-sonic bullets or beam-weapons are too "fast" to react to), then they're not going to affect balance much, if any.

Essentially they're just devices with limited uses until they're depleted.


Well laser pistol shoot through walls of force and such so the speed would be irrelevant I think.


Meh, that just makes it a useful consumable "magic" item with very few charges. I don't see an issue, especially if you control how much gold they can convert it to should they decide to offload it.


In PF, the main activities are combat and roleplay.

If the item significantly affects combat, it can have drastic effects, even in limited use. If it just allows a buff, it is not so problematic.

If the item significantly affects roleplay, it can change the course of the adventure. As a GM, this can be desired or not, but can be dealt with relatively easily.

/cevah


The Technology Guide would be a good place to start. At best, downscale the items to make them less powerful. Also, you could take a look at what Starfinder did for items and see how you could adapt them for a steampunk setting ;)


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McDaygo wrote:
My idea is a light firearm (pistol on dead pilot), some basic medical equipment which would be expected to be on a plane, and small things like that.

I just went over Archives of Nethys and d20pfsrd's lists of technological gear for stuff that I thought might be part of a plane's emergency supplies or the personal effects of a pilot. I haven't really looked over the full list of grenades, yet, but I imagine that there'd only be a small number of those anyway unless the plane was transporting crates of military ordnance and supplies.

I don't believe there is any amount of Goo Tubes that you could give to a party that would be unbalancing in a standard game where food and starvation are basically non-factors. Similarly, you could give them enough Flashlights to outfit an army and it wouldn't be a problem. Enough batteries to charge that many flashlights, though, that might be a different story. Emergency Rafts are certainly nice, but they're not quite a full equivalent to the folding boat, either. They basically eliminate the bulk and weight of carrying around a rowboat overland, which is not really much of an obstacle to determined adventurers, especially once they get into mid-levels and higher. Fire Extinguishers are probably not going to break the game unless I'm really missing something here. Though it is probably going to be neat the first time the players realize they can use it to counter an enemy wizard's Fireball. Grippers are basically an upgraded combination of a crowbar, tongs, and a vise with an attack or the ability to damage a creature as part of torturing them. Shouldn't be a huge issue, though, even with enough for the party and all their hangers-on to have a pair. Lighters might be neat, but they're ultimately just more convenient fire that can double as a candle, which is one of the worst forms of light source (and Batteries with a full charge already double as candles without consuming charges anyway).

Ion Tape and Zipsticks are neat enough that they could change up the party's playstyle without making them notably more powerful. I would call them a neat way to expand the realm of play and how the party approaches some problems without giving the players something that will allow them to obviate challenges.

Emergency Shelters likely aren't going to break the game, but they are likely to be useful, especially for allowing the party to rest relatively securely in places where they might not otherwise have been able to do so. The limitation on batteries and charges and the spell Recharge will probably be the main control here, though the extent to which this could actually be abused is limited. Still, I would think twice about including multiple of these in the plane's emergency supplies.

An Envoy's Mouthpiece should just be thought of the same way as a minor magic item. Heavily depends on what languages you're using and what languages the thing would be encoded with whether this would be useful. One of these early on with the right language could be the key to the PCs managing to actually get through their adventure successfully... Or it could be a red herring or curio. A Chemalyzer is probably not going to blow any plots open just from giving a +5 skill bonus, but it is still an item of potential moderate use. I'd expect one, maybe two in short-term emergency supplies. I'd say it would be nice for the PCs to have, but not earth-shaking unless there's a really, really important plot point that hinges on them either IDing or failing to ID a nonmagical substance. Magboots are another item that it's best to think of like a relatively minor and niche magical item, especially if you're not going to be throwing Zero-G environments at the PCs.

Cameras and Commsets could radically change things up for the PCs. At the very least, they'd be able to justify reliable notes and the like.

Trauma Packs shouldn't be an issue in and of themselves. They're basically 5-use wands of Cure Light Wounds, though they have the advantage of being better with investment in the Heal skill. Still, at the end of the day, it's just hp damage that they fix, healing that kind of damage relatively easily, especially outside of combat, is a standard part of the expectations of the game. The Trauma Pack Plus wouldn't be the end of the world in the hands of a lower level party, but I would expect it to be hoarded for its Breath of Life abilities until they can actually cast Breath of Life, and possibly still reserved explicitly for that use even then.

Filter Masks could be used to obviate certain obstacles and challenges at a level before you wanted those to be trivialized, although adding in needing to get more creatures from point A to point B than the party has Filter Masks would be one way to preserve at least some of the difficulty without completely nullifying the advantage that having an additional set of tools to bring to bear.

I don't see much of a way that Medlances could be used to break the game, although they would certainly have some amount of use to them. Being limited to 10 uses per Medlance (and some of those uses potentially already having been used up prior to the PCs finding them) seems like it would naturally limit the amount of shenanigans that could be gotten up to that your players could think of given more time and interest than me skimming over the list of items. I'd probably have less than a half dozen of them as part of the plane's emergency supplies.

Veemods aren't going to break the game, being a sleeker version of some low level magic items and low-to-mid-level mundane gear. At least up until Orange and Prismatic Veemods. Those might be a bit too powerful outside of higher level play. Brown, Black, Grey, and Red should probably be fine at just about any level of play. Blue and White I'd be take a bit more time to consider if they were appropriate outside of higher level stuff.


Generally speaking introducing any item into the game that the players can only use for a limited number of uses with no ability to resupply or craft is fine.

Technologically based items in a Fantasy world are things that go beyond the understanding of even the best wizards. Magic can mimic what they do, but can't truly recreate them without the creator actually understanding how they operate. Just make sure there is no way for the players to run into those sort of documents.

As for medical supplies...if we're talking about modern earth the medical supplies shouldn't be any better performing than alchemical items. Technology should be a mixed bag of items that work really well and items that seem utterly useless when you have access to magic.

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