3 Action Economy in Starfinder


Homebrew


This is a proposal to implement Pathfinder 2e AWESOME action economy into Starfinder. It's a rough WORK IN PROGRESS, so I would love to hear your thoughts/input, thank you.

TEST conversion Starfinder >> 3 action economy

Everyone gets 3 actions in their turn. Enemies too of course

1. Attacks after the first: 0/-5/-10 (0/-4/-8 for operative weapons)
2. COMBAT MANEUVERS are considered attacks for the purpose of the multiple attack penalty
3. FULL ATTACK does not exist anymore. As a general rule, substitute every "full attack" or equivalent action into a 2 action activity that is always considered as counting for 2 attacks for the purposes of the multiple attacks penality (see above)
4. STANDARD ACTION = 1 action
5. MOVE ACTION = 1 action
6. SWIFT ACTION = 1 action, but should normally only be allowed once per turn, unless specified otherwise.
7. FREE ACTION = stays a free action
8. SPELLS >> you can NEVER cast more than one 1 action spell per turn. Spells that were cast as "swift actions", or "move actions" can now be cast as many times as one can in a turn
9. FULL ACTION = 2 action activity
10. MOVEMENT SPEED: 5 ft less for everybody. Wherever says 30 ft, in terms of the basic movement speed of a creature, it's now 25. If it was 20, is now 15. Same for every basic movement that a creature has (e.g.: fly 60, now becomes fly 55).

Special Cases:

AUTOMATIC FIRE: the penalty for all the attacks is now -4 (same as it was before when we had the full attack). Everything else stays the same, only difference: you don't consume your entire magazine, the ammo used is still double the normal amount for each target, but nothing more. (sorry I had to add that, I hate how it currently is!)

UNWIELDY: these weapons can never be fired more than twice per turn. Everything else stays the same

BLAST: every attack with a blast weapon has an additional -2 to the attack roll (same as before). However, blast weapons can never be fired more than twice per turn. Everything else stays the same

MULTI-WEAPON FIGHTING: your multiple attack penality is now 0/-4/-8 with small arms. Your operative weapons now have 0/-3/-6 multiple attack penalty. This affects the triple/quad attack ability: your penalty is now -3 for all three/four attacks, in that case

MULTIATTACK for monsters: now a 2 action activity, but all attacks are done at -6.

TRICK ATTACK: stays the same (you can move and attack with this new 2 action activity), but it counts as 2 attacks for the purposes of multiple attack penalty. Furthermore, the enemy stays flat-footed for rest of your turn even in the basic version of trick attack (allowing you to use the 3rd action to attack again, with a -10 or -8 as per the general rule).

TRIPLE/QUAD ATTACKS: they are 2 action activities that let you make 3 and 4 attacks, respectively. In both cases the penalty is -4 for all three or four attacks.

HASTE Spell: you can now move up to your speed during any 2 action activity (before and after the activity if you want), for free. The rest stays the same.

THE BIGGEST PROBLEMS:
>> all of the feats and abilities that had to do with converting standard actions into move or swift actions are now USELESS (including spring attack and the like... The easiest solution is just to: IGNORE every effect that does that (this doesn't mean throw away every feat that has that as part of its effect, just ignore the action type conversion part). In the case of effects that turn a move into a swift action, turn that swift action into a FREE action, but make it so it can't be done more than once per turn.

... more to come


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more:

CHARGE: is now a 2 action activity. So you can move up to double your movement and 1 attack with the listed penalties, within this activity. However, if you then don't take any other attack action, or you don't move anymore (move-equivalent actions such as making a skill roll don't count), you can wave the -2 AC penalty. Otherwise, it applies as before.
E.g. you could move, then charge (which will effectively let you start the charge from the angle you want), in this case you will end up having the -2 to CA penalty as well.

COUP DE GRACE: is now a 3 action activity. Everything else stays the same

FIGHT DEFENSIVELY: is now a 3 action activity that lets you trade one of the actions for a guarded step at any time during the activity. If you attack, the penalty for each attack (1, 2 or 3) is -8. Everything else stays the same

TOTAL DEFENSE: is now a 2 action activity. Same restrictions apply. Furthermore, you cannot take any attack action in a ROUND where you used this activity (this includes combat maneuvers, of course), cast any spells or use any spell-like or special ability. You can only use your remaining action to move or to take a guarded step.

RUN: is now a 3 action activity, where you can only move up to four times your speed with all the same restrictions as before.

WITHDRAW: is now a 3 action activity. Everything else stays the same


Pathfinder Starfinder Society Subscriber

As someone who spent some time trying to work out how to port 3-action into Starfinder, this is even trickier than it looks. Some thoughts:

  • Going from Starfinder's full attack rules and penalties to the Multiple attack penalty is actually a big boost in lethality. I've done the math on this before. Just slapping in MAP is about a 65% boost in damage output assuming a creature spends 1 action / 1 move action on moving before attacking, and about a 50% boost in damage output on full attacks / 3 actions spent on attacking.
  • Starfinder has been carefully balanced around action scarcity and the exclusivity of actions. Many standard action abilities are balanced around doing them only once per round. Furthermore, many standard action abilities are ALSO balanced around not being able to attack on rounds where you use them.
  • Both caster classes have 3/4 BAB in Starfinder, and currently their abilities are balanced around not being able to mix attacks and spells. The system's underlying math allows most any character to deal good damage by nothing more than two feats (weapon proficiency, weapon specialization) and picking up an appropriate weapon. A mystic with a longarm and specialization that fires once and casts a spell is contributing WAY more in Starfinder than a cleric with a longbow firing once and casting a spell in PF2E.
  • Spellcasting should probably be 2 actions, just like PF2E.

    Its clear after you start digging into class changes that building from the ground up for the 3-action system is likely easier than trying to convert.


  • Cellion wrote:

    As someone who spent some time trying to work out how to port 3-action into Starfinder, this is even trickier than it looks. Some thoughts:

  • Going from Starfinder's full attack rules and penalties to the Multiple attack penalty is actually a big boost in lethality. I've done the math on this before. Just slapping in MAP is about a 65% boost in damage output assuming a creature spends 1 action / 1 move action on moving before attacking, and about a 50% boost in damage output on full attacks / 3 actions spent on attacking.
  • Starfinder has been carefully balanced around action scarcity and the exclusivity of actions. Many standard action abilities are balanced around doing them only once per round. Furthermore, many standard action abilities are ALSO balanced around not being able to attack on rounds where you use them.
  • Both caster classes have 3/4 BAB in Starfinder, and currently their abilities are balanced around not being able to mix attacks and spells. The system's underlying math allows most any character to deal good damage by nothing more than two feats (weapon proficiency, weapon specialization) and picking up an appropriate weapon. A mystic with a longarm and specialization that fires once and casts a spell is contributing WAY more in Starfinder than a cleric with a longbow firing once and casting a spell in PF2E.
  • Spellcasting should probably be 2 actions, just like PF2E.

    Its clear after you start digging into class changes that building from the ground up for the 3-action system is likely easier than trying to convert.

  • Understood! Thank you very much for these pointers. I'm surprised at such an augment in average damage, but I haven't done the math and I was expecting some general boost to damage. Nevertheless, in my mind that basically means every combat will resolve a bit quicker and be more lethal (for both parties). Maybe that's not a bad thing?

    Regarding spells, I went with 1 action, because I wanted to give casters the opportunity to do more in their round, however I forgot to mention that every spell cast in a turn should count as an attack for the purposes of the MAP.
    (Not that that would solve the underlying problem that you are bringing up, of course).

    Are you working at a "from the ground up" approach to this problem? Could you point me to your proposal (if you made it public), please? I would be very curious.

    In general, I agree that the problems you raised do exist and even though I haven't done the math, I have no problem agreeing that all this results in more damage output. It needs to be tested, to see the full extent of the unbalancing, I guess.


    The main issue that I get stuck on when people bring this up is the whole attacking business.

    The first point I like to address is that adding a steadily increasing debuff to the attack roll, but allowing everything to make 3 attacks in a round, harms players much, much more than NPCS. Starfinder combat already sees an awful lot of NPCs that have a really hard time missing the players with an attack, while players usually have to try very hard to get the odds of a single attack landing to better than average. So you end up turning all your NPCs into much better murder machines, while making it harder for your players to be competitive in dealing damage. This would need to be addressed by drastically altering the standard difficulty of encounters.

    The second point, is that there are already classes than can attack more than twice, with varying degrees of negatives to the roll, in the vanilla game. Your proposal actually makes soldiers and Solarians WORSE at fighting, even aside from my point above, as you assign higher negatives that Starfinder already does, and in the case of Operatives, appears to completely remove their ability for a 4th attack.

    Again, something that is potentially solvable, but it is a HUGE difference in the fighting math that Starfinder presents naturally, and that math is so tight that I don't really like the idea of changing it to this level.


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    Pathfinder Starfinder Society Subscriber

    I haven't done a "from the ground up" conversion. It'd be a very very serious project. I just played with it long enough to realize that careful attention was going to need to be paid to the math, and that some classes (Envoy is a big offender) are going to have to require scrutiny.

    If you'd like to make the damage output a bit more balanced with normal Starfinder, one low impact way to do so is to increase the AC of all NPCs by 2 and decrease their attack rolls by 2. This makes it so that full attacks are about on par between Starfinder's system and the 3action economy. 2 action attacks are still going to be about 25% stronger than a standard action attack in Starfinder, but I think that's doable.


    Cellion wrote:

    I haven't done a "from the ground up" conversion. It'd be a very very serious project. I just played with it long enough to realize that careful attention was going to need to be paid to the math, and that some classes (Envoy is a big offender) are going to have to require scrutiny.

    If you'd like to make the damage output a bit more balanced with normal Starfinder, one low impact way to do so is to increase the AC of all NPCs by 2 and decrease their attack rolls by 2. This makes it so that full attacks are about on par between Starfinder's system and the 3action economy. 2 action attacks are still going to be about 25% stronger than a standard action attack in Starfinder, but I think that's doable.

    Got it, thank you. And yes the Envoy might then need buffing up to compensate.


    Pathfinder Starfinder Society Subscriber

    Its the opposite - Envoy is much stronger in a 3 action economy.

    One of the driving principles that makes the 3 action economy work well is that your later attacks in the round are less valuable. The difference between using your third action to attack and using your third action to move is small in terms of how much potential damage you missed out on. This allows a lot of non-attacking actions to be competitive for the 3rd action.

    The Envoy in Starfinder is balanced around the idea that it loses out on personal damage but gains in group damage via debuffs or get 'em. These all lock the Envoy out of a full attack, and the difference between full attacking or not full attacking is pretty big.

    Since the third attack each round has little value, the envoy now practically gets to deal full damage while buffing the party. They get to have their cake and eat it.

    ----

    Beyond the tricky math issues of balancing envoys between offense and buffing at will, the envoy is balanced around having a lot of things they can do at will that all compete for their move action and standard action. By giving Envoys a third action and normalizing their actions, you totally change how they play and make them WAY stronger.

    IE - Can they now improved get'em at 0 MAP, clever attack at -5 MAP, then inspiring boost an ally? That's three abilities that all used to be standard actions. The envoy ends up being at least twice as strong!


    Cellion wrote:

    Its the opposite - Envoy is much stronger in a 3 action economy.

    IE - Can they now improved get'em at 0 MAP, clever attack at -5 MAP, then inspiring boost an ally? That's three abilities that all used to be standard actions. The envoy ends up being at least twice as strong!

    Right, I see what you mean. But that can be fixed on a per ability case. For instance one could make Inspiring boost a 2 action activity... But yeah the whole thing requires a more in-depth analysis of each class.

    I am fine with them being able to improved get 'em at 0 MAP and the clever attack at -5, though. At the end of the day there's also the RP pool to check how much stuff they can do.

    When I said "buff up", I was thinking of the fact they make a high use of feats that change standard with move actions and the like, and those are now useless. But that's probably not warranted because they already gain in flexibility with their special abilities.


    Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

    I would probably have Standard actions be 2 acts, with the exceptions of attacks which are 1; this keeps the value of the feats/class features that reduce the action cost.
    I might just make unwieldy weapons take 2 acts to fire, bc its much cleaner than 1 act but cant fire more than twice a round.


    Nathan Monson wrote:

    I would probably have Standard actions be 2 acts, with the exceptions of attacks which are 1; this keeps the value of the feats/class features that reduce the action cost.

    I might just make unwieldy weapons take 2 acts to fire, bc its much cleaner than 1 act but cant fire more than twice a round.

    Hmmmm I like this! That gets rid of a lot of problems in a more elegant way! I'm gonna change the list, thank you!

    Although the augmented damage overall problem pointed out by Cellion still remains. But let's go a step at a time.


    2.0 Updated test conversion Starfinder >> 3 action economy

    Everyone gets 3 actions in their turn. Enemies too of course.
    The keyword or tag system is amazing and would need to be implemented in order to define what an "attack", or a "move" etc. is.

    1. ATTACKS = a single attack is now a 1 action activity. Attacks after the first, during your turn, suffer a penalty: "M.A.P." 0/-5/-10 (0/-4/-8 for operative weapons)
    2. COMBAT MANEUVERS are considered attacks for the purpose of the MAP
    3. FULL ATTACK does not exist anymore. As a general rule, substitute every "full attack" equivalent action into a 2 action activity that is always considered as counting for 2 attacks for the purposes of the MAP (see above)
    4. STANDARD ACTION = 2 action activity (single attacks are now 1 action activities)
    5. MOVE ACTION = 1 action
    6. SWIFT ACTION = 1 action, but should normally only be allowed once per turn, unless specified otherwise.
    7. REACTION = stays the same.
    8. FREE ACTION = stays a free action
    9. SPELLS = casting time now goes according to points 4, 5 and 6. Every spell that involves an attack counts for the purposes of MAP
    10. FULL ACTION = does not exist anymore. Easier to adjust case by case, with the principle of: should become a 2 action activity that generally would not allow for the 3rd action to be used for an attack action.
    11. MOVEMENT SPEED: 5 ft less for everybody. Wherever says 30 ft, in terms of the basic movement speed of a creature, it's now 25. If it was 20, is now 15. Same for every basic movement that a creature has (e.g.: fly 60, now becomes fly 55).

    Special Cases:

    FEATS that allow attacking and moving freely: such as Spring Attack and Shot on The Run are no longer useful. However, they could be replaced by 1 feat that improves the effects of Mobility, giving more resources to deal with AOOs (such as, make an enemy re-roll their AOO, or things of this nature)

    AUTOMATIC FIRE: the penalty for all the attacks is now -4 (same as it was before when we had the full attack). Everything else stays the same, only difference: you don't consume your entire magazine, the ammo used is still double the normal amount for each target, but nothing more. (sorry I had to add that, I hate how it currently is!)

    UNWIELDY: these weapons take 2 actions to attack with, and they count as 2 attacks for the purposes of MAP. Everything else stays the same (you still can't make AOOs with them)

    BLAST: every attack with a blast weapon has an additional -2 to the attack roll (same as before). However, blast weapons can never be fired more than twice per turn. Everything else stays the same

    MULTI-WEAPON FIGHTING: your multiple attack penality is now 0/-4/-8 with small arms. Your operative weapons now have 0/-3/-6 multiple attack penalty. This affects the triple/quad attack ability: your penalty is now -3 for all three/four attacks, in that case

    MULTIATTACK for monsters: now a 2 action activity, but all attacks are done at -6.

    TRICK ATTACK: stays the same (you can move and attack with this new 2 action activity), but it counts as 2 attacks for the purposes of multiple attack penalty. Furthermore, the enemy stays flat-footed for rest of your turn even in the basic version of trick attack (allowing you to use the 3rd action to attack again, with a -10 or -8 as per the general rule).

    TRIPLE/QUAD ATTACKS: they are 2 action activities that let you make 3 and 4 attacks, respectively. In both cases the penalty is -4 for all three or four attacks. In a turn where you used these abilities you cannot use your 3rd action to attack (or you cannot perform Triple/Quad attack if you have already attacked once during this turn).

    HASTE Spell: you can now move up to your speed during any 2 action activity (before and after the activity if you want), for free. The rest stays the same.

    FEATS/ABILITIES that convert move to switf actions: in this case, generally the swift action could be turned into a FREE action, but make it so it can't be done more than once per turn.

    CHARGE: is now a 2 action activity. So you can move up to double your movement and 1 attack with the listed penalties, within this activity. However, if you then don't take any other attack action, or you don't move anymore (move-equivalent actions such as making a skill roll don't count), you can wave the -2 AC penalty. Otherwise, it applies as before.
    E.g. you could move, then charge (which will effectively let you start the charge from the angle you want), in this case you will end up having the -2 to CA penalty as well.

    COUP DE GRACE: is now a 3 action activity. Everything else stays the same

    FIGHT DEFENSIVELY: is now a 3 action activity that lets you trade one of the actions for a guarded step at any time during the activity. If you attack, the penalty for each attack (1, 2 or 3) is -8. Everything else stays the same

    TOTAL DEFENSE: is now a 2 action activity. Same restrictions apply. Furthermore, you cannot take any attack action in a ROUND where you used this activity (this includes combat maneuvers, of course), cast any spells or use any spell-like or special ability. You can only use your remaining action to move or to take a guarded step.

    RUN: is now a 3 action activity, where you can only move up to four times your speed with all the same restrictions as before.

    WITHDRAW: is now a 3 action activity. Everything else stays the same

    Sovereign Court

    Interesting. The big question is, do you want to go full on PF2 style, with class feats and all that, or do you just want to bolt a three action economy on for now?

    I think you should not be too scared of making some abilities work differently, as long as they keep doing the essential same task.

    I agree with most of your conversions. Also think some actions are no longer quite necessary.

    CHARGE: no longer an action. With three action economy people can just Stride, Stride, Strike. It also gets rid of a lot of irritating things like what exactly constitutes a free path (can you jump during a charge?).

    BLITZ-Charge Attack and SOLARIAN-Stellar Rush: these are now 2-action abilities with Stride Twice then Strike, like Sudden Charge in PF2.

    COUP DE GRACE: making it a three action activity makes it harder than in SF/PF1, where you could 5ft step into position. Simple fix: make it include a Step. I don't think we want to make it a 2 action activity because we don't want people to Stride and then Coup de Grace. Note that PF2 doesn't even have Coup de Grace, you could also consider removing it from the game entirely.

    FIGHT DEFENSIVELY: not sure about this one. It's notably missing in PF2 where it would probably clash with the tight AC math. On the other hand there are more abilities that just let you spend an action to gain a circumstance bonus to AC for having a shield or wielding two weapons or something.

    TOTAL DEFENSE: I think importing the Take Cover action from PF2 makes sense, also for its use in enabling Stealth.

    RUN: not really needed anymore IMO. It's 4x your speed for going in a straight line, compared to just Striding 3x, in any curvy way you want. Given how rarely I've been able to run in a straight line for significant distance, I think we may as well just eliminate this and make the system smaller.

    WITHDRAW: also not required anymore. Just Step and then Stride a couple of times.

    TRIPLE/QUAD ATTACK: question is if you want to keep the old effect of not being able to move. I would say yes - mobility belongs to Trick Attack and can be gained from Haste. So I'd say that this is a triple action with reduced MAP that does three, later four strikes. Kind of like a PF2 ranger's twin takedown with the MAP-reducing hunter's edge.

    HASTE: I'd say this just gives you one extra action that can be used to Stride or Step.

    TRICK ATTACK: I always hated how hard it was to draw a weapon and trick attack, that really hobbled concealed weapon builds, which you would expect operatives to be good at. So I'd say this is a 2-action activity with the Open trait that lets you Stride, then Stride, and increases MAP as if you had taken two attacks.


    Pathfinder Starfinder Society Subscriber

    Agreed with Ascaphalus on almost all points. The changes to charging and withdrawing made in PF2 (ie. they were removed) make a lot of sense with the 3 action economy where you have improved flexibility in stepping and striding.

    I think Coup De Grace works fine as a 3 action activity. It should be difficult to execute, something that comes up rarely and often not at all in combat.

    I would look at PF2E's Ranger's Impossible Volley/Flurry for how triple and quad attack could work.

    I like Trick attack as a two-action activity with the open trait that gives MAP as if you've done two attacks. That implementation keeps the operative from getting another high-value attack on the same round, but still leaves an extra action open for utility - an extra move, drawing an item, etc.

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