COM: Improving Experimental Power Armor Prototypes


Rules Questions


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This evening I would like to get a clarification on the 5th level Power Boost ability of the Experimental Armor Prototype alternate class feature of the Mechanic class in the COM.

Power Boost
You gain proficiency in powered armor. You can alter your experimental armor prototype to be identical to any suit of powered armor that has an item level equal or lower than your existing armor prototype by spending 8 hours of work making upgrades.

I think it works, but I just wanted to make sure:

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 204
Item Level 5; Price 3,450
EAC Bonus 9; KAC Bonus 12
Max Dex Bonus 2; Armor Check Penalty -4; Speed 30 feet
Strength 18 (+4); Damage 1d10 B; Size Medium
Capacity 20; Usage 1/hour
Weapon Slots 1; Upgrade Slots 1; Bulk 20
The battle harness is the basic powered armor frame used by infantry units in professional militaries.

I buy some garbage Level 5 Business Stationwear for 2600 credits, and I can convert it to a Level 5 Battle Harness (retailing for 3450 credits) with 8 hours of work. Later I pick up some Elite Stationwear, a Level 6 item. I disassemble the Battle Harness, leaving regular old Business Stationwear, and use the special parts to build my robot armor again. Now I can make Level 6 power armor, but I look at the Spacer Carapace and don't like that it gives a lower EAC, so instead I refer to the Armory's rules on improving power armor:

It is possible (though expensive) to improve powered armor to make it a more effective, higher-level piece of equipment. It costs a number of credits equal to 150% of the armor’s current price to improve the armor’s item level by 1 and takes at least 24 hours for each level gained. Thus improving an ironclad bulwark to 11th level would cost 28,875 credits. The price paid to improve powered armor by 1 level becomes its new current price, so selling an ironclad bulwark improved to 11th level would bring in 2,887 credits, while improving it to 12th level would cost 43,312 credits.

Anyone who could build a suit of powered armor of the new level can improve powered armor to the same level. Increasing powered armor’s item level by 1 increases its bonus to EAC and KAC by 1 each; if the new item level is evenly divisible by 5, then the powered armor’s bonus to EAC and KAC increase by 2 each instead. If you improve powered armor by 5 item levels, its maximum Dexterity bonus increases by 1, its Strength score increases by 2, and it gains one additional upgrade slot. Powered armor can’t be improved beyond 20th level.

So because I can convert my Level 6 Elite Stationwear to an equal level power armor, I should be able to just concoct a Level 6 Battle Harness, resulting in a suit that looks like this:


Battle Harness
Item Level 6; Price 5,175
EAC Bonus 10; KAC Bonus 13
Max Dex Bonus 2; Armor Check Penalty -4; Speed 30 feet
Strength 18 (+4); Damage 1d10 B; Size Medium
Capacity 20; Usage 1/hour
Weapon Slots 1; Upgrade Slots 1; Bulk 20

If I were to find Level 10 Freebooter Armor III later, worth 16,900 credits, I could choose to make an Large-sized Ironclad Bulwark prototype that can barely fit down a corridor...

Ironclad Bulwark
Source Starfinder Armory pg. 78
Item Level 10; Price 19,250
EAC Bonus 16; KAC Bonus 19
Max Dex Bonus 2; Armor Check Penalty -6; Speed 20 ft.
Strength 20 (+5); Damage 1d10 B; Size Large (5-ft. reach)
Capacity 100; Usage 4/hour
Weapon Slots 2; Upgrade Slots 3; Bulk 32
This heavy suit of reinforced metal and polymer powered armor provides superior protection at the expense of mobility. It can mount melee weapons in its weapon slots, rather than only ranged weapons.

or I could stick with my old reliable standby, upgraded to level 10:


Battle Harness
Item Level 10; Price 26,196
EAC Bonus 15; KAC Bonus 18
Max Dex Bonus 3; Armor Check Penalty -4; Speed 30 feet
Strength 20 (+5); Damage 1d10 B; Size Medium
Capacity 20; Usage 1/hour
Weapon Slots 1; Upgrade Slots 2; Bulk 20

Does this seem like it would be okay? My impression is that it is, because upgrading power armor explicitly increases the item level, lower level suits with desirable features (such as a Swim speed for the Personal Submersible, or the defensive benefits against incorporeal creatures of the Celerity Rigging) can continue to be relevant as the player character gains levels.

The weird part comes if you actually use the upgrade rules on your experimental armor to increase the level, then disassemble it... If I upgraded the Elite Stationwear to level 10, then dismantled it so I could use another suit as a prototype, does the level revert back to 6? Or is it Level 10 Elite Stationwear (with no difference to stats from the Level 6 suit, since light armor does not upgrade)?

I guess I'm rambling at this point.

Sovereign Court

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I'm not sure that if you abandon an old prototype, you can fully salvage the armor it was made from.

I'm also not sure if you can use the rules for upgrading power armor together with experimental prototypes.

The Exchange

4 people marked this as FAQ candidate.

Looks like the post can most easily be summarized with three questions.

1. Can the mechanic with the Power Boost feature improve his powered armor experimental armor prototype using the rules for improving power armor in the Starfinder Armory?
2. If so, does he pay the same costs as anyone else using the Armory rules?
3. If so, what happens when he decides to change his experimental armor to a different type of armor? Are the credits he spent lost for good, can he salvage 10% of the improved armor’s cost, or something else?


1 person marked this as FAQ candidate.
Belafon wrote:

Looks like the post can most easily be summarized with three questions.

1. Can the mechanic with the Power Boost feature improve his powered armor experimental armor prototype using the rules for improving power armor in the Starfinder Armory?
2. If so, does he pay the same costs as anyone else using the Armory rules?
3. If so, what happens when he decides to change his experimental armor to a different type of armor? Are the credits he spent lost for good, can he salvage 10% of the improved armor’s cost, or something else?

Those are all good questions, but I'm actually wondering if I can build the improving power armor option into the ability that allows you to convert a regular suit of armor into power armor. Can I convert a level 10 Freebooter III suit into a level 10 Battle Harness? The only thing I'd pay for would be the Freebooter III.

Upgrading power armor, level-by-level, is absurdly expensive and not really worth it, but converting some junky light armor into enhanced power armor would definitely be worthwhile.


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

I am SO faqing this!


Reading the class it seems like you could effectively use the power armor upgrades because its not specific saying you can't and that you are not paying for the upgrade. Every level I believe you can boost up the level of your prototype armor and you can make that a power level of the same level or lower.

So if you are level 18 and want a level 18 battleframe it seems as though you could just do it with 8 hours of work.

Basically think of it as your drone. Drone mechanics are not paying money for your drone so the armor mechanic is not paying for their armor.

I think combat wise they pay for this by being being drone mechanics and exo mechanics damage wise but lets you use power armor and have strong defenses.


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kaid wrote:

Reading the class it seems like you could effectively use the power armor upgrades because its not specific saying you can't and that you are not paying for the upgrade. Every level I believe you can boost up the level of your prototype armor and you can make that a power level of the same level or lower.

So if you are level 18 and want a level 18 battleframe it seems as though you could just do it with 8 hours of work.

Basically think of it as your drone. Drone mechanics are not paying money for your drone so the armor mechanic is not paying for their armor.

I think combat wise they pay for this by being being drone mechanics and exo mechanics damage wise but lets you use power armor and have strong defenses.

I don't think your armor goes up in level automatically. Per the Prototype Mechanic intro section, you can get free armor of your mechanic level -2, but unless you are OK with armor being seriously substandard for your level, you are going to want to go buy the cheapest piece of crap light armor you can find of the highest level you have available in order to convert it to rockin' power armor.

Drone mechanics ARE paying extra for their drone's weapons. The intent of the prototypes is not to take you off the upgrade-for-credits train entirely, just to make sure that broke mechanics can still scrounge up enough gear to let them use their class features.


Dracomicron wrote:
kaid wrote:

Reading the class it seems like you could effectively use the power armor upgrades because its not specific saying you can't and that you are not paying for the upgrade. Every level I believe you can boost up the level of your prototype armor and you can make that a power level of the same level or lower.

So if you are level 18 and want a level 18 battleframe it seems as though you could just do it with 8 hours of work.

Basically think of it as your drone. Drone mechanics are not paying money for your drone so the armor mechanic is not paying for their armor.

I think combat wise they pay for this by being being drone mechanics and exo mechanics damage wise but lets you use power armor and have strong defenses.

I don't think your armor goes up in level automatically. Per the Prototype Mechanic intro section, you can get free armor of your mechanic level -2, but unless you are OK with armor being seriously substandard for your level, you are going to want to go buy the cheapest piece of crap light armor you can find of the highest level you have available in order to convert it to rockin' power armor.

Drone mechanics ARE paying extra for their drone's weapons. The intent of the prototypes is not to take you off the upgrade-for-credits train entirely, just to make sure that broke mechanics can still scrounge up enough gear to let them use their class features.

Well you can have your armor tracking your level -2 for free which given the costs of power armors is pretty substantial. Otherwise you are just buying the cheapest of your level armor or looting it on an adventure and then turning it into whatever. There never would be a reason to pay the upgrading costs of power armor you would just at worst buy some cheap crap or take something you find and then hammer it for 8 hours. Given the cost difference between the cheapest light armor you can find and upgrading power armor up to a certain level it still is very nearly free.


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Taking the free level -2 armor is basically giving up on ever not being hit. Unlike weapons, which you can get away with not upgrading for some time, armor goes obsolete for protection purposes somewhere around level -1.


Dracomicron wrote:
Taking the free level -2 armor is basically giving up on ever not being hit. Unlike weapons, which you can get away with not upgrading for some time, armor goes obsolete for protection purposes somewhere around level -1.

Is that still the case though with the shield option. Given the prototype armor I believe will almost always have effectively a shield on it which gives you some extra AC. I have just started reading my COM so I am not sure if the shield feature fully offsets the armor getting under leveled. In theory with the new riot shield type stuff if you are using it with at level gear you are now above what the old curve was. I think even at -2 with the changes its probably still viable but generally you would still likely wind up buying some el cheapo stationware armor and then automagically converting it to power armor of your flavor/choosing.


I think it also depends if you are doing a home adventure or starfinder society play. In most home brews what generally is going to happen is you will loot some random NPC's armor and then bang on that for 8 hours to make the thing you want and would rarely if ever be actually buying anything.

In starfinder society play most likely you just buy new stationware every level to max out your armor.


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The "defensive countermeasures" still require you to use a move action every round, which is certainly not optimal. I was hoping it would work like Combat Tracking and it would last until you designate another target, but that is not the case.

Using the defense option locks you out of full attacks and move-and-fire rounds.


Yeah, the defensive countermeasures is almost two dead abilities to me. At least the weapon has a big damage boost if you trade away your move action. What if I boost my defenses and that guy never attacks me?


Yup I just reread this again last night the defensive countermeasures is just weirdly limited. It sounds like it should work like the exo mechanics BAB boost but its vs one target and one attack and takes a move action. That just seems like something you probably never wind up using much.

Still pretty nice option if you really really want to use power armor as it gives you the best access to level appropriate variants of whatever power armor you want without spending $$$$$$$$$$$$$$ trying to do step by step upgrades. Also besides getting armor that tends to have a lot of mod slots they get some extra mod slot stuff to the point where you could afford to equip some of the more situational mods that are nice but generally you don't have room for.

I am curious how well this version of the mechanic works in combat compared to exo mechanics or drone mechanics.


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Okay rerereading this defensive countermeasures seems odd. If you look at both the exo mechanic and the experimental weapon mechanic their similar feature stays locked in to a target until it does or they switch targets. The defensive countermeasures is worded very similar to those but then also is time limited to the next attack until your next turn.

It is like they were writing it to be similar to the other two and then wrote it to be more strict for reasons. Like it still has the this goes away if you retarget it but the timing to retarget would be REALLY fiddly to even do it if you wanted to.

Honestly just having it work like the other two so that it simply locks on to a target and lasts until you move. I would be curious about any errata on this to see if this is what they intended or not.


kaid wrote:

Okay rerereading this defensive countermeasures seems odd. If you look at both the exo mechanic and the experimental weapon mechanic their similar feature stays locked in to a target until it does or they switch targets. The defensive countermeasures is worded very similar to those but then also is time limited to the next attack until your next turn.

It is like they were writing it to be similar to the other two and then wrote it to be more strict for reasons. Like it still has the this goes away if you retarget it but the timing to retarget would be REALLY fiddly to even do it if you wanted to.

Honestly just having it work like the other two so that it simply locks on to a target and lasts until you move. I would be curious about any errata on this to see if this is what they intended or not.

I had the same thoughts. Like they started to make it like Combat Tracking and then thought better of it and made it more like shield positioning.


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Yes exactly and weirdly it kind of has the wording of both which just makes it a really strange and very very questionable utility option. Honestly if they wanted to make it like a physical shield positioning I would have been fine with that. Give you a +1 always on ac bonus and then scaling bonus if you are aligning to a target.

Overall it comes across like they got indecisive which way they wanted it to go and just kind of left it in an awkward spot.


Bit of a minor thread resuscitation here, but I was also reading that class feature and thought it seemed really oddly worded. If it only lasts for the one round, that makes the capstone ability (to use it multiple targets) functionally useless.

I’m thinking that maybe the intention is that the calibration lasts until you use the ability again, but the bonus is only added against the first attack from the targeted opponent each round. That lets the capstone actually do something and actually provides some benefits over just using a shield each round.


Dom Laminus wrote:

Bit of a minor thread resuscitation here, but I was also reading that class feature and thought it seemed really oddly worded. If it only lasts for the one round, that makes the capstone ability (to use it multiple targets) functionally useless.

I’m thinking that maybe the intention is that the calibration lasts until you use the ability again, but the bonus is only added against the first attack from the targeted opponent each round. That lets the capstone actually do something and actually provides some benefits over just using a shield each round.

It does seem like a lot of class design space is devoted to something you could accomplish by buying a shield, doesn't it?


And what kind of high level Power Armor guy isn't rocking the uber armor upgrade, a Titan Shield?


Xenocrat wrote:
And what kind of high level Power Armor guy isn't rocking the uber armor upgrade, a Titan Shield?

That was my other thought. I was planning my Soldier/Mechanic's eventual power armor configuration and basically counting down the credits/XPs until I can get a Titan Shield.

Kinda makes that experimental armor feature pale in comparison. I suppose if it is not a shield or cover bonus it would stack with Titan Shield, but still, I have better things to be using my move action on by that level.

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