Some of these DCs in SFS are getting out of hand


Starfinder Society

1 to 50 of 81 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | next > last >>
Scarab Sages 4/5

Has anyone noticed this? Some of the DCs in these scenarios are just getting ridiculous, and I’ve actually had players quit tables because of the skill checks being too high to be reasonable. I mean, the formula is already a little out of hand (level x 1.5 means you have to have a class bonus AND full ranks AND ability crystals AND level 5/10/15 level up bonuses into the relevant stat just to keep pace). But then some of these numbers just get out of hand.

So easy checks are supposed to be 5+(1.5 x level)
Medium are 10+ (1.5xlevel)
And hard DCs are supposed to be 15 +(1.5 x level)
And maybe very hard are 20+

But I just read through a 7-10 scenario with basically every DC is 32 or above (which, at max level 10, would be above hard,). One check that is basically required for the mission to succeed is DC 42! That is 27 +1.5 x level! Heck, you’d have to have a +22 to the skill just to attempt it! Where are these DCs coming from? Even a level 10 character who specialized in that skill, and got a (let’s say) +3 insight bonus to it (class bonus or skill focus) with a 22 in the relevant stat would need a freaking natural 20 to succeed. You would need an entire full party all succeeding in the aid another check to just bring it down to even odds to succeed. WTF?! Now granted, that check does allow retries, but there are penalties for failure.

I think SFS writers are used to PFS 1st ed, which gave you a larger number of options to buff your skills. But in SFS, skill focus doesn’t scale at 10 to +6, and almost any skill bonus that isn’t a racial is an insight bonus so those don’t stack.

The Exchange 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Texas—Dallas & Ft. Worth aka Belafon

I've noticed this as well, as far back as the first six months of the campaign. I haven't written for SFS - so I have no inside knowledge - but I do have a theory. Two, actually.

The first is simply that the guidelines for setting skill check DCs are wrong. Remember how the Starship Combat DCs had to be drastically reduced? Could just be the designers used bad math.

More likely, it's attempting to keep checks challenging for everyone but ends up making them unattainable for some groups. The "problem" is Operatives and Envoys. Particularly Envoys. At 10th level they will have several skills with a total bonus of 10(ranks) +1d6+2(expertise) +4(ability score-could be lower) + other modifiers. That's an average of around +19 AND likely a couple of skills where they can reroll. Even more if they took Skill Focus for anything, or have racial bonuses, or have an item bonus.

Which makes a DC 30 (15 + APLx1.5) close to a sure thing. It's only for a couple of skills per envoy, but it's enough to make it not challenging for a group that has one of those. So other classes are often left in the lurch.

The Exchange 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Texas—Dallas & Ft. Worth aka Belafon

By the way, your projected DCs are a little off. Check out page 392 of the CRB. Starfinder defines DC = 15 + 1-1/2 APL to be "challenging" which is actually "normal," not "hard."

Trivial = 5 + 1-1/2 APL
Easy = 10 + 1-1/2 APL
Challenging = 15 + 1-1/2 APL
More Difficult = 20 + 1-1/2 APL
Prohibitively High = 25 + 1-1/2 APL

The Exchange 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Texas—Dallas & Ft. Worth aka Belafon

I don't know what this particular scenario is (if you name it, please use spoilers) but I doubt that it's truly a DC 42 to succeed on the mission. I have seen a few really high DCs that you needed to make to get a Fame/Reputation point, but even those provided a secondary way to get necessary information or otherwise progress past that point.

Again, I do agree that the DCs in Starfinder are problematic. The range of possible skill bonuses is very flat in Starfinder. There are few ways to boost skills, so the classes that have built-in-boosts skew the curve.

Dark Archive 3/5 ⦵⦵⦵ Venture-Agent, Hawaii—Honolulu aka AFlashInTime

To add on another complicating factor,large table sizes can make things more difficult to balance correctly depending on the skill and the situation.

With "aid another" always having a flat DC 10 unless specifically changed in the scenario (and a few have done this on specific occasions), having a table of 6 players at a high subtier means you're probably good for 4-5 assists on common skills and/or skills where "hirelings" can make the check for the PC.

End of the adventure "make a diplomacy check to convince the main NPC of your case" seem to be especially prone to this, because you have the aforementioned super-skilled envoy probably picking up an additional +8 or so from the rest of the party collectively nodding their heads convincingly.

Paizo Employee Starfinder Society Developer

10 people marked this as a favorite.

This is good feedback. I'm going by our level charts in a lot of cases, but it's important to get a sense of table feedback in this regard so I know when numbers get out of whack. Even if it's just trimming by 2-4 on a skill check, it's good to know that some things seem purely unattainable.

Play experience matters!


4 people marked this as a favorite.
Daniel Schultz wrote:
End of the adventure "make a diplomacy check to convince the main NPC of your case" seem to be especially prone to this, because you have the aforementioned super-skilled envoy probably picking up an additional +8 or so from the rest of the party collectively nodding their heads convincingly.

A lot of those "end of adventure plead your case" checks also have considerable bonuses from stuff you did during the adventure. Pray at the Shrine of St. Polyhedron? +2 to the final check. Put a credit on the mysterious beggar's credstick? +2 to the final check. Murder the ever-lovin' fustigation out of the Hostile Cyclops of Monomaniacal Plots? +4 on the check... heck you would have done that even without a bonus involved.

I feel like these checks should take about half of the potential story-based bonuses into account when calculating the DC.

Scarab Sages 4/5

Thurston Hillman wrote:

This is good feedback. I'm going by our level charts in a lot of cases, but it's important to get a sense of table feedback in this regard so I know when numbers get out of whack. Even if it's just trimming by 2-4 on a skill check, it's good to know that some things seem purely unattainable.

Play experience matters!

Oh, hi Thurston. It's great to talk to you again (I met you face to face at the past two PaizoCons.)

One thing I'd like to say is that I find that the DCs tend to assume highest tier, highest level, which leaves lower-level players just completely unable to do anything. So, as above, let's say you have three level 10s in a party and a level 8. So all those DC 32 skill checks assume you are level 10, and the level 8 just straight up can't even attempt said checks if his relevant ability score is 10 and he doesn't have any class bonuses. So your 10 Charisma Mystic with full ranks in diplomacy? Nope, can't possibly succeed as a matter of course on any diplomacy check. In the entire scenario.

If you want some more direct, tangible feedback, I can provide context for the player who walked away. I specifically had a player walk away from Siege of Civility (1-37) because of the skill checks. I GMed it twice at PaizoCon 2019, as well as played it the week before, and each and every table had a really tough time of it. One of the players from one of the Paizocon games walked away.

***So, super minor spoiler alert for 1-37***
For those that don't know, siege of civility is a skill-check heavy scenario. Now there are a great variety of skill checks, which is fantastic, but all of the difficulties were way too hard. In addition, the scenario was built in such a way as the heavily discourage aid-anothers (it isn't time-efficient.) So, when I played through it, my Envoy, who is built to shmooze with high charisma, max ranks in diplomacy, his expertise die in diplomacy, and all of that, I expect that I can make the diplomacy checks fairly easily, but I couldn't. Same with our scientist who couldn't make the engineering checks, and everyone else at our table was in the same boat.

At Paizocon, the player who left basically left after he figured out that the entire scenario was rolling skill checks and he had to roll a 16+ on the die to succeed on the easy ones (he was a lower level playing up.) I kept apologizing for the scenario and trying to hand out role-play bonuses to the skill checks and it still didn't help much.

***End super minor spoilers***

Bottom line, If I devote all my character's resources to a single skill, I expect to do that skill fairly easily. I know that I'll blow most checks out of the water. The thing is, I can only do that for maybe one or two skills. If the game starts expecting that for EVERY SINGLE SKILL then every player is just going to fail ALL THE TIME. As at most tables, maybe one or two players hyper-specialize, and even if they specialize in two separate skills, that's still only four skills you've covered out of 19 (not counting profession). And if you build a more rounded character, or a character that doesn't hyperspecialize, you eventually can't succeed at ANY skill checks as the system currently stands.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Quote:
he was a lower level playing up.

...


At my table of 1-37 of Siege of Civility at PaizoCon, we handled all of the checks okay. We had one player who was lower level playing up, but his player understood that he wouldn't be able to make the checks (he was a low-int soldier to boot), so he did Aid Another or tried to come up with unique solutions.

Now, in this case, my friend and I were playing an operative and technomancer who had worked together before and complemented our skills fairly well.

The fourth player was an Envoy who filled our gaps. This wasn't entirely luck; he waited to see what we brought before he pulled that character out.

So... anecdotal, but we did that scenario fine. It helped that our die rolls were good (also I had a theme bonus that actually came into effect), but the main thing is that, other than the low level soldier, we made solid character choices... I didn't try to bring my beat stick vesk soldier to a delicate diplomatic mission.

I'm sorry you had a tough time, but it isn't entirely the fault of the scenario DCs.

⦵⦵

Starfinder Superscriber

A level 10 character who wants to be good at a skill should be looking at a max of 10 (Ranks) + 3 (Class Skill) + 2-7 (Ability Mod) + 2,3, or 1d6+2 (Insight) + 1, 2, or 3 (Race + Theme) + 0-4 (Boons) + 0-2 (Aid Another) + 0-4 (Tools), depending on the skill and level of optimization.

That's anywhere from +17-+41 depending on how much optimization is possible/done. That's before any in scenario bonuses for finding the mcguffin in act 2 or befriending the stranger in act 1. Trying to find a DC that is challenging (but doable) for the worst case while not trivial for the best case isn't easy. A DC of 10+1.5*Level is only 25, which the +17 can beat 65% of the time. A DC of 15+1.5*Level is only 30, which the +17 can still beat 40% of the time. A DC of 20+1.5*Level is 35 is still 15% success rate. All of these the 'best' person with every opportunity can auto-succeed on.

To get to a DC of 42 at level 10, you'd be looking at 27+1.5*Level, which I don't think I've ever seen in an actual scenario, but I honestly haven't read all the 7-10s yet (still hoping to play them first). I'd be curious to know the full context of that number. I don't even think I've seen a 25+1.5*Level DC that I can recall. I know the "Hard" DCs for Tier 7-8 of 1-99 were only 28, which is 16+1.5*Level. I have level 4 characters that can beat that DC on their preferred skills with a 9-13 on the dice. A level 8 with just max ranks (8), a class skill, and a 14 on the ability is looking at +13 which can hit a 28 on a 15 or better, 13 or better with an aid another or a +2 Insight. The 32 mentioned for playing up is certainly harder, but A, playing up is meant to be harder, and B it's still possible to hit that DC at 8 if you put any effort into the skill.

In a vacuum, 42 is probably too high for a 7-10 scenario, but if there's opportunities to reduce the DC (with theme) or add bonuses from actions taken in the scenario or have multiple party members aid another it not only would be trivial for the uber specialist, but might even end up trivial for the low end person who just put in max ranks and a tiny ability boost or feat and called it a night. 32-37 feels right for something meant to be challenging at that level (9-10).

Now, obviously, this is assuming you even have someone that focused on the skill. Since the Starfinders will take any group of yahoos in the lobby on a mission, you could end up with 4 soldiers and 2 solarians and no one even having a rank in Computers or something. Because of this, I don't think you should ever have scenarios with single-skill success criteria. There should be options. But I don't think the DC is necessarily the problem, at least, not that I've personally seen.

Scarab Sages 4/5

Okay, since so many people have asked, yes, there is a way to decrease that DC 42 check by 5 in the scenario, but it is easy to miss. And even still, a DC 22+(1.5xlevel) is still really difficult. And that is assuming you have a level 10 character with full ranks in the relevant skill. Now I will admit, after re-reading, there is a deus ex macina that continues the plot but that leaves me with two problems.

1) Obvious Deus ex macinas feel cheap to players (at least all the players in my area)
2) what was the point? What is the point of making a super high DC only to have a Deus Ex Machina show up if they fail? Just lower the DC. Or make it easier to get the +5 bonus.

But even ignoring the DC 42 skill check, almost all of the skill checks in this particular game are DC 32+ even in the lower tier. That is 21-20+(1.5 x level) for 7-8 tier characters. For every skill. Are you telling me that every skill check in this scenario is as difficult as identifying a unique monster? Every skill check is as difficult as the most complex piloting stunt? Every single one of them?

Oh, and @Pithica42, to answer your question: I don’t know if any kits that would help this check, but yes, I forgot about theme bonuses. To be fair, the one theme I know of that would give you a -5 to this DC isn’t a core theme, and I’ve only ever seen one player with it, so it is not a popular theme that the writer should be counting on.

5/5 ⦵⦵⦵

The scenarios dinner party set up where you have multiple chances to make the check justifies the DC's being a little higher. That they go up when you miss makes the odds a little harder to calculate (I think i left what's left of my brain outside somewhere in a glacier). I think that's what you have to look at here to see if the DCs in this one are too high.

For the uber diplomacy check there's also the ikea store level variance on how a check is supposed to work. Everyone make a check and see who's the highest? Declare one spokesperson and everyone aid? How the DM says its supposed to work alters your chance of success by a lot.

We are going to hit the problem soon that higher level starfinder DCs are borked. Characters abilities just don't scale as fast as some of the harder DCs (because your stats increase slower from level based ability boosts, they stop increasing from stat boosters, and skill focus caps out on you.

⦵⦵

Starfinder Superscriber

I'm trying to avoid spoilers and just look up the answer in the scenario, but I would agree that every skill check in a scenario being 20+1.5*Level DC would be too much for in Sub-tier skill checks. I've not seen any scenario that actually does this, though. I think most should be in the 10-16+1.5*Level DC range. At least for level 10 and lower scenarios. Having one or two in the 20-25+1.5*Level range isn't, I think, broken, especially if it's an aid-able check and if there are ways to either reduce the DC or add a bonus to the roll in the scenario.

Acquisitives 5/5 ⦵⦵⦵

Our party failed at Siege of Civility. We just could not make all the checks, and this made us unhappy. It's my fault for playing in it, actually. Although I could make my checks, my presence made it so half the party was playing up. Had I brought another character, we might have been able to make it through the lower tier checks.

1/5

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Part of the issue is that players want to flesh out their characters. They have their 4-6 skill points per level or so, and don't want to have 4-6 skills maximized. They think their characters are moderately athletic, somewhat versed in various sciences, can handle themselves in the wilderness, and so on, since Starfinders are supposed to be multitalented. They divide their skill points, because having 0 ranks in certain skills makes them think the character is deficient or just inept.

For the early levels, this works, and people happy as their characters can contribute to mission success. But at tier 5-6 this wider distribution of skill points starts eating their chances of success, and at first they don't know why they are failing. "Whoa, that's a high DC." And then they realize the DCs are not going down.

Most of the players come from PF1 and were more familiar with how skills behaved there. New players are going to use their +5 skill to attempt Tier 5-6 checks that experienced players are slowly learning to leave to a specialized character.

Ability scores are not something that can be relied upon. 18 is probable only in a key ability score (rarely for envoys and solarians, unlikely for mechanics), Dexterity (hit stuff, not get hit haha) or Strength (hit stuff hard). Constitution is rarely more than 12 and Charisma rarely gets even a level boost from the original 10. Intelligence is secondary for characters who aren't mechanics or technomancers. Wisdom is secondary for non-mystics.

Tools are an option for a few specialized tasks, but scenario skill checks are often generic "DC 24 Survival or Life Science". Insight and race bonuses are nice, but assuming them for every DC is harsh. As for boons...

Spoiler for #2-06:

Playing Sangoro's Lament gave us a boon for the second part. But for some that boon was completely useless. You can't slot two personal boons, such as your race.

Spoiler for #1-37:

We entered this scenario at high tier with our -701s, with all the habits of PF1 still visible. We were somewhat aware that this was going to be difficult. We just couldn't do it. Computers and Engineering were ok since they build on class key abilities and insight bonuses, but most of the other things failed. We tried using our higher skills blindly to fish for successes. I think we only got the Legate.
We got 1 fame for defeating the Gideron team and exposing the spy.

tl;dr Skill DCs follow the formula too tightly.

Scarab Sages 4/5

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Naal wrote:
Part of the issue is that players want to flesh out their characters. They have their 4-6 skill points per level or so, and don't want to have 4-6 skills maximized.

Even if you max out skills, if they aren’t in your class’s wheelhouse, you still loose. Let’s say I wanna make a Mechanic Bounty Hunter like Quig. He probably won’t have a high wisdom, his class has no bonus to survival or prof-Bounty Hunter, by level 7, even if he has max ranks, that’s a +10, maybe +12 if he blows a feat on skill synergy. For those DC 32 checks, That makes it between being impossible or needing a nat 20 just to do his job.

Listen, I’m not saying that a person with low aptitude (low ability score) should beat out a similarly trained character with high aptitude (high Ability score) in a contest of skill checks. I’m saying it should be within the realm of possibility for a person who has put full ranks in a skill to do their job. Or at least for them not to be completely sidelined by level 7.

⦵⦵

Starfinder Superscriber

1-37 Skill DCs:
I just skimmed through 1-37 with Find for DC and the highest DC check I could find was 28 (there were 2 of them), most were in the 20-26 range. That doesn't seem too out of whack to me based on where my characters are on their 'good' skills in the level range of that scenario.

2-06 and 2-08 Skill DCs:
The DCs in 2-06 were on average higher than 1-37. I saw several 28 DCs and a handful of 30-33s (mostly on Perception checks for traps). That seems excessive, but I'm okay if that's the exception for scenario design and not the rule. Some missions should be harder, I think. 2-08 the highest I could find was 26 and on average they looked a little lower than 1-37s.

2-12 Skill DCs:
I think this is the one you're talking about. The low tier DCs I've found are almost all 32. I'm trying not to dig too deep as I'm hoping to play this, soon, but yes, this seems a bit high. The high tier DC's all seem to be either 37 or 42. It's not quite all of the checks, there are a handful in the mid-20s, but it definitely is the vast majority of them being between 32-42. Some of them do have DC reducers and several allow multiple attempts to succeed. I know my level 10 character has a base +25 in Computers so those 42DC computers checks could still be got with a 15 or higher (using an aid). With 3 attempts that's ~40% chance of success I think. I have a feeling that Amanda meant for this to be an 'Epic' scenario, and that's why the DC's are too high. If this became the norm, I agree that it would be a problem, but I don't think the occasional 'really hard' scenario is itself a problem.

I'm not quite sure how much of a problem any of that is, but I also haven't actually played any of those, yet. I mostly just looked at this to take a break from studying and to satisfy my own curiosity. I don't feel like any of that is a deal breaker, personally.

Caveat: I tend to play characters that specialize in 1-2 skills (based on class features/race/theme), and use all but 1 or 2 ranks every level to max ranks in other skills. So I'm used to having at or near max bonuses in at least some skills and above average in at least a couple. I also tend to assume people are consistently aiding in play. All of that may color my perception heavily.

Sovereign Court 4/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

I think it was in the beginning of #4 of Dead Suns that I first ran into problematic DCs. My tank had Wisdom 10, Perception as a class skill and maximum ranks (level 7), and Took 20 to search for traps on a door. I literally, with Take 20, could not find the CR 9 trap (DC 33).

Yes, Starfinder skill DCs are broken.


Your tank ignored Wisdom and had the barest investment in Perception (no Skill Focus, no spells or items buffs), and they couldn't find a trap higher level then they were.

5/5 ⦵⦵⦵

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Lau Bannenberg wrote:

I think it was in the beginning of #4 of Dead Suns that I first ran into problematic DCs. My tank had Wisdom 10, Perception as a class skill and maximum ranks (level 7), and Took 20 to search for traps on a door. I literally, with Take 20, could not find the CR 9 trap (DC 33).

Yes, Starfinder skill DCs are broken.

To be fair, you'll find the trap.....

The Exchange 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Texas—Dallas & Ft. Worth aka Belafon

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Lau Bannenberg wrote:

I think it was in the beginning of #4 of Dead Suns that I first ran into problematic DCs. My tank had Wisdom 10, Perception as a class skill and maximum ranks (level 7), and Took 20 to search for traps on a door. I literally, with Take 20, could not find the CR 9 trap (DC 33).

Yes, Starfinder skill DCs are broken.

But...

If I'm playing a 7th level elf (thief) operative with a broad-spectrum scanning kit, I literally cannot fail on a DC 29 perception check.

math:
7 (ranks) + 3 (class skill) + 3 (skill focus) + 2 (racial) +4 (scanning kit) = +19
And I can always Take 10 (class ability)

There's plenty of other races with a bonus to perception, I just picked the first one that came to mind. And that's assuming I have a Wisdom of 10.


The problem is that if you want to design a skill check that isn't a gimme for some fairly common builds you have to make it impossible for an under-optimized build.

The problem is Starfinder math in general, not Starfinder Society specific.

Dark Archive 3/5 ⦵⦵⦵ Venture-Agent, Hawaii—Honolulu aka AFlashInTime

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Just an observation, but I think skill checks in general are the hardest thing to balance in an open play environment like society play.

In combat, you have lots of tactical options (shoot it, melee, grenades, spells, etc.) that involve rolling dice against different armor classes (AC 5, KAC, EAC, KAC+4/KAC+8, Ref save, etc.) with tons of different variables (prone, cover, flanking, flat footed, sickened) over several combat rounds when the PCs can feel the ebb and flow of approaching success or looming failure and maybe change tactics accordingly.

For the most part, skill checks are challenges that have none of this. To make a DC 32 Computers check (or whatever), you must roll a D20, once (excepting very few class abilities (envoys) or a shirt reroll), almost all of your bonuses or penalties are already baked in from character creation and equipment you did or didn't bring with you (typically not too many kits laying around), and then depend on another 3-5 random party members who may or may not have the skill and may or may not remember to try to get a DC 10 aid. And, to emphasize, a lot of the time you only get one try.

Skill challenges solve the "one try" problem, but by and large they just take the skill check and make it "a check in 1-3 skills per round" and have you repeat the rolls over several "rounds"; there's very little sense of PCs having tactics or an ability to influence the results in-game other than hoping to roll high. There's essentially no ability to change tactics; whether it's the first roll or the last, your chance of making a DC X Engineering check is probably unchanged because your bonuses haven't changed because you probably can't do anything to change them.

I like rolling dice as much as anybody, but I think there's a reason I find combat more engaging than rolling a d20 in five different skills in a skill challenge. Or potentially worse, rolling my aid another check and hoping the envoy doesn't get a 4 on the diplomacy roll.

Unfortunately I don't see an easy solution. One idea would be to award the PCs levels of success/failure based on how much they do/don't exceed the DC by, sort of like with recall knowledge checks. In this hypothetical situation let's say the PCs need 10 hypothetical victory points to complete the scenario, and the skill checks don't have a set DC for success/failure. Maybe their computers check to hack information on the political smear campaign gets them a victory point for getting DC 15 and then another VP for every 5 by which it exceeds 15, and then the intimidate check to scare off the yellow journalist gets another VP for every 5 for which it exceeds DC 10, and the Mysticism check to figure out how that glowing magical orb is interacting with the infosphere is the same for DC 20+, and so on.

This "VP" skill system could also be combined with different combat objectives; one VP for killing the bad guys, but two VP for capturing at least one alive, and a bonus VP if you can do it in less than 3 full rounds so nobody notices.

In short, feeling like a PC is working to overcome a challenge, and that they have the agency to make smart decisions (i.e. adapting their tactics to the situation) to do so, leads to feelings of accomplishment when the BBEG bites the dust. That same sense of struggle leading to accomplishment doesn't typically manifest when the final skill check(s) consist of showing up and rolling one or a few skill checks, with scenario authors forced into the unenviable task of allowing less-than-optimized PCs (nothing wrong with that) a chance to succeed while trying to keep optmized PCs (nothing wrong with that) from succeeding on a nat 1. And, even if bonuses/penalties have been accuring throughout the scenario, in the moment before that roll is made there's rarely anything other than maybe a circumstantial roleplaying bonus that the PCs can do to affect the outcome other than hope the dice roll high.

Sovereign Court 4/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Kevin Willis wrote:
Lau Bannenberg wrote:

I think it was in the beginning of #4 of Dead Suns that I first ran into problematic DCs. My tank had Wisdom 10, Perception as a class skill and maximum ranks (level 7), and Took 20 to search for traps on a door. I literally, with Take 20, could not find the CR 9 trap (DC 33).

Yes, Starfinder skill DCs are broken.

But...

If I'm playing a 7th level elf (thief) operative with a broad-spectrum scanning kit, I literally cannot fail on a DC 29 perception check.
** spoiler omitted **
The problem is that if you want to design a skill check that isn't a gimme for some fairly common builds you have to make it impossible for an under-optimized build.

The problem is Starfinder math in general, not Starfinder Society specific.

I'm not sure I'd call either Elf or Thief Specialization particularly common builds, but yeah, the range of possible PC skill bonuses is too wide to properly balance.

So I had put in maxed ranks, and I still couldn't succeed - I feel a bit like I got suckered into this. If even with max ranks you can't succeed, why are you allowed to invest ranks in the first place if there's a hidden precondition of "you must have a class ability that boosts this skill"/"your key stat must be this skill's stat too"?

Scarab Sages 5/5 Venture-Captain, Netherlands aka Woran

4 people marked this as a favorite.
BigNorseWolf wrote:
Lau Bannenberg wrote:

I think it was in the beginning of #4 of Dead Suns that I first ran into problematic DCs. My tank had Wisdom 10, Perception as a class skill and maximum ranks (level 7), and Took 20 to search for traps on a door. I literally, with Take 20, could not find the CR 9 trap (DC 33).

Yes, Starfinder skill DCs are broken.

To be fair, you'll find the trap.....

He did. He's still sore about it and we're still laughing about it.

Sovereign Court 4/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

3 people marked this as a favorite.

I don't think the "DC that can challenge a specialist" is a good challenge. It leaves non-specialists frustrated. "DC that's reasonable for somewhat invested people" is too low for specialists, IF they can always devote themselves to it.

So I think a solution is more parallel skill checks, where multiple people need to be doing stuff at the same time. Influence scenarios with limited rounds of talking to people are a way to do this: place your people where they're best, because everyone needs different skills to talk to.

As a consequence, even if one character is really skilled, they can't be everywhere at the same time, and it becomes more of a puzzle, who else can do what else, how to we cover all our bases together? So DCs don't need to be at the high end of the scale to present a challenge.

I felt The First Mandate did this nicely, especially in the final scene, where there are a lot of things that needed to be done simultaneously.

It also means that DCs don't need to be at the high end of the scale, because
---

Another good mechanic for spreading around skill challenges between PCs of varying skill is also the "presenting evidence" mechanic used in Ungrounded But Unbroken and in Shores of Heaven, where the best diplomancers get to tackle the high DCs and ease the way for the rest of the players.

---

Another thing that could be improved is to have crystal-clear signage when a roll is supposed to benefit from Aid Another. If a DC is inflated because Aid Another is assumed, then the scenario should tell that to the GM and tell the GM to tell that to the players.

⦵⦵

Starfinder Superscriber

I've always assumed, both as DM and player, that Aid Another is always allowed unless something in the text or description explicitly denies it. I always encourage players to aid another on important rolls.

Scarab Sages 4/5

1 person marked this as a favorite.
pithica42 wrote:
I've always assumed, both as DM and player, that Aid Another is always allowed unless something in the text or description explicitly denies it. I always encourage players to aid another on important rolls.

The problem is: many skills are trained only, so you can't aid another unless you have the relevant skill. So let's take a common skill: Engineering.

Let's say at level 7 that you need to engineer open a door. Now let's say you are an operative with 10 int, and no one else in your party has Engineering (Let's say, the rest of your party is mystic, envoy, soldier) The Door is considered a 'hard' DC of 32

7 ranks + 3 class skill+ 3 operative's edge=13. You need to roll a 19 or 20 to succeed. Or, (with the scenario I am prepping) you need to roll a 37 to do something plot crucial (in the low tier), and what do you know, it is just straight up impossible for your group. Just have to eat that L. No Aid Anothers, no nothing.

The Exchange 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Texas—Dallas & Ft. Worth aka Belafon

2 people marked this as a favorite.

The issues are systemic to the Starfinder game as a whole. Relatively few skills means many PCs have max ranks and the insight bonuses that many classes have flatten the range of possible bonus totals. Both of which interact with Skill Focus.

There are only 19 (non-profession) skills in Starfinder. Envoys, mechanics, operatives, and technomancers will have at least 8-10 skill points a level by level 5 or 6. Compare that to Pathfinder 1, which has 32 (defined) skills and in which a CRB bard, rogue, or wizard will likely have 8-10 points a level by level 6. (Maybe one or two more.) Which means that unlike PF1, when you're setting a DC in Starfinder you have to assume that for any given group there will be at least one player with max ranks in any skill, and whose class complements that skill (key ability score, class feature bonuses).

The problem with the class feature insight bonuses is that they are automatic. If I'm writing a PF1 scenario and put in a Stealth check, the 7th level rogue may have taken Skill Focus. If so, good for her, she made the check easier. If I'm writing for SF, the 7th level operative will have a +3 insight bonus. What's the chance a Golarion wizard has Skill Focus: Linguistics? Pretty small. What's the chance a technomancer has a bonus to Computers from Techlore? 100%.

Skill Focus is caught in the middle. In PF1 if your class is already good at something (wizard with Linguistics) you can take Skill Focus and make it easier. If your class isn't quite as good (bard with Linguistics) you can take Skill Focus to become just about as good as the wizard without Skill Focus. So setting the DCs at an appropriate level for a wizard without Skill Focus is ideal. The wizard has a chance to make it, and if the bard chooses to invest feats he'll have about the same chance. Giving both players a way to feel valued. If the wizard chooses to take Skill Focus, he becomes really good at Linguistics. But it is critically important to note that is only if the wizard chooses to spend that feat.

In Starfinder the technomancer does have a bonus to Computers. No choice about it. Even if the solarion spends a feat on Skill Focus, he still can't catch up to her. Which brings us back to the dilemma of this entire thread. If you are setting a challenging DC for a Computers check you have two choices:
1) Make it a challenging DC for technomancer. Which makes it a difficult check for the solarion (or a similar soldier, mystic, etc.)
2) Make it a challenging DC for the solarion. Which makes it an easy check for the technomancer (or a mechanic, hacker operative, etc.)

And here's the rub: Whichever way you go with that DC, the solarion isn't going to feel valued. The technomancer or mechanic is going to be the one attempting the check no matter what.

So what's the solution? It's not a Society solution. Starfinder as a whole needs to get rid of those class feature bonuses. And/or dramatically expand the number of unique skills while narrowing the class feature bonuses to allow each class to be ideal for one or two skills only and remove the expectation of max ranks for everything. Obviously neither can happen in the current edition of the Starfinder ruleset. So we're just going to have to live with it.


I have to agree with this. The issue I have is the checks are just fine if you are built to make that check but if you are using a skill that is trained and a class skill but have no other bonuses you tend to fail.

One other general gripe I have that a lot of writers do a good job of addressing is skill challenges versus single check situations. If you look at combat, you can miss, next turn, miss, third turn hit and ultimately win the combat. Single skill checks if you miss you lose straight up.

Scarab Sages 4/5

2 people marked this as a favorite.

I think a stopgap solution is to tier your DCs. So if at level 7, if you succeed at, say, a DC 25 check, you get the vital plot thing, but if you beat a 32, you get the vital plot thing plus a bonus, like extra information or a couple extra healing serums or something.

The Exchange 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Texas—Dallas & Ft. Worth aka Belafon

1 person marked this as a favorite.

The super-hard checks I've seen in Starfinder Society have been well set up, usually with multiple of the following.
1. Features an in-game way to lower the DC that you can get just by being a good Starfinder. ("Did you ask the guide for help?")
2. Can have multiple characters aid.
3. Are not time/circumstance limited. ("Close the door and we'll examine this where people can't see us.")
4. Can be retried.
5. Succeeding gets you a reward (Secondary Success Condition) -and/or- failure makes the next (non-skill based) challenge harder.
6. Has a way to continue with the adventure written in even if the check fails.

5 and 6 are the most important. 6 is mandatory. Without 5, it can feel like "why'd they bother putting this ridiculous check in here?" (I suspect the DC 42 check Vamp is talking about has neither a reward or negative.)

5/5 ⦵⦵⦵

VampByDay wrote:
I think a stopgap solution is to tier your DCs. So if at level 7, if you succeed at, say, a DC 25 check, you get the vital plot thing, but if you beat a 32, you get the vital plot thing plus a bonus, like extra information or a couple extra healing serums or something.

You can also hand out multiple successes for hitting that 40, instead of just a simple pass/fail.


Kevin Willis wrote:
In Starfinder the technomancer does have a bonus to Computers. No choice about it. Even if the solarion spends a feat on Skill Focus, he still can't catch up to her.

At SFS relevant levels the skill focus bonus beats or matches class provided insight bonuses (Envoy excepted). No one else gets a +4 (flat or average) earlier than level 11. So the only relevant difference is attributes, and an off attribute class like a Solarion doing Computers can partially compensate with a racial bonus (Lashunta uber alles) if they really want to build towards greatness in a nontraditional skill area.

Scarab Sages 4/5

Spoiler for how the scenario that I ran went last night.

Spoiler For scenario 2-12, Colossus Heist:
so this was the scenario I was referencing with the crazy DCs, and my players, having played it last night, agreed with me. The only reason the players were able to get full rewards was because we were doing a charity event with $1 rerolls and the players spent over $20 on skill check rerolls alone. This was in addition to them ‘cheating’ certain skill checks (Like knocking down the Coral tower with the life pulse beacon then feather falling the item to prevent damage). Everyone commented on how out-of-whack the DCs were. We had a level 10 operative and Technomancer, and an 8 soldier and mystic. The mystic and soldier were unable to contribute to ANY skill checks AT ALL and were basically stuck watching the other players throw dollar bills at me until they rolled a 15 or higher on the die. They eventually took to taking 20 on every check they possibly could. If not for the flavor of this scenario (which they loved) it would have been a very unhappy table.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

What's scary is pull up a pregen and try to make some of those DCs.

4/5 ⦵⦵

4 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Imo the DC's should be balanced without accounting for class bonus, because you can't be certain that a given class will be present, and if it's required it means that other classes can do everything right and still fail

5/5 ⦵⦵⦵

4 people marked this as a favorite.
Nathan Monson wrote:
Imo the DC's should be balanced without accounting for class bonus, because you can't be certain that a given class will be present, and if it's required it means that other classes can do everything right and still fail

it's also supposed to be a bonus, making you good at the skill, not something that's expected of you

Sovereign Court 4/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

5 people marked this as a favorite.

Yeah, there's an uncomfortably big gap between:

Poor but trying:
* A so-so ability score (10 at level 1, maybe 12 by level 5, 14 by level 10)
* Full skill ranks
* Not a class skill by default, but you might get it from Skill Synergy
Gives L1: +1, L5: +6/+9, L10: +12/+15

Sort of skilled
* A ability score that happened to get a racial bonus (12 at level 1, maybe 14 by level 5, 16 by level 10)
* Full skill ranks
* Class skill
Gives L1: +5, L5: +10, L10: +16

Seriously skilled
* Ability score at 16 at level 1, 20 by level 5, 22 by level 10
* Full skill ranks
* Class skill
* +1 from race or theme
* Scaling class bonus (+0 or +1 at L1, +2 at L5, +3 at L10)
Gives: L1: +8/+9, L5: +16, L10: +23

Specialized
* Ability score at 18 at level 1, 20 by level 5, 24 by level 10
* Full skill ranks
* Class skill
* +3 from race AND theme
* Scaling class bonus (+0 or +1 at L1, +2 at L5, +3 at L10)
* Some kind of relevant augmentation for say, +0/+1/+3
Gives: L1: +11/+12, L5: +19, L10: +27

For some tasks, another +4 from toolkits would be available; but people are more likely to have them if they were focusing on that skill so it kind of amplifies the distances.

---

It seems that DCs are set a lot with an eye towards challenging the Seriously Skilled/Specialized demographic. This reminds me a lot of the discussions in the PF2 playtest, where the initial DC by level table also gave you stable success chances only if you really worked at a skill. It wasn't a choice of "what will I be good at", but "what will I not fall behind on".

In the final PF2 design the DCs and success expectations were drastically recalibrated:

- To get stable chances of success, you should be Trained, get some ability score increases, and collect a few other small bonuses.
- If you proceed to Expert/Master/Legendary and get serious about collecting bonus items for a particular skill, you're going to get more and more successful at each level.

Starfinder is not calibrated quite as viciously as the PF2 playtest but DCs go up by about 1.5/level. With scaling class bonuses and ability increases you can get about a 1.6/level increase, but if your class doesn't have a scaling boost to a particular skill, or if it's not based on your primary ability, then you're going to fall behind fast.

---

Redesigning the scaling DC/bonus setup is beyond the scope of SFS. But it can be used in different ways.

Currently, there seems to be a tendency to pick Hard DCs "because we have to challenge the specialists" and maybe boost them a bit to account for 6P Aid Another / multiple people trying. But as this thread shows, that's pretty miserable for non-specialists.

I think it's better to start trying to challenge the middle-of-the-pack party members. Instead of saying "one person must pass this Hard check", say "half the party must pass this Average" check". By making it half the party, you sidestep having to hike the DC to account for 4P/6P differences.

Variants on this are:
* The party needs successes equal to half the number of PCs (round up). Beating the DC by 5 counts as an extra success.
* The party needs successes equal to half the number of PCs (round down). Beating the DC by 5 is an extra success, but failing by more than 5 eats a success.
* Two different skills need to be used simultaneously (by two different PCs). Anyone can make only one check at the time, so figure out how to allocate your Aid Anothers.
* We need a series of this skill check, and players can't try again until each other character has gone. But each successful check makes it easier for the rest, so the specialists can clear the road for other characters.

Those are all ways that don't require a complete game system overhaul, but let you challenge both mildly and wildly skilled characters.

Sovereign Court 4/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

Matt2VK wrote:
What's scary is pull up a pregen and try to make some of those DCs.

When I helped playtest scenarios, we used L1 pregen parties to see if they could at least survive and succeed at the primary success condition.

But I don't believe, really don't believe, that this is being done with higher level scenarios.

1/5

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Lau Bannenberg wrote:

Variants on this are:
* The party needs successes equal to half the number of PCs (round up). Beating the DC by 5 counts as an extra success.
* The party needs successes equal to half the number of PCs (round down). Beating the DC by 5 is an extra success, but failing by more than 5 eats a success.
* Two different skills need to be used simultaneously (by two different PCs). Anyone can make only one check at the time, so figure out how to allocate your Aid Anothers.
* We need a series of this skill check, and players can't try again until each other character has gone. But each successful check makes it easier for the rest, so the specialists can clear the road for other characters.

The first option here seems nice, but if there's only one person in the party with the skill at even a moderately decent level it will still fall through.

The second option is even worse, because even if one has an incredibly skilled person dice rolling can still net a result that is worse than an untrained roll (if it's even possible) and then to further penalize the result by missing the DC harder will encourage people to not even bother trying.

The third option is not a viable one in a convention setting -- it's hard enough to figure out *one* aided party, two with cross-table discussion will bring a game to a screeching halt real quick. ((Saw this happen repeatedly last weekend over many different games with different GMs, and as a GM, too.))

The problem is that if we're reserving the success for the end of a batch rolling in the fourth option, then we don't know if the check is successful for our 'icebreaker' person to have 'cleared a path' for us. It also doesn't help if no one succeeds at a roll, which the high DCs are going to pretty much ensure for all but the hardcore specialists who get lucky.

There needs to be an 'invisible' way for GMs to assess the skill level of the table, and if the characters are not making the rolls at the difficulty even with the best skilled person at the table with all the positive modifiers that have been baked in, make it happen.

Without feeling that they are going to be penalized for 'candycoating' or 'softballing'.

EDIT: For some situations, the reason there was a Take-10/Take-20 rule in PF (aside from being a 3.5 holdover) was due to the fact that it'd at least give folks a chance whose d20s couldn't seem to roll above a '5' for an entire scenario. With it not present it makes things far more difficult for even 'Average' rolls.

Sovereign Court 4/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

Wei Ji the Learner wrote:
Lau Bannenberg wrote:

Variants on this are:
* The party needs successes equal to half the number of PCs (round up). Beating the DC by 5 counts as an extra success.
* The party needs successes equal to half the number of PCs (round down). Beating the DC by 5 is an extra success, but failing by more than 5 eats a success.
* Two different skills need to be used simultaneously (by two different PCs). Anyone can make only one check at the time, so figure out how to allocate your Aid Anothers.
* We need a series of this skill check, and players can't try again until each other character has gone. But each successful check makes it easier for the rest, so the specialists can clear the road for other characters.

The first option here seems nice, but if there's only one person in the party with the skill at even a moderately decent level it will still fall through.

Yeah, well then tough luck. Then the party fails that challenge.

Skill challenges should be written with the idea in mind that you can fail. So failing some of the skill challenges in the scenario shouldn't derail it. Likewise, something important (like secondary success) shouldn't depend on a single skill challenge. (I like the "the PCs achieved X out of Y things" model for secondary success conditions.)

Wei Ji the Learner wrote:
The second option is even worse, because even if one has an incredibly skilled person dice rolling can still net a result that is worse than an untrained roll (if it's even possible) and then to further penalize the result by missing the DC harder will encourage people to not even bother trying.

Oh I guess I wasn't clear. This would be something the entire party has to try, like a check to sneak past a checkpoint. One person being an oaf would be a hindrance, but maybe someone else can cover for them. Checks where you need successes equal to half the number of PCs should pretty much always be done for in-game events where it makes sense the whole party has to be involved.

Wei Ji the Learner wrote:
The third option is not a viable one in a convention setting -- it's hard enough to figure out *one* aided party, two with cross-table discussion will bring a game to a screeching halt real quick. ((Saw this happen repeatedly last weekend over many different games with different GMs, and as a GM, too.))

Huh? These kind of checks pop up all the time.

Wei Ji the Learner wrote:
The problem is that if we're reserving the success for the end of a batch rolling in the fourth option, then we don't know if the check is successful for our 'icebreaker' person to have 'cleared a path' for us. It also doesn't help if no one succeeds at a roll, which the high DCs are going to pretty much ensure for all but the hardcore specialists who get lucky.

You can see this mechanic in action in Ungrounded But Unbroken or in Shores of Heaven. You have to answer questioning about something, and the NPC insists on questioning all of the PCs, but the players get to decide who goes first. Each successful answer makes all the others easier, and you can generally figure out from the NPC's reactions whether you're getting anywhere.

Wei Ji the Learner wrote:

There needs to be an 'invisible' way for GMs to assess the skill level of the table, and if the characters are not making the rolls at the difficulty even with the best skilled person at the table with all the positive modifiers that have been baked in, make it happen.

Without feeling that they are going to be penalized for 'candycoating' or 'softballing'.

We don't do this in combat either. We don't present hard combats and then scale them down if the party is keeling over. Sometimes a strong party just dominates the combats in a scenario.

But for skill challenges, perhaps because they're generally not as physically dangerous, it seems to be the other way around: we set the DC super high and are prepared to accept that people bash their heads against the wall. And I don't think that's good design.

Wei Ji the Learner wrote:
EDIT: For some situations, the reason there was a Take-10/Take-20 rule in PF (aside from being a 3.5 holdover) was due to the fact that it'd at least give folks a chance whose d20s couldn't seem to roll above a '5' for an entire scenario. With it not present it makes things far more difficult for even 'Average' rolls.

Eh. There is Take 10 and Take 20 in Starfinder. But we don't let people who roll poorly all the time Take 10 in combat either.

5/5 ⦵⦵⦵

Wei Ji wrote:

There needs to be an 'invisible' way for GMs to assess the skill level of the table, and if the characters are not making the rolls at the difficulty even with the best skilled person at the table with all the positive modifiers that have been baked in, make it happen.

Without feeling that they are going to be penalized for 'candycoating' or 'softballing'.

If you do that, then you're completely undercutting the investment specialists are making in their character being good at a skill.

1/5

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
BigNorseWolf wrote:
Wei Ji wrote:

There needs to be an 'invisible' way for GMs to assess the skill level of the table, and if the characters are not making the rolls at the difficulty even with the best skilled person at the table with all the positive modifiers that have been baked in, make it happen.

Without feeling that they are going to be penalized for 'candycoating' or 'softballing'.

If you do that, then you're completely undercutting the investment specialists are making in their character being good at a skill.

So at the sake of raising a spectre here, is over-specialization necessary to 'win' at Starfinder Society?

And if so, are certain character classes a requirement in perfect specialization cookie cutter builds?

...that doesn't sound like a lot of fun.

Scarab Sages 4/5

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Wei Ji the Learner wrote:
BigNorseWolf wrote:
Wei Ji wrote:

There needs to be an 'invisible' way for GMs to assess the skill level of the table, and if the characters are not making the rolls at the difficulty even with the best skilled person at the table with all the positive modifiers that have been baked in, make it happen.

Without feeling that they are going to be penalized for 'candycoating' or 'softballing'.

If you do that, then you're completely undercutting the investment specialists are making in their character being good at a skill.

So at the sake of raising a spectre here, is over-specialization necessary to 'win' at Starfinder Society?

And if so, are certain character classes a requirement in perfect specialization cookie cutter builds?

...that doesn't sound like a lot of fun.

It also just straight up doesn't work for anyone but operatives. AFAIK, other than the operative scaling bonus to all skills, NO ONE gets a scaling class bonus to skills like athletics, or Disguise. So if you set an Engineering DC and a Disguise DC at the same level, Technomancers/Mechanics MIGHT be able to get the Engineering 42, but no one other than, like spy operatives will get the Disguise check 42.

Honestly, just, am okay with hyperspecialized people breezing through skill checks. If all you do is pump the engineering skill, I'm okay if you autosucceed if the alternative is you are the only one who MIGHT be able to succeed.

5/5 ⦵⦵⦵

Wei Ji the Learner wrote:
BigNorseWolf wrote:
Wei Ji wrote:

There needs to be an 'invisible' way for GMs to assess the skill level of the table, and if the characters are not making the rolls at the difficulty even with the best skilled person at the table with all the positive modifiers that have been baked in, make it happen.

Without feeling that they are going to be penalized for 'candycoating' or 'softballing'.

If you do that, then you're completely undercutting the investment specialists are making in their character being good at a skill.

So at the sake of raising a spectre here, is over-specialization necessary to 'win' at Starfinder Society?

And if so, are certain character classes a requirement in perfect specialization cookie cutter builds?

...that doesn't sound like a lot of fun.

You seem to be leaving off the possibility that you can lower the DC and just having the people that ARE uber at skills just be uber at skills.

-The skill checks are just too damned high for non specialists. Specialists required to have a chance

- Grading the skills on a curve negates the specialists investment

-Lower the DCs a bit for everyone means the specialist isn't challenged but...

Its not combat where you can go harder at something, burn resources, burb consumables, resolve tank, or use better tactics. Skill checks amount to "roll better" which isn't so much harder as just has a higher failure rate.

Sovereign Court 4/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Wei Ji the Learner wrote:
BigNorseWolf wrote:
Wei Ji wrote:

There needs to be an 'invisible' way for GMs to assess the skill level of the table, and if the characters are not making the rolls at the difficulty even with the best skilled person at the table with all the positive modifiers that have been baked in, make it happen.

Without feeling that they are going to be penalized for 'candycoating' or 'softballing'.

If you do that, then you're completely undercutting the investment specialists are making in their character being good at a skill.

So at the sake of raising a spectre here, is over-specialization necessary to 'win' at Starfinder Society?

And if so, are certain character classes a requirement in perfect specialization cookie cutter builds?

...that doesn't sound like a lot of fun.

Look back at my post where I describe four different profiles of good you might be at a skill. Right now, Starfinder seems to be tuned to challenge Seriously Skilled/Specialized brackets. I think we should be aiming more at the area in between the Sort of Skilled/Seriously Skilled brackets.

So that means that if there is an Athletics skill challenge, and nobody put anything into Athletics, that yeah, you're probably going to fail that challenge.

Of course a skill challenge shouldn't hinge too much on one single skill, so let's say Athletics, Acrobatics and Survival - this is some kind of rough terrain challenge. Now, as I showed earlier, we set the DC in the range where Sort of Skilled/Seriousy Skilled are doing okay. Say that we're doing subtier 5-6, so medium skill level is +10 to +17 (factoring in L6). A specialist can go as high as +21 (L6), but we can't use one DC to challenge a +10 and a +21 at the same time. And our design aim is that the guy with +10 also feels like his skill matters.

So since this is some kind of terrain crossing exercise, we say that everyone in the party has to try. So we say the "basic success" outcome is that half the party (rounded down) passes the check, good is if they pass with 1 person to spare, great is if they pass with 2 people to spare; bad but not catastrophic is if they're 1 shy of half, and catastrophic is if they're 2 shy. (Note that in 4P and 5P, everyone has to fail to have a catastrophe. At 6P, 5 people have to fail to get a catastrophe.)

Now we're allowing three different skills, each with a different key attribute. So we're reasonably spread around on which classes could do well at it. So maybe we can expect a bit more than a +10 because people get to leverage their key stat (Str, Dex, Wis covers a lot). Let's say that's worth about a +2 bonus to the low end of the scale. It's not as impactful on the high end because the high end already assumes people were using one of their best skills.

We assume there are no particular toolkits that are applicable to this situation.

So now we need a DC that gives people with a +12 to +17 a slightly better than even chance of success, since we're aiming for the middle of the pack skilled people to be a net positive force in the skill challenge. So if we set a DC 23 or so, that gives the Somewhat Skilled guy a 50% chance of success while the Seriously Skilled guy has a 75% chance of success.

Page 392 of the CRB lists how to set Skill DCs, and says a "Challenging" skill DC is 15 + (1.5 x APL), which would be 23. I just looked this up, didn't know it before I started building the example.

So this one single data point suggests that a happy encounter that challenges Somewhat Skilled to Seriously Skilled people, actually matches the "Average Challenge" DC from the CRB.

---

So why doesn't it feel like we're doing alright?

* This example basically factors out Aid Another, because everyone has to do individual checks, but you need only about half of the party to succeed. That means the writer doesn't have to spike the DC to keep things challenging if people do pile on the Aid Another.

* This example limits the domination of the specialist. By requiring everyone to do the check, you reduce the impact of one single specialist that would dominate an average DC. It's still nice that he's basically compensating for one unskilled person, but that actually places the crux of the challenge on the middle of the pack people to carry their bit. And the odds are constructed to be fair to them.

* This is one "round" of checks. If you do multiple rounds of checks, statistically, you expect some of them to go great and others to go badly. But good and bad results don't feel symmetric. Doing poorly and losing something feels worse than doing well and gaining something feels good. Also, often it takes only a few failures to start losing out on rewards. (Be careful with writing a challenge where you need to do above average to earn full rewards for the scenario.)

So if you're writing a "running the gauntlet" challenge with multiple rounds, you want to lower the DCs so that in the majority of rounds the PCs get a good result, with just one or two failed rounds to make it clear there was actual risk.

* Writers keep reaching for the "extreme" button Page 392 says that a +5 DC makes a Challenging encounter into a hard one and a +10 into an impossible one. But a writer might think that "average challenge" doesn't sound very challenging, so reach for the markup.

Looking at the skill DC table in 1-99, I see that a "Hard" DC for tier 5-6 is actually 24, so only 1 more than a "Challenging" DC according to the CRB. Specials are written somewhat differently than regular scenarios, assuming more random parties, more encounters at a high pace and less adequate decision-making, and no explicit 4P scaling but tables don't always fill to 6P, so that certainly justifies slightly more lenient DCs.

In my mind, the Easy/Average/Hard scale in 1-99 would correspond with "everyone should make this check or suffer individual consequences", "more than one person needs to make this check" and "at least one person needs to make this check".

But I'm curious, how do people experience the DCs in specials? Are they more in tune?

2/5 ⦵⦵

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Part of the problem, I think, is also the way skill checks happen to be used by scenario authors. I'll stick to the scenarios that people already brought up in this conversation.

2-00 Skill Challenges:

In 2-00 Fate of the Scoured God, there were a number of "challenging" (DC 32 I think they were) skill checks on a certain mission. They did challenge us a fair bit, and failure didn't impede our progress, but they were just sort of...there. Like, it was difficult to appreciate why we had to do X,Y, or Z, or just how failure produced a punishing result (like taking 1d6*subtier damage on a failed skill check). The checks were there just for the sake of giving us something to do before an enemy encounter, which I don't think is the proper way to do skill challenges.

2-12 Skill DCs:
Likewise, in 2-12 there was a DC 35 Perception check in the Tekenki that basically provided nothing for the PCs. It was to notice that an area of the colossus was maybe important once. This didn't contribute to the mission or the story, it was just background, and very vague background at that. In other words, it was a skill check that was there just to be a skill check.

Contrast this to the Fortitude Save for free-diving in the brain tank. In this circumstance, the check adds tension to the scene: Why am I rolling a Fortitude save? What's going to happen. But even if they fail the save, they get something interesting: Actual lore that hints at the origin of the Colossi. While there is no mechanical reward, players have their curiosity both satisfied and piqued. More so than simply deducing that something should have been here once.

I think the problem is that authors often reach for skill checks and skill challenges as something to do that isn't a fight, in an effort to reward PCs who aren't combatants. But this often fails because the check is used in place of situations where players would make a meaningful choice, and failing that check can often feel like arbitrary punishment. This can be especially painful when such checks are tied to rewards, since nobody likes to lose credits because they didn't make that DC 40 Perception check to spot the diamond at the bottom of the well.

2-12 Again:
In 2-12 this can be epitomized by docking money from the players for failing to activate the beacons. If the group is unlucky, they lose money, despite making the correct decisions anyway. Compare this to the brain tank, where players can discover a cybernetic limb if they enter it. In the former case, the group is penalized for bad luck. In the latter, the group is rewarded for making a good choice.

Overall, I think hard skill DCs are permissible so long as they are used sparingly and are appropriate within the context of the narrative. Need to pick a lock to enter a building? Unless there are other ways to enter that building, you shouldn't have to roll that check. Want to reach a helpful spot to surprise an enemy? By all means, try to climb that slimy ladder. Most of the times, authors realize this, but sometimes they don't, which can lead to player frustration.

5/5 ⦵⦵⦵

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Other things can also effect the DC

The scenario says Everyone tries the check only one of you needs to succeed Honorbound emmisaries has something like this. : You can give some outrageous check DCs this way and in a well balanced party someone should get lucky on the D 20 and still make it. the later pathfinder scenario chase scenes worked like this.

Multiple checks make 2/4 or something: increases the odds that a skilled character will make it and decreases the chance of a low skill character making it by evening out flukes.

Multiple checks don't miss any: in PFS1 this was something that made me wonder if the writers failed statistics or just hate players. If there's any chance of missing a check requiring multiple checks dramatically increases the chance of failure.

Paizo Employee Starfinder Society Developer

8 people marked this as a favorite.
BigNorseWolf wrote:
Multiple checks don't miss any: in PFS1 this was something that made me wonder if the writers failed statistics or just hate players. If there's any chance of missing a check requiring multiple checks dramatically increases the chance of failure.

Please avoid attacking our writers for their perceived competency or dubious morals.

Look, DCs can be a tricky thing. Everyone has different experiences and it's obvious that those can translate in a bunch of different ways into a published scenario. As evidenced by this thread, there's clearly a community concern with DCs, especially in higher tier scenarios (where we've just really started digging into).

As I mentioned briefly above: I've heard the feedback and I'll do my best to be cognizant of it when developing in the future.

1 to 50 of 81 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | next > last >>
Community / Forums / Organized Play / Starfinder Society / Some of these DCs in SFS are getting out of hand All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.