Revised Magic Officer: More than just a bonus dispenser.


Homebrew


When I was somewhat disappointed by the Magic Officer released with the Character Operations Manual, I started thinking about what it was I actually expected it to be.

Here is the results of that. A Magic Officer designed with environmental manipulation and control in mind, able to deploy both offensive and defensive effects that fill an untouched niche in starship combat, with some ship systems to augment parts of it's functionality.

Revised Magic Officer

Feedback is appreciated, so long as it's not something like 'Why do this in the first place, the existing Magic Officer is fine' because if that's your view you're probably not the target audience for this.


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I'm torn. I both like and dislike your ideas.

I like your ideas because they are really cool. Something being really cool in Starfinder goes a long way to making it acceptable for me, possibly because SF is the first non-swords-and-sandals TTRPG that I've played.

However.

I dislike your ideas for some fundamental reasons.
First, space is gigantic. If your character can create an effect (fog, fire, force wall, what have you) that's 3 space hexes in size at a distance of 10 space hexes, why can't the character effect, say, an entire city? Not to mention, this becomes the only character (that I know of) that can effect 'terrain' in space battles, and it does so to a huge extent. I feel like you've basically made a new 100% necessary crew spot, in a system where it can be difficult to fill the already existing necessary crew spots. Particularly so if the opposition has a Magic Officer.

Second, the way spacecraft move around on the map, both the wall of force and wall of fire might as well be unavoidable for your opponent. It would be hilariously easy to put that ignite space power down in such a way as to make it impossible for a ship to maneuver around it. And of course you're going to buy a Solar Ray System, who doesn't want to do Xd6 damage with no save and no attack roll? Similarly with the force wall, it would basically be a no brainer to put that down in such a way as to completely trap a ship for the duration of the force wall.

Basically, to sum up, you have some neat ideas, but they are way too powerful compared to every other crew position as they currently work.


Pantshandshake wrote:

First, space is gigantic. If your character can create an effect (fog, fire, force wall, what have you) that's 3 space hexes in size at a distance of 10 space hexes, why can't the character effect, say, an entire city? Not to mention, this becomes the only character (that I know of) that can effect 'terrain' in space battles, and it does so to a huge extent. I feel like you've basically made a new 100% necessary crew spot, in a system where it can be difficult to fill the already existing necessary crew spots. Particularly so if the opposition has a Magic Officer.

Second, the way spacecraft move around on the map, both the wall of force and wall of fire might as well be unavoidable for your opponent. It would be hilariously easy to put that ignite space power down in such a way as to make it impossible for a ship to maneuver around it. And of course you're going to buy a Solar Ray System, who doesn't want to do Xd6 damage with no save and no attack roll? Similarly with the force wall, it would basically be a no brainer to put that down in such a way as to completely trap a ship for the duration of the force wall.

Basically, to sum up, you have some neat ideas, but they are way too powerful compared to every other crew position as they currently work.

I'll address these I'm sequence.

1 - Essentially, any number of reasons as the DM wishes. The same thing could be asked about, say, what prevents the players from firing tactical nukes or antimatter missiles at a city from their ship. It could require latent magical energy from active ship combat to power it, ground based anti-ship based magic systems might render it useless, or perhaps the atmospheric conditions prevent you from materializing the effect.

2 - The point about it being a role the players will want filled is a good one, but I disagree on it being 100% necessary, anymore than having a controller in ground combat is, at least. It serves a unique position but that doesn't mean a necessary position, especially when you consider that all the effects are two-way (If they have cover from you, you have cover from them, sort of stuff.) I'm of the opinion that it's firmly in the good but not necessary category. (Edit: I'm also not completely sure why anybody would introduce this homebrew without having a Magic Officer in the team, at which point it's fulfilling it's main purpose.)

3 - I'm not completely sure how you've got that conclusion, when things like slide or back-up exists, especially while maintaining the 2 hex distance from active ships the effects must keep when first placed. Hell, even just turning in place is totally possible. Could you try and describe some examples of this issue to me, maybe there's something going on that I've not thought about.


Understand, I do like your ideas, I just don't like them for Starfinder. I've tried to create a response that doesn't sound like I'm attacking you personally, but I can be a jerk without meaning to. Also, spoiler'd for length.

Spoiler:
1: I generally view starship combat as something Paizo didn’t think through all the way, and then just forced into the game in a rather incomplete state. As such, I view the “here’s nuclear missiles for your ship, but despite logic and common sense arguments, you can’t possibly use any part of the nuclear missile in any manner aside from firing it from a ship at a ship because we say so” as pretty poor form. Obviously, this is a personal thing, but I feel like adding in some incredibly powerful abilities and then more handwavium about why they only work on a spaceship is just more of the same. It just bothers me on a few levels.

2 and 3 (they’re going to bleed into each other, apologies in advance for that.)

Let’s take Ignite Space as an example. Even without the device that lets you drop this effect within 1 hex of a spaceship, you’re forcing the enemy ship to do one of only a few things. 1, fly through the fire and take at least xd4, more likely xd6, damage. 2, attempt a stunt to avoid the fire. What stunts will potentially avoid it? Two of them, Back Off and Turn in Place. (slide won’t do, unless for some reason you put the Ignite Space down and left them an easy way out.) So, either the opposition moves backwards half its speed and cannot change facing, or they choose a new facing and (probably) take a penalty to AC/TL without moving. Next time the Magic Officer acts, there’s going to be a new wall of fire in front of that ship, forcing the exact same choice as last turn, with the exact same result. Congrats, you just gave your opponent two choices: Take damage or be stuck in roughly the same area with various facings until combat ends or your ship gets too far away to keep the perma lock up.

The GM is either going to have all your opposition ships have a Magic Officer, in which case two crew actions every round are going to be attempting to put space terrain effect down, and the opposition trying to negate it, or both ships are going to get stuck in a small area of space trying to maneuver around constantly spawning obstacles, drawing the already high-risk, long term, low reward space combat into even more of a slog.


Pantshandshake wrote:
Understand, I do like your ideas, I just don't like them for Starfinder. I've tried to create a response that doesn't sound like I'm attacking you personally, but I can be a jerk without meaning to. Also, spoiler'd for length.

Don't worry about it, I've got thick enough skin to seperate criticism of my ideas from criticism of me.

Response:
1 - I'm not really hugely sure what I can do about that, it's an issue that already exists in the system that I'm not really making worse than it already is. So long as shipboard weapons exist, this problem exists, unless Paizo decided to try and solve it (Hopefully in the SOM) at which point I'll try to adapt to any changes they've made.

2 - So, here's a little illustration of the options I can think of out of taking damage.

Hexmap

Maybe it's just my own personal experience, but most ships I've played or fought haven't had poor or worse maneuverability, so they could turn in place without penalty. Most ships I've seen can reach a turn-rate of 1, whether through having it naturally, with a Piloting test during a Manuever, an Audacious Gambit, a Chief Mate's Hard Turn, or another Magic Officers Psychic Currents.

I do think that perhaps the system which reduces it to a single-hex restriction zone is somewhat problematic, admittedly, but I don't think in and of itself the rest of these rules cause a big issue for anything but the hardest of ships to turn, which were likely hardly really relying on their movement at the best of times.

I can't really respond to the issue of space combt being already a slog aside from to say that hasn't really been my experience except when I'm playing in one of the roles that has almost no impact on the outcome, like the Magic Officer. I don't really think ships constantly trying to maneouver around controlling effects to get into an advantageous position sounds like a slog, that sounds pretty interesting to me, a new angle to ship combat which is currently pretty much solved by big turret max shields, sit still and fire until all targets are dead.


I could have sworn I posted this before I left for the night...

Anyway, I'll admit, I messed up. Once I saw the hex map example you put up, I realized I had been messing up the distance from the ship the whole time. I retract my inescapable trap comments. I guess you've made something not particularly difficult to avoid with a nimble ship and kind of a pain for slower turning ones.

Sovereign Court

As an aside about using ship nukes outside of space combat.

You can. There's no rule saying you can't. There's a recommendation that you don't normally do it, because it's kinda mixing effect scales in a way that's usually not healthy.

But in practice, it's also not something you're very often in a position to do. If you're on a halfway civilized planet, local air traffic control is going to take a dim view of orbital bombardments. And in general, it requires you to have several PCs on the ship, so either a split party, or you simply already knew where the enemy was. But quite often in the game, we don't know in advance where enemies are.

So I think in practice, it's rare enough that it's actually pretty neat. We used it only once during Dead Suns;

Book 3:
We'd figured out from the evidence that the Skreesire was very nasty and that we really didn't want to get close to it. Also, there was that suspicious-looking lake over there on this god-forsaken asteroid. So we tried to gently scoop out the bottom of it with our new "tractor beam". Turns out you can't use the tractor beam function on a graviton cannon without first doing damage. So we basically bombed the whole lake. It was glorious.

I can imagine that at some point during Attack of the Swarm we might also get to do some surface bombardments on written-off planets.


I think the only nitpick I have with these abilities, is that the magic officer is just sort of doing them sitting in the ship.

I feel you should have the solar ray system/or whichever item in order for the magic officer to do these things in the first place, with more expensive version providing greater effects. Not just some guy looking out the viewport and filling miles of empty space with stellar fire.


These seem really good.

The wall of fire and wall of force like effects could probably use a way to avoid damage/force through the barrier with some sort of piloting roll and be balanced around that.

Overall I'd be excited to try them out if I got the opportunity though. The spaceship combat is sorely lacking in any form of terrain or obstacles to maneuver around.


Pantshandshake wrote:

I could have sworn I posted this before I left for the night...

Anyway, I'll admit, I messed up. Once I saw the hex map example you put up, I realized I had been messing up the distance from the ship the whole time. I retract my inescapable trap comments. I guess you've made something not particularly difficult to avoid with a nimble ship and kind of a pain for slower turning ones.

No worries, we all make mistakes. That was my intention when initially designing these functions, at least. Things get a lot more complicated if you've got a GM who likes to add space-terrain of course, but that only adds to the fun, for me personally, at least.

Garretmander wrote:

I think the only nitpick I have with these abilities, is that the magic officer is just sort of doing them sitting in the ship.

I feel you should have the solar ray system/or whichever item in order for the magic officer to do these things in the first place, with more expensive version providing greater effects. Not just some guy looking out the viewport and filling miles of empty space with stellar fire.

I considered something like that initially, but my reasoning for not doing this is two-fold.

1 - In the world where this version of the Magic Officer exists, I'm presuming that all modern starships are built with systems to facilitate their actions and defences that can mitigate them, so they could easily be sat at a console or in an Arcane Laboratory or similar areas of a ship doing this sort of stuff, rather than just staring into space.
2 - I don't really want to make the early game BP squeeze even harsher just so the ships Magic Officer can actually do something productive. None of the other roles except Gunnery require certain ship systems do take certain actions, and that's not really a trend I'd like to break if I can avoid it.

NorthernDruid wrote:

These seem really good.

The wall of fire and wall of force like effects could probably use a way to avoid damage/force through the barrier with some sort of piloting roll and be balanced around that.

Overall I'd be excited to try them out if I got the opportunity though. The spaceship combat is sorely lacking in any form of terrain or obstacles to maneuver around.

Huh, that's something I completely didn't consider. Added a couple clauses.

Ignite Space gets a Piloting Check medium difficulty DC 15 + (1.5 x Casting Ships Tier) to half damage when travelling through an affected hex.

Force Barrier gets a medium difficulty DC 15 + (1.5 x Casting Ships Tier) check to ram through the barrier, taking a substantial amount of damage (And dealing it to the barrier) whether the roll succeeds or fails, which can be increased to a hard DC 20 + (1.5 x Casting Ships Tier) with the Barrier Shielding system.

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