Field Test In-Depth Analysis


Field Test Discussion


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While we have seen little of the new edition, I would like to provide as much feedback as I can early into the design process so that Starfinder 2e can be the best it can possibly be. As such, I've prepared a thorough analysis of the entire Field Test. Sections in italics are subjective changes that I would like to see.

Preface
This analysis is to break down the designs shown in Field Test 1 under the following assumptions:

  • Full Compatibility means that creatures, classes, and gear from PF2e and SF2e work in the other system, but are not wholly balanced and may need small adjustments (such as adding/removing the Computers skill).
  • SF2e is "feature complete" and covers a wide array of possible fantasies without the addition of PF2e content
  • The expectation is that most SF2e groups will only use SF2e content.
  • SF2e may have system changes to better sell the space fantasy genre, and those changes do not break PF2e if backported or can easily be removed

Soldier Class Features
Overview
The Soldier is a class designed around two main ideas: tanking hits via HP and laying down covering fire with heavy weapons to reduce enemy accuracy. Most of the class features and feats accentuate these ideas rather well.

Importantly, the Soldier is deliberately designed to be significantly different than a PF2e Fighter. While this makes sense for players who wish to use either class in either system, the deliberate avoidance of overlap results in the Soldier being fairly narrow.

I would like to see the Soldier opened up to a more weapons-agnostic class. While the area weapon support is appreciated, supporting a wider array of playstyles is generally preferable. This could be done by tweaking its existing mechanics, or by overhauling them entirely. One suggestion I have seen that I would enjoy would be to shift Solider to being a Ready Action specialist, with different subclasses being able to Ready different, more complex activities.

Base Statistics
Constitution as the Soldier’s Key Ability Score accentuates the class’s nature as a defender, though it does result in some weirdness with weapon accuracy, which can betray the class fantasy. In addition, the saving throws do not suggest a defense-oriented class, which is somewhat concerning. Finally, the small snippet of the class we received doesn’t show how the Soldier’s class DC scales with level, so it’s impossible to know how well the class scales with Area weapons (more on those later).

I would like to see the Soldier be more reliable with a wider array of weapons, either by moving away from Constitution or by improving its weapon proficiency. The latter solution would also make the Soldier rather unique as a Legendary martial with a non-accuracy KAS.

Suppressing Fire
Suppressing Fire is the core, defining mechanic of the Soldier class that cements it as the Area weapons specialist. As-is, it does not change how Area weapons are used, but instead adds a rider effect via the Suppressed Condition (more on that later). This is somewhat bland as it does not necessarily change the player's decision-making other than what weapons the class wants to use.

In order to support a wider variety of playstyles, I would like to see Suppressing Fire work with any weapon. Meanwhile, the subclasses would bolster specific fighting styles by providing additional effects against suppressed targets, much like the current version of Armor Storm

Suppressed Condition
Suppressed is an interesting new condition that hinders both accuracy and movement. Few conditions have two distinct, unrelated effects outside of nested conditions. Interestingly, the accuracy penalty is circumstance while the movement penalty is status. With all of these different elements, it's somewhat on the clunky side.

Rather than Suppressed being a single condition, it is instead split into a separate accuracy penalty and movement penalty. This makes it a little less kludgy and more in line with the majority of conditions.

Primary Target
This feature allows the Soldier to use a weapon attack roll instead of forcing a saving throw against a single enemy when attacking with Area weapons. Unfortunately, with how saving throw effects are generally more reliable than attack rolls and how the Soldier has a higher class DC than they do weapon accuracy at various levels, the feature brings some nasty anti-synergy. This is particularly noticeable with the Bombard subclass. As it stands, this only seems to be useful for triggering on-crit effects and the Punishing Salvo feat.

How this ability would be changed heavily depends on how Area Weapons and the Soldier work in general. If both were changed to emphasize weapon accuracy, then this could be the default for Area Weapons, but it's overall a weird feature that I expect will get ironed out.

Walking Armory
This feature is fantastic for reducing potential "STR Tax" for Soldiers uninterested in melee combat.

Using STR+CON for carrying capacity might feel better for hybrid melee/ranged Soldiers who need to carry additional weapons.

Fearsome Bulwark
While CON instead of CHA to Intimidate is useful, the specific flavor of this feature makes it feel more like a class feat. In addition, ability bonus replacer features, especially for secondary/tertiary class features, seem like a 1e-ism. Finally it being a 3rd-level feature causes what I like to call “Zen Archer Syndrome,” where the value of a stat (CHA, in this case) drops dramatically after a few levels thanks to a new feature.

Since the class already has another ability bonus replacement feature in Walking Armory, I don't think this feature is necessary. Soldiers who wish to specialize in Intimidate should have room to invest in CHA, especially with how an Area Weapon-only Soldier needs neither STR nor DEX.

Concluding Thoughts
Overall, I think the class features are both a bit too narrow when it comes to weapon choice and playstyle while also being a bit kludgy. They also do not address what appears to be the biggest issue with Area Weapons: a rigid action economy.

In addition to seeing the weapon choices opened up, I would like to see the Soldier receive a class feature to make switching weapons less costly. This should make the class both more versatile and ease some of the pain points of relying on Area Weapons.


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Soldier Fighting Styles
Overview
The Soldier’s subclasses are more similar to the early subclass designs of PF2e where the subclasses provide significantly different effects and don’t inherently change how the core class feature (Suppressing Fire) is used. They remind me of the Rogue subclasses, where they might provide additional benefits to using the core feature, might make it easier to use the core feature, or just directly improve the core feature.

If Suppressing Fire is opened up to work with all weapons by default, I would like to see each subclass provide additional effects to the Suppressed condition that synergize with different tactical styles. For example, the Close Quarters Fighting Style would improve Athletics maneuvers used against Suppressed targets. This way, Suppressing targets always opens up better opportunities for the Soldier, further encouraging proactive play.

Armor Storm
The tankiest of the Soldier subclasses, Armor Storm allows a Soldier to absorb significantly more punishment. However, being able to take extra damage does not necessarily help the Soldier be a better team player. In fact, being tankier encourages enemies to attack the Soldier's allies instead, denying them the satisfaction of being able to just shrug off attacks.

Rather than just increasing the Soldier's damage resistance, Armor Storm could also impose a greater accuracy penalty for enemies attacking the Soldier's allies. That way, more enemies actually attack the Soldier, giving the Soldier the satisfaction of having those attacks harmlessly plink off. Alternatively, Armor Storm could allow the Soldier to directly intercept enemy fire from Suppressed enemies.

Bombard
With the current direction of the class as an Area weapons specialist, Bombard feels like the “default subclass” that the majority of Soldiers will want to take. Its unique ability directly improves upon the core concept of the class. Its simplicity is its strength, but it also encourages focusing on doing the same thing every round. In addition, it has some nasty anti-synergy with Primary Target. Overall, it reminds me of the Thief Rogue, where it may be overcentralizing.

What I'd like to see changed for this subclass heavily depends on whether Suppressing Fire is changed. If Suppressing Fire is opened up for all weapon attacks, then Bombardier could instead be the source of Primary Target. Overall, though, I do not like this subclass since it just seems to be Soldier+, rather than opening up new ideas.

Close Quarters
This subclass is, to me, a patch that allows the class to be more than just an Area weapon specialist. While I appreciate it broadening the option spread available to the class, it hammers home that the core of the class is too narrowly focused. This subclass is probably intended to work with bayonetted firearms, but there are none in the rest of the Field Test to confirm that. Finally, the flavor text references utilizing melee weapons as a backup, but the mechanics don't make switching to the melee weapon any easier (that is instead relegated to a separate feat).

If Suppressing Fire is not changed, this subclass should probably grant Quick-Swap and turn Punitive Strike into a subclass-exclusive feat. If Suppressing Fire is opened up to work with any weapon, then instead give the subclass improved Athletics maneuvers vs Suppressed targets.

Concluding Thoughts
Overall, it seems that the subclasses are meant to test the waters of what Soldier subclasses people like and why they like them before settling on a design direction for the subclasses as a whole.

Personally, I prefer the direction of Armor Storm, as it turns Suppressing Fire into a stepping stone for future benefits rather than being the end goal.


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Soldier Class Feats
I think the Soldier has a good spread of class feats for what the class's current focus is, but the specifics of individual feats leave much to be desired. In addition, the general trend of spending even more actions in conjunction with the two-action Area Fire activity is fairly concerning. The action cost of switching weapons is pretty high, and these three-action "routines" may encourage repetitive gameplay too much.

Generally speaking, I like that the feats focus on supporting new ideas rather than aping Fighter and Gunslinger feats, but a few feats here and there to support other combat styles would be appreciated.

Pin Down
The first of many feats that spends a third action to enhance an Area Weapon activity, Pin Down seems a little underwhelming.

I would like to see this either replaced by a tweaked Punishing Salvo or given an additional effect, like allowing the Soldier to Stride or Step.

Quick Swap
This feat seems like a must-have for Close Quarters Soldiers, though as a reaction it competes with it's AoO-like ability.

Something like this should be a class feature for the Soldier to make it easier to use a variety of different weapons for different situations. Even weapons of the same category need to be swapped out on occasion if they deal different damage types or have different secondary effects.

Ready Reload
As there are no weapons in the Field Test that have Reload 2, it is difficult to evaluate this feat.

The requirement for this feat might be too strict given the already rigid action economy that Area Weapons demand.

Warning Shot
An excellent feat overall, but a little awkward for melee-focused Close Quarters Soldiers.

If grenades don't use the Area Fire activity, letting this feat support grenades as well would be nice.

Menacing Laughter
My personal favorite feat. It's fantastic, but it further highlights the Zen Archer Syndrome caused by Fearsome Bulwark being a 3rd-level feature since this feat is available at 2nd-level.

This feat is quite fun, but an Intimidation-focused subclass would also be an interesting alternative

Relentless Endurance
Useful, but quite bland. The most tanking-oriented feat for the class.

This could reasonably be a class feature, and then feats could upgrade it to be able to remove certain conditions.

Steady Up
The purpose of this feat is largely unclear. Theoretically, it could be used to enable Area Fire/Automatic Fire via the Ready activity, but all of the weapons with the Area Fire activity have the Unwieldy trait. This is probably also to be used with weapons with forced movement recoil.

If this did enable Readied Area Fire, this would be an amazing feat. If that does end up being the case, adjust the language to make this a clear possibility.

Overwhelming Assault
This feat seems to be providing additional melee support, weapon attachment support, and Automatic Fire > Ranged Strike support. Unfortunately, there are no weapon attachments in the Field Test and the only Automatic weapon has the Unwieldy trait, so this just appears to be for melee weapons at the moment. In addition, there appears to be an error regarding how the feat (and the agile trait) works with third and subsequent strikes. Overall, however, it's on the boring side.

I am unsure what I'd like to see changed about this feat beyond fixing the apparent error.

Punishing Salvo
This feat largely appears to be a better version of Pin Down, but with an ammo cost. It does help ease some of the issues with Area Weapons not having a single-action use case, but it does not play nicely against single creatures that the Soldier may struggle to hit due to below-average accuracy.

I would like this to replace Pin Down, though if Area Weapons can get an attachment that mimics having a sidearm, this might not be necessary.

Widen Area
A fun feat for making your explosions even bigger. However, it's yet another feat that turns Area Fire into a possibly repetitive 3-action activity.

Rather than spending more actions to widen the area of effect, I'd like to see it spend more ammo. This would delay the action cost of the feat in exchange for smoother play, much like how the Magus gets to split its Spellstrike into a 2 action activity and 1 action recharge.


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New Equipment and Creatures
Overview
The new equipment seems interesting and fun outside of two particular issues: Capacity's name and Area Fire's limitations.

Capacity and Usage
If there’s anything to take away from this document it is that TRAITS WITH THE SAME NAME BUT DIFFERENT EFFECTS SHOULD NOT EXIST. Furthermore, Capacity and Usage being two separate statistics instead of a single value for total shots per reload is a little awkward.

By far the most important change is to rename Capacity to something like Magazine to avoid overlap with the PF2e trait of the same name. In addition, if there are no effects that alter the Capacity and Usage stats independently from one another, they should be combined into a singular statistic.

Area Weapons
While they appear to function well balance-wise, the current implementation of Area Weapons does not seem terribly fun or interesting due to the action cost to switch between weapons. A weapon only being able to use a single, two-action activity to fire evokes the same pain points as spellcasters primarily using two-action spells, but without any of the flexibility of spellcasting.

For comparison, imagine if a Wizard cast Fireball for two actions, then had to spend a third action to unequip Fireball, then a fourth action to equip Fear, and then spend a fifth and sixth action to cast Fear.

Beyond the action economy, Area Weapons keying off of Class DCs means that they are actively better in the hands of classes like the Kineticist or spellcasters compared to martials. This feels pretty dissonant with the fiction of the game.

To help with the action economy, I would like to see Area Weapons have some form of modality, where the user can choose one of multiple different effects/blast shapes as they fire the weapon.

As for the issue with DCs, I would like to see Area/Automatic Fire could have their own scaling Item DC so that class features are the determining factor for effectiveness. This way, the Soldier would be the best Area Weapon user through action economy and bonus effects rather than raw numbers and neither the Fighter nor casters would have better to-hit with them.

Ammo and Batteries
For as long as I have played post-2000 d20 TTRPGs, I have rarely, if ever, seen groups bother to track mundane supplies such as rations, arrows, and torches. As such, it has always struck me as weird when games continue to have these represented via distinct items rather than further abstracted.

This is on the weirder side, but I would like for mundane ammo and batteries to be abstracted into pools of points. Rather than having distinct ammo cartridges and different types of batteries, a pool such as "Supply Points" or "Battery Charges" that are just spent to reload/recharge would be preferable to reduce bookkeeping and encourage groups to actually engage in these elements

Creatures
The two previewed creatures are both interesting and fun, though there will of course be a little bit of awkwardness when utilizing technologically-focused creatures in PF2e.

If some creatures called back to the KAC/EAC mechanics, I would be delighted. Allowing martials to engage in the same weakness-evaluation elements that casters can do would be fun, and it better sells the fantasy of ballistic vs energy weaponry.


Concluding Thoughts
More than anything else, I want Starfinder Second Edition to be able to stand on its own and not have to worry about stepping on the toes of PF2e classes and ideas. It's okay if the Soldier feels a bit closer to "Fighter in SPAAAAACE" if that makes it more fun and varied overall.

For other system elements to add, ways for classes to spend Hero Points to ape class-specific Resolve spenders would be quite fun. Other elements such as damage from property runes being baked into standard weapon damage while weapon fusions and attachments focus on utility would also be preferable.

Finally, for the remaining 3 classes that we know of, I hope to see:

  • The Mystic adopting the same 2 slots per rank model as the Psychic in order to emphasize more unique and powerful class features/feats
  • The Solarian emphasizing the stellar cycle and duality elements with Photon/Graviton revelations that come in pairs
  • The Envoy supporting the party primarily via action economy rather than bonuses to not overlap with existing bonus-based support

As for the two classes that we do not know about, I am not sure whether one could exclude any of the remaining three SF1e Core classes without the game feeling incomplete.

Overall, I'm excited about Starfinder Second Edition, and I want it to improve upon both SF1e and PF2e.


What a fantastic write-up. I agree with everything said here as well: the Soldier's niche as a tanky purveyor of AoE and crowd control is great, but awkwardly implemented, and in a way that's full of redundancy and tries way too hard to avoid committing to any stat besides Con. Capacity should definitely be renamed, and the whole Capacity/Usage deal feels really convoluted when a regular Strike shouldn't be consuming more than 1 unit of ammo at a time (no idea why current AoE weapons double usage upon gaining a damag die either). AoE weapons are quickly becoming infamous for their implementation, and I definitely agree they ought to be done differently. I will also add that the implementation for switching hands on multi-armed characters right now is a bit strange due to the manipulate component of the Interact action: a creature simply deciding for themselves which hands on their body to use next will get whacked by an attack of opportunity just for trying, and that really oughtn't be the case. Overall, the field test packet is a great taste of things to come -- but a lot of it could definitely use more work. Well done on the excellent analysis.


More love for the 2H melee Soldier (which I expect in the full class) honestly would solve the bulk of my complaints.


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(Just picking some stuff out, I don't want to repeat too much from other threads ^^)

Soldier and feats

KAS

I'd personally go STR or DEX as well. CON is the least interesting stat in the game and easily replaceable by 12HP/lvl and a legendary Fort save progression for the fantasy and most of the mechanical effects. That said, CON makes a lot of sense for thematic reasons, even if the mechanical implications are problematic.

Primary Target

This is currently one of the main sources of conflict within the class. It's not only the Bombard that basically never wants to use it. Close Quarters also makes you decide between actually having melee weapons worth using (STR focus) and using this feature (DEX focus). That is on top of the uneven progression between attack rolls and Class DC, which also leads to unfortunate dynamics.

Weapon choice

I personally really like the heavy focus on area/automatic weapons. With such specialised equipment, you pretty much need a heavy commitment to make it really shine. That said, Close Quarters really should support melee weapons better. If the focus of the class is making AoE attacks, why can't the melee version do it (afaik)?

What I don't get is your constant attention on the problems of switching weapons. Sure, for the Close Quarters, but why would I need a different weapons as anyone else? I think the "doesn't do jack vs one enemy" problem is the real issue here and that shouldn't be fixed with whipping out a melee weapon.

Intimidation focus

I absolutely agree that something like Fearsome Bulwark should be optional. This softly enforces a level of uniformity on the Class that is counterproductive. Any such option should also be available at level 1, otherwise you have these weird jumps as was pointed out with Menacing Laughter.

Action economy

As you already pointed out, Golurkcanfly, with its dependence on two-action activities, Soldier feats shouldn't be as eager to add more actions to your rotation. I would take even more inspiration from how the Magus does things and look at the 4th level Spellstrike feats, e.g. Distracting Spellstrike. Directly using an activity that is "modified Area/Automatic Fire" is way better than what is essentially a metamagic system. The latter imo just isn't very good and doesn't feel good either. See Widen Area as an example.

Weapons

Area/Automatic Weapons

I like the implementation in principle. The special two-action activities are a good idea. I absolutely agree that there is definite potential for the strict action economy to be problematic, but I think that's on the classes to prevent. There are plenty of weapons - especially ranged weapons - in PF2 that aren't worth using unless you have the right (sub)class for it as well.

What I don't like is Automatic Fire just ripping out half your entire mag, no matter what weapon you are using. That seems like way too much. Not to mention really weird when your massive gatling with it's own freight container of ammo has to spend the same relative amount of ammo as a plinky AR for the same effect. It rather heavily devalues the benefit of bigger mags. It also leads to anti-synergy with Soldier feats that want you to use your weapon for anything but Automatic Fire, as that forces unnecessary reloads.

Again, I don't get the issue of them being hard to swap between. Why would anyone but the CQ?

Usage

I don't remember too much about SF1 rules, so I don't know if this has actually a point after all, but I absolutely agree that this should not be a thing if at all possible. Ammo tracking is a tad bit annoying already (thank the gods for Foundry!) and this doesn't really help.


I think in short, the basic idea of the Soldier is absolutely solid. The main pain points of the current version are that Primary Target and usefulness in single-target situations. Primary Target because it doesn't play very well with much of the kit. The single-target situation is a problem because that will happen very, very frequently and the class just doesn't have an answer for it, leaving you next to useless.


@Golurkcanfly: I get the feeling that most of what you are asking for in the Soldier will in fact be implemented - suppressing fire more widely applicable, or perhaps suppressed is just one of the effects [that are possible to have riders attached] able to be imposed. I feel that the Soldier as presented is the bare bones, and that given the many different types of soldier in both ancient, medieval, modern and future games we might see a broad range of specialties/subclasses for all sorts of loadouts/equipment/purposes and playstyles and abilities.

I’m not seeing the same “kludginess” with suppressed imparting two separate and unrelated different effects - three or four might get there, but for me, two is fine.

I am *totally* with you on the nomenclature around Capacity and Usage: as Bangalore says in Apex Legends “Clips are what civvies put in their hair; this is called a Magazine…” Please devs, let that be cleaned up…


As far as Intimidation is concerned, I actually disagree that it should be something you have to take as feat. Strength only has one skill too, and the features seem to be making sure that just because you're using Constitution, you're not left out in the cold. It's got a feature to take care of the class's AC, and it's got a feature to take care of its lack of skills.


QuidEst wrote:
As far as Intimidation is concerned, I actually disagree that it should be something you have to take as feat. Strength only has one skill too, and the features seem to be making sure that just because you're using Constitution, you're not left out in the cold. It's got a feature to take care of the class's AC, and it's got a feature to take care of its lack of skills.

It still feels pretty unnecessary given how the class doesn't really need any stat other than CON (for Area Weapons), CON+DEX (for Automatic Weapons), or CON+STR (for Close Quarters Soldier). The class is pretty SAD already.

However, the "Zen Archer Syndrome" caused by it being a 3rd level feature is the main issue.


Hillman had an interesting idea on twitter: "Current late night design thought for #Starfinder2e. Have primary target be IN ADDITION to the area attack, giving you a "free" Strike on the target (potentially hitting twice). Helps with the solo target problem."

Presumably this means after MAP from the main activity, because otherwise that's a little too spicy, I think ^^. In addition to addressing the single-target problem, it would also solve the issue of DC and Strike pulling in different directions and therefore competing. If it is additive, it instead feels complementary.

No impact on melee Soldier, but that can be added as well.

Shadow Lodge

I'm worried about the range on the laser pistols. Currently the pistols start at ranges of 20-30 ft, with lasers getting 80 ft. By level 4 the other pistols are mostly 30-40. At level 6 the laser reaches 90.

By comparison... all the lasers in the playtest are 40 ft. So... other pistols will be what? 10-15 ft range?


thistledown wrote:

I'm worried about the range on the laser pistols. Currently the pistols start at ranges of 20-30 ft, with lasers getting 80 ft. By level 4 the other pistols are mostly 30-40. At level 6 the laser reaches 90.

By comparison... all the lasers in the playtest are 40 ft. So... other pistols will be what? 10-15 ft range?

I wonder if that’s meant as a detune or nerf to laser weapons in general. Are they a big thing with their range in SF1 right now?

Shadow Lodge

The extended range vs any other guns is certainly a choice people look at. They also can go through transparent or invisible walls, but are entirely stopped by smoke. And fire is probably the most resisted element. But some people find the range to be worth that.


thistledown wrote:

I'm worried about the range on the laser pistols. Currently the pistols start at ranges of 20-30 ft, with lasers getting 80 ft. By level 4 the other pistols are mostly 30-40. At level 6 the laser reaches 90.

By comparison... all the lasers in the playtest are 40 ft. So... other pistols will be what? 10-15 ft range?

Keep in mind that these are simple weapons, so the weakest category of weapons in the game. The system uses three "tiers" of weapons that get progressively better - simple, martial and advanced. If the PF2 meta is any indication, anyone who seriously wants to use a weapon uses martial weapons at minimum. Simple weapons are essentially purely for very specific subclasses or people who usually don't use weapons but want a backup.

So until we have a more solid clue what martial pistols will look like, I wouldn't worry about it too much.


I will add, that I think abstracting ammunition should be an optional rule, rather than a hard rule. While it's not for every table, it is for some. As some like a slightly more simulationist bend. Personally, my table is fine using ammunition, but we play on Roll20, so much of the bookkeeping is easy to keep track of.

Otherwise I agree with most of these points.

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