Suggestions for Starship Design and Combat


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I've put together a few of my thoughts regarding what I would like to see for Starship design and combat for SF2. I've put it in a presentation layout because it helps me be a bit more organized and concise.

Here is a link to the presentation

Here are the key takeaways:

1. Silo combat and non-combat ship customization
2. Simplify ship combat customization down to two or three personally relevant decisions for each player
3. Standardize speeds, shields, and armor to tighten up combat balance
4. Put GM in control of Drift capability access
5. Standardize and provide guidance for lead up to and conclusion of combat
6. Put players in charge of their own sections of the ship for combat
7. Retain round-by-round ship initiative for positioning, but otherwise use standard initiative and 3 action economy
8. Give all players more options on their turn, never over-constrain
9. Dramatically cut and simplify Crew Actions and Ship Roles
10. Make physical movement around the ship during combat matter

Wayfinders

I quickly skimmed over your 28 page slide show. too much to think over to comment on in one reply. But here's a start, first reaction.

wrote:
4. Put GM in control of Drift capability access

That's already an option for GMs willing to use rules. Also even if the players have the best drift drive possible, the GM can always use the drift to cause a delay as needed, we have a whole book dedicated to doing just that. Even if you don't want a full Drift crash, there's nothing saying a single drift beckon can't malfunction. The drift is one of the best GM tools in any RPG game ever made.

I'd be more in favor of adding a new category to near and vast space, something like uncharted or even hidden space, that increases the table time. This gives GMs a per-location way to slow down the players if needed. Having some star systems being extra difficult to get to. Maybe some systems that want to be left alone developed a drift signal deflector or has other natural or magical phenomenon hiding the system.

wrote:
7. Retain round-by-round ship initiative for positioning, but otherwise use standard initiative and 3 action economy

That's is what I'm thinking of too. Do that and most other issues you have listed are solved on their own.

wrote:

8. Give all players more options on their turn, never over-constrain

9. Dramatically cut and simplify Crew Actions and Ship Roles

75% of the rules and options for the game are for combat, so I don't see why ship combat should be any different especially if the rules can be made more compatible with normal combat. Most ship actions are just skill checks, the problem comes from needing to know the ship's modifiers to add to your rolls, which are not typically shown on your character sheet.

wrote:
10. Make physical movement around the ship during combat matter

I'm all for that and can think of several ways to do that, but even a medium-sized ship like the Pegasus is equal to a small dungeon, as far as having to move around to different rooms. This might make ship combat more interesting but will likely greatly increase how long it takes. This could be good if it's a major plot point, but for a simple other ship gets in the way of going from point A to point B it would drag the game down.


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Driftbourne wrote:
wrote:
4. Put GM in control of Drift capability access
That's already an option for GMs willing to use rules.

In SF1, an upgraded drift engine costs build points. I'm arguing that the players should never be in a position to weigh the acquisition of an upgraded drift engine against other character or ship customization options, and that the GM should decide completely. Likely tying it in as a reward or story beat. It makes the GM's life easier, and avoids awkward points where players inadvertently muck up a plot timelines just because they wanted a new gun mount or game room instead of faster drift travel.

Driftbourne wrote:
wrote:

8. Give all players more options on their turn, never over-constrain

9. Dramatically cut and simplify Crew Actions and Ship Roles
75% of the rules and options for the game are for combat, so I don't see why ship combat should be any different especially if the rules can be made more compatible with normal combat. Most ship actions are just skill checks, the problem comes from needing to know the ship's modifiers to add to your rolls, which are not typically shown on your character sheet.

I think Ship Combat should tap into the 75% of the existing rules for combat as much as possible, instead of adding on another layer of rules that aren't actually needed. In SF1, lots of the crew actions were just another way to say "make an Aid check", and most of them only existed to keep non-pilots looking busy.

Driftbourne wrote:
wrote:
10. Make physical movement around the ship during combat matter
I'm all for that and can think of several ways to do that, but even a medium-sized ship like the Pegasus is equal to a small dungeon, as far as having to move around to different rooms. This might make ship combat more interesting but will likely greatly increase how long it takes. This could be good if it's a major plot point, but for a simple other ship gets in the way of going from point A to point B it would drag the game down

I should clarify that I meant moving around the bridge during combat. Someone could find their station doesn't have what they need, so they rush over to another terminal (spending a move action) to get some different options. Or one player roams between stations giving aid or casting spells. Or an engineer rushes to a station to repair some damage and get a system online.

You wouldn't need a map since it's always one action move between points of interest inside the helm.


I'm not sure that physical movement in ship combat is strictly necessary or desirable. If the goal of ship combat is to be fast and exciting, then having to spend actions, actions you'd normally use to do fast, exciting things, running to fires to put them out feels counterintuitive. It means that every problem on a ship needs to be answered immediately because you will have to commit more resources to stopping the bad thing from happening, given that you've got to run there first. That causes some of your encounter devoted to being strictly reactionary, which slows down the pace of the encounter.

Granted, if the point of ship-to-ship encounters is to play that balancing game of when you spend your actions on what, then I could see needing to move being more desirable. I always assumed that Starfinder was trying to evoke the dogfight-style space combats from popular media, though.

I love the rest of the points though, particularly points 1-3, and point 6; I like the idea of the ship being more compartmentalized regarding which bits do what. It makes the information easier to chunk, and it also means the players and GM will have an easier time cutting stuff out if they don't care about it. If your ship is more of a space-bus than a vehicle for dogfighting in, or vice-versa, then it should definitely be easy to cut off those bits of ship upkeep that aren't important to the game.

Wayfinders

I don't think it would be the best solution for all situations, sometimes just a quick ship battle is best, but having some encounters designed to use the full ship, making players run around to deal with different things, other than the pilot could just use normal rules during the whole encounter. This turns your ship into an actual adventure location and not just a plot tool to get from one planet to the next. There are entire episodes of Star Trek that all take place on the ship. A ship is never going to feel like the character's home if they never actually interact with it in a meaningful way.

Another way to have the players have more buy-in to the ship and ship combat is to have each player be able to modify their ship station as they level up or have each player help build the ship by picking ship components for their station. Let the gunner pick the guns, let the engineer pick the power core, and let the science officer pick the sensors. For premade ships in a written adventure, each station could have a few quick options players can pick from at the start of a mission.

Also designing adventure so there is time and reasons to go back to your ship more often would help. Like going back to your ship for a rest, and being able to use the med bay to heal faster, or the ship computers and communication to get more info on something you encountered, or resupplying consumables. These all make the ship more part of the adventure and help the players connect to it.

Not all adventures need to be built around a ship but when they are these things could help out a lot.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

The length of the ship combat round is unspecified, so you can say that it costs 1 action to move to a different part of the ship. Done.

Wayfinders

Dimity wrote:
The length of the ship combat round is unspecified, so you can say that it costs 1 action to move to a different part of the ship. Done.

That's fine for movement but what happens when you get to where you're going, and you discover a boarding party has entered your ship and the GM says roll for initiative. Part of the crew is on the bridge still in ship combat and others are now in regular combat. If both used the normal rules for both then this would be easy to deal with, and players are already familiar with the rules for both situations.

Because it's an advantage to let the opponent ship move first so you can move last to take advantage of that knowledge pilots would need separate rules for initiative but everything else could be under normal rules.

Besides boarding parties, there are lots of other situations that could cause a fight to break out on the ship during ship combat. A stowaway, prisoner, or dangerous creature breaks out of their cage or cell is damaged by ship combat. A passenger turns out to be a shapeshifter and is working for your opponent. The other ship has a spell caster casting confusion on your crew, or a space barnacle-like creature is attached to the hull of you're ship and feeds off the crew's psychic energy causing confusion. Create a missle weapon that delivers a boarding drone. Let some heavy weapons do damage to small and tiny starships to let some of your crew fight outside the ship.

Boarding another ship could be an entire session or adventure in itself. But most current ship combats are an obstacle when traveling from point A to B For that the best strategy is to just disable the oppnets engines so they can follow you, no need to drag out a fight to the end.

Instead of rules at this point, it might be good to talk about what types of ship battle scenarios we want to see in SF2e.

1: Obestical to you're destination: Disable and run, or use chase rules.
2: Dog fight: Fight to the end.
3: Pirate attack or other encounter with boarding
4: Running a naval blockade.
5: Obstical to goal, fight long enough to complete a goal.


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I can understand the desire to do things like "lock down time scales to allow for simultaneous onboard actions", but ultimately I'm pretty sure its a case of "You can't have everything you want". Its impossible to lock down time scales without also locking down distance scales, which would mean much more rigorously defining ship combat in a way that would make it either less useful or more a pain to run or both. Being able to define the size of a hex based on the needs of the situation is a positive benefit: it allows you to use the same engine to do open space combat, knife fighting around a mega structure, and everything in between. If you can't scale hex size to circumstances, that means you either need to restrict space combat to one set of assumptions, or you need a whole bunch of added rules to handle things closer in than "open space". Ship combat is *already* a clunky minigame, it doesn't need to be made clunkier.

That said, I do agree, it would be good to silo combat and non-combat ship functionalities. Players shouldn't be encouraged to sacrifice one to gain the other, because the ship *should* serve both functions in a campaign. Relatedly, there should be a list of basic functions, like escape pods, that are *free and default*. Unless there is a good *specific* story reason, players shouldn't have to pay for stuff that is either mandatory for the story to happen, or where the only function it serves is to make the GM's life easier. Escape pods especially fit this: Starfinder is an RPG, not a roguelike or strategy game. A ship functionality that gives the GM more ways to *not* kill the party is a positive good, as the default assumption should be "the GM is not trying to kill the party, because when the party dies the story ends".


Great summary WatersLethe! I might quibble over some of your key takeaways, and my personal "dream" starship combat structure may be a bit different than you've presented, but I think you've hit on a number of really important pain points from SF1E's version of the rules and I like your solutions.

In general I think the whole system deserves a massive simplification vs. the rules we have in SF1 now, but without going all the way to the narrative combat we got in Enhanced. This is especially true in the ship building portion, where so much of it is just a jigsaw puzzle in order to keep up with ever increasing ship statistics. My own previous feeble attempts at homebrewing something have focused on having each custom system giving you a new action or utility in combat, rather than adjusting stats or damage.


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Metaphysician wrote:
Its impossible to lock down time scales without also locking down distance scales, which would mean much more rigorously defining ship combat in a way that would make it either less useful or more a pain to run or both.

I think this is a fair concern, and is likely why my concept had nebulous movement between "stations".

The reasons I want PC movement during ship combat in some form are:

1. Movement is a massive part of the 3 action economy, and retaining it as a meaningful choice makes it much easier to translate ship combat to that system.

2. Movement from station to station appears in my imagination regarding ship combat very frequently. Particularly when the scene needs to show the camera that someone is changing tactics or taking on a different role. I think Star Trek is the primary source of inspiration for that.

3. By limiting what you can do at one station and separating stations by move actions, it provides friction for role jumping, which helps prevent Skill Monkeys stealing the spotlight all the time.

I hadn't originally thought about resolving hand-to-hand combat during ship ship combat, but I think it could end up working with a bit of design elbow grease. You could, for instance, have guidance on when to employ synced ship and personal combat and when not to so that you still have the option of having variable space distances.

Cellion wrote:
Great summary WatersLethe! I might quibble over some of your key takeaways, and my personal "dream" starship combat structure may be a bit different than you've presented, but I think you've hit on a number of really important pain points from SF1E's version of the rules and I like your solutions.

Thank you! I certainly don't claim to have things solved, but I just wanted to throw out the rough direction I'm hoping to see. I hope everyone chimes in with their thoughts for Paizo to chew on!


I haven't played ship combat under Starfinder Enhanced rules yet and I'm waiting to see how that turns out.

My observations on SF1 starship battle rules is battles can be excessively long, and usually result in the enemy ship exploding, which is uninteresting. I want them to commonly end in surrender, or boarding actions. I want to get to those points in some reasonable number of terms. Not so few that the ship battle is uninteresting though.

It should *matter* how your starship is designed and equipped. If it doesn't what's the point of even having ships? IOW it would be easy to go too far in the direction of it's all about crew members doing dramatic things and employing tactics that rely on having good skill checks.

Shadow Lodge

Calgon-3 wrote:

I haven't played ship combat under Starfinder Enhanced rules yet and I'm waiting to see how that turns out.

My observations on SF1 starship battle rules is battles can be excessively long, and usually result in the enemy ship exploding, which is uninteresting. I want them to commonly end in surrender, or boarding actions. I want to get to those points in some reasonable number of terms. Not so few that the ship battle is uninteresting though.

It should *matter* how your starship is designed and equipped. If it doesn't what's the point of even having ships? IOW it would be easy to go too far in the direction of it's all about crew members doing dramatic things and employing tactics that rely on having good skill checks.

Narrative Starship Combat from Starfinder Enhanced is very quick (low tier 1v1 should be over in 2 rounds or less, while an endgame tier 1v1 might take 5 rounds or so), but the system does make your actual ship 99.9% irrelevant: Actual Shield, handling, AC, HP, and weapon values don't matter (it's a bit unclear, but the number of weapons might still limit your number of gunners, but the firing arcs and actual weapons themselves are completely irrelevant and every crew role can inflict 'damage' on your foe).

In summary:

  • Baseline ship HP is 5 (tiny NPC ships have 4 HP, while the biggest NPC ships have 6 HP, but all PC ships have 5 HP)
  • NPC ships have a Threashold rating ranging from 2 (at low tiers) to 4 (at high tiers): This is the number of check successes the PC's need to score to do a single HP of damage to that ship.
  • NPC ships only get one action per round, including doing 1 HP of damage to the PC's ship on a successful check against the 'standard' DC, doing 2 HP of damage if they succeed at two hard DC checks, or inflicting 1 HP of damage on both the target and themselves with a successful 'ram' check. If there are multiple NPC ships, they each have to take a different action.
  • All DCs are based off the ship's Tier, with the 'hard' DC being 5 points harder than the 'standard' DC.
  • Each crew role has at least one 'default' action option to score one success on a foe with a successful skill check against the 'standard' DC, or two successes if you succeed by at least 5. There are a variety of other action options as well (four total options per role), but typically you'll just want to stack up successes (given the sheer number of successes you need to accumulate at endgame, I'm assuming the engineer's 'repair 1 HP of damage' option will be eventually be very useful). Note that with each role having the ability to score successes, a larger party can probably accumulate them much faster than a smaller one.
  • A PC can not use the same skill two rounds in a row, so having at least two good skills is very helpful
  • While crew actions that use the 'standard' DC list a handful of appropriate skills to use, you can actually use another skill vs. the Hard DC if you prefer.
That's pretty much it: No maps, no range calcs, no firing arcs, no weapon damage rolls, no shields, no Armor class, no ship stats at all to be honest...

It's probably not for everyone, but I kinda like it...

ADDENDUM: I've actually posted ad naseaum about Narrative Starship Combat in https://paizo.com/threads/rzs43weh?Starfinder-Enhanced-new-systems

Wayfinders

WatersLethe wrote:


3. By limiting what you can do at one station and separating stations by move actions, it provides friction for role jumping, which helps prevent Skill Monkeys stealing the spotlight all the time.

You could do that by tying getting the ship's bonuses to your roll to using the right station. Some actions might be doable from any station but without the bonus for using the correct station. You could redirect shields from the bridge, but by doing it from the engine room you get a bonus.

wrote:


I hadn't originally thought about resolving hand-to-hand combat during ship-to-ship combat, but I think it could end up working with a bit of design elbow grease. You could, for instance, have guidance on when to employ synced ship and personal combat and when not to so that you still have the option of having variable space distances.

Both systems use a 3 action economy, the only difference is the current starship combat has a set action order. Other than the pilot benefiting from going last regular PF2e 3 action ecomeny could be used. If the pilots just use a delayed action for their turn there's no need for special rules for their turn, other than a rule saying the pilot with the highest initiative roll can delay while the lower initiative pilot has to go in order.

Wayfinders

Taja the Barbarian wrote:
Calgon-3 wrote:

I haven't played ship combat under Starfinder Enhanced rules yet and I'm waiting to see how that turns out.

My observations on SF1 starship battle rules is battles can be excessively long, and usually result in the enemy ship exploding, which is uninteresting. I want them to commonly end in surrender, or boarding actions. I want to get to those points in some reasonable number of terms. Not so few that the ship battle is uninteresting though.

It should *matter* how your starship is designed and equipped. If it doesn't what's the point of even having ships? IOW it would be easy to go too far in the direction of it's all about crew members doing dramatic things and employing tactics that rely on having good skill checks.

Narrative Starship Combat from Starfinder Enhanced is very quick (low tier 1v1 should be over in 2 rounds or less, while an endgame tier 1v1 might take 5 rounds or so), but the system does make your actual ship 99.9% irrelevant: Actual Shield, handling, AC, HP, and weapon values don't matter (it's a bit unclear, but the number of weapons might still limit your number of gunners, but the firing arcs and actual weapons themselves are completely irrelevant and every crew role can inflict 'damage' on your foe).

I recently had a normal ship combat end after only 2 rounds. After the GM told us he was shocked at how weak our opponent's ships stats were. This was in a scenario that just came out recently, so maybe Paizo is making more recent ship encounters so they don't drag on. That's a question of encounter design. I'm curious how long each turn takes comparing regular and narrative starship combat. The other big difference is likely prep time, or having to explain the rules mid-game.

When Paizo said they were working on narrative ship combat I had no clue what narrative combat even was. In the last 2 weeks, I've started looking into PBTA games. I'm much more interested in trying Starfinder narrative ship combat now. I don't think it should ever replace regular ship combat or need to be in the core rule book but differently has a place and for some types of encounters may be the better option.

I really like the 3 degrees of success in PBTA games. This wouldn't be hard to adapt to how Paizo does 4 degrees of success. PBTA games tend to have something like a Miss, Weak Hit, and Hit. On a miss your opponent might be able to do damage to you, on a weak hit you hit your opponent but they might hit you too. Applied to a science officer making a scan check, failing a check could cause the opponent to do damage to the ship, making their action seem more impactful. Narratively this could be played out as the scan failed because the opponent's guns hit near the sensor array causing them to be misaligned thus failing the check. This could rebalance ship combat so ships need lots of shields again to deal with the possibility of every failed crew action causing damage to the ship.


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I began a Starfinder mini-campaign this month to try out the system before committing to a long-term campaign. Yesterday, Tuesday December 19, we had our first starship combat. Now that I have played starship combat, although only once, I have real experience for commenting in this thread.

My wife, a grandmaster of many roleplaying systems, summarized the combat as "clunky." She says that it will run more smoothly after more practice, but that would be growing accustomed to the clunkiness rather than removing it.

I myself had been worried about teaching the players the new subsystem. Six of the seven players were experiences in Pathfinder 1st and 2nd Edition, so they had no problem with the character rules of Starfinder. But starship combat is a subsystem not found in Pathfinder. I wrote up a two-page quick-start guide for them. They seemed to grasp the rules well enough.

Let me look over WatersLethe's document.

SF1 Starships: The Good
Hex-based movement and maneuvering is fun at first
So long as the system uses facing ("heading" in Starfinder terminology), a hexagon grid is better than a square grid.

Round-by-round initiative augments maneuvering importance
We found the round-by-round initiative awkward. Since it does not match non-ship Starfinder rules nor the PF2 three-action system, I would not mind if it was dropped.

Difference between guns and missiles is interesting
The fight was within the speed of the light cytplasm weapon I put on the Clutch, so the missile did not seem different than the direct-fire coilgun. The Emerald Empyrean and the Nova Witch lacked missile weapons. I lack experience here.

Many options for ship customization and personalization
Yes. So long as the players own the ship, we want it customized.

SF1 Starships: The Bad
Lack of non-pilot agency in combat
In quickly teaching the players about starship combat, the limits on the roles were handy. But most of the role actions were indirect effects, such as a +1 or +2 bonus to someone else's action. We can make stories out of indirect effects, such as in PF2 we often had, "Because Binny rendered the target flat-footed, Zinfandel's shot hit," but direct action more readily lends itself to stories.
Besides, +1 and +2 bonuses are not the 2nd editiion style.

Ship building is complicated and often pushed off to one player
I built the Clutch in my game. I have experience with this from boardgames, such as Steve Jackson's Car Wars. But balancing both cost and power requirements is a puzzle rather than straightforward design. It ought to be dropped.

Limited integration with regular Starfinder rules
This is the big one. Learning a separate subsystem was not the only problem. The alate formian nanocyte, Tk'Pan "Panic", is a melee combatant. She had a good BAB but dumped Dexterity. She fit no role in starship combat. No Computer skills for Science Officer, no Diplomatic skills for Captain, no Engineering skills for Engineer, no Mysticism skills for Magic Officer, no Piloting skills for Pilot, and no Dexterity for Gunner. She served second gunner, but she missed more often than the first gunner. She had been built for face-to-face role not a starship combat role. In contrast, the two ranged combatants could use their ranged-attack bonus as Gunners, two other high-Dexterity players had deliberately trained up their Piloting skills, the strix technomancer was good at both Computing and Engineering, and the witchwyrd envoy taunted as a captain, despite not being in command.

High GM workload
I am used to that.

However, I often build my own creatures in PF2 (technically, I ported them over from PF1). Building an enemy starship for combat is much more difficult than building an enemy creature. It should be made as easy as building an enemy creature.

Uninteresting combat maps that don’t evolve during the fight
My players often take advantage of terrain in face-to-face combat. Starship combat lacks rules to take advantage of terrain. My battle took place inside a dust cloud which had no effect. (In retrospect, I could have applied Asteroids and Debris rules from Starship Operations Manual but they make dust clouds annoying rather than tactical.) Imagine a tight orbit around a small moon for a fast maneuver. Imagine blowing up an asteroid to create a debris field.

Lack of magic
The player whose stellifera mystic characer could have served as a Magic Officer was out sick yesterday. Thus, I did not see how magical a Magic Officer is.

Starship building “solvable” for combat
"Solvable?" Does that mean that optimization is obvious and excludes many fun builds? That is not the 2nd Edition style.

Combat capability and amenities drawing from same pool of build points
Also not 2nd Edition style.

Difficult to reward combat victories (salvage can unbalance the game)
Skitter Crash begins with "After the skittermanders Dakoyo, Gazigaz, Nako, and Quonx—employees of the vesk Nakonechkin Ginnady, owner of
Nakonechkin Salvage—rescued a handful of civilians from a rogue AI aboard a luxury cruise liner [in the module Skitter Shot] about a year ago, their employer gave them command of their own vessel. The skittermanders had earned it." I suspect that narrative rewards are more balanced than cash rewards.

Low gameplay value versus time spent
Our starship combat was slow due to inexperience. Does it stay slow?

Overly encourages uninteresting 1v1 ship fights
I knew that in Skitter Shot my players would think, "Hey, we have two ships, Clutch and Emerald Empyrean. Let's send some crew back to the Clutch and use both against the pirate ship." So I got the Clutch ready for combat. My only starship combat was 2 versus 1.

Nevertheless, that combat seemed a lot like the PF1 combat where the characers stand still to be able to take full-round actions with multiple attacks. The movement of the ships helped aim weapons and at one point the Nova Witch turned to expose an intact shield to the other ships rather than balancing shields, but it was not as significant as face-to-face movement.

Transportation (Drift Speed Specifically)
Why does Drift speed improve with level anyways? Travel really happens at the speed of plot.

Player Housing
Eight of the 75 build points of the tier-2 Clutch went into a medical bay. The players wanted one, saying it made sense for a salvage ship because of the risk of on-the-job accidents. Does that count as player housing or combat readiness?

Starship Encounter/Combat Basics
Combat effectiveness should not be determined by how well the group min-maxed their build points five sessions ago at the spaceport
I let my player characters level up in the middle of dungeons, and gear is gathered continuously, but leveling up a starship sounds like it needs a space dock. Hm, what if the effectiveness of starship systems depended not on their purchase value but on their user's level or skill. It would be like Automatic Bonus Progression in PF2.

Every player needs to have meaningful agency every round of combat
See my comment above on "Limited integration with regular Starfinder rules." Solving the integration might help this, too.

Starship combat should use as many normal rules as possible
Ditto

Enemy ships should be simple, so that the GM can focus on making combat engaging and fast
That has a contradiction. If the player characters running a starship have meaningful agency, then the enemies should also have meaingful agency, which is complicated. Perhaps we need generic enemies that the GMs grow accustomed to playing inside a starship.

Varying win conditions, battlefield shaping, and hazards should be heavily encouraged
My creative playerw will devise them anyway, once they have some tactical elements to play with.

Failure and defeat should typically lead to additional storytelling, not auto-TPK
That is a bold goal beyond most RPG game design.

To be continued another day ...

Envoy's Alliance

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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Okay I don't know if anyone else wants this but...

Ship-role feats. Like a special set of feats you can take at certain levels (not replacing other feats) to improve your performance in a ship-role and customize your crew's play style.


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Zoken44 wrote:

Okay I don't know if anyone else wants this but...

Ship-role feats. Like a special set of feats you can take at certain levels (not replacing other feats) to improve your performance in a ship-role and customize your crew's play style.

I want ship performance to depend on the player characters rather than the equipment. And the best way to handle that would be with ship-role feats.

With tight math like PF2 letting a ship remain at a lower tier due to lack of a convenient shipyard would imbalance ship encounters. But if most of the ship effectiveness relies on the PC's ship feats, then the next tier would come automatically with the PCs taking feats that improve their ship roles.

The developers of Pathfinder 2nd Edition separated ancestry feats, class feats, general feats, and skill feats mostly for balance reasons but also to reduce the amount of text players had to read to chose feats. Combat optimizers would want to spend all their feats on combat ignoring the flavor of ancestry and skills if they didn't aid combat.

A Starfinder 2nd Edition player who intends only face-to-face combat would likewise ignore ship-role feats. Or a player who intends to be a great starship pilot or science officer or gunner might skip some useful face-to-face combat feats in order to gain ship-role feats, and end up weak in face-to-face combat. That does not fit the tight math. So we apply the same solution: class feats and ship-role feats ought to be separate tracks of feats.

But "ship-role" is an awkward name. Let's name them like ancestry feats and class feats after a choice the player makes at the beginning: theme feats. I noticed that a lot of themes in the Starfinder Core Rulebook matched up to ship roles.
Ace Pilot <=> Pilot
Bounty Hunter <=> Gunner
Icon <=> Captain
Mercenary <=> Gunner
Outlaw <=>
Priest <=> Magic Officer
Scholar <=>
Spacefarer <=> Science Officer
Xenoseeker <=>
Themeless <=>
It would be interesting to let each theme offer a ship role at 1st level. Further theme feats could offer a second ship role or an improvement to the ship role.

Let me make some examples. One problem I noticed in my one and only starship combat is that the 2nd-level formian nanocyte Tk'Pan "Panic" lacked any ability to perform a ship role well. Nanocyte's key ability score is Constitution, and Panic's attribute scores are Str 14, Dex 13, Con 18, Int 10, Wis 8, Cha 10. With Int 10, she is not suited for Engineer nor Science Officer despite Engineering and Computers being class skills. With Dex 13 she is weak as a Gunner despite BAB +2 and Piloting being a class skill. She did train those three skills. Her Theme is Career Trooper, which gives +1 Con.

Career Trooper Theme for 2nd Edition
You are a career member of a military and have been embroiled in conflicts and military bureaucracy for many years. During your enlisted time, you have trained with top ground troops, participated in war games that have turned deadly, and been privy to military intelligence given only to commanders. You are prepared for almost anything on the battlefield that your own commanders or your enemies able to throw at you.
You gain an attribute boost to Constitution.
You are trained in the Computer skill and the Warfare lore skill. You gain the Diehard Analyst theme feat.

Diehard Analyst Theme Feat 1
You learned to think despite pain and pressure. You can use your Constitution modifier instead of your Intelligence modifier on Intelligence-based checks for Starship actions.

In contrast, the kiirinta precog Kii Kii wanted to be a pilot from the beginning. Her Theme is Ace Pilot. Precog's key ability score is Dexterity. and Kii Kii's attribute scores are Str 10, Dex 17, Con 10, Int 16, Wis 10, Cha 10.

Ace Pilot Theme for 2nd Edition
You are most comfortable at the controls of a vehicle, whether it’s a starship racing through the inky void of space or a ground vehicle zooming between trees, around boulders, and across dusty badlands. You might be a member of an elite military force, the recipient of intense courses of training. Alternatively, you might be a total amateur with innate skills that make you a much-admired hotshot.
You gain an attribute boost to Dexterity.
You are trained in the Piloting skill and the Vehicle lore skill. You gain the Stunt Pilot theme feat.

Stunt Pilot Theme Feat 1
You practiced your favorite stunt to perfection. Chose a Pilot stunt such as Back Off, Barrel Roll, Evade, Flip and Burn, Flyby, Slide, or Turn in Place. When you roll a failure for that stunt, you get a success instead. If you are an expert in Piloting, also when you roll a critical failure for that stunt, you get a failure instead. If you are a master in Piloting, instead all rolls for that stunt are in improved by one degree of success.
Special You can select this feat multiple times. Each time select a different stunt.

I should give higher-level examples.

Striking Gunnery Theme feat 4
When you deal damage with a Starship weapon, increase the number of weapon damage dice by one.

Spinning Gunnery Theme feat 4
When you deal damage with a Starship weapon, you may rotate the target 60 degrees in either direction.

Envoy's Alliance

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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I would argue both. As any martial character would fall behind in PF2e if they didn't keep their gear upgrading (runes etc)

I was also thinking it might be cool to have some, I'll use your suggestions, "theme" feats synergize with class.

Like a Soldier who's theme is for the Engineering ship role could have a feat called "Percussive maintenence". Make an attack roll agaisnt the ship's AC. If successful, the ship takes minor damage, but you improve a broken system one step"

But if that Soldier is a Gunner they get abilities to apply their weapons skills to firing. Stuff like that.


Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

Optional Rule:
Players' Party Contribution feats/boons

With this optional rule, you get to pick a feat which impacts the resources/abilities of the party in a given mode of play. However this bonus is not necessarily explicitly tied to the player's character.

In cases where a player leaves a game or has a character die, the GM will generally arrange for the given 'bonus' to eventually cease because of some other in story reason, unless a replacement player or character chooses to restore it.

The purpose of this is to allow a player whose character idea is, for instance, less spacecraft oriented, to contribute within a spacecraft/encounter mode, despite their character being less than ideal for such a play mode.

The example being one like mentioned earlier, where someone is a STR based combatant with poor DEX and Technical skills. If the player can choose to grant the party a Spacecraft bonus of some kind that isn't officially tied to their character, they can stick to their character concept without feeling like they are handicapping their party in the given play mode.

I'm for the idea of being granted sets of feats to be spent on specific modes(sets of modes) of play such as spacecraft. I agree that themes can certainly be a means of providing a bonus within such modes, but disagree with Themes taking over ship roles. I say that because I think other Modes may/should be able to come to exist. As an example another easy example I can come up with would be hacking/netrunning for instance.

So while having rules, not unlike 2e Free Archetype rule, which in this case would unlock Starship Mode Archetype, or Netrunning roles and they like as extra tracts to insure the players get new or unique abilities to contribute in those modes. However, I'd also like to see some class/skill abilities and feats to interact some with various modes.

Or we could take a step back and pull in some already proven concepts and leverage some of the Organized Play concepts, and have Mode Boons that player can select. They players start play with some, and can slot them during play. These could include abilities to contribute to their ship in Ship combat, or even things like downtime options to help the party for instance. Adventures, could similar to old Campaign traits, could grant players different Campaign boons that would connect them to a particular adventure, and provide some benefit in some setting in the adventure.

So some sort of Boon structure, and boon slots seem like a pretty flexible way of insuring that players can some some varied ways of contributing in various sub-settings of the game. Players could shift them around as they progress, and get better boons, or one they consider more relevant to the current situation.


Loreguard wrote:

Optional Rule:

Players' Party Contribution feats/boons

With this optional rule, you get to pick a feat which impacts the resources/abilities of the party in a given mode of play. However this bonus is not necessarily explicitly tied to the player's character.

So... I don't know that this (by itself) actually addresses the issue all that well. Like, sure, you might be able to point at some statboost somewhere on the ship and say "I did that!" and that might feel good or something? It doesn't really let them contribute actively, though.

The actual issue here, is that people are sitting around a table playing a game. Having "starship combat" turn into "one player takes control and the rest of us sit around and wait until the fight is done" would be profoundly un-fun for what should be obvious reasons - whether or not the spaceship they did it with had a set of feats that were personalized to its crew. That's why we don't do it that way.

As I perceive it, in order for starship combat to be really satisfying, the following needs to be true about the user experience:

- Every player has to have something to do, which includes meaningful decisions. Every round of combat (whatever "round" means in this context) each player should be making a decision as to what to do. That decision should have a real impact on the conditions in the battle, in a way that is somewhat predictable - enough for good judgement to matter, but not so much that the optimal path is trivially obvious. Ideally, the decision should be at least somewhat interesting.

- PCs have to be distinct. There need to be meaningful build choices that have been made somewhere along the way that mean that you can't just have two characters swap roles without significant effect. Ideally, this is done in such a way that each player feels like they're contributing usefully to the whole in a way that makes their particular talents matter. It's even better if you can manage multiple play styles that align to different kinds of player skill. (Standard squad-level combat in PF2 does this quite well already, but fitting it into a ship battle might be harder.)

- In a moderately well-built party, no player should be overwhelmingly more important or effective than any other player. It can be okay to have different players get a bit more of the spotlight in some scenes and a bit less in others, but it shouldn't be to the degree that anyone feels unimportant, or that their contribution is insignificant. Similarly, no one player should have decisions to make that are overwhelmingly more important than the decisions that their fellow party members make.


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Love your comments Mathmuse! Thanks for taking the time to give your thoughts. I saw you had some questions so I wanted to jump in real quick and try to answer them.

Mathmuse wrote:
"Solvable?" Does that mean that optimization is obvious and excludes many fun builds? That is not the 2nd Edition style.

At least when I was still playing with Starship combat, it was an extremely advantageous meta to maximize shields and one big gun. You really didn't have to think beyond that, and if you did try to get fancy you ended up worse off in the long run.

Mathmuse wrote:
Our starship combat was slow due to inexperience. Does it stay slow?

Yes, it stays slow, partly because you'll spend several sessions not doing it (running around on a planet, for example) and then suddenly jump back into it and have to come up to speed again. If you were doing lots and lots of ship combat it can decently fast, but even then the *value* of that time spent is feels low.

Mathmuse wrote:
Why does Drift speed improve with level anyways? Travel really happens at the speed of plot.

For the same reason things like Teleportation and Plane Shifting in PF2 are level gated. It's so that at higher levels you can feel like your adventure spans a much larger area than that one rinky dink farm town you started out in. That's also why those things are uncommon in PF2, because the GM needs to control them.

Mathmuse wrote:
Eight of the 75 build points of the tier-2 Clutch went into a medical bay. The players wanted one, saying it made sense for a salvage ship because of the risk of on-the-job accidents. Does that count as player housing or combat readiness?

I think a medbay should fall under the basic, automatic functions of a ship, especially given how easy and reliable Medicine is in PF2. In your case, I would not call it "player housing", i.e. roleplay focused customization, because they felt mechanically pushed into taking it.


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

In my vision of Starship Combat, each character would have space on their character sheet for a section of the ship that they care about, and one of the ways they can advance their ship is by upgrading or unlocking new capabilities of their "terminal". I don't see why this couldn't be done using character build resources rather than solely as loot or the like.

For example, after leveling up on the planet, the Mystic's newfound magical skill allows them to create a new spell-launching subroutine that they can deploy the moment they get back to the ship.

I wouldn't want it to be, like, a whole new silo of feats the size of the Skill Feats system. Closer to General feats in scale.


Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

It does seem like a very big balancing act. For instance, because if you make roles for every crewmember on the ship, and have it have significant impact on the usability of the ship. Then you have the situation when you have instead of a single PC ship, you have them each in their own single ships, then each ship is then in theory handicapped by only have one crew.

Having created and balanced things for each player to keep track of for the ship in a combat, when they are in a fighter, suddenly there is four peoples worth of work to keep track up per ship, potentially.

Yet both types of encounters and somethin in between. Such as multiple bombers/gunships with a pilot/gunner, etc. should all be viable encounters in my view.

One thing to consider is that not all work done in the encounter have to be tied to 'character' decisions/actions. For instance, people like to roll, so rolling checks is a way someone can keep busy in an encounter. But for instance, the player playing a character that isn't very space/combat focused could be put in change of rolling and tracking damage against the ship. Or maybe might be put in charge of rolling any critical damage done to enemy ships, etc.

Sometimes, some of these items would just fall on the GM, but why not let the players help out and become more integrated into the process. so part of a character in a game often is what ability they grant to the party (normally through their character) while other parts is how the player gets to physically do something or another to contribute to the play. These could be rolls, decisions, or even tracking things and providing the appropriate notices when something exceeds some threshold or such. (tracking damage of allied ships, or enemy ships, or timed effects, etc.)

In some cases I could even imagine a player taking control of one of the enemy ships to reduce load off the GM.

The goal should be to help make the players get to interact with the system and feel like they are (roughly) similar importance to getting through the story. But it in my opinion shouldn't have to be tied to the 'Characters' all having equal importance to the situation. The number of ships and how many players may adjust the amount of work involved, and affect the distribution of encounter work.


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Loreguard wrote:
The goal should be to help make the players get to interact with the system and feel like they are (roughly) similar importance to getting through the story. But it in my opinion shouldn't have to be tied to the 'Characters' all having equal importance to the situation. The number of ships and how many players may adjust the amount of work involved, and affect the distribution of encounter work.

I specifically didn't say that they had to all have equal importance - just that there shouldn't be any one of them that was overwhelmingly more important than the others.

Also... just rolling dice isn't the point either. I think there's a thing you're not getting. For a lot of us, feeling like we are involved/contributing/etc requires actual agency in the moment. It's not just a matter of rolling dice. It's not just a matter of having our character turn into a perk for the spaceship. We personally should be making some sort of meaningful decisions on a regular basis throughout the conflict. Maybe that just doesn't matter to you personally? I mean, no judgement if it doesn't, but you need to understand for a lot of us (I think most of us) it really does. "And you get to roll the dice" sounds like the sort of participation trophy you give your 6-year-old so that they can feel like they're involved.

Further, if it's going to tie into the happy party loyalty chemicals, then yeah, it does have to be actively trying to help the party with those decisions rather than harm them. Again, I suppose that there are those that don't care so much about that, but a lot of us do.

The bits where this ought to be tied to the player's character, and where different characters should have asymmetric abilities and powers and, ideally, somewhat different playstyles in ship combat? That's lesser but still important stuff that feeds into identity and making the game interesting and letting people customize towards the skillset they prefer.

Wayfinders

Mathmuse wrote:

Ship building is complicated and often pushed off to one player

I built the Clutch in my game. I have experience with this from boardgames, such as Steve Jackson's Car Wars. But balancing both cost and power requirements is a puzzle rather than straightforward design. It ought to be dropped.

Personally being able to build your own ships is one of my big draws to Starfinder. There are plenty of prebuilt ships for people who don't like to build ships.

Paizo's game design seems to be built around we make games with trillions of character possibilities. According to this video, there are over 3.7 trillion passable character combinations just from the core rule book.
Unique Character Combinations in Pathfinder 2E .
So to me it would seem out of place for Paizo not to have heavily customizable ships.

But to help individual characters involved in shipbuilding or modifying. I wonder if it would help if characters had the option to pick mods and upgrades for their station on a ship. The problem I see with ship combat is that the characters are given a list of ship combat options to pick from, instead of having a section of their character to build for ship combat, or building their ship station itself to have the option the character picks.


WatersLethe wrote:
Love your comments Mathmuse! Thanks for taking the time to give your thoughts. I saw you had some questions so I wanted to jump in real quick and try to answer them.

Thank you for the anwsers, WatersLethe. I have been studying Pathfinder design since 2011. In contrast, Starfinder is both familiar since it is based on Pathfinder and unfamiliar because it is its own system in a science-fiction setting. I have been a science fiction fan since childhood, reading through my father's collection.

WatersLethe wrote:
Mathmuse wrote:
Eight of the 75 build points of the tier-2 Clutch went into a medical bay. The players wanted one, saying it made sense for a salvage ship because of the risk of on-the-job accidents. Does that count as player housing or combat readiness?
I think a medbay should fall under the basic, automatic functions of a ship, especially given how easy and reliable Medicine is in PF2. In your case, I would not call it "player housing", i.e. roleplay focused customization, because they felt mechanically pushed into taking it.

Their roleplaying is that some of the PCs served together in the war (which war is deliberately left vague) but did not want to remain in the military after the war, so they pooled their resources to buy a spaceship and start a salvage company. Other PCs were hired on as employees. Thus, the story resembles the late-season Firefly TV show in which the crew members are each independently eccentric but value each other. A medical bay fit this roleplaying.


Zoken44 wrote:

I would argue both. As any martial character would fall behind in PF2e if they didn't keep their gear upgrading (runes etc)

I was also thinking it might be cool to have some, I'll use your suggestions, "theme" feats synergize with class.

Like a Soldier who's theme is for the Engineering ship role could have a feat called "Percussive maintenence". Make an attack roll agaisnt the ship's AC. If successful, the ship takes minor damage, but you improve a broken system one step"

But if that Soldier is a Gunner they get abilities to apply their weapons skills to firing. Stuff like that.

The starship roles have two roles for Dexterity characters: Pilot and Gunner; two roles for Intelligence characters: Engineer and Science Officer; a role for Charisma characters: Captain; and a relatively new role for Wisdom characters: Magic Officer. It lacks a role for Strength characters and Constitution characters, despite Starfinder having classes with those as key attribute scores.

Thus, yes, Starfinder starship combat needs a ship-role feat like Percussive Maintenance (classic name!) that lets someone use Strength in a starship role. However, read my next comment in which I decided against actual feats.


Loreguard wrote:

I'm for the idea of being granted sets of feats to be spent on specific modes(sets of modes) of play such as spacecraft. I agree that themes can certainly be a means of providing a bonus within such modes, but disagree with Themes taking over ship roles. I say that because I think other Modes may/should be able to come to exist. As an example another easy example I can come up with would be hacking/netrunning for instance.

So while having rules, not unlike 2e Free Archetype rule, which in this case would unlock Starship Mode Archetype, or Netrunning roles and they like as extra tracts to insure the players get new or unique abilities to contribute in those modes. However, I'd also like to see some class/skill abilities and feats to interact some with various modes.

These two paragraphs from Loreguard brought to my attention that I might have jumped to an unwarranted conclusion. Starship combat is a mode of play in Starfinder, and I assumed it was a significant mode in the game. I lack experience with actual Starfinder campaigns. If it is only a niche mode and in some Starfinder campaigns the PCs will board a starship only because they purchased tickets on a commercial spaceliner, then ship-role feats would be equally niche.

Having ship-role feats that have mostly no effect outside of a starship crew is the simplest way to balance the tight math. But separate feat lines means extra work in character creation. If running a starship is infrequent, then forcing players to select ship-role feats when they might never have an opportunity to use them would be an unnecessary and unacceptable burden.

I considered many solutions as to how to avoid selection of ship-role feats until the party wants them. The solution that is most fun and elegant is to incorporate them into Waterslethe's station idea.

WatersLethe wrote:
In my vision of Starship Combat, each character would have space on their character sheet for a section of the ship that they care about, and one of the ways they can advance their ship is by upgrading or unlocking new capabilities of their "terminal". I don't see why this couldn't be done using character build resources rather than solely as loot or the like.

In my current idea, the characters would not select ship-role feats. Instead, building the starship would let the players select equipment for their station that has the same effect as the ship-role feats. This equipment would be part of the ship's budget rather than the character's budget, but each character would personalize their favorite station.

I view the stations as working with my base frame idea. Building a starship would no longer cost build points and power core units. Instead, select a base frame of the party's level and it allows other equipment of the party's level or lower to be added to it.

For example:
Tier 2 explorer frame
Size medium, Speed 6, Maneuver good, Drift 1
AC 15, Shields 36, HP 55, DT —, CT 11
External mounts: forward 1, port 1, starboard 1, turret 1.
Stations 6, Panels & Kits per Station 2
Expansion Bays 4

The mounts are not just weapons. They refer to any targetable non-engine system on the hull of the ship: weapons, sensors, deflector shields, drone docking, etc.

Each PC claims a station and selects its two panels or kits. A panel is a control panel that operates a ship's systems. A kit is a carryable tool kit, but it counts as part of the ship's station rather than as part of the character's gear.

The weapons panels come in four types. Ranged weapon panels let the character use their ranged weapon bonus for attacks with the ship's direct-fire weapons. Melee weapon weapon panels let the character use their melee weapon bonus for attacks with the ship's direct-fire weapons. Yes, that means their Strength bonus is part of the attack bonus, and no, I don't know what technology makes it possible, but that lets melee characters serve as gunners on a starship. Magical weapons panels let the character use their spell attack bonus for attacks with the ship's direct-fire weapons. And missile weapons panels let the character use their Piloting bonus for attacks with missile weapons.

Each weapon can be fired only once per round regardless of the number of weapons panels on the ship.

We also have sensor panels that let Science Officers perform scans with the sensors mounted on a mount, pilot panels that let the Pilot maneuver the ship, shield panels that let Engineers adjust power to the shields, communications panel that let the captain hail other ships for full video screen conversations, etc. The ship can be maneuvered only once per round regardless of the number of pilot panels on the ship, but some things like sensors can be used multiple times from multiple panels.

Kits are for ship actions that don't make sense on a fixed panel. Right now, I imagine only Engineers using kits. We have a Standard Engineering Kit required to perform repairs via Engineering checks. The Danger Zone Engineering Kit is the same, except that it substitute the character's Constitution modifier in place of their Intelligence modifier on the Engineering checks. The Percussive Maintenance Engineering Kit is the same, except that it substitutes the character's Strength modifier in place of their Intelligence modifier on the Engineering checks.

Thus, the formian nanocyte Tk'Pan in my game, a Int 10 character who fights in melee, would put a Melee Weapons Panel and a Danger Zone Engineering Kit into her favorite station. The kiirinta precog Kii Kii in my game, a Dex 17 character who trained as a Pilot, would have a Pilot Panel and a Missile Weapon Panel in her station.

A four-member party could use a small ship with only 4 stations, one specially set up for each character. If they instead have 6 stations on a medium ship, then the extra 2 stations could be set up for specialized tasks, such as long-distance scans of a planet. Switching between stations would be a Take Control single action.

Higher-level ships would allow more panels & kits per station. Smaller ships would probably have to crowd more panels per station just out of necessity.


Driftbourne wrote:
Mathmuse wrote:

Ship building is complicated and often pushed off to one player

I built the Clutch in my game. I have experience with this from boardgames, such as Steve Jackson's Car Wars. But balancing both cost and power requirements is a puzzle rather than straightforward design. It ought to be dropped.
Personally being able to build your own ships is one of my big draws to Starfinder. There are plenty of prebuilt ships for people who don't like to build ships.

I was careless with my pronoun "it" in the sentence, "It ought to be dropped." I meant that balancing build points and power core units ought to be dropped, not building starships.

As I presented in my previous comment, I want a starship building system that is more like Lego building blocks. Start with a base frame of an allowed tier. It has slots for weapons, sensors, bays, and stations. Put weapons, sensors, bays, and stations of the appropriate tier into those slots. Done.

Purchasing starship parts from a single budget results in players with different interests competing for the budget. Purchasing starship parts while balancing two independent budgets makes the build a puzzle. Lego building means that different players can build different parts of the ship independently or semi-independently. "I want to be the Science Officer. How about you Gunners pick weapons for the forward and turret mounts and I get to put sensors on the port and starboard mounts?"


I'm also of the opinion that we should drop, or at least de-emphasize, the balancing act of having to juggle, what is it, three or four different point systems for ships? The amount of BP it costs, the amount of power it draws, and I honestly forget the third and possibly fourth currencies, which proves the point Mathmuse is getting at, I'd say.

Perhaps ships could share some more similarities to character sheets to ease the burden of learning new systems. Treat many basic functions like feats the party picks, and then extra doodads and googaws take the place of items, taking up the ship's "investiture," whatever that'd be called.
Actually, now I type it out I do like the idea of extras being statted like items. Then they'd have an item level, which means you'd have to worry less about point allocation when ship building, and could potentially assign ship systems credit values if your table didn't feel like using a different currency system to purchase them with.

Shadow Lodge

Stray thought: We might want to look back on D&D2.0's Spelljammer rules:

  • Each ship design had a fixed AC, typically in the 14 to 16 range when converted to the modern AC systems.
  • Each ship weapon had a fixed attack bonus, typically ranging from +2 to +6.
  • Speed was typically based on your ship's magical helm and the level of the spellcaster powering it (honestly, this was always a weak-point in the system).
The basic idea is to not require ships to scale as quickly as the character do...

Wayfinders

Mathmuse wrote:
Driftbourne wrote:
Mathmuse wrote:

Ship building is complicated and often pushed off to one player

I built the Clutch in my game. I have experience with this from boardgames, such as Steve Jackson's Car Wars. But balancing both cost and power requirements is a puzzle rather than straightforward design. It ought to be dropped.
Personally being able to build your own ships is one of my big draws to Starfinder. There are plenty of prebuilt ships for people who don't like to build ships.
I was careless with my pronoun "it" in the sentence, "It ought to be dropped." I meant that balancing build points and power core units ought to be dropped, not building starships.

I agree that the power core units ought to be dropped. it requires recalculating the ship every time you add anything. What power cores could represent instead of overall power, could be the available extra power for diverting power to other systems during combat.

Mathmuse wrote:


As I presented in my previous comment, I want a starship building system that is more like Lego building blocks. Start with a base frame of an allowed tier. It has slots for weapons, sensors, bays, and stations. Put weapons, sensors, bays, and stations of the appropriate tier into those slots. Done.

Snapship Tactics is a game I'm very interested in it looks like Star Wars X-wing or Armada with buildable blocks to build ships.

Mathmuse wrote:


Purchasing starship parts from a single budget results in players with different interests competing for the budget. Purchasing starship parts while balancing two independent budgets makes the build a puzzle. Lego building means that different players can build different parts of the ship independently or semi-independently. "I want to be the Science Officer. How about you Gunners pick weapons for the forward and turret mounts and I get to put sensors on the port and starboard mounts?"

I'm all for the PCs getting to build or mod their section of the ship. Instead of having one big computer for the ship that gives out mods each station has different options for computer and power mods for that station.

Wayfinders

Taja the Barbarian wrote:
Stray thought: We might want to look back on D&D2.0's Spelljammer rules:
  • Each ship design had a fixed AC, typically in the 14 to 16 range when converted to the modern AC systems.
  • Each ship weapon had a fixed attack bonus, typically ranging from +2 to +6.
  • Speed was typically based on your ship's magical helm and the level of the spellcaster powering it (honestly, this was always a weak-point in the system).
The basic idea is to not require ships to scale as quickly as the character do...

One way to do that is to have the ship scale by size. So ships of even size skill matters more. the PCs in a medium-sized ship could be expected to take on 1 ship the same size, or 2 small ships, or 3 or 4 tiny ships. When the PCs are up against a bigger ship it's an extreme encounter or a blockade run situation.

Shadow Lodge

Driftbourne wrote:
Taja the Barbarian wrote:
Stray thought: We might want to look back on D&D2.0's Spelljammer rules:
  • Each ship design had a fixed AC, typically in the 14 to 16 range when converted to the modern AC systems.
  • Each ship weapon had a fixed attack bonus, typically ranging from +2 to +6.
  • Speed was typically based on your ship's magical helm and the level of the spellcaster powering it (honestly, this was always a weak-point in the system).
The basic idea is to not require ships to scale as quickly as the character do...
One way to do that is to have the ship scale by size. So ships of even size skill matters more. the PCs in a medium-sized ship could be expected to take on 1 ship the same size, or 2 small ships, or 3 or 4 tiny ships. When the PCs are up against a bigger ship it's an extreme encounter or a blockade run situation.

The point is to essentially remove character skill from the equation entirely: Assuming basic PF2e mechanics, your character's attack/skill rolls could increase by 30 points between level 1 and 20 (+19 from levels, +6 from proficiency increases, +3 from stat increases and stat item, and maybe another +2 from Status or Item buffs), which does incredibly ridiculous things to space combat.

The basic idea is that all ships of all tiers should generally fall into a fairly narrow AC range that is balanced against a similarly narrow range of ship weapon attack bonuses. If you are attempting to maneuver or use the ship's sensors or other equipment, you roll with the ship's bonuses rather than the Character's. Maybe you can add a proficiency bonus (+2/4/6/8) into both sides of that equation to give some scaling, but that's about it: Make it a non-scaling system so players don't have to invest a lot of time into micro-managing their ship upgrades for what is likely to be an obligatory 'one space battle when approaching your adventure planet' and/or 'one space battle when leaving your adventure planet' per adventure.

For space combat, I tend to think along the lines of Star Wars (and the FFG and WEG Star Wars RPGs that I am familiar with): You should be able to upgrade your ship, but never to the point that a couple of TIE fighters showing up doesn't make you at least a little nervous. Unfortunately, this doesn't tend to fit well into d20 type games (outside of D&D5, I suppose) where a few levels typically makes formerly tough foes into complete jokes.

SIDE NOTE: I just want to mention that some of the suggestions for feats or themes to boost a space combat role could be very problematic in SFS where your team (and therefore the ship role you need to fill) may vary from session to session...


Driftbourne wrote:
One way to do that is to have the ship scale by size. So ships of even size skill matters more. the PCs in a medium-sized ship could be expected to take on 1 ship the same size, or 2 small ships, or 3 or 4 tiny ships. When the PCs are up against a bigger ship it's an extreme encounter or a blockade run situation.

This gave me some ideas and I am crunching numbers on this. The numbers might talk to me about a wonderful new system or they might collapse like a house of cards. More on this later.

Taja the Barbarian wrote:

The point is to essentially remove character skill from the equation entirely: Assuming basic PF2e mechanics, your character's attack/skill rolls could increase by 30 points between level 1 and 20 (+19 from levels, +6 from proficiency increases, +3 from stat increases and stat item, and maybe another +2 from Status or Item buffs), which does incredibly ridiculous things to space combat.

The basic idea is that all ships of all tiers should generally fall into a fairly narrow AC range that is balanced against a similarly narrow range of ship weapon attack bonuses. If you are attempting to maneuver or use the ship's sensors or other equipment, you roll with the ship's bonuses rather than the Character's. Maybe you can add a proficiency bonus (+2/4/6/8) into both sides of that equation to give some scaling, but that's about it: Make it a non-scaling system so players don't have to invest a lot of time into micro-managing their ship upgrades for what is likely to be an obligatory 'one space battle when approaching your adventure planet' and/or 'one space battle when leaving your adventure planet' per adventure.

Yes, that is the surface layer of the tight math of Pathfinder 2nd Edition. By keeping a character's attack bonuses and Armor Classes inside predictable bounds by level, then level determines the character's power in combat for reliable encounter design.

Yet creatures in the Bestiaries get higher numbers than the player characters. Why? Because the characters are stronger whenever the players dive deeper than the surface. If they use the versatility that comes from PC customization, then they can outmaneuver the less versatile creatures with tactics. The developers also built this tactical layer into Pathfinder 2nd Edition. And I would love for starship combat to embrace this layer, too.

Taja the Barbarian wrote:
For space combat, I tend to think along the lines of Star Wars (and the FFG and WEG Star Wars RPGs that I am familiar with): You should be able to upgrade your ship, but never to the point that a couple of TIE fighters showing up doesn't make you at least a little nervous. Unfortunately, this doesn't tend to fit well into d20 type games (outside of D&D5, I suppose) where a few levels typically makes formerly tough foes into complete jokes.

The only science fiction roleplaying games I have played are Traveller, Rifts, and Serenity. I played spaceship combat only in the last of those three, and it was most narrative. My spaceship game experience is from boardgames, and my ideas are from science fiction books and shows.

The starships will probably follow the same encounter budget rules as Pathfinder creatures: a starship of tier N will as powerful as two starships of level N-2. That is fast exponential growth by level.

Taja the Barbarian wrote:
SIDE NOTE: I just want to mention that some of the suggestions for feats or themes to boost a space combat role could be very problematic in SFS where your team (and therefore the ship role you need to fill) may vary from session to session...

I am the person who suggested feats and themes back on Thursday. By Saturday I had changed my tune:

Mathmuse wrote:
Thus, yes, Starfinder starship combat needs a ship-role feat like Percussive Maintenance (classic name!) that lets someone use Strength in a starship role. However, read my next comment in which I decided against actual feats.

I have had this problem in adventure paths that had been about fighting monsters in the wilderness, but then in one module switch to an urban adventure. The players had prepared their characters for one kind of adventure but suddenly find themselves in a different type with only one level-up for their characters to learn new skills. Loreguard's comments made me realize that my theme idea would paint Starfinder 2nd Edition characters into the same corner. And a Starfinder Society scenario is even less predictable than the next module in an adventure path.

But my Saturday ideas about building a starship around the existing character skills and attribute scores rather than fitting the characters into fixed ship roles ought to be versatile enough to handle almost every party. However, it would require that the Starfinder Society scenario allows the players a little rebuilding to customize their starship before they adventure in it.

Wayfinders

At the end of the day when SF2e comes out, in ship combat you will roll some dice and something will happen or not. I trust the developers know what they are doing, so really don't care what the mechanics are as long as there are interesting options for my PCs and for shipbuilding, which I'm sure there will be.

What I really care about is why should I as a player or my character care about the spaceship used in the game. If I don't have some reason to care about a ship it basically becomes a space taxi service I forget about when not in use.

As a player care about my character because I took time to build them and come up with a background story for them. As I complete adventures I gain credit and buy new equipment to improve them. As I level up I gain new skills and abilities to use. I'd like a ship that grows the same way.

The problem is that's hard to do when the party is sharing one ship. Some players don't care about having a ship at all. In organized you don't have your own ship, but have access to them through the SFS.

If the situation is one ship for the whole party how do you make that individually interesting to each player? I think the best way is to put each player in charge of the station they are using and they get to build and upgrade it. If they don't care to do that there could be a default station set up they could choose without having to pick all the individual options.

What if more than one player wants their own ship? Why not? If more than one player has a ship big enough to fit everyone, then the party might decide which ship to use depending on the mission. If 2 players don't have a ship and the other is all too small to hold more than one person then the party gets a base ship. If just 1 or 2 players want tiny personal ships then they could just dock to a normal medium-sized ship PCs typically have, would just need to add some docking rings.

If someone wants their own ship but doesn't want to build one from scratch then just let them use a pregen ship. For those of us who like to build ships, I'll take enough options to drive a shirren nuts.

Because PF2e math is tight, and I think both skill and ship parts should matter, just like character options, ship mods and upgrades could add more options and not just stack math, to keep things interesting but balanced.


I have a feeling that all characters will have access to "space mode" actions just like in pf2e there are ecounter, (h)exploration, and downtime mode.

I also have a hunch that they will make space/officer roles into archtypes. Encouraging players and gms to discuss a free archtype as required for the breadth of the campaign. There are already a few archtypes that can be found in guns and gears that appear to be good examples.

I also think that the current vehicle rules for pf2e are a great starting point for spaceships in starfinder 2e.


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

One thought process is that you could have a series of ship feats (traits? a little different than normal feats I suppose) that live on a separate ship character sheet, the ship feats specialize how the ship relates to the player's sheets-- like, imagine a feat that states that the ship is actually piloted by some kind of intelligence that needs to be interacted with, so the ship is actually piloted with charisma-- one gun has a targeting system where you aim and fire, that's dexterity, but an alternative where you calculate trajectories for a launch system, so that you can use intelligence, that kind of thing.

Another thought process is to actually build it off of PF2e's victory points, where the player characters run around the ship doing tasks as they come up with strategies for contributing, then let the two ships functionally dual one another working toward victory point thresholds on the other ship and impeding each-other's progress. It would make it less tactical in the traditional sense, but it would create a natural set of strategic choices between offense, defense, recovery.

If you combine the two ideas to some extent, you can let players build abilities into the ship they can play like cards in a space combat sub-game built around victory point thresholds, and let them freely interchange which role they're occupying like they're Han and Chewie who have both been gunners, drivers, and mechanics at various times, their turn in each round becomes a resource they spend to either make a check or play a card.

Actually, taking the approach that anyone can jump between stations and interact with them in different ways based off ship customization, and that there are active powers built into the ship they can invoke like cards, could also be done on a grid in a conventional battle. Another alternative is that the cards could be a product of character feats and such-- introduce a variant of free archetype / ancestral paragon, where you just get ship feats with those slots, but I'm partial to the idea they should be built directly onto a distinct "ship sheet" so different characters can use them, with the characters supplying their actual skill rolls.

If you wanted to go a step further, each player gets their 'normal' three actions, and the ship powers have different action costs, also make the powers how the ship executes maneuvers with facing, there are basic maneuvers, but also special tricks based on how the ship is built-- like if players want to turn the ship around and fire at someone, or get onto someone's butt and fire on them, they need to pool their action economy to perform a sequence of moves and attacks using basic and collected maunevers.

heck, it could be made elaborate enough to sell as a board game while still being simple enough to work as the space combat module for Starfinder


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Nostromo Valdez wrote:
I also have a hunch that they will make space/officer roles into archtypes. Encouraging players and gms to discuss a free archtype as required for the breadth of the campaign. There are already a few archtypes that can be found in guns and gears that appear to be good examples.

That's a good idea, make them all uniform 2nd level archetypes and create a rule that says you have to take them in those slots and exit normally before you can take any other archetype in those slots, boom, every character has three ship related feats by level 6.


Exactly. and Since PF2e is ideally a 4 person party, I would suggest they limit roles and officers to 4. Helm, Enginering, Combat, and Analysis. Captain can just be an honorific or archtype of some sort.

Speaking of 4, 4 roles should each have their own phase. It was clunky to have 5 roles for 3 phases.

I would like to see 4 phases where each officer has 3 actions. I would also like to see ships have the equivlant of reflex, fortitude, and will DCs that certains station can interact with to buff or debuff.

Actions that every officer can use should be able to do things like: divert power (to buff another players station), Repair system, cast a spell, recall knowledge hack/jam enemy systems, brace, aim, charge, pilot. Action tax or penalties to DCs can be applied to officers doing actions out of the correct station. This empowers all players to do anything but incentivizes to use archtypes and roles for things to be more effective.

Intiative gets rolled by Analysis. and combat would operate in following phases:

Analysis, Engineering, Helm, Combat.


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Nostromo Valdez wrote:
Exactly. and Since PF2e is ideally a 4 person party, I would suggest they limit roles and officers to 4. Helm, Enginering, Combat, and Analysis. Captain can just be an honorific or archtype of some sort.

"Ideally" is not "fundamentally". At bare minimum it needs to be playable and functional and fun with anything from 3 to 6 players.


Also, having rolls that the party can't fill (but are not required to fill) is good design, both for ships and normal combats. It gives the party a weakness they need to overcome


Sanityfaerie wrote:
Nostromo Valdez wrote:
Exactly. and Since PF2e is ideally a 4 person party, I would suggest they limit roles and officers to 4. Helm, Enginering, Combat, and Analysis. Captain can just be an honorific or archtype of some sort.
"Ideally" is not "fundamentally". At bare minimum it needs to be playable and functional and fun with anything from 3 to 6 players.

I think fundamentally, yes, it needs to flex enough to accommodate 3-6 players (in my experience 5, not 4, is usually the sweet spot--is one of the reasons digital gloomhaven is just not as good as table top gloomhaven which is adjustable for 5).

Then I would add satisfactorily, it handles 2-7 players.

"Ideally" it handles 1-8 players.

A lot of this though has to do with GM skills vis-a-vis managing your players and their expectations. Large groups are not for the faint of heart or easily overwhelmed. Frankly, online play isn't for everyone either. But the game engine's ability to flex, is no small thing.


Sanityfaerie wrote:
Nostromo Valdez wrote:
Exactly. and Since PF2e is ideally a 4 person party, I would suggest they limit roles and officers to 4. Helm, Enginering, Combat, and Analysis. Captain can just be an honorific or archtype of some sort.
"Ideally" is not "fundamentally". At bare minimum it needs to be playable and functional and fun with anything from 3 to 6 players.

I think fundamentally, yes, it needs to flex enough to accommodate 3-6 players (in my experience 5, not 4, is usually the sweet spot--is one of the reasons digital gloomhaven is just not as good as table top gloomhaven which is adjustable for 5).

Then I would add satisfactorily, it handles 2-7 players.

"Ideally" it handles 1-8 players.

A lot of this though has to do with GM skills vis-a-vis managing your players and their expectations. Large groups are not for the faint of heart or easily overwhelmed. Frankly, online play isn't for everyone either. But the game engine's ability to flex, is no small thing.


Jacob Jett wrote:
Sanityfaerie wrote:
Nostromo Valdez wrote:
Exactly. and Since PF2e is ideally a 4 person party, I would suggest they limit roles and officers to 4. Helm, Enginering, Combat, and Analysis. Captain can just be an honorific or archtype of some sort.
"Ideally" is not "fundamentally". At bare minimum it needs to be playable and functional and fun with anything from 3 to 6 players.

I think fundamentally, yes, it needs to flex enough to accommodate 3-6 players (in my experience 5, not 4, is usually the sweet spot--is one of the reasons digital gloomhaven is just not as good as table top gloomhaven which is adjustable for 5).

Then I would add satisfactorily, it handles 2-7 players.

"Ideally" it handles 1-8 players.

A lot of this though has to do with GM skills vis-a-vis managing your players and their expectations. Large groups are not for the faint of heart or easily overwhelmed. Frankly, online play isn't for everyone either. But the game engine's ability to flex, is no small thing.

I have confidence that the Paizo team will provide instructions for adjusting space encounters for larger or smaller parties, as they have with PF2e


Nostromo Valdez wrote:
I have confidence that the Paizo team will provide instructions for adjusting space encounters for larger or smaller parties, as they have with PF2e

I'm sure they will... bit if there are four roles, it's important to have all four, and there's no way to usefully double up, then any party that isn't four people specifically is going to have problems one way or the other. That seemed to be what you were advocating for, and I assert that it's a bad idea.

Envoy's Alliance

Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Oh... among my feat ideas before

feat for a mechanic, or any cybernetic or cyber organic organism
Direct Interface Control: Allows you to substitute intelligence or charisma for a piloting or gunner check by plugging directly into the controls of the system. Downside, it takes a 3 action activity to unplug so you can't switch to in-ship combat easily.


I am returning to commenting on WatersLethe's document. Sorry for the delay, but reading and thinking about every single point is mentally tiring.

Starship Purposes page 5
I had skipped page 5 because that a starship is transportation, housing, and combat vehicle seemed obviously true, but upon further consideration, I realized the list missed a fourth purpose: mobile base.

In my Iron Gods campaign that ran from December 2015 to March 2018, I let the party refurnish a crashed shuttle craft in the shantytown Scrapwall after Lords of Rust. The Technic League, monopolists who hoarded the alien technology of the crashed space fleet in Numeria, arrived too late to stop them. The player characters took off in their spaceship as the Technic League team shook their fists uselessly at them.

That spaceship was mostly transportation. The spaceship was not armed for combat. The PCs usually hid the ship miles away from their adventuring location, so it was not convenient for housing. On the other hand, they used the reactor in it to charge the batteries for their technological gear, and their technological crafter set up a workshop to make technological items in it. It served as their high-tech base.

We can imagine a Starfinder party on a mission to explore an untamed region on a planet parking their starship in the middle of the region and using it as a base of operations, rather like how the spaceship in the classic movie Forbidden Planet became the base for the second expedition to the fourth planet of Altair. The starship would have facilities for meals, medical care, and repair of gear, and serve as a fortress against hostile wildlife.

This could be rolled into the housing role, but the facilities of a mobile base are more than a comfortable room to live and sleep in.

Suggested Encounter Flow page 10
The flow diagram probably begins in Exploration mode rather than Encounter mode.

Stealth page 11
Stealth can be a Hide action by the Engineer and a Sneak action by the Pilot. Hiding would be powering down at a distance to avoid being an electronic beacon and Sneak would be coasting unpowered with cold pressured-gas rockets for course correction. I recall the "Here There Be Dragons" episode of the 2nd season of The Expanse in which the pilot Alex Kamal used slingshot manuevers around the moons of Jupiter, powering up only when hidden behind a moon, to coast to Ganymede past the sentry spaceships around Jupiter.

The rule for coasting movement would that the Pilot makes a Stealth check and the starship moves at the same speed and bearing as the last powered movement.

Pirate ships, smuggling ships, and spy ships could have an anti-radar coating that gives them a bonus to Stealth, but would look very suspicious in legitimate spaceports. Many ships that mix legitimate and covert operations could instead use a magic spell for a temporary anti-radar effect.

Hailing and Negotiation page 12
And here the example is Star Trek with Lieutenant Uhura hailing other starship and opening up communications. I also remember many scenes in science fiction books where a starship approaching a spaceport would have to negotiate a berth and customs inspections over radio communications with a spaceport clerk. Those could be a Culture check for knowing the proper protocol.

Starfinder lacks faster-than-light communications, nothing like Star Trek's subspace, right?

Hacking page 13
This switches to the mobile base use of the starship. Does the ship have the resources to hack into a remote system? Does anyone on the ship have the power to alter their registration transceiver to display a false identity.

Approach page 14
I had assumed that starships would be on a hex-grid map limited in size, but yes, we could have starships interacting at great distances, such as orbitting a planet, that won't fit on a map. I presume that direct-fire weapons cannot reach that far, but missile weapons could travel the distance. Or instead of combat the activity could be Stealth or Hailing and Negotiation or a Science Survey from Orbit. The poor pilot won't have much to do without a map to maneuver upon, except for Stealth checks.

Combat page 15
Should aim for 3 round combats
Incorporate round-by-round ship initiative and standard action economy
Here I disagree with WatersLethe. In order to emphasize player choices, I want to keep the regular turn structure.

Furthermore, to keep the Starfinder 2nd Edition rules consistent with Pathfinder 2nd Edition, I suspect that the developers will adapt the Vehicle subsystem from the PF2 Gamemastery Guide. The same rules appeared in the Subsystems chapter of the Remasters GM Core. After all, Starfinder could also use rules for car-to-car combat on highways, tank combat in an open field, and airplane dogfights in the sky. I would love for Starfinder 2nd Edition to have a starship movement system based on momentum and acceleration, like we see in The Expanse, but using ship speed like in Starfinder 1st Edition and the Vehicle Subsystem is simpler.

Thus, I envision that the crew of a starship will use the PF2 three-action turn and operating ship systems with their actions or multiple-action activities. The ship's propulsion, scanner, shields, and each individual weapon will have an additional restriction that it can be operated by only one character per round, though perhaps an assistant can prepare the system to aid before the primary use. On the other hand, engineers can keep repairing the ship over and over again during a round.

Spellcasting should be utilized to a much greater extent
Starfinder should have spells that affect a ship, such as a magical shield that acts like the ship's usual shields. Does it have any spells like this already?

Each player should have their own set of ship info to track (no one should be saddled with the tedium of doing shield rebalance math)
We need someone to track the damage to the ship when attacked on an enemy ship's turn.

As for adjusting shields, I calculated shields that gradually absorb damage are either simply a form of temporary hull points for the starship or if they can regenerate, then they unbalance encounters against low-damage enemies. Adjusting shields by transferring the temporary hull points from the starboard shield to the forward shield are mostly robbing Peter to pay Paul. I think we need a different kind of shield. That deserves a comment of its own.

Simplify firing arcs: only restriction is that biggest guns need to be on the front arc
The unequal sizes of the four firing arcs bother me. I would prefer three arcs: forward arc that covers the 120 degrees between the forward port angle and forward starboard angle, port arc that covers the 120 degrees between the aft angle and forward port angle, and starboard arc that covers the 120 degrees between the aft angle and forward starboard angle.

The purpose of the arcs are to have separate shields to readjust, which I dislike, to add maneuvering to the starship so that their strongest weapons can be aimed at the enemy, which replaces the positioning of individual combat, and potentially, to give targets on each side of the starship, which the critical damage effects totally ignores in favor of random results instead.

Remove or simplify ship critical damage effects
We will want the ability to say, "Target their engines," or "Target their coilgun." Some ship systems are visible from the exterior, as opposed to life support which can be internal. But the critical damage effects are disappointingly random. "We hit the engines by accident."

Character build choices highlighted: Piloting, Martial weapon accuracy, Spellcasting, Computers/Hacking, Engineering/Crafting, Lore
I think the way to go is start with the characters and build the starship around their abilities. While the starship will need weapons, defenses, and mobility, Starfinder 2nd Edition can provide a solution for each function that corresponds to the characters.

Victory, Defeat, and Flight page 16
This is complicated stuff for the Starfinder 2nd Edition GM Core rulebook. Some material like that is under the Starship Operations Manual's Alternate Win Conditions.


Ship Combat Customization page 17
In SF1, ship combat customization is holistic, and strongly encourages one optimizer to take over the task and everyone else to not really engage with the system

Juggling build points and power core units seems unnecessarily complicated.

I imagine a system in which the players can select a base frame with various mounts, stations, and bays and then install their selection of weapons and sensors, panels, and functional rooms on those mounts, stations, and bays. The power cores are built into the frames and we skip the power calculations. No item's tier can exceed the tier of the ship.

Ship combat customization should more closely match PC customization, with each person taking care of their own section

There should be no single source of truth “Ship Sheet”, instead each player should have a section of the ship for which they have control and responsibility

Moving the ship details from ship sheet to several character sheets would be repetitive about details such as ship speed and AC. However, since players will run the ship, putting ship information onto the regular character sheets makes sense, such as "Gunner coilgun +10 (long range) Damage 4d4 direct."

Sectioning the ship this way also encourages movement between “stations” in order to perform different tasks, increasing player choice and including more 3 action economy opportunities

That sound like an action tax rather than anything that improves gameplay. Yes, we should allow a PC to rush over to another PC's station to use its special features if somehow the other PC falls unconscious, but I don't expect that to be routine.

Break Up Ship Statistics into Arcs page 18
Larger Group Examples page 19
Smaller Group Examples page 20
Putting gun mounts, sensor mounts, engines, and other exterior features onto arcs makes sense, because those can be targeted by enemy ships and could be protected by turning that arc of the ship away from the enemy. But the interior would be tough to target through the hull, so I don't see the point of arcs there. Also, ships come in different shapes. A rocket-shaped ship will have different volumes in their arcs than a saucer-shaped ship. The arcs won't be balanced.

If instead, as the diagrams imply, the interior arcs represent zones of control for different PCs, that makes less sense. The captain, pilot, and science officer will all be on the bridge. Only the engineer and the gunners would have a reason to be away from the bridge. Just give them their station as a zone of control without insisting that one station be tucked way on the port arc of the ship and another tucked away on the starboard arc.

Example Loadout page 21
Each arc has its own hull points? That means four times the bookkeeping about hull points.

Car Wars had armor for each of the four sides of the car. Armor was heavy and slowed the car, so I put heavy armor on my car's rear side and almost no armor elsewhere. My plan was to stay ahead of the other cars so that they could shoot only the armored side. I prefer to avoid strategies like that in Starfinder starship combat.

Other Ship Combat Customization Thoughts page 22
Shield modules or hull platings could be loot; distributed to enhance arcs of the ship
Starships will prey on each other for parts? That sounds post-apocalyptic.

Higher tier ships may have additional add-on slots
That makes sense.

Add-ons can be upgraded to provide certain bonuses. Spell launchers can be upgraded to give more magical effect options. Engineering terminals can be upgraded to increase shield recharge and weapon damage bonuses, or to perform hull repairs. Hacking terminals can be upgraded to unlock new debilitations or to see inside the enemy ship etc.
Balance will be tricky, but playtesting will find good balance.

Combat Initiative page 23
I favor simply using player initiative rather than ship initiative. Each player performs their ship duty during their initiative. Some features, such as each weapon or the engines, can be used only once per turn, in which case the Ship Roles determine who gets to use them.

Combat Turn Example page 24
The example has Gunnery first, rather than Starfinder 1st Edition order of Engineering first, Helm second, and Gunnery third. Curious.

Why does Gunner P1 shoot the backup laser as a 2nd attack at a -5 multiple attack penalty rather than Engineer P2 handling the backup laser with no MAP? One weapon per Gunner seems the most efficient, even if one player is a better shot than the other players. I suppose that the Engineer could be in the wrong part of the ship to control the backup laser, yet somehow he is in the right place in the ship to both boost the shields and heckle the enemy over comms.


Shields page 25
Target rate of shield recovery so battles don’t drag on
Let's look at the coilgun and its 4d4 damage. Assume a 50% chance of hitting and can shoot only once per turn, so that is 5 damage per turn on average. The Example Loadout numbers on page 21 give shield 50, so the coilgun would take 10 turns to break through the shield. That is already a slow battle. On the other hand, the Example Loadout has multiple weapons: Spinal Rail (titan bolter 6d8 × 10), Laser (light laser cannon 2d4), Missile (High Explosive Missile Launcher 4d8), Aeon Caster (3d4), and Coilgun (4d4). The numbers are all over the place, because WatersLethe is not specific about the exact weapons, so let's simplify it to 5 coilguns. That would be 25 damage per turn. That would take 2 turns to burn through 1 shield and 8 turns to burn through all 4 shields if they kept rebalancing the shield strength. If we want that to be 12 turns instead of 8 turns, the shield recharge rate would be 8 per turn.

But wait, suppose we are fighting against a weak Moderate-Threat enemy who deals only half the damage per turn, just 12.5 damage. At that rate, it would take 16 turns to burn through 200 points of shields, but it they regenerated at 8 points per turn, it would take 44 turns.

Shield regeneration is overwhelming against weaker opponents and trivial against stronger opponents. It is a mechanics that does not balance properly against the threat levels of Low, Moderate, Severe, and Extreme.

One action: Recover X shield points in your current arc
With 4 shield arcs, could the shields overall recover 4X points? One action per player is manageable.

Rebalance shields: Take Y shield points from up to two arcs, add them, and give it to one arc. Repeatable to charge up one arc, for example.
Rebalance fixes a shield arc much faster in Starfinder 1st Edition than recovering shield points. Would it be the same in Starfinder 2nd Edition?

When an arc’s shields reach zero, the shield generator must be rebooted so the gap can’t immediately be filled
How many shield points does the reboot restore?

When an arc’s shields are down, and the attacker has shots remaining targeting that arc, it is common practice to ask for a surrender
What if an alien species does not follow this polite rule of war?

Ship Damage page 26
Hull points should be a smaller pool than shield points
Thus, the ship is doomed once the shields are down, barring polite rules of war.

Hull damage should be difficult to repair in combat
The ten-minute Treat Wounds activity in Pathfinder 2nd Edition will probably give rise to a ten-minute Repair Hull activity in Starfinder 2nd Edition. But to be meaningful, the hull points have to be enough to take damage yet survive the battle.

When an arc of the ship reaches 0 HP, that section’s guns and add-ons are rendered unusable until repaired. Considered broken, not destroyed. If a PC is occupying the battlestation that is rendered inoperable, they get thrown over the bridge railing, Wilhelm scream, and take X damage. Basic (non-upgraded) terminals can be used elsewhere on the ship to access one system at a time, so the party isn’t locked out of taking Piloting actions, for example, if that arc is damaged.
Thrown over the bridge railing in a small one-floor ship like the Millennium Falcon (ignoring the removable floor tiles).

After an arc of the ship reaches 0 HP, further shots at that arc can target ship engines, power, or weapon systems. One shot each to disable.
Power to what? And what are the non-gun weapon systems, since the guns stopped working at 0 HP?

A ship is destroyed and unsalvageable if all arcs are brought to 0 HP. Completely blowing up a ship should be rare and intentional.
With power gone in all arcs, does that mean the life support is down and the crew dies anyway?

Crew Actions and Roles page 27
SF1 had far too many crew actions that clashed with familiar actions from normal play. Why does Captain need special actions to provide, essentially, Aid bonuses? Greatly increased cognitive load made people dread Starship combat, and therefore avoid it, and therefore never get good at it.
I agree.

Ship specific crew actions should be reduced to a bare minimum that serve clear objectives
For example, instead of a Gunnery action, the Gunner could take a Strike action to attack with their ship weapon. But then ship weapons might interact with other abilities in unexpected ways.

As much as possible, abilities from normal play should apply. e.g. Buff spells should enhance gun attacks or skill checks as usual.
Consider the PF2 ranger's Hunter's Aim ability. The ranger can take two actions to make a Strike with a +2 circumstance bonus to hit. Would that apply to a ship's laser?

Only the Pilot role remains a prescriptive differentiator, all others are emergent. Avoids awkwardness of requiring a Captain/Leader in a cooperative TTRPG. No longer need to think up odd-ball crew roles and abilities to cater to different crew sizes and ability sets. Players can just use their natural abilities.
The Pathfinder 2nd Edition Vehicle Subsystem has rules for piloting a vehicle, such as, "A vehicle’s movement type is determined by the vehicle itself, while its movement each round is based on the pilot’s actions." Thus, Piloting can also be natural actions.

Crew Actions page 28
General Actions:
Regain Shields: One action, recover a small amount of shields in your arc

I suppose this is necessarily general when the crew member is the only person in the arc to restore the shields. But my gut feeling thinks of it as specialized.

Fire Ship Weapon: Functions exactly like regular weapons, but some guns take two actions or require facing to be able to use
Likewise, the crew member might be the only person next to the weapon mounted on that arc. But surely some weapons can be controlled remotely from the bridge.

Intercepting Fire: Ready a ship weapon to shoot down enemy projectiles/attacks
The Ready activity in PF2 is expensive to use. It ought to be an easier but more specific action like Raise a Shield.

Pilot retains all stunts, which cost an extra action to perform
Why not a simple Perform Stunt two-action activity?

Engineering Skill Actions: Divert power: Increase an arc’s firepower and shield regen capability. Patch: As Repair (Crafting) but hull points restored at a reduced rate.
I never cared for Divert Power as an option. It implies that overloading a system makes it function better.

Computers Skill Actions: Hack: Interfere with enemy computers, imposing a penalty of some kind. Rebalance Shields: Two actions, doesn’t need a hacking terminal, just access to a shield HUD.
Regain Shields is anyone's action, but rebalance shields requires computer skills? I don't see why.

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