This week I want to shamelessly steal a topic from Creighton Broadhurst where he wrote on Pathfinder Knowledge checks for Identifying Monsters.
In Pathfinder there was a system where you rolled knowledge to gain information on a creature and you received information based on how well you beat the DC. Unfortunately there were a three ways people used inconsistently to determine the DCs. The quality of information given about each creature was also inconsistent. As a GM, I really liked Monster Knowledge cards, but the information in those were inconsistent and only the SRD and first 2 Bestiaries were covered.
In Creighton’s post, he brings up a different model I believe came from Pathfinder Society play. Players ask questions and if they beat the DC they get the answer. It’s rightly noted a caster may care more about Spell Resistance than a Melee Fighter or Rogue cares about overcoming DR.
How does this apply to Starfinder?
In Starfinder we have Life Sciences and Physical Sciences checks as well as Computers checks for Science Officers to scan starships with sensors.
Science Officers roll against the Tier and Defensive systems of the opposing ship, and beating the DC by a margin of 5 or more gives you more information in one check, but the check never gets harder. On subsequent rounds you may continue down the list of information items in order at the same DC.
But lets say you come across a derelict ship broadcasting a distress call, do you care about size, class, maneuverability or just the life signs of the crew?
If a ship appears out of nowhere and calls for your surrender, do you want to skip right into AC, TL, Hull Points and Shields, or even just what kind of weapons they have?
Since the rules never make the other bits of information harder, it shouldn’t be game breaking to skip ahead. by going straight to weapons or defenses, you are skipping over speed and maneuverability which might be a mistake, so its a choice which might have consequences.
Anyways I think the targeted scanning, ask a specific question model works game mechanically as well as fits the fiction we’re used to where the sensor operator is task oriented instead of just reading the wikipedia entry for a ship.
My own players rolled fantastically well on a sensor check and found out the enemy ship didn’t have any Aft weapons on the first round. So they hammered the Aft arc on the ship and the fight was over in 4 rounds. By the book if they’d only rolled average they wouldn’t have found that out until the third check.
Starship Scan Results
In our Starship books we try to include Starship scan results as well as a book called Sensor Readings that provides Scan Results for the starships from the CRB. Most of the results are really simple, but there are a few problematic issues with scan results
Eoxian ships don’t have (shouldn’t have) life signs.
You’re supposed to get weapons information one weapon at a time, based on the PCU of the weapon, BUT out of 14 Light Weapons, 10 of them use 10 PCU. Many Heavy Weapons also tie for PCU usage and all Heavy or Capital Missile/Torpedo launchers either use 10 or 15 PCU. It’s problematic to me that there is no difference between the Anti-Matter Mega Missile launcher (4d10x10) long range capital ship weapon and a Chain cannon (6d4) short range light weapon with problems getting through shields.
We’d probably all be better off if Starship weapons had Item Levels tied to Tiers, but in the absence of any such thing, how about some Tie-Breakers;
Spinal Mount Weapons over Capital Weapons
Capital Weapons over Heavy Weapons
Heavy Weapons over Light Weapons
Tracking Weapons vs Direct Fire Weapons is by Damage not PCU
Direct Fire Weapons vs other Direct Fire Weapons is by Damage, then by Range
If you literally have the same weapon in each arc, list them by Forward, Port, Starboard, Aft, Turret although an argument could be made for listing Turret weapons first or second because they are always threatening.
Hopefully thinking about this now prevents you from stalling your game when it really counts.
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