This week I want to talk about Starship Gunnery, it hangs a lot of people up for a couple of reasons and we’ll talk about what those reasona are. I see this come up a lot in the forums, people are looking over a Starship stat block and can’t figure out the Gunnery modifiers for a ship.
Gunnery in Starfinder is not a Skill, your PCs use either their;
Base Attack Bonus + Dex mod
Piloting Ranks + Dex mod
Since you can’t have more ranks in a skill than your character level or a higher BAB than your level we can have Primary Combat classes and support classes fairly even on this one. Also unlike previous D20 science fiction games there is no Feat Tax for Starship Piloting or Starship Gunnery which supports Paizo’s scifi adventure game everyone can be useful in starship combat model.
By limiting Gunnery to Piloting Ranks we eliminate the In Class Skill Bonus, Operative Bonus, Theme bonus or anything else and keep the playing field for Gunnery fairly equal for PCs. I don’t see people get hung up on building PC gunners so we’ll move on, here are where the rules change.
NPCs aren’t like other people
In Pathfinder there was a quick monster building system from Pathfinder Unchained and it found its way into Starfinder’s Alien Archive too. It’s a very quick system for building NPCs. Some of the math from that carried over to building NPC ship crews.
NPC ship crews skills use this formula explained on page 626 of the CRB;
Good skills equal to (1.5 x Tier) +4
Master Skills equal to (1.5 x Tier) +9
|Starship Tier||Good Skill||Master Skill|
I hear you saying, but Gunnery isn’t a skill, you’re right it isn’t for PCs. However for Starship NPCs this is the only system we get, we’ll compare it later to theorhetical Maximum Dex mod and BAB or Piloting Ranks.
Anyways you may notice a few things, because numbers round down in Pathfinder/Starfinder odd numbered Tiers always round down their 0.5 modifier and even numbered Tier skills will jump 2 points above the previous odd numbered Tier. that’ll give a little edge to even numbered Tiers, nothing big, but it’s there.
Now the AC of a ship is equal to;
10 + Pilot’s Ranks (Equal to Tier) + Armor Bonus + Size Modifier
I want to assume that ships spread the Armor linearly across Tiers, but they don’t. Nobody uses Mk I armor at all, not even the Quarter, Third or Half Tier ships. At the high end you’re better off buying better shields and already the Tyrant at Tier 16 has Mk 10 armor. The following examples show that Defense is always trailing Offense in starship combat same as in personal combat.
Tier 1 example
Tier 0-1 10 Base +1 Piloting +2 Armor +2 Size Tiny = 15 AC
Tier 1 +5 Gunnery means you hit 50% of the time with no mods from Captains or Science Officers
Tier 5 example
Tier 5 10 Base +5 Piloting +4 Armor +0 Size Medium = 19 AC
Tier 5 +11 Gunnery means you hit 65% of the time with no mods from Captains or Science Officers
Tier 10 example
Tier 10 10 Base +10 Piloting +5 Armor +0 Size Medium = 25 AC
Tier 10 +19 Gunnery means you hit 75% of the time with no mods from Captains or Science Officers
Tier 15 example
Tier 15 10 Base +15 Piloting +7 Armor +0 Size Medium = 32 AC
Tier 15 +26 Gunnery means you hit 75% of the time with no mods from Captains or Science Officers
I know the Tyrant has a Mk 10 armor at Tier 16, but it is also a Colossal ship and has a -8 size penalty to AC meaning its 28 AC still gets his 90% of the time by a Tier 15 Gunner.
Tier 20 example
Tier 20 10 Base +20 Piloting +10 Armor +0 Size Medium = 40 AC
Tier 20 +34 Gunnery means you hit 75% of the time with no mods from Captains or Science Officers
The Pilot can Evade for +2 AC, that’s about it.
So Starship combat like regular combat is tipped in favor of NPCs hitting more often and combats not being prolonged missing contests. Hits also give the Engineer something to do besides Divert Power every round.
Well that’s fine for NPCs, what about PCs
So Player Characters can start out with a Max Dex of 18 and receive stat boosts at 5, 10, 15 and 20.
Level 1 Dex 18 Gunnery 1 Rank or BAB +4 = 5
Level 3 buys a Personal Dex Upgrade Mk I Dex 20 Gunnery 3 Ranks or BAB +5 = 8
Level 5 increases Dex by +1 Ability mod for Level. Dex 21Gunnery 5 Ranks or BAB +5 = 10
Level 7 buys a Personal Dex Upgrade Mk II Dex 23 Gunnery 7 Ranks or BAB +6 = 13
Level 10 increases Dex by +1 Ability mod for Level. Dex 24 Gunnery 10 Ranks or BAB +7 = 17
Level 14 buys a Personal Dex Upgrade Mk III Dex 26 Gunnery 14 Ranks or BAB +8 = 22
Level 15 increases Dex by +1 Ability mod for Level. Dex 27 Gunnery 15 Ranks or BAB +8 = 23
Level 20 increases Dex by +1 Ability mod for Level. Dex 28 Gunnery 20 Ranks or BAB +9 = 29
The NPC Gunner is equal to or better than the Max Dex PC from Level 1 and is 5 points better by Level 20. So yes these numbers won’t make sense if you think about NPC ships using PC character creation and level advancement.
Hopefully reading about this now prevents you from stalling your game, or your game prep when it really counts.
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