Recently I posted four weapon damage tables based almost entirely off the ones found on Owen KC Stephens blog, you should go there and look at it, maybe throw some money at his patreon if you enjoy the content and would like him to create more.
I recently released a small booklet of new Operative Weapons in order for them to have a lot more item levels available to them. Before then there were only 5 daggers in the core book and great gaps in what you could use with trick attack. I don’t believe it was the fault of the designer who wrote the class, the ability is fine mechanically. The equipment sections of the core do not support the ability well, armory added 13 new types of operative weapon and tried to fill in the level gaps, if you didn’t mind changing the type of weapon you carried every few levels.
Owen wrote his weapon damage tables on June 15, 2020 and it took me 3 months to decide to write a booklet about operative weapons and another 3 weeks to write it.
- You go to the weapon damage tables, either the basic melee EAC or KAC table, you pick the column for operative.
- You choose the item level and make a note of the suggested damage.
- You put an em dash where the critical effect goes, there are a lot of basic weapons with no critical effect.
- You put an L under bulk, many operative weapons are light bulk.
- You put analog or powered under special properties.
- Powered weapons might get 20 charges and usage one or two.
- You go to the weapon upgrade pricing list and you start counting 3 between levels and find the number you think fits best.
- You do that 15 times, you add the 5 daggers form the core rules and you’re done with daggers, then do the 13 weapons from armory, then create a new weapon because its kind of obviously missing. When you have 60 item levels of weapons, you’re done.
Operative weapons were not the easiest case I could have picked to start with.
I wrote some front matter defining the problem and the need for the book. Under each of the 14 operative weapons I wrote about where there was a large gap in the damage where we could fit a new weapon. I also wrote about when a weapon from the core or armory didn’t act like I expected it to. I put a cover on it, I updated the OGL statement to cover the book and Owen’s blog. I sent it to Jim for a proofread and comments. I put it up for sale the same day.
It cost me $1.25 in stock art, 3 years of learning InDesign, a monthly Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, 3 weeks of nights and weekends away from my wife or watching TV, a night I didn’t play an MMO or Destiny on the Xbox.
People can and do write books in Word or OpenOffice/LibreOffice, you could send a manuscript to a layout artist. We will address those parts more under publishing.
The thing I want you to take away is that making weapons for starfinder can be as easy as making monsters, NPCs or starships for the game, now that Owen has published his math for doing so. Owen has been working on the math for a couple of years according to his blog. According to my notes and records he and I talked about it in June of 2019. After I released the battle gloves book I went looking for the notes from that conversation which was not in my normal questions for Owen doc, or the Ask a game designer doc, it was unhelpfully labeled as Pathfinder 2e notes.
So what did you make that was new?
Armory gave us the switchblade, a blade you could conceal, but no concealment option for bludgeoning weapons. Black Widow, Hawkeye, Mockingbird, Nightwing, Daredevil all carry some kind of baton, and collapsible batons have been around forever. So where is the concealable baton, we made one. We started out three levels higher than the regular baton and tried to follow the progression of the switchblade and retractable spike.
How did that go? What didn’t work like you expected it to?
Armory gives us the switchblade a concealable dagger that starts out with a three level adjustment that gets lower over time as compared to the damage of the daggers from the core. The last 11d4 molecular rift switchblade level 18 does more damage than the 10d4 molecular rift dagger level 17 and is both one item level higher, but also one damage level higher. So while some other level adjustments for special properties degrade in value the higher you get, I really think at the high level the developers were looking to plug gaps in the item levels where there wasn’t an existing weapon. If you make a 10d4 switchblade 18th level, but keep the damage the same, is the conceal property alone worth 79,000cr?
What else did you find?
The retractable spike, is concealable and hands free with four level adjustments, but those properties don’t cost anything extra in the end game.
The tailblade has a three level adjustment to the basic survival knife, it has the tail special property, then there are no other tailblades or other items with the tail property in armory. Assuming your tail just swings wildly doesn’t have the strength for heavy weapons and can’t aim ranged attacks without depth perception, why don’t we have tail versions of light operative weapons like zero/shriek/knives, saps, gale batons? Hook knife?
- The Ice needle is a level 1 EAC weapon that does 1d4 and has the conceal property, it is an advanced weapon which means it gets some abilities and a critical effect for free where basic weapons don’t. So we need to think about how the level adjustments of special properties cost more for basic weapons and less for advanced weapons.
Garrotes, Polarity Gauntlets, Battle Ribbons give us our first two handed operative weapons.
- Some of the advanced operative weapons (gale batons) do damage like other advanced non-operative weapons which do twice as much damage as other operative weapons of the same level.
- Some of the Plasma Ribbons EAC do the same damage as advanced two handed KAC weapons despite the notion energy weapons are supposed to do less because they hit more often. That probably has more to with low tier weapons being OP for their level.
- The 9th level Plasma Ribbon which can add trick attack damage does the same damage as a 10th level Plasma Doshko? The 14/19th level ribbons do less than the 15/18th level doshkos which is closer to the mark.
- Weapons item level 1-5 skew higher damage than they should. Low tier fights go easier and PCs tend to survive.
- KAC shots do 10% more damage than EAC attacks because they are on average +2 more likely to hit. By making separate EAC/KAC tables you shouldn’t have to do this math now, but its nice to know the why of something. When we went into the new op weapons from armory, this wasn’t always the case.
- Player character damage at level is NOT the same as NPC or Monster damage at CR.
- 4d010 slashing 13th level +13 for specialization 16 STR to an 18 at level or bonus item 4d10 +17 (22+17) 10% less or 36 for an EAC weapon of 19 +17 so about 4d8
Area of Effect as a balancing factor for weapon damage
- Blast weapons do 20-25% less damage because it’s an area effect.
- Explode weapons are treated like blast for 20-25% less damage, because its an area effect.
- Line weapons don’t change damage much because it’s hard to line up multiple targets.
Action economy as a balancing factor for weapon damage
- Unwieldy can do 10-20% more damage because you can’t make multiple attacks with it.
- Small Arms and Operative weapons assume they are being used by an Operative with Trick attack, add 20% more damage which is like making the operative weapon unwieldy.
- Boost is extra 10-20% (as much as 33%) which isn’t always used and limits the number of attacks similar to unwieldy or trick attack.
- Automatic doesn’t penalize for damage because you run out of ammo and have to reload. Despite saying this, the Autotarget rifle is level 2 does 1d6 which is less than the 1d8 Hunting rifle level, the Magnetar rifle level 9 does the same 2d8 damage as the tactical seeker rifle level 7. So if we called it straight 2 level adjustment and allowed for both an item level adjustment and damage level adjustment to cover the total cost.
Number and variety of weapons and game balance
Range Increment, number of shots or Charges and the Crit aren’t too much of a design concern, the primary balancing factor to watch out for is that you don’t create the one best gun. You’re looking for game balance and variation. Paul’s note: Charles Ryan wrote a Bullet Points article on this for D20 Modern called Firearms in the d20 Modern Game, you can still find it on the Wayback Machine. He basically said you can have 50 guns in the rulebook, if there is a best gun, then you only ever see people using the one gun, you might as well not have the rest.
Additional considerations for Special Qualities
How do you add special qualities at what level and why? Stunned, Wounding, Critical Wounding are the biggest balance factors against a level when cybernetic replacements and regeneration become available and are for advanced not basic weapons.
By trying to make the design tools more readily available, it is my sincere hope we hear from some new voices bringing us weird stuff we never thought possible and start to break down a stigma about 3PP content not being as mechanically sound as other game content.
I’ll come back to this post and clean it up as it develops and I grind more Starfinder weapons through the process. Up next, I smash Owen’s KAC weapon tables and an idea he gave me a few years ago against an old Pathfinder favorite and see if more toolkits fall out.
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