Starfinder has made a lot of changes from Pathfinder and its 3.x roots. I want to walk through these section by section for my own purposes when designing supplements for Starfinder. I hope that others find it useful as well.
Classes. Owen KC Stephens and I once talked about designing new classes for Starfinder and I remember him saying while there was nothing definitive, there was some math you shouldn’t break. I believe another Paizo dev said something about early drafts that were built on the class design math from the Pathfinder Advanced Class Guide. I don’t have any better notes on class design now than I did in 2017. What would it take to get something clear and concise written on the subject?
Monsters and NPCs. Insert comparison to PF/SF monster statistics by CR. At GenCon 2017 Rob McReary said that Starfinder monsters are made using Pathfinder Unchained, this was well before the Alien Archive rules came out.
Character stats are Point Buy by default and start lower than Pathfinder characters, but quickly begin to surpass Pathfinder characters due to having more boosts to more attribute increases over their lifetime.
Characters deal damage from weapon scaling and fewer attacks than Pathfinder’s increase due to static weapon damage and Iterative attacks. Starfinder also removes Two-Weapon Fighting and associated feats as an alternate means of doing more damage. The Trailblazer supplement analyzed the notion of giving everyone two attacks at -2 being as good as multiple Iterative attacks where a lot of those attacks fail. The Star Wars D20 and Revised Core system from WotC had a hybrid approach to this which had Iterative Attacks like the D&D 3.x and Pathfinder games while Jedi and other force using classes (Weapon Master) had scaling weapon damage based on their level. Including Fighter’s Weapon Specialization, there have always been ways of increasing damage per attack by level, Starfinder putting the increases into the Weapons and all characters getting Specialization has standardized it across all classes.
Attacks of Opportunity are Reactions now and not their own resource which means you share AoOs with Feat uses and some other defensive actions. There isn’t another source of Reactions or AoOs in the game like Combat Reflexes in Pathfinder so there isn’t a Melee-focused build based on provoking AoOs such as with Trip Attacks and Reach Weapons. At higher levels, Knockdown weapons and Solarian Starquakes might knock some enemies prone, but counting on the AoO is a side effect, not a primary means of dealing damage. You’d be better off with Area of Effect weapons attacking multiple targets rather than trying to provoke AoOs. Then Character Operations Manual came along and the Vanguard has more Reactions.
Critical Hits on Natural 20, no threats, no confirmation checks, no feats that add to the roll confirming a threat or armor that works to prevent it (Force Fields and Armor Upgrades can add Fortification). No Crit fishing builds, no x4 multiplier picks. No Improved Critical feat widening the Crit Range for Fighters or Swashbucklers. The Improved Critical feat to raise the DC of a Critical effect by 2 is fine. Soldiers have a Gear Boost (Plasma Immolation) that enables Critical Effects on 19-20, but that’s still not as much overhead as Pathfinder had.
Pathfinder style 5ft steps that do not provoke AoOs that can be used with a full-round action are gone. Guarded steps that do the same movement-wise are a move action.
Flat Footed is now a set -2 modifier across the board, and not something a melee fighter might completely ignore while disproportionally hindering a Dex-based character.
Hit Points vs Health Points and Stamina the stamina replenish faster and it’s possible to run a party without Magical Healing. Paizo playtested an all Soldier party just to see if it worked. The Galaxy Pirates setting has a Combat Medic for just this reason, it’ll be interesting to see how it translates.
No Ki, Grit, Panache, Mana, everything is Resolve. Having a simplified resource pool helps keep multiclassing and archetypes from getting overly complicated. Then Character Operations Manual came along and the Vanguard has Entropy points.
No Trap Options, this was from a GenCon rules design seminar, the crowd was looking for something like Goblin weapons with fragile conditions and the designers stated they didn’t want to put Trap Options in the game that the Player would be penalized just for taking them. Exploding JunkLasers are fine for Goblins, but not PCs.
No Shields, the armor rules with EAC and KAC are pretty narrow range with just the Armor Options and character Attributes, one assumes that having to do the balance with the expectation that half of all characters might be carrying level appropriate shields would change that math. Assuming all Small Arms users like Operatives or 3PP Gunslingers have better AC for using a shield than Longarms and Heavy Arms users while still maintaining the mobility of light armor changes some things. There is an Energy shield armor upgrade and Starfarer’s companion has a shield as well. None of the things called shields in Armory add to AC, they mostly stop fixed amounts of damage. Character Operations Manual later introduced shields.
(When talking to Owen about balancing something like the Droidekas from Star Wars he indicated Force Fields with a set number of hit points were preferable for game balance to the DR 15 shields the Droidekas ended up using.)
Pretty much everyone is expected to wear armor or environmental suits at some point in the game, so Arcane Spell failure is gone from the game meaning we can expect to see armored casters in the game. A side effect of this change in assumptions assumption is that the deadly dangerous radiation poisoning rules can be and largely are ignored in actual play because level appropriate armor protects you from level-appropriate radiation.
All magic is just magic there isn’t divine, arcane, and all the other sources, you want psychics or psionics just take a caster and call your powers mental powers. They also got rid of verbal, somatic, and material components for magic. This had the unintended consequence that casters can’t just be bound and gagged, you basically have to knock them unconscious, permanently sedated, or handwave a magic blocking restraint in order to have them captured and not killed.
Characters don’t require a lot of bonus optimization, there aren’t weapon focus, double focus, and +1 to +5 weapons, no Point Blank shot Feat or Feat Tax tree of boring feats on the way to the feat you actually want. Feat Taxes aren’t as bad in Starfinder. Permanent Attack Bonuses are harder to get in Starfinder, the Envoy may boost your party members round to round, but long-term bonuses aren’t as readily available which means your character and monster math works in a tighter range meaning you aren’t screwed by not looking for every optimal character bonus. (Separate the attack bonuses and feat tax/tree points into separate blocks)
Feats (Core Rules and Pact Worlds)
Adaptive Fighting, the benefit of Emulate Feat from Unearthed Arcana without burning resources, and it lasts for a minute instead of a round.
Agile Casting is like Spring Attack or Shot on the Run, but for Casting spells, seems like this is long overdue.
Antagonize, is not quite like Pathfinder Antagonize, it fixes the problems that Pathfinder’s original antagonize had.
Barricade, a nice cinematic cover feat that is essential to a ranged combat-heavy game.
Blind-fight, minor wording changes, but very similar to the Pathfinder version.
Bodyguard, loses the Combat Reflexes prerequisite, is a reaction and not an AoO, isn’t based on Aid another Standard Action and imposes an equal AC penalty to the user. There is no attack roll unlike Aid Another which is a Standard Action. Similar to Aid Another the ally only benefits for one (current) attack against them.
Cleave, similar to Pathfinder version.
Climbing Master is a feat that grants you an alternate movement speed if you have X many ranks in the relevant skill.
Close Combat (Pact Worlds), similar to Elusive Target from D20 Modern.
Combat Casting, grants a situational +2 AC vs an AoO provoked by casting spells, Pathfinder granted a bonus to make the check to avoid provoking in the first place.
Connection Inkling, similar to Technomantic Dabbler, is almost a Feat-sized version of the Magical Talent trait from PF. Probably closer to other Feats that let you yoink other classes’ features without multi-classing. Has improved uses per day and converts to a more useful feat if you ever multiclass into a true Spellcaster class.
Coordinated Shot, no feat tax for Point Blank Shot, and no ally required to have this as a Teamwork feat, but the essence of the feat remains you threaten an opponent and your shooters have a better chance to hit them.
Deadly Aim, no Dex requirement, this used to be the ranged version of Power Attack, but now you get extra damage equal to half your Base Attack Bonus for a fixed a -2 to hit penalty.
Deflect Projectiles, no Dex or Unarmed Strike requirement, +8 BAB requirement, uses Reactions and Resolve Points instead of the Pathfinder version (Deflect Arrows) only working once per round.
Die Hard, no Endurance Requirement, since dying changed from Pathfinder to Starfinder it’s better to say this feat saves you action economy now but is as close to its Pathfinder roots as possible.
Dive for Cover, dropping prone in combat is a Swift action that isn’t necessarily a Reaction. This feat allows you to drop prone as part of a Reflex save and allows you to roll twice and take the highest. The action provokes AoOs if you’re threatened so the incoming damage better be more than the melee combatant can do to you. This feat is very similar to one by the same name from Complete Adventurer which let you roll a second save, but had to take the second result instead of the best of two.
Diversion creates alternate group use for Bluff’s Hide Stealth check for your companions.
Divine Blessing (Pact Worlds) has too many abilities to compare to anything else.
Drag Down, whenever someone trips you, you can try to drag them down with you. Nearly identical to the Ultimate Combat version only without an INT Requirement, Combat Expertise, or Improved Trip feat taxes.
Enhanced Resistance, take one of six kinds of Damage Resistance, according to Mark Seifter the Kinetic was supposed to be Bludgeoning, Piercing, or Slashing, not all three and it was going to be equal to half BAB, but that errata never came. If they do errata it, it will seem low compared to Armor upgrades and Soldier abilities.
Extended Telepathy (Pact Worlds), adds 30ft to telepathic range.
Extra Resolve, like Extra Channeling, Extra Ki, Extra Grit, and all the other Extra resource pool feats before it.
Far Shot, no Point Blank Shot feat tax. Instead of doubling range increments as in earlier editions, Pathfinder went with the -1 penalty per increment instead of -2 per increment, Starfinder kept it that way.
Fleet, 10 ft boost regular, 5 ft boost encumbered, unlike the Pathfinder version you can’t take it multiple times.
Focused Spellcaster (Pact Worlds), spend an RP to finish a spell even when you are interrupted because of damage received. Seems like a good idea because you can no longer cast on the defensive and are more likely to be hit when casting.
Fusillade requires four arms and can fire like an automatic weapon.
Great Cleave, requires Cleave and 13 STR, and requires a Resolve Point to strike targets beyond the 2nd Cleave target.
Great Fortitude, same as the Pathfinder version.
Greater Feint, changes from Dex bonus to Flat Footed reflect the changes to the Flat-Footed condition. No INT requirement and no Combat Expertise feat tax.
Greater Spell Penetration, identical to the Pathfinder version.
Armor Proficiencies, Heavy, Light, and Powered
Improved Combat Maneuver, +4 bonus to one maneuver, take it again for different maneuvers. It is not a +2 bonus to attack and defend the same kind of maneuvers and doesn’t prevent the maneuver from provoking an AoO.
Improved Critical, adds 2 to the DC to resist a critical effect. Pathfinder version was Weapon specific, not even weapon groups and it widened the Crit range of the weapon. There are soldier Gear Boosts (Plasma Immolation) that widen the Crit Range of a weapon, but not all of the other Crit-related overhead. Technically some Force Fields and Armor Upgrades have fortification which reduces the chances of a Crit getting through.
Improved Feint, Bluff in combat as a Move action instead of Standard, exactly like PF version minus the INT requirement or Combat Expertise feat tax.
Improved Great Fortitude, spend an RP to re-roll a Fort save. The Pathfinder version allowed you to reroll, but you kept the 2nd roll just like Dive for Cover. I see entire classes of “reroll and keep the 2nd roll” feats being reworked as reroll a failed save or roll twice and take the highest.
Improved Initiative, +4 to initiative checks, same as PF.
Improved Iron Will, same as Improved Great Fortitude, spend 1 RP to reroll a failed save.
Improved Lightning Reflexes, same as Improved Great Fortitude, spend 1 RP to reroll a failed save.
Improved Sidestep, you can take a full move, guarded step, or withdraw action after using Sidestep. This is the same as PF except that 5 ft steps are now guarded steps.
Improved Stand Still, +4 to the melee attack roll to stand still.
Improved Unarmed Strike, covers more situations than just using hands, which is better than the PF version.
In Harm’s Way, you can take the hit for your guarded ally benefiting from Bodyguard. Takes no action, and can only be used once per round, in PF it was an immediate action that could only stop one attack per round.
Iron Will, +2 to Will saves. Same as the Pathfinder version.
Jet Dash, 6x speed while running and you aren’t flat footed for running. No PF feat for comparison.
Kasathan Battle Dance (Pact Worlds) modified withdraw action if you have two hands free.
Kip Up, stand from prone as a swift, similar to the PF Rogue talent, Stand Up which allows you to stand for free, but still provoke an AoO.
Lightning Reflexes, same as the Pathfinder version.
Lunge, extra 5ft reach, -2 AC, same as the PF version.
Major Psychic Power
Major Stage Magic (Pact Worlds) Free 2nd level illusion once per day
Master Crafter, halves time to craft items. PF version substitutes crafting ranks for caster levels.
Medical Expert, changes action economy and time, as well as required tools for Medicine checks.
Minor Psychic Power
Minor Stage Magic (Pact Worlds) Free 0th level illusion three times per day
Mobility, no Dodge feat tax also the SF version is an untyped version instead of a Dodge bonus that you can lose. +4 to AC vs AoO provoked by moving through threatened squares.
Multi Weapon Fighting is nothing like Two-Weapon fighting, slightly reduces full attack penalties for using multiple weapons.
Mystic Strike, allows spellcaster’s attacks to count as magic for bypassing DR, since there are no magic weapons with enhancement bonuses anymore there still need to be things that bypass DR. Weapon fusions can help,
Nimble Moves raised the DEX requirement but allows you to ignore up to 20ft of difficult terrain per round including taking a guarded step. Although this is better than the Pathfinder version, the presence of rocket packs, forcepacks, and hoverskates would require any such feat to have more movement to stay competitive with typical scifi gear.
Opening Volley, grants half the bonus of the PF version, otherwise very similar.
Parting Shot removes the Dodge and Point-Blank Shot feat taxes, increased DEX requirement, and allows a shot during a withdraw action. Instead of once per encounter, in SF you can’t use this feat again until after a 10-minute rest. This seems like a fine change for per encounter feats and abilities.
Penetrating Attack, similar to PF Penetrating Strike, loses the Fighter class level requirement, Weapon Focus, and the requirement for DR it bypasses to be typed. SF adds Energy Resistance and doesn’t specify any particular kind of weapon. In Dragon Magazine #275 there was a Feat creation article for 3.x that said Class and Level requirements were bad design, I’ve always been irritated at Pathfinder for bringing them back.
Penetrating Spell, similar to the PF Metamagic feat, but limited to 5 points of penetration and no spell level increase.
Pull the Pin
Quick Draw, is essentially the same as the PF version.
Reflect Projectiles, this has a +16 BAB requirement, perusing my Star Wars revised Core it looks a lot more like the Jedi class ability Deflect (Attack) than it does Snatch Arrows the Pathfinder feat that follows Deflect Arrows. Kudos to the Paizo team the two feats are much more succinct and useful (triggers on a hit not an incoming attack) than the Jedi class abilities. You don’t get to reflect half your level in attacks per round, but I expect like AoOs it’s about limiting the ability of this defensive feat turning into a major source of damage.
Shot on the Run, higher Dex requirement, lesser feat tax, +4 BAB requirement, same as the Pathfinder version.
Sidestep, same as the PF version, no Dodge feat tax, higher Dex requirement. Is 15 Dex the new 13 Dex considering how many more Attribute boosts that Starfinder characters get? You lose 5ft off your movement next turn and can’t perform certain movements. Improved Sidestep removes this limitation. Step Up had similar limitations in PF and does not have them in SF.
Skill Focus, +3 Insight bonus, PF version isn’t typed and PF version doubled to +6 when you reached 10 ranks, SF version does not.
Skill Synergy, two skills become class skills or gain +2 insight bonuses if already class skills.
Sky Jockey, extra movement when piloting.
Slippery Shooter, +3 vs AoOs for making ranged attacks, Slippery Shooter isn’t even close to the PF feat Snap Shot in utility for Ranged Combatants. Although in a more heavily ranged combat-focused game, Snap Shot might become a feat that everyone has to take. You also might notice like Combat Casting this grants a bonus to avoid the consequences, but not avoid provoking altogether.
Spell Focus, +1/2/3 to DCs to resist your spells, this feat gets better over time AND is for all spells you cast and not just one school of magic.
Spell Penetration, same as the PF version.
Spellbane, +2 insight bonus to saves vs spells and spell like abilities.
Spring Attack, same as the PF version with higher Dex requirement, no Dodge feat tax.
Spry Cover, is kind of a weird Aid Another.
Stage Magic (Pact Worlds) Free 1st level illusion once per day
Stand Still, same as the PF version, no Combat Reflexes feat tax.
Step Up, is similar to the PF version with no language about losing 5ft of movement in the following turn. Sidestep had a similar clause in the PF version and kept it in the SF version?
Step Up and Strike, allows you to follow your opponent and take an AoO as part of the original Step Up reaction. Same as the PF version.
Suppressive Fire, is not very similar to existing PF feats.
Strike back, same as the PF version with lower BAB requirement.
Swimming Master, grants a Swim speed.
Technomantic Dabbler, is almost a Feat sized version of Magical Talent trait from PF. Probably closer to other Feats that let you yoink other classes’ features without multi-classing.
Toughness in Starfinder is 1 Stamina Point per level but also includes the +4 bonuses to Constitution and Fortitude checks from the Pathfinder Endurance feat.
Unfriendly Fire, you Bluff incoming bullets or laser beams into adjacent targets when they miss you. Subject to anyone who sees you do this being immune to its effects for 24 hours. There is no spoon.
Veiled Threat, can’t find a PF version of this though the skills and uses were the same, I’m surprised it wasn’t in Ultimate Intrigue. Redditors have noted Antagonize, Diversion, Fast Talk, Kip Up, and Veiled Threat all add a use to the skill that maybe should have been there in the first place and replaces a role-playing opportunity with a feat.
Versatile Focus, add weapon focus benefit to all weapons you are proficient in.
Weapon Focus, the same as the PF version, adds a benefit for lower BAB progression classes and drones.
Weapon Specialization, add an out-of-class weapon type to 3rd level specialization.
Weapon Proficiencies, these act for categories or groups of weapons, not single weapons. Advanced, Basic, Grenades,
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