Starfinder Unchained, Q&A with Owen KC Stephens
Tonight I had the opportunity to talk to Owen about all things Starfinder and Pathfinder 2e. We talked, it wasn’t recorded, any transcription errors are my own.
Races and Ancestries
Question: Would PF2e style Ancestries for all playable races change the game balance of Starfinder? Instead of having all your abilities front loaded into 1st level the characters would gain new abilities as they level.
Note: Ron Lundeen gave a great overview of building PF2e style ancestries here
Owen’s answer: The more new abilities can change encounter outcomes, the more thought you have to put into balancing them. With examples of Starfinder if you gave a species darkvision or flight around the same time other characters could buy equipment to do the same it might not be a big deal, if you gave them a permanent +1 to hit that is harder to come by in Starfinder and would be unbalancing. He also suggested giving monsters of CR 1-10 one extra ability and 11-20 two extra abilities as a simple means of balancing the new power level.
Level of Effort: There are over 100 races in Starfinder, adapting them all would be quite an undertaking.
Classes and Reactions
Question: In PF2e not everyone gets Attacks of Opportunity, for Starfinder would a Weapon Solarian and Melee specialized Soldiers be good candidates? Would other classes and class specializations get different reactions? or is Soldier = Fighter too strong in people’s heads?
Owen’s answer: If you change the reaction granted by the fighting style, despite the fact a character would only get one reaction per round, a Soldier with 2 different fighting styles would play different than other soldiers with different styles, and different from Fighters in PF2e. He mentioned Snipers with their aim, a Guard style soldier using their shield to provide an AC bonus to an ally. I asked how he’d handle the Vanguard’s extra reactions via the Reactive ability, he said that could be a PF2e focus spell that was useable once spending a Focus Point and recoverable by using the Refocus activity to replenish the focus pool.
Monsters, Weapons and Game Balance
Question: If you were to fully convert the action economy and character classes, leaving the weapons the same could you still use the same creatures from Alien Archive?
Owen’s answer: If you converted all of the classes over to PF2e mechanics you’d be better off using the weapon damage from PF2e and rebuilding all of the creatures using the monster building rules in the PF2e Gamemastery Guide. They’re already balanced against one another.
Question: What if I didn’t want to do all that?
Owen’s answer: Since Starfinder is still closer to PF1e, you might be better off using the 3 action economy rules from Pathfinder Unchained to modify your Starfinder game.
Question: With all the critical effects built into the Starfinder system weapons, it seems very natural to add the PF2e rule that an attack that beats the target number by 10 becomes a Critical Hit.
Owen’s answer: It does.
Question: Some things in Character Ops Manual for starship combat scale at level, many of the starship combat options from CRB and COM do not scale. Coriolis Evasive maneuvers grant a bonus based on the number of successes, could a degree of success system do similar while not breaking the math.
Owen’s answer: Based on testing, not all starship actions were as useful after a certain tier and nobody did them anymore. Therefore there’s no scaling to those actions. Where other parts of the action scale with tier such as the ship’s power to shields, or damage from weapons, there is no need to scale the action.
We discussed some of the potential degree of success outcomes that I had written up for shields in the previous post.
Owen suggested that a Critical Success might succeed and grant a bonus to the same check in the following round. He also suggested a Critical engineering failure might create a random critical the same as a weapon attack, reusing the same table and effects.
Question: If ship components, weapons, and shields all had tiers and starships had a Statistics by Tier the way Monsters have by CR could you tighten up the difference in starship combat to make fights more challenging. Putting tier based restrictions based on equipment might make people build lopsided all big gun, or all shield designs.
Question: If you had closer starship combat parity with NPCs and a degree of success system for the outcomes would you finally tie Piloting checks to the other ship’s tier.
Owen’s answer: The DCs were tied to the party’s ship tier because in theory that’s the only ship that you could assume would be close to the party’s level and ability. You don’t want contested rolls, you don’t want the party looking up things in tables or having to have to deal with learning anything outside their own ship’s DCs because learning the starship combat system or any new subsystem is already a hurdle.
Question: If you chose to integrate character combat and starships more closely as Star Wars D20 and Saga did, what would you change about the starship system?
Owen’s answer: You’d have to start over from zero, every game we look at where the characters have access to starships as the answer to character scale problems it always resulted in them bringing in the starship, they had that problem in Star Wars. So the answer was not to deal with it that way and starships are only really good at fighting other starships. This is unfortunate because we have examples of it in genre, like Star Trek TOS “A Piece of the Action” where the Enterprise uses the ship’s phasers to stun everybody in the city, we never see that ever again in all of Star Trek despite many times it would have been useful.
If you have any questions about this post, or questions about Starfinder and Pathfinder 2e for Owen please send a message with the subject:
Ask a game designer to Evilrobotgames @ gmail.com