Starfinder Unchained, Shields and Starship Design limits
Right now Starfinder Starships are built kind of like Summoners Eidolons with nobody to say you can’t make all guns or all shields, nobody enforcing reasonable designs and only using the Tier system for budgets, but not for the systems (Weapons, Shields) some might say the budget is the limit, but its not really.
In Starfinder the size power core you can put in your starship is limited by the size of the hull, the size and number of weapons you can mount are limited by the size of the hull, the speed of the thrusters are limited for good or bad on the size of the hull. There are some size limits that don’t make sense, I can add a suite of rooms (crew quarters) to a one man fighter, but not an ejection seat. Also my suite of rooms doesn’t add to my combat effectiveness, but counts against the overall budget which makes no sense if the Starship Tier/Budget is the only thing we control combat ability with.
Shields are not limited by Hull size or by the Ship’s Tier, they are only limited by the amount of power available to power them and the ultimate number of build points available to the ship. However, Shields are ridiculously cheap both in power and in cost, so the only limit they have is meaningless.
At Maximum, a Medium or Large ship can mount 3 Heavy Weapons per Arc and 3 more in the Turret. Which hopefully means the most damage you’d even face is 6 Heavy weapons per round, possibly 9 with Flyby. At Heavy the Graser does the most potential damage with 70 points so our Theoretical Max Medium/Large ship dishes out 210 points per Arc and Turret. They cost 105 BP per Arc (Like 5 Tier 4 ships) and 120 PCU per arc to run. 420 Shield points cost 30 BP to install, 90 PCU to run, and are always effective. The heavy weapons are only likely to hit some of the time. Our chief Engineer can get back 5% of the Power Core’s total output in Shields per turn, if we ran 2 Nova Ultra Power Cores then we have 600 PCU and 30 new shields per round.
There is nothing stopping us from putting 600 point shield generators in the Medium hull and it only costs 10 more PCU per round to run. Power is cheap, shields are cheap, weapons are expensive, unreliable and have to be pointed in the right direction, you may have weapons that are useless every round. Shields are never useless.
We need anti-barrier weapons, something that does little to no damage to the hull, but bypasses shields more effectively, this is in genre and would make people add armor and hull points again.
If we had tiers on Weapons and Shields then while the design space would be more limited and fights more predictable the Armor and Hull points would matter more than just putting more shields on everything. Shields are too cheap to be as good as they are, if we put less emphasis on them do we accidentally devalue the Engineer or just Divert power to Shields? Do the Engineers want to do something besides Spam the Divert to Shields action every round?
At the same time I’m looking at Tiers for Weapons and Shields, I am simultaneously looking at what Degrees of Success would look like in Starship Combat. Let’s take our Divert Power to the Shields action as an example, we’;d have to make up a lot of possible critical success and failure modes and playtest which ones are really too good or bad.
You blow out the power couplings and lose the shield arc with the lowest amount of shields remaining. This could be devastating.
You lose 5-10% of your PCU worth of shields, while this is equal to the Successes, this is too much subtraction at the table.
you lose 5-10% of your PCU worth of shields, it must come from one Arc rolled randomly
There is no Critical Damage condition to apply to Shields or we could just do that.
Shields are Glitching, all attempts to Divert Power to the Shields or Balance the shields are at -2
Shields are Malfunctioning, you cannot Divert Power to, or Balance shields while they are Malfunctioning
All shields go offline treat as a Wrecked system and repair from there.
Fail: Nothing Happens.
Success: Restore shield points equal to 5% of the Power Core PCU.
Restore shield points equal to 10% of the Power Core PCU.
Restore all shield points to one shield arc (this might be 25% of the total shields capacity) maybe costs an RP?
Restore all shield points in all arcs for 2 RP?
The Crit Fails and Successes ought to be swingy, otherwise we end up with a lot of “as success/failure but better/worse” and becomes widely open to GM interpretation, that’s not really the strength of the degree of success system. I know that making it easier to restore even more shields would make fights go on forever, but we’d obviously tie this to shields that are limited by Tier and with weapons that are limited by Tier and playtest it.
Now in Pathfinder 2e there are Skill Feats that reduce a Critical Failure to a regular Failure. I would only assume there would be an Engineering skill feat that keeps the best and brightest engineer in the fleet from blowing up the ship trying to save it.
If you have any comments about this post, please let me know
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