Guidance — Gibbering Mouth: 6 Things I Learned from “Dead Sunz”

Oh man, it’s finally hear!

I’m on winter break from my Master’s courses, and James Ballod finally ran the first session of his Dead Suns campaign for me and our friends Tom, Robyn, and Vic. And guys, it was AWESOME! Man, James went and made scenery and walls out of dental plaster! And we fought in turf wars and flew a star ship and had a starship combat and I may or may not be plagued, we’ll see.

But coming out of Dead Suns really changed my impression about several things in Starfinder, which I am planning to share with you all today. So why wait? Let’s get sharing!

1. Always bring a longsword to a gun fight.

Just ask Shoku Devilblade!

If anyone tells you that melee isn’t viable in Starfinder, they’re wrong. Flat-out. As you might recall from prior episodes, my soldier focuses on melee weapons, and holy crap, his hits out-damaged EVERYONE. Our party has an exocortex mechanic and an armored solarion and I out-damaged BOTH of them handedly. Shoku was a dervish of death that darted from enemy to enemy, ending them with which should be an anarchic weapon by all accounts. And MAN, was that satisfying.

Basically, melee weapons almost universally have higher damage dice then their ranged weapon counterparts, and the fact that I had a modifier (my Strength) to add made all the difference. Where the exocortex mechanic was stuck in a never-ending volley of ‘1s’ and ‘2s’ on his damage dice, the minimum I could roll was a 4. (Granted, I was on fire that night, constantly rolling 4 and higher for damage.)

2. Deadly Aim isn’t super important at low-levels.

Building off of my previous statement, Deadly Aim isn’t super important at low-levels. Your to-hit is low, and if you’re melee like me you have plenty of damage modifiers for your level. I could see the argument that Deadly Aim is more important for ranged characters, who don’t get a damage modifier until Level 3, but none of us had Deadly Aim and we did fine. It’s definitely not the must-have feat that Power Attack was in Pathfinder, and that’s sort of refreshing. I’ve already decided to pick up Coordinated Shot early instead of this feat at 2nd level, and honestly I might not take it for a while yet. After all, the bonuses don’t really feel worth it until 6th to 8th level, when the damage bonus exceeds the penalty. I can wait.

Gotta go fast!

3. Step Up and Strike is REALLY good.

Shoku has the Step Up feat, and one thing we learned really fast is that since Step Up takes a reaction, I don’t get an attack of opportunity when I follow someone with this feat. This means that Step Up and Strike, which is a 6th level or higher feat, is INCREDIBLY good. I mean, it boosts Step Up to 10 feet instead of 5 and give you an attack of opportunity for use when you want as part of the action. That’s insane—I am totally grabbing that feat at 6th level on the nose. (Soldier perks!)

4. Starship combat is fun for the whole party.

In our one bout with starship combat, everyone did an awesome job! Shoku ended up being the pilot, Ilasha (our armored solarion) was our gunner, and Katro the mystic and Butters the mechanic ended up swapping back and forth between Engineer and Science Officer. Everyone had something to do, and everyone’s job felt important at all times. The one thing that I wish was that we (as a group) had someone who could fill in the captain role—I think it’s rough that there are five roles and an average party size of four, so hopefully we get an NPC or something who can help us out there. (Even still, our armored solarian is the ONLY person in the group with face skills, so maybe it’s best we don’t have a captain?)

5. Absolam Station is VERY colorful.

I was honestly surprised how much information the Incident at Absalom Station managed to cram in about the setting in the short amount of time we played. (Although 6 hours in and James says we’re nearing the end of the first book already—he says we’ll finish it within another 6 to 8 hour session easy!) The setting, which is subtly built on Pathfinder’s setting, is definitely this game’s strongest aspect. I’d say don’t be so quick to write off the Starfinder setting—give it a try and see what you think!

6. Everything is Faster!

Granted, almost everyone at my table is experienced. James, Tom, and Robyn were all part of my Starfinder Playtest Group, and all three of them are linchpins of the Philadelphia Starfinder Society scene, so we’re absolutely a group who knows how to play the game. (And who have no problem helping our friend Vic, who is our fourth PC, learn the ropes.) But since we know what we’re doing and know the game, rounds fly by fast. Combats are definitely longer, but we’re not drowning in actions or choices. We act, do the thing, and move on. It’s kind of refreshing.

BONUS — Buy Healing Serums / Have an envoy!

Don’t let anyone sell you short on the envoy’s ability to heal Stamina Points — your hit points will be eaten up WAY faster than you give your enemies credit. As a result, you should always have a couple of serums of healing on your person that you replenish often, and if you can get a mechanic to heal your stamina, do it. I WISH we had someone who could do that, because man, it sucks wading into battle at half your vigor!

And that’s my lessons from the first part of Incident at Absalom Station! I hope this was helpful to you in your own games, perhaps in your deciding on whether or not to give Starfinder a try. I am definitely looking forward to our next Starfinder session now, and really want to play more Starship Combat! Gotta pull me some sick gundam flips!

So until next time, I’m Alex Augunas and I’m always here for YOU when you need a little bit of Guidance. Take care!

Alexander “Alex” Augunas has been playing roleplaying games since 2007, which isn’t nearly as long as 90% of his colleagues. Alexander is an active freelancer for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and is best known as the author of the Pact Magic Unbound series by Radiance House. Alex is the owner of Everyman Gaming, LLC and is often stylized as the Everyman Gamer in honor of Guidance’s original home. Alex also cohosts the Private Sanctuary Podcast, along with fellow blogger Anthony Li, and you can follow their exploits on Facebook in the 3.5 Private Sanctuary Group, or on Alexs Twitter, @AlJAug.


Alex Augunas

Alexander "Alex" Augunas is an author and behavioral health worker living outside of Philadelphia in the United States. He has contributed to gaming products published by Paizo, Inc, Kobold Press, Legendary Games, Raging Swan Press, Rogue Genius Games, and Steve Jackson Games, as well as the owner and publisher of Everybody Games (formerly Everyman Gaming). At the Know Direction Network, he is the author of Guidance and a co-host on Know Direction: Beyond. You can see Alex's exploits at, or support him personally on Patreon at


  1. Rosc

    I see you have a refined taste in classic games. Delightful. *doffs monocle*

    Thanks for the tips, though. I’ve got a session this Wednesday or a SFS run of book 1. Not 100% sure what I’ll bring, but I’m sure these tips will help.

    But I have to ask. What can I do as a Solarion if I focus on melee (Str/Cha) or crontrol abilities (Cha) and I want to have more that one job in Starship combat? The other skills feel like you need at least 14 in their related stat to be reliable, nevermind when you’re swinging with a ride a few tiers past 1st.

    • Alex Augunas

      So right out of the gate, as long as you’ve invested at least a 12 in Dex your solarian will probably be decent enough at the gunner role that you’ll be fine. If you invest in Diplomacy / Intimidate, you’ll also be a fine captain.

      Being able to handle other roles is doable just by virtue of the theme(s) you pick. Ace Pilot gives you Piloting as a class skill if you want to be the pilot, for instance. Going Themeless will let you cover Science Officer or Engineer by grabbing Computers or Engineering, respectfully.

      However, it’s important to note that you individually don’t need to be amazing at every single starship role. Your party should have someone who can fulfill all five roles adequately, however. (Though remember—the traditional four-man party is going to always have one role open.)

      For example, in our Dead Sunz group, Shoku (my soldier) has the best (possibly only?) Piloting skill bonus in the group, and his full BAB means he is okay at gunner. But our party’s solarian, Ilasha has a higher Dexterity than Shoku does, so she’s usually better at gunnery than me. She also has the face skills for being captain if we need her to. Katro, our party mystic, also has face skills, but he has a much higher Computers bonus, and usually acts as Science Officer. And Butters, our mechanic, has a decent Computers bonus as well, but he’s often the engineer because he’s the only one with engineering.