Just as I promised in my last installation, this week I’m taking a short break from writing the actual adventure to showcase the design process of creating a starship that I will need for Quest #4 which will be a starship encounter! I want to utilize some of the new tools we have from the Starship Operations Manual. I’ll admit, most of my Starfinder experience has been through Starfinder Society, and what that means is that I have not had much need in designing my own starships. This will be the first time that I will have done more than modifying the Sunrise Maiden for the one other home game that I got to play in for a short time. Luckily, I’ve listened to everything my fellow network members had to say about the SOM on Know Direction: Beyond,as well as Digital Divination, where John talks a lot about his experience designing ships for SOM. One of the big things I took away from John specifically, is that it is really helpful going into the build process considering the role that I want the ship to play in my storytelling.
Tonight’s design process will utilize two related systems. The first, I’ll be following the steps in building a starship as laid out in the Starfinder Core Rulebook. Along with those steps, I will be abiding by the Optional Rule: Design Budgets presented in SOM page 79. As I started my first thought process and flipping through available frames, armor and the like, I discovered something that I still haven’t found a straight solution to. The budget, assumes at least 110% of your BP:
- Frame Cost (25%)
- Armor & Defensive Countermeasures (25%)
- Power Core (15%)
- Weapons (35%) [No more than 15% on turrets]
- Shields (10%)
By my count, that is the 110%, along with needing to possibly spend BP on unrestricted items. As a Budget of course, I can come under that given budget, but it does feel weird that this optional rule is set up in a way that still requires a lot of personal finesse to build starships. For the purposes of this build, what I’ll be doing is lowering the Weapons budget down to 25%, with no more than 10-15% on turrets.
Step 1: Conceptualize
Coming into this, I know that ultimately I need to design up to 6 starships. Designing 6 ships all at once seems like a disservice to the three primary designs, as I feel each one should have my devoted focus. With that in mind, tonight I’ll be designing the enemy starship!
I know I want this to have at least some of the options from SOM, so I’ll be keeping my eye on that throughout my design. I also know that my Sanguine Raiders have a mystical bent, so if there are options to include a more “magical” option, I’ll want to really consider those options as well. As far as the real story role I want this ship to fill, is that it was going to eventually be the one of three ship working together to overtake merchant ships. I don’t think I’ll design it for aggressive boarding action as I still want this quest series to be “mostly” good to go for a beginner group and while many new players want to board, I consider boarding actions to be an advanced rule since they appear in SOM. Essentially, I want it to be a mystical feeling attack ship.
Step 2: Determine tier & Build Points
This section is going to be a pretty straight forward one for me. Basically since I need to build two versions of this ship, I’ll build the one with more Build Points. So, we’ll start with the Tier 4 Sanguine ship! This will afford us 115 Build Points, and an HP increase
Step 3: Select a frame
Here is the first real choice that we have for our ship, which is as yet unnamed, we’ll just call it The Sanguine Raider for lack of a better name right now. With our Design Budget, we have about 28 Build Points. Now, since I’m am going to be designing this for a tier 2 ship as well, I need to keep those restrictions in mind as well. When I look at the base frames among a Light Freighter, Explorer or Transport for this attack ship. As much as as the Destroyer might work, it breaks the budget of the Tier 4 ship, and eats 40% of a Tier 2 budget so the Destroyer is out. That brings me back to the other three base frames. When I think of attack ships, I really think of fairly fast and maneuverable. That pushes the Transport frame out for this particular ship. As a GM, I really appreciate enemy ships having a turret so that I don’t have to worry about facing quite as much as I’m also managing the table, so our The Sanguine Raider will start with the Explorer, costing 12BP. This ends up being 10.4% of our BP so we are well below the budget, so maybe we can move that extra 14.6% to our weapons to bring that up to the 35% that the original rule suggested!
BP Remaining: 103 BP
HP: 55 + 1 HP Increase (+10 HP) = 65
Step 4: Select a power core
I want as much PCU available as possible. Following my budget, I have 17 BP to spend on my PCU. When I look at the table, my answer appears right away, the Pulse Red Power Core for 17BP. This comes in at 14.8% of the total BP, almost right on budget. Here, we’re going to add some special materials that this ship’s PCU is made from. We are going to utilize Djezet for the cost of 1 BP, we’ll get 10% more PCU that can only be used on expansion bays
BP Remaining: 85 BP
Step 5: Select thrusters
Interestingly enough, thrusters are not listed for the design budget. With the relative low cost of thrusters, I think thrusters aren’t a concern as those few BP can be the “scraps” of stuff from other things listed in the budget. I think the biggest thing to consider with thrusters is the PCU usage. I can easily afford the 6 BP for the M12 Thrusters, but 45.7% of the PCU feels a bit steep when I know that I’ve got weapons, shields and computers on the ship as well. However, I mentioned I wanted this thing to have speed without breaking the PCU bank, we’ll go with the M8 Thrusters for 4 BP and 60 PCU usage. I am really finding that the rare materials are a BP-affordable way to get some minor increases. In our current lore, the planet that this ship is on has a lot of rare minerals that haven’t been strictly defined yet. It could be that Thurinag has an abnormal amount of star metals buried. I think these thrusters will be made with Horacalcum, giving us a slight increase in speed and no worry about the reduction in piloting since we are already at the minimum!
BP Remaining: 76 BP
PCU Remaining: 115 PCU + 17 for Expansion Bays
Step 6: Select other systems
Wow! This step can easily be broken into an armor, weapons, shields, defensive countermeasures, sensors, interstellar drives/drift engines, expansion bays. So I think I’ll try to do just that.
With 28 BP to spend on Armor and Defensive Countermeasures, I first have to ask myself if I want to use any of the new armor options in SOM. If I do this, I want to make sure that it is easily baked into the statblock so that a newer GM does not necessarily need ready access to the SOM to really determine what a particular thing does. As much as I enjoy the Reinforced Bulkheads chance of negating critical damage, I believe it will add that additional rule I’m wanting to avoid. However, in tactics during the fight I am going to be writing it for the Engineer to focus on diverting power to weapons or thrusters (I personally believe that Society starship combat can last entirely to long when the GM is doing the best player tactics of Diverting to Shields and Evading. I love it when adventure authors write in tactics that encourage tactics). With that in mind, increasing the critical threshold with Fortified Hulls could be useful. My current thought is to have Mk4 Armor for 15 BP, Mk4 Defensive Countermeasures for 6 BP and 3 PCU. That ultimately leaves me with 7 BP to stay within my Budget. That will easily allow me to add Steel Composite hull upgrade for 6 BP, increasing the critical threshold of the ship by 3, which could be the difference between glitching weapons or not in a firefight!
BP Remaining: 47 BP
PCU Remaining: 112 PCU + 17 for Expansion Bays
Again, we have a budget of 28 BP to spend on weapons and quite a bit of PCU to play around with as well. What we also need to keep in mind is that we do not have any heavy weapon mounts normally, and 1 weapon mount in each arc but the aft. We also have a turret on this frame built in. One of the first options that I wanted, the Light Tzibeam, however I am trying to keep the number of required sourcebooks down, so I am going to try my best to keep it only the SFCRB and SOM. To keep with the mystical nature of the Sanguine Raiders, I believe any weapon I choose will have the Mystical Weapon upgrade added for x1.25 its initial BP cost. I believe having a Mystical Light plasma torpedo launcher in the turret and a Mystical Coilgun in the port arc will provide some interesting options for the GM on most rounds. Those two weapons together will cost a total of 26.25 BP. I’ll go ahead and round to the nearest whole number, so 26 BP. Just a tad under our budget, which is great because eventually I’ll need a drift drive that isn’t in the Design Budget rules!
BP Remaining: 21 BP
PCU Remaining: 97 PCU + 17 for Expansion Bays
NOTE: The BP costs of the SFCRB weapons are the adjusted ones in the 3rd printing version.
Here is an opportunity to maybe play with some of the SOM options. With 11.5 (or 11 really) BP to play with on the design budget, that puts me squarely in the Light Shields 70 or 80 range. However, I’ve already planned on the engineer not worrying too much about regenerating shields. The biggest problem with possibly selecting deflector shields is that I’m trying hard to keep things simple of the GM and adding the new deflector shield rules does change it quite a bit, having to keep track of the Defensive Value of each quadrant instead of the Shield Points assigned to each quadrant. So for simplicity sake, I am going to go ahead and chose the Light Shields 70 for 10 BP and 20 PCU.
BP Remaining: 11 BP
PCU Remaining: 77 PCU + 17 for Expansion Bays
SP: 70 (Forward: 20, Starboard: 15, Aft: 20, Port: 15)
This is a moment where as a writer, I have to be a little careful because I know that the place “The Drift” is actually intellectual property of Paizo. For purposes of building this adventure, I’m just going to my Drift Drive, “The Drive”. Because “The Drive” in the SFCRB is so much cheaper in BP than the options presented in SOM and so many of them are restricted, I’m just going to go with the Signal Basic drive, costing 6 BP.
BP Remaining: 5 BP
PCU Remaining: 77 PCU + 17 for Expansion Bays
SP: 70 (Forward: 20, Starboard: 15, Aft: 20, Port: 15)
Stellar Engine Rating: 1
I still have a lot I’d like to do with the remaining BP that I have, but we’ll see if I can actually get any expansion bays or anything. For this ship, I’ll be getting Budget Short-Range Sensors. This ship is not concerned with scanning ship. That is likely the job of one of the other ships it would typically travel with that might’ve acted as more of a support ship. This will cost us 2 of our remaining BP, leaving us with 3 BP.
As a player I enjoy figuring out where computer bonuses should go. More often than not they go to the pilot and gunners, but sometimes in a clutch moment when an engineer or somebody else gets the bonus and it makes a difference it feels really good. However, as a GM, as often as not, I forget to use the bonuses. Maybe this is just me, so computers are a fairly low priority for GM-run ships. So this ship is only has a basic computer
6g: Expansion Bays
At this point, the ship has so much PCU remaining, I am almost considering refunding myself the 1 BP for the Djezet PCU, but I really like the idea that if somebody were to dig into the fact that the Djezet is coppery red in color, it fits the nice theme of the Sanguine Raiders. If I were to do a custom starship layout for a map, it would also be a wonderful reason to have the PCU be that coppery-red color as well.
As a pirate ship likely being captained by the leader of the Sanguine Raiders, I really believe this ship should have a Smuggler Compartment, for 2 BP. With 1 remaining BP left, I am going to select the Synthesis Bay. This synthesis bay is where the hemotheurges concoct the necessary alchemical and medicinal things that they use to gain their powers over blood. In an full-blown stand alone adventure in the style of Fall of Plaguestone or The Slithering, I might make a 1 or 2 BP expansion bay that can kind of work as a synthesis bay or an arcane laboratory for crafting a smaller subset of items in an “Explorers Toolbox” type space in the back.
Step 7: Add details
I’m going to leave the physical description of this ship when Quest #4 comes out. They don’t tell you this, but the next thing we need to determine is the NPC crew’s modifiers. The gunnery modifier will be +9, the Magic Officer will have a +15 Mysticism (I am allowing myself a dip into the Character Operations Manual because I feel it is a great fit for this crew), while the remainder of the crew will have +10 to their checks.
The Sanguine Raider Tier 4
Speed 9; Manueverability good (turn 1)
AC 18; TL 18
HP 65; DT -; CT 16
Shields light 70 (forward 20, port 15, starboard 15, aft 20)
Attack (Forward) Mystical Coilgun (4d4)
Attack (Turret) Mystical Light Plasma Tordpedo Launcher (3d8)  (Speed 14)
Power Core Pulse Red (175); Stellar Engine Signal
Basic; Systems basic computer, budget short-range sensors; crew quarts (common),
mk 4 armor, mk 4 defense;
Expansion Bays smuggler compartment, synthesis bay
Modifiers None; Complement
Captain Intimidate +10 (4 ranks), gunnery +9
Engineer Engineering +10 (4 ranks)
Gunner gunnery +9
Pilot Piloting +10 (4 ranks)
Science Officer Computers +10 (4 ranks)
Magic Officer Mysticism +15 (4 ranks)
I went into the build quite worried about hitting my PCU cap, when that most definitely was not the case. I wanted to give all of you my “first pass” at building a starship. I won’t promise that this is exactly what will show up in the Quest #4 as I have almost 4 weeks to noodle around with the design some before that happens. For instance, I might try to get a smaller PCU to get back some BP that could be put towards other systems like the Sensors & Computers, or increase the upgrade of the Fortified Hull. While making the guns mystical doesn’t actually change much for an NPC run ship, it made me feel good putting them in there to fit the fiction of the ship being flown by hemotheurges.
Through this process, I learned that building a starship feels a lot more like building a monster or NPC in Pathfinder 1st Edition. You build the base that you want and then you tweak a lot of things around until the numbers and features are around where you would like them. I would be surprised if I ever build a starship the exact way I want to on a first attempt. I foresee building a ship, looking to see if it does exactly what I want it to do and then moving pieces around until it does. Ultimately though, I am looking forward to really utilizing some of the great options in SOM for future ships that I may create!
P.S. I am finding it continually harder to write these articles when Know Direction has live content on Twitch on Wednesday nights.