Every time I have watched ‘Hawkeye’ on Disney+ these past few weeks, I’ve wanted to translate what I saw on the screen into something possible in Starfinder. The biggest problem with that is that the Special category of weapons in Starfinder is highly under-supported. My initial thought was to make an Operative Exploit or Specialization focused on it. Below I’ll highlight some of the things I discovered in my search for an effective bow user in Starfinder.
The State of Bows
The only level-scaled bows in the game come from the ‘Dead Suns’ adventure path. To add insult to injury, they are archaic weapons, meaning they automatically deal 5 less damage against most NPC enemies (yes, the default bow exists, but it does not scale in damage).
When I started this, I reached out to the rest of the KD team to see if they were aware of any Special weapon or, more specifically, Bow-related class support in the game. Between myself, Alex, Dustin, Vanessa, Perram, John & Ron, I would argue that we likely have a firm grasp of the current options. But, unfortunately, what we came up with, was relatively short.
First is the Operative 8th level alternate class feature Operative’s Arsenal. In my opinion, the ability to get the “old school” version of Sniper trick attack for any weapon type at the cost of triple attack & quad attack is relatively high depending on your build. Not to mention, this only lets an operative utilize the status effects of a trick attack, not the damage.
While not related to bows, but still in the Special category of weapon usage, operatives also have the option to take Shuriken Assassin. While I personally think that this exploit could use a bit of beef up or just apply to all shuriken, it still lets a character live the fantasy of being a space ninja at a fairly affordable cost of a single exploit. Off-hand I’d look into having the damage increase written into here correspond with the Solarion’s Solar Flare, but there is an argument that because the Shuriken can now also be used in melee it is a more flexible weapon choice than most Small Arms, so the damage should be slowed down. I don’t have much to say against that argument perse other than it just doesn’t feel right in my gut.
Next up, we have the relatively recent Soldier gear boost called Double Shot. It reads like it will be related to Rapid Shot when you read the first sentence. It quickly changes to something different though in the ‘meat’ of the gear boost. Spending twice the ammo and a class feature choice for any already arguably subpar weapon choice doesn’t necessarily feel that great to me either.
While I wanted to write something brand new, between the features already out and an operative alternate class feature that does almost what I want it to do, it has been hard to come up with something with a different weapon type. The other thing that I keep bumping up against is that any changes that I’m thinking of are just going to be straight-up better than what is available as far as balance is concerned.
Anyways, in Tech Revolution, Operatives finally have the chance to utilize their sniper rifles for damage with the Sniper alternate class feature! While I might have some minor gripes about the increased Trick Attack DC and the decrease in character movement, I think this shows me that any weapon that isn’t normally eligible for a trick attack can be replaced and/or updating the trick attack class feature. Furthermore, with Double Shot, we even have the weapon property. We need to limit it to bows and their relatives!
Quick & Dirty
Honestly, the quick and dirty version of this is that you take the Sniper alternate class feature and make the following changes:
- Add proficiency in weapons with the quick reload property.
- Any weapon with the quick reload property loses archaic trait if it has it.
- (Optional) Remove speed change, replace with regular movement language for original trick attack
- Keep the damage the same
All told, here is a rough draft of how I would have it look:
Special Weapon Trick (Ex)
You are a skilled athlete that can make impossible shots with what many consider to be outdated weapons. You gain proficiency in Special Weapons that have the quick reload trait. If the Special Weapon with the quick reload trait also has the archaic trait, it is considered not to have the archaic trait while you are using it. As a full action, you can move up to your speed. Whether or not you moved, you can then make an attack with a melee weapon with the operative property, a small arm, or a special weapon with the quick reload trait. Just before making your attack, attempt a Bluff, Perception or Stealth check (or a check associated with your specialization) with a DC of 20 + 1-1/2 your target’s CR. If you succeed at the check, the target is flat-footed against the attack and you deal 1d3 additional damage. This damage increases to 1d6 additional damage at 3rd level, plus an additional 1d6 damage for every 2 levels thereafter. You can’t use this ability with a weapon that has the unwieldy special property.
This replaces the operative’s trick attack class feature.
While the increased CR doesn’t feel right compared with the original Trick Attack, I also know that Operatives are almost always highly tuned towards one of the skills needed to make a trick attack. I honestly think the increase in CR for Sniper is an attempt by the development team to raise that CR just enough to make it less of a ‘sure thing’ against all foes after 7th level. I also recognize that not every bow user should be an operative, and I will think about how I want to address some more Special Weapon options for Soldiers and even other classes for next time!
P.S. The new Hawkeye show is a great Christmas show, and I’m excited for the 6th and final episode of season 1 next week!