Iconic Design — Better Living Through Biohacking

Xvi, by Alan Cooper. Copyright Know Direction Network.

Hello everyone, and welcome to another installment of Iconic Design! Before I start talking more about game design with my weekly articles, I wanted to take a moment to do something fun for me. You see, it was recently announced that the Know Direction Network is doing a second Actual Play podcast, titled Stellar, and I have the honor of being one of the show’s cast members. In Stellar, I’m going to be playing Xvi (pronounced Shee-Vee), a skittermander biohacker. What’s a biohacker? It’s one of the new classes that’s stated to come out in Starfinder: Character Operations Manual this year.

Now, it didn’t seem right to me if I didn’t do an Iconic Design for a character that I’m going to be playing in an Actual Play podcast, so that’s today’s topic! Of course, fair warning: since my class (the biohacker) is literally unpublished at the moment this build is HIGHLY subject to change based on what sort of things happen in Against the Aeon Throne and what the final version of the rules look like. Needless to say I am super excited to tell you all about my character, Xvi.


Any information important to understanding the build goes here.

  • Race: Skittermander
  • Theme: Ace Pilot
  • Starting Ability Scores: Str 10, Dex 16, Con 10, Int 9, Wis 16, Cha 12
    • Ability Boosts: Dex/Int/Wis/Cha (5th), Con/Int/Wis/Cha (10th)
  • Feats: Weapon Focus: small arms (1st), Fusillade (3rd), Weapon Specialization (3rd; Bonus), Medical Expert (5th), Multiweapon Fighting (7th), Quick Draw (9th), Skill Focus: Medicine (11th)
  • Class Features: custom scanner, injection expert +1, injections, spark of ingenuity 3/day
    • Fields of Study: Biomedicine (1st; Primary), Genetics (7th; Secondary)
    • Field of Study Breakthroughs: Biomedicine (5th; Primary), Genetics (11th; Secondary)
    • Scientific Method: instinctive
    • Biohacker Theorems: Friendly Aim (2nd), Quick Load (4th), Treat Condition (6th), Tranq Dart (8th), Far Injection (10th), Arms Expert (12th)

Playing the Build

Xvi’s build relies on a field of study that you’ve probably never heard of, seeing that Vanessa allowed me to write it custom for our Actual Play. The fact that the biohacker couldn’t hold a candle to the mystic as a healer really bothered me, so the biomedical field of study seeks to remedy that by creating an option that any biohacker can take that will them to be effective as healer (though nowhere near as effective as a healing connection mystic). Here’s a look at my custom-designed field of study:


Biomedicine is the application of biological principals to clinical medicine.

Counteragent: You inject a autolytic agent into a living creature’s body, causing their cells to rapidly digest themselves with their own enzymes. The target gains the bleeding condition, taking 1d4 damage at the start of each of its turns for 6 rounds. This increases to 1d6 damage at 4th level, and by 1d6 damage every 3 levels thereafter.

Restorative: You can enhance a living creature’s cellular regeneration, causing them to gain fast healing equal to your key ability modifier for a number of rounds equal to your biohacker level.

Biomedical Cure (Ex): When you gain this field of study’s breakthrough, as a standard action, you can create and deliver a powerful restorative to a living creature that supercharges its rate of cellular regeneration. The target is affected as if you had cast a 2nd-level mystic cure spell onto them; if you are a studious mind, you add your Intelligence modifier to the total amount of healing done instead of your Wisdom modifier. At 7th level and every 3 levels thereafter, the effective spell level of this effect improves by 1, to a maximum of a 6th-level mystic cure spell at 16th level. Starting at 10th level, you can target the corpse of a recently deceased living creature with this ability in order to attempt to return them to life, as described by the 4th-level version of mystic cure.

Ultimately what ends up happening is that Xvi is going to have more mystic cures per day than a standard mystic and a useful out of combat healing option in the field of study’s restorative. Ultimately, this will likely make Xvi better at raw numbers healing than a standard mystic (i.e. a mystic with any connection other than healer). Where he ends up loosing out to mystics is on status effects and multitarget healing, Xvi is never going to have access to mass mystic cure or channel life, after all, though this build does have a solution for that: the Fusillade feat. Because skittermanders have at least four hands, Xvi qualifies for this awesome feat, which allows him to fire four small arms as if they had the automatic weapon property. It takes a LOT of set-up and only really works for a skittermander, but I can have needler pistols loaded with nothing but healing serums and fire them as part of Fusillade feat. This will allow Xvi to heal his allies if they are in a VERY small cone; 15 feet in fact. Definitely doesn’t have the raw power or numbers scaling of channel life and it is incredibly expensive, but in the rare moment I get it off it should be CRAZY fun.

Now, I’m sure a bunch of you are like, “Why did you go instinctive, Alex? Instinctive is TERRIBLE!” And while you’re right that studious biohackers are significantly better, Intelligence is a penalized stat for Xvi, so I didn’t think I could pull off the superior build mathematically. So I went Wisdom. In contrast Genetic’s ability to give enemies energy vulnerability is INSANELY powerful, so of course I took that for what is effectively the capstone of the Against the Aeon Throne Adventure Path. In terms of my theorems, I took Friendly Aim and Quick Load because by my guesses, those options are essentially mandatory to play the class. There’s no way I’m going to hit Kylf to give him an injection without Friendly Aim! Now anything past 7th level is something you won’t get to see me use in Stellar, but I REALLY like Traq Dart, so much so that I’d likely take Immonology as my third Field of Study just to be able to penalize my target’s Fortitude saves in preparation for a traq dart shot.

Notes on Weird Stuff

Since my build is technically a Playtest class, it would feel weird not to give the biohacker some real feedback as part of this article, so here it is.

  • Spark of Ingenuity: Why does the biohacker table list this as “+1/day” instead of just increasing the number of uses per day? (I.e. 1/day, 2/day, and so on) Seems like a weird formatting glitch to me, but it threw me for a loop.
  • Friendly Aim and Quick Load: These two theorems are going to be mandatory for ranged builds, as far as I can tell. That seems super unfun in the long run.
  • Fields of Study: These are all super niche and tend to fall into “Spells, but worse” for their effects. Considering most of them have limited uses per day, the idea that you could use super advanced science to perfectly replicate spells seems AWESOME to me. I hope they buff these breakthroughs to be more like spells ultimately.
  • Poor Scaling: A bunch of these theorems are simply too conservative in their scaling. A great example is protective restorative. DR or energy resistance equal to my KEY ABILITY MODIFIER? That’s NOTHING! Hopefully a bunch of these injections get a review for their use potential and are improved as a result, because the effects off of a bunch of these are just not strong enough to contend with the base math options.

And that about wraps up my build for Xvi as it currently stands. What do you think? What would you change about his build? What sort of changes are you hoping to see in the biohacker playtest class? Did I miss anything? Let me know on the Know Direction Discord channel, or in the comments below. I said that I was going to introduce my new freelancing and designing focused blog this week, but since I did Xvi’s article instead I DOUBLE PROMISE you’ll see me do an article next week. Until then, 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 http://www.everybodygames.net, or support him personally on Patreon at http://www.patreon.com/eversagarpg.