Moving forward with my work, I’m getting the chance to take a look at the nooks and crannies of Starfinder design. Alex’s article last week hit the nail on the head on a few different things that have almost always irked me with Starfinder. In particular though, this discussion on Equipment resonated strongly with me.
I had looked at both the light armors and heavy armors as they’re listed in Archives of Nethys, and the one thing that really stood out is that post-Armory many of the level gaps in the Core Rulebook were filled. This is true, at least on the numerical levels with only a little bit of wiggle room to design “new” items. Except for a short item description and possibly an evocative name, there is little to differentiate most armors from each other besides the minor mechanical difference between at any given item level.
What this means, is that any armor I create must be tied to my setting in one way or another. But it also got me thinking about new design spaces.
Thoughts on Armor
I like that in Pathfinder 2nd Edition, different armor types can have different properties that can at least make them feel a little different from each other. If you look at the armor tables, there are no special properties listed, however if you look at the actual items a few of them have some minor properties. I have some ideas on what I am going to do, but first I’d like to take a look at some of the current options currently published.
If we look at level 3 armors, there are currently 10 of them between both Light & Heavy armors. Of those 10 though, the Cleaveweave and Regimental Dress armors offer cosmetic differences, and the Aeon Guard Battle Dress has the ability to use 1 of its upgrade slots for aeon stones only.
The Aeon Guard Battle Dress is arguably the only one with an “extra” ability. It costs 40 credits more than Golemforged Plating II, has the same EAC/KAC bonuses as the Golemplating and a mildly worse Armor Check Penalty (-3 compared to -2). While the Battle Dress technically has 2 upgrade slots, it really has 1 regular upgrade slot (same as the Golemforged Plating) and 1 Aeon Stone upgrade slot. With such a small price difference between the Aeon Guard Battle Dress & the Golemforged Plating II, it’s pretty easy to argue that the only reason more players don’t use it, is simply because of the setting or the GM simply not providing it as loot.
Now, with that in mind I also now want to compare Aeon Stones to Armor Upgrades from 1st to 3rd level. They’re pretty similarly priced at each level point, which makes sense for permanent items that have item levels. Two of the aeon stones allow the user to either not breathe or not eat food or water. Another allows the user to cast flight (1st Level). The final one is probably the best in that it provides proficiency in a single weapon type. On the armor upgrade side, we have highlights such as the hydrojet, jump jets and mobility enhancer,mk 1.
My idea comes into play: What if armor upgrades were better integrated into their armors? Perhaps an armor has a special property called “Integrated(Jump Jets)”, and instead of the normal fly speed & fly height, it is increased by 25-50%. What this armor would give up though is an upgrade slot (or two) all the time. Essentially what the armor gives up in flexibility (general use armor upgrade slots), it gains in more efficient upgrades. I think creating special properties for armors can open up a wide swath of potential design space. The biggest issue I see is in the layout of such a change, since the current armor tables already take up a lot of space and are full of a lot of columns.
Setting the Armor
Imagine the aforementioned armor was produced by a manufacturer for a specific customer. If the Cosmic Combiners want to ensure that most of their recruits have access to armor that can protect them should they encounter some hostility, they could commission a line of armor with the force shield upgrades! Or if World Builders Intergalactic (WBI) wants to offer tourists armor that lets them see the heights of their different planets, they can have a line with jump jets, jetpacks, forcepacks that totally wouldn’t also be used for their paramilitary arm for jetpack troopers.
Honestly, force shield armor and jet armor are arguably really low hanging fruit if we’re utilizing an integrated special property. I’m still not settled on exactly how much the integrated property will increase the effectiveness, but for now I’ll try to keep it within the earlier mentioned 25-50%. I may also typically increase the level. For instance a level 3 effective EAC/KAC armor might be a level 4 to help account for the price of the integrated upgrade.(If armor/weapons didn’t have a “mk” system we could play with pricing a little more I think).
In my next installment, I’m hoping to present to you all the Cosmic Force Protection Suit and WBI’s Flying Tourist…with the names still very much being workshopped!
Thank you for playing along at home! Please join us at our Discord server https://discord.gg/Rt79BAj to let me know what you think or to simply have a chat!