This week I’ve been thinking about in game economy and house rules. Specifically, about loot, grenades, and power armor. I’ve heard it again and again at tables – grenades are underwhelming damage particularly in relation to cost, nobody uses power armor because the returns aren’t worth the cost or because they can only use them briefly due to charge usage, and finally that loot in adventure paths is scarce. Now I think a lot of that comes from the sheer bounty of cool items there are in the Starfinder setting, and the absolutely punishing economy that keeps you from ever owning much of it unless the GM is being especially generous, but lets dig into each of these problems.
First, grenades. The fantasy is one of utter destruction – the hero has a grenade, they catch the antagonists in a situation where they can’t escape the blast of said grenade, battle over. However, that isn’t very fun in terms of actual at table game, especially if it is the player characters getting caught in the blast radius. However, any change we make here is going to add to game complexity, be potentially unbalancing, or both.
My proposed solution – damage based on proximity to blast. Essentially a target is in the same 5 ft. square as the grenade when it goes off, it does double damage (half on save) and if they have evasion and save they still take quarter damage. This increases the value of grenades in combat as a way to offset the expensive price tag, rewards pin point accuracy, and is still pretty fun IMHO. Will this make grenade builds more powerful? Absolutely. On the other hand the GM is going to have a lot more goons with a couple grenades on them then a player character is ever going to be able to buy on their own, so it makes battles against grenade users more dangerous too.
Second, power armor. The fantasy is Iron Man, the Guyver, or any of a host of other options. The hero gets into the suit and becomes a humanoid shaped artillery platform with herculean strength and a host of other abilities. Starfinder could never live up to this fantasy and still have other builds be meaningful. Beyond that, mech combat has largely supplanted the game space that powered armor was also aimed at, and does a better job at fulfilling that gameplay fantasy.
My solution – one of two options. One option is to work with the system and provide additional options. If you have players that want to use power armor let them, with the understanding that there are going to be situations where they aren’t going to be able to use it. Exploring an ancient alien ruin? Absolutely. Suit up space marine. Going to a casino space station? No way cowboy, they aren’t letting that thing anywhere near the gaming floor. Also, the charge usage for power armor is very restrictive, especially on the better armors, and the player who has built a character to use them is not going to want to get out of that armor if they have the option. So let them. If they run out of charges they can spend a Resolve Point to get another charge. Option 2 is to do away with power armor entirely and switch over the mechs. Powered armor is ignored, replaced by single pilot medium sized and up mechs, with encounters scaled to match. And no space station or peaceful town is going to let you pilot that mech on the thoroughfare either.
Last but not least, loot economy. The fantasy here is being able to keep up with the absolutely requisite weapon and armor for appropriate level treadmill while still being able to buy cool stuff like jet pacts, magma swords, and hover bikes and what not. The truth is in most games you are going to feel as broke as the grew of the Cowboy Bebop more often than not, and people are going to be fighting over that pistol that is party level +1 that the sub-boss just dropped. Or if you are far out in the vast on an exploration adventure you are just SOL with a bag full of credits and no where to spend them.
My solution – UPBs, a smart replicator that breaks down existing gear into UPBs, and have players buy and/or research schematics instead of the gear. As long as you have a replicator that can us them UPBs are a superior form of currency – you don’t have to buy the items off of some merchant you can just make it yourself! If you can break gear down into UPBs, even at 10% of cost as is suggested (though I’d go for 20% myself), you keep a pool of UPBs you can build from. Instead of seeking out a gun store to get the bigger better blaster, the players instead scour infospheres for data merchants that can hook them up with the schematic for the exact item they want. Pop that and the UPBs into the replicator and you are good to go! For more exotic items maybe they require special ingredients or time spent researching alien tech to get the right schematics. Mix and match as needed.
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