1 Pilot, 3 Ways – Starfinder

April 1, 2019

M’kal On’did
Level 6 Borais Ace Pilot Soldier

After looking at Babylon 5, I wanted to see how else the d20 systems would handle a pilot in our 1 Pilot, 3 Ways write up.  The recent roll through the Starfinder system with the Troublemaker Beta showcased some of the advancements and refinements that have occured in the past 15 years.  Without a dedicated Pilot Class, you may think it is harder to accomplish, but the Theme of Ace Pilot is certainly a direct nod to a Pilot. While the Operative provides a great platform for a Pilot, I am going to go with Soldier even though the old Troublemaker Beta crew has two already.  This shows the true innovation that came from Pathfinder where the equivalent of one of the base original classes, Fighter, has so much variety and playability. I’ll work through the choices as I go, but I did use a species from the excellent Pact World sourcebook. If you read the previous overview of Starfinder in the Troublemaker Beta overview, you can skip down to the Design notes.  

System Notes

The system in Starfinder, like Pathfinder, is built on the skeleton of D&D 3.5 like we discussed in the Babylon 5 intro.  This means that you have 6 Ability Scores, a list of Skills, and class abilities to draw from. You have Hit Points, Armor Class, Saving Throws, and Attacks that are all derived from your Ability Score Bonuses and Class Descriptions.  Finally, you have Feats that, along with your special class abilities, provide you with your unique character’s abilities. This is a system that is fairly well known in the gaming sphere, so I want to focus on some of the innovations and pieces that struck me compared to the early d20 system works. Starfinder represents Paizo’s big leap forward, though, with innovations and changes that set Starfinder apart from other d20 derived systems while retaining the core mechanics and appearance.

The three part character generation is fantastic.  Instead of just a species and class, Starfinder adds a Theme so that you massively increase the number of concepts that have mechanical support in the game.  A Human Soldier is one thing, but a Starfarer Themed Human Soldier is very different from a Priest Themed Human Soldier. Each theme provides bonus skills to be in class as well as an attribute bump and other abilities at higher levels.  

Attribute enhancements are handled well and really do provide a science fantasy or pulp feel to the improvements.  While you are not allowed to start with an Ability Score over 18 at character creation, there is ample opportunity to exceed that limit as you advance. Every 4 levels, you can increase four of your six Ability Scores by 2 if they are at 16 or below or by 1 if they are at 17 or above.  

The subclasses available in each class, that I referred to above for playability of the core classes.  Increasing the number of types of characters available even more, every single class has significant “subclasses” where there are multiple ways it can be developed.  Each class has a plethora of special abilities beyond feats making them each be desirable, but then the further specialization available is like icing on top of the cake. Take the Mechanic which has an AI of some kind – either an exocortex that the Mechanic wears or in a Drone.  This means that your mechanic could take on aspects of a “pet” class with the drone that increases in abilities with you or double down on using direct enhancement with the exocortex. Each provides a different flavor on top of the Theme, Species, and Class decisions already made. There are four different example builds with each character class in the book that showcase the diversity, and I will try not to use any of them in the builds here.

Finally, there is a strong hand dealt to the GM and expectations.  GMs are expressly told that the party is expected to have access to a spaceship in someway so that the adventures can go on either as a perk from their employer or having it outright.  Additionally, GMs are advised to allow wealth by means of a regular paycheck or reward system rather than by looting the bodies of fallen foes. Making setting expectations clear for the GM, and by extension the players serves as a Session Zero.1 for the entire setting and not just a campaign.

Design Notes

For this 3 Ways build, I decided to eschew “standard” humans, and in the Starfinder setting, I choose to use a Borais from the Pact Worlds Sourcebook.  Borais are quasi undead in that they share some of the undead’s features, but few of the benefits. This may showcase some diversity in the systems, but it also can showcase how a single concept plays across these different games.

The great part about making a Pilot is that the Dexterity and Intelligence is going to be the priority, and with the bonus from my planned theme gives me a clear place to start.  Starfinder provides quick start Ability Score options where instead of rolling for your Ability Scores, you can start with a preset list of rolls to assign as you wish. If you recall from the overview, no Ability Score can start over 18, but we will get well past them later. With a spread of 16, 16, 11, 10,10, and 10, I am starting our Pilot character with STR 10, DEX 16, CON 11, INT 16, WIS 10, and CHA 10.  M’kal Ondid is a Borais Ace Pilot Soldier, so we will start by unpacking those choices.

Species – Borais.  I may have taken the concept of an icy cold pilot a bit literally here, compared to the usually hot blooded Narn in the Babylon 5 build – I choose the Borais which are like quasi-undead in that they are undead but lack many of the undead immunities or traits.  Because they are frequently found on Eox, I will use that as an hooks to the character integration with the story I already did for the Troublemaker Beta. The step into the negative plane provides an excuse to be alien and all business with a bit of what’s left from originally being human.  As a former Human, M’kal retains his species ability of Skilled which provides an additional skill rank per level which will come in handy when we select our limited number of skills from the Soldier Class. Additionally, the Borais have 60 feet of Darkvision, immunity to negative energy drain and resistance to energy drain effects among other abilities. The Borais Ability Score modifiers are -2 WIS but a +2 CON and +2 CHA.      

Theme – Ace Pilot. This is pretty much the expect part of the build here making a pilot. The Ace Pilot ensures that Piloting is a class skill and the checks relating to Piloting and starships are given an advantage. Finally, an Ace Pilot Theme provides a +1 DEX. This will put us at a final stat list of STR 10 DEX 17 CON 13 INT 16 WIS 8 CHA 12

Class – Soldier. The Soldier is the future form of the Fighter, but Starfinder has certainly made the Soldier a deep and engaging class. Each Soldier selects a Primary Fighting Style that provides techniques that fit that overall theme of the character.  The CRB has 7 different Fighting Styles and for M’kal’s sure sighted functionality in combat, I am going with the Sharpshooter Style. It is a common fiction trope to see the pilot be the sharpshooter, and I see no reason to change it here. The Initial Primary Fighting Style Ability is Snipers Aim which reduces the AC bonus for people in partial cover by 2.

Soldiers have weapon and armor proficiencies to cover all known weapons, so that is an easy part of the design.  We look next at our skill list. As an Ace Pilot, since Soldiers have Pilot as a Class Skill, an extra +1 untyped bonus is available to assist M’Kal in excelling.  Pilot will obviously be one of his 8 skill selections (4 for Soldier, 1 for [former] human, and 3 from an INT of 16).

After we get the Piloting out of the way, Acrobatics, Profession (Soldier), Intimidate, Perception, and Stealth.  A starting rank in Culture, and Athletics would round out the starting options pretty well.

Hit Points are a set amount based on your species and class (10), while Stamina points are a set amount from your class plus your CON modifier(4).  Finally, Resolve Points start as half your level, rounded up plus your class chief ability score modifier, DEX for M’kal. Finally, thinking about M’kal and what he is or isn’t, I am going with a Neutral Good alignment. He is underneath it all, a good person and tries to do right – as a quasi-undead his view of what is a person may be broader than others, but he also knows that law and order sometimes is carried by inertia and is not for the best of all people.  He is from Eos after all.

Advancement and Gear Notes

As a d20 derivative game, the class and level advancement is a straightforward advancement system.  Check the link below for the full character sheet, but we will look at the highlights of the character advancement here.  

First, on the Ability Score increases, as a Soldier and primarily a Pilot, DEX and INT are two of the four bonus while bumping up the CON and CHA provides for a better rounded set of hit points and disarming way about which M’kal elides in society.  DEX receives only a +1 while the rest recieve +2. An 18 DEX is good, sure, but with the option to add a personal upgrade, M’kal would assuredly go with a Mk I. personal upgrade for DEX. Magitech seems like the best choice for a quasi undead, so a form of enhanced nerve transmission lines created from vat grown cosmis electric eels and infused with electrical magic works well and an occasional crackle of electricity as the undead nature of the Borais interacts with it is a nice image in my head.   That gets a DEX of 20 and a INT of 18 which also increases the skill choices and Resolve points for M’kal.

I think that splitting up the skills makes the most sense, especially as I look at some skills that maybe are not as needed at maximum.  I keep the maximum skill ranks, of one per level, in Acrobatics, Intimidate, Perception, Piloting, Profession and Stealth. A few ranks in Athletics, Bluff, Computers, Culture, and even a rank of Medicine help round out M’kal in the world.   

If you click through to the attached character sheet, you’ll see some of the gear that M’kal has to choose from, including a Triple Focus Laser Sniper rifle that will add some synchrony with his Laser Gear Boost and that has a Ghost Killer Fusion so that he shoot ghosts as the Penetrating advantage to more easily blast through barriers.

The Lashunta Mindmail gets the extra equipment of a targeting computer because now that means that both Concealment and Cover will be less effective against M’kal and the Sera of Enhancement are good options. Both the Mind Mail Armor and the specific Sniper rifle are from the Armory book that Paizo has published allowing for more gear and equipment.  I like Pact Worlds better myself, but that is because it is the worlds building lore sourcebook.

Soldiers come stacked, though with abilities and bonus feats.  We have three Feats, two Bonus Feats, a Gear Boosts, and a Fighting Style ability that have shown up! Aside from the Skill Focus on Piloting, Skyjockey is an obvious choice for Feats to reinforce that side of M’kal.  Improved Initiative is always a good choice and then you throw in Slippery Shooter and Far Shot. Slippery Shooter allows close in use of ranged attacks without provoking while Far Shot obviously enhances the sniping abilities.  Finally, Veiled Threat will let his unsettling self use Intimidate without leaving the target hostile, only unsettled. His Gear Boost will be the Laser Accuracy for the bonus with Laser weapons, from Sniper rifles all the way down to sidearms. The Sharpshooter Fighting Style ability he gains is Focus Fire which allows a full attack action against a single target with -3 to each attack rather than -4.  

As with other d20 based systems, the Base Attack Bonus and Saving throws also increased.  Check out the character sheet linked below for the full write up.

Character Notes

M’kal N’Did was human.  He is not any longer. OnceA simple truth is that those who are skilled will be taken to what they are meant to do – For M’kal that was in the cockpit.  Sadly, though, his life ended. Except it has not.

Flying through the stars brought a sense of wonder to M’kal when blood was still warm, but as a Borais when the resurrection failed, he finds only a calm almost serene stillness in the depth of space now.  It is hard to explain how much was torn away from the hard living and charming M’kal when he was brought back to … almost life. Rather than truly have to process it, his newfound Borais existence allowed him to elide over the emotional pain his family and friends faced.  Instead, on Eox, he found himself in the service of Bone Sages. The Corpse Fleet had left, and as all in the Pact Worlds know, the fleet of Eox’s finest military might was rebuffed and left still prowling the starways for an eventual revenge. The remaining Bone Sages, those who had not supported this act, needed capable pilots and M’kal as a Borais was able to both fit in without becoming one of them – a valued and needed tool but always just a tool to the Enebrians.

It has been some time, perhaps a hundred years, and M’kal has not been challenged.  The Troublemaker Beta, however, revealed something most unusual. The chance that perhaps there was a few Bone Sages who were not buried in the Eternal Barrows that could be conspiring with Elves of Castrovel to destablize the Pact Worlds.  It is only with great fortune that when they met in battle before, M’kal had neither killed them nor been laid low himself.

Now, M’kal has taken the freedom that comes with being both good at his job and overlooked to take his mission of protecting Eox to the stars.  The crew of the Troublemaker Beta will soon find themselves with an unlikely friend and ally who hopes to learn from them to get closer to the Corpse Fleet conspirator.  Chitter may not like a backseat pilot, but Besu will finally have someone as foreign to all these goings on as she is.

M’kal Starfinder Sheet

1 Pilot, 3 Ways Overview

Starfinder is © Paizo Inc.  Starfinder, Pact Worlds, and Armory are all © Paizo. This website uses trademarks and/or copyrights owned by Paizo Inc., which are used under Paizo’s Community Use Policy. We are expressly prohibited from charging you to use or access this content. This website is not published, endorsed, or specifically approved by Paizo Inc. For more information about Paizo’s Community Use Policy, please visit paizo.com/communityuse. For more information about Paizo Inc. and Paizo products, please visit paizo.com.

Liked it? Take a second to support Guard-a-manger on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *