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Arcforge: Star*Path
 
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Arcforge: Star*Path
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Arcforge: Star*Path
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/01/2021 10:50:14

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This book in the Arcforge-series clocks in at 50 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page ToC, 4 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 38 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, first of all: I don’t expect perfection here. I went into this review with the firm desire to be lenient, as this book attempts something that can system-immanently not be achieved with perfect precision, namely provide more extensive guidelines regarding the translation of SFRPG material to Pathfinder’s first edition, and vice versa.

While both systems seem similar at first glance, even a cursory analysis will show that there are crucial differences in almost all components of the systems in question. This, of course, comes as no surprise to people who have actually played both systems, but it bears mentioning. These differences obviously also extend to the act of building characters and using options.

Now, ideally, we’d have a kind of book-shaped program—input system A, output content perfectly-balanced for system B, but the like would require a near boundless database of material, considering PFRPG’s vast amount of content, and SFRPG’s constant growth.  Unfortunately, the like is, pretty much system-immanently, a squaring of the circle for systems of this complexity, and not something the book could ever originally hope to achieve. If you want a perfect conversion product, then, well, you’ll be disappointed. This book never had a chance to deliver that.

PFRPG’s focus on numerical bonuses, SFRPG’s stamina/resolve-chassis, how magic items and damage is handled, and so many more components, are simply incompatible in many ways, and would require a firm retooling from the ground up.

To make this abundantly clear: The basic premise of this book is as deeply and fundamentally flawed as the SFRPG Core-book’s basic conversion guidelines, at least if you want to maintain the aesthetics and balancing of the two systems, a problem that is more pronounced in SFRPG, as it generally is much less swingy regarding the power-levels of the characters and parties as a whole. If you ever went through the hassle of using SFRPG’s core book’s conversion guidelines for a complex PFRPG-class, you’ll know what I mean.

Introducing PFRPG into this context will inevitably break the power-curve of SFRPG, and/or result in some very weird situations. Same goes vice versa—in PFRPG, targeting touch AC is a huge thing; in SFRPG, touch ACs, per the core book’s conversion guidelines are converted into something that targets EAC instead, which is generally significantly higher than touch AC.

However, if you are sufficiently proficient with both systems and wanted more guidelines than the rather sparse ones the SFRPG-core book offered, then continue reading. This book can’t relieve the task of conversion and balancing off your shoulders, but let’s see whether it can succeed in facilitating the process.

First of all, similar names of abilities, archetypes, etc. are handled by adding “SF” or “PF”, respectively, and the pdf acknowledges that PF-archetypes, when using PF-classes in SFRPG, should be allowed, with the caveat of requiring a case-by-case judgment regarding their applicability.

The book wastes no time and goes through all of Paizo’s PFRPG1-classes and how to adapt them to SFRPG, and also covers the Legendary-rebuilds, up to and including the samurai and magus.  This section and the notes of which class features are diminished, which lost, makes my contention above work better than anything I could have come up with. To give you an example, the following in the entirety of the conversion notes presented for the magus-class:

“2nd Level: For the highest level of magus spells you

can prepare, reduce the number of spells prepared

by 1.

4th Level: You do not gain Spell Recall. When you

would gain Improved Spell Recall, you instead gain

Spell Recall.

Multilevel 6th, 9th, 12th, and 18th levels: You do not

gain a Magus Arcana.“

Okay, so if you follow the global conversion guidelines, the touch attack of spellstrike now targets EAC, but in SFRPG, crits don’t require a reroll to confirm. This book later goes into the topics of critical hits and notes that unusual threat ranges and higher critical multipliers should have a translation regarding critical hit effects instead, and uses wound and severe wound as examples here. Okay but what about a spellstrike critically hitting? Should it have a different critical hit effect for melee attack and for spell conveyed? More generally, many of the secondary pools in PFRPG offer powers that are on par with options that require Resolve expenditure in SFRPG, and/or that have a cooldown, in that they can only be reused in SFRPG after a 10-minute rest in which Resolve was spent to regain Stamina. The book does state that a magus’ arcane pool should be eliminated in favor of Resolve LATER, but does not per se present any guidelines regarding the limitations that often accompany powers contingent on Resolve expenditure.

The material provided by this supplement, ultimately, can never be more than the tiniest fragment of the actual work that would be required to make PFRPG classes work in SFRPG – heck, a proper conversion of 1-3 classes from SFRPG would probably require at least the page-count of this entire book. And that’s not even starting with the fact that SFRPG’s spells tend to be weaker than those of PFRPG.

So yeah – this cannot be the universal conversion guideline it wants to be.

However, it does have some components going for it, in spite of this, as a general rough starting point for your own designs. What to do with favored class options, for example? Well, the pdf covers that.

We then take a look at the helmsman class from Arcforge: Technology Expanded, and probably is the most interesting take here, with the pdf acknowledging the need to remove the numerical bonuses prevalent in akasha, as well as suggestions for Resolve use, bonded vessel starships, etc.—there are some salient starting guidelines here, as well as a couple of armaments…but at the same time, the in-depth look at akasha and its global rewiring to adhere to the conventions of SFRPG isn’t really done.  Some feats, like Technologist and those pertaining combat maneuvers are covered as well, essentially elaborating slightly on the general guidelines presented in SFRPG’s core book. The pdf discourages the use of martial maneuvers and Path of War classes in SFRPG, but does imply the use of psionics and akasha, with the power-increasing and rather problematic “…as advanced tech” guidelines from Arcforge: Technology Expanded to be okay in SFRPG. …Yeah. NO.

This is problematic on a balance-level perspective, and also regarding the respective “item levels” or the like, as which these then are supposed to be treated. Personal pet-peeve: There is no “power armor” in SFRPG—the correct name is “powered armor”, and oddly, the book suggests making Arcforge: Technology Expanded’s mechs behave as powered armor, which makes NO SENSE. They behave clearly as a vehicle that is closer regarding its mobility to a powered armor, but…again. What was I expecting? To properly translate the rules to SFRPG would take much more space than just a paragraph.

On the plus-side, weapon category translation from PFRPG to SFRPG makes sense, and we take the finesse/operative angle into account, and the pdf also provides a quick fix regarding the different types of automatic fire when using PFRPG weapons with automatic fire in SFRPG—the pdf suggests changing the PFRPG version’s name to “automatic (burst).” PFRPG charges count as ½ SFRPG charge, and charges sourced from a SFRPG-battery count as two charges for PFRPG weaponry. And yep, oddly there is no acknowledging of the fact that PFRPG’s version of automatic fire can allow for automatic long-range blasts, while SFRPG’s version, oddly, is more spray and pray, in spite of ostensibly using the higher tech…well…tech. This is, alas, symptomatic. As soon as you go into the details, the book falls apart.

The quick and dirty 2 gold = 1 credit conversion for item costs may work for some games, but it is, balance-wise, widely off. Compare the dark blue rhomboid ioun stone with its +2 to Perception and Sense Motive (+4 when reaching 10 ranks) in Pathfinder, with its aeon stone equivalent. In SFRPG. the item in SFRPG provides a +2 insight bonus to Perception and Sense Motive. Both very basic, right? No later scaling in SFRPG, so the PFRPG-version is better.

If you follow these guidelines, the PFRPG-item (price: 10K gold) would only cost 5,000 credits in SFRPG. Here’s the thing: The SFRPG aeon stone? Priced at 18,000 credits and item level 10. Those are the most basic examples I could find at a glance; better one exist, but this one is so straightforward, it’s impossible to dispute.

The system provided here is not even close to what the output should be, and this example is the most basic I could find. It does get worse.

Let me make that abundantly clear:

These guidelines DO NOT WORK and will destroy any semblance of balance your SFRPG game has.

As an aside, I’d also like to mention that, in SFRPG, the resource is credits, and NOT “CP.”

It gets so much worse. “In SF, characters are unable to wear more than two functioning magic items at a time. Given the sheer number of magic items that become available when PF content is allowed, players may wish for a way to circumvent this restriction. Hence, it is proposed that for every unused armor upgrade slot the character possesses in their armor, the character may wear and use an additional worn magic item.” (Arcforge: Star*Path, pg.11)

And this is where anybody obviously stopped caring about any notion of balance whatsoever. Because a mk1 electrostatic field is CLEARLY the equivalent of a 192,000 gold amulet. Clearly. Nobody ever took a look at this and thought: “I think there ought to be some differentiation based on price going on here.”????

There is a table of technological artifacts with horribly priced items. PFRPG’s power armor from the Technology Guide is seriously presented as a 150,000 credit item…you know, instead of with, I don’t know…PROPER POWERED ARMOR STATS FOR SFRPG.

Oh, and don’t even think that the high-level armor-benefits and damage outputs in SFRPG are in any way, shape or form balanced with the PFRPG-material converted to the system.

In summary: The conversion notes from PFRPG to SFRPG are a dismal failure that will break your SFRPG-game to smithereens.

So, does the conversion notes from SFRPG to the first edition of PFRPG fare better? So, we begin with a solid conversion regarding HD, classes with weapon specialization lose it, and Resolve is used as a regular pool for class abilities only. Spells lose Resolve cost, and since many items, feats and ship actions require Resolve as well, the pdf champions the introduction of yet another pool, namely surge points, which is equal  ½ HD or CR, + the creature’s highest ability score modifier. The pdf advises in favor of doubling static bonus gains and the conversion notes for each class are better than that for the PFRPG classes, making use of spell lists, proficiencies, spell casting categories. Ironic: In the per se simple race conversions, static bonuses should be racial in PFRPG as well – something missing from e.g. the shirren’s gifted linguist ability. Blindsense in PFRPG is also much stronger than in SFRPG. Still, as a whole, this is somewhat better than the first part of the book.

And then we come to global system changes: When using this variant, all characters get Precise Shot, Technologist, Weapon Finesse and Improved Unarmed Strike, even if they don’t meet the prerequisites. Oh, and for the purpose of prerequisites, all characters are treated as having the Combat Expertise, Dodge, Point-Blank Shot and Power Attack feats, and any Improved combat maneuver feats are not required for the purpose of prerequisites.

At this point, the book leaves conversion guideline territory, and becomes “essentially a massive hack to the game, with different expectations that any core game I know has.” On the plus-side, we get a table with some PFRPG-feats and the SF-version, noting which feat to use—you’d use SF’s Spring Attack, but PF’s Spell Focus, for example. Odd: The longer the pdf runs, the more typos there seem to be – superscripts not superscripted, a “h” missing from “heavy armor” and the like, but that as an aside. The translation of SFRPG critical hit effects to PFRPG works (they are realized with threat range/multiplier mods instead; not a fan of the design, but it does work), and Weapon Focus essentially now applies to item groups. The pdf also provides guidelines for damage die increases when using SFRPG weapons in PFRPG, and a handy chart that lists damage dice and average damage, which is helpful for non-designer GMs who can’t quickly calculate the like on the fly. But know what’s missing? Entirely? Damage conversion. Know how SFRPG-weapons can have insane base damage values in comparison with PFRPG? Guess what’s not even mentioned? Bingo. How to use these/convert these. The magic item/fusion conversion is btw. as wonky as you’d expect it to be.

The book next provides some VERY cursory guidelines for using SFRPG monsters in PFRPG—which’d be a good point to note that the pdf does mention Armor Penetration rules. These can be found in the Arcforge: Psibertech book, and not, as claimed here, in the Arcforge: Technology Expanded book. Not a complaint, mind you, but it’s something I noticed while testing these three books.

This is btw. the section where it all clicked for me: Why no proper modification of armor and weapons: The GM’s supposed to modify the encounters to make up for the ridiculous escalation of AC and weapon damage! While some general guidelines are presented, this presents a kind of problem not unlike the one witnessed, ironically, with Mythic Adventures BEFORE Legendary Games started bashing that system into a better shape and properly upgraded the adversaries, banned the broken bits, etc.

I was honestly chuckling there for a second—in a very, very bitter way. I don’t think this is worth it. The conversion breaks the game, knows it, shrugs its shoulders and tells the GM to “git gud” and play rocket launcher tag. As an aside: Numerous spell references are wrong here, and throwing more enemies at PCs, high initiative, negative statuses and environment can only go so far. This is not an acceptable or in any way salient way of handling conversion.

This should have received the attention and care to make it work for vanilla Pathfinder groups.

The book also contains new mechanics in the guise of PF1-archetypes:

The ace greaser mechanic gets a companion vehicle and may choose helmsman overcharges in place of mechanic tricks. The robot lord helmsman gets the mechanic’s artificial intelligence and custom rig instead of the bonded vessel stuff.

But there is more. Did a lot of the above sound familiar to you?  The disregard of balancing tools in both systems. The damage escalation. The fact that the book sees no issue in blatant power-escalation…well, the majority of archetypes herein are made with Path of War rules. And the shortcomings in the SFRPG to PFRPG-section suddenly make sense. If you can dish out ridiculous amount of damage and the design goal is to solo dragons, the SFRPG weapons won’t bother you (as much)—but they’ll be added to that, so sure you want that? Regarding math, a +20 AC matters less when you use a subsystem that is based partially on the assumption that you can substitute skill-checks for attack rolls, allowing you to boost your attacks in a ridiculous manner. When you can hit with a skill that you can buff by +5 for less than 1K gold, this lack of concern becomes suddenly understandable. When the system’s already changed regarding its base assumptions regarding PC and NPC power, undercutting prices and the like? Suddenly falls by the wayside.

In all brevity: Eliminator’s operatives get Steel Serpent, Tempest Gale and Thrashing Dragon, as well as the option to Claim targets as a swift action. This has a close range, and lasts for ½ class level rounds, and it makes you auto-succeed trick attacks against claimed targets. Legatus envoys get Golden Lion, Scarlet Throne and Tempest Gale…and…oh boy. Guess what? The ability to execute maneuvers through allies? You know, one of the rajah’s ridiculously strong abilities? This fellow has it. But guess what? While extremely potent, I’d allow this fellow in Path of War games. It’s a very strong option, but not as escalated as the rajah. Starknight solarians get Elemental Flux, Golden Lion, Riven Hourglass, Solar Wind and Veiled Moon. Their maneuvers are randomly granted in combat, somewhat akin to the crusader class of To9S of yore. Interesting: 2 disciplines are assigned to photon, two to graviton, while Elemental Flux is always an option. As such, stellar mode is modified into an animus ability (required for Elemental Flux). I like the blend of maneuver-and mode-engines here. For a Path of War game, it’s an interesting engine-tweak. The uplink warrior mechanic chooses here disciplines and uses them via exocortex, including an ability to gain temporarily combat feats. The zenith marine soldier gets four disciplines of their choice and a series of fixed immunities in exchange for 5 bonus feats and kill shot, which is a ridiculously good deal, but I kinda expected as much.

The pdf closes with a couple of solarian and technomancer options balanced for PFRPG (don’t use these in SFRPG!), and feats to adjust classes to the power-level of the fused systems – such as making trick attacks possible with all weapons, an option to use a mind blade and enhance is like a solar blade, etc. There is also a feat that lets you use PFRPG automatic weapons with the SFRPG automatic property. Ironically, the PFRPG automatic property is better in SFRPG, with its focus on longer-range combat, and the SFRPG automatic, with its spray and pray, is stronger in PFRPG…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are not particularly impressive on a formal or rules-language level, particularly not for Legendary Games. There are plenty of formatting hiccups herein, with missed italicizations, capitalized things that shouldn’t be, etc. I also found quite a few typos. The rules-language level fares better, but only regarding the formal execution. If you even remotely value the balance of your game, take ANYTHING herein, even the components that seem to make sense or sound like true convictions and facts, with not a grain, but a large dose of salt. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Matt Daley’s Star*Path didn’t really have as big a mountain to climb to my heart. I did not expect it to be exhaustive; it can’t be at this page count. I expected it to be helpful; incomplete, but genuinely helpful. All I wanted out of this book, was some tables, some math done for me, so I wouldn’t have to extrapolate as much. And I VERY MUCH wanted to like this book.

This needed to present some guidelines for GMs to decide when an ability converted from PFRPG to SFRPG needed a resource cost, some suggestions for pools and how they operate. This needed to get the magic translation from system to system right, provide guidelines for spells. And get the items right. All of these things, general design principles from which one can extrapolate special cases, could have easily fitted within the book’s 38 pages.

Instead, we get essentially useless, fragmentary class conversion starts that gobble up wordcount; utterly broken, worthless and handwaving pricing guidelines that don’t live up to the most cursory of scrutiny. The conversion notes are mired in specifics, when it should have provided WORKING general guidelines. The conversion to SFRPG is a colossal mess. Don’t use it.

The other way round fares a bit better; it’s not good either, though, and much like the other direction it is just as mired in specifics, which, while nice when they apply, was not what this book professed to be.

To make this abundantly clear: Whether you want to convert PFRPG to SFRPG, or vice versa—this book fails in delivering anything remotely balanced. For most groups, the material herein will not work. The conversion to SFRPG in particular is horribly uneven. I tried both directions and found both incredibly wanting.

That being said, there is one thing of value for a very select audience: The fused system based on PFRPG, with SFRPG-components spliced in, makes sense in a very abstract, theoretical manner. The assumed power-level of this fusion is greater than its parts, and the prevalence of Path of War-based material is testament to that. The notion of playing fast and loose with balancing in favor of a power-fantasy, the crucial defining feature of Path of War, is also prevalent here. So, if your aesthetic is that you should be able to solo dragons and don’t mind escalation beyond Path of War Expanded, then this fused system will have merit for you and your group.

If you wanted a solarian balanced against non-Path of War-PFRPG? Then I’d suggest the edgeknight by Interjection Games, a light/darkness-mode full-BAB class (see Ultimate Antipodism) that will not break your game, potentially with some power upgrades, depending on your game’s power level. For PFRPG, there are plenty of classes that fill SFRPG-class niches.

The only groups to whom I can really recommend this pdf, are those that play with Path of War, who also REALLY wanted to have the SFRPG-classes in PFRPG. For you, this may be a solid offering, though you’ll still have to rephrase all those abilities for smooth gameplay.

For me as a person, this book was worthless. I got nothing out of it.

Nothing at all. I will use nothing from this book ever again. For me, this is a 1-star dud.

As a reviewer, I consider it problematic, in that it professes to provide reliable metrics for conversions (see item conversion) with an air of conviction, but if you even slightly prod the numbers, they fall apart, making it a somewhat malign trap for less number-focused GMs.

Heck, the even remotely mathematically-inclined who went into some deep dives regarding the engines of the two systems will notice pretty much immediately that this doesn’t deliver what it needed to.

A book like this is certainly possible, but it needed to really get into the math and the grit of the systems and focus on getting the core translation right. This did not, and instead got lost in specifics without addressing the fundamental issues of the task at hand. For super high-powered groups, this can be an okay, if seriously flawed book; for all others, this is at best a dud, at worst a danger to the integrity of your game.

I wanted to love this. I hoped to adore it. I didn’t want a perfect conversion code, but I wanted a functional core from which one can extrapolate—because that’s what this book desperately needed to deliver. And didn’t.

My final verdict can’t exceed 1.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



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