Occult Skill Guide: Sizechanging Rules (SFRPG) (Patreon Request)
This super-sized Occult Skill Guide clocks in at 45 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page introduction, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 40 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This was moved up in my reviewing queue at my patreon supporter’s request, and because Halloween is approaching, and because its themes are relevant for Christmas (and all other holidays celebrated that time of the year…) as well…and finally, because it’s something I wanted in my Starfinder game – so, do these rules work, and how does the book work?
Okay, we believe with something that Starfinder threw out with the bath water, in a manner of speaking – size modifier rules. While I get the decision behind getting rid of that aspect of Pathfinder’s rules (which famously has two such modifiers), the result further adds to the sometimes a bit artificial feel that Starfinder critters can have. As written, the NPC creation rules simply do not account for different sizes, and though we expect a hippopotamus to be stronger than, say, a coyote, this is not necessarily true in the context of Starfinder’s monster/NPC-creation rules.
As such, the pdf begins with a couple of base rules, and it should be noted that, for the purpose of all further material herein, Small and Medium are treated as the SAME size category. The reasoning is obvious – to prevent disadvantages for Small player races. If you are MUCH smaller (4 size categories) than your opponent, you’ll have an easier time avoiding effects. If an effect from such a source has a partial effect on a successful saving throw, you instead avoid it entirely – essentially an evasion that applies to all saves. Conversely, if you are 4 or more size categories taller than your opponent, and are targeted by an effect that has partial effects on a successful saving throw, you instead take the partial effect on a failed save. What on a successful save? That depends on the context, I guess, but overall, this simple chassis represents an immediate improvement as far as I’m concerned. Why? Think about planes circling King Kong, Godzilla atomic breath-ing at teeny-tiny figures…this lets you play a more cinematic game, one where size matters.
Bulk is covered as well – you take into account the size of its intended user, with x8 per size category above yours, and sensible scaling for items of smaller sizes – essentially, using a space titan’s blaster pistol will be somewhat challenging; a survival knife for a Huge creature would weigh 8 bulk, as the progression is light-1-8. Smaller items follow the same calculation, just with 1/8 being the factor. And in case you’re wondering: Examples illustrate the rounding process etc. – The author’s background in teaching is readily apparent, as the material is easy to comprehend.
Next up are combat maneuvers. Do you consider it stupid that a tiny figure can suplex Galactus? Well, attempting combat maneuvers versus targets that are 3+ size categories larger fail automatically. Additionally, sunder is modified based on the size of the target. REALLY cool: With harrying fire, you can make allies count as larger! This adds teamwork and a tactical dimension to the fights. Now, ginormous creatures can obviously provide cover – this is determined by the elegant cover value mechanic: 1 + the number of size categories the creature is smaller than you, minus the number of size categories the source of the effect is. A handy table lists the cover values, just fyi.
Difficult terrain may also be ignored by creatures of sufficient size; enemies that are four or more size categories larger than you may not be flanked. Creatures with a space of less than1 foot can’t take guarded steps, as those are linked to space. Size modifiers are dynamic in this engine, and are equal to the difference in size between yourself and the creature/object you act against. If the target is larger than you, you apply the size modifier as a penalty to attack rolls, if the target is smaller, it is applied as a bonus. This might seem counterintuitive at first glance, but consider that Starfinder’s attack roll represents hitting the target in a way that actually, you know, causes damage. And this might well be harder for ginormous critters.
When you make a combat maneuver that is not dirty trick or the frickin’ amazing scale maneuver (Advanced Skill Guide, oh boy should that one have been core…): Other maneuvers, if the target is larger, apply the size modifier as a penalty, as a bonus if the target is smaller. When you deal damage to an opponent, the size modifier applies as a reduction if the target is at least one size category larger than you, as a bonus if the target is smaller. This is not multiplied on a critical hit. The size modifier also applies to saving throw DCs. Regarding Perception, larger critters are obviously easier to spot, but Strength-related checks obviously benefit from being larger. Other rolls are also covered, and the pdf provides rules for swallowing targets. But wait…isn’t there already a swallow whole universal creature rule? Yes, and the rules presented herein are essentially the lite version of that one – and while funny, it’s pretty darn risky to swallow targets if your biology isn’t made for it. Still, the inclusion here? Cool!
Now, remember, while these rules all are intended to work in conjunction with each other, they are presented in a manner that allows you to cherry-pick components to suit the degree of simulation you prefer in your game. Just want attacks, saving throws and DCs to matter? Include just those. Want magic and AoE attacks to be the grand leveler of sizes? You can do that. The modular nature of the rules presented here is really appreciated.
Of course, there is a simple and practical issue at the very foundation of size modification, and that would be the grid. And oh BOY is that one useful. Handy tables and precise explanations allow you to swiftly deduce the size of effects on e.g. a Tiny grid, when your PCs have been shrunk down, or on a colossal one, when they are having a martial battle with a kaiju.
Speaking of which, there is something that fans of Everybody Games will be familiar with – the introduction of Supercolossal creatures, including the super beneficent “massive” extraordinary ability – oh, and guess what? Concise rules for fighting such titans with your starships/using them in starship combat! On the other end of the spectrum, we have ultrafine creatures, who receive the miniscule extraordinary ability. It should be noted that these may be used with or without the previous chapter’s rules – kudos for championing modularity.
After these, we dive into sizechanging rules, which make use of both the concisely-defined macrosize and microsize descriptors; the pdf then walks you through the process of adjusting areas of effect, damage and reach in a manner that is both comprehensible and makes sense regarding its sequence. Speed and gear are taken into account as well, and interactions of sizechange effects are covered as well – new effects essentially supersede old ones, and when/how they stack is defined as well. The polymorph effects and their interaction with sizechanging is defined as well. This section is FRICKIN GOLD. Pym? Ant man? Il était une fois…la Vie (more commonly known in the English-speaking world as “Once upon a time…life” – all those glorious options, now available. I am literally salivating when thinking about the narrative options.
Oh, and if you’re a fan of “Honey, I shrunk the kids”, you’ll be happy to hear that the pdf includes the shrink weapon special property, and almost a full page of concisely-defined weapons – from small arms shrink rays to shrink-miniguns and precision shrink rifles or grenades, we have some seriously cool options, including the level 4 size-adjusting weapon fusion. 4 mks of insectisuit armors (ranging from levels 10 to 19) can be found as well and help you with sizechanging. Hybrid items, like the biomass downsizer and the miniaturization interface system (MIS) can downsize targets or allow you to take items along. Of course, magic is featured as well – baleful embiggen and baleful shrink are presented for mystics and technomancers, at spell levels 2 – 6, with the higher iterations unlocking progressively more extreme size category modifications – and yes, mass versions are included as well. With the right feat, you can also make the biomass taken act as a buff to allies, and if you want to affect targets sans their equipment, there’s a feat for that as well. Non baleful iterations may be found as well, and at 3rd spell level, you can modify the size of bodyparts, for grotesquely-elongated arms or locomotive limbs…or heads. And yes, these have individual penalties, depending on the caster’s choice. What about level 1-6 macrosize missile, which allows you to throw small objects and make them quickly grow to deadly proportions? Wanna evade attacks as a reaction? Shrinking dodge. And with underdog’s day and its mass iteration, you can even the playing field against those colossi.
This is not where the pdf stops, either – instead, we receive occult materials, with 2 corruptions (all required rules included) first; the first of these that made me draw my crimson bow and arrow. If you got that reference, you’ll be smiling from ear to ear: Yep, there is a Colossus corruption that obviously is inspired by Attack on Titan. (*Puts the Epica track on full blast*) Anyhow, it’s not just the corruption. Know those cool grappling hook harnesses from Attack on Titan? Guess what this book has? Yep. Item level 3. This corruption alone will warrant the asking price for some of you. Of course, there also a diminishment corruption, including an artifact-cannon! F***YEAH!
The book also presents new rituals, once again including all required rules to run them: At level 5, fantastic voyage does pretty much what you’d expect it to: People placed in pods and their consciousness is uploaded into nanomachine effigies of the respective individuals – and since shrinking objects is difficult, we have all the means provided to order the respective items…or, aforementioned artifact cannon would do the trick…but then you’d have to deal with InsaneCorp…worth the risk? Oh, and before you ask – yes, you can go full-blown Microcosm (who remembers that Psygnosis classic?) and have a nanoship as well! Microclysm draws unrepentantly from the traditions of sword and planet and pulp, with crystal ball-enhanced (yes, rules provided!) shrinking of whole cities being possible. And yes, you can shrink planets! AWESOME. Can you see the angle of the planet-collector? The desperate strategy to save a doomed world thus? I can. Love it. Can you see the damage that rough handling of a planet could cause, the post-apocalyptic consequences? I can. I love this to bits! Writhing Flesh in Father’s Form, a level 6 ritual, is once more on the potentially rather twisted side of things –the target of this ritual transforms into the shape of the creature that “donated” an organ, limb, etc. – from Metal Gear Solid to narratives exploring total identify fluidity (or dissolution!), this one has a huge amount of applications as well. It should be noted that each ritual comes with legends and sample encounters/story seeds to help contextualize their impact and application.
Speaking of which: In case all this awesomeness caused some serious choice paralysis because you just had too many great ideas, fret not, for the final chapter provides advice for microsized and macrosized adventures, with types and story structures noted, as well as examples provided. Scifi/science-fantasy-Gulliver, baby!
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and Jacob Blackmon provides a visually-consistent identity to the pdf, with lots of original full-color artworks that fit the subject matter perfectly. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Alexander Augunas’ shrinking rules…ah, shucks, who am I kidding???
GET THIS NOW.
I am serious. Not only is this book highly modular in its rules, it presents elegant and easily implemented rules for size-changing; from Kaiju-battles to adventures within an organism and infiltration of organic growths, this book unlocks whole GENRES of awesome stories for you – and it doesn’t stop there. The corruptions and rituals add further icing on a cake so awesome, I don’t even know where to start.
Do you want your big monsters to matter more? Get this.
Do you want to shrink and explore the wonders of the microcosm? Get this.
Do you want to feature insane, pulpy super-science? Get this.
Do you want mustache-twirling villains shrinking cities, nay, even planets? Get this.
This humble little booklet is a masterpiece, it enhances SFRPG in several crucial ways; its presentation is precise, clear and well-structured. It is a prime example of how great rules can make the game better in pretty much every way. With Zen-like elegance, Alexander Augunas delivers a masterpiece here, a book worth getting, even if you’re only interested in components. Chances are, that upon reading this, that’ll change and you’ll beam from ear to ear like I am right now. This is one of the most important books currently out there for Starfinder. It belongs in the library of every self-respecting GM, and thus gets 5 stars, my seal of approval, is a candidate for my best of-list of 2019, and this also gets the EZG-Essentials tag as a book that is al but required for SFRPG. If you get one Occult Skill Guide, get this. Now. If you even remotely like amazing, precise rules that truly inspire you to explore new vistas, you won’t regret it.
You can get this masterpiece here on OBS!
You can get the glorious Advanced Skill Guide here on OBS!
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