Star Classes: Solarian (SFRPG) (Priority Review)
Star Classes: Solarian (SFRPG)
This installment of the Star Classes-series clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreon supporters.
So, this supplement begins with a discussion of components that the supplement defines as problematic at the table – these are, for one, MAD (Multiple Ability Score Dependency) of Charisma, Constitution (though to a lesser degree due to how SFRPG operates), and Dexterity/Strength, depending on the build; this is a factor that could ostensibly be deemed to be intentional, though I do agree that the solarian suffers from needing to split their focus thus. The second factor is a BIG one, and one that is impossible to dispute – the solarian has dead levels: On level 5, we have a resistance increase for solar armor, on level 15, we have the same + 1d6 for solar weapon. That kinda sucks and is really not fun. One of the things that PFRPG improved over 3.X was to make most levels fun and unique. So yeah, filling these? Great! All for it!
This supplement operates under the central premise of making the solarian more powerful, so that’s something to bear in mind here.
As such, the supplement begins with abilities suggested to even the playing field a bit for the solarian – these include number-tweaks like expanded proficiencies (heavy armor, longarms, grenades – oddly all capitalized, as though they were feats; indeed, quite a few abilities are presented thus, deviating from formatting conventions), making Strength or Dexterity key ability modifier, use Charisma instead of Dexterity to determine AC, use Charisma instead of Constitution to determine Stamina gained, or using Charisma instead of Strength or Dexterity to calculate attack rolls with solar weapons or blasts.
Regarding flexibility, upgrades suggested are making them learn a harmonic revelation or both of a photon and graviton revelation. The suggestion to provide an additional manifestation or strengthened manifestation at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter (highly recommended – it kills the dead levels), or an ability that lets them retrain a stellar revelation when using sidereal influence. (Also an ability I’d recommend – makes the playing experience more versatile, and sidereal influence’s level and time-requirements prevent abuse) Good call here: The supplement doesn’t simply leave the GM alone with the new material, and advises caution regarding use of too many “substitute Charisma for X” type of abilities. The suggested tweaks, as presented, provide some customization options, but leaves the control firmly where it belongs – in the GM’s hands. While slightly more guidance would have been appreciated, but what we do get here is already something I very much appreciate.
Speaking of things I appreciate: Easily one of my least favorite things about SFRPG in the beginning was, that it simply didn’t offer that much regarding compelling lore pertaining to the respective classes; I still think that the Pact Worlds book could have done more there. Anyhow, the supplement provides quite a few cool lore justifications for the existence of solarians, which include cosmic radiation (cool for a somewhat comic-book-like feel), being an agent of fate…and one I’m particularly fond of, where notions of absolute moralities are dissolved. As someone who has always been vocal about hating alignment systems, particularly within the complex realities of more advanced civilizations, that one struck a chord with me. 6 of these complex explanations are provided, and I genuinely liked all of them.
The pdf then proceeds to provide the stellar beacon archetype, which grants alternate class features at 2nd, 6th, 9th, 12th and 18th level: At 2nd level, we have a means to gain stellar mode – and if you already are a solarian, you gain 2 points of attunement per round, rather than 1. This is a potentially very strong change, as it decreases the speed to become fully attuned by 1 round, unlocking zenith revelations sooner. Considering that the payoff is a single stellar revelation, this is a very powerful option, particularly when combined with the basic notion of getting more flexible revelations, as suggested before. 6th, 12th and 18th level provide a stellar revelation – so no change for solarians? Well, not quite: If you are a solarian, you can choose zenith revelations at 12th and 18th level instead. At 9th level, we have the Inverted Being ability, which lets you choose one revelation of equal level and opposite attunement for each one you possess. By meditating 10 minutes and spending 1 Resolve Point (not capitalized properly), you can exchange any of these revelations for their opposite.
This archetype is interesting in a couple of ways: For one, it allows for valid dabbling in the solarian engine for non-solarians. For solarians, it provides pretty much a straight power upgrade, in that it allows for quicker zenith manifestation access and an increased emphasis of the duality-concept at 9th level. It also puts me as a reviewer in a very weird position: On one hand, it is, pretty much by design, a VERY strong option, and one you’d be a fool to pass over, if it is allowed in your game. As such, it would be easy to complain about it being overpowered in the context of the solarian class as presented….and indeed, the quicker access to the solarian’s “finishers” is something that requires careful observation, as ALL future zenith revelations or those from other sources are balanced against requiring the set-up time being required. Getting rid of it can become problematic rather fast.
On the other hand, this archetype’s intention is to let you get sooner to that “cool” stuff. The question on whether you’d consider this archetype broken or amazing is ultimately wholly contingent on whether you think that the solarian’s modes play as they should. Do you want the set-up period and play a grittier game? If so, then you should not allow this archetype – for your game, it might tip the balance in an unpleasant manner. You should also be very much careful with zenith revelations and how they operate when using it. If, however, your group is gunning for a higher-powered playing style, and if the set-up of zenith revelations struck you as bothersome, then this archetype will be a godsend, and operate consistently at its intended powerlevel. While zenith revelations still require some oversight, the archetype may well drastically increase your enjoyment of the solarian class in your game. So yeah, for certain games, this is awesome. I just wished that the book clearly spelled the intended design goals to allow GMs to make an informed choice there. An explanation there would have certainly made this more newbie-friendly.
The supplement then proceeds to present two new solar manifestations: Solar amplification increases the DC of both stellar and zenith revelations by 1, +1 at 9th and 18th level, and the ability also nets you ½ solarian level as a bonus to maneuvers executed with stellar revelations. RAW, zenith revelations are excluded from this bonus; not sure that this was intentional, but I assume it was. Solar form nets +1 to all saving throws, which increases to +2 at 10th level (providing a bit of alleviation for the common save-complaint), and nets you twice solarian temporary hit points, with fast healing equal to your solarian level. The latter aspect is highly ambiguous regarding its verbiage – does the fast healing apply universally, or just to the temporary hit points? This needs clarification. Much to my chagrin, the pdf also fails to specify whether and how these interact with the solarian class graft.
Unless I miscounted, we have 24 new stellar revelations. This book introduces a new category of those, so-called harmonic revelations, which count as neither photon, nor graviton, and are active in both attunements. While I get the design goal behind that, I also do think that these somewhat dilute the duality leitmotif of the solarian class on a rules level. I am not a fan of this.
The vast majority of new revelations are harmonic ones, so I’ll just explicitly call out those that aren’t. Among the 2nd level stellar revelations, we have the means to get an additional solar manifestation, which, well, is kinda understandable, but once more, is future-proofing-wise perhaps not the smartest choice, considering that the class ability provides a scaling, constant benefit for the class. Amplified attunement nets you an insight bonus to EAC and KAC while graviton-attuned, while photon-mode nets you a scaling bonus to movement speed while photon-attuned. Both grow in potency at 9th and 18th level. Attunement Pool changes the attunement engine in an interesting manner: It lets your attunement grow to 4 + Charisma (should be capitalized) modifier attunement; when you use a solarian ability that would render you unattuned, you instead reduce this pool by 3. I really love this one. It’s a great investment for epic battles and unlocks some neat combos. Minor nitpick, though: Ideally, the ability should specify that you still can only use abilities that’d cause you to become unattuned if you have at least the 3 attunement required. It is very obvious from context, though. There is also a revelation that makes your solar weapon optionally a 60-ft.-range blast, which can’t be modified by crystals.
There are 8 6th level revelations, the first of which nets you 1 attunement whenever you damage an enemy with an attack.
Okay, so this completely delimits attunement. With AoE attacks of any kind, this’ll allow you to scale up to the maximum of even the expanded attunement scale very easily, very swiftly. Compare that broken piece of WTF-ery with +1d6 damage output increase for solar weapon or blast. Or the pretty nifty option to get a solar weapon for each hand, which also gets weapon crystal interaction right. A revelation that nets you plus Charisma modifier uses of limited use revelations, or additional means to target specific targets, excluding targets from AoE revelations – the majority of these options tends to fill a plausible and per se well-wrought idea. Not having sidereal influence end in combat is also an interesting take, and there are means to upgrade the solar manifestations. Higher level revelations include “spending 2 resolve points, you may cast Plane Shift” ([sic!] as an example of formatting hiccups), with the added benefit of working for space ships as well, increasing drift. The latter part here? That’s REALLY cool. Not so cool: SFRPG does not have “full-round actions”; one of 16th level harmonic revelations includes the option to spend 1 Resolve Point to maximize all damage a target takes (NO SAVE); for another point, you also apply critical effects automatically, and any hit is a critical hit. While this ability may only affect a single target once before you need a 10-minute Stamina-replenishing rest, remember that there’s a revelation that lets you affect a target + Charisma modifier times with this! Oh, and guess what? There is also one ability that renders the target utterly invulnerable until the end of your next round. It has the same caveat, but…again…can be prolonged with a revelation herein. No DR, no resistance – flat-out immortality! Fall into a black hole (a proper one), be subject to a god’s smite or a planet destroyer supergun. You can take it. Unscathed. Yes, it requires a full action (erroneously referred to as full-round action) and is high level, but seriously? When compared to the regular 16th-level revelations, these latter two provide ridiculous damage boosts or defensive boosts. And know what? Solarian is DPR-wise already pretty damn good. That wasn’t the main issue of the class.
The book also provides 3 capstone revelations (one for each mode) – 1/week rebirth, a devastating proper mini black hole, and a mini supernova (that actually deals proper damage). I liked all of these, its glitches regarding action names and formatting notwithstanding.
On the photon side, we have means to replenish charges, which *can* be problematic – if you’re playing a resource-heavy game, this eliminates any energy-shortage you can construct, provided the solarian has enough time on their hands. (It also would allow for evil empires to construct solarian batteries, etc.); for 10th level revelations, we have a nice Glow of Life for allies (with a limit) that I really loved, and a means to increase a ship’s speed – I LOVE this one and wished there had been more options here that focus on ship combat and general utility; as many solarian players will be able to attest, ship combat as a solarian can use a couple of unique tricks and meaningful things to do.
The graviton revelations include a massive 10-hex extension of an aura that tanks ship speed (awesome), and a boost for defy gravity or gravity boost. See, these provide breadth, and that’s something the solarian can really use!
The pdf also features 10 new zenith revelations, which includes moving struck targets around while graviton-attuned, Stamina replenishing while fully attuned (not a fan), or what about a light doppelgänger who can act as an alternate origin for your revelations and who can switch places with you? That is AWESOME and incredibly cool. Rapid manifestation is hard to stomach: While fully attuned to one thing, you decrease the action your revelation activation might take from “full-round action to a standard action”, standard action to move action, move action to swift action.” This doesn’t work with ones that let you execute attacks. Now, combine this passive ability with the ones for max damage or invulnerability. Or the others. Or what about the zenith revelation that all but eliminates the duality notion, which makes you no longer lose attunement in photon/graviton if you attune to the other, adding +1 attunement in both modes automatically at 17th level? These are presented right next to a zenith revelation that makes a creature striking you in melee take 1d6 fire damage per 2 solarian levels, Reflex save halves.
The supplement also provides a full page-table of new weapon crystals – I genuinely liked these. No problems there. Beyond that, the pdf provides weapon mods – essentially modifications for weapon crystals that make the weapon count as cold iron, adamantine, change damage types, etc. At item level 8, targeting EAC seems pretty brutal, particularly for just 2,100 credits…and the level 18 true strike infusion bypasses all hardness, damage reduction and energy resistances – that should be scaling, numerical values, not a flat-out “I ignore everything.”
The pdf concludes with 5 solarian creatures, which aren’t always perfect: The CR 13 hemeros aeon, the CR 2 reptoid, a CR 8 dwarf, the CR 18 void prophet, and the CR 11 corona dragon. The aeon has darkvision listed twice, and its resistances are both off by 3, though the latter is probably intended – resistance 13 as per aeon is less elegant than the value of 10 it has. Apart from minor hiccups like these, the statblocks tend to be usable, though.
Editing is per se good on a formal and rules language level, though the same can’t be claimed for formatting, which is consistently off, and inconsistent in how it’s off. It kinda irritated me. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard, with neat full-color artworks that fans of LG will be familiar with. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Matt Daley’s Star Class book on solarians is frustrating for me, because the majority of its issues can be boiled down to presentation, fine-tuning, and context.
On the one hand, we have a smattering of content designed to expand the options available for the solarian, within the context assumed by the class.
On the other hand, we have a significant number of pieces of content designed to delimit the class and increase its power-level.
These two categories of content are neither clearly divided, nor does the book really explain the vast impact the collective of the options herein can have on the solarian.
Where a single revelation might make for an engine tweak that, in conjunction with the modifications to the core chassis, can fix the disadvantage regarding sheer numbers the class suffers from, the combination of all these tweaks escalates the power-level of the class significantly beyond its brethren.
In many ways, this book feels like it was once two documents:
“Solarian Expansion.docx” and “Solarian Power Increases.docx” – and both were just thrown together.
Moreover, the hypothetical second document, “Solarian Power Increases.docx” suffers from losing its individual contextual frameworks:
So, we have the core engine tweaks, got it.
We have a power-boost archetype, got it.
Then we have revelations designed to provide a power-boost beyond the power-boosts already established, and not all of these have been designed with the care they needed.
All address these, to some extent, similar issues.
Once you start combining all these options to enhance the power of the class, you’ll get a pretty darn brutal beast. And I get it. I can see the intent behind the individual tweaks.
Functionally, the solarian is not a hybrid class in PF1’s style – instead, it is a frontline fighter with a bit of utility thrown in, perhaps 1/5th of its role in the party. But that utility is what people gravitate (haha) to – it’s what makes the solarian special. And it is the thing that this book obviously tries to bring to the prominence and put front and center. And I LIKE that per se, but wouldn’t that have suited an alternate class better? This feels like a desperate attempt to hammer a core chassis into a shape it’s not made for.
I can also get behind the notion of broader applicability of solarian abilities that seems to have been the design goal with quite a few of the materials herein. Heck, I ADORE, and I mean ADORE the fact that this book sports quite a few tricks that allow solarians to be more useful in star ship combat. Same goes for the sidereal expansion (which helps re skills and breadth of options), or the notion (if not the implementation) of getting both solar weapon and armor – there is a lot herein I absolutely LOVE, particularly in the instances where the pdf expands the breadth of options, rather than the solarian’s already pretty impressive DPR.
But on the other hand, this book’s fix-type options to increase perceived flaws in the solarian are not existing in a vacuum; rather than that, they offer for the means to combo them, and when you combo serious power upgrades, the effect quickly can become exponential. There are things that are a matter of taste (dual attunement) that should have some balancing caveat, sure. I wouldn’t call an individual revelation herein broken (with the notable exception of the max damage and flat-out immunity ones), but their combinations are frickin’ savage and OP in the context of any SFRPG game I’ve seen or run. Even if you use them without the further power-upgrade by class fixes and archetype. Combine all of them, and the result will be PAINFUL, not only equalizing with e.g. soldier math-wise, but transcending it.
And it doesn’t have to be that way. In many ways, this feels like this, at one point, wanted to operate a bit like Legendary Rogues or Legendary Fighters: Explain a problem, present different ways to address the problem, and provide the means for the GM to reach an informed decision.
This book has all the potential of such a stand-out supplement, one that provides means to customize the solarian in an informed manner, according to the requirements of your individual game. Think about it as such: Let’s say, you see a power-level issue. In your opinion, the solarian is -2 power levels behind a comparable class. Okay, so Fix A provides a +1, Fix B another +1. A series of stellar revelations provide anything form a power level increase of +0 to +2. Even with a simplified numerical sequence, the issue becomes apparent, when in fact, some of these would rather behave as escalating multipliers. The problem is that none of the individual increases are bad per se; you can see their intent, their tweaks, etc. – but when you combine them? Ouch. This needed context.
Only, instead of providing context, warning the GM from the implications and power-level increases that individual pieces or combinations of the content herein can offer, everything’s lumped together, implying a parity of power and attempted synergy with brutal results that I refuse to believe is intentional.
And that is a huge, damn shame. You see, even though the formatting here is a long shot from Legendary Games’ usual precision, this book contains GEMS. Components that had me smile from ear to ear. And yes, I’ll be using content from this book in my games.
But as a reviewer? As a reviewer, I can’t recommend this book as presented. Even with the significant amount of formal glitches present, this could have been a 4-star offering, and certainly something that could have warranted a seal of approval. But the book requires that the GM not only carefully reads the entire book, they also have to carefully, meticulously vet the content and decide which of the perceived issues of the solarian class in game may or may not have sprung up in their game.
And then understand the implications of allowing the content herein.
And most importantly, the combos this content allows for.
In short: You need a deep understanding of the game’s balance to prevent this book from catapulting the power-levels of the solarian off the deep end.
If you do, then this book might well be one of your favorite solarian supplements out there. If not, then, well…you have been warned.
Ultimately, I can only recommend this book in a very limited capacity; for most tables, this will not be worth the hassle of balancing its entire content versus the core solarian – and while I love many of its components in a vacuum, in conjunction with each other, they quickly become broken. Hence, my final verdict can’t exceed 2.5 stars, rounded down.
You can get this book here on OBS.
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