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Old 07-29-2020, 01:54 PM
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Starfinder: Idea for Ranged Attacks of Opportunity

I was thinking about the relative weakness of firearms and energy weapons when compared to melee weapons in the Starfinder game. While I understand wanting to give the melee fighters a chance, I wonder if game balance has pushed realism too far to the side. I had an idea to remedy this. One which would give a person armed with a ranged weapon a chance in situations where the rules don't give them one but reality says they should have one.

Consider this scenario. A soldier armed with a readied laser rifle is walking down a deserted street. A space orc armed with a powered melee weapon steps out of a doorway 60 feet away, intent on attacking. Both characters see each other and are aware of the other's hostile intent. The orc wins initiative and elects to charge, moving twice his movement (all 60 feet between them) and attacking the soldier before the soldier can attack. Then, when the soldier attempts to shoot at close range, he is subject to an attack of opportunity (AoO) before he can fire.

My problem with this scenario is that a character with a ready laser rifle who is fully aware of an enemy 60 feet away should be able to get one aimed shot off during the charge. After thinking about that, I decided the rules already have a mechanism in place that is perfectly reasonable in these circumstances: the attack of opportunity. If you threaten someone with a melee weapon you may attack them if they attempt certain risky actions, even if they have initiative. Why should melee combatants be the only ones to enjoy this benefit? Charging a ranged combatant across 20 yards of open ground is just as risky as firing a ranged weapon in melee, isn't it? That's kind of why armies don't carry halberds anymore. And so I present for your approval the Ranged AoO... (comments, criticisms, rotten fruit--all welcome).

Ranged AOOs1) Ranged Attacks of Opportunity
Any PC or NPC with a loaded firearm or ranged energy weapon may make ranged attacks of opportunity.

To make such an attack, the attacking character must:
  • Have their weapon at the ready;
  • be proficient with the weapon;
  • be observing the target (CR p.260);
  • occupy a square not threatened by a melee combatant enemy;
  • not have taken damage, reloaded, or carried out an attack earlier in the round.
  • not have lost the initiative by 15 or more.

Only movement provokes a ranged AOO. Ranged AOOs may be made once per round against anyone leaving a square and entering a square that are both:
  • within the attacker's line of sight (LOS);
  • within the attacker's line of effect (LOE);
  • within the attacker's weapon's first range increment;
  • more than 15 feet away from the attacker.

In addition, if they are willing to sacrifice the rest of their actions for the round, they can take a second such attack at -4, and a third such attack at -8 as long as those attacks are against a different target, or against the same target leaving a different square in their LOS and LOE. If the target under a ranged AOO is leaving or entering (or both) a square that provides partial cover, then the target benefits from that cover.

Special: Ranged AOOs with Automatic Weapons. Ranged AOOs with automatic weapons follow some special rules and considerations (CR p.180).
  • Remember that automatic weapon fire cuts the weapon's range increment in half, which could affect the eligibility of a target square.
  • Only one automatic weapon ranged AOO is possible in a round and it counts as the attacker's standard action.
  • The square to which the target moves becomes the center of the cone of attack.
  • Any additional characters (hostile or otherwise) moving into the cone during the same round are also attacked by the AoO for as long as ammo permits.

Last edited by ruffdove; 07-30-2020 at 12:07 PM.
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Old 07-30-2020, 02:17 PM
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Many GM allow readied actions outside of combat for the scenario you provided. The trigger needs to be specifically stated with reasonable identifiability.

Good: "Shoot anyone that appears with a weapon."
Good: "Shoot anyone with a weapon that is not a party member."
Bad: "Shot anyone that appears that I deem hostile."

Reaction time isn't enough to make a decision that you have to think about.
Reaction time is enough for simple recognition - person you know, obvious weapon.

This even allows for a bit of nonrealistic speed.
For example, recognizing an aggressive person charging 60' is possible, but identifying a ranged weapon before that person shoots is nearly impossible in real life.

BUT, allowing appropriately specified readied actions helps with the situation you had and minimizes extra rules needed.

Added Rule: you may ready an action outside of combat as long as you only take movement actions that do not disrupt the readied action. (i.e. picking something up cannot be done with a readied action to shoot a rifle)

In terms of ranged AoOs, I would suggest looking at the assumption behind AoOs - the target puts themselves in an exposed position.
Approaching would not do this, but fleeing would it they turn and run. You would have to look at additional limits on this (i.e. no Combat Reflexes, limited range) as it would make ranged weapons really powerful.

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Old 07-30-2020, 07:51 PM
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Thanks for your feedback, jj_wolven.

So readied actions outside of combat had not occurred to me. While it addresses the issue in the example (though the example is not the only time a ranged AOO would add realism), I have three qualms with it...

1) It seems like it's kind of a way to cheat the initiative system... it certainly circumvents it;
2) If you give NPC's a fair shake and let them ready actions outside combat, then it becomes a moot;
3) Then you have players constantly readying actions and changing readied actions and you the GM have to keep track of all of it.
4) It doesn't address situations after combat is already in progress.

I'll also have to respectfully disagree with this: "I would suggest looking at the assumption behind AoOs - the target puts themselves in an exposed position. Approaching would not do this..."

I think quite a few combat veterans (those who were at Omaha Beach for example) would beg to differ here. Charging a person armed with a ranged weapon across open ground is absolutely putting yourself in an exposed position (as is fleeing from one across open ground). Now I do recognize that no matter how fast you are, someone with a melee weapon who is coming for you over a short enough distance is going to reach you before you can aim and fire--hence, no Ranged AoOs 15 feet and closer.

So I do agree that the use of Ranged AoOs does make ranged weapons very powerful (well, firearms and energy weapons, this doesn't apply to thrown or archaic ranged weapons like bows). In one respect, well it should - people don't fight with swords and shields anymore for a reason. In another respect though, the use of melee weapons is part of the sci-fantasy flavor of Starfinder and I get that.

Here's another example of ranged AoO, this time after combat has begun: A sniper in a tower has engaged a party just inside a tree line with 200 feet of open ground between the tree line and a defilade position at the base of the tower. There are hard-cover obstacles (haystacks, let's say) at 40 foot intervals across the open ground. The party in the trees has initiative. Under current rules, the party can spend five rounds (30 seconds) double-timing it from one haystack to the next and the sniper never gets to shoot (readied actions are lost at the end of a turn, no?).

But looking at what I've come up with I think you're right that these AoO rules do make ranged weapons border on OP. Probably the biggest problem in this respect is allowing multiple AoOs per round, even with the penalties. Maybe with a feat, I would allow this, but at the basic level, probably one AoO is enough to balance things. So we'll eliminate multiple shots. Another thing we can do is slap a -2 penalty for attacking a fast moving target.

Apart from that, I'm not sure this OPs ranged weapons too much. Remember, there's always harrying fire and smoke/obscurants and various magic spells to protect characters moving across a field of fire. There are also a lot of requirements to meet for the attacker. A smart party (and you want to put players in positions where they have to be smart) can overcome the threat posed by ranged AoOs, as can smart NPCs.

Last edited by ruffdove; 07-30-2020 at 07:54 PM.
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