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Context: I'm running a group through the Dead Suns adventure path. This is the first time any of us have used Starfinder. One of the party members is an ysoki envoy who would like to focus on grenades for damage (inspired by this question). It's a party of 6, so I routinely give bonuses to named/solo foes and increase the number of mooks in encounters.

The group has reached level 5, and we've noticed that grenades just don't do a whole lot, though. Our solarian routinely wallops enemies for 30+ damage per round, and can Supernova for 6d6 damage. Meanwhile the envoy is chucking around looted Mk1 grenades that do 1d6 or 1d8 damage or purchased Mk2 grenades that do 1d12 or 2d6 damage. In a recent fight, their enemy was able to make effective use of grenades only because 5 mooks threw grenades at the same time (and even then most of the party members struck took about 15 damage, since the saves were easy).

Proposal: I'm thinking about adding an "Elite" version of all damage-dealing grenades that costs twice as much and deals twice as much damage. As an example, the Mk1 Shock Grenade is a level 1 item costing 130 credits that deals 1d8 damage; the Elite Mk1 Shock Grenade would also be a level 1 item but would cost 260 credits and deal 2d8 damage. Foes important enough to have a name who carry grenades would carry the elite versions, while faceless mooks would use the normal versions.

Looking at later levels, an Elite Mk5 Frag Grenade would be a level 14 item costing 37.5k credits and dealing 20d6 damage. That sounds like a lot of damage, but almost any character could spend 72.3k credits and proficiently wield an Advanced Seeker Rifle, a level 14 longarm that deals 6d8 damage per shot. It seems like elite grenades would be highly effective from an action economy perspective, but too expensive to be used casually (which is how grenades probably should work, really).

Is this a viable change or am I overlooking anything?

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It's a viable change, but an effective one I'm not sure about. This question seems to be a little based on opinion, as with any house-ruling it's a little bit about your mileage may vary depending on circumstance. Doubling the price and damage is all fine and well until you throw them into a room full of Operatives with Dex focus, they all make the save, and zero damage is dealt for twice the price. Now that's an extreme example but let's break it down.

Now just looking at my players, level 7, playing dead suns, the highest Dex modifier in the group is +6, so let's make them the grenadier. At level 7, they have access to level 8 items as per RAW.

Luckily there is a basic frag grenade at that level coming in a 2560 Cr., dealing 4d6 damage. But with the total party funds standing at just over 21,000 means at best they have 8 of these grenades.

The DC to save is going to be 20, (10 + half item level(8) + Ability mod(6))

Picking two encounters from one where there is more than one combatant from the book the Reflex saves are (+6,+6,+6,+10) and (+8,+10,+10). Basic math average puts them at a +8 reflex saving throw.

That puts it at a 1-11 is a fail, 12-20 a success, assuming none have evasion. We're looking at 55% chance of doing full damage, the rest at half.

So that's 8th of their total money on something that might do 4d6 (average, 14), but with a 45% chance of only doing 7.

Let's assume for the sake of math it's a 50/50 split, the 1/8 wealth would do 42 total damage. And given your Solarian is only going to keep getting better, that's maybe 1 or 2 hits before they match the damage total, for free (just about, I know they still have to buy solarian weapon crystals, by comparison, at level 7, the solarian does a 3d6 + 17, will often do full-round attacks, average combat last 6 rounds, and average weapon life is in the region of 10 encounters before they decide they've outlevelled it and want to switch, that's 76 Cr. per hit, not quite free but certainly not a 2560 Cr. per attack.

Doubling the damage might make it a better tactic, but at the save, that's still only 28 and 14. But as you suggest doubling the price, it's now a quarter of the parties wealth, how many people would want to throw that kind of money anyway on maybe (total) 112 damage for one round, we're still looking at saves that might bring it down to 56 total damage, and at a 50% chance to save it's likely to be around 84, and comparing that to the solarian again it's in the region of 4/5 attacks.

I still don't think that grenades are likely to be the way forward for the envoy, unless your willing to re-gig most of the system to compensate.

Still, it's possible to spend a lot of money on one decent grenade and get a weapon with the Bombarding weapon fusion, it's level 5, and load it with the grenade and once per day launch a mystical version of the grenade, which means those expensive grenades are a little more useable.

Kill the envoy and tell them to re-roll as Soldier, Bombard fighting style, they can take 10-minutes to make a grenade of their level.

My final thought and this is just an opinion and subject to mileage and playtesting, I'd look at maybe changing the DCs for grenades, maybe do it at 10 + item level + dex mod, and more point out that a good portion of the grenades have effective combat debuffs, that are more likely to be applied thanks to the increased DC, if they want to stick with basic Frag, then at least it would now be only a 25% chance to pass, increasing the average damage per grenade to maybe acceptable levels.

But even then I don't personally feel like it would be worth the costs, without benefits like the weapon fusion or the soldier fighting style.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ My primary concern with making all grenades better is that the party periodically runs into foes who use grenades. I have a party of 6 instead of the party of 4 the modules were written for, so I'm already ramping up the numbers and/or difficulty of foes: large numbers of mooks with enhanced grenades become particularly dangerous. The envoy's player is generally happy with the character, she just wants to have something useful to do on the 1 turn per combat where she's not using envoy abilities, despite her lack of Str or Dex. Also, the party has no other source of AOE damage. \$\endgroup\$ – Oblivious Sage Jun 25 '19 at 1:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ObliviousSage that sounds like a good question. \$\endgroup\$ – Akixkisu Jun 25 '19 at 9:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ObliviousSage This is getting into opinion and situational based, to which there is no definitive answer. You queried what you might of overlooked, I just broke it down by rough calculations of all the aspects I could think of an it's too situational, I don't feel your player would be impressed spending a lot of money on the elite grenade and using it on a room of operatives and them all passing due to a low DC, for zero damage. But it's your game so your call. I think at this stage, suggest the change to the players, note that it's subject to change and see how it goes, tweak as needed. \$\endgroup\$ – Nutter4ever Jun 25 '19 at 10:28
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No, this would unbalance your game.

The problem here is that there already is an elite Mk1 frag grenade: the Mk2 frag grenade. It does twice the damage, but costs about 20x as much and is a Level 4 item. The game was balanced this way for a reason. You are basically proposing giving the PCs Mk2 frag grenades for 1/10th the cost suggested in the rules... For lower level encounters, the ability to have a Mk2 frag grenade for 70 credits is game-breaking. Let's look at the Dead Suns campaign: in the climactic level 1 Fusion Queen encounter, a party of four with two Mk2 frags each (affordable at that point if they just cost 70 credits) could win that fight in two rounds with fairly average dice rolls. By level 5, the party will have as many Mk2 frag grenades as they can carry. If you further create a 2x cost elite Mk2 grenade for when 2d6 doesn't seem like enough (and it will soon also seem like not enough because high CR monsters in SF have lots of HP), then you're giving them Mk3 grenades for nearly half off the price.

In Starfinder, the CR of monsters is balanced toward equipment level as much as character level and the game assumes that PCs will not have equipment more than a level or two above their own level (CRB page 167 under "Item Level"). Rather than have society magically make higher level weapons unavailable until the PCs are ready, the game controls access through price. I've not played an RPG where careful control of treasure/loot was as important as it is in Starfinder because items even just 3-4 levels higher than the party level can be game breaking.

You should also consider the actual role of an envoy. Throwing grenades to deal some area damage is a common tactic of the combat-weak class, but dealing damage is not what envoys are there for. Envoys in combat are most effective using their skills to improve the other party members' chances of dealing damage--in RPG parlance, the envoy is a buffing class, not a tank or damage dealing class. Outside combat, the envoy has probably more to contribute to party success than the average character. Those grenades and their skillful use are still an important contribution, despite the lower damage, but it is not where the envoy really contributes in combat.

There's one more point to consider. Properly used, a Mk1 frag grenade does more damage than 1d6; it does 1d6 per target in its radius... potentially more than your Solarian in a single round. Now consider the power of doubling that damage.

I strongly suggest you keep the weapons and their prices as-is. If the player of the envoy wants to kick a little more butt in combat, maybe they can specialize in a more high-damage weapon of appropriate level. Perhaps they could even take a level in soldier or solarian or operative.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ There's no need to indicate Edits done, you can just bring them in wherever is most appropriate. I removed the Edit: portion and rearranged it so the sentence still makes sense. You're welcome to re-edit it, and even relocate the added information, if you don't like how it looks now. \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Aug 11 '20 at 18:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not disagreeing of course, but I'm confused as to why this answer was even necessary to write. Did Mk2 grenades not exist in official sources back in 2019 when the question was written? A level 5 character should be quite capable of purchasing one if they want to. \$\endgroup\$ – T.E.D. Feb 16 at 15:48

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