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According to Starfinder's starship combat rules on the Captain's Taunt action:

You can use the communications system to broadcast a taunting message to the enemy vessel. You select an enemy vessel and a phase of combat (engineering, helm, or gunnery), and then attempt a Bluff or Intimidate check (DC = 15 + 1-1/2 × the enemy starship’s tier). If you are successful, each enemy character acting during the selected phase takes a –2 penalty to all checks for 1d4 rounds; the penalty increases to –4 if the enemy’s check is made as part of a push action. Once used against an enemy starship, regardless of the outcome, taunt can’t be used against that starship again during the same combat.

My question is when do these penalties take effect?

Example of why this is unclear: In round 1's helm phase, on behalf of an NPC crew, the GM rolls for the piloting check, a piloting stunt, and a science officer action. Then, after these rolls have been made but during the same helm phase, the player Captaining the PC ship successfully Taunts the NPC ship and rolls a 3 for rounds of effect.

Does the -2 penalty apply retroactively to the GM's die rolls in round 1 and then continue for rounds 2 and 3? Does the penalty last until round 3, but the NPC crew escaped the effects for round 1 because the GM rolled before the player? Or does the -2 penalty kick in at the beginning of round 2 and last until round 4, guaranteeing the NPCs suffer three rounds of effects even though they avoided the penalty in round 1?

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The specific timing is not described, but penalties don't generally apply retroactively.

There isn't much specific rules language about the timing of when penalties apply about how long they last in Starship combat. As a result, all I can provide you is the rules as I've seen them widely used in organized play and home games. The widely used interpretation I've seen handles penalties exactly like they would be handled in regular combat.

For effects that last multiple rounds in regular combat, the rule is (per CRB):

Effects that last a certain number of rounds end just before the same initiative count on which they began. Thus, if a spell with a duration of 1 round is cast on initiative count 14, it ends just before initiative count 14 on the following round.

Although individual characters don't have initiative scores in Starship combat, a similar approach is used. Effects that last a number of rounds remain in effect until the same point in the round where they initially took effect.

Essentially:

The taunt penalty kicks in at the moment the Captain takes their crew action (at the end of the Helm phase in round 1). The penalty then lasts for a number of rounds as rolled (3, in your example), ending at the end of Helm phase in round 4. Enemy rolls are therefore penalized for the intended number of rounds.


The only potential complication is that the Captain could act somewhere in the middle of a phase. In that case, the GM may adjudicate penalties so that each character acting in that round is penalized 3 times total (whether that's on round 1,2,3 or 2,3,4 depends on the specific sequencing). However, more often I've not seen GMs track things so closely, simply granting the taunt penalty until the end of the phase, even if that means some characters took the penalty for 4 rounds.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ That's a logical, well-reasoned, and usable answer. I'll select it if I don't get a more authoritative answer in a few days. \$\endgroup\$ – ruffdove Mar 12 at 22:57

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