Archives of Nethys

Pathfinder | Starfinder

<- Return to All Rules

All Rules in Character Creation


Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 132
Whether you are a battle-hardened soldier who can freeze a foe’s blood with a glance, a garrulous envoy who can blend into any social situation, or a brilliant technomancer with knowledge about every subject in the galaxy, skills represent some of your most fundamental abilities. At 1st level, you start with a number of skill ranks determined by your class, representing your initial training, and you gain more skill ranks as you gain levels, allowing you to improve in skills you already have or gain new ones.

Acquiring Skills

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 132
Each level, including 1st level, you gain a number of skill ranks. The number you gain is determined by the class chosen for that level (as noted on the chart below), adjusted by your Intelligence modifier (though you always gain a minimum of 1 skill rank per level). For instance, if you create a 1st-level technomancer with an Intelligence score of 18, you gain 8 skill ranks per level: 4 ranks from the technomancer class and 4 more ranks because your Intelligence modifier is +4.

Investing a rank in a skill represents training gained through experience or intense study. Each skill rank increases your total skill bonus by 1 (see Skill Checks below)—as you level up, you can invest new ranks to upgrade existing skills or learn new ones. Your skill ranks in a single skill can’t exceed your total character level. Skills in which you’ve invested ranks are called trained skills; skills in which you have no ranks are untrained skills.

Each class also features a number of favored skills, called class skills (see Table 5–1 on page 134). It’s easier for you to become proficient in your class skills. Class skills in which you have at least 1 rank are known as trained class skills; you gain a +3 bonus to skill checks with such skills. If you have more than one class, you gain the class skills from all your classes. The bonus for trained class skills doesn’t increase for skills in the class skill lists of more than one of your classes—it remains +3.

ClassSkill Ranks Per Level
Envoy (ENV)8 + Int modifier
Mechanic (MEC)4 + Int modifier
Mystic (MYS)6 + Int modifier
Operative (OPR)8 + Int modifier
Solarian (SLN)4 + Int modifier
Soldier (SLD)4 + Int modifier
Technomancer (TEC)4 + Int modifier

Skill Checks

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 132
No matter how skilled you become, when using skills, success is rarely certain. To determine whether you succeed when using a skill, you attempt a skill check: roll 1d20 and add your total skill bonus to the roll. Your total skill bonus includes the following.
  • Skill Ranks: Each skill rank you’ve invested in the skill increases your total skill bonus by 1.
  • Trained Class Skill Bonus: If the skill is a trained class skill for you, you gain a +3 bonus.
  • Associated Ability Score Modifier: Each skill has an associated ability score modifier listed in its entry; add this modifier to your total skill bonus.
  • Other Modifiers: Sometimes your race, your feats, items you are using, spells affecting you, or other mitigating circumstances confer additional bonuses or penalties. For instance, any skill with “armor check penalty” listed in its heading is harder to use effectively while wearing bulky armor, and you apply an armor check penalty (see page 196) to all skill checks of that type while wearing such armor.
The total of 1d20 + your total skill bonus is referred to as the result of your skill check. If the result of your skill check equals or exceeds the difficulty class (also called the DC) of the task you are attempting, you succeed. If the total is less than the DC, you fail. Sometimes a task features varying degrees of success or failure depending on how much your result is above or below the required DC. The GM is responsible for determining the DCs of skill checks (see Skill DCs on page 392 for more details).

Often, using a skill requires taking an action, or it is taken as part of some other action. The action depends on the skill and the specific task listed in that skill. Each skill description details a number of common tasks for which that skill is used. Your GM will also prompt you to roll nonstandard skill checks when the circumstances of the game demand it.

Sometimes you attempt a skill check not to accomplish a task, but to thwart someone else’s task or action. This is called an opposed skill check. With an opposed skill check, one creature attempts a skill check to try accomplish some action or task, while another creature attempts its own skill check to determine the DC the first creature must meet or exceed to accomplish its goal. Typically, attempting an opposed skill check to determine the DC requires no action, but it often requires you to be conscious or have the ability to take certain types of actions when you do so.

On occasion, it’s impossible for you to attempt a skill check. Sometimes the situation prevents you from rolling a skill check, and other times the skill in question requires special training in order to attempt. Skills that require special training are called trained-only skills and are marked as such in their headings. Unless otherwise noted in the skill’s description, you can’t attempt an untrained skill check to accomplish a task using a trained-only skill; you must have at least 1 rank in that skill to attempt a check.

The table that begins the following page summarizes the differences between trained and untrained skills.

Skill Check TypeSkill Check Result
Trained class skill1d20 + skill ranks + 3 + ability score modifier + other modifiers*
Trained skill1d20 + skill ranks + ability score modifier + other modifiers*
Untrained skill1d20 + ability score modifier + other modifiers*
* Armor check penalties apply to most Strength- and Dexterity-based skill checks.

Take 10

Most of the time, you attempt skill checks while under pressure or during times of great stress. Other times, the situation is more favorable, making success more certain.

When you are not in immediate danger or distracted, the GM might allow you to take 10 on a skill check. When you take 10, you don’t roll a d20, but rather assume that you rolled a 10 on that die, then add the relevant skill modifiers. For many routine tasks, or for tasks you are particularly skilled at, taking 10 ensures success. If you still fail when taking 10, you might require more time and energy to succeed at that task (see Take 20 below).

Unless you have an ability that states otherwise, you cannot take 10 during a combat encounter. Also, you can’t take 10 when the GM rules that a situation is too hectic or that you are distracted, and taking 10 is almost never an option for a check that requires some sort of crucial effect as a key part of the adventure’s story.

Take 20

When you have plenty of time to devote to a skill’s task and that task has no adverse effect upon failure, the GM might rule that you can take 20 on that skill check. This is similar to taking 10, but instead of assuming your roll was a 10, you assume it’s a 20.

Taking 20 means you are making multiple attempts at the task until you get it right. It also assumes that you are failing many times before you succeed. Taking 20 typically takes 20 times as long as attempting a single check would take (usually 2 minutes for a skill that takes a standard action to perform).

Aid Another

The GM might rule that you can help someone succeed at a skill check by performing the same action and attempting a skill check as part of a cooperative effort. To do so, you must attempt your skill check before the creature you want to help, and if you succeed at a DC 10 check, that creature gains a +2 bonus to his check, as long as he attempts the check before the end of his next turn. At the GM’s discretion, only a limited number of creatures might be able to aid another. You cannot take 10 or take 20 on an aid another check, but you can use aid another to help a creature who is taking 10 or 20 on a check.

Identify Creatures

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 132
You can use certain skills to identify creatures. The skill used to identify each creature type is listed below and in the individual skill descriptions. A successful skill check allows you to recall a useful piece of information about a specific creature, such as its special powers or vulnerabilities. For every 5 points by which the result of your check exceeds the DC, you recall another piece of useful information. You can attempt untrained skill checks to identify a creature if the DC is 10 or less. You can take 20 on a check to identify a creature, but only if you have a means of performing research, such as access to an information network like a planetary infosphere or a downloaded data set (see page 430); this typically takes 2 minutes.

The DCs for skill checks to identify creatures are based on the creature’s rarity.

Creature RarityDC
Very common (space goblin)5 + 1-1/2 × creature’s CR
Average (most monsters)10 + 1-1/2 × creature’s CR
Rare (novaspawn)15 + 1-1/2 × creature’s CR

The list of creature types below indicates which skill is used to identify each creature type.

Creature TypeSkill
AberrationLife Science
AnimalLife Science
Construct (magical)Mysticism
Construct (technological)Engineering
HumanoidLife Science
Magical beastMysticism
Monstrous humanoidLife Science
OozeLife Science
PlantLife Science
VerminLife Science

Recall Knowledge

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 133
You can use certain skills to recall knowledge about specific topics. The topics a given skill relates to are detailed in the individual skill descriptions. A successful skill check allows you to answer questions about the topic in question. You can attempt untrained skill checks to recall knowledge if the DC is 10 or less. You can take 20 on this check, but only if you have a means of researching, such as access to an information network or downloaded data set (see page 430); this typically takes 2 minutes.

The DCs for skill checks to recall knowledge are determined by the GM and are based on how well known the piece of knowledge is, using the following guidelines.

Question DifficultyBase DC
Really easy questions5
Average questions15
Very difficult questions20 to 30

The specific topics and the skills you use to recall knowledge about them are listed in the small table below.

SkillRecalled Knowledge Topics
CultureA culture’s customs, laws, government, leaders, prominent inhabitants, legends, religion, history, and related topics
Life ScienceBioengineering, biology, botany, ecology, genetics, xenobiology, zoology, and other fields of biological science
MysticismAlchemical theory, arcane symbols, deities, magic traditions, the planes, religious traditions and symbols, and related topics
Physical ScienceAstronomy, chemistry, climatology, geography, geology, hyperspace, meteorology, oceanography, physics, and other fields of natural science
ProfessionA specific profession and related topics

Skills and Starship Combat

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 134
Whether you’re attempting a complicated flying maneuver, patching a power core, or scanning enemy vessels, skills are a vital part of the system that governs combat between starships.

When choosing your skills, you might want to keep in mind which role you’d like to perform in starship combat.
  • If you want to be a skilled pilot, invest ranks in Piloting.
  • If you want to be an effective engineer, invest ranks in the Engineering skill.
  • If you want to be a capable science officer, invest ranks in the Computers skill.
  • If you want to be an adept gunner and your base attack bonus isn’t equal to your level, invest ranks in the Piloting skill.
  • If you want to be a worthy captain, invest ranks in one or all of Bluff, Diplomacy, and Intimidate, as well as any or all of the skills listed for the other roles.

    For more information on starship combat, see page 316.

Skill Descriptions

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 134
This section explains each skill, including common uses and tasks, typical modifiers, and sometimes even established DCs. Your GM may require or allow you to use skills for tasks other than those listed here. For a complete summary of skills, see Table 5—1 above.

Each skill description is formatted in the following way.

Skill Name: The skill name heading provides not only the name for the skill, but also the following information.

Key Ability: The abbreviation for the ability score modifier that is added to skill checks of this type is provided in the parenthetical after the skill’s name.

Trained Only: If this notation is included in the parenthetical after the skill’s name, the skill is a trained-only skill, and you can accomplish tasks and attempt checks with this skill only if you have at least 1 rank in that skill. All other skills and their tasks can be attempted untrained, whether or not you have ranks in that skill. Rarely, a trained-only skill may have certain uses that can be attempted untrained, or a skill that doesn’t normally require training might have a particular use for that training.

Armor Check Penalty: If this notation occurs in the parenthetical, an armor check penalty (from the armor you are wearing; see page 196) applies to checks with this skill.

Description: The skill’s description contains an overview of the skill’s scope, followed by a number of entries that detail the tasks most commonly performed using that skill. The task entries also contain information about the type of action commonly required to achieve the task, whether or not you can try the task again if you fail, or special effects that occur if you fail a check. Typically, you can’t take 20 to accomplish a task that does not allow you to try it again after a failure, or that has special effects if you fail a skill check.