[RPG] Range vs Melee Balance in Starfinder


I hope this question isn't too broad. I'm looking into Starfinder and I'm curious about the balance between Range and Melee combat.

Most Fantasy games are balanced toward close-combat with melee weapons. The rules focus on being relatively close. For example, most encounters start at a position that melee can get an attack in on round 1 and it is up to the ranged fighters to keep distance, as opposed to starting more at range and the melee fighters have to figure out a closing strategy.

So the question is, is Starfinder similarly balanced or does it move that balance out toward the ranged weapons so that the higher tech weapons play a more dominant role in the combat?

Best Answer

Starfinder preserves the focus on melee-range combat.

There are a wide variety of elements that affects this, but ultimately there are 2 that dominate the range/melee issue.

First, Starfinder does not provide an easy way to "cover" an area with ranged weapons (i.e. to punish foes for moving through that area if they attempt to close to melee range). This makes closing to melee range a relatively trivial matter, unlike what would be the case in real life (where anyone attempting to run forward without cover, or at least covering fire, stands a good chance of being shot rather than reaching their opponent).

Second, melee weapons simply do more damage than ranged weapons, so there is a considerable incentive to close to melee range (especially against foes that would prefer to use ranged weapons). Here's a chart indicating the best average damage per attack (disregarding ammo usage, special abilities, ranges, etc) available at each level for each of the general categories of weapons:

Chart of Average Damage per Level for Each Weapon Category

Note that heavy ranged weapons just barely beat out one-handed (non-basic) melee weapons, and two-handed (non-basic) melee weapons are always the best choice in terms of damage per hit.

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