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Class Preview: The Operative

Monday, May 8, 2017

Illustration by Miroslav Petrov

Last Friday we took a look at the envoy. As soon as we announced the operative as a class, many fans began to theorize it would act as the "star thief," and wondered how it would be different from the rogue class in Pathfinder. There are certainly some thematic similarities between the two classes, but just as a 16th-century highwayman's tactics and skills were different from a modern hacker's, a character with a knack for stealth, security systems, and unexpected attacks in Starfinder should be significantly different from a Pathfinder rogue. We need a class that can easily serve as spy, assassin, thief, hacker, investigator, and trailblazer. That was the spark for the operative, which gets the following description in the Starfinder Core Rulebook:

You're a shadow. You move swiftly, strike suddenly, and always have an escape plan. You're a consummate professional, and always get the job done, whether it's scouting enemy lines, hunting down criminals, stealing and smuggling items, or assassinating key figures. As an operative, you're skilled in a wide variety of disciplines and specialties, and use speed, mobility, and your quick wits rather than relying on heavy weapons. You excel at the art of surprise, whether it's sniping targets from cover or striking while their backs are turned. Your cause may be righteous, but you have no problem fighting dirty—achieving your objective is all that matters.

The operative is very much a character skilled at working outside the norms of society. Whether committing crimes, hunting criminals, or just living on the fringes, operatives find ways to get things done, though their methods don't always meet with public approval. This takes skill, so the operative gets 8 skill points per level, and 16 class skills. Operatives also get the operative's edge class feature granting a bonus to all skill checks (as well as initiative checks). The class also receives special bonuses at 7th level with any skill in which the character has the Skill Focus feat.

The operative knows that sometimes getting things done means doing some damage, and the class gains a fair base attack bonus, poor Fortitude saves but good Reflex and Will saves, light armor, and proficiency (and eventually specialization) with basic melee weapons, small arms, and sniper weapons. The operative can augment the damage done with basic melee weapons and small arms with his trick attack.

Trick attack may sound on the surface like Pathfinder's sneak attack, but it works very differently. An operative can attempt a trick attack regardless of the combat situation—it's not restricted to targets that are flanked or have the flat-footed condition. Instead, the operative must make an opposed skill check (normally Bluff, Intimidate, or Stealth, though class features can alter that) to gain an advantage over his foe for the trick attack to function. At higher levels, the operative can also apply penalties to foes hit with a trick attack, beginning with the flat-footed and off-target conditions and expanding from there (potentially even applying such effects to sniper weapon attacks).

Because operatives have different methods and thus focus on different techniques, each operative selects a specialization. We present seven specializations in the core rulebook—daredevil, detective, explorer, ghost, hacker, spy, and thief. Each has an effect on that operative's trick attack (a detective can use Sense Motive to activate her trick attack, for example), and grants bonuses to specific skills and access to new abilities.

Finally, operatives also have exploits—special tricks they learn as they gain levels to help customize their abilities. While the selection of exploits is fairly small at first, they expand as the operative levels up, making increasingly powerful exploits available. Here's a sample of a 10th-level exploit (though the ghost specialization receives it at 5th level):

Cloaking Field (Ex)

You can bend light around yourself and muffle any minor sounds you make, allowing you to nearly vanish when not moving. Even when you move, you appear only as an outline with blurry features. This cloaking field doesn't make you invisible, but it does make it easier to sneak around. Activating the cloaking field is a move action. While the cloaking field is active, you can use Stealth to hide, even while being directly observed and with no place to hide. Attacking doesn't end the cloaking field, but it does end that particular attempt to hide. If you remain perfectly still for at least 1 round, you gain a +10 bonus to Stealth checks (which doesn't stack with invisibility) until you move.

Your cloaking field lasts for up to 10 rounds before it becomes inactive. While inactive, the cloaking field recharges automatically at the rate of 1 round of cloaking per minute.

We already looked at the envoy last week, and we'll present more information on the remaining five classes in the coming weeks. And, of course, you can read the full classes this August when the Starfinder Core Rulebook is released at Gen Con!

Owen K.C. Stephens
Developer

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Tags: Miroslav Petrov Operatives Starfinder
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Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
IonutRO wrote:

Will you do a preview on point buy?

My friends seem concerned that not giving points for lowering stuff below 10 will mean everyone's character will end up samey within the same role.

All soldiers having the same "16 STR, 16 DEX, 13 CON, 10 INT, 10 WIS, and 10 CHA", or every mystic will be "10 STR, 12 DEX, 12 CON, 12 INT, 18 WIS, 10 CHA", etc.

I dont see how this is any different than Pathfinder though where "every martial has an 18 STR and 8 CHA unless they are a dex build in which case they have 13 STR and 18 DEX"

The limit is how many points you have to play with and with the maturity of the system there are cookie cutter builds for every niche out there. in the end the driver of stat diversity will be how many viable builds there are at that will be more dependent on what feats, classes and archetypes are printed than on if you can dump Charisma.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Torbyne wrote:
IonutRO wrote:

Will you do a preview on point buy?

My friends seem concerned that not giving points for lowering stuff below 10 will mean everyone's character will end up samey within the same role.

All soldiers having the same "16 STR, 16 DEX, 13 CON, 10 INT, 10 WIS, and 10 CHA", or every mystic will be "10 STR, 12 DEX, 12 CON, 12 INT, 18 WIS, 10 CHA", etc.

I dont see how this is any different than Pathfinder though where "every martial has an 18 STR and 8 CHA unless they are a dex build in which case they have 13 STR and 18 DEX"

The limit is how many points you have to play with and with the maturity of the system there are cookie cutter builds for every niche out there. in the end the driver of stat diversity will be how many viable builds there are at that will be more dependent on what feats, classes and archetypes are printed than on if you can dump Charisma.

There's also a significant difference between a game where your "dump" stat is below human average and one where your dump stat is at human average. If mechanically speaking you NEED to pull points out of CHA in order to put them into a more useful stat (like STR) so that you can have an effective character then you're railroaded into playing a socially awkward bumbling fool of a fighter, which is sort of unfortunate. Having the low end be at normal instead of at sub-normal means you can choose to play that socially awkward fighter if you want, but you're not forced to do so in order to actually be able to do sufficient damage with your primary attack to be useful.


Torbyne wrote:
IonutRO wrote:

Will you do a preview on point buy?

My friends seem concerned that not giving points for lowering stuff below 10 will mean everyone's character will end up samey within the same role.

All soldiers having the same "16 STR, 16 DEX, 13 CON, 10 INT, 10 WIS, and 10 CHA", or every mystic will be "10 STR, 12 DEX, 12 CON, 12 INT, 18 WIS, 10 CHA", etc.

I dont see how this is any different than Pathfinder though where "every martial has an 18 STR and 8 CHA unless they are a dex build in which case they have 13 STR and 18 DEX"

The limit is how many points you have to play with and with the maturity of the system there are cookie cutter builds for every niche out there. in the end the driver of stat diversity will be how many viable builds there are at that will be more dependent on what feats, classes and archetypes are printed than on if you can dump Charisma.

I think he meant that people will no longer need to take weaknesses in order to maximize their strengths.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber
IonutRO wrote:
Torbyne wrote:
IonutRO wrote:

Will you do a preview on point buy?

My friends seem concerned that not giving points for lowering stuff below 10 will mean everyone's character will end up samey within the same role.

All soldiers having the same "16 STR, 16 DEX, 13 CON, 10 INT, 10 WIS, and 10 CHA", or every mystic will be "10 STR, 12 DEX, 12 CON, 12 INT, 18 WIS, 10 CHA", etc.

I dont see how this is any different than Pathfinder though where "every martial has an 18 STR and 8 CHA unless they are a dex build in which case they have 13 STR and 18 DEX"

The limit is how many points you have to play with and with the maturity of the system there are cookie cutter builds for every niche out there. in the end the driver of stat diversity will be how many viable builds there are at that will be more dependent on what feats, classes and archetypes are printed than on if you can dump Charisma.

I think he meant that people will no longer need to take weaknesses in order to maximize their strengths.

It depends on how the point buy works. If you spend the points to maximize one score, but then are stuck with multiple scores lower than they would be if you went for a 16, the. You have taken weaknesses to maximize your strengths. You just have a higher floor.


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

yes, the optimizer crowd will no longer work on an assumption of dumping one stat to boost another that is more important to their build. The ability to do that though didnt really result in a wide array of stat layouts for each concept. The things i think of as affect stat array would be class based; ie. going ranger for sword and board/TWF without significant dex investment or feat based, Slashing Grace/Dervish Dancer/Fencing Grace/Grace Grace to be a DEX based character. but once you decided on the path you were going to take there wasnt much talk about stat layout, it wasa kind of assumed you would start with an 18 in your primary stat and 14-16 in secondary or tertiary stats before finally coming up with a dump stat at 7 or 8. Without seeing the new point buy math i cant be sure but this move seems like it will only reign in the most extreme cases by preventing a player from shaving 2 or 3 points off some stats to buy an extra +1 modifier somewhere else... not that big in the grand scheme of power levels. In fact with species having at least an innate +2 mod plus a +1 from theme it sure seems like you will still be able to start with core stats at 18+ anyways without having to shave down on CHA or INT to make it happen.

But still, not being able to dump a stat wont change that the boards will come up with staples "melee users need stats of XYZ, ranged shooters need ABC, Casters need 123; adjust -1/+1 if you plan on targeting EAC over KAC" Basically role has always defined stats and nothing we've seen yet seems like that has changed. It makes sense since roles are highly assocaited with those stats, the skill monkey has high INT, the Face mains CHA, the big sword dude has big swordy muscles etc. etc.

I wonder if IonutRO's friends really see that much difference in stat arrays in Pathfinder when looking at the same role. What class out there doesnt have "cookie cutter" builds with a standard 2 or 3 deviations for specific niches?


Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Imbicatus wrote:
It depends on how the point buy works. If you spend the points to maximize one score, but then are stuck with multiple scores lower than they would be if you went for a 16, the. You have taken weaknesses to maximize your strengths. You just have a higher floor.

The question is what "weakness" means in this context. You would be weaker than characters who put points into that stat, sure, but you might not be worse off than the average joe on the street. It leads to a difference in how players perceive their characters. Having a penalty from a low score (even a trivial one) is really easy to interpret as "I'm awful at this", even when the character is actually only marginally below par on it. You see this in 5e all the time, where the minimum stat value for point buy characters is actually 8, which is just a -1 modifier, so 5% worse than average. Yet when people dump their INT to 8 you usually see that portrayed as just the dumbest possible person. If you bump that minimum up to 10 (and keep the definition of "normal person" at 10) then characters who don't put points into INT feel totally different, even if mechanically they're almost entirely the same.


Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
IonutRO wrote:

Will you do a preview on point buy?

My friends seem concerned that not giving points for lowering stuff below 10 will mean everyone's character will end up samey within the same role.

All soldiers having the same "16 STR, 16 DEX, 13 CON, 10 INT, 10 WIS, and 10 CHA", or every mystic will be "10 STR, 12 DEX, 12 CON, 12 INT, 18 WIS, 10 CHA", etc.

I saw a quote to the effect that characters would get no points for reducing stats below their starting values. Did anyone ever actually say that 10 was the starting value? All I could infer from the context of that quote is that the starting value for ability scores is greater than 7 (plus or minus racial and theme adjustments, presumably).


Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Starfinder: First Contact gives us some possible data points on starting level of ability scores. The Contemplative ability buy points include an entry of "-1 Str" but the monster version has a strength modifier of -2. Simmilarly, the human space pirate has an intelligence modifier of -1 even though we would have reason to believe that humans have no ability score penalties.

From that information, I am guessing that either it is not possible for PCs to have modifiers as low as these monsters have or the starting point for ability scores is 8 rather than 10.


Monster creation rules are different from PC creation rules in this. And you can still drop your points apparently, it just doesn't do anything for you the lower you drop it.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber

The sidebar on pg 3 of First Contact states the point buy system is changed. The modifiers are changes to points used to purchase abilities instead of modifiers to the score after they are purchased. To convert those to Pathfinder, you would treat a -1 as a -2 and a +1 as a +2.

We still don't have enough data to reverse engineer the point buy system.

Lantern Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Imbicatus wrote:

The sidebar on pg 3 of First Contact states the point buy system is changed. The modifiers are changes to points used to purchase abilities instead of modifiers to the score after they are purchased. To convert those to Pathfinder, you would treat a -1 as a -2 and a +1 as a +2.

We still don't have enough data to reverse engineer the point buy system.

Not only that, but you have to remember that the First Contact rules were one version of the playtest rules, not the final version of the rules that went to print. So, things could still be different, even if you do reverse engineer the rules in First Contact. Also, I asked at one of the Panels at PaizoCon how much ability score generation and character creation changed over the development of the game and their answer, while too long to detail here (Know Direction was recording it, so it should be up on their website somewhere), did mention that ability score generation was altered from the playtest version right before it went to print and was one of the last things they changed.

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