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Operative Trick Attack: Does the rules of the skill used still apply?


Rules Questions

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So a player can flavor it how they want rather than all Operatives being exactly the same is a strong argument, not a weak one.

As to your question yes I would be okay with them getting it all the time just like a PC, just like I'd be okay with a NPC Solarion having their solar armament in combat. It comes with the class.


But all operative's are not the same, there are what 6 different specializations? That's pretty varied. Why does each of those specializations which use their own skill (ie not the same as every other operative) need to have other ways of initiating a trick attack?


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Cause it's fun. Same reason Soldier is a lot more appealing over Fighter, they get's lots of weapons to be good with, rather than just one specific type.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
baggageboy wrote:
Well consider for a moment what it will be like if you are fighting an NPC operative. Do you want they to automatically get trick attack if all circumstances against you? It's very easy already to get trick attack to work. And you have tons of skill points, you get one trick attack skill at full ranks for free, have 8branks per level and are likely to have some intelligence to pick up even more. I don't think it unreasonable to ask an operative to max another skill or two if they want to be able to trick attack with skills aside from their specialty.

It'd be fine, for the most part.

I mean, few would want their character to die, but it'd at least tell me who/what they are, as well as let things seem to "function as intended."

baggageboy wrote:
I still haven't gotten any answer to this question, if your specialty skill always works, why have other options given to you? They would be redundant. Why would anyone even care that they had them. You could say that it is so that a player can choose to flavor it differently, but that is a very weak argument.

As noted upthread, according to this, though you don't like me using it (and, by this point, it seems that I'm using one quote an aaawwwwwful lot, I gotta say),

Mark Seifter wrote:
It's nice if you justify it in a cool way, but it's only necessary if you want it to be. <snip> It depends on group preference.

That, alone, shows a valid reason. The idea I was trying to get at before was the whole concept of, "It's not how we expect the game to be run, exactly, but it's a valid way to play, if that's how your table wants to." - that is, the designers already took into account alternate methods of playing the game and wrote the thing to work with a few different styles, while keeping the concept relatively simple.

So, no, it's not intended to be necessary. You can totally play that way, though, and the rules work that way in case that's how your table wants to run it.

Plus, though there is nothing in-specific using it at present, it's quite possible that future specific adventures or creatures happen to have specific resistances or vulnerabilities, so that, even if you shouldn't happen to be specialized in a skill, the TA can allow you to take advantage in it.

"The reason is not obvious, at present." is not the same as, "There is no reason." and, if haunting Mark Seifter's thread has taught me anything, it's that the guy is very conscientious about "future-proofing" things. This, of course, does not mean he never makes mistakes - he's a human, awesome as he is, and thus is fallible. Merely this is a point in favor of, noting that even if something's purpose is not immediately apparent, it doesn't mean there is none. The rule-set is new, and it's possible that expansions or clarifications later will possibly bring to light some of the exacting decisions made at present.

EDIT: man, was I ninja'd. But okay. XD


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I actually addressed marks quote earlier in this thread though with a thread this length it's easy to miss. I will give a concrete example of why I believe my reasoning is not flawed.

I am a hacker operative and there is no technology in the proximity. I therefore can't use computers skill to initiate a trick attack. But because the designers didn't want me to be disabled too easily I have an option granted me, I can instead use intimidate, bluff or stealth to initiate my trick attack.

No one disagrees with this example (I think). This is because there is a restriction to the computer skill listed in the trick attack discription. However a similar situation could arise with any skill where the skill itself has general restrictions.


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As was pointed out earlier, the Hacker Specialization specifically calls out that you need something of a computer around in order to use Computer for your Trick Attack. Nothing else in the Operative has this call out.

"However a similar situation could arise with any skill where the skill itself has general restrictions."

No, because it does not have any call outs, Hacker has that restriction listed, and that's why it has it. That's it. If trick attack skills were all limited by "general restrictions" then Hacker would not need that specific call out.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

EDIT: Ninja'd.

Again.

NOOO~, I'm not "slow," you're all just too fast~!

You ever think of that, all you "Swifty McShortposts" out there?! Huh?! HUH?!?!

... dang it. ;P XD

baggageboy wrote:

I actually addressed marks quote earlier in this thread though with a thread this length it's easy to miss. I will give a concrete example of why I believe my reasoning is not flawed.

I am a hacker operative and there is no technology in the proximity. I therefore can't use computers skill to initiate a trick attack. But because the designers didn't want me to be disabled too easily I have an option granted me, I can instead use intimidate, bluff or stealth to initiate my trick attack.

No one disagrees with this example (I think). This is because there is a restriction to the computer skill listed in the trick attack discription. However a similar situation could arise with any skill where the skill itself has general restrictions.

Actually, I favorite'd that very post of yours (the "devil's advocate" post that's ~16 posts before the one you're responding to). I thought it had a lot of good thought in it, but it doesn't hold up very well, because it holds to a technicality that one can actually RP their way out of, and there was a related argument already clarifying potential issues, and other arguments handled it, for the most part.

Specifically:

Patryn- wrote:

So the ghost has to use its level 5 ability in order to use its level 1 ability effectively? And if he chooses to use his level 5 ability to sneak into an area before combat he'll be useless in combat?

I'll restate my earlier point: Are you going to disallow survival in an open field (or indoors) because you can't "use your surroundings"? Are you going to disallow bluff and intimidate against mindless monsters because they don't think? Are you going to make the operative physically use a computer since you can't hack at range unless you're a mechanic? Is sleight of hand useless against enemies that don't have vision? How many restrictions are you going to put on an operative's class defining ability?

If your guys' interpretation were correct then the only logical conclusion would to play the daredevil specialization 100% of the time.

To which you responded with the well-worded,

baggageboy wrote:
If you run into a situation where you can't use one skill use a different one. That's why you have multiple options, so you can adapt to the situation. And daredevil will probably have some times when you can't use it too, or at least when doing so would be penalized to a point where another skill in your repritore would work better. Though it probably wouldn't happen very frequently. Also something to keep in mind that this choice has more effect than just your trick attack. There's more to the choice than just trick attack.

... but, well-reasoned as it is, I find not convincing. Why?

Let's look at your opposition to using Mark's quote as a guideline.

You were suggesting that said post doesn't mean what I think it does. That's fair - you're reading it differently. The problem, though, is that if you read it the way you do, it immediately circles back to requiring justification, which invalidates the point of him making that post in the first place.

EDIT: And, to be clear, the very first time I posted here, I posted with a link and quote of his post because the (well-reasoned and understandable) OP was effectively "forced" not an intentional pun, but a recognized/acknowledge one to use the term "justify" when determining whether or not to allow people to use their class ability. Again, s/he's a very well-reasoned person, but by falling back on that term (even if not intentional) and linking it with being (or feeling) "forced" (that is, "required") it made for a very striking comparison to the original post Mark made. The OP felt forced to require justification to permit the abilities to function - something Mark had explicitly made clear was not the intent. Though I know it may seem like I am, I'm honestly not trying to nit-pick the OP's word choice (and I respect them for their integrity and clarity of thought, over-all) - but in this case, his word choice, the very way in which his/her concept was going to be expressed, was exactly - almost word-for-word - what Mark had waived off. Hence the start of this comparison.

Again, Mark's not infallible, and you can't take every comment as gospel or RAW. (Which, incidentally, I'm not; that's a point I make in my post that RAW may well conflict with RAI. I don't think you're claiming that I'm claiming that RAW says something, but I'm pointing that out, because it's an easy thing to conflate in arguments, and in strongly held well-reasoned opinions, things can easily be confused to readers or debaters.)

But again, it boils down to this:

dragonhunterq wrote:

Trick attacks work from level one. That has to be the default assumption. If you are reading a rule so that it doesn't work you are reading the rule wrong, or making incorrect assumptions.

The restriction on hacking is explicit and mentioned in the operative class ability. No such restrictions on stealth are mentioned in the class ability.

... which covers that part pretty well.

Either the rule works or it doesn't, and if it doesn't it's either written incorrectly (or with incorrect presumptions), or it's perceived incorrectly, or some combination. Of those, there is a reading that allows the thing to function well as demonstrably intended (that is, not requiring explicit justification).

Anything else falls under Mark's suggestion that group preference may read things differently than developer intent (which is valid), and potential future-proofing (plus, of course, flavor) covers pretty much any reason why you might have for allowing the ability to work with various other skills instead of just restricting.

baggageboy wrote:
No one disagrees with this example (I think). This is because there is a restriction to the computer skill listed in the trick attack discription. However a similar situation could arise with any skill where the skill itself has general restrictions.

You are correct that it's because it's within the text of that one ability. One can use this concrete ruling to extrapolate, but that is extrapolation, not explicit clarification, and following that rabbit hole of extrapolation actually contradicts explicit clarification that has been given.

That said, I'd FAQ'd this from the beginning just because it's something that I can see people being confused on, and would like the clarification for their sake.

My point has never been that anyone that sees it differently is bad and should feel bad. Rather, I believe that it's a valid view, that just isn't supported by tone or clarified intent. If it get's FAQ'd the other way, that's fine, too - different from how I look at it, but I've no problem with being wrong - plus, as always, different groups are different. It's just that I see something that, to me, clearly indicates intent. On the other hand, you don't see that - it's fair, but to me it looks like (barring further clarification) that goes directly against what's being suggested (though, of course, you read it differently).

This disagreement, I think, is because English (and really all communication) is a tricky beast that deceives even in the most straight-forward discussion. That's the nature of the beast.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Such is the way of things. But I'm looking forward to the clarification!


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Yes, and that's why everyone can agree on this specific example. However it shows that there is a reason to have other skills available to an operative to initiate trick attack. It is not merely a fluff or fun factor. It is a mechanical advantage to have other options.

Now the crux of this discussion hinges on one question, do general restrictions on skills have an impact on whether a particular skill may be used to initiate a trick attack?

I propose that yes general restrictions on a skill do impact whether that skill can initiate a trick attack. In the case of a computers skill there is not a general restriction on the use of the skill in the skill description that says you have to have a computer around to use this skill. It is expected players understand that. But for the hacker's specialization we have a specific restriction implemented. Why? I believe it is because while it is not in writing players should understand the restriction exists in the skills usual context, but in the case of trick attack it is less clear. The designers therefore added to the hacker's specialization description some clarifying text to ensure players' understanding.

Now are there restrictions on other skills? Of course there are. Do they apply to trick attack. Well is trick attack a use of the skill? Yes. Do general bonuses appt to trick attack? Yes. Do specific bonuses, such as a bonus to tumble that the ysoki recieve apply to trick attack? No. Do general restrictions apply? Yes, but this point is contended. I would like to point out that if general bonuses apply then general restrictions should apply as well.

Now I will grant that guessing at designers intent is always difficult and decisive as there are bound to be differences of opinion. But I enjoy a good discussion :) no hard feelings either way, and I do feel we need an FAQ because there are multiple ways to interpret the text.

Edit: Ninja'd by Tacticslion, now I have to respond to your points too. Sigh give me time lol.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
baggageboy wrote:
Edit: Ninja'd by Tacticslion, now I have to respond to your points too. Sigh give me time lol.

I don't know that you do. Your current post seems like a response to mine, so it works. :)

(In fact, I thought it was a response to mine, until your edit! XD)


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"Yes, and that's why everyone can agree on this specific example."

Yes, because it is specifically called out. It is an exception, not the rule.

"However it shows that there is a reason to have other skills available to an operative to initiate trick attack."

For flavor.

"Now the crux of this discussion hinges on one question, do general restrictions on skills have an impact on whether a particular skill may be used to initiate a trick attack?"

No. Hacker is an exception, not the standard, and is specifically called out as such.

"I propose that yes general restrictions on a skill do impact whether that skill can initiate a trick attack. In the case of a computers skill there is not a general restriction on the use of the skill in the skill description that says you have to have a computer around to use this skill. It is expected players understand that. But for the hacker's specialization we have a specific restriction implemented. Why? I believe it is because while it is not in writing players should understand the restriction exists in the skills usual context, but in the case of trick attack it is less clear. The designers therefore added to the hacker's specialization description some clarifying text to ensure players' understanding."

If that was true then that would have been added to the main Operative section on Trick Attacks, not onto a single specialization and absent from all the others.

Again, Hacker's limitations is an exception, not the rule. You do not put rules that control the whole class into a specific specialization/subset like that.


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Tacticslion said wrote:
I don't know that you do. Your current post seems like a response to mine, so it works. :)

I know lol I looked at it and it does seem that we agree on a lot of points and understand the points where we disagree are based on interpretations this are inherently fallible. THeres is one point I'd like to discuss a bit more though if only for the sake of others reading along.

Tacticslion said wrote:
You were suggesting that said post doesn't mean what I think it does. That's fair - you're reading it differently. The problem, though, is that if you read it the way you do, it immediately circles back to requiring justification, which invalidates the point of him making that post in the first place.

This is where communication if messy to me using the work justify means I have to explain what I am doing with said skill when I declare that I and using a specific skill for trick attack. That I think most would agree would be laborious and for some people difficult. I know I for one am not the best at role playing my fights as roll playing them.

However that doesn't mean I don't have to declare which skill I will use to initiate my trick attack. I still need to say I use computers to trick attack. I know that Mark's quote varies slightly from this in that he doesn't declare the skill for trick attack. This is understood I believe if only because the operative will have different levels of aptitude with each of the possible skills. So in order to know if a trick attack would be successful a GM has to know what skill the operative is using.


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baggageboy wrote:
But all operative's are not the same, there are what 6 different specializations? That's pretty varied. Why does each of those specializations which use their own skill (ie not the same as every other operative) need to have other ways of initiating a trick attack?

So operatives have some choice in skill build and flavor options? That seems kind of obvious...


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

EDIT:

Dang it!

This post wasn't even that loooooooooooooonnnnnnnnnnnng~!

XD

baggageboy wrote:
Tacticslion said wrote:
I don't know that you do. Your current post seems like a response to mine, so it works. :)

I know lol I looked at it and it does seem that we agree on a lot of points and understand the points where we disagree are based on interpretations this are inherently fallible. THeres is one point I'd like to discuss a bit more though if only for the sake of others reading along.

Tacticslion said wrote:
You were suggesting that said post doesn't mean what I think it does. That's fair - you're reading it differently. The problem, though, is that if you read it the way you do, it immediately circles back to requiring justification, which invalidates the point of him making that post in the first place.

This is where communication if messy to me using the work justify means I have to explain what I am doing with said skill when I declare that I and using a specific skill for trick attack. That I think most would agree would be laborious and for some people difficult. I know I for one am not the best at role playing my fights as roll playing them.

However that doesn't mean I don't have to declare which skill I will use to initiate my trick attack. I still need to say I use computers to trick attack. I know that Mark's quote varies slightly from this in that he doesn't declare the skill for trick attack. This is understood I believe if only because the operative will have different levels of aptitude with each of the possible skills. So in order to know if a trick attack would be successful a GM has to know what skill the operative is using.

I can see that, but... does he? In that example, as you mention, "I use Trick Attack" was used as a viable option.

If a PC merely makes a skill check and notes what their total number their check was, the GM doesn't actually need the skill used. Doesn't matter - threshold was made. The only time this might be otherwise is when it's explicitly called out (like the hacking one).

Seems equally valid to read, "It doesn't matter unless it says it does."


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Rysky the Dark Solarion said wrote:
Again, Hacker's limitations is an exception, not the rule. You do not put rules that control the whole class into a specific specialization/subset like that.

I agree, but the restriction on the computers skill only apply to the hacker as that is the only specialization that can use computers for trick attack.

The trick attack description says you "attempt a bluff, intimidate, or stealth check, (or a check associated with your specialization)" General restrictions on being able to attempt a bluff check, or an intimidate check, or a stealth check or a specialization's check don't need to be listed here as they are a part of the skills themselves.

My belief is that the extra text in the hacker's specialization is to clarify things for players, not that the hacker specialization is the only specialization that may have restrictions on the skill it uses for trick attack.

Tacticslion said wrote:
If a PC merely makes a skill check and notes what their total number their check was, the GM doesn't actually need the skill used. Doesn't matter - threshold was made. The only time this might be otherwise is when it's explicitly called out (like the hacking one).

I suppose that this is true. BUT it does put the onus onto the PLAYER in the case of the hacker specialization to determine if they are allowed use their computer skill or not. This is not generally a good precedent as players are more likely than not to have a very liberal view of what they can do. Though in this particular case I don't expect it to really every happen as any hacker worth his salt will always have a computer on himself.

Man, I can't keep up with the slew of responses. Some help would be nice lol.

Dark Archive

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Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

On, that, Tacticslion, et al., I wonder if what Mark meant as well was "In your game, you can house rule it any way you want." Because he doesn't really say that is the rule, but that you can rule it that way if you want.

However, I fully understand that this might not be what he meant.

On the other hand, if one skill was meant to always work for Trick Attack, why would they bother to have other skills allowed? Arguing that if stealth doesn't always work, it renders the ability unusable is also not a productive line of reasoning.

baggageboy wrote:
General restrictions on being able to attempt a bluff check, or an intimidate check, or a stealth check or a specialization's check don't need to be listed here as they are a part of the skills themselves.

This is my point, exactly!

baggageboy wrote:
I suppose that this is true. BUT it does put the onus onto the PLAYER in the case of the hacker specialization to determine if they are allowed use their computer skill or not. This is not generally a good precedent as players are more likely than not to have a very liberal view of what they can do. Though in this particular case I don't expect it to really every happen as any hacker worth his salt will always have a computer on himself.

Personally, I can see that an argument that this wouldn't be enough. You should have someone else's computer available to cause trouble with.

See, I honestly don't have a problem with the fact that some skills and abilities just won't work in all situations! Maybe it is just me, but this is part of the fun... trying to find alternative ways of doing things. With the number of skill points available to Operatives, it would be surprising to me that the character doesn't have very good checks in 2-3 different skills available to it... if not all of the skills available to it!


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Silbeg said wrote:
See, I honestly don't have a problem with the fact that some skills and abilities just won't work in all situations! Maybe it is just me, but this is part of the fun... trying to find alternative ways of doing things. With the number of skill points available to Operatives, it would be surprising to me that the character doesn't have very good checks in 2-3 different skills available to it... if not all of the skills available to it!

Maybe we should start another thread, SHOULD trick attack be automatic? or something like that. Just so we can separate what the rule say vs what we as players think should be, whatever the rules say.


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baggageboy wrote:
Rysky the Dark Solarion said wrote:
Again, Hacker's limitations is an exception, not the rule. You do not put rules that control the whole class into a specific specialization/subset like that.

I agree, but the restriction on the computers skill only apply to the hacker as that is the only specialization that can use computers for trick attack.

The trick attack description says you "attempt a bluff, intimidate, or stealth check, (or a check associated with your specialization)" General restrictions on being able to attempt a bluff check, or an intimidate check, or a stealth check or a specialization's check don't need to be listed here as they are a part of the skills themselves.

My belief is that the extra text in the hacker's specialization is to clarify things for players, not that the hacker specialization is the only specialization that may have restrictions on the skill it uses for trick attack.

And the Daredevil is the only one that can use Acrobatics for its Trick Attack and it has no specific call out or restrictions.

The Hacker Specialization is unique in that it has a restriction on it. There’s a “general restriction” on the Computer skill of... needing to have a computer. But the Hacker Specialization is the only one that calls out that restriction. The vanilla Operative doesn’t. The Daredevil doesn’t.

Dark Archive

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So I think the reason there are more than one check you can use is both flavor and the developers not wanting to pigeonhole anyone. From a power point of view having any stat higher than Dex seems less then stellar. I know there are people out there who are going to have OP with Max str, wis, int, chr and for those snowflakes they will still get to use trick attack well as anyone thanks to the options .

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber
mike roper wrote:
So I think the reason there are more than one check you can use is both flavor and the developers not wanting to pigeonhole anyone. From a power point of view having any stat higher than Dex seems less then stellar. I know there are people out there who are going to have OP with Max str, wis, int, chr and for those snowflakes they will still get to use trick attack well as anyone thanks to the options .

This right here is pretty much it. If you want to run an Operative which relies on a "non-optimal stat" (i.e. they are not a Dex monster) you can still have one which does the job with their Trick Attack. You can play a role which is "bad" mechanically and not totally screw up your combat ability.

Yes, if you are a "min-max, DPR, the party is relying on me to be perfect" type of player, it ONLY makes sense to take Ghost. But you are not the only person who plays RPGs. Your view is not the only one which matters.

For the same reason that people will play melee-specialized Vesk mystics of the god of strife, people will play Operatives that have extra high Charisma stats...and THOSE Operatives may very well take SPY, even though it's not mechanically as good. But they will still be able to do their jobs, because the designers actually bothered to give the Operative options.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Sorry, Corwinn, you may not have meant to do this, but your post there sounds like “be a DEX” monster character or you are doing it wrong. I.e. BadWrongFun! Maybe this isn’t what you meant (see below on guessing intent), but it sure sounds like that’s what you meant, including suggesting how a mystic Vesk is the wrong way to play the race.

Your assessment is one thing, but perhaps, mechanically for someone else, that high CHA spy is correct for someone else.

In fact, my hacker operative has DEX16 and INT16, for reasons. And these reasons were not entirely mechanical (he is an Ysoki outlaw, by the way). He hasn’t yet used stealth, although he has something like +11 on it at 2nd level. He likes using computers.

Also, I try not to assume what the intent of the designers were. If one were to tell me that is what he or she was thinking at the time, I would accept it. But I do not deign to guess what another was thinking as to their intent. At least not in this realm.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Silbeg, two things:

1) You and Corwynn seem to have a much stronger agreement in what you want from the game than you seem to think;

2) I'm not Corwynn (obviously), but I'm about to speak for him (generic use of "him" until corrected - I don't know anything about Corwynn, really, so... generic terms);

3) though I am using bold for emphasis ;D and stating that you are wrong in very certain terms, I'm not suggesting that you are in anyway lesser, nor am I trying to be condescending or angry - I mention this, because I know tone is easily lost on the internet; instead I am trying to highlight specific information that runs counter to claims you're making about Corwynn's post, and pointing out flaws in your own as a means of (hopefully) clarifying communication.

4) EDIT: I can count, by the way. I'm a math tutor. Just in case that wasn't obvious. >.> *cough* I'm totally a math tutor, though.

I apologize if my intent comes across as harsh - it isn't meant to be!

Silbeg wrote:
Sorry, Corwinn, you may not have meant to do this, but your post there sounds like “be a DEX” monster character or you are doing it wrong. I.e. BadWrongFun! Maybe this isn’t what you meant (see below on guessing intent), but it sure sounds like that’s what you meant, including suggesting how a mystic Vesk is the wrong way to play the race.

This is literally the opposite of what he just said.

the post you were responding to wrote:

If you want to run an Operative which relies on a "non-optimal stat" (i.e. they are not a Dex monster) you can still have one which does the job with their Trick Attack. You can play a role which is "bad" mechanically and not totally screw up your combat ability.

Yes, if you are a "min-max, DPR, the party is relying on me to be perfect" type of player, it ONLY makes sense to take Ghost. But you are not the only person who plays RPGs. Your view is not the only one which matters.

For the same reason that people will play melee-specialized Vesk mystics of the god of strife, people will play Operatives that have extra high Charisma stats...and THOSE Operatives may very well take SPY, even though it's not mechanically as good. But they will still be able to do their jobs, because the designers actually bothered to give the Operative options.

"Not mechanically as good" =/= "bad" - in fact, he's pointing out that it doesn't matter if you specialize or go for "optimal" whatever, because the game is explicitly designed so you don't have to do that. He literally makes that point three different times.

Silbeg wrote:
Your assessment is one thing, but perhaps, mechanically for someone else, that high CHA spy is correct for someone else.

That is exactly what he just said.

what he just said wrote:
Yes, if you are a "min-max, DPR, the party is relying on me to be perfect" type of player, it ONLY makes sense to take Ghost. But you are not the only person who plays RPGs. Your view is not the only one which matters.
Silbeg wrote:
In fact, my hacker operative has DEX16 and INT16, for reasons. And these reasons were not entirely mechanical (he is an Ysoki outlaw, by the way). He hasn’t yet used stealth, although he has something like +11 on it at 2nd level. He likes using computers.

For purpose of clarification, you're actively agreeing with him by way of your example. That is why he's suggesting that the designers made the TA work like it does - exactly so your example operative can do exactly what you're describing.

Silbeg wrote:
Also, I try not to assume what the intent of the designers were. If one were to tell me that is what he or she was thinking at the time, I would accept it. But I do not deign to guess what another was thinking as to their intent. At least not in this realm.

This is generally wise, but the designers have repeatedly weighed in on their opinions in various cases, and have described the general reasons behind many (though by not all) of their decisions. Because of that, there is a reasonable amount that we can infer. None of that is concrete until it's said, but there seems to be plenty of evidence to lean in one direction, until clarified otherwise.

Dark Archive

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Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Ok, I will concede that you are probably right, that we are arguing the same thing. If that is true, I apologize.

However, this is what triggered my read of the post...

Corwynn wrote:
You can play a role which is "bad" mechanically and not totally screw up your combat ability.

That's all I am going to say.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber

Bad is deliberately in quotes to indicate that it is a subjective assessment that some people could make to describe certain stat placement. Trick Attack working with skills with non-Dex attributes is a mechanical helping hand to all of those players who have an idea for their character which is not represented by the traditional key stat. (Which is usually seen as fairly important, if not the absolute most important...)

In short, we agree that characters being able to reflect the preferences of their players without being utter passed by (as would be the case were Trick Attack not usable with such a wide variety of skills) is important.


Rysky the Dark Solarion wrote:

And the Daredevil is the only one that can use Acrobatics for its Trick Attack and it has no specific call out or restrictions.

The Hacker Specialization is unique in that it has a restriction on it. There’s a “general restriction” on the Computer skill of... needing to have a computer. But the Hacker Specialization is the only one that calls out that restriction. The vanilla Operative doesn’t. The Daredevil doesn’t.

If situational restrictions to skills apply, the daredevil is actually quite easy to shut down. Stickybombs.

Or would you allow a daredevil caught in an entangled condition to perform trick attack with acrobatics? The rules say that he can, but it just doesn't make sense within the logic of the game world.

And while the hacker is the only specialization that explicitly calls out a restriction, why would you ever play a hacker? The Ghost gets a +4 and would always be allowed to use stealth, making him almost auto succed from level 1 (so why even require a skill check?), while the hacker is easy to shut down?

As I see trick attack, stealth is for operatives that want to duck and weave behind cover and make ranged trick attacks with small arms. It kinda defeats the idea of a ghost to wail away at opponents in melee. That's the daredevil's approach. Rushing in and doing some matrix style parkour combat.


So...using a Daredevil example again/question.

If you have 2 level 11 Daredevils, and both are flying, both have pistols does that mean that essentially they murder each other in a few rounds?

So two guys with 'auto bluff succeed' since both are flying, does that equal the first guy does base dmg + 11 + trick dmg to guy #2, who next action does base dmg + 11 + trick dmg to guy #1, because neither can resist the automatic bluff, and the fact they are immune to being flat-footed doesn't seem to prevent trick dmg from working in the first place?

So each pass, both take massive damage (assuming a hit) and get flat footed, but then brush off the flat-footed immediately due to their class.

Plus adding debilitating trick.

So in this case the only real option would be one or both have to stop flying, thus removing the auto-bluff success and then forcing a conventional trick attack (with rolled skill rather than auto success)?

Assuming the debilitating trick doesn't keep the guy going 2nd from acting to do their own trick attack?


First off, my apologies for reviving this thread. But since there still is no official errata from Paizo, this remains an issue (among a whole host of other things). So much so, that our Ghost Operative is dominating combat to the point where it is less fun for everyone.

Second, this turned out to be a long post, so here's the TL;DR:
- We need to apply reason. Does allowing trick attack without conditions applying break reason? Yes.

And now on to your regularly scheduled post...

I'm not sure I follow your post, Losobal. There is something conceptually about your post, that I just can't wrap my brain around (english isn't my native language). So I can't quite figure out if you are arguing against or for. But let me try to reply as best I can.

Losobal wrote:

So...using a Daredevil example again/question.

If you have 2 level 11 Daredevils, and both are flying, both have pistols does that mean that essentially they murder each other in a few rounds?

1) Comparing 2 PC level daredevils is a moot point, as the game just wasn't designed that way. Nothing appears in a vacuum. So unless you run PC vs PC arena games, it's really not a helpful example.

2) You use level 11 characters as an example. And most of the examples I see around the forums are usually based on level 10+ characters. Since most campaigns are usually from level 1-13'ish, the arguments made are really not doing anything to adress the problems where they arise: namely level 1-7. Who cares if the Operative falls behind the soldier and solarian at level 13? The campaign is over by then. And the entire time, the solarian and soldier are considering killing their character and make a ghost operative.
Besides, at level 5, the ghost oeprative can hide in plain sight, so even with the 'conditions of skill checks applying' the ghost will be able to negate that with his cloaking field from level 5.

Losobal wrote:
So two guys with 'auto bluff succeed' since both are flying, does that equal the first guy does base dmg + 11 + trick dmg to guy #2, who next action does base dmg + 11 + trick dmg to guy #1, because neither can resist the automatic bluff, and the fact they are immune to being flat-footed doesn't seem to prevent trick dmg from working in the first place(...)

Uhmm...What?

Losobal wrote:

So in this case the only real option would be one or both have to stop flying, thus removing the auto-bluff success and then forcing a conventional trick attack (with rolled skill rather than auto success)?

Assuming the debilitating trick doesn't keep the guy going 2nd from acting to do their own trick attack?

3) My original post about stickybombs and daredevils still stand (but could probably do with some elaboration). Shoot him with a stickybomb (or anything else that causes entangle) and he'll drop like a rock (due to how flying and move actions work). IF the 'conditions of skill checks apply'.

Otherwise he wouldn't care at all, since entangle doesn't prevent him from taking a full round action, thus allowing him to make a trick attack with acrobatics (if conditions don't apply).
But with conditions applying, I could totally see Bluff working. The operative pretending to struggle with the entangling goo, while preparing to shoot with his free hand.

4) You specifically chose flying daredevils using bluff. Why? The Daredevil would most likely use acrobatics, the ghost use stealth etc. The argument being made is not about flying bluff'ers, but wether or not conditions can prevent the use of certain skills when trick attacking.

Some really good points have already been made in this thread.

a) If operatives can use their specialization skill all the time, no conditions. Then why explicitly add several skills to trick attack, rather than write "make a trick attack check with your specialization skill"? And the "it's for fluff" argument doesn't hold up. No where in the rules are there any other explicit rules that do not have some sort of mechanical effect. That's why they are rules, and not just fluff descriptions.

b) If all operatives can use their specialization skill all the time, no conditions. Then why oh why would you ever play a Hacker, which is the only one who does have conditions, and thus can be shut down by circumstance?

As humans we expect the world to behave in a certain way. That way we can learn how things behave, and develop reason, which can help us make choices and take actions based on how we expect the world to behave. The same goes for roleplaying games. We expect the world to behave in a certain way, and with reason. This reason is modelled after our own experiences in real life, when applied to imaginary game worlds. If the imaginary game world breaks what we expect from reason, it should be called out and explained. We do this with magic. We accept that magic exists in the game world. There are rules and explanations for it, which in term help us deal with magic based on reason.
The same applies to skills. If the trick attack is an ability that works regardless of the choice of skill used, it lacks an explanation as to how that works. Otherwise it breaks the 'reason' of the game.
The rules for stealth are based on real world reason about needing to make something disappear and how perception works. If trick attack breaks that reason, it needs to explain why, for us to suspend disbelief.
If the trick attack entry had said that operatives have special light bending supernatural powers (ie. magic) that allowed them to stealth while engaged in close combat, then I would totally buy it. It gives reason. But since the cloaking field does just that, how are we then to explain how all other operatives without claoking field manage to do it?
It breaks reason. And if one thing is allowed to break reason, then it's a steep rabbit hole of why shouldn't every class/race and goblin's grandma be allowed to break reason? There's a precedent for it with trick attack, so unless the rules state something definitively, go right ahead and break reason all you want, and we can throw the rules out the window. Everyone will start looking for all the loop holes, and argue that it can be done. GM discretion be damned, cause trick attack is the rules precedent for breaking reason.


I used the level 11 Daredevil example specifically because at that level they get:

Terrain Attack (Ex): At 11th level, when you and a foe are both
balancing, climbing, flying, or swimming, you automatically
succeed at any Bluff check required to make a trick attack
against that foe

Which means (if I understand it correctly), they automatically succeed in their Trick Attack (+bonus dmg) because they automatically succeed at the bluff check required to trigger it.

(Assuming they can hit each other's armor class)

So as long as both are flying each can use automatic trick attack on each other each round (assuming they then hit armor class)?

Also does it mean if Daredevil 1, at level 11 has 2 points in Bluff, and Daredevil 2 has 11, they both do equally well since the skill check itself is irrelevant due to automatic success?


That makes so much sense, and actually kinda proves my point.
Terrain attack sets up a certain situational conditions that must be met for a certain type of skill check (bluff) to auto succeed for trick attack.
If situational conditions did not limit the skill check for trick attack, then why give an ability that suddenly allows for it to auto succeed in certain conditions? It's kinda the same thing with cloaking field. Why grant a hide in plain sight ability to something that wouldn't need it?
It breaks the 'reason' of the game. If conditions don't apply, why grant abilities that expand on those conditions?
Why wouldn't Terrain Attack simply be; "You auto succeed with Trick Attack"?

And you add another conundrum... If the daredevil gets to add acrobatics as a trick attack skill, and everything else is for fluff flavor... why grant them an ability that auto succeeds with bluff? It's like saying, hey all that training you put into trick attacking with acrobatics? Nevermind, npw you can auto succeed with 1 rank in bluff, so why bother with acrobatics anymore?


Necrodemus wrote:

That makes so much sense, and actually kinda proves my point.

No it doesn’t. You keep saying things are “conundrums” or “break the reason of the game” but they aren’t and they don’t. The logic you’re applying doesn’t even follow. How does cloaking field have any bearing here? There’s nothing about hide in plain sight that somehow would logically invalidate trick attack. Likewise there’s nothing about a talent that lets you auto succeed on trick attack in a certain condition that somehow invalidates it either. The connections you're trying to draw aren’t there.

Operative declares a trick attack. Makes a skill check. If successful apply extra damage and conditions as applicable. That’s really all there is to it.

If you don’t like Operatives or Trick Attack and want to nerf them in your home games, you can argue that without having to invent reasons to do so.


I have argued this before, but I'm going to share an experience for an example as to why I think no restrictions on the skill usage for trick attack is bad.

I recently ran an all day campaign for a group of friends new to starfinder. I helped jumpstart everything by making each of them characters before. On of my friends I made a spy operative.

I explained how trick attack worked, that he could use any of bluff sense motive, intimidate or stealth to make a skill check as a part of the trick attack action. I did not put any restrictions on the skills used.

So what happened? He looked at the bonuses he had for all of the skills, realized that despite having a 15 in wisdom and the bonus from his specialization that he got to sense motive, his stealth bonus was higher. So every trick attack was rolled with stealth. No questions asked, no role playing nothing, because there was no mechanical reason not to. Trick attack lost all of it's flavor because there was no reason to make any choices at all.


That's what I mean by breaking the 'reason' of the game. Everything in the game is possible because there is an in-world explanation. The solarians can make star-lightsabers because they are in tune with the cosmic powers, and carry around a mini sun. Everything follows a reason as to why things are possible. Except trick attack... it's just mechanics. How can an operative stand locked in melee combat, blades crossed and suddenly just stealth? Doesn't matter. The mechanics say he can.
So if we have no in game explanation as to how they do it, there is no reason not to always take the mechanically optimal path. Thus making the addition of multiple skill options redundant.


I stumbled upon this discussion. I wish I had the post by the design team at hand, but it was plainly said that there is not need for the players to explain how their trick attack works. The point was to give them options in where to place their skill ranks, not to force them to explain how their class feature works. I'm pretty sure it was Thurston, so go ready all of his posts if you want an official answer.

EDIT: Liken it to a wizard character having to role-play a different incantation and hand gestures for each different spell he casts. We don't ask players to do that, so why ask players of Operatives to do it every round they want to Trick Attack?

Necrodemus wrote:
So if we have no in game explanation as to how they do it, there is no reason not to always take the mechanically optimal path. Thus making the addition of multiple skill options redundant.

Not every Operative is going to have Stealth as their highest skill. Sure, most of them will because ninja-snipers are popular, but not everyone will make one like that. I actually plan on one where Sleight of Hand is maximized. Someone might have an idea where Bluff is their best option. If they didn't give us the options, they'd be forcing us all to put 1 rank per level in Stealth, and take Skill Focus (Stealth), and whatever other thing to maximize Stealth. The options exist so we can deviate, if we choose. That most people will focus on Stealth does not obviate the value of the options.


If there is an official ruling/errata, I'd love to see it. It's not like I desperately want to be right. But without any official clarification, I'm just trying to argue what I think makes the most sense for the exact reasons baggageboy stated.
Starfinder is an awesome game, but it seems half baked in execution, and desperately needs an errata/clarifications. I really just want to sit down and play this awesome game. But there are so many issues (trick attack being one of the major sinners) that causes way too much trouble and balancing issues at the table.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

And for the hacker specialization, well a level 1 computer in a datapad or something similar is fairly cheap and easy to obtain and can be flavored as activating a distracting noise and lights app, creating a briefly distracting hologram or calling out the enemy's social security number because you've "hacked in" to their life.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Blake's Tiger wrote:

I stumbled upon this discussion. I wish I had the post by the design team at hand, but it was plainly said that there is not need for the players to explain how their trick attack works. The point was to give them options in where to place their skill ranks, not to force them to explain how their class feature works. I'm pretty sure it was Thurston, so go ready all of his posts if you want an official answer.

EDIT: Liken it to a wizard character having to role-play a different incantation and hand gestures for each different spell he casts. We don't ask players to do that, so why ask players of Operatives to do it every round they want to Trick Attack?

Necrodemus wrote:
So if we have no in game explanation as to how they do it, there is no reason not to always take the mechanically optimal path. Thus making the addition of multiple skill options redundant.
Not every Operative is going to have Stealth as their highest skill. Sure, most of them will because ninja-snipers are popular, but not everyone will make one like that. I actually plan on one where Sleight of Hand is maximized. Someone might have an idea where Bluff is their best option. If they didn't give us the options, they'd be forcing us all to put 1 rank per level in Stealth, and take Skill Focus (Stealth), and whatever other thing to maximize Stealth. The options exist so we can deviate, if we choose. That most people will focus on Stealth does not obviate the value of the options.

Going to assume this post is the one you mean.

For the record, I haven't budged from my earlier opinion. Until the rules are clarified and the devs pull back from the wording that no stealth tasks are possible while observed, and make that you simply can't Hide while being observed, I still think that you can't use a stealth roll for your trick attack while you are being observed unless you have some kind of cover you can duck into. Or have anything really nearby that could break the observed state.


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baggageboy wrote:
No questions asked, no role playing nothing, because there was no mechanical reason not to. Trick attack lost all of it's flavor because there was no reason to make any choices at all.

So if one time he said "I roll bluff" instead of "I roll stealth" it'd magically be more flavorable or exciting for you?

Because your player can just as easily not roleplay the former as the latter.

Necrodemus wrote:
So if we have no in game explanation as to how they do it, there is no reason not to always take the mechanically optimal path. Thus making the addition of multiple skill options redundant.

So? You've said this several time, but you haven't articulated why it's a bad thing or why it somehow 'breaks' the game.

You seem to essentially be arguing that options are a bad thing, which seems bizarre.

Necrodemus wrote:
But there are so many issues (trick attack being one of the major sinners) that causes way too much trouble and balancing issues at the table.

Do you honestly believe that though? That someone not having to roleplay up an explanation for every time they use trick attack is actually one of the major issues with Starfinder?

Because even if you got what you wanted and Stealth trick attack became essentially unusable for most Operatives... they could invest in a skill that you can't shut down instead and basically nothing would change with how they actually play out.

I'm scratching my head to think what balance issue you think actually get solved here.

Liberty's Edge

What if you're just hiding part of your body? Turning sideways so they can't see your hand, etc. There is no observation of your weapon. Would a stealh-based trick attack be okay then? Kind of like how a rogue could roll their hide to conceal objects, rather than their entire body.

Granted, this circumstance does not answer the question about whether trick attack circumvents skill restrictions. Still, I was curious about this interpretation of stealth.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Cards, Companion, Maps, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Honestly there is no balance issue here at all. Math doesn't lie - once you take into account only getting half specialization damage, the inability to combine trick attack with a full attack, and (at low levels especially) the chance that it simply won't succeed, it simply is not true that operatives average out to doing more damage than the "combat classes". To be clear, this is not something that anyone is allowed to have an opinion on, anymore than anyone is allowed to have an opinion on whether or not 4 is larger than 5. I don't care how annoyed you are that 4 doesn't have to role-play to your liking - it's still a smaller number than 5.

I get that the preceding is going to feel rude or dismissive, but the facts are the facts, and frankly if I am going to be expected to respect feelings on this issue then I think the least that can be done in return is to acknowledge that they are just that - feelings, with no real empirical basis to back them up. Even things like "actual play experience" are so likely to be tainted with confirmation bias and plain old mistaken memories (See "Mandela Effect") that it's essentially irrational to treat those accounts as reasonable evidence, especially when the numbers simply disagree. Incidentally, this deep and abiding understanding of the ephemeral nature of memory and perception has gotten me out of jury duty twice - turns out that finding eyewitness testimony generally unconvincing is a reason to be removed, who knew? In any case, if you (in the general sense, not calling out anyone specific) feel like the operative is overpowered in combat, you're not "wrong" to feel that way, but feelings aren't facts, and you need to accept that.

So, let's get to the part that people CAN have an opinion on - whether or not it's a problem for the game if players don't have to role-play out the justification for this particular class ability. Here's the thing - it's okay if in your opinion it is a problem. That's fine - house rule that and play that way. Just know that I would likely not want to play with you. Not because I'm a power gamer, but because:

1) Your position massively limits player creativity. As it stands, if I'm playing an operative, I can simply pick whatever skill bonus is highest, and then I can describe what happens in pretty much any way I want (since the description has essentially no bearing on how the mechanics play out). I know this might seem counter-intuitive at first, but if you suddenly start policing my role-play by tying my ability to use a fundamental class feature to my ability to convince you as a GM that it's legit, I'm rapidly going to default to a very small set of known acceptable options, especially since:

2) I don't want to have a 30 minute argument at the table every time I want to access a basic class feature. Nothing bogs a game down like these kinds of disputes, and frankly I strongly suspect that a lot of the perception (or likely MISperception) of the operative as being "a problem" stems more from having ultimately unnecessary debates at the table, instead of simply saying "yeah, okay, that sounds cool!" and continuing with the game - for Pete's sake, it's a freaking 1d4 damage at first level. Who cares if the description of a stealth trick attack sounds to you more like a bluff or sleight of hand check, or if you feel like knowing how to use a Vesk's blind spot should be life sciences or culture instead. Ultimately, it likely would make the game better to simply let my cool, highly trained elite operative sound like a cool, highly trained elite operative than derailing the game every time you suspect I might be having wrongbadfun. After all:

3) You likely don't hold other classes/players to the same standard, right? If you made this ruling for operative players, I would insist that standard apply to everyone else (as only seems fair). Are you going to start giving penalties to hit for the soldier because he narrated his shot as hitting a particular body part (after all, it's gotta be harder to hit a specific body part than the whole guy, right?). Are you going to make the Mechanic explain in detail what he/she/it/they are doing to make the door open? Because I have to be honest - the moment a bit of technobabble comes out of the mechanic's mouth, I'm going to shout "WINDMILLS DO NOT WORK THAT WAY!" and insist that the skill check is an auto-fail, since letting it work would break my immersion. If that seems petty, well, you're right, because:

4) Your position seems rooted entirely in being punitive. From the discourse here, it seems highly unlikely that the discussion is really about rewarding role-play or even just clever play, since if that were the case you'd think there'd be way more people talking about how they would give circumstance bonuses to the trick attack check for strong, creative uses of the skills in question. I don't see that conversation happening, though. Instead, I see a few people trying to find ways to limit, regulate, or even de facto (if not de jure) ban some options. The assumption seems to be that good role-play should be the simple price of admission for using this class feature, instead of thinking about how rewarding compelling narrative choices with circumstance bonuses might encourage more immersive and colorful descriptions of the players actions. Of course, it's possible that this perhaps intuitive sense that these kinds of limits would be functionally a nerf to the operative is probably not too far off the mark, given that:

5) The problem is really the players, not the class. As Squiggit pointed out, the issue baggageboy was raising doesn't seem likely to be resolved simply by changing the name of the skill used. This isn't too surprising, though, right? Some players simply aren't inclined to role-play this kind of stuff as heavily, whether due to confidence, comfort, or competence (or even all three!). Certainly, roleplaying is a skill, and can (and should) be encouraged to develop over time, but I question if this kind of move is likely to have that result. This is really a Scylla and Charybdis situation for a player - on the one hand, the seeming presumption against trick attack simply working as described unless it can be justified puts pressure on the player to stack the narrative deck as much as possible, and really lay the justifications on thick. On the other hand, for the other players (who have likely picked up on the GM's subtle signalling that trick attack should be much more limited), doing that likely looks like being a spotlight hog, and trying to sweet talk the GM with cool sounding concepts (what is called in the Penny Arcade Acq. Inc. games as "That Pat Rothfuss Bull****"), so is likely to end up getting met with eye rolls, which further signals to the GM that the other players are feeling put-upon, encouraging more limits on the operative player, and the cycle continues.

Overall, it just seems like this is a classic case of the cure likely being worse than the disease, and if it became the accepted norm I can foresee more conflict and tension around the table, not less. While I suppose there can be some schadenfreude to be had from watching those tensions boil over, I'd generally much rather play than argue, and I suspect most of us are the same.


MrTsFloatinghead wrote:
Honestly there is no balance issue here at all. Math doesn't lie - once you take into account only getting half specialization damage, the inability to combine trick attack with a full attack, and (at low levels especially) the chance that it simply won't succeed, it simply is not true that operatives average out to doing more damage than the "combat classes". To be clear, this is not something that anyone is allowed to have an opinion on, anymore than anyone is allowed to have an opinion on whether or not 4 is larger than 5. I don't care how annoyed you are that 4 doesn't have to role-play to your liking - it's still a smaller number than 5.

I see your points, and while I agree (as I said, I don't care what the ruling is, I just want an official ruling other than Mark's comment) that we don't get to have an opinion about it, is a bad attitude as far as I'm concerned.

If math doesn't lie, then everything should behave as expected at the table. But the fact is, it doesn't.

Let's run by the situation at my table coupled with the math that doesn't lie.

We've got a Solarian with solar weapon, a mystic, a sharpshooter soldier and a ghost operative.

First combat the Solarian charges into melee and deals 1d6+3 (Str) damage. As he isn't a dex build and has light armor, he proceeds to take two hits from an npc with full attack. It dropped him to just below stamina.
The mystic couldn't heal him, as he had only taken 1 hp damage. So the mystic stays in cover.
The soldier didn't want to full attack, as -4/-4 is almost his entire to hit bonus, and in his mind, a +1 or +0 to hit equals "not gonna hit". So he takes a single shot, dealing 1d8 damage.
The operative takes a trick attack action, moving into melee. His Stealth bonus is +15 (1 rank + 3 class + 4 dex + 3 skill focus + 4 ghost). Hitting a CR ½ is DC 20. Meaning he succeeds on a 5+. He then gets an opponent with KAC 10 (-2 for being flat-footed), and with a +4 (dex) to hit, he hits on a 6+, dealing 2d4+2 damage (STR 14). And he doesn't get hit in return due to his high dex and armor.

Next round, the solarian doesn't want to full attack for the same reasons as the soldier. He doesn't want to risk missing twice rather than hit once, so he strikes again and misses. (Bad rolls happen).
But then he takes another two hits of full attack and drops to 0 hp. The mystic runs up and stabilizes him. The soldier misses again, and the operative keeps trick attacking with stealth in melee, hitting and dealing damage consistently. And not taking anything in return.

This has led to every fight going like this.
Mystic hides, and complains that as a healer, he can do nothing to keep the party in the fight.
The solarian hides until he is fully attuned, then proceeds to run out and explode.
The soldier takes pot shots from cover.
And the ghost operative consistently kills everything in melee with trick attack, without getting too many scratches.

No one is having fun, except the operative.
And everyone is complaining about why can the operative be so competent in combat, when the others can barely get a shot in without dying?
Which led to the question...from the players, I might add... "Can he even stealth when engaged in melee? Shouldn't he use bluff or something, so he doesn't necessarily hit every round? Or is Trick attack just an automatic crit damage every turn? In that case, I want to make one too, since I'm only hitting around 50% of the time, and he is dealing double his damage every turn almost automatically?!?"

My answer to them was... Let me hit the forums to get some clarification. And what I've gotten so far is: The operative is right, the other players can't have any fun and We're all wrong for thinking that way. Which really isn't productive.

If the operative was forced due to circumstance to change tactics, applying different skills for different situations (which he is really good at with his 10+ skill ranks per level) and that is the factor that keeps him from almost auto succeeding in dealing damage every turn, then that would be the balancing factor. So no... It's not just about roleplaying. It's about understanding how we balance things between classes. And if one of the thing that causes imbalance is based on a "just because" reasoning, then that is all the more baffling. Because why can't the soldier hit reliably "just because"? Why can't the mystic heal stamina "just because"? Why can't the solarian both have a solar weapon and armor "just beacuse"?
So I don't care if it's just an extra d4 damage. If you get to deal damage every turn, and almost not taking any damage due to high AC from the same stat that allows you to deal damage every turn, while other classes deal damage around 50% of the time. That all adds up.

If math doesn't lie, then it should be reliable. But it isn't. I don't care if operatives get to trick attack each round. However, I do care that they get to deal reliable damage each round, when no other class can. Having a bigger damage die is worthless if you don't hit. Have a smaller damage die is powerful, if you deal damage each round.


That sounds frustrating, but I don't think "Operatives are so good we can't have any fun" is the right conclusion. Based on what you've said my first thought was "the operative is optimized and making good decisions, the rest of the party are not".

Let's make some small changes:

Since your guys primarily seem to care about damage, have the Solarian loot a longsword and retire the solar weapon for now. He's now hitting for 1D8+3, which averages out to 7.5 damage. His melee attack now deals slightly more damage than the operative (2d4+2= an average of 7 damage), even if the operative lands his Trick Attack skill check - and there's still a 25% chance he won't.

In a similar vein, why is a ranged soldier using a 1D8 ranged weapon? He can use heavy weapons, tell him to buy a reaction cannon or an azimuth artillery laser.

What is the mystic doing other than healing? Is he literally hiding? Why isn't he shooting a pistol or using his other spells? There's much more to the class than "I heal people".

Based on the fact that the Solarian is always getting hit, I assume he has low dex and didn't pick Solar Armor. In that case he should invest in heavy armor proficiency and a good set of heavy armor. Hidden Soldier Armor is a good investment at level 1.

Finally, have both the solarian and the soldier make full attacks unless their target has a seriously high AC or are in cover. Seriously. Starfinder AC scales a lot slower than Pathfinder AC, full attacks are almost always worth taking.

Now, assuming you are the GM then there are some changes you can make as well to help your more suboptimal players catch up:

Drop an ember flame doshko for the Solarian. It deals 1D8 fire damage and targets EAC, which is typically 2 lower to the KAC the operative has to target. Accuracy gap abolished.

Drop an Azimuth Artillery Laser for the soldier. D10 damage and targets EAC, should be straight upgrade to whatever he's currently using.

Gently point out that the solarian should reconsider his armor proficiency choice, and if he decides to start using heavy armor, drop a basic Iridishell. Assuming the Operative has +4 dex and is wearing Freeboter Armor 1 (the best armor you can afford at level 1) he'll have KAC of 17 and EAC of 16. The Iridishell would boost the solarian up to KAC 18/KAC 15.

Ranged builds tend to have better AC, saves, skills and initiative than melee builds. The tradeoff for this is that they do less damage than melees, since they don't add an ability modifier to their damage output. As a result, expect the soldier to be trailing a bit behind the other two in the DPR olympics. He'll overtake to the operative fairly soon, but he'll most likely never catch the solarian.


Seems like roleplaying doesn't really have all that much to do with it in the end, if I may.
We circle back to "can you really stealth-trick in melee round after round, again and again and again ?"
I'd argue that's hardly worse than bluffing all the time, or hacking to trigger distractions all fight long, or however else you choose to set up your thing.
I don't think even forcing a player to cycle through his options would be more satisfying, really. But that's a matter of taste, I suppose.

Also, wasn't there something about the Ghost not getting the +4 stealth for trick attacks ? Something about Dex already being a key stat for operatives and not needing any more help, hence why other Dex specializations don't get said +4 ? It's not in the Faq yet, but I'm pretty sure I've seen it mentioned. Applying that might help.

Beyond that, it does look more like one character has a more efficient build than the others (at that level, at least). Or one player has a better handle on the mechanics. And if that's it, maybe have him offer advice ?
All in all, I'd bet on the solarian and the soldier catching up once they're not level 1 or 2 anymore, and once they start grabbing better gear. Weapon specialization alone should change things around, damage wise.


There is an unofficial post from Mark Seifter that the +4 Stealth bonus Ghosts get should probably have been removed from the rules text, but got left behind by accident. It's important that we don't necessarily treat this like gospel or try to implement it in SFS etc, since arguments or confusion around statements like these make it much less likely that designers and writers are willing to offer insights in the future. You can of course still use this ruling in your home games, like I do. :)

Mark Seifter wrote:
Ghost was not supposed to get a +4. QuidEst is correct that the +4 is to make up for not using a Dex-based skill, so that Ghosts wouldn't be better than every other choice, but it looks like an extraneous +4 slipped into ghosts (this is something that I noticed at Paizocon because the pregen is a ghost).
Mark Seifter wrote:
pixierose wrote:
It was supposed to boost non-dex based skills that can be used for trick attacks. The ghost wasn't suppoused to get it but ended up not being removed
This is close. In fact, initially in the very beginning, nobody had any of these trick attack flourishes (added trick attack skills or +4), so the ghost was the best choice because your specialization covered a trick attack skill and it was Dex-based, with honorable mentions to specializations with Bluff and Intimidate or that were Dex-based. After playtest feedback that I brought back to the "Star Chamber," we agreed to change it to add one of your specialization skills to the trick attack skills if you didn't have one already, and to add +4 if your specialization trick attack skill wasn't Dex-based (as QuidEst says, you lose out on Con if you take your specialization trick attack ability score as secondary compared to a Dex-er). Later, it seems that Ghost wound up with a +4; this must have been an accident based on the relatively-lengthy discussion we had about the specializations and the fact that those changes were specifically made to prevent the ghost from being better than all the other specializations at trick attack and to level the playing field.
Mark Seifter wrote:
While I am the preliminary designer of the operative, commentary from forum posts by staff members are not official rules sources (and particularly not from me, since I'm not on the Starfinder team beyond the Starfinder CRB).

What I can say was that Mark commented on this in August with the release of the CRB, and the latest batch of errata for the Starfinder CRB was released in November. If the Ghost specialization is in error and they knew about it in August, it's odd that they didn't fix it in November.


Ah, very true.
It is indeed not official (yet ? Hopefully ?) , but I'd still houserule it : the Ghost having it when Daredevil and Spy don't doesn't feel right to me.


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Nyerkh wrote:

Ah, very true.

It is indeed not official (yet ? Hopefully ?) , but I'd still houserule it : the Ghost having it when Daredevil and Spy don't doesn't feel right to me.

Agreed! Sorry if I was coming across to heavy on the "unofficial" thing but I consider the developer input like Mark's posts incredibly handy. I'd much rather take an unofficial fix today than an official one nine months down the line. If they feel that input like that is adding confusion or conflict to the boards then they're more likely to only communicate via FAQs and errata - personally I'd much rather have an unofficial fix today than an official one nine months down the line.

Back on track, the best argument I've heard for why Ghosts should keep the bonus is that Spies and Daredevils get to use Trick Attack with one new skill, whereas Ghosts are "stuck" with the default options.

IMO a better solution to that problem is to remove Ghost's +4 bonus, but let Ghosts add their second focused skill (Acrobatics) as a valid skill to use with Trick Attack. That way they're on an equal footing with the other dex-based specializations.


Because tactical combat involves random chance, anecdotal experience does not trump math.

Solarian: 0.6*6.5 = 3.9
Operative: (0.25*0.6*4.5 + 0.75*0.7*4.5) + 0.75*2.5 = 4.9125

But if the Solarian full attacks: 0.4*6.5 + 0.4*6.5 = 5.2

I agree with Kudaku's assessment as well: the Operative is built optimally while the others are not. The other's tactics do not appear sound either.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Cards, Companion, Maps, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Necrodemus wrote:


I see your points, and while I agree (as I said, I don't care what the ruling is, I just want an official ruling other than Mark's comment) that we don't get to have an opinion about it, is a bad attitude as far as I'm concerned.
If math doesn't lie, then everything should behave as expected at the table. But the fact is, it doesn't.

Actually, it does. What you think you see happening at your table isn't actually real - I know that's a hard pill to swallow, but:

The operative is not getting trick attack automatically, even against CR 1/2 opponents. At best it's about 80% of the time (so, 1/5 attacks should not have it).

The operative is not hitting all the time, even against flatfooted CR 1/2 opponents. At best (assuming trick attack succeeded, in other words) it's 75% of the time (so 1/4 attacks should not hit).

Putting those two together, the "reliable" damage you are concerned about is happening about 60% of the time (3/4 x 4/5 = 12/20 = 60%). So, yeah - 60% of the time it works every time.

The soldier not wanting to full attack is simply wrong, especially with a ranged weapon targeting EAC. Assuming 16 dex (but no weapon focus, for some reason), The soldier does have a +0 on two attacks, it's true. However, taking two attacks needing 10's to hit EAC of a CR 1/2 enemy results in an roughly 80% chance to get at least one hit, and a 30% chance of getting two hits. Single attacking with a +4 nets you a 75% chance of getting one hit and a 0% chance of getting two hits. Either choice is likely more reliable damage than the operative, but the first is CLEARLY better. The fact that it doesn't feel this way to your players doesn't mean it's not that way, it just means that like most people they are bad at intuitive math (especially probabilistic math).

Basically your players are making poor mechanical choices that are magnifying transitory bad dice luck, and that in turn is feeding into your cognitive biases and causing you to have a feeling that is simply unsupported (and unsupportable) by facts. Now, that doesn't mean you are "wrong" to have those feelings, but it does mean that we shouldn't take your feelings into account when we discuss matters of fact.

Nyerkh wrote:

Seems like roleplaying doesn't really have all that much to do with it in the end, if I may.

We circle back to "can you really stealth-trick in melee round after round, again and again and again ?"
I'd argue that's hardly worse than bluffing all the time, or hacking to trigger distractions all fight long, or however else you choose to set up your thing.
I don't think even forcing a player to cycle through his options would be more satisfying, really. But that's a matter of taste, I suppose.

Roleplaying has everything to do with it. It cannot be an actual mechanical imbalance because no such mechanical imbalance actually exists. Thus, it is a perceptual issue only, and that falls squarely into the realm of roleplay. Here are the issues:

1) The operative does "burst" damage which tends to look way stronger than it is because people remember the 60% of the time the operative got that extra damage die way more than they remember the 40% of the time that he didn't get it (or missed entirely). Outliers stand out in our perceptions much more, and tend to distort our understanding of where the true average is as a result.

2) The mental image of a successful trick attack (even if it is not explicitly narrated out) is naturally going to be one of hyper-competence - even if the actual damage doesn't end up being very impressive, the sense of "extra success" there naturally makes the operative look cool, while the soldier who is hitting regularly but only "winging" the enemy (rolling low for damage, in other words) by default probably looks uncool - either moderately incompetent or maybe even deliberately cruel (as if maybe he was toying with his foe).

It's all about the optics here. Don't believe me? Let's do a thought experiment - imagine there was a class that was mechanically identical to the operative, but flavor-wise wasn't a competent, slick, trained secret agent, but rather was a zany intuitive inventor with all sorts of kooky gadgets to give minor skill bonuses, and a few more specialized ones for the areas the gadgeteer really focuses on. Instead of "trick attack", it's "stabilize invention", whereby the gadgeteer modifies his/her/their weapon to do extra damage, but it's a finicky devise that has to be cajoled into working, and the gadgeteer isn't a good enough engineer/inventor to make it work with more complex powerful weapons like long arms and advanced melee weapons. Further, it's so unstable and difficult to use that the gadgeteer has to spend a full round messing with it to make a single attack (though he/she/they can also move during this full action as well). If the gadgeteer fails the skill check or chooses not to attempt it, then the modification (but not the weapon it is attached to) is disabled for the turn - likely while sparking or smoking or the like.

I propose that the soldier in Necrodemus's game likely wouldn't feel outdone by that character, even if the math was exactly the same as it is now. Instead, he'd likely be much more focused on how silly and random the class was - and lets be honest, how long do you think it would be before "sad trombone music" became a feature of the turns where the gadgeteer attempts a to stabilize invention and fails? I'm guessing it would happen the very first time. This is actually important, because it means the 40% overall failure rate of the trick attack is much more likely to stick out in players minds, and that changes the perception of the class quite a bit.

To be clear, the point here isn't "we should re-imagine the operative as some kind of vaudevillian character", but rather to demonstrate that the the perceptual issues players are having can be resolved if they take more care with how they are describing things. Did the soldier hit an enemy in cover but then get a disappointing damage roll? That's not "just a scratch", that's "as the enemy shifts behind cover, for a split second his shoulder comes into view and you punish him for it - the hit might not be fatal, but he definitely felt it!" and so on. The characters will only feel as cool as the narrative supports, and if the players and GM aren't taking the time to show how the other characters are cool, then the operative looks better by default simply by virtue of having the ability to roll for "extra success" that the other players don't get (even if mechanically that "extra success" is simply allowing the operative to roughly keep pace with the professional combatants).


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Necrodemus wrote:


This has led to every fight going like this.
Mystic hides, and complains that as a healer, he can do nothing to keep the party in the fight.
The solarian hides until he is fully attuned, then proceeds to run out and explode.
The soldier takes pot shots from cover.
And the ghost operative consistently kills everything in melee with trick attack, without getting too many scratches.

So basically half your party is refusing to do anything, then complaining about their own choice not to do anything...

And your conclusion is to blame the Operative?

Can't you see why that's a little bit hard to follow?


I don't know.
Theoretical serious soldier could just as well be insulted that this weirdo mad scientist is doing better with his crackpot gadgets than him with his serious gun - there are many like it, but this one is his. To keep with the example and make a caricature of it (sorry).

What I meant earlier is : I'm not convinced anything the Operative could do would change the way the other characters' players feel.
You speak, rightly so, of optics. Just because there is objectively no imbalance doesn't mean they don't subjectively feel one, if you will.
And what they see is : one player is succeeding - or making it look like it - where they all fail.
I'd assume that's all there is.
I don't think the way said operative player presents his character's actions is the problem.
It's probably the one thing we disagree on and I could be quite easily be wrong, of course, but at this point we're speculating about the mindsets of players I for one don't know, so ... heh.

It's likely the Ope would fare reasonably well with Bluff and/or Intimidate as well, if he wanted or had to mix it up every now and then. Not as good, but still decent.
Meanwhile, the others are still making what feels like ... inadequate choices : no full attack, no armor for a low Dex melee char, a Mystic staying in hiding until his friends fall, etc.

If I had to rephrase : this is more table dynamic and system mastery than anything else. Which isn't that hard to solve.

On top of that, considering the low levels involved, it could also just be a one time thing, born of frustration after a night of bad rolls.
I'm still of the opinion that things will normalize soon.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Belgerod wrote:

What if you're just hiding part of your body? Turning sideways so they can't see your hand, etc. There is no observation of your weapon. Would a stealh-based trick attack be okay then? Kind of like how a rogue could roll their hide to conceal objects, rather than their entire body.

Granted, this circumstance does not answer the question about whether trick attack circumvents skill restrictions. Still, I was curious about this interpretation of stealth.

That's how I interpreted it at first, and, if the devs come down on the side that you can make stealth trick attacks while observed, how I intend to describe it.

MrTsFloatinghead wrote:
It's all about the optics here. Don't believe me? Let's do a thought experiment - imagine there was a class that was mechanically identical to the operative, but flavor-wise wasn't a competent, slick, trained secret agent, but rather was a zany intuitive inventor with all sorts of kooky gadgets to give minor skill bonuses, and a few more specialized ones for the areas the gadgeteer really focuses on. Instead of "trick attack", it's "stabilize invention", whereby the gadgeteer modifies his/her/their weapon to do extra damage, but it's a finicky devise that has to be cajoled into working, and the gadgeteer isn't a good enough engineer/inventor to make it work with more complex powerful weapons like long arms and advanced melee weapons. Further, it's so unstable and difficult to use that the gadgeteer has to spend a full round messing with it to make a single attack (though he/she/they can also move during this full action as well). If the gadgeteer fails the skill check or chooses not to attempt it, then the modification (but not the weapon it is attached to) is disabled for the turn - likely while sparking or smoking or the like.

I know you're just making a point, but that sounds like a fun character and I can see a way to make this an operative speciality *makes a note*.

Kudaku wrote:
IMO a better solution to that problem is to remove Ghost's +4 bonus, but let Ghosts add their second focused skill (Acrobatics) as a valid skill to use with Trick Attack. That way they're on an equal footing with the other dex-based specializations.

I like this proposal, especially as acrobatics is the skill to use for dancing in and out of combat, which is where the ghost operative's potential stealth issue would hit hardest.

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