Paizo - We need to talk about the Operative.


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Paizo - We need to talk about the Operative a little bit. The Operative, or as I like to call them, the non-Unchained Summoner of Starfinder, is a bit problematic.

Here are the problems of the class:

1. Resolve, Attack, Defense, Skills and Reflex Save all on the same Ability Score.

This is a bit much. This should really have been broken up.

In Starfinder every character will end with *at least* 4 scores at 18+ typically for ranged combatants this means that they will have an 18 or better in Dex, Constitution, Wisdom, and one other Stat. Usually Intelligence.

Not every class/type can do this.

Operatives:
Dex, Con, Wis, +1 of their choosing which maximizes saves, attack, defense, and resolve. Without needing to use PU's to do it. The Operative also gets 8 skill ranks per level in addition to being able to pump Int easily. Not cool. This class should have been 4+ int at max.

Soldiers:
Dex, Con, Wis, and +1 of their choosing, if Melee this is Strength. This covers all of those as well. Saves, attack, defense, and resolve. Without needing to use PUs to do it.

Mechanics:
Int, Dex, Con, Wis same as the above. All maxed. Without needing PUs to do it. The only exception is if they go Melee, which, well... They aren't built for by design.

Envoy:
Cha, Dex, Con, Wis... Same same, unless they go melee. Which, again they aren't really intended to do.

Mystic:
Wis, Dex, Con, and one of their choosing.

Technomancer:
Int, Dex, Con, Wis, same as everyone else.

Solarian:
A ranged Solarian can do it with Dex, Wis, Con, and Cha. A melee Solarian, which is the intention of the class, can't as they need Str, Dex, and Cha by design, making them choose between Wis and Con. They have next to no room for Int without making sacrifices, and are one of the few classes that have 4+ Skills/Level that have to do this.

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2. Skills:

Consider reducing the number of skills Operatives get per level. They already get fairly high damage, only 1 less Stamina/HP per level and with EAC and Ranged combat combined with their trick attacks they are not as damaging as Soldiers or Solarians, but they tend to outshine Envoys and Mechanics.

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You have, inadvertently, created a God Class in Starfinder and something needs to be done. It is time to take the OP out of Operative.


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I don't really think so. It seems that for actual social interactions Envoys will dominate and anything with computers won't really be able to keep up with Mechanics.

As for dedicated damage a soldier with a heavy weapon I believe will normally outdamage operatives. Same with Solarions.

I don't think the Operative is necessarily better at one thing than other class. They seem pretty well balanced to me. Plus, with the new point-buy system, after 5th level the advantage of operating off Dex tapers sharply.

Although... I did have fun planning a STR DEX mixed Vesk Operative who used a baton up close and personal with grappling too... I'm not particularly concerned about it.

Grand Lodge

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I've literally only seen people talking about how the operative was weaker than the other classes. I definitely wouldn't consider them too strong.


I mean, I still think it's a great class because of how well-rounded it is, but just not overpowered. It can adequately fill any gap and is a great improvement upon the Rogue that inspired it.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber
Jurassic Pratt wrote:
I've literally only seen people talking about how the operative was weaker than the other classes. I definitely wouldn't consider them too strong.

Funny to hear that. Locally, I've seen a lot more Operatives because of the mechanical advantages of the class. The Mechanic is largely considered the worst class around here.


The spell casters only get one good save. Thus, even a melee Solarian can have better saves than a spell caster. Thus, melee Solarian saves are too good and need to be nerfed!


Jurassic Pratt wrote:
I've literally only seen people talking about how the operative was weaker than the other classes. I definitely wouldn't consider them too strong.

I call shenanigans on that one. The Operative is better in combat than the Envoy and on par with a Mechanic, has more skills than the Envoy, and in all but social skills will be better than the Envoy. They have the potential for the best saves in the game and their trick attack, especially at low levels, tends to beat a ranged Soldier or Solarian in damage.

Anyone who calls them "weaker" is not a good judge of class power at all.

I was smacked in the face with this one in SFS yesterday.

In 01-04 the Operative was the best character in every encounter but two fights. One which went not even a full round and one which went three rounds.

They were:
1. The best pilot.
2. Tied for the best engineer.
3. The best Captain.
4. The best Computer Hacker.
5. The third best combatant, and the second if we discount Magic Missile from the Mystic.

I literally was useful for four rolls in a six hour session. I think the only skill anyone could do better than the Operative was maybe Perception, and that was the domain of the Mystic.

Dark Archive

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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I am curious how a group of all operatives would do.

I think 4 operatives could handle themselves just fine. The lack of spell casting would hurt a little, but the abundance of skills would help make up for it.

Shadow Lodge

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Serisan wrote:
Jurassic Pratt wrote:
I've literally only seen people talking about how the operative was weaker than the other classes. I definitely wouldn't consider them too strong.
Funny to hear that. Locally, I've seen a lot more Operatives because of the mechanical advantages of the class. The Mechanic is largely considered the worst class around here.

The Mechanic is a solid class. They are widely popular where I play most often. They have good skills and class theme focused bumps, their exocortex makes them viable combat options, and I have witnessed several Mechanic Drones being used more the efficiently. The operative has some strong mechanical advantages though so I won't argue against that

Jasque wrote:

I am curious how a group of all operatives would do.

I think 4 operatives could handle themselves just fine. The lack of spell casting would hurt a little, but the abundance of skills would help make up for it.

A group of 4 operatives would do just fine and I think that lack of spell casting wouldn't really hurt them all that bad. The fact that you can gain access to a variety of energy types through weapons pretty much puts them on par with what is currently available via casters in the game. There are plenty of grenades that hand out status effects on top of class abilities and feats. I don't see a lack of magic being a real problem unless they find themselves in a overly specific situations

HWalsh wrote:

I call shenanigans on that one. The Operative is better in combat than the Envoy and on par with a Mechanic, has more skills than the Envoy, and in all but social skills will be better than the Envoy. They have the potential for the best saves in the game and their trick attack, especially at low levels, tends to beat a ranged Soldier or Solarian in damage.

Anyone who calls them "weaker" is not a good judge of class power at all.

I was smacked in the face with this one in SFS yesterday.

They are pretty strong at low level for what they are but the ability to pull off their trick attack isn't really all that guaranteed until later levels.

They also have a poor fortitude and while you will most likely bump Con, the added bonus you get to Fort doesn't guarantee that they are going to pass Fort saves with any real regularity. The class abilities they have with regards to Fort are not nearly as useful (only against poisons and disease) by the time you get them. There are plenty of other fortitude attacking spells and abilities that aren't related to either of those and have more immediate consequences anyways

The fact that they are going to be fairly close (basic melee or small arms to utilize trick attack) means that they are going to be easier to target. (well until they get a Sniper rifle worth anything and can trick attack through the sniper rifle but it still isn't as wild as it sounds when you look at the math and actual mechanics for the game.

I also think you are not fully considering how good at skills Envoys are. I don't think that either is better to be honest. They both get unique bonuses they can use to boost skill checks, have a good selection of skills with plenty of skill points to distribute, and can for the most part can get a handful of their skill boosting bonuses to a variety of skills. Neither is inherently INT based.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber

Operatives are fine. They have great skills and survivability, but these are more or less their niche and other classes are not far behind.

In terms of damage: They do not beat Soldiers or Solarians in damage at low levels (as a rough approximation, they do 2/3rds of the ranged DPR of those classes at levels 1 through 4, have rough parity with a Soldier's ranged DPR at levels 5-10, and then fall increasingly behind at 11+), though they tend to do sufficient damage to survive typical encounters.

In terms of support abilities: They don't have the raw group support utility of an Envoy, despite providing some utility through debilitating tricks. Nor do they have the problem solving flexibility of a casting class.

Yes, their package as a whole is well rounded and capable. But its far from god-like, especially in the face of comparisons to the original Pathfinder Summoner or (dare I say it) Wizard.


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The operative looks OP on paper, but after playing and running starfinder for a while now I've come tr realize it really isn't. It is very good in space combat, but anyone can be pretty good in at least 1 space combat role if they care to be. Operative just have the advantage of being able to do every space combat role without difficulty.


Jasque wrote:

I am curious how a group of all operatives would do.

I think 4 operatives could handle themselves just fine. The lack of spell casting would hurt a little, but the abundance of skills would help make up for it.

It would be fun to try. The most fun I've had in D&D was a 4th edition party of nothing but rogues. All about roleplaying and combat was a nuke-fest.

The Exchange

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Starfinder Charter Superscriber
HWalsh wrote:
and in all but social skills will be better than the Envoy.

The envoy can select Engineer, Computers, and Medicine for their Expertise so this isn't actually true.

HWalsh wrote:


their trick attack, especially at low levels, tends to beat a ranged Soldier or Solarian in damage.

It doesn't though, not meaningfully anyway a first level successful trick attack does an average of 5 damage, a first level longarm does 4.5 and a first level heavy does 5.5. At third level the operative does 8 average and the solarian and soldier do 7.5 and 8.5 and thats not even counting the fact that the operative can't full attack and trick attack in the same round whereas both the soldier and solarian can full attack which will up their average damage potential by at least a couple points.

And we're also talking about ranged, in melee the operative is woefully outclasses by both unless they're sacrificing some out of combat utility (since they have go strength, dex, int or cha.)

HWalsh wrote:


1. The best pilot.
2. Tied for the best engineer.
3. The best Captain.
4. The best Computer Hacker.

Shrug, you can only do one role in Starship combat where the first three matter, and people can be equally good to the operative in all four of those things, and be better than them at combat.

The operative's benefit is that they are versatile but lots of builds can beat them at individual things if they try to do those things well.


Barring the Ghost Specialization (which could use a FAQ), Operatives are fine.


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It's interesting seeing people rank one class highly, and another poorly - particularly when there's disagreement over which is which.

It probably boils down to how you value skills, DPR, class features and so on in relation to one another.

I, for one, am very keen to try out the soldier class, but find that while the class itself is well designed: it is let down by the restrictive selection of feats (50% of the quantity available in pathfinder, and a large majority of "core" combat feats are simply gone) and gear boosts that really only provide cursory weapon benefits that are often redundant with one another.

I look at the mechanic tricks list with envy (with mechanics being mentioned by others in the thread as weak) and then seriously reconsider to go exocortex mechanic, as I feel that the class features are more fleshed out straight out of the CRB. They have solid stat buffs, offensive abilities, defensive options and actual trick chains (feat chains being the fighter's original forte, but now mostly removed without replacement).

But, there will probably be other people who look at the DPR capabilities of a soldier and call me a crazy person.

It's probably an interesting discussion to have "what is the most glaring weak point of each class, as it stands right now?".

I could see two people who value the skill system differently having very different opinions over operative vs soldier, for example.

What would be the operative's most glaring weak point?


I'm not familiar with SFS, but my technomancer was significantly better with computers than the operative before she dropped out of the game for some reason. And engineering, my technomancer's second best skill, though she could have beat me in that if she'd put any effort into it.

The operative is an excellent jack-of-all-trades. I'm not sure it's a great specialist. YMMV.


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Starfinder Superscriber

In the early game, a medium or high int Hacker Operative should be on par or higher in Computers/Engineering, all else being equal (same gear/race bonuses/et cetera), because of the free Skill Focus feats. If they went ghost or dumped int, they should be lower.

@1
Hacker Operative 14 Int = 1+3+2+3 = +9
Technomancer 18 Int = 1+3+4 = +8

@5
Hacker Operative 16 Int = 5+3+3+3 = +14
Technomancer 19 Int = 5+3+4+1 = +13

@10
Hacker Operative 18 Int = 10+3+4+3 = +20
Technomancer 20 Int = 10+3+5+3 = +21

I think the Operative catches back up at 11, and they trade off a couple places after that. If the hacker maxes Int, I think he stays ahead or even the whole way up. Without Hacker, or by dumping Int, the Operative should only be a couple points behind. That's going to set them back, especially if the dice gods aren't with them. The free take 10 ability they get at 7 means they basically get to auto-succeed on under tier computers, but I think the DC's are high enough that they still have to roll on normal APL/2 computers, or really secure lower tier ones.

I have no idea if any of this matters, though. I still haven't played yet. I think the answer is probably that it depends on the character and the game. The operative you played with may have dumped int, or went ghost, or something. I think at this point I could play 100 different campaigns and get at least 50 different answers.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

In my campaign I have a 5th level Operative ghost. That has a Stealth +21 to trick attack (5 ranks-+3 Class Skill- +4 Dex- +3 Skill Focus- +2 Operatives Edge- + 4 ghost to trick attack) It trick attacks almost every round and does an extra 3D8 of damage. While a soldier with the best gun it can shoot for its level X-gen gun, tactical Does a d12.
I need to know what I am missing. How can anyone say the Operative is weak.


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Jasque wrote:

I am curious how a group of all operatives would do.

I think 4 operatives could handle themselves just fine. The lack of spell casting would hurt a little, but the abundance of skills would help make up for it.

To be honest, I think you could take 4 of any class in Starfinder and with a bit of self organizing at character creation, cover all skills sufficiently and be fine in combat as well. Spells and healing aren't necessary in this system.

Four Soldiers with the right skill feats would have no problem (a couple of skill focuses). Combat would almost be trivial.

Four Mechanics are pretend to be full bab + skill focus, or have expendable helper bots for extra shots and hit points in combat.

Four Envoys means Quick Inspiring boost up to 16 times per 10 minute rest. Plus plenty of skills.

Four Technomancers means spells with gun backup.

Four Mystics have spells with gun backup and healing to boot.

Four Solarians have skill adept to branch out into different skills, and at 3rd would get a bonus +1d6 in 8 of them out of combat. And they're fine in combat.

Four operatives would probably have the most overlap in terms of skills, since each one gets half the skill list or more (8 + 2 from specialization).

To be honest, the class balance so far is much better in Starfinder than it is in Pathfinder.

HWalsh wrote:
Jurassic Pratt wrote:
I've literally only seen people talking about how the operative was weaker than the other classes. I definitely wouldn't consider them too strong.
I call shenanigans on that one. The Operative is better in combat than the Envoy and on par with a Mechanic, has more skills than the Envoy, and in all but social skills will be better than the Envoy. They have the potential for the best saves in the game and their trick attack, especially at low levels, tends to beat a ranged Soldier or Solarian in damage.

I disagree that an Operative is better in combat than an Envoy. I'd probably say they are differently focused, but if you do the numbers, the Envoy actually brings more damage to the overall team (assuming a 4 person or more team), although the Operative tends to be more survivable.

Operative exploits tend to be selfish, while Envoy improvisations tend to hand out buffs to their allies. A mid-level envoy (say 8th) in a single turn can render their target flat footed for the team, provide a +2 to hit morale bonus, shoot and with their reaction provide +4 AC to an Ally. Through feats (or a Soldier dip) they can build towards longarms, heavy weapons or advanced melee. A mid-level operative can render the target flat footed for the team and shoot with trick attack bonus damage, but is forced to use small arms.

+2 to hit times 4 players is a lot of misses converted to hits.

HWalsh wrote:


Anyone who calls them "weaker" is not a good judge of class power at all.

I was smacked in the face with this one in SFS yesterday.

In 01-04 the Operative was the best character in every encounter but two fights. One which went not even a full round and one which went three rounds.

They were:
1. The best pilot.
2. Tied for the best engineer.
3. The best Captain.
4. The best Computer Hacker.
5. The third best combatant, and the second if we discount Magic Missile from the Mystic.

I literally was useful for four rolls in a six hour session. I think the only skill anyone could do better than the Operative was maybe Perception, and that was the domain of the Mystic.

Out of curiosity, what level(s) and class composition was this party?


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Emaul wrote:

In my campaign I have a 5th level Operative ghost. That has a Stealth +21 to trick attack (5 ranks-+3 Class Skill- +4 Dex- +3 Skill Focus- +2 Operatives Edge- + 4 ghost to trick attack) It trick attacks almost every round and does an extra 3D8 of damage. While a soldier with the best gun it can shoot for its level X-gen gun, tactical Does a d12.

I need to know what I am missing. How can anyone say the Operative is weak.

The X-gen gun, tactical is automatic. You have the option of doing a 60 foot cone AoE with it, which is why it does about as much damage as a 1st level Reaction cannon (1d10). Assuming the Soldier took bullet barrage for an additional +2 Insight damage, and you've got 3 targets in the cone, you're doing 3d12+21 (40.5) one turn, then reloading and standard attacking for 1d12+7 (13.5) the next. Average damage over 2 rounds is 27. Depending on Soldier type, this could be higher.

An operative trick attacking gets one attack dealing 1d6 + 3d8 + 2 = 19 average damage each round.

To be honest, I don't like the automatic weapons because of how much ammo they eat, but if the enemy bunches up, it can really punish them. A 60 foot cone is pretty huge when you think about it.

I probably would have grabbed a Corona Artillery Laser with 2d8+5 vs EAC and taken Sharpshooter and Laser accuracy and just full attack each round. +12 to hit, +2 vs enemies in cover, -3 to full attacks, and vs EAC at 2d8+5 each shot is pretty darn good. Against enemies in cover, the Soldier has the same odds of hitting as the operative's single trick attack. 4d8+10 averages to 28, which is nearly 50% more than the operative's average 19.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Hiruma Kai wrote:
Emaul wrote:

In my campaign I have a 5th level Operative ghost. That has a Stealth +21 to trick attack (5 ranks-+3 Class Skill- +4 Dex- +3 Skill Focus- +2 Operatives Edge- + 4 ghost to trick attack) It trick attacks almost every round and does an extra 3D8 of damage. While a soldier with the best gun it can shoot for its level X-gen gun, tactical Does a d12.

I need to know what I am missing. How can anyone say the Operative is weak.

The X-gen gun, tactical is automatic. You have the option of doing a 60 foot cone AoE with it, which is why it does about as much damage as a 1st level Reaction cannon (1d10). Assuming the Soldier took bullet barrage for an additional +2 Insight damage, and you've got 3 targets in the cone, you're doing 3d12+21 (40.5) one turn, then reloading and standard attacking for 1d12+7 (13.5) the next. Average damage over 2 rounds is 27. Depending on Soldier type, this could be higher.

An operative trick attacking gets one attack dealing 1d6 + 3d8 + 2 = 19 average damage each round.

To be honest, I don't like the automatic weapons because of how much ammo they eat, but if the enemy bunches up, it can really punish them. A 60 foot cone is pretty huge when you think about it.

I probably would have grabbed a Corona Artillery Laser with 2d8+5 vs EAC and taken Sharpshooter and Laser accuracy and just full attack each round. +12 to hit, +2 vs enemies in cover, -3 to full attacks, and vs EAC at 2d8+5 each shot is pretty darn good. Against enemies in cover, the Soldier has the same odds of hitting as the operative's single trick attack. 4d8+10 averages to 28, which is nearly 50% more than the operative's average 19.

Thanks this will stop my crying soldier from crying. lol


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Starfinder Superscriber
Emaul wrote:

In my campaign I have a 5th level Operative ghost. That has a Stealth +21 to trick attack (5 ranks-+3 Class Skill- +4 Dex- +3 Skill Focus- +2 Operatives Edge- + 4 ghost to trick attack) It trick attacks almost every round and does an extra 3D8 of damage. While a soldier with the best gun it can shoot for its level X-gen gun, tactical Does a d12.

I need to know what I am missing. How can anyone say the Operative is weak.

Operatives Edge and Skill Focus don't stack. They're both Insight Bonuses. That takes you down to +19 on that check legally. There is an expectation that the +4 on Ghost is a mistake and will get FAQ'd at some point, but some DM's have already house ruled it that way. That takes it down to +15.

The DC on a trick attack against a CR5 opponent is 25. You should not be getting a +21 to that, that's 85% of the time, and I agree that that's broken. But it's also not legal.

At a legal +19, it should be going off (on average) 75% of the time. I'd also agree that that's probably OP, but I honestly don't know. I'm sure someone has run the numbers and it's probably OP before 10th level and dead necessary after 10th. With the expected nerf to Ghost, and it only being +15, it should be going off only 55% of the time, that seems reasonable at 5th based on the other numbers I'm seeing, but it'll probably end up too low in late game when everything's running around with 300hp.

Wayfinders

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pithica42 wrote:
At a legal +19, it should be going off (on average) 75% of the time. I'd also agree that that's probably OP, but I honestly don't know. I'm sure someone has run the numbers and it's probably OP before 10th level and dead necessary after 10th. With the expected nerf to Ghost, and it only being +15, it should be going off only 55% of the time, that seems reasonable at 5th based on the other numbers I'm seeing, but it'll probably end up too low in late game when everything's running around with 300hp.

I agree that it should be a 15. The Ghost bonus has been stated to be incorrect and the insight bonus doesn't stack.

However, at 7th level it becomes moot because the operative can take a 10 on that skill.

You become so confident in certain skills that you can use them reliably even under adverse conditions. When attempting a skill check with a skill in which you have the Skill Focus feat, you can take 10 even if stress or distractions would normally prevent you from doing so.

So as long as they keep it up, they are good.


Dr. Tomatoa wrote:
pithica42 wrote:
At a legal +19, it should be going off (on average) 75% of the time. I'd also agree that that's probably OP, but I honestly don't know. I'm sure someone has run the numbers and it's probably OP before 10th level and dead necessary after 10th. With the expected nerf to Ghost, and it only being +15, it should be going off only 55% of the time, that seems reasonable at 5th based on the other numbers I'm seeing, but it'll probably end up too low in late game when everything's running around with 300hp.
I agree that it should be a 15. The Ghost bonus has been stated to be incorrect and the insight bonus doesn't stack.

Several of you have mentioned that the Ghost bonus is incorrect or a mistake. Currently, according to the Core Rulebook, it is a +4 bonus to Stealth for trick attack.

There has been speculation that it is not correct since the other DEX-based skills didn't add +4. However, that is pure speculation only. You house-ruled it? Fine. But in Starfinder Society and as it is written, it is still +4.

Until official errata comes out, it is still +4.


Kalderaan wrote:
Dr. Tomatoa wrote:
pithica42 wrote:
At a legal +19, it should be going off (on average) 75% of the time. I'd also agree that that's probably OP, but I honestly don't know. I'm sure someone has run the numbers and it's probably OP before 10th level and dead necessary after 10th. With the expected nerf to Ghost, and it only being +15, it should be going off only 55% of the time, that seems reasonable at 5th based on the other numbers I'm seeing, but it'll probably end up too low in late game when everything's running around with 300hp.
I agree that it should be a 15. The Ghost bonus has been stated to be incorrect and the insight bonus doesn't stack.

Several of you have mentioned that the Ghost bonus is incorrect or a mistake. Currently, according to the Core Rulebook, it is a +4 bonus to Stealth for trick attack.

There has been speculation that it is not correct since the other DEX-based skills didn't add +4. However, that is pure speculation only. You house-ruled it? Fine. But in Starfinder Society and as it is written, it is still +4.

Until official errata comes out, it is still +4.

It’s not pure speculation. A designer chimed in on the matter. It’s useful to mention in a discussion of “this seems unbalanced” that “yes, because there was probably a mistake, and it will likely be fixed”.


Jurassic Pratt wrote:
I've literally only seen people talking about how the operative was weaker than the other classes. I definitely wouldn't consider them too strong.

Really?

Personally I see them as being the best at skills, with good utility powers, and 3rd in combat ability to the soldier and solarion at high levels (both of which should be better at dealing damage).

Honestly, I would like to see their overwhelming dominance in skills reduced some and slightly improved combat ability.


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I'm gonna go ahead and quote myself from the last thread I participated in where the Ghost specialization came up:

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).

(quote ends)

I agree that it's not an official errata and that PFS has to play by rules as written (much to the dismay of many PFS players), but I don't think "speculation" is quite the right word.

Assuming you don't use the Ghost specialization you can expect Trick Attack to have a success rate around ~55% (dex-specialization, 18 dex, +11 trick attack mod at level 1) to ~65% (INT/WIS/CHA specialization, 14 stat, +13 trick attack mod at level 1) depending on what specialization you pick. These percentages will improve as you progress through the low levels, primarily from personal upgrade augments and the level 5 ability boost.

Then at level 7 you can use the new Take 10 rules to reliably land trick attacks, where they're a staple of your damage and can be used 100% of the time. Incidentally, level 7 is roughly the second tier of weapons become widely available and the gap between baseline small arms and longarms/heavy weapons really becomes significant. At this point a laser pistol is hitting for 2d4+3 for an average of 8 damage and an artillery laser is hitting for 2d8+7 for an average of 16 damage.

Finally, Trick Attack starts to fall behind significantly when you level into the low teens, since weapon math scales quadratically and Trick Attack scales linearly. This is why Operatives get to make multiple attacks with full attacks at level 8 and level 13 - a high level operative will do significantly more damage making full attacks than trick attack. At this point you have to decide if you'd rather move and/or apply a debilitation, or make full attacks for maximum damage.

Operatives are a well balanced class. They are incredibly easy to build well, to the point where they damn near build themselves, but they are nowhere near overpowered. The only thing I dislike about them is the Ghost specialization issue (why have one specialization that is blatantly superior to all the other ones?) and it's a little counter-intuitive that skill focus and operative's edge doesn't stack - a lot of people get this wrong.


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Thanks for hunting the quote down for better clarity!

Silver Crusade

In my experience (both as player and GM, but still at low levels) the operative is a WONDERFUL Jack of All Trades / Master of None character. He'll ALWAYS be able to contribute but rarely dominates.

One thing that I quite like about it is that essentially everything he needs to do his job is baked into the class. So feats can be spent on fun customization options rather than being needed just to function.

That latter IS one advantage he has over other classes. But its no biggy.

I think operatives are wonderful for people who want to play a well rounded character. But its not the most powerful choice almost regardless of niche (obviously, NOTHING beats a ghost operative at stealth :-))


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Starfinder Superscriber
Dr. Tomatoa wrote:
However, at 7th level it becomes moot because the operative can take a 10 on that skill.

I completely forgot about this, and you're absolutely right. Thank you for pointing it out.

So let's see, @7 the Ghost Op is doing something like 2d4 (Corona Laser Pistol) + 4d8 (Trick Attack) + 3 (Weapon Specialization) = 26 average damage/round.

@7 a Heavy Weapon Soldier is doing something like 2d8 (Corona Laser Artillery) + 7 (Weapon Spec) = 16 average damage/round. But, all else being equal, the soldier hits 10% more often, so over time, that should be closer to 18 average damage/round. If he generally full attacks, he hits 10% less often than the operative but does almost 29 damage/rnd.

I don't know if, or how well, that would balance out in actual play though, since the Operative can move and still Trick Attack, and the Soldier won't always be able to full attack. So I still think it depends on the group. As someone else mentioned, though, the numbers at higher level greatly favor the Soldier because the higher level weapons do a LOT more damage.

Kalderaan wrote:
Several of you have mentioned that the Ghost bonus is incorrect or a mistake. Currently, according to the Core Rulebook, it is a +4 bonus to Stealth for trick attack.

I mentioned it because it can potentially help explain some of the discrepancies in peoples perceptions about the class.

With the +4 bonus, it probably feels like a low-level ghost op is "always" succeeding and therefore significantly out-damaging a ranged soldier.

If you're playing a game where the GM has taken the designer of the class's words to heart and house-ruled that the +4 is a mistake, there's probably a lot less concern because the operative is only getting off their trick attack half the time.

It's a big difference in damage output at 55% versus 75% at level 5, since the trick attack (+3d8) is more than either character's weapon is probably doing. If it feels like they're always succeeding, that's huge and definitely OP. If it feels like it happens ~half the time, it's still huge but it feels more like a lucky shot than bad design.


If you're going to house-rule Ghosts, Daredevils also need attention, because Terrain Attack appears to do nothing at all - without even maxing out Dexterity, a reasonably Dex-minded Operative (as all of them should be, since it's their primary stat) stops rolling the skill part of Trick Attack at level 7, so why do they get auto-succeed at level 11 under special circumstances?

Otherwise, Thief sort of automatically comes to the fore - unlike Daredevil, its Specialization Power actually does something, and unlike a house-ruled Ghost, it gains an additional skill choice for Trick Attack, which can be useful pre-7 for Outlaws (or other ways to access skill-specific buffs). Plus, its non-Trick Attack skill is the most-rolled skill in the game.

The Exchange

Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Are we all 100% sure that you can take 10 on a trick attack starting at level 7, I'm not convinced.

Take 10:
"Unless you have an ability that states otherwise, you cannot take 10 during a combat encounter. Also, you can’t take 10 when the GM rules that a situation is too hectic or that you are distracted..."

Specialization Skill Mastery:
"When attempting a skill check with a skill in which you have the Skill Focus feat, you can take 10 even if stress or distractions would normally prevent you from doing so."
The level 7 ability doesn't say it specifically works during a combat encounter and this is a separate clause than the distracted clause. This would also be consistent with the Daredevil specialization actually doing something.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber
Shaudius wrote:

Are we all 100% sure that you can take 10 on a trick attack starting at level 7, I'm not convinced.

Take 10:
"Unless you have an ability that states otherwise, you cannot take 10 during a combat encounter. Also, you can’t take 10 when the GM rules that a situation is too hectic or that you are distracted..."

Specialization Skill Mastery:
"When attempting a skill check with a skill in which you have the Skill Focus feat, you can take 10 even if stress or distractions would normally prevent you from doing so."
The level 7 ability doesn't say it specifically works during a combat encounter and this is a separate clause than the distracted clause. This would also be consistent with the Daredevil specialization actually doing something.

Yes we are 100% sure. Here's the quote from Owen confirming it.

Pithica42 wrote:

So let's see, @7 the Ghost Op is doing something like 2d4 (Corona Laser Pistol) + 4d8 (Trick Attack) + 3 (Weapon Specialization) = 26 average damage/round.

@7 a Heavy Weapon Soldier is doing something like 2d8 (Corona Laser Artillery) + 7 (Weapon Spec) = 16 average damage/round. But, all else being equal, the soldier hits 10% more often, so over time, that should be closer to 18 average damage/round. If he generally full attacks, he hits 10% less often than the operative but does almost 29 damage/rnd.

Yep, as I mentioned upthread, Operatives and Soldiers are more or less tied on ranged DPR between levels 5 and 10. Keep in mind that while Operatives get to move as part of their Trick Attack, they can't do anything else that would need a move or swift action. And firing a small arm without trick attack is a huge DPR loss (About 21 DPR down to 6.5 DPR... 69% loss). While a Soldier that chooses to move, drop prone and fire takes less of a DPR loss (20 DPR down to 14 DPR, 30% loss) vs standing in place and full attacking.

This is pretty relevant in any scenario where the fight is anything other than "blast 'em until they're dead". Need to pick up the macguffin next to you as a move action? Lose 2/3rds of your damage. Need to drop prone? Lose 2/3rds of your damage. Etc. The Operative's attack routine is surprisingly restrictive.


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The Operative is not OP at all. He is sort nmbr 2 at all skills that are not Dexcbased.

In terms of damage the Soldier and the Solarion both outdamage him. But so do both the mechanics as well. I have spredsheet modfied by another poster with all the roundsdown.


HWalsh wrote:

Paizo - We need to talk about the Operative a little bit. The Operative, or as I like to call them, the non-Unchained Summoner of Starfinder, is a bit problematic.

Here are the problems of the class:

1. Resolve, Attack, Defense, Skills and Reflex Save all on the same Ability Score.

This is a bit much. This should really have been broken up.

In Starfinder every character will end with *at least* 4 scores at 18+ typically for ranged combatants this means that they will have an 18 or better in Dex, Constitution, Wisdom, and one other Stat. Usually Intelligence.

-----

2. Skills:

Consider reducing the number of skills Operatives get per level. They already get fairly high damage, only 1 less Stamina/HP per level and with EAC and Ranged...

You are really meta thinking here. There are too many variables when it comes to this game to say, "You have to play this way." For every complaint you have I could come up with a rebuttal.

For your point 2. How would we go about taking those skill points away from already existing characters? This isn't really a video game that needs balancing. There is a saying in the gaming community, "Buff instead of Nerf."

That's because taking away something from already made characters hurts way more than buffing other classes. Remember when 3.5 was released and they buff the ranger? Great idea. I can't remember a single nerf though because nerfing it's the way to go.

HWalsh wrote:
Jurassic Pratt wrote:
I've literally only seen people talking about how the operative was weaker than the other classes. I definitely wouldn't consider them too strong.
Anyone who calls them "weaker" is not a good judge of class power at all.

Or they are someone who has done the math and look at each class in depth. Reading every class ability it is pretty clear that Operatives are powerful early game but the drop hard. They aren't the god hackers everyone thinks at a glance.

HWalsh wrote:
The Operative is better in combat than the Envoy and on par with a Mechanic.

1) Envoys are support classes and Operatives aren't. That's like comparing a soldier and mystic and complaining that it's not fair the mystic can heal better.

2) Mechanics are one of the deepest classes in the game. To put it so simply makes wonder what you are comparing this too. Have you read all the mechanics abilities? Are you talking about drone or exo? Mechanics can remote hack and literally stop constructs where they stand. Operatives can't.

HWalsh wrote:
They have the potential for the best saves in the game and their trick attack, especially at low levels, tends to beat a ranged Soldier or Solarian in damage.

What is the level you are comparing? I would like to see the math because when I add it up it doesn't look that way at all.

HWalsh wrote:
I literally was useful for four rolls in a six hour session. I think the only skill anyone could do better than the Operative was maybe Perception, and that was the domain of the Mystic.

And here it is. Basically I had a really bad night at rolling dice so please nerf this class? I remember you talking about your homebrew? Whatever happened to those? If you homebrew'd the Solarian why not nerf the heck out of the operative and leave it at that?


Farlanghn wrote:
HWalsh wrote:

Paizo - We need to talk about the Operative a little bit. The Operative, or as I like to call them, the non-Unchained Summoner of Starfinder, is a bit problematic.

Here are the problems of the class:

1. Resolve, Attack, Defense, Skills and Reflex Save all on the same Ability Score.

This is a bit much. This should really have been broken up.

In Starfinder every character will end with *at least* 4 scores at 18+ typically for ranged combatants this means that they will have an 18 or better in Dex, Constitution, Wisdom, and one other Stat. Usually Intelligence.

-----

2. Skills:

Consider reducing the number of skills Operatives get per level. They already get fairly high damage, only 1 less Stamina/HP per level and with EAC and Ranged...

You are really meta thinking here. There are too many variables when it comes to this game to say, "You have to play this way." For every complaint you have I could come up with a rebuttal.

For your point 2. How would we go about taking those skill points away from already existing characters? This isn't really a video game that needs balancing. There is a saying in the gaming community, "Buff instead of Nerf."

That's because taking away something from already made characters hurts way more than buffing other classes. Remember when 3.5 was released and they buff the ranger? Great idea. I can't remember a single nerf though because nerfing it's the way to go.

HWalsh wrote:
Jurassic Pratt wrote:
I've literally only seen people talking about how the operative was weaker than the other classes. I definitely wouldn't consider them too strong.
Anyone who calls them "weaker" is not a good judge of class power at all.

Or they are someone who has done the math and look at each class in depth. Reading every class ability it is pretty clear that Operatives are powerful early game but the drop hard. They aren't the god hackers everyone thinks at a glance.

HWalsh wrote:
The Operative
...

Buff instead of Nerf is a fallacy. There is a reason games Nerf. That reason is you can't buff everyone to fix a problematic class.

Homebrew is nice. At my home table Operatives have been dropped to 4 skills +int per level.

However, my homebrew isn't the end all be all. SFS, for example, is RAW thus the only way to fix that is for Paizo to fix the class.


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Starfinder Superscriber
Kalderaan wrote:
Until official errata comes out, it is still +4

In case anyone here missed it. Official Errata has come out now, and it's officially +1 for Ghost, not +4.


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

And people still play operatives at your table? Geez that's a harsh homebrew.


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If you were intent on nerfing it, why would you drop the skills on a main skill class instead of combat ability? Now you just have something obsolesced as soon as the Soldier gets a pistol style.


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pithica42 wrote:
Kalderaan wrote:
Until official errata comes out, it is still +4
In case anyone here missed it. Official Errata has come out now, and it's officially +1 for Ghost, not +4.

Could you please link that for easy reference?


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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Starfinder FAQ on Operative Ghost specialization bonus.


Ravingdork wrote:
And people still play operatives at your table? Geez that's a harsh homebrew.

We still have an Operative. He's still playing and enjoying it just fine. He's got a 16 Int at level 6 so he's rocking a hefty 7 skills per level (he's Damaya Lashunta) and still is outstripping the Solarian, Soldier, Mystic, and Technomancer in the areas that he focused in.

He was the one who suggested 4/Level after I proposed 6/Level. As is standard for home brew if things don't work we'll adjust further.

So he was given a rebuild using 4+ Int and he's doing fine.

He rocks Acrobatics, Stealth, Engineering, Computers, Perception, Sense Motive, and Life Sciences all at max ranks/level.

Regardless of what people's spreadsheets say he's hanging with the ranged Soldier in situations where the Soldier can't take a full attack.

He plays the role of combat scout, stealthing in to check places out and feels very useful. Then he positions as a sniper to provide long ranged fire support.

In Starship combat he's the Engineer. The Technomancer has a higher Engineering score (by +1) but he does Science Officer duties so there is that.

He fits well in the group, contributes in ways the others can't, and is enjoying it.

The Solarian is their captain - He's got Diplomacy, Intimidate, Bluff, Culture, and Perception, and Athletics.

The Soldier has Athletics, Perception, Intimidate, and Pilot.

The Technomancer has Pilot, Computers, Engineering, Physical Science, Life Sciences, Perception, Culture, Mysticism, Profession, and something else... I don't recall off hand.

The Mystic has Perception, Culture, Sense Motive, Mysticism, Pilot, Medicine, and a few others...

Either way, the Operative hasn't noticed anything other than he's not always the lead on almost every skill check anymore.


Starfinder Superscriber

Here you go, on Operative change.

Shadow Lodge

The opperatives generalist skill bonus scaling up faster than the specialized bonuses of other classes seems a bit much. If you are specialized in two skillsmyou really should be better at those skills


pithica42 wrote:
Here you go, on Operative change.

Those changes absolutely do not go far enough.

The Operative is way overtuned at low levels, and even at higher levels their generalist bonuses scale faster than the other class's specialist bonuses.


Starfinder Superscriber

It changes Ghost from being a 75% chance at succeeding on Trick Attack at level 1 to a 55% chance, and puts them in line with the other specialties. I'd say that's a step in the right direction. It doesn't matter after level 7, but it is what it is.

Right now, I think the only thing that's making them OP is the fact that most campaigns take place at lower level, so the fact that that's where they're strongest is something that's easier to notice. There's definitely a sweet spot between 7-11 where they're the best at skills and the best at damage, and that's pretty rough. I agree that the big deal is their skill selection and how important skills are. I think eventually we'll see more themes, feats, spells, and archetypes to help the other classes be better at those skill checks and it will all pull out in the wash. But we aren't there yet.

But I'm only basing that on the numbers and everyone else arguments. I don't have even anecdotal examples to argue with, yet. I was really only posting that because earlier there was a discussion with an example using Ghost and I was saying that the +4 was probably going to get nerfed at some point, and it did, so I was adding that to the discussion for their benefit.


BigNorseWolf wrote:
The opperatives generalist skill bonus scaling up faster than the specialized bonuses of other classes seems a bit much. If you are specialized in two skillsmyou really should be better at those skills

Operatives tend to have a skill bonus 1-3 points higher than another class at low levels if both characters choose to specialize in the same skill (hacker operative v mechanic at computers/engineering). This gap shrinks as the characters level and disappears around level 10. If the operative has not chosen to specialize in a skill but the other character has, the operative will typically have modifier 2-5 points lower, depending on the builds. Obviously if neither character has chosen to specialize in a skill and they have the same ability modifier (mechanic v operative in perception) operative's edge put the operator ahead. I'd be happy to show my math if you'd like. :)

Shadow Lodge

Kudaku wrote:
I'd be happy to show my math if you'd like. :)

you're not going to show me any "math" that overrides a simple comparison of who gets a bigger class bonus because that math simply doesn't exist.

What you're going to try to show me are assumptions about what ability score each class is going to have, which is not the same thing and not a given.


You want a comparison with no ability score involved? I can do that, but don't you think that's missing part of the picture? A hacker operative is not going to value INT as highly as a technomancer, for example.

Shadow Lodge

Kudaku wrote:
You want a comparison with no ability score involved? I can do that, but don't you think that's missing part of the picture? A hacker operative is not going to value INT as highly as a technomancer, for example.

Why not? Does the technomancer have a bonus to int?

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