My long-shot hope is that there's something in the book about upgrading power armor. As it stands, it's still not a long-term character solution as, assuming we're operating somewhere close to WBL guidelines, it's far too expensive to keep yourself in power armor once you level beyond your first set.
The point of The Gap IS the flexibility that it allows. Every adventure has a new piece of history you can discover about wherever you've gone. For every new world you travel to, you have a different story for how they perceived and dealt with the gap. Looking at some of the existing adventures released by Paizo can give you a really good sense of how that tool can be used for really fantastic storytelling and gives the adventurers a long-term mystery to piece together.
Calling it "short-sighted" is, ironically, a bit short sighted, yourself.
Kaz-Al Zuul wrote:
Though I don't see that it would be game breaking in this case (it's a once-a-short-rest ability that doesn't scale, and the fixed item level means that you could only use it through level 4 with entropic strike), I would likely rule against it as a GM because Entropic Strike is an ability attack that you're channelling through the weapon, and not an attack with the weapon itself that would trigger the injection.
Additionally, "weapon special property" as a specific meaning in Starfinder. Since it's an augmentation and doesn't have any mechanically specific "weapon special property"s, I would say that it does not carry over the Entropic Strike.
Over the past few weeks, I've had a chance to play a Vanguard at levels 4 and 8 in SFS play, getting some time in different situations, with very different parties. I am still in love with the concept and primary thrust of the class (Con-based tank focused less on damage than tanking and battlefield control; passive abilities like Uncanny Agility and Vanguard Ferocity really sold it for me), but I'm finding that the class is a lot less interesting to play in practice and provides pretty limited opportunities to use abilities unique to the class.
Ysoki Vanguard 4, Reaction Aspect, Abilities: 9 18 16 12 10 10 (w/ Mk1 Ability Crystal)
My level 4 session (SFS 1-18: The Blackmoon Survey) was a lot of fun. I was working with a number of ranged attackers, so that big pool of stamina was very helpful when drawing fire from the snipers. Being able to take a lot of damage as a core class feature feels great, even if it's not particularly flashy. Attracting Shield also proved pretty useful when facing a target who was not easily reachable, but it was almost always a better option to full attack unless facing an enemy with an otherwise difficult AC (something I didn't encounter in this adventure as a full-BAB class). Given my ability to dump strength, I found the Vanguard to be a very effective combatant as I could just pump DEX and CON to my hearts content. This made my character pretty ineffective on the skill side, but I appreciated the 6+ skill points/lvl to compensate.
Ysoki Vanguard 8, Reaction & Boundary Aspect, Abilities: 11 22 20 14 10 10 (w/ Mk1-Con and Mk 2-Dex Ability Crystals)
My Level 8 session (SF AP 004: Part 4 The Ruined Clouds) went well, but I found again that my most effective class trait was being a full-BAB class with a lot of health. It was a melee heavy party (and a pretty melee-heavy adventure in general), so Shimmer Guard turned into a faily lackluster ability. A large percentage of melee characters also led to getting hit less often in general, leading to my biggest problem at both level ranges: The majority of my most interesting abilities happen as a result of, or in reaction to, the attacks or actions of others. Shimmer Guard is a great ability, but is primarily useful if I see multiple ranged attackers and wouldn't be put to better use charging or threatening them in melee (a situation that seemed to happen less often that I would have hoped). Mitigating damage is great, but the reduction is faily small and it requires me to have either been hit already or to waste my move action to generate 1 EP (a move action that is probably better used getting myself into combat and tanking directly).
The core issue isn't that Vanguards are bad (in fact, I found myself to be one of the better damage dealers while acting as a pretty effective tank on larger enemies), it's that few of their abilities offer anything unique when it comes to actual play (particularly in relation to how cumbersome it feels to manage one more system: generating and using EP). Getting +1 AC from having at least 1 EP is great, but it doesn't stack with my shield, so I never needed to be cognizant of it or use my action to generate that extra point. Combat Maneuvers are a core competency of the class, but the difficulty/effect ratio is just too high to justify using one vs dealing damage (Sunder, even with the penetrating property, takes too many turns to be effective; Dirty Trick is really only useful for hard-to-hit enemies, and their hard-to-hitness makes landing it extremely unreliable; Bull Rush or Reposition are situationally useful, at best.)
Thoughts and Suggestions:
1. The entropic points system takes up a lot of text in the class description but has very little effect in practice. Between non-stacking bonuses and limited options, the potential effort you would put into a cost/benefit on whether or not you should try to actively generate more points far outstrips their usefulness. Perhaps Vanguards should start combat with a small supply based on their Con mod or Vanguard level (or even a supply rechargable on a short rest). You could generate them similarly in combat, but all Vanguards would at least have some ability to jump into battle prepared and make battlefield decisions based on the idea that they will have resources to use.
2. I love the idea of a tanky class with battlefield control options, but the non-attack options are either low-impact or just too costly in terms of action-economy for their potential benefit (with some of the most interesting ones not popping up until lvl 12). Maybe a Vanguard could reduce the difficulty of Combat Maneuvers by spending EP; or even add the effect of a combat maneuver to a single entropic strike by spending RP and/or EP; or possibly give them a Stamina Heal that forces them to sacrifice their own Stamina? Anything that would allow me to have an outward effect or actively mitigate some negative effect would be welcome (not a suggestion for this class, but the Witchwarper's ability to reduce damage dice to 1 is an example of a limited-use ability that is really fun to pull out at the right time.)
3. I do appreciate that there are a few really great passive abilities (Shimmer Guard being a prime example), but it would be nice to have one or two more actively used abilities (the suggestion about Combat Maneuvers, listed above, being an example of what I'm talking about). My level 8 session included both a Witchwarper and Biohacker and I found myself a little jealous of their moments to show off unique abilities, whereas I often felt like more of a uniquely-built soldier.
4. I think that the playtest may fail to capture what could be a pretty substantial benefit to the class: the ability to go without buying weapons at all. Managing upgrades over multiple levels is serious business in Starfinder (particularly in society play, when budgets are pretty well set by the adventures). A class that can go completely without buying weapons can, over a career, spend a lot more on armor modifications, augmentations, and technological items while retaining enough credits to replace their armor with relative frequency. There has been some discussion about how unfair it is that Vanguards have to spend so much to retain special weapon properties like reach, but I think that going unarmed will end up being a much more popular option once people have time to get comfortable with what the class is and isn't good at. Given that, it might be nice to see a couple more options for special properties on the list for Entropic Attunement.
Thanks for reading! I hope it comes across that I do in fact like where this class is going. I love the flavor (though I'm not 100% sold on the name), and I love the implied focus on tanking and actions other than just damage dealing; I just think it needs a bit of work to make it something that feels unique in practice, and not just on paper.
EDIT: I would like to add that, in regards to Starship roles, the Vanguard was usually the best gunner in the party due to high BAB and DEX.
Like a lot of people here, I'd really like to see the Vanguard's name reflect the flavor a bit more. "Vanguard" brings to mind images of valiant soldiers storming the front, which is very different from the darker, more mystical, flavor of the ability to understand and control entropy as a natural force. Entrophage or Dyamist work for flavor, but don't give you any indication of what the class does (something that "Vanguard" accomplishes pretty well). It should be possible to find a name that both describes the class and gives at least some oblique indication of its themes or style.
My first thought was "Driftguard", but it uses the same word as The Drift, so it's probably not the best idea to use it and not have it be tied directly to the major element of the universe. Here are a few ideas from out of left field.
Love "Warpwitch". It has a more definitive quality than Witchwarper, which sound to me like it would be an anti-caster class (a class that warps witches).
Luna Protege wrote:
All of these classes are unique to Starfinder in that they really do push a specific playstyle, and I don't that that's a mistake. As you said yourself, they will likely add more material to expand the range of viable builds, but these classes all seem very specifically meant to encourage players to focus less on pure, individual damage output and focus more on battlefield support and utility. I think that big blast spells and abilities were intentionally left out from the Witchwarper class because they are trying to get players to think more creatively about their combat strategies.
It sounds like you're applying advice specifically regarding Combat Maneuvers (i.e. weapon special propreties, including Operative, effect compat maneuvers) and stretching to apply it elsewhere. It doesn't change to nature of other abilities (like casting). I don't see any reason that you wouldn't be able to use an Combat Maneuver as an AoO as long as it doesn't require movement.
The vanguards I saw seemed to have some mobility problems. Starfinder melee is usually a blitz soldier a charging solution or your occasional operative, all of whom will be in melee well before you
I haven’t been having that problem at level 4. Longstrider Module for +10ft goes a long way, I’m using charge in round 1 whenever necessary/possible, and I don’t mind just double-moving directly into combat (if only because I’m a big damage sink and use coordinated shot to give my ranged attacker’s a+1).
David knott 242 wrote:
I'm glad we're seeing intentionally crafted content instead of more splat. Splat is what drives the increasing cost-of-entry (both monetary and intellectual), especially in Society play, and that cost-of-entry keeps the hobby from spreading in a way that would bring in new players (new to RPGs or from other systems) and ensure it's continued viability for Paizo. Pathfinder can be great, but I don't think that they should be trying to replicate that type of model with Starfiner (and communication from devs that I've seen recognizes that pretty clearly).
This was answered in another thread in Vanguard Playtest (it’s a no). Entropic Strike is an ability with its own damage calculation, so it can’t benefit from other abilities or bonuses other than crit effects and special properties.
As a supporting rule, it would be a nice option if the Vanguard could make an ES at lower damage dice to use a weaker weapon safely. A level 7 vanguard using only the 1d6 strike they were able to deal at level 5, to use a level 3 weapon without destroying it, for example.
What if you tied the ES damage to “[...]Vanguard level or the item level of a weapon used to make the Entropic Strike, whichever is lower.”, ideally eliminating the other language about item level completely? I think this leaves Vanguards a lot of flexibility regarding their weapons while giving them the same cost/damage trade off as every other weapons-based class (including the option to use unarmed strikes and forgoing the added crit effects or special properties).
I actually think that, for this class, it is a bad idea. At a core level, this seem like a class based around defense and area control, with an offensive ability that does just enough damage to stay competitive. I really like that the class gives you just enough damage potential to give you a reasonable choice between doing damage and using your other abilities to either protect your allies or de-buff an enemy. If you started giving options to burn resources to do more damage, I think it would encourage a much different play style for the class than was intended and starts encroaching on Solarian territory.
It seems like houseruling class ability changes for a play test completely defeats the purposes of the playtest, which is testing the abilities as-written to see how they feel.
Hiruma Kai wrote:
I think there’s a case to be made that, in order to stay useful, Vanguards need to upgrade their armor more often than other classes. I can totally see why that may still leave them a bit more flexible in spending credit, but I still think that buying a new weapon every two levels for the sole purpose of maintaining reach or a crit effect seems like a pretty high cost/value ratio.
Sober Caydenite wrote:
That was not at all clear to me in the class write-up.
You just have to remember that Entropic Strike is an ability that acts as a melee attack with the given properties and can be modified by your weapon’s special properties; it is not a weapon attack. Since it isn’t a melee weapon attack, it doesn’t benefit from any benefits that you would otherwise add (like STR bonuses, which have to be specifically added back in with the lvl 10 ability). The description for Entropic Strike defines how to calculate the damage for the ability.
Entropic Strike doesn’t follow weapon specialization rules because it doesn’t get actual Weapon Specialization. The Weapon Specialization entry on the class description adds to the Entropic Strike damage not through the normal feat but by giving you a specific bonus to that ability equal to Vanguard Level + 1/2 of any other class levels.
DR reduces kinetic damage you take, so I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t reduce the damage you take from intervene. Seems like a sound interpretation to me.
People keep mentioning combat maneuvers as a benefit to a STR build, and it just isn’t true. Are people forgetting that combat maneuvers are just a melee attack roll, which means that you can still use DEX with your Operative weapon?
I can understand your frustration that a character or class underperforms on an overall damage level, but something I'm not seeing referenced on this thread is that Starfinder isn't balanced entirely around combat.
Yes, mystics are going to hit less often when using weapons as compared to a full BAB character, but, in addition to having large burst damage potential when casting spells, they have a ton of campaign-altering spell options that can give the party a HUGE leg up in the right situation (Hologram Memory, Restoration, Tongues, etc).
Operatives may not be able to hit as often as a soldietr, but hitting with trick attack becomes all but automatic after lvl 7, giving everyone +2 (including a full BAB soldier who may really need it to hit with those full attacks). They also have an abundance of skill points and bonuses that allows them to be incredibly useful in both combat and non-combat skill checks (you can shoot aliens all day long, but this campaign isn't going any further unless someone can hack this computer and open the door.)
Envoys certainly suffer in combat, but many min/maxed soldiers in a well-rounded campaign may find themselves unable to offer a lot of support when it comes to social situations or science checks.
My point is that, yes, some classes are slightly behind on pure damage at certain levels, but they offer an awful lot of other benefits that a soldier getting 4 skill points a level can't touch.
I think that you may be thinking about The Gap as an intellectual gap when they really seem to be pushing the idea that something super mystical happened and that, for all intents and purposes, removed the period from everyone's memories. We're even told that divination spells don't work when trying to glean information from The Gap.
In regards to how characters internalize that, I would imagine that it's similar to the ways your players are. It's long enough ago that it has little relevance to their day to day and is treated more as a fact of history (think about how little the average person thinks about events that happened over 200 years ago.) Obviously, it is still a major pursuit for researchers and historians who are trying to figure out what happened, but all of the characters have been aware of and known about it for their entire lives. Unless it's a passionate subject for them, it's not likely to be something that they spend a lot of time thinking about unless it becomes relevant during a mission.
Functionally, The Gap is a great tool to seperate the Pathfinder/Starfinder timelines while allowing them the option to explain further if they run out of narrative rope. I don't expect that we'll be getting any more detail on the big questions for quite a bit, if ever.
I can understand why you would be dissatisfied with your character performance, but I don't think that it's necessarily a flaw in the system for an Envoy not specifically specced for melee combat (e.g. Heavy Armor, STR or DEX at 16+ [depending on weapon choice], feats selected for combat, etc.) to struggle in the context. Along the same lines, an Operative not using trick attack in most combats is really fighting against what makes operatives so useful (by lvl 4, an operative hitting trick attack makes the target flat-footed for the entire round, stacking with whatever else you have going like flanking or coordinated shot.)
You don't have to min/max to make Starfinder playable, but you aren't going to be able to make a character that goes so far away from the core class features successful unless you get pretty crunchy with the numbers and plan well, both as characters and as a party. My Operative works in melee because I use trick attack every turn and chose feats like coordinated shot that give everyone else a buff, meaning that I'm increasing their damage as well as soaking hits with high-DEX light armor.
I don't think that this game is unplayable if you don't min/max, but planning and battle tactics are definitely a part of this game. It sounds like your character would work wonderfully if you had a party with more of a melee presence so you could move in and out instead of holding for flanking and taking hits. Your operative playing sniper may be much better suited to a custom home-game that can give players more chances to sneak up to fights or pick off enemies at long ranges (snipers are definitely not optimal for operatives in terms of damage; they're primarily there so that a very squishy operative can stay hidden and do a little more damage than small arrms on their own.)
You don't have bad characters, it just sounds like you may be using them in different ways than were intended for balance (it's like using a fork to spread peanut butter and then complaining that it doesn't work as well as a knife.)