Her Infernal Majestrix, Queen Abrogail II

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The magus's spell attack roll and DC is more or less within sight of a caster's at low levels, but drops off precipitously later. The problem is worst at very high levels, once the caster gets their apex item. (The magus is 3 points behind then, and 4 points behind at 20th.) To mitigate this, the magus should get to use their spellcasting ability score for attacks, which can be flavored as a kind of arcane bond.

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The spell-storing rune is easy to overlook. It's kind of awkward to use and scales badly: a 3rd-level, 30 DC spell seems like a questionable use of an action at 13th level and only gets worse from there. But notice:

Spell Storing wrote:
Activate Single Action command; Requirements On your previous action this turn, you hit and damaged a creature with this weapon; Effect You unleash the stored spell, which uses the target of the triggering attack as the target of the spell. This empties the spell from the weapon and allows a spell to be cast into it again. If the spell requires a spell attack roll, the result of your attack roll with the weapon determines the degree of success of the spell, and if the spell requires a saving throw, the DC is 30.

The bolded part is bolded because it means that if you're willing to wait for a critical hit with your weapon, you can immediately follow up with a guaranteed critical with your spell. As you might expect, this has predictably cool applications. For instance, with a 3rd-level slot shocking grasp does 8d12 damage and change, which for one action is incredible at 13th level and never gets worse than pretty good. The more situational, but still good, hydraulic push is 10d6 bludgeoning damage plus knockback. Telekinetic maneuver can be used to disarm, and is probably the most reliable way to do so in the game.

However, you do even better with focus spells. Since in many cases it's possible to refocus right after casting your spell into the weapon, using them is often free (and so your caster friends should be easier to talk in to doing it for you), and many have great effects when unleashed on crits:

--) Moonbeam dazzles its target for the rest of the encounter, giving its targets concealment against it if it relies on sight.
--) Call of the grave prevents at least two actions.
--) Finally, the unassuming hand of the apprentice just gives you another, non-MAP-increasing crit with the same weapon you just attacked with. The damage is comparable to or better than shocking grasp at 13th level--and unlike every other spell you can store in the weapon, it actually scales.

It looks like vanguards can use polarity gauntlets to add additional shock damage to their entropic strikes. This would be an unusually efficient way for them to increase damage, and I wonder whether it's intentional.

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"Condition" can refer either to (a) a state some entity is in (as in "I stepped right in to see what condition my condition was in"), or to (b) a possibility that may or may not obtain (as in "under no condition whatever shall I marry you").

Crucially, note that in the (b) sense "condition" is largely synonymous with "circumstance." In PF2, however, "conditional" is used in contrast to "circumstance"—it is meant emphatically to connote the (a) sense. The problem is that in English, the word does the opposite. Rather than "of or relating to a state some entity is in," it almost always means "of or relating to a possibility that may or may not obtain" (as in "the terms of our agreement were conditional on your cooperation").

Because of this, the phrase "conditional" modifier is both confusing and vacuous. It just sounds like an arbitrary synonym for "circumstance modifier." To solve this problem, "conditional modifier" should simply become "condition modifier."

As a bonus, this will give the names matching grammars: either both names should be nouns ("condition" and "circumstance") or both adjectives ("conditional" and "circumstantial"). As any good editor will tell you, the mismatched language is sloppy.

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tl; dr: PF2's much-maligned low success rate for level-appropriate challenges is a direct consequence of the action economy as it applies to multiple attacks. Therefore, raising success rates to a healthy 75-80% would require extensively reworking fundamental aspects of the system. This is an important conversation, because player success rates are crucial to the experience of this kind of game. As they revise PF2 after the playtest, the devs need to know what we as players want, and what's required to give us what we want.


Most special combat options in the playtest rules are balanced around the assumption that in challenging encounters, the player's third and subsequent attacks will not have more than a 10-15% chance to hit in the absence of special circumstances. This is why it makes sense to spend actions on activating Rage or Hunt Target, raising a shield (or why it would make sense to do this, if shields were better), or multiple-action attacks. Otherwise, the opportunity cost of using these options would be too high. It would be better to ignore them and spend the actions you save just making more attacks.

However, if the player's third and subsequent attacks can't have more than a 10-15% success rate, and the multiple attack penalty is –5, then their best attacks can't have more than a 60-65% success rate. As many people have observed (and complained about), this is indeed how things are. And since PF2 is designed for attacks, defenses, saving throws, and skills to all use the same scale (so that it's possible to make a skill check against a target's AC or Will save, for instance), this requires defenses, saving throws, and skills to optimally succeed at the same rate. And again, as many people have observed (and complained about), this is indeed how things are.

Like the many people who complain about this, I think this is too low. Speaking for myself, I think it's too low by about 15%. In challenging encounters, I like to have a 75-80% chance of hitting with my best attack or making my best save. This hits the sweet spot for me. If the odds were better, challenging encounters wouldn't feel risky or therefore exciting enough. But if the odds were worse, I would too often feel like I didn't get to do anything with my turn, or that my choice to emphasize one type of saving throw over another wasn't meaningful. Plus, I wouldn't feel like the character I was playing was a gifted and heroic person, which is key for me in this kind of game. Frankly, my experiences with PF2 thus far confirms this to me. For the success rates to stay where they are would be a dealbreaker. If I wanted to feel like I'm constantly fighting an uphill battle, I'd just play Warhammer FRP or the like. That way, my frequent failures and ostensibly superior opponents would at least feel thematic.

The many, many forum posts about overturned monsters, excessive skill check DCs, etc., strongly suggest my preferences are common. My point in this post is just that because low player success rates are tightly intertwined with basic features of the game, the devs will not be able to fix this problem simply by tweaking some numbers. Again, because most special combat options always trade off against extra attacks, the player's extra attacks need to be relatively ineffective for these special options to be worth using. And because other abilities are designed to interact with attacks in a way that requires them to have similar numbers, the resulting low success rates for attacks extends to and infects the whole system.

So, raising success rates in combat would require either (a) significantly improving most special combat options (so that they were worth using even if you had a substantial chance to hit when attacking at a –10 MAP), (b) substantially increasing the MAP, or (c) fundamentally reworking the action economy (perhaps by capping the number of attacks players could normally make in a round). Personally, I think (c) is probably going to be the best bet, but I care more about getting clear about the problem than about pushing any given solution.

Here's a simple way of providing built-in additional weapon damage dice that, as a bonus, makes proficiency matter without substantially changing the math (and hence, I hope, without unbalancing the game):

If you're at least 3rd level, you can deal extra dice of damage with that weapon on a hit. You get +1 die at 3rd, and an additional die at 7th, 11th, 15th, and 19th levels. (This matches the expected magic item progression. Magic weapons would still provide item bonuses to attack rolls and support property runes, and hence remain important to character progression.)

However, in order to get the extra damage dice, you need meet certain skill or item requirements, as follows:

--) You don't get any extra damage dice if you're untrained in the weapon, regardless of its quality.
--) In order to get +1 damage die (3rd level), you need to either have expert proficiency or be wielding an expert-quality weapon.
--) In order to get +2 damage dice (7th level), you need to either have master proficiency or be wielding a master-quality weapon.
--) In order to get +4 damage dice (15th level), you need to you need to either have legendary proficiency or be wielding a legendary-quality weapon.

The intent of this restriction is prevent the IMO unrealistic consequence of characters with middling combat training doing increasingly massive damage with their attacks as they become more experienced. Normally, extraordinary effectiveness requires extraordinary gear. However, unusually high proficiency lets you override this restriction. Apart from special cases in which the party loses access to their equipment, this should have the effect of underwriting the fighter's fantasy as the master of weapons: fighters can pick up a fallen enemy's weapon after being disarmed, or carry a small armory of inexpensive weapons suited to different situations, without losing virtually the entirety of their combat effectiveness.

I've been playing around with melee theorycrafting lately. In general, the highest DPR build that's actually practical seems to be a fighter who uses Certain Strike and Desperate Finisher to make lots of attacks with a forceful weapon. However, I am pretty sure the highest DPR available in the Pathfinder Playtest is via a 20th-level monk who's flanking.

Perfected Form opens interesting possibilities. While it's normally only possible to hit level-appropriate enemies on a 10 when you're not suffering from the MAP, the fighter's Agile Grace feat and other conditional or circumstance modifiers can combine to make guaranteed hits on multiple attacks viable in the right situation. This can yield Kenshiro-level fun. Here's a sample build.

The Build
Necessary Feats: Wolf Stance, Ki Strike, Fighter Dedication, Basic Maneuvers (Double Slice), Stance Savant, Diamond Fists, Advanced Maneuvers (agile grace)
Important Assumptions: Diamond Mind's circumstance bonus for already-forceful weapons stacks with forceful's (inconsistent with RAW, obviously RAI); Double Slice can be used with unarmed attacks (debatable for both RAW and RAI).

Assume a hasted 20th level monk optimized for damage: 24 Str, +5 handwraps of mighty fists with keen and 2d6 energy damage worth of property runes. This monk is attacking with wolf jaw, a 1d8 agile piercing unarmed attack that gets forceful if they're flanking. Assuming they are, that's 6d8+2d6+7 damage on the first attack, with a +9 circumstance bonus to damage on their second and a +17 on their third, for averages of 41, 50, and 58 respectively.

Unassisted, they hit AC 44 on a 10 or better with their best attack, down to 14/18 from the MAP on agile unarmed attacks. Agile Grace takes this to 13/16. But let's assume the monk is indeed flanking, taking this down to 11/14, and--finally--that they're willing to blow through their SP for a ki strike nova, the +1 conditional bonus takes you to 10/13: enough to guarantee a hit on their second attack! They thus do the following:

--) Strike (extra action from quick): 49.2 (1.3 x 41) expected damage.
--) Double Slice (attacking twice at -3): 118.8 (1.15 x 50 + 1.15 x 58) expected damage.
--) Flurry of Blows (attacking twice at -6): 61 (0.5 x 58 + 0.5 x 58, plus 0.25 x 12 from the chance at extra damage from the monk's Fierce Flurry) expected damage.

In total, that's 229 DPR: more than a fighter can do with Desperate Finisher, and unlike with Desperate Finisher, it doesn't eat up your reaction.

However, it's possible to do better. An 8th-level Heroism replaces your one-round ki strike nova with a nice steady 10-minute +3 conditional bonus, bringing you just one measly point away from guaranteed hits on ALL your attacks. And there are lots of ways to make up that deficit: one of your allies can assist you or make your target sluggish. If you can do that, the same sequence reaches an eye-watering 325.85 DPR. Since that's around the maximum hit points that 20th-level enemies have, and every attack is an automatic hit, this will virtually guarantee a kill.

(For even more damage, you could take Ranger Dedication, Basic Hunter's Trick (Twin Takedown), and Targeted Hunter to get six hits after the first round. However, this is probably useless in practice: no target with an AC low enough for this tactic to work will have enough HP to survive more than one round of it.)

afaict, the optimal melee attack sequence in PF2 is much as it was in PF1: rage, full attack with a falchion, and use Power Attack. Of course, in PF2-ese, "Power Attack" means "Vital Strike" and "be a giant totem barbarian" means "Power Attack."

That is, here's the best I can come up with. You (a) play a fighter, (b) take Barbarian Dedication (giant totem), Rager, Totem, Certain Strike, and Desperate Finisher, (c) wield a weapon with the forceful trait, and (d) be quick (via e.g. haste, Weapon Supremacy, or a speed weapon).

Then you do the following:

--) round 1: Rage -> Strike (extra action from quick) -> Certain Strike -> Certain Strike -> Certain Strike (reaction from Desperate Finisher)
--) rounds 2-3: Strike (extra action from quick) -> Certain Strike -> Certain Strike -> Certain Strike -> Certain Strike (reaction from Desperate Finisher)

The point is to maximize your flat damage bonuses, and hence maximize the effects of Certain Strike. It's super effective but super boring. The dice barely matter.

Overall DPR: 183.95 vs. AC 44 at 20th level (assuming Str 24, +5 falchion, crit on 19 or 20, +2d6 damage from property runes). An equivalent vanilla fighter gets 159.35 DPR with this tactic vs. the same AC, given that they're not sluggish and not spending an action to rage. So the fighter/barbarian breaks even in round 1 and pulls ahead afterwards.

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The Agile Grace feat lowers your multiple attack penalty with agile weapons and agile unarmed attacks to –3 and –6. However, there are circumstances in which fighters may wish to accept the larger penalty (namely, if they wish to gain the failure effect of an action with the Press trait, or to use the Two-Weapon Flurry feat). It would be good if the designers clarified whether their intent was indeed for this feat to be incompatible with these options.

If so, the feat should at least be rewritten so that fighters have the option not to use it. I suggest:

Agile Grace wrote:
Your graceful moves with agile weapons are almost superhuman. Prior to making an attack roll with an agile weapon or agile unarmed attack, you may choose for your multiple attack penalty to be –3 after the first attack and –6 after the second, rather than –4 and –8, respectively.

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Overall, I'm very happy with PF2's shift to a universal rate of advancement. However, I'm mystified as to why that rate is so steep.

Specifically, I think players should increase their proficiency modifier by 1 per two levels (probably rounded up), rather than 1 per level. As others have noted, this would have two very important benefits:

--) Each monster would remain a relevant challenge for longer.
--) High-level PCs would not have to routinely face immersion-breakingly fantastical tasks in order for skill tests to be meaningful.

I honestly can't think of any countervailing benefits of the +1/level rate. Defenders of that system, please, enlighten me.

(Though the overall issue may already have been discussed to death, I think it might be helpful to have a thread focused specifically on the question in the subject line.)

When it comes to some skills, I can accept adding your level to your proficiency without straining my suspension of disbelief too much. When it comes to other skills, it isn't. I suspect lots of people feel similarly.

Here's a simple solution, analogous to the 1e rule that you can't make Knowledge checks untrained: for certain skills (and certain applications of others), you can't add your level to your proficiency modifier unless you're at least trained in that skill.

For example, you might not be able to add your level to your proficiency modifier for Craft or Perform unless you're trained in those skills, since otherwise you have no way of bringing your general experience to bear. Or, if you're untrained in Athletics, you might still be able to add your level to checks to break a grapple, but not to swim (since you simply don't know how).

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Most of the critical specialization effects are cool, but the one for swords is lackluster. Flat-footed is too easy to come by, and there are feats that allow you to apply it on a critical independently (making the specialization effect completely superfluous).

Here's one possible alternative: a critical hit with a sword does not count toward the character's multiple attack penalty.

This has a similar function as applying the flat-footed condition (increasing accuracy of subsequent attacks), but it's not redundant with that condition and fits the fantasy of swords as quick and fluid when used skillfully.

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TL;DR: Given what we know now, the math on Hunt Target looks bad. Furthermore, it looks bad in a way continuous with other big PF2 red flags. Unless Paizo wants to return to the grand D&D tradition of crappy rangers, they'll probably need to revise it.

THE PROBLEM: Hunt Target lets you spend an action to reduce your multiple attack penalty, letting you land more hits over time. But that's an action you could've just used to attack instead, thereby landing more hits right up front. Thus means Hunting a Target is an investment that only starts showing returns after you've spent multiple rounds standing next to that target (for the melee ranger; archers just stand still) and whaling on it.

HOW (MAYBE) TO FIX IT: Paizo probably needs to insulate Hunt Target from the opportunity cost the PF2 action economy will impose on basically everything. Here's an option I think they should seriously consider: let the ranger hunt an adjacent target as a free action immediately after using the Stride action. It's simple, throws melee rangers a bone, and nicely plays into the ranger fantasy of a mobile striker. (It also solves a subtler problem: it's actually way better not to Hunt a melee target until the round after you've moved to engage it, since then you're trading your third instead of your second and can actually benefit from Hunting on the round you use it. This is super counterintuitive, and I bet like half the people in my gaming group wouldn't think to play that way.)

THE SPECIFICS: On what I think is plausibly a standard case, it takes it takes 4 full rounds of doing nothing but staying still and attacking for Hunt Target to pay off (3 to almost break even). How often do you think that will happen in actual play? How many enemies do you think will even survive that long? (If Hunt Target indeed takes an action, it only approaches being a good idea against big sacks of HP. Think your ranger will be the only one attacking them?)

Of course, "break even" ≠ "adds damage." Hunt Target takes even longer to do that in any significant way. In the example case I used, Hunting gets you about a 6% damage increase (slightly worse than +1 to attack) over 10 rounds of doing nothing but attacking the same target. Obviously, those 10 rounds will never happen in actual play.

WHY THIS IS WORRISOME: Three reasons. First, it's bad when a class's defining feature sucks. Second, it's bad when a class's defining feature requires playing in the most boring possible way for it to not suck. Third, and more deeply, it's emblematic of the big danger facing PF2's action economy: three completely fungible actions per round means that without really careful design, the player will have a lot of options that serve the exact same goal (here, and typically, single target damage) but would have to use annoying arithmetic on a case-by-case basis to figure out which of those options serves that goal best in a given situation. This is the opposite of what you want in a tabletop RPG.

You're a mid-level ranger with a pair of +3 agile weapons with a d6 damage die (shortswords, say). You do +5 damage from ability scores, feats, etc. and get +2 damage dice on a critical hit. (So, you average 15.5 damage on a hit, and an extra 7 on a crit.)
You're fighting a single target whom you have a 75% chance to hit with your best attack. You don't start Hunting the target until you're right up next to it.
Two-weapon fighting reduces the multiple attack penalty by 1, so you attack at -0/-3/-6 normally and at -0/-2/-4 against a hunted target.

UPSHOT: For this ranger against this enemy, Hunt Target adds 2.675 expected damage to a full volley of three Strikes (30.7 with hunting; 33.375 without). Since the opportunity cost of using it is a Strike at -6 (7.325 expected damage), it takes 4 full rounds of doing nothing but attacking for it to pay off (it almost breaks even after 3).

round 1
--) Don't Hunt: 30.7 expected damage (strike at -0, strike at -3, strike at -6)
--) Hunt: 24.5 expected damage (hunt, strike at -0, strike at -2)

round 2+
--) Don't Hunt: 30.7 expected damage (strike at -0, strike at -3, strike at -6)
--) Hunt: 33.375 expected damage (strike at -0, strike at -2, strike at -4)

round 2 total: 61.4 don't hunt vs 57.875 hunt (hunt overall impact: -1.77 damage/round)
round 3 total: 92.1 don't hunt vs. 91.25 hunt (hunt overall impact: -0.28 damage/round)
round 4 total: 122.8 don't hunt vs. 124.625 hunt (hunt overall impact: +0.46 damage/round)
round 10 total: 307 hunt vs. 324.875 hunt (hunt overall impact: +1.79 damage/round)

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Problem: Pathfinder is more fun when everyone can recover most of their HP between encounters without spending a ton of gold or burning through spells slots. Unfortunately, that would take a dedicated healer, and nobody wants to play a dedicated healer.

Pretty Much Everyone's Response: Buy wands of cure light wounds, spam between encounters. It's clunky, annoying, and a little cheesy, but it gets the job done. Everyone knows about this, everyone expects it, and everyone is basically happy. But it would sure be nice if a New Edition handled this more elegantly. (Hint, Hint.)

Paizo's Response: THAT'S not how Pathfinder is meant to be played! Here's a new, complicated system that will put a stop to this! And it totally won't have any loopholes!

I feel like this is emblematic of a lot of Paizo design philosophy of late. Sometimes, it seems like they're interested in propping up their pet ideas at the cost both of formal standards of elegant design, and of what most people find fun. I really like Pathfinder and want 2e to succeed, but I haven't gotten as many indications as I'd have liked that the design team really has their finger on the community's pulse.

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Granted, limited info and all that, but almost everything in the fighter preview worries me, in many cases because it seems representative of bad design philosophy Paizo has been exhibiting--and been criticized for--for years: gateway feats to doing things everyone should be able to do, insensitivity to theme and player fantasy, situational feats of which optimal usage requires annoying math on the fly, situational feats that are really trap options, balancing archery over melee. (Not every case, though: I do like the look of battlefield surveyor, Sudden Charge, and the shield stuff.) Let's look.

1. Only fighters, characters who spend a feat, and some creatures can make AoOs for basic things.
So it sounds like the norm is that you usually can't do whatever you want without provoking, unless you're up against certain opponents. I predict the lack of restriction will make combat less tactical, and remembering who in a given fight can make AoO's and who can't will be a headache for everyone.

2. Proficiency expands to all simple and martial weapons at 19th level.
Notoriously, P1E effectively requires fighters to commit to a single type of weapon. The downside of this is that it helps funnel players into narrow and restrictive builds, and pressures GMs into tailoring the magic items they hand out to the character. The upside is that it lets players build an identification with a certain kind of weapon or style into the fantasy of their character. Amazingly, Paizo has figured out how to retain the downside without the upside. You spend your whole career with a chosen weapon group, until the very end when your decision no longer matters.

3. New Power Attack.
Nobody I know likes trading multiple attacks for a single, better attack. It's usually unfun. More importantly, it usually requires annoying arithmetic, and making players do annoying arithmetic in combat is both inherently unfun and bad for the flow of the game. The sole justification for the original Power Attack is that it was at least pretty much always a good idea, so you didn't have to do the annoying arithmetic. New Power Attack will either have this problem too, in which case what's the point, or it will require annoying arithmetic.

(Here, you might think: "Come on, Ludovicus, Paizo is smarter than that. New Power Attack has the clear function of concentrating damage in a single hit, which will be usually good if your opponents have DR but usually bad otherwise." As far as I can see, this is the best-case scenario. But if the only point of New Power Attack is to make you better at overcoming DR, then it should just be replaced with a simpler feat, like Penetrating Strike, that does this directly, without bringing in annoying arithmetic.)

4. Quick Reversal.
Okay. Here's a feat that:

(a) only comes into play in a situation you try to avoid,
(b) even in that situation, only applies in marginal cases (where it's for some reason a better idea to use your second and/or third attacks to keep attacking rather than take a guarded step to get out of the flank, say),
(c) in all probability, only makes a mathematical difference the player is unlikely to care about (another inaccurate attack that doesn't even let me focus fire)?
(d) heavily overlaps with another feat that is functionally and thematically very similar (I bet the players who want to take both this and Whirlwind Strike will be super rare).

As everyone knows, Pathfinder 1e is FULL of feats like this one seems to be: basically trap options that do something unexciting but mildly useful in certain edge cases. I totally get why these feats exist in Pathfinder: we all love new splatbooks, but we all hate power creep, so making the new splatbooks mostly full of trap options was an ingenious way for Paizo to satisfy both of these desires at once. But Starfinder is also full of feats like this (if you don't believe me, check the math for its versions of Improved Critical and Power Attack), which leads me to believe that someone at Paizo actually thinks they're good design. This mystifies me.

5. Debilitating Shot and Double Shot.
Unlike New Power Attack and Quick Reversal, both of these feats look promising: fun, widely applicable, and reasonably strong. Naturally, they're just for archers. Thanks, Paizo.

6. "The goal here is to give you a variety of tools to deal with the situations and encounters you are bound to face. [...] It all comes down to the type of fighter you want to play."
These sentences bookend a paragraph that mentions two feats. Ostensibly, one of these is a feat that helps you spread your damage out among multiple opponents, only it's just for ranged attacks. The other is a feat that helps you spread your damage out among multiple opponents, only it's just for melee. If the goal is to encourage fighters to switch fighting styles on the fly--which is a great idea!--the design here does exactly the opposite. A system that requires you to take separate feats that serve the same basic function when using a ranged or melee weapon does not encourage you to switch between these styles on the fly. It encourages you to pick one of these styles and commit to it.


Again, I know it's super early and I could be totally wrong about this. But lots of the other things Paizo has chosen to show us about P2E raise the same worry: it looks like they're doubling down on their widely-acknowledged bad habits when they should be using the new edition to fix them.

Everything has a theme song. So what are the theme songs for each Starfinder class?

I'll start with the easy one. For that master of karate, and friendship, for everyone,* the solarian, there is only one choice:


* viz., a melee specialist with a high Charisma.

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(in the spirit of Colette Brunel's similar post about solarians.)

Every envoy should take a level in soldier and choose the blitz fighting style. Period. They lose practically nothing and get a ton. Consider:

1. The blitz fighting style gives you a big stackable Initiative bonus, arguably the envoy's most important stat.
Envoys are all about tactical support and control: setting up targets, hindering enemies, getting people into position, removing bad conditions. This makes Initiative arguably more important for them than for any other class. The higher the envoy's Initiative, the less likely everyone else in the party has to choose between delaying until after an enemy or acting without the benefit of the envoy's abilities. That's huge.

2. A level of soldier lets envoys use much better weapons at a greatly reduced feat cost.
Envoys stand to gain a lot from the ability to use heavy weapons or advanced melee weapons. However, this takes a lot (read: three) feats to get off the ground (assuming Heavy Armor Proficiency in the melee case): i.e. most if not all the feats you get in your character's early life. A level of soldier reduces this to a much more manageable Versatile Weapon Specialization. So, while you'll be short an improvisation at some levels, you'll have two extra feats to work with. Not a bad trade.

3. A level of soldier lets envoys put their highest ability score in Strength or Dexterity instead of Charisma, without losing resolve points.
Though Charisma is their key ability, envoys only really care about it for resolve points. They don't really need it for skill checks, since they can use Expertise, and they don't really need it for their special abilities, of which Charisma only effects two, and neither in a way that really matters to the effectiveness of the class. By using Strength or Dexterity for resolve points instead, envoys can be much better attackers while remaining equally good at support. (Note that some envoys--particularly in games that emphasize high-stakes social interactions much more than typical D&D or Pathfinder games do--may still want to put their highest stat in Charisma to reliably make the hardest Bluff and Diplomacy checks. Even so, the two previous benefits justify the trade.)

4. The envoy's wide-not-deep special ability progression means they lose very little effectiveness by being a level behind, and at high levels virtually none.
Few envoy abilities scale with level, and most are selectable pretty early. By character level 7th, you'll barely miss the envoy level you lost from the dip; by 13th, you'll basically have everything an envoy will ever get.

So, am I missing something? (If not, one might wonder about the design merits of a class that all but requires dipping for optimal play.)

I'm attracted to the idea of revising Solar Armor and Solar Weapon so that both allow you to substitute Charisma for important combat stats. Specifically:

  • Solar Armor: While benefitting from your solar armor, you may substitute your Charisma bonus for Dexterity bonus when calculating your EAC and KAC (limited by your armor's maximum Dexterity bonus as normal), as your mystical connection to the cosmos affords you an intuitive sense for avoiding harm.
  • Solar Weapon: You may substitute your Charisma bonus for your Strength bonus on attack and damage rolls with your solar weapon, as its essentially spiritual nature makes its potency more a matter of force of personality than force of body.

For reasons why something along these lines is necessary, see the (really good, imo) analysis here. This changes should have a bunch important benefits:

1. They should mitigate the solarian's MAD and bring them onto par with soldiers, allowing them to use their key ability to be more effective in combat.
2. They should allow solarians to use light armor effectively (either in the obvious way in the case of solar armor or by giving Dex second priority after Cha in the case of solar weapon), thereby enabling them to avoid what is presently both a thematically and mechanically bad Heavy Armor Proficiency feat tax.
3. It encourages them to combine their melee attacks with their save-DC-dependent (rather than just ignoring them in favor of what the post I linked to calls the "one true build"), in accord with the evident intent of the class.
4. It gives solarians with solar weapon a reason to actually use it, even when a mundane weapon would be cheaper or have better damage dice (as will often be the case throughout the life of the character).

It should also have what I hope is a cool side benefit of making the choice between solar manifestations more meaningful. Solar weapon builds will want to put Cha first and Dex second, relying exclusively on their solar weapon and having a kind of mystical, monk-like flavor. Solar armor builds will look a bit more worldly, and will want to put one of Str or Cha first and the other second. Putting Cha first will yield a more defense and control-oriented character, while putting Str first will yield the best overall attacks and AC of any solarian build, at the cost of slightly weaker special abilities.


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afaict there's an important ambiguity in the technomancer rules. Here's the text of the Spellshot magic hack, available at 8th level:

SCB wrote:

Spellshot (Su)

You can cast an area spell with a casting time of 1 standard action or less through a ranged weapon, allowing you to use the weapon's range rather than the spell's range. You must target a single creature with your attack, and the spell's area is centered on the creature, or oringates at the creature's location for a core or line effect (oriented in whichever direction you choose), even if the spell would normally be centered on or originate from a point. You can fire the weapon as part of the standard action to cast the spell. You must fire the weapon during the round that the casting is completed, or the spell is wasted. If the attack misses, the spell is wasted. Spells with an emanation effect that would be centered on you don't benefit from this magic hack.

There are two ways to interpret this. The conservative interpretation is that all this hack does for you is let you use your weapon's range for targeting spells. The awesome interpretation is that this hack is (ranged) spellstrike for technomancers.

I genuinely have no idea which interpretation is correct or intended. (Devs, help?) On the conservative reading, Spellshot could still totally be worth taking, since the ability to use a sniper rifle to cast a spell from half a mile away has some pretty cool applications. On the awesome reading, Spellshot is, well, awesome. (If I were a GM, I'd probably decide which interpretation to use based on what would work best for the group, e.g. on whether or not the technomancer player was lagging behind the rest of the party and needed a boost.)

(one interpretive note: Spellshot is worded quite similarly to the arcane archer's Imbue Arrow. Is there a precedent on that? Do imbued arrows that are fired at a target, and hit, do arrow damage as well as spell damage? If so, I'd think Spellshot should follow suit.)

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tl;dr: Envoys are probably the best class in the game at hitting things with a giant axe. If they build in this direction, they can do very respectable damage while benefitting the whole party. Starfinder is not Pathfinder, and losing your full attack is less of a big deal.

Lots of people are saying the envoy is underpowered. Maybe, but Starfinder is new to us and its parts sometimes fit together differently than they do in Pathfinder, sometimes in subtle ways. I wouldn't be too quick to jump to conclusions.

In particular, the envoy's reliance on standard action attacks makes him a prime candidate for unwieldy weapons. Consider three 10th-level characters, each specialized in melee. Each has 24 in their relevant stat (the operative also has 18 Str) and Weapon Focus in their chosen weapon, but no other damage-increasing feats (note that the Starfinder Power-Attack-equivalent is a trap option):

  • A soldier with an ultrathin curve blade (3d10 damage, level 10) and the melee striker class ability (adds half Str again).
  • An operative with an ultrathin dagger (4d4 damage, level 12) and the Multi-Weapon Fighting feat (along with a cheap off-hand weapon to take advantage of it).
  • An envoy with an ultrathin doshko (4d12 damage, level 11).

Each is attacking a target with KAC 25 (which I'm guessing from the First Contact monsters is about the baseline for CR 10). The soldier full attacks, the operative uses trick attack to apply bleed 10, and the envoy uses the get 'em and clever attack improvisations in order. (Since both the envoy and operative can spend Resolve to guarantee or virtually guarantee that their Bluff checks will succeed, we can assume they will. I will also assume that all bleed damage lasts for one round.)

Here's how much damage they can expect:

  • The soldier has a +14 attack bonus and does 36.5 average damage on a hit. That's 1 expected hit and 0.1 expected crits, for a total expected damage of 40.15 (plus a tiny bit of expected bleed damage, smh).
  • The operative has a +17 attack bonus against AC 23 and does 18 damage on a hit, plus 22.5 trick attack damage and 10 bleed damage not multiplied on a critical. That's 0.75 expected hits and 0.05 expected crits for a total expected damage of 38.775.
  • The envoy has a +18 attack bonus against AC 23 and does 43 damage on a hit. That's 0.8 expected hits and 0.05 expected crits, for a total expected damage of 36.55.

Pretty close!

Note that these calculations actually favor the soldier and the operative over the envoy. If the envoy attacks first, and the soldier and the operative attack with the benefit of his morale bonus (and in the soldier's case, the target's flat-footed condition), the envoy's effective total contribution is significantly bigger--it jumps to about 50.

Admittedly, this is a pretty specialized build for the envoy and--unless you're a dwarf (!)--it costs three feats to get off the ground (two to use the doshko, plus one for the heavy armor you'll need from not pumping Dex). But I think it makes a pretty good case for not writing off the envoy too early.

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I'm sure this question has come up before, but I haven't seen a version of it in a while, so: what are some feats you think are seriously underrated? For instance, ones that you don't see all that much, but you think most characters should seriously consider?

I'll start: Rhino Charge.

Rhino Charge (Combat) wrote:

Your charges are both violent and unpredictable.

Prerequisites: Power Attack, Improved Bull Rush, base attack bonus +5.
Benefit: You may ready a charge, though you may only move up to your speed on the charge.
Normal: Charging is a full-round action and allows you to move twice your speed.

Since readying an action remains a standard action, and since you can always set a readied action to trigger on some trivial condition (e.g. "anyone does anything" or "my turn ends"), this feat could (and probably should) have just read: "You can charge as a standard action, provided that it's the last action you take on your turn and that you only move up to your speed."

This is well worth a feat for almost any melee character, but it's amazing with pounce, since it lets you full attack (and move!) as a standard action. This is huge in late game, since there are lots of ways to get staggered with no saving throw, and probably uniquely Rhino Charge + pounce lets you handle this without losing most of your offense. Plus if you're a kitsune with Vulpine Pounce you can use Rhino Charge + the fast shifter alternate racial trait to effectively pounce as a regular full action (shifting as a move, charging as a standard), thereby getting around the swift action cost. And even characters without pounce get a lot of utility: you don't actually lose any distance (you can use your regular move action to get into position), you have a better ability to maneuver around obstructions when charging, and you can ready a charge to interrupt spellcasters the way ranged characters ready shots.

Inner Sea Combat (p. 13) wrote:

Unfolding Wind Rush (Combat)

Thrown weapons fly from your hands as if blown by a gale, and you leave behind a wake of wind as you move.

Prerequisites: Dex 13, Wis 13, Mobility, Perfect Style, Quick Draw, Unfolding Wind Strike, base attack bonus +13 or monk level 13th.

Benefit: When using Perfect Style and wielding thrown weapons, you can combine a full attack action with a single move action. You must forgo the attack at your highest bonus but may take the remaining attacks as normal at any point during your movement. You can spend 1 ki point as a swift action to create a path of wind along your path of movement that functions as wind wall for 1 round; this effect does not affect your ranged attacks.

As far as I can tell, nothing in this feat description says you have to actually throw the thrown weapons you're wielding. Hence, by RAW, the following sequence seems possible:

1. Begin your turn wielding a regular melee weapon in your main hand (say, a kukri) and a thrown weapon (say, a dagger) in your off-hand.
2. Declare a full attack action, forgoing your first off-hand attack with your dagger as "the" attack at your highest bonus.
3. Use your free move action to move adjacent to an enemy.
4. Make a regular melee full attack against the enemy with your kukri and dagger.

It's also not obvious you even have to be wielding your thrown weapon for the whole full attack. In that case, you can also finish the sequence as follows (steps 1-3 are the same):

4'. Drop the dagger and use Quick Draw (which you have as a prerequisite anyway) to whip out another kukri. (Note the FAQ entry on Quick Draw and TWF.)
5'. Finish your full attack with your paired kukris (taking all your primary hand attacks and any iterative off-hand attacks you have from Improved/Greater TWF).

Have I missed anything? (nb. though this is clearly counter to RAI, I don't think it's especially OP or anything given the substantial prerequisites and the attack you're giving up.)

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Molthuni Arsenal Chaplain wrote:
Weapon Training (Ex): At 5th level, a Molthuni arsenal chaplain gains weapon training as per the fighter class feature, but the benefits of this weapon training apply only to the his sacred weapons (weapons with which the warpriest has taken Weapon Focus). This ability replaces channel energy.

Most people interpret this as giving the player a bonus that starts at +1 and increases at the same rate as the fighter's. This is certainly how I think the ability ought to work. But it's not clear to me why, by RAW, that's how it does work.

Since the ability doesn't say that the arsenal chaplain gains weapon training "as a fighter whose level equals his warpriest level," or that his bonus increases by +1 at 5th, 9th, 13th, and 17th levels, why think it improve at all? Why doesn't the arsenal chaplain's weapon training bonus just stick at a 5th level equivalent?

And while I'm at it, three other questions:

1. If we do interpret the arsenal chaplain's weapon training to improve as the fighter's class ability does, this should presumably allow the arsenal chaplain to choose additional groups unless an explicit exception is made. And an explicit exception isn't made: the exception is only that the arsenal chaplain's weapon training applies to weapons with which he has taken Weapon Focus. On a strict reading, this would mean that (a) the arsenal chaplain may choose a second, third, and fourth group at 9th, 13th, and 17th levels, but (b) the arsenal chaplain may only apply his weapon training benefits to weapons in these other groups with which he has Weapon Focus. (If, as seems likely, he hasn't taken Weapon Focus with weapons in any of these groups, he would have the benefits in principle but be unable to apply them at all. While I find this reading perverse, I really don't see a firm textual basis for an alternative (at least one that's consistent with the arsenal chaplain's weapon training continuing to improve in the first place).

2.I know the arsenal chaplain doesn't qualify for advanced weapon training options. But can he take the Advanced Weapon Training feat? On a strict reading, the warpriest certainly can meet the formal "fighter level 5th" prerequisite, thanks to his bonus feature. But since he doesn't strictly speaking have 5 fighter levels, it's not clear he can meant the special "once per 5 fighter levels" rider, since technically that's not listed as a prerequisite.

3. If the arsenal chaplain does qualify for the Advanced Weapon Training feat, can he take focused weapon to buy back his increased sacred weapon damage? (I'd be inclined to say no, because (a) it's cheesy, and (b) the arsenal chaplain technically doesn't have any fighter levels, so the ability would have no effect.

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Divine Fighting Technique wrote:

Cayden Cailean's Blade and Tankard

Optional Replacement: A chaotic good fighter or swashbuckler who worships Cayden Cailean can replace proficiency with shields or bucklers with the following initial benefit.

Initial Benefit: You can wield a tankard (or mug) as a weapon, treating it in all ways as a light mace appropriate for your size. If you engage in two-weapon fighting with a rapier or light weapon in one hand and a tankard in the other, you can drink a potion or other liquid from the tankard or attempt to toss liquid from the tankard as a dirty trick combat maneuver (such as to blind a foe) in place of attacking with it. You do not provoke attacks of opportunity for attempting a dirty trick maneuver with a tankard.

Advanced Prerequisites: Two-Weapon Fighting, Improved Two-Weapon Fighting, base attack bonus +10.

Optional Replacement: A chaotic good fighter or swashbuckler of at least 10th level who worships Cayden Cailean can replace a bonus feat or deed with the following advanced benefit, even if he doesn’t meet the prerequisites.

Advanced Benefit: You can refill your tankard with a beverage, potion, or other liquid from a bottle or vial as a swift action. You gain a +2 bonus on combat maneuver checks to perform dirty tricks with tankards. The effects of such a dirty trick lasts for 1d4 rounds + 1 round for every 5 points by which the result of your combat maneuver check exceeds the target’s CMD; a standard action is required for the target to remove this penalty.

The operative phrase: "If you engage in two-weapon fighting with a rapier or light weapon in one hand and a tankard in the other, you can drink a potion or other liquid from the tankard or attempt to toss liquid from the tankard as a dirty trick combat maneuver (such as to blind a foe) in place of attacking with it." Plausibly, this includes infused extracts, at least with the Infusion discovery:

Infusion wrote:
When the alchemist creates an extract, he can infuse it with an extra bit of his own magical power. The extract created now persists even after the alchemist sets it down. As long as the extract exists, it continues to occupy one of the alchemist's daily extract slots. An infused extract can be imbibed by a non-alchemist to gain its effects.

By RAW, is there any reason why an alchemist couldn't infuse an extract, put it in their tankard, and then quaff it in place of their off-hand attacks?

(And, also by RAW, couldn't an alchemist with the feat's advanced benefit of the feat a swift action to refill their tankard to do it again the next round?)

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The flash forward spell lets you make a charge attack as part of casting a spell. As I read it, this means a character with pounce could combine a quickened flash forward with a regular charge to get two full attacks in a round. A magus with spell combat (or a 20th level bloodrager entering a bloodrage) could get three (!).

(With Sliding Dash, you could even do this against an adjacent enemy, moving through and past your target's square to move the 10' minimum distance for charging.)

Is there any reason why there wouldn't work? If not (just out of curiosity) what are the best ways to exploit it?