Class Balance Issues


General Discussion


So the issue has come up at my table a few times about the power gap between the Operative and everyone else. First from me, building a captain-focused Envoy character since despite being human and not dumping Int, he had more skill points and better bonuses out the gate than the class literally intended to be the "skills" character.

The second time was last night. Our Mechanic had to miss a few of the early sessions of our game due to life, but now he's back and after two sessions has come to realize his character does nothing. The Operative is again, out of the box better at everything the exocortex Mechanic can do. We're now working together to rework the Mechanic to drone-type with a new background (since ace pilot was pretty much 100% redundant when again, Operative) and likely taking Skyfire Centurion like myself for the benefits of the combat bond drone. Just to give the Mechanic enough power to stand with the Soldier while still maintaining their starship engineer niche.

In the long run though, it's not really addressing the base issue. I pointed out the the Envoy, if you really wanted to, could build their skills for Engineering and Computers, and between expertise dice and talents they make better at either roll than the Mechanic. And even as captain with how Starship DCs work for the captain orders, you pretty much need to be as good or better than anyone in any starship role.

Now from a game design perspective, I understand what they were trying to do with the Operative. However looking at the hand they were dealt compared to every other class, they are broken, and wind up better than their teammates without trying.

Their key ability is Dexterity, which pretty much everyone needs in the system anyway. They get 8+int skills, which is on par with the Envoy, however then you have to take into account they get 2 free ranks every level that go to their associated specialist skills so it's actually 10+int, and again their key ability is Dex, so they have basically free points at character creation to diversify into Int, Cha, whatever they feel like. Then on feats, they start with 2 free Skill Focuses in their associated skills, so at character gen they have 3 feats minimum. With that third feat due to everything else they get I've pointed out they can almost replace any class for their role in the party. The final nail in the coffin to every other class is Operative's Edge. +1-6 to initiative and every skill. +6 is what Mechanics and Technomancers get at max level to their two special skills, a highly invested Solarian can have 1d6+3 to up to 6 skills, the Envoy has a handful from a select group at 1d8+4, the Soldier gets none, and the Mystic has +7 to two associated. Many of those other boosts to skills don't even apply till second level or later.

After last night talking about this with the group, our Operative feels bad because they didn't realize they were OP to start (and also had made a number of errors at character gen like putting more than their level in skills, calculating stuff wrong etc. So he wasn't as bad) and it's made the Mechanic feel like they don't have a place in the party. In addition to reworking the Mechanic it was suggested to nerf the Operative, because the power disparity between what the Operative can do out of combat and everyone else was already a sizeable gap. For our Mechanic he was right, there was no reason to rely on the Mechanic then the Operative literally did everything better, and he's not the only one. If the Technomancer and Mystic didn't have spells, they would lack function, and if the Soldier and I weren't absolute max in Str and Cha respectively, we wouldn't have a use either. Not to mention in the Starship, the Operative can do any roll better than most so we locked him in pilot since he was the best at it, and then everyone else has something.

In terms of classes by power, from weakest to strongest, without considering archtype combos that work well, or what race you're playing it feels like this.

- Solarian: Cha for key ability on a class with a melee focus makes then double or tri-ability dependent. (Note, this is also the only class not present in our party, so it is the one I haven't seen in play. Too much MAD though will likely push away many players, as even the recommended builds in the book don't recommend they take their own key ability score.)

- Mechanic (Exocortex): Using your level for BAB and getting Longarm + Heavy Armor seems nice, but with too few skill points for what the class does, and no Skill Focus redundancy ability like the Operative or Envoy you end up trading way more than you're getting.

- Envoy: The Envoy is very support, and has a few trap options that sound good, but in practice don't do a lot. Built right they're not as bad, but the number of forum complaints over Envoys who feel useless is too high to ignore. They have a niche, I like them, but other classes have more going for them with more built-into-kit combat options. All of the Envoy's stuff is choice, they have no static combat abilities.

- Technomancer: Good class, only this low because others are better. Outside of spells, their non-magic abilities pale next to other classes. People have complained there's no Wizard-like pure spellcasting class, but that's cause it's the Technomancer and it doesn't feel like a Wizard did in Pathfinder.

- Mechanic (Drone): Mechanic grts two entries just because of the massive difference between their class options. The drone is the better option because it gives the Mechanic a better niche in a party. Two controlled characters is also good for action economy, and the right build *cough* Skyfire Centurion *cough* can give it enough power to play with the big boys. However much like Envoy it needs to be built right, and there are outlying arguements over whether the drone can be a starship crew member.

- Mystic: Magic healing is good. Higher than Technomancer for that reason alone, it's one of the few things that can't be achieved with a feat or two. However there are a number of other connections in the class which may measure up differently.

- Soldier: You can't go wrong with a Fighter, and the comvat styles actually feel really good. I can't really penalize lack of skills on the class because its niche is a beat stick and the pkayer knows it. Plus the key ability score choice between Str and Dex means you get the choice of how to build, whether ranged or melee without sacrificing needs which is more choice than many classes get.

- Operative: See above. It was given the tools it had so that it could specialize without sacrificing anything. I dunno whether the other classes weren't considered or there wasn't enough playtesting, but you can have an entire party of Operatives and their feat choices can literally make a diverse party. Skill Synergy for Diplomacy, congrats you're an Envoy. Make a Dex + Str build with Heavy Armor Proficiency and you're a melee Soldier. Minor Psychic Power or Technomantic Dabbler and you're a Technomancer. Their downside is supposed to be limiting Trick Attack to Small Arms and Operative weapons, however you can play the class never making a trick attack and still have enough other options within the class to feel like a well rounded and over-powerful character.

Granted, take this with a grain of salt. Most of this is opinion developed from playing the game, and is solely my opinion. I express it pretty much every time someone complains about the Mechanic or Envoy. The problem is, and I generally say, it's less to do with those classes being weak as it is one class that's just so enormously over the bar that it makes you feel redundant, or that you made the wrong choice. And there really shouldn't be a right or wrong choice for any class.


I do tend to agree with you as far as the skill-race aspect, even if I don't think it's as big of a deal as some people make it.

The only things I really take issue with are statements like:

"Make a Dex + Str build with Heavy Armor Proficiency and you're a melee Soldier. Minor Psychic Power or Technomantic Dabbler and you're a Technomancer."
Sure, if you want a super sub-par soldier or technomancer, I guess you could do this. I mean, don't get me wrong, having a couple of spells on your character that is not a spellcaster is cool, but it hardly makes you a technomancer. Likewise, just throwing on some heavy armor doesn't even come close to letting you perform in combat like a soldier.


My knee-jerk reaction was WTH with the operative, being 10 ranks+int, and passive bonuses to all skills, coupled with trick attack. Now I don't find it so bad.

I find the operative is clearly intended to be the skill monkey more than the envoy, and I've found the trick attack to not quite keep up with the damage options from other classes.

The envoy has their niche, and does skills slightly differently with their expertise talents.

Our exocortex mechanic and technomancer outperformed our operative in all Int skills, and the mechanic has become our healer, sniper, and is building towards an Ana type character.

Our soldier was the party tank and major damage dealer until the operative died and rolled up a solarian. He's skipped Dex for con, str, and some charisma, and he deals damage. A ton of it. And the standard action charge makes it difficult to get away without flight.


SirShua wrote:

I find the operative is clearly intended to be the skill monkey more than the envoy, and I've found the trick attack to not quite keep up with the damage options from other classes.

The envoy has their niche, and does skills slightly differently with their expertise talents.

10d8 trick attack stays up pretty well. The Operative's alternative being 4 attacks on full attack without additional penalty (compared to Solarian and Soldier capping at 3 with the penalties raised), but again limited to Operative/Small Arms weapons.

And while again I love playing the Envoy, most of the talents for their select skills fall under the "option for a reroll" category, or do a skill faster, the later of which Operative Exploits also allow for a few skills. There is a niche difference, yes, one that I play on to remain relevant in my party. I also like that the take away Expertise rerolls open the way for alternate Insight bonuses like Skill Focus. I think more Talents would do a lot for the Envoy class, and hope that's what they mean by "class options" in Armory.

SirShua wrote:
Our exocortex mechanic and technomancer outperformed our operative in all Int skills, and the mechanic has become our healer, sniper, and is building towards an Ana type character.

That is nice, however that's not the case in everyone's party. Our Operative chose the Hacker specialization, which makes Computers and Engineering his associated skills, and allows for Computers Trick Attacks. Int was a no brainer and with free skill focuses between 13 skills a level, ysoki bonuses and a high bonus he dominates even our max Int Technomancer. And trounces on the toes of most other party members, and this wasn't intentional on the player's part. As I said, he made a lot of mistakes early on in character gen.

Comparatively, your mechanic seems to have found a nice niche, however I'm not sure if you mean sniper like sniper weapons, which Operative's start with and can use tricks with, or thematically just with longarms. If the former, that's feat devotion (weapon proficiency sniper weapons) to fill a niche, which isn't bad, but pointing out Operative started with the tools, and with their own devotion may do it better.

SirShua wrote:
Our soldier was the party tank and major damage dealer until the operative died and rolled up a solarian. He's skipped Dex for con, str, and some charisma, and he deals damage. A ton of it. And the standard action charge makes it difficult to get away without flight.

Our Soldier is the same, and breezing the Solarian's abilities I can see where that damage can come from. However with the Str to do comparable damage to our fighter (armor storm, hammer fist for 1d4+7 after everything at level 2) that Str devotion without heavy armor means they're a melee fighter with I'll ballpark 13 KAC? Around level 2 anyway, and probably 30 health between SP and HP, with 2 resolve? Comparatively our melee Soldier is a huge Vesk, so that may play into it a little but hovering around 17 KAC with around 40-ish health I think? And 5 resolve. Dependency on too many ability scores and needing to spread them thin is why I rank Solarian low. It's do-able, but like a Pathfinder Monk it takes a good array and some sacrifices.


Did I miss where you wrote what level your party is or how many sessions you guys have played?


JetSetRadio wrote:
Did I miss where you wrote what level your party is or how many sessions you guys have played?

You did not. I failed to write it. If it is important, currently second level, which isn't much understandably. The journal I've been keeping has recorded ten in-game days, and I believe we started about mid-May, one session a week and only missed one because of a sick host. So probably seven or so sessions if I had to guess?

We played Pathfinder prior and my involvement in the group started early-November, so none of us are slouches to tabletop. I played years prior everything from Palladium to White Wolf, and the rest of the group also has Saturday get togethers I simply can't make. Though I believe they're playing Battletech at the moment?

Redundant though. We've played enough to get a grasp of the system and what our characters can do, however beyond myself and the GM I can't vouch for everyone having read the CRB and class options cover to cover. Our character creation session (which was our final Pathfinder session, early-May) we had general ideas of what we wanted to do. I had had an Exocortex mechanic made up as a test from my own time, but someone else wanted to play an Exocortex mechanic (same race and background option too. It was apparently a fun character idea) so I backed down and opted to play an Envoy. Since we needed a captain and I'm known for playing high-difficulty concept characters.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I felt the same way about the Operative for the first few levels, but it seems like the curve evens out a little in the later levels. The players at my table just leveled their PCs to 16. We have a couple people that can't make every session, but the primary party that attends every session consists of a Mechanic (drone), Mystic (Star Shaman), Operative (Ghost). At first the Operative was stealing the show, but that's settled a bit at this point. The other classes have enough cool abilities to make the players feel special, and everyone contributes in starship combat.

I will say that we always hold a session 0 before we begin a campaign. My players each decided which roles, which skills, which niche they would focus on so as to not step on each other's toes, which helps.


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A couple points:

1. The Skill Focus feats are insight bonues and they do not stack with the operatives edge bonus because that, too, is an insight bonus. When the operative his level 6 (er..7?) and it's edge is now +3, those feat skill bonuses become obsolete. That's mitigated by the operator class skill that lets them take 10 at any time on skill focus skills however.

2. Operator is the skill monkey of the game it's SUPPOSED to be better at skill checks almost across the board, and in it's focused skills, probably the best. This is mitigated by lower HP/SP and (probably) weaker damage. Which brings me to....

3. Trick Attack.. yes, early on it's very powerful because all weapons are low powered in general, so added the extra damage and debuff is big. Later on though, the fact that trick attack only works on small arms or basic operative melee weapons keeps that damage from being over the top as other characters move into advanced weaponry.

On Mechanics - Exocortex actually seems a little better than drones in my experience, but it depends on how you build it. Envoy isn't the skill monkey, it's the bard. Yes, they are very skillful, but that's not the focus - their abilities are where they shine. They're the ones keeping the guards looking the other way while the operative hacks the computer...

I get a little sad when the only thing people focus on is who does more damage and has more skills. It means the GM isn't very inventive which clearly turns off players. GMs need to ensure their stories provide ample opportunities for every character at the table to contribute. If it's just.. walk into bar, kill bad guys, steal their stuff, walk into cave, kill monsters, take loot...... BORING. Operators and Soldiers (maybe solarians, and maybe spellcasters... maybe) will have a great time playing hacknslash, everyone else? not so much.

Please don't blame the game for the failure of a GM's or Player's imagination.


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Isaac Zephyr wrote:
Redundant though. We've played enough to get a grasp of the system and what our characters can do, however beyond myself and the GM I can't vouch for everyone having read the CRB and class options cover to cover. Our character creation session (which was our final Pathfinder session, early-May) we had general ideas of what we wanted to do. I had had an Exocortex mechanic made up as a test from my own time, but someone else wanted to play an Exocortex mechanic (same race and background option too. It was apparently a fun character idea) so I backed down and opted to play an Envoy. Since we needed a captain and I'm known for playing high-difficulty concept characters.

I thought I did too. When this game first came out there was a flood of these threads. I was one of the people complaining about the Operative as well. So I know where you are coming from. But Starfinder is very misleading for anyone coming from Pathfinder because you think the rules are the same so you assume on things and get something wrong because the slight change messes with all the numbers of a character. Now I don't want to say your concerns aren't valid because as soon as I do that you'll tune out. But what I will say is don't jump to conclusions and start comparing classes.

I would like to point out that your Operative was kind of messed up to pick Hacker when you already had a mechanic. Whateves at this point. Having overlap is fine but they went right for his role.

Isaac Zephyr wrote:
- Operative: See above. It was given the tools it had so that it could specialize without sacrificing anything. I dunno whether the other classes weren't considered or there wasn't enough playtesting, but you can have an entire party of Operatives and their feat choices can literally make a diverse party. Skill Synergy for Diplomacy, congrats you're an Envoy. Make a Dex + Str build with Heavy Armor Proficiency and you're a melee Soldier. Minor Psychic Power or Technomantic Dabbler and you're a Technomancer. Their downside is supposed to be limiting Trick Attack to Small Arms and Operative weapons, however you can play the class never making a trick attack and still have enough other options within the class to feel like a well rounded and over-powerful character.

-You could say the same for the soldier. They did this on purpose. You are no longer locked in a certain role.

-That's not how Envoys work
-That's not how Technomancers work
-I highly doubt you will ever get to level 19 so to bring up the 10d8 doesn't really matter. I have been playing tabletop games on and off for 14 years and have never got that high. So let's focus on an actual level. How about lvl10?

Operative Trick attack Average damage
2d4(CoronaLaserPistol)+5d8(TrickAttack)= 27 damage

Solarian Solar Weapon Average damage
3d6+2(PhotonAttuned)+5(PlamaStealth)+2d6(SolarCrystal)= 5d6+7 x 2(FullAttack) = 24-48 damage.

Now we can debate 3 points of damage for a single hit but if that Solar Weapon hits you twice you're toast. I also didn't add in the Solarians Str bonus. This gap only increases because the Solarian hits really hard for only using a single handed weapon.

Again, I did the same thing and went heavily on the OP side and I turned my opinion around when I did more reading and lots of number crunching.

Kvetchus wrote:
1. The Skill Focus feats are insight bonues and they do not stack with the operatives edge bonus because that, too, is an insight bonus. When the operative his level 6 (er..7?) and it's edge is now +3, those feat skill bonuses become obsolete. That's mitigated by the operator class skill that lets them take 10 at any time on skill focus skills however.

This is a big one people get wrong.


Kvetchus wrote:
2. Operator is the skill monkey of the game it's SUPPOSED to be better at skill checks almost across the board, and in it's focused skills, probably the best. This is mitigated by lower HP/SP and (probably) weaker damage.

The problem is it isn't just better at "most", it's better at "all", and that's a problem. To use an example, the Mechanic is given Bypass, a boost of +1-6 insight bonus to Computers and Engineering. They're incentivized to take Int as their key ability score, so if they maximize it they will start around +9 (1 rank, 3 class skill, 4 int, 1 bypass). One could be +11 if they wanted to invest the skill focus.

An uninvested Operative has 1 (no ranks, neutral int), a hacker has +10 on average (1 rank, 3 class skill, 3 int since Dex is more incentivized, 3 free skill focus). The Operative will always be at max without sacrifice due to just being an operative. Unless the mechanic went all out with skill focus, in any instance where the party wants to use engineering or computers, the Operative is always the choice. The Mechanic can have built an optimal character for what he wants to do and he is obsolete. That's what our Mechanic was going through.
You can apply that to any skill. It would be different if the Operative did a little bit of everything, but with minimal or no investment it is better at everything. Any character who built Ace Pilot to try and push Piloting is beat out by any Operative. Of the 20 skills, when your base is 10, you can't help but be good at 50% of everything in the game.

Kvetchus wrote:
3. Trick Attack.. yes, early on it's very powerful because all weapons are low powered in general, so added the extra damage and debuff is big. Later on though, the fact that trick attack only works on small arms or basic operative melee weapons keeps that damage from being over the top as other characters move into advanced weaponry.

Yes, but there are 5 of the 7 classes also limited to those weapons without feats, and Operatives can take those too. You're also ignoring their other option of Quad Attack. So either you trick attack, the equivalent of a charge for your trick attack bonus, or you shoot four times at normal penalty. Soldier and Solarian both cap at 3, however they can have better weapons, at the cost of higher penalties. Narrowing out trick attack isn't looking at the complete picture, it's looking at one of the Operative's lucrative options. Including debilitating sniper, weapons which have very nice damage.

Kvetchus wrote:
On Mechanics - Exocortex actually seems a little better than drones in my experience, but it depends on how you build it. Envoy isn't the skill monkey, it's the bard. Yes, they are very skillful, but that's not the focus - their abilities are where they shine. They're the ones keeping the guards looking the other way while the operative hacks the computer...

Comparing the Envoy to the bard is apples and oranges. Especially since jack of all trades, bonuses to handfuls of skills and more diverse proficiencies are all Operative abilities. Bards have spells, peppered higher end proficiencies, their song abilities, and skills. Envoys have skill-dependent abilities, and a handful of need to be selected abilities. They are a class with absolutely nothing baked into their kit, it's all choices. Which is fine, however their focus is very clearly skills and their uses, not specific abilities.

And "depends on how you build it" is most of my point. Even if you put everything of a build into doing something, the Operative is still better in most of the cases, without needing to try.

Kvetchus wrote:

I get a little sad when the only thing people focus on is who does more damage and has more skills.

...

Please don't blame the game for the failure of a GM's or Player's imagination.

The focus of my complaint is not who has more, it's the sheer quantity of people who are leaving the game upset because they can put everything into something and be told "yeah that one class does it better". If the same problem comes up enough eventually you can't just blame the players for "doing it wrong", it's a problem with the game.


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JetSetRadio wrote:
I would like to point out that your Operative was kind of messed up to pick Hacker when you already had a mechanic. Whateves at this point. Having overlap is fine but they went right for his role.

Some overlap yes, I agree. When the Operative though is better at Medicine than the Mystic, Computers than the Technomancer, Engineering than the Mechanic, Acrobatics than the flier, Intimidate than the Vesk, etc. Unless someone maxed a skill (like I did Intimidate), then if it's on the Operative skill list, he's the best at it. Except is an instance where we're split up or limited in actions, the Operative gets to do it. And that's not really a gap that's going away.

JetSetRadio wrote:

-You could say the same for the soldier. They did this on purpose. You are no longer locked in a certain role.

-That's not how Envoys work
-That's not how Technomancers work

I oversimplified my examples I realize. I have enjoyed the lack of role lock, and how archtypes function to mix and max for unique characters. I was attempting to point out it is incredibly easy for an Operative to overshadow any role while with minimal investment diversifying. While on the flipside, characters need to optimize their build to be relevant in their chosen role compared to an uninvested Operative.


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Here’s the thing: At low levels, especially on the first few times people have played SF, this very thing has come up a bunch of times.

And then, at later levels, I’d conservatively say ‘a majority’ of the people who have posted about this have realized that everything tends to balance out later.

Once class abilities start coming online for everyone, there’s much, much less of a difference between various character’s relative worth. For example, sure, maybe the operative beats out the mechanic on computer skill checks by a few points. The mechanic can do it from 30 feet away later, with an exo. Or even further, with a drone.

I’d post about damage, too, but I’m confident that by now, most people understand that an operative is outdamaged by a soldier or solarian.


Isaac Zephyr wrote:
Yes, but there are 5 of the 7 classes also limited to those weapons without feats, and Operatives can take those too. You're also ignoring their other option of Quad Attack. So either you trick attack, the equivalent of a charge for your trick attack bonus, or you shoot four times at normal penalty. Soldier and Solarian both cap at 3, however they can have better weapons, at the cost of higher penalties. Narrowing out trick attack isn't looking at the complete picture, it's looking at one of the Operative's lucrative options. Including debilitating sniper, weapons which have very nice damage.

Operative Triple and Quad attacks are full attacks and therefore take the normal multiple attack penalty (-4 after the first one). Also, you can only use small arms or operator melee weapons. So... yes, you can attack more, but your actual DPR isn't going to match (or at least, isn't going to top), say, a Soldier or Solarian of the same level wielding Advanced weapons, especially heavy ranged, or adv 2H melee weapons. Frankly, with the debuffs, Trick attack is much more useful than triple or quad attack anyway, especially at level 13 when "Quad attack, trick attack +7d8" lands. The only reason NOT to use trick attack on every attack (rather than the ammo-wasting quad attack) will be small and situational. 95% of the time, trick attack is the way to go. But regardless -- and despite the trick attack damage, an operator will be out DPR'd by a halfway decent Solarian or Soldier every time.

Operative vs. Mechanic? Ok... so an Operative's skill checks are a bit higher? Big deal. An Operator can't remote hack, she can't overload, she doesn't have all the tricks mechanics have (yes, Operative have their own exploits, but they're entirely different). Not everything with regards to skills boils down to the overall skill check. Mechanics get insight bonuses to computers and engineering that is *roughly* equivalent to the Operator's Edge bonus, but they have a lot of class skills that make them more suited to doing the engineering stuff than an Operator is. Plus, unlike Operative, Mechanics start off with Grenade proficiency. Sniper rifle is Operative... but you can't trick OR quad attack with that, so it's probably not used all that often except in special cases.

Isaac Zephyr wrote:


The focus of my complaint is not who has more, it's the sheer quantity of people who are leaving the game upset because they can put everything into something and be told "yeah that one class does it better". If the same problem comes up enough eventually you can't just blame the players for "doing it wrong", it's a problem with the game.

But, that's the thing - Operative does what it's supposed to do better than other classes, and that's skills. It doesn't do combat better than a combat class (though it does do combat better than non-combat classes, which is normal and expected for a "rogue" class), it doesn't do magic (at all), it can't provide lots of party buffs or talk enemies down and debuff without fighting, it can't heal Stamina (the only class in the WHOLE GAME than can do that is Envoy), it can't remote hack computers or have one (or more at higher levels) AI pets, or it can't miracle +2 enhancement (aka, stacking!) bonuses on armor or ship equipment. The list of very useful and powerful things an Operative can't do is quite long.


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I think the one thing that bothers me is that Operatives can be better at skills that should theoretically "belong" to other classes.

Personally, I think that Mechanics should be the best at Engineering and Computers (tied with Technomancer) etc. Basically any class that has a "focused skill" should end up with a better bonus to that skill than the Operative generically gives. That's my only real gripe with the class.

I think the Operator should be the jack of all trades that is good at a lot of skills, but isn't the best. They shouldn't be as good as another class that is "focused" on that skill.


Claxon wrote:

I think the one thing that bothers me is that Operatives can be better at skills that should theoretically "belong" to other classes.

Personally, I think that Mechanics should be the best at Engineering and Computers (tied with Technomancer) etc. Basically any class that has a "focused skill" should end up with a better bonus to that skill than the Operative generically gives. That's my only real gripe with the class.

I think the Operator should be the jack of all trades that is good at a lot of skills, but isn't the best. They shouldn't be as good as another class that is "focused" on that skill.

That words it right how I sit. I agree with they aren't the best DPR as people feel the need to point out, but 3rd out of 7 for weapon damage and being number one uncontested for raw skills that should be other focused classes doesn't feel great.

It seems to balance out a little if the Operative doesn't focus something with say, their personal upgrades. However telling everyone else "well, you'll be better in the mid-game" is the arguement used for Pathfinder caster-martial disparity. And that evening out in the focus department is almost halfway through the level range, which is a lot of games having to sit in the back seat to "come online" for what your character is built for.


Isaac Zephyr wrote:
When the Operative though is better at Medicine than the Mystic, Computers than the Technomancer, Engineering than the Mechanic, Acrobatics than the flier, Intimidate than the Vesk, etc. Unless someone maxed a skill (like I did Intimidate), then if it's on the Operative skill list, he's the best at it. Except is an instance where we're split up or limited in actions, the Operative gets to do it. And that's not really a gap that's going away.

How is the operative better when the insight bonuses don't stack? I think the only way this is getting tested is if you post the skills of the operative. I think someone is crossing and adding bonuses where they shouldn't. Max skill bonus is equal to class level. Insight bonuses do not stack. You mind posting your buddies skills or even make an operative in a comment and post the skills. Go with the level 10 again.


JetSetRadio wrote:
Isaac Zephyr wrote:
When the Operative though is better at Medicine than the Mystic, Computers than the Technomancer, Engineering than the Mechanic, Acrobatics than the flier, Intimidate than the Vesk, etc. Unless someone maxed a skill (like I did Intimidate), then if it's on the Operative skill list, he's the best at it. Except is an instance where we're split up or limited in actions, the Operative gets to do it. And that's not really a gap that's going away.
How is the operative better when most of their bonuses don't stack? Only way this is getting solved is if you post the skills of the operative. I think someone is crossing and adding bonuses where they shouldn't. Max skill bonus is equal to class level. Insight bonuses do not stack. You mind posting your buddies skills or even make an operative in a comment and post the skills. Go with the level 10 again.

We're level 2 at the moment, and I'm not sure entirely. I already fixed his sheet one when he had a 16 Int and only 8 skill points at level 1. After we fixed him, he had 13 skills at rank 1. The three class skills I think he skipped from Operative were Survival, Athletics and Culture (I may be wrong). With 16 Dex and 16 Int he's tied for those stats with the mechanic. Our Technomancer has Techlore in a few levels but until then, the +3 from Skill Focus in Computers and Engineering outdoes anyone else without it at the moment, plus 2 on the Engineering for ysoki racial. Level 7-ish that bonus will move over to his Operative's Edge.

Only the Technomancer has higher Int, but a lack of skill points, and the other three members of the party chose an 18 in out key abilities. So my Envoy has 18 Cha, Soldier Vesk has 18 Str, Mystic has 18 Wis. It lowers our other stats respectively, leading to just ranks + class bonus + ability mod + operative's edge to outclass anyone. Any Int or Dex skill he wins by default because the mechanic lacks skill points or an insight bonus. Cha, I'm the only one that can beat him even at neutral, the Mystic's main skills all go off of Int, and there's only 1 Str skill.
The Mystic is the healing connection, but Medicine is Int based, and he needed Dex of course. I think I'm the only non-Int focused character with a positive Int modifier as the Envoy, and it's because Captain.

At level 10, skills wise, if we roughly assume things, Int-based skills for me as Envoy will include Engineering at +3 from a by that point 16 Int. His will be 19? As will the Mechanic's. I think that'll wind up like so.

Envoy: 19-24 (Expertise)
Mechanic: 20-22 (Personal Upgrade could be Int or Dex based on build)
Operative: 22-24 (Personal Upgrade could be Int or Dex based on build)

I can only account for my personal upgrades which will be Str 2 and Dex 4 by that point based on the combat role I wanna play. Computers will look as follows.

Envoy: 19-24 (Expertise)
Technomancer: 25 (Assuming the Personal Upgrade for Int)
Mechanic: 20-22
Operative: 20-22 (By this point, the Operative is also a Starfinder Data Jockey, so it's likely he will go further into this skill with his exploits. He can also use it for most checks)

Acrobatics

Envoy (Flier): 18
Operative: 20-22

Only other contender might be the Mechanic at 17 tops. No one else has comparable Dex or spare skill Points. Medicine.

Envoy: 7 (only 1 rank, and only for Perseverance ability of Skyfire Centurion. Expertise to be added level 13 so that min roll is a 15 and a success for the first aid function,)
Operative: 20-22
Mystic: 16-18? (Neutral Int now, I dunno if he'll invest Int, but for sure I can't see him making it a personal upgrade)

Intimidate.

Envoy: 21-26 (Expertise)
Operative: 16-18? (Dunno current Cha, again can't imagine investment)
Soldier: 13-15 (I feel like I misplaced the Str for Intimidate feat somewhere? I know he mentioned it at one point, more math to do though)

Piloting, which is the last one I think doesn't default to just the Operative is best, or can sub Computers for it as a Data Jockey.

Envoy: 21 (Skill Focus)
Operative: 20-22
Mechanic: 18-20 (was prior Ace Pilot theme, this number is reflecting that)

Now again that piloting for the Mechanic is reflecting him prior. Since the Operative literally outdoes him at current level in every way (and from these numbers still would). The Mechanic is being remade as the Drone-type Mechanic with the Roboticist theme and will likely be going the same route as my Envoy with the Skyfire Centurion archtype due to its Mechanic drone synergies. This will give him a more solid position on the team.

That should be what things look like at level 10. I'm subbing a lot of talents for additional Expertise so I can hit the Captain DCs. However it shows going full devoted skill the Envoy can be comparable to a semi-focused Operative.

Potentially Perception might be comparable.

Envoy: 13
Operative: 16
Mystic: 20

That's mostly just key ability Wis however. And it's one of the few skills everyone winds up rolling all the time, so it's not really a "who's the best to pick to do this"?


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I'm sorry I didn't give clearer directions which made you write more. Let's get away from ability upgrades. Let's even throw the abilities out because with point buying they are useless. Plus if I wanted to nerf my class to make a point I could. Let's just look at the core class and what bonuses they have.

You mentioned having an exo-mechanic and hacker-operative. So looking below, am I missing something? These insight bonuses don't stack.

At level 10
Exo-Mechanic
4+int each level
Bypass computers and engineering +3 insight
Exocortex Skill focus +3 insight bonus

Hacker-Operative
8+int each level
Operatives edge +3 insight
Skill focus for computers and engineering +3 insight bonus

Those insight bonuses don't stack. So depending on how a person builds each will mean they are pretty neck and neck.

The thing that makes a class better or worst at something is their class abilities. Compare the operatives computer abilities vs the mechanics. The mechanic blows the operative out of the water with all the crazy Sh*t they can do. I mean Wireless Hack!?


I know the insight bonuses don't stack. I went with full numbers though to demonstrate the gap in a lot of the instances where one class was supposed to be "good at x" and unless you poured everything into it, the Operative wins.

On paper, their bonuses are similar. However in just 1 level, Operative's Edge goes to +4 and everyone else's stays 3. There's a back and forth of Operative leads, to tied.

Wireless hack is cool, I won't deny. As I think I mentioned my first character concept was the Ace Pilot, Exo-Mechanic, Android. I gave it up because my friend wanted to play pretty much the same character (though mine was much less combat-able in the long run). However, waiting till level 5 for Wireless Hack wasn't viable for our Mechanic. He had no role when dominated in all fields, and that same level the Operative would simultaneously get Elusive Hacker, followed by I imagine Speed Hacker at 6 due to the synergy with his build. Apples and oranges their abilities are comparable despite the differences.

To the flip side comparison. While we were around the table making characters, and I swapped to Envoy with the express goal of being captain because we lacked a suitable character for the roll, there was another crossover. Mine was a captain needs Diplomacy, Intimidate/Bluff, Computers, Engineering, and Piloting, all comparable to their crew. 4/5 of those skills are optional Expertise skills, and good Cha is needed. After all was said and done at session 2 we learn Operative's Edge gives bonuses to all those skills, so a Dex/Cha build is easily comparable.

It's good to have options for roles, but the investment of four skill Expertise for the insight bonuses (or skill focus feats, or both), versus devoting a little bit of Cha feels bad. One lost 4 class options, the other skill gets all their picks normally and can do it 2nd best of any class.


Isaac Zephyr wrote:
I know the insight bonuses don't stack. I went with full numbers though to demonstrate the gap in a lot of the instances where one class was supposed to be "good at x" and unless you poured everything into it, the Operative wins.

Well there is a million options then if you want to loop in ability scores and your issue would be player choice. Not a broken or unbalanced system.

I can make a hacker envoy and can get better roles than both the operative and mechanic. Doesn't mean that's always the case.

Isaac Zephyr wrote:
On paper, their bonuses are similar. However in just 1 level, Operative's Edge goes to +4 and everyone else's stays 3. There's a back and forth of Operative leads, to tied.

YES! This is everyone's point. If a class leads for a single level it doesn't matter. That's where the difference in ability points come into play. Not before. You are playing the game together. "One person isn't having fun." Well bring this up with the operative because he/she is the one that is deliberately trying to steal the thunder.

Isaac Zephyr wrote:
He had no role when dominated in all fields, and that same level the Operative would simultaneously get Elusive Hacker, followed by I imagine Speed Hacker at 6 due to the synergy with his build. Apples and oranges their abilities are comparable despite the differences.

You literally just named the only abilites the operative has the revolves around computer checks. It only has 2 which was my point earlier. The mechanic has more abilities and options to out play the operative. They are still the class you choose when you want to hack and be a techie character.

Distracting Hack
Hack Directory
Portable Power
Quick Patch
Quick Repair
Ghost Intrusion
Scoutbot
Saboteur

I'm going to tip my hat now because I see this is more a personal problem than a game problem. Nerf the operative for your game or tell your players to start playing nice.


Operatives look extra strong at their signature skills at level 1 since the Skill Focus boosts them ahead. It's actually fairly common for new parties to think the hacker operative is overpowered at low levels since his modifier in his signature skills (computers, engineering) overlap with and will initially likely be higher than both mechanics and technomancers. These concerns tend to disappear when they have played for a bit and see the drawbacks and downsides of the operative compared to other classes. The skill gap closes and eventually disappears, assuming your players are building intelligently. If a player desperately wants to be the best at hacking they can always take Skill Focus at level 1 and retrain it later.

If you just consider the flat numeric bonus in computers (I use this as an example since its the one with the most overlap between classes) provided by the classes, it looks like this:

At level 1 operatives get +1 or +3 (hackers). This scales up to +6 by level 20.
At level 1 mechanics get +1 (Bypass). This scales up to +6 by level 20.
At level 1 technomancers get no special bonus, but at level 3 they get +1 (Techlore). This scales up to +6 by level 20.
At level 1 envoys get +3.5 (average roll of their 1D6 expertise die). This scales up to +8.5 (1d8+4) at level 20.

Presented this way, envoys are the best hackers in Starfinder. But of course this doesn't paint the full picture. As noted Operatives start off extra strong at low levels. Some classes get other class features to boost their modifier (drone mechanics can use the droid to Aid Other, exocortex have a freely retrainable Skill Focus feat via Memory Module and get a +1 circumstance bonus via Coordinated Assault) and other classes have extra strong incentive to improve Intelligence (Technomancers), which indirectly aids their Computer checks. In practice I've found that the values are fairly equal past the initial levels. If you look beyond the skill modifier to the actual class features, Mechanics (and arguably Technomancers depending on how you interpret various spells) far outstrip the other classes in the sheer range of options available for Computer checks.

As far as DPS goes, in a 1-man Patchwerk fight I believe the Operative come in 4th, behind the mechanic at 3rd and ahead of the envoy at 5th. It's easy to get lost in the big damage numbers Trick Attack provides but you have to keep in mind that it has to be fairly large to make up for the Small Arms/basic weapon drawbacks and that operatives typically have a 60-70% chance of making the TA check land until level 7. Past 7 they can get it 100% of the time by T10, but by then the weapon scaling has seriously kicked in. When you reach the mid-game full attacks provide significantly more damage than TA, but Operatives rely on trick attacks to make up for their lackluster accuracy. They have to choose between low accuracy but higher damage via making full attacks, or higher accuracy but low damage via TA. An interesting point here is that TA can leave your target flat-footed, boosting the party's damage output by making the target easier to hit for others.

Claxon wrote:
I think the one thing that bothers me is that Operatives can be better at skills that should theoretically "belong" to other classes.

I absolutely see where you're coming from, but the way I see it the Operative chooses what skills "belong" to him by picking his specialization. One thing I love about operatives is that they pick their own secondary stat via the specialization system, which means you can make an extremely wide range of viable characters. That said, having a hacker operative and a mechanic in a party is a bit like having two mechanics in a party - some overlap is unavoidable. This is why session 0 is so important, especially for operatives.

One thing I really hope Starfinder will find room for is a way to let Mechanics and Technomancers pick from a wider range of signature skills than just computers/engineering/mysticism. It's a bit of a shame there's no option for Physics geek technomancers or medical nanobot mechanics.


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Starfinder Charter Superscriber

My experience has also been that Operative is the either the best at anything in particular (if they try to be) or the second-best at that thing (if they don’t try at all). I think the devs felt so bad for PF1 rogues that they went too far in the other direction with Operatives.


JetSetRadio wrote:


How is the operative better when the insight bonuses don't stack? I think the only way this is getting tested is if you post the skills of the operative. I think someone is crossing and adding bonuses where they shouldn't. Max skill bonus is equal to class level. Insight bonuses do not stack. You mind posting your buddies skills or even make an operative in a comment and post the skills. Go with the level 10 again.

Just a minor point here: It's max skill rank (not max skill bonus) is equal to your total character level (not class level) (CRB p.26)


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Class abilities (like wireless hack) get overlooked in a lot of these operative OP threads.

That one single ability is huge (and something that gets way too often overlooked in hacking during game sessions). The need to stay physically attached to some workstation or door lock or whatever...that's outright crippling under fire.

And if you're not facing situations where hacking is occurring under fire...then the GM is missing out on some amazing fun.

The deeper you delve into class abilities (whether they be mechanic or envoy or whatever), the less those operatives skill modifiers matter. If the operative has a +X, and the mechanic has +X-2, but gets to hack from 30 feet away and while moving? I know which one my players want doing the hacking...

After the first few levels, those operative skill ratings won't be noticeable. There's a whole different discussion to be had about the operative player themselves also realizing that they don't need to do everything.


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JetSetRadio wrote:

I'm sorry I didn't give clearer directions which made you write more. Let's get away from ability upgrades. Let's even throw the abilities out because with point buying they are useless. Plus if I wanted to nerf my class to make a point I could. Let's just look at the core class and what bonuses they have.

You mentioned having an exo-mechanic and hacker-operative. So looking below, am I missing something? These insight bonuses don't stack.

At level 10
Exo-Mechanic
4+int each level
Bypass computers and engineering +3 insight
Exocortex Skill focus +3 insight bonus

Hacker-Operative
8+int each level
Operatives edge +3 insight
Skill focus for computers and engineering +3 insight bonus

Those insight bonuses don't stack. So depending on how a person builds each will mean they are pretty neck and neck.

The thing that makes a class better or worst at something is their class abilities. Compare the operatives computer abilities vs the mechanics. The mechanic blows the operative out of the water with all the crazy Sh*t they can do. I mean Wireless Hack!?

This is one of the things that does not come across great in examples but in actual fights exo mechanics once they start doing their wireless hacking stuff are the best in combat hackers and are also great for covert ops. Need to find out what some gangs are up to the exo can sit at a cafe across the street from his target and hack their datapad without ever having to go close or be obvious in any way. An operative is a great hacker if they have direct physical access to what they are working on.

Operatives are great in situations where they sneak into a facility and are physically at the terminal.

Technomancers excel when they are working on some alien/ancient tech stuff in languages nobody knows.

Mechanics are best for in combat situations. Need that blast door open now while the fight is going? Need to shut down some alarm system while you are running down a hall? Shut off a security camera that is not accessible offsite or from the info sphere?

In the end their skills all work out to within a couple points one way or the other so it really comes down to how much they are specializing in that activity feat/class ability wise for who shines most at the activity.

Starfinder is pretty much setup so that you can put a group together of 4 of any class and probably be able to cover whatever bases you need to cover skill wise and be able to do a competent job at it. I would just reiterate with others have said watch for non stacking bonuses especially insight ones. That is usually were operators seem to at a glance look a ton better but it usually winds up somebody was adding insight bonuses together.


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Looking over the comparisons, I'll note that particular Operative specialized in Engineering with a lot of investment.

1st: Race was Ysoki, which specifically gives a +2 racial bonus to engineering. Sounds like the Mechanic didn't pick Ysoki or Lashunta.

2nd: Specialization chosen was Hacker. This the biggest "cost" of an operative. You only get to pick one specialization, and they spent it on Engineering and Computers.

The Mechanic's equivalent decision is Exocortex or Drone, neither of which is really better or worse from an Engineering skill standpoint. I suppose Exocortex memory module might be equivalent.

3rd: They went with 16 Dex/16 Int. They sacrificed combat capability (i.e. not having an 18 Dex) for increased skills. For an Operative, Int only helps skills (number and overall bonus).

Even if they did it accidentally, the player basically built a nearly optimized Engineering character.

Now imagine if the Operative had made choices like the Mechanic.

1st: Not a Ysoki or Lashunta. -2 to Engineering

2nd: Chose a specialization other than Hacker (this is like using the Memory module for something other than Engineering). -2 effective to Engineering (+1 insight instead of +3).

3rd: Didn't push Int higher than necessary. An engineer can reasonably choose a 16 Dex/16 I think (because they get resolve points, saving throws based off Int). For an operative, Dex 18/Int 14 is probably more typical. -1 to Engineering.

So if the Operative were as unoptimized at the mechanic towards Engineering, their bonus at 1st would be 1 rank + 3 Class + 1 Insight + 2 Int = +7.

If the Mechanic had been as optimized as the Operative (Ysoki, Memory Module->Engineering, higher than normal Int at 18), their bonus would be 1 rank + 3 Class + 3 Insight +4 Int = +11.

Anyways, those are my comments on the party in particular.

As for Mechanic vs Operative in a more general sense, in my mind I tend to think of an exocortex Mechanic as somewhere between a Bombard Soldier and a Hacker Operative. I would rank a combat optimized mechanic higher than an Operative in terms of raw damage output.

He effectively gets full BAB. He gets Longarms and heavy armor (which means good AC even with a 14 Dex). Overcharge gives them good standard action damage, and can also still full attack. At 7th, he can get Heavy Weapon proficiency as an Exocortex mod, opening up unwieldy weapons with overcharge. Or straight up AoE.

At 2nd level, a Mechanic with overcharge and a laser rifle should be doing about 150% of the damage output of an Operative. 1d8+1d6 (8)> 1d4+1d4 (5) or 1d6+1d4 (6). Its still significantly higher at 3rd when 1d8+3+1d6 (11) > 1d6+1+1d8 (9). Thats not including the fact trick attack only goes off about 65%-70% of the time.

They get scaling skill bonuses to 2 skills and can bump that up to 3 (they can add bypass to perception with a Mechanic trick), and a whole host of utility abilities. And they're probably the class that can get the absolute most out of Power armor and their weapon mounts mid to late game.

As noted by many others, Wireless hack is a great ability for hacking under fire. If you're willing to spend the credits, it can also give you interesting options for firing.

Consider wireless hack at 5th level gives you a free standard action each turn which can only be used for a computers check. Doesn't specify what kind of computer check so all of them are on the table.

Computer checks include the Disable or Manipulate Module action on page 139, which includes activating a module with a DC 10 check as a standard action. A module like a control module that can control a Plasma cannon or Storm Shock Caster mounted on your power armor (and if you let the computer fire, is considered proficient even if you aren't). So you can use your Exocortex to fire your unwieldy AoE heavy weapon while you're doing something else (like firing your other unwieldy AoE heavy weapon in another mount on your power armor, while overcharging both shots).

Mechanics are the kings of action economy, both as Drone and as Exocortex.

Anyways, Mechanics have a number of ways that are not on their level chart, like the Operative's trick attack damage is, to bump up their damage per round, so I disagree with the assessment that an Operative comes in at 3rd in terms of technological damage rankings. I rank Mechanics higher than operatives in that regard.


We have gone over this is in past. Damagewise Soldier, Solarian and both types of Mechanics do more damage than Operatives. The first 2 and drone mechanic have DPR 40-50 larger than the Operative. Yes its very good at skills and if it invest in INT over DEX it can be better than MEchanics and TEchmans at Computers and/or Engineering.

Just search for the math in the various threads about damage. The At lvl 20 a soldier and solarian deal TWICE the DPR of a Operative.

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