OK. So from a different thread we were discussing how the interaction between Operative trick attack and Vanguard entropic strike would work out. So I built a couple characters to test with. I am planning on running them through a short gauntlet with my kids later this week once I get the character sheets finished and the gauntlet created and populated.
I have heard that level 7 is an important level for Operative because of the specialization skill mastery ability that makes pulling off trick attack easier. So I want to see if a 1 level dip in Vanguard is worth the cost of delaying level 7.
Both characters are Human with Outlaw theme. One is Operative(7), the other is Operative(6), Vanguard(1). To make things a bit more similar, I had the pure Operative take Improved Unarmed Strike. I'll post full stats of the characters later if it becomes important. Probably I will just post the important stats instead.
The idea for the gauntlet is that these two characters were captured by a rival guild or something like that. They still have their armor, but all of their weapons and equipment were confiscated. They were locked up, but being Operatives, that didn't last long.
So they escape and the first thing they have to do is take down the two low level guards in front of their door with only their bare hands. Shouldn't be too hard for either of them to do, but that will be the first playtest competition between the two.
That will give them low level weapons to use to take on the next enemies as they work their way out of the complex that they are in. Fighting increasingly higher level enemies and picking up increasingly better weapons as they go.
As a side note from building the Operative/Vanguard character I noticed a couple of things with skills.
The combination of the two classes means that every skill is a class skill automatically. So that is a cool synergy.
As a less cool un-synergy, the Vanguard Aspect Insight bonus to a couple of skills is an insight bonus, so it doesn't stack with the Operative Edge skill boost - making the Aspect Insight completely overshadowed once Operative Edge increases to +2.
Disclaimer: I am not a power gamer. I am fairly decent at rules reading and analysis, but I don't have any desire to 'win' the game by always choosing the most powerful options.
So, with that in mind, here are the two characters.
HP 46; SP 56; RP 7
Unarmed Strike: 1d6 +2 +3
Tactical Pistol: 1d6 +3
Trick Attack: 4d8 + Debilitating Trick; uses Sleight of Hand (+18)
Specialization Skill Mastery
HP 48; SP 65; RP 7
Entropic Strike: 1d3 +3 +3
Tactical Pistol: 1d6 +3
Inferno Knife: 1d4 +2 +3; critical 1d6 burn
Trick Attack 3d8 + Debilitating Trick; uses Acrobatics (+17)
There are a bunch of other feats and abilities, but I don't think that they are as relevant.
These two hooligans have been captured by a rival guild. They were stripped of their weapons, but kept their armor. They picked the lock on their room's door and are now fighting their way out of the building.
First battle is against two CR 2 combatant-type guards. The players are unarmed at this point, so are using their respective unarmed attacks.
The clear winner in this case is Arogen with the Vanguard level. Improved Unarmed Strike does not add the Operative trait, nor does it remove the Archaic trait from the attack. So Relean was doing single digit damage when he did hit. Arogen on the other hand, can use trick attack and doesn't have to subtract 5 points from the damage rolled.
On his first attack, BB2 (playing Arogen) didn't know about trick attack, so just did a regular Entropic Strike. He did 8 HP damage. After that I showed them how to use Trick Attack. His next attack did 24 HP. BB1 (playing Relean) didn't have that option, so continued doing trivial amounts of damage.
At one point I asked him, "The enemy has 5 HP left. Do you think you can take him out this turn?" His answer: "No. Well, probably not. I only do 3 HP usually." I think this is more of a problem with Improved Unarmed Strike though.
Once the battle was over, I told them, "You find they each had a baton and a pistol. Do you want to use either or both?"
Arogen: "Hmm... Maybe. I'll at least take the pistol just in case."
The second battle is against a CR 4 expert and a CR 3 combatant.
The clear winner this time was Relean.
I gave them a surprise round of combat this time. Arogen tried using Dirty Trick on the combatant, but failed. He has Improved Combat Maneouver (Dirty Trick) from the Vanguard ability, but it still wasn't enough. He also missed a couple of his attack rolls because the dice gods decreed it.
Relean on the other hand, 2-shot both of the enemies. 4d8 Trick Attack damage is nothing to sneeze at.
From the loot from this battle, Arogen picked up an Inferno Knife. I also offered a Rotating Pistol, but Relean wasn't interested. The 4 round clip was too much of a risk.
The third battle is against a CR 5 spellcaster with Mystic spells, a CR 4 combatant, and a CR 4 expert.
It was a hard fought battle. It didn't have a clear winner between our two player characters. They also both ended up running out of stamina points and took a non-trivial amount of HP damage.
This was the first battle where the player characters started having problems with getting successes on their rolls. Arogen had it the worst because of having to roll both a skill check and an attack roll in order to get a successful Trick Attack off. There were several times where he succeeded at the skill check, but then failed the attack roll. There were also times where he failed the skill check, but made the attack roll and did some trivial amount of damage (8 HP on one for example).
At the start of the battle I noticed that BB2 was having Arogen use the his knife normally for trick attack attempts. I asked him why he was doing that instead of the Entropic Strike. He said, "Because it does 1d4 damage instead of 1d3." I pointed out that the knife does 1d4 +2 +3 while the Entropic Strike does 1d3 +3 +3, so the damage should be about the same. However, the Entropic Strike targets EAC instead of KAC and EAC is usually a little bit lower. I also explained that he can use the Entropic Strike damage and targeting while using the knife for its critical burn effect. So he did that for the rest of the battle.
This is where we had to stop for the night. I still have more opponents to give them. And more weapons to allow them to use.
After the play time, I asked them which of the two characters did they feel was more powerful.
BB2 noticed that Relean was rolling 4d8 instead of the 3d8 that his character could, as well as only having to roll once to do it.
They both thought that the Entropic Strike ability was very powerful since it targets EAC.
In total; one of the boys couldn't decide on one character over the other; the other one says that the Arogen character with the Vanguard level feels a bit more powerful - but he couldn't point to anything specific that made it feel that way.
My views so far:
Entropic Strike is a far cry better than Improved Unarmed Strike. So if you are going to be in a campaign where your characters regularly are missing their weapons for some reason, a Vanguard level dip will be huge. Especially for Operatives since the attack enables Trick Attack to work.
The Vanguard level also gives a few more options. Advanced Melee weapons - which we will see later in the scenario - and an attack that naturally targets EAC.
However, the new options are really not all that much more powerful. The level 1 Entropic Strike is really not much better than a level 3 operative weapon. I would have to do some fine-grained statistical analysis to actually determine whether 1d3 +6 does more damage generally than 1d4 +5. And as for targeting EAC, there are plenty of weapons available that do that. Relean will be getting one at the start of the next session.
Advanced Melee weapons is really good - but Relean could get that at the cost of a feat. Which wouldn't cost him his 7th level abilities such as an extra d8 of damage and auto-success at Trick Attack skill checks.
I feel that the one level dip into Vanguard is not a good choice for an Operative in the general case. I think the difference in power level will show up more once Arogen gets his hands on the level 7 Zero Knife that he should be getting shortly.