Me, stepping through making one of my characters as a Vanguard from 1 to 20.


Vanguard


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Figured I'd give this a shot! I've got a character who up until now hasn't been very easy to represent in Starfinder. Vanguard might be a better fit, so let's see!

Zack:
- Looks human.
- Has black oil instead of his blood. He can control that oil, and produces it quickly.
- Is lazy and hasn't studied much.
- Pretty good at chemistry and biology.
- Knows enough computer stuff to make a mildly-unethical-but-legal living.
- Really weak-willed, and a sucker for monstrous women.
- A good cook.
- A charmer.

Nice to have build elements:
- Any of the external tricks he can do with his oil: climb speed, tentacles, etc.
- Incredibly hard to kill.
- Ludicrous Con score and stamina (both the game term and stuff that requires Con checks).
- Immunity to diseases and/or poisons from weird biology.
- Any of his signature skills: Cooking, chemistry, biology, schmoozing aliens and monsters, computers.
- Low wisdom and intelligence, good physical stats and charisma. Zack's a fool and a tool, but being able to control his blood while it's inside him makes him pretty strong and fast by means of self-puppeteering.
- Able to shrug off damage (especially physical) like it's nothing.

Okay, here we go!
Level 1:
Race: Human is the obvious choice here. I don't really have time to hunt through things that look human but reflect him better. The extra skill point is good for dumping Int, and the extra feat will allow for something like Toughness.

Theme: Xenoseeker is the one to beat here, since being able to hit on aliens despite a language barrier is a neat trick. So, let's take a look! Biotechnician's discount on bio implants is nice for building some of Zack's elements, but the Int focus and flavor aren't a great fit. He's a hobbyist biologist at best, not an actual lab worker. Cultist is actually pretty funny for him… not as good of a fit generally, but if the game features cults of an fitting entity, this is a good option. Xenoseeker it is!

Skills: 6 skills is great! With the one from human, we should be good with 10 Int. Class skills: Life Science, Medicine, Culture, Diplomacy… looking great! We'll progress Profession(Computer Services Huckster) as a Cha-based option for his work, and steal a rank from Medicine for a token rank in Computers. That leaves Acrobatics and Athletics. Chemistry is probably rolled in with Physical Science, sadly, so we'll just be leaving that one be, and sticking with biochem. Maybe trade Medicine for Bluff?

Saves: Bad will saves are a feature here. We'll see what can be done about them through other means later. Good Fort and Ref sounds good, though.

Features:
- Con as a key ability score is great.
- Entropic Pool: Getting hit at this level means a boost to AC. Nice, nice. Not being able to get points out of combat is sad, though, as is not being able to get points from a friendly creature's attack. Zack can't show off his powers to somebody, use them recreationally, in response to the environment, or for roleplaying purposes? Only combat? I'd like to suggest that outside of combat, points last until you gain or recover stamina or HP through any means, or maybe they only last for a minute.
- Entropic Strike: Con to damage? Heck yeah! The block property is a little weird for not stacking with the basic Entropic Pool effect, but it does mean that regardless of who hits whom, there's an AC boost. I get the reasoning behind tying the strike to weapons, I don't want to ruin the flavor by running around with a weapon just to modify my strikes. But that's fair- I save money, and miss out on ranged attacks, etc.
- Primary Vanguard Aspect: All right, getting to the weird philosophical stuff for the class. Let's go take a look. Before looking at them, I think the most relevant maneuvers are, in descending order: grapple, trip, and disarm. Dirty Trick would be included if it did anything. Skills are those already listed.
-- Adiabatic: Grapple and diplomacy? Awesome! … Generate entropy by not moving for two turns. On a melee class. I feel like I have to discard this for any game at 4+, because the extra way to generate entropy is so important. Aspect Finale is a good fit again, but that's 16+.
-- Boundary: Sunder? Ugh, just because I don't use equipment doesn't mean nobody should get to. With items only selling for 10%, though, maybe it's okay? The Perception bonus reminds me that I forgot to pay the Perception skill tax- I'll probably stick with it, though. Good way to generate EP, though.
-- Cascade: See above for Sunder. Acrobatics is more relevant to me. We'll have to see if I have AoE attack roll options?
-- Exergy: Bull rush and not one of his skills? Skip. That method for generating EP is one of the best on a melee class, though…
-- Inevitable: Bull rush with a relevant skill… but you generate points by actually using bull rush. Skip.
-- Inversion: Reposition isn't relevant to me, but medicine is. Hmm… possibly a decent EP option, depending on if I can find anything fitting for internal stamina regen.
-- Momentum: Bull rush again? Culture is good, though. EP by just… moving. Umm. Not great…?
-- Reaction: Dirty trick doesn't do anything (standard action for a chance to cost somebody a move), and Physical Science… but it's tied to chemistry, so that might convince me to switch Medicine. EP on condition infliction is decent, although actually using dirty trick to accomplish that seems like a waste.
Overall: This feature ties together a lot of unrelated things. My skill specialization is tied to my combat maneuver, which is tied to how I get EP. Chances are good I'll have to pick based on one of those, and disappointed in the other two isn't a good experience. To me, getting EP without using the outrageous exchange rates of "give up your crit for 1" or "spend one resolve for 1" is the most important, so my level one experience is "get two things you don't care about so that you don't feel bad from level 4 onward". Conclusion: if I think the game is going to die before it reaches level 4, take Adiabatic, and if I'm wrong, around level 3 tell the GM that I'm rethinking that choice and ask to change it. If I think we're going to hit level 4, though, go with Boundary or Exergy, unless I can get swift or reaction healing (Inversion) or a good way to inflict statuses (Reaction). For the purposes of this build, we're going with Boundary to start with.
Feats: Human means a low Dex if I still want to max Con. I should consider attack and defense boosters. Close Combat, Toughness, Weapon Focus, Spellbane. We'll go with Toughness and Spellbane, although passing up Close Combat is a shame. If Toughness didn't give a bonus to all sorts of Con and fort checks, or if Spellbane didn't address a poor will save while also boosting fort and ref saves, I'd be making another choice.

Zack Caligat, Xenoseeker Human Vanguard (Boundary) 1
Stats: 10 Str, 14 Dex, 18 Con, 10 Int, 10 Wis, 11 Cha
HP: 12, Stamina: 13
Skills: Acrobatics 1, Athletics 1, Computers 1, Culture 1, Diplomacy 1, Life Science 1, Profession (Computer Services Huckster) 1
Feats: Toughess, Spellbane
Attacks: Entropic Strike +3 vs. EAC (1d3+4) Bludgeoning and/or Acid

Level 2:
Mitigate: I really love this! Damage reduction is one of my favorite things to get Now we can start spending that EP. If we run out of stamina, we use these to protect HP.
Vanguard Discipline:
- Controlled Mental Degradation: Nice, a way to mitigate certain combat enchantments without protecting him from charm effects. The catch is… you can only use it when you're first hit. If they get you before you've taken damage, this doesn't do you any good. Too circumstantial? Hmm, maybe.
- Curative Deconstruction: Poison and disease resistance in one go, with no EP cost! Nice thematically, even if it's not mechanically a high priority with his saves.
- Evasion: An EP-free way to reduce damage taken? Nice!
- Friendly Fire: Love this, reducing friendly AoE with no cost.
- Systems Knowledge: Oh, pretty cool, a skill ability! Only usable 1/day out of combat, and only if you haven't needed it in combat (since you can't opt to spend the EP in combat if you haven't used it that day).
- Noteworthy skips include Flatten Bullets (a good mechanical fit, but I'd rather not be in heavy armor), Metabolic Stability (Diehard isn't worth spending anything on, especially with so much health/stamina)
Overall: Good selection! I feel like Controlled Mental Degradation is the price I pay for not wanting a good Wis score, but I can pay that at level 4. Level 2 is a flavor choice between Systems Knowledge (for skill focused), Curative Deconstruction (for flavor), and Evasion (the best of my selections mechanically).

Level 3:
Reactive: A nice perk, even if we can't use it for much yet. It does work nicely with Step Up, though.
Feat: Well, we can take Close Combat now if we want, but an extra reaction also makes Step Up very tempting (as about half the benefit of the benefit of Step Up and Strike is included). Our next feat will be at 5, when the good feats start. However, Reactive is limited per day, so we'll go with the more defensive and more consistent use option of Close Combat for now.
+ 3.5 damage is nice!

Level 4:
Vanguard Discipline: Spoken for already- Mental Degradation, as a result of my choice to neglect Wis.
Aspect Embodiment: The first miss now gives one EP. Nice! Looks like Evasion would be a pretty good choice, and I don't feel strongly about Systems Knowledge. We'll be counting on good Fort saves to give us the flavor of resistance to poison and disease for now, though.

Level 5:
Stat boosts: Sweet, sweet stat boosts! The long wait always makes me miss PF2's stat generation method. Str, Dex, and Cha all get +2, while Con gets +1.
Feat: Enhanced Resistance for DR! Zack finally gets a reliable means of reducing damage. Full BAB is great for this.
Entropic attunement: Ooh, plenty of options here. Extinguish and Gravitation can be discarded out of hand as being too pricey.
- Extinguish. One EP per attack? No thanks.
- Gravitation. Move a target towards me with a melee attacks, and pay for it? No thanks.
- Breach. I'd love this, but since it can't be used outside of combat, no thanks. Opening doors in a fight almost requires the GM to set a perfect scenario up for this to be worth having.
- Feint. Eh…
- Force. This one is neat.
- Penetrating. This would be nice to be able to use outside of combat, but bonus damage against constructs is nice, and I think it's a good flavor fit too (with an oil attack seeping through). Picking this one, but again, requesting a way to get EP for use outside of combat.
+1 damage is nice!

Level 6:
+3.5 damage is nice!
Vanguard Discipline:
- Energize: Oh man, this is amazing! Get EP and reduce damage once per short rest? That's what I'm here for!
- Uh. That's it. Blindsense is cool, but I really can't think of a thematic reason for the character to have it. Vanguard Ferocity is something I'd take and be happy about flavor-wise, but I'd rather have a third level 2 ability over an ability that only triggers on hitting 0 hp (unless it lets my stabilize for free).

Level 7:
Feat: Climbing Master gives me that climb speed I wanted.
Uncanny Agility: Nice, circumstantial AC bonuses. I won't look a gift horse in the mouth, as this isn't the only feature for the level.
Entropic attunement, redux: Ooh, crit effects! Knockdown, staggered, and scaling corrosive. Honestly, all good; I could go with any of these.

Level 8:
+2 damage is nice!
Vanguard Discipline:
- Vanguard Ferocity is flavorful. I have a lot of health, though.
- Looks like here is where it's time to take that Curative Deconstruction.
Secondary Vanguard aspect (insight): Will the game reach level 17? … Honestly, that's not as much of a concern, I think, so I can pick just for the maneuver and skill. Adiabatic it is, unless I really need a better culture modifier.

Level 9:
+1.5 damage is nice!
Reactive for a second time per day.
Feat: Kind of running out of ones I really want in order to accomplish character build goals, but there are plenty of things like Weapon Focus, Extra Resolve, Step Up (especially with a second Reactive), skill feats, etc. I'm going to stop including feats on my listings now, though, because they're not very important.

Level 10:
+2 damage (from Str) is nice!
Stat boosts: Sweet, sweet stat boosts! Same as before, bump everything but Int and Wis.
Improved exchange rate from resolve to EP: At this point, I'm pretty happy to spend a point of resolve in the opening round.
Entropic Attunement (reach): Whoa, nice! I like it.
Vanguard Disipline:
- Improved Evasion: Nice, solid upgrade. Taking this one!
- Road Hazard: Okay, this is mostly just style. But it's a lot of style.
- Clothesline: Cool, but would be nicer with a trip aspect. As it stands, it wants two feats Improved Maneuver (Trip) and Step Up.
- The other stuff… Blindsight is great, but not the character's style, and Drain Heat is decent but eliminated for style reasons as well. Break Fall really feels like a shame; it's substantially worse than a level 1 spell that most casters know because it's the undercast version of one of the most useful spells in the game.

Level 11:
+2 damage is nice!
Flashing Strikes: All right, I'll think about making full attacks.

Level 12:
+1.5 damage is nice!
Aspect Catalyst: Completely forgot about this. Let's see what I get… Oh, that's right, the catalysts are a cool idea, and nicely implemented. Looks like… allies get to use Mitigate. Ooh, I like it! The improved version where everybody gets twos is nice because it gives you something to use after its drained all your EP. This is the first time I've felt really happy and satisfied with my aspect choice.
Vanguard Discipline: Clothesline on this one, probably. It also speaks for level 9 and 11 feats, possibly Step Up and Strike at 13. Road Hazard is acceptable for style points.

Level 13:
+3.5 damage is nice!
Attunement: Better reach and 2 EP for blast (20ft.) Nice! Both pretty cool.

Level 14:
+3.5 damage is nice!
Vanguard Discipline:
- Arrest: Hmm. I think I'd prefer attacking. The level 18 upgrade is nice. Any chance this can get some damage or something, Black Tentacles style?
- Poison Inured: Hey, poison immmunity! Good flavor choice for my character, and the radiation resistance is a nice addition. Presumably, reducing medium radiation to light doesn't make you immune to it, though.
- Quick Quaff: Wut. Level 14, and we get quick draw for serums? Whatever, there are other options.
- Reflexive Shield: Hmm. A weaker version of Mitigate, but it works on allies, you can spend extra to further reduce it, and you can still gain EP if you don't reduce it enough. That said, it reduces AoE attacks for everybody. Yeah, I'd say this is nice to have.
Conclusion- Not sure on the oder, but Reflexive Shield and Poison Inured.

Level 15:
Stat boosts: Sweet, sweet stat boosts! Unless the game is going to see much level 20 play, it might be time to consider boosting Int and Wis instead of Dex and Con.
+3.5 damage is nice!
Reactive +1/day. Good to get- by now, even my build has a lot of things that could use this.
Uncanny speed: Oh wow, this is really nice! Movement during a full attack.

Level 16:
+3.5 damage is nice!
Aspect Finale: I don't really expect to reach this point of the game, but let's see what we get for it. Oh, excellent! Mitigate is one of my favorite tools, and having it last all turn is great! Boundary seems like a great fit overall; it's just a shame that the unrelated level 1 features don't do anything for the character.
Entropic Attunement: more reach, bigger blast, free AoE attack. Man, that's nice- very stylish too.
Vanguard discipline: We're just picking up whatever we didn't get at 14, Poison Inured or Reflexive Shield. Neither are going to do a whole lot over these last couple levels, at least with Boundary and Curative Deconstruction.

Level 17:
+3.5 damage is nice!
Second Aspect Embodiment: Probably useless. I took the first part nine levels ago, with incentive to select something where I didn't care about this. In my case, I get an EP for standing still for two rounds on a melee build that moves as a reaction. It would effectively be a dead feature.

Level 18:
+3.5 damage is nice!
Vanguard Discipline:
- Absolute Zero: Hmm. Interesting. Not something my character would take (cold damage isn't really on-theme), but it's… interesting.
- Internal Resevoir: Oh wow… I mean, this is what I wanted, a way to use abilities outside of combat. But… waiting until 18? It's nice that it's free with a short rest, at least. I'd still take it, but it feels like a tax just to get around the weird limitations the class encounters.
- Living Effigy: Nice! … Also not something that fits the flavor with its other energy damage. But, the only time that matters is level 20.

Level 19
+3.5 damage is nice!
Agent of Change: Awwwwww yeah! 3 EP to start combat with? *chef kiss*
Entropic Attunement: More reach, bigger blast, and… another level 5 ability. Flexible crit effect is nice, though. Really, though, Agent of Change is the star of the show, and would definitely stand on its own.

Level 20
Stat boosts: Just wrapping everything up here.
+3.5 damage is nice!
Invulnerability: Wow. One fight per day, no conditions, no crits, all the reactions you could possibly use, and no weapon bonuses against you.
Vanguard Discipline: If I actually reached here, I'd be a little sad about needing to suddenly take a fire or cold energy damage option. Not actually concerned, but just providing that feedback.

Other stuff:
Not needing to spend money on a weapon is nice. More money for armor, bio-enhancements, and the like. Of course, needing a way to reach opponents is pretty big, so that's its own expenditure. Don't really have time for shopping analysis, though.

Conclusion!
Overall, very solid improvement to my ability to represent Zack in Starfinder.
Pros:
- Good niche. Full BAB defensive class, gets good skills, Con focus.
- Doesn't need to spend a bunch on weapons.
- Good range of defense choices.
- Catalysts are great.
Cons:
- For this build, a couple points where disciplines ran a little dry. Only level 18 had nothing that didn't contribute to the character concept, though.
- Some space dedicated to disciplines that feel pretty weak for their level. Partial fall damage reduction at level 10,
- Aspect Insight at level 1 doesn't really tie to the aspect, so picking something you like for your character career gives you stuff you don't care about at level 1.
- Combat-only abilities, especially ones that are primarily useful out of combat. In general, though, you should be able to creatively apply combat abilities; evocations aren't restricted to combat even though they're mostly useful there.

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