COM: The Esotericist Archetype fundamentally changes spellcaster build choices


General Discussion


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The Esotericist Archetype does something new: each alternate class feature is optional, allowing you to either choose an Esotericist ability (and there are multiple ones at most levels) or keep your class ability that you would ordinarily trade for that archetype level. That's a big deal, meaning that every spellcaster who doesn't want to pick a different archetype has no reason not to pick Esotericist - it's all options, no downside or obligations.

Let's consider what that means at various levels.

Level 2

The important thing the Esotericist offers here is Magical Devotion - a bonus spell slot of your highest spell level. That's good!

What does it cost? A Witchwarper would trade his 2nd level Paradigm Shift (which are mostly not great) for it, a Technomancer would trade the 2nd level Magic Hack (maybe a bit better but often skippable), and a Mystic would trade a spell known of their highest level (which is a hard call that I think I'd generally pass on).

I think this is an easy default choice for the Witchwarper, a strong consideration for a casting focused Technomancer, and a possibility for a Mystic who wants to focus and cast a lot, for example a Mind Thrust blaster.

Level 6

The only option is Enigmatic Nullification, which lets you choose one and only one school of magic, and then 1/day you can automatically suppress a magical effect of that school if you identify it with Mysticism. So you can counter a spell with no check required, but it costs you a reaction, an RP, and a spell slot from your highest spell level. Expensive, potentially clutch, but very limited in that you have to have picked the right magic school. (Everyone will pick Evocation, right?)

Costs here are a use of Alternate Outcome for the Witchwarper (a very nice ability that is very broadly applicable and less expensive to use), Spell Cache for a Technomancer (trash before COM added so many substitutes, but now very flexible and potentially powerful), and your highest connection power for a Mystic (previously dependent on the connection, but now with Epiphinaies as an option much more valuable). I think no one takes this except for flavor or to support a countercasting themed build.

Level 9

Enigmatic Retribution lets you pick a school of magic, and if you counter/negate/dispel a magical effect of that school you can 1/day use a reaction and RP to cast a spell of the same school. It's theoretically useful action economy, but how often do you perform the triggering activity, let alone have it be in the correct school? Nah.

Spell Shaping is more promising, giving you a choice of four different metamagic effects you can apply to a spell, making it much more flexible than the similar Technomancer hacks or Mystic ephiphanies, but limited to 1-3 times per day. Oh, and once again to a single school of magic. :-( Still, it might have its uses.

Costs? A Witchwarper loses a second skill to apply their insight bonus, a Technomancer loses a magic hack at a level when they're quite good, and the Mystic loses either a feat or healing touch. Mystics may very well be tempted to trade a feat for one of these abilities, a Witchwarper might not be insane to do so, but a Technomancer probably would be.

Level 18

Greater Spell Shaping needs errata, but would be bad even if it worked as intended. Ignore.

Annihilating Purity, though! Twice per day after rolling spell damage you can use a reaction to boost that damage by 50%. Got a killer roll on your Disintegrate, Mind Thrust, or Heat Leech? Boost it and make it literally a killer. Synergizes with a technomancer hack and a mystic epiphany to boost your damage.

Is it worth it? A technomancer loses their last spell cache improvement, which might be defensible at this point, a mystic loses a connection power (and some of those are dogs at 18th), a witchwarper loses a use of Alternate Outcome, but he's probably got two of them anyway. I think this is tempting for any class if they focus on spell damage.


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Xenocrat wrote:

That's a big deal, meaning that every spellcaster who doesn't want to pick a different archetype has no reason not to pick Esotericist - it's all options, no downside or obligations.

This is very much not true. Taking the Esotericist archetype does carry with it an obligation: that you actually do have to play an *Esotericist*. This means you are obligated to play an esoteric occult scholar, delving into rare and often lost arcane lore, who is at least moderately hostile to science and technology.

If this is what you wanted to play anyway, great! If not, however, you should look elsewhere, no matter how appealing the mechanics. To take the Esotericist archetype means to play an Esotericist, just like taking the Skyfire Legion archetype means you'd better have a past training with the Skyfire Legion, and taking the Divine Champion archetype means you'd better have a character-defining relationship with your deity or religion of choice.


Metaphysician wrote:
Xenocrat wrote:

That's a big deal, meaning that every spellcaster who doesn't want to pick a different archetype has no reason not to pick Esotericist - it's all options, no downside or obligations.

This is very much not true. Taking the Esotericist archetype does carry with it an obligation: that you actually do have to play an *Esotericist*. This means you are obligated to play an esoteric occult scholar, delving into rare and often lost arcane lore, who is at least moderately hostile to science and technology.

LOL, no.


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Metaphysician wrote:


This is very much not true. Taking the Esotericist archetype does carry with it an obligation: that you actually do have to play an *Esotericist*.

Yeah.. no. Thats entirely role playing flavor that a character can use or not as fits their character, especially with something as internal and incredibly vague as that.


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Sorry, I'm agreeing with Metaphysician on this. You come to my table with the mentality of, "LOL, no," ya ain't playing at my table.


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Azalah wrote:
Sorry, I'm agreeing with Metaphysician on this. You come to my table with the mentality of, "LOL, no," ya ain't playing at my table.

And you plan on policing exactly what sort of behavior as contradictory with being an esotericist?

I mean.. "thats behavior unbecoming a skycaptain..." sure. But an esotericist is just.. what.. they like the weird stuff?


Azalah wrote:
Sorry, I'm agreeing with Metaphysician on this. You come to my table with the mentality of, "LOL, no," ya ain't playing at my table.

Read my character's mind. Good luck!


The Battleflower archetype has the same freedom for martial characters and especially soldiers.

Acrobatic Grace (6th) might be good for a diplomancer Soldier, or if you want to fascinate some guards while your buddy hacks a computer right in front of him.

Stunning Strike (9th) is extremely good for unarmed builds.

Uncanny Initiative (18th) gives you an auto 20 on your initiative roll, definitely better than your average combat feat at that level.


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Does taking one of these archetypes block you off from taking any other archetype? Obviously it prevents you from taking options at the same level that the other archetype grants you a feature -- but I can't recall whether there is a general "only one archetype per class" or "only one archetype per character" rule.


David knott 242 wrote:

Does taking one of these archetypes block you off from taking any other archetype? Obviously it prevents you from taking options at the same level that the other archetype grants you a feature -- but I can't recall whether there is a general "only one archetype per class" or "only one archetype per character" rule.

There isn't, if two archetypes don't effect the same levels you can stack them. Or you can apply them to different classes if you multiclass and want a pair of 2nd level archetypes, I think. Note that COM has a couple of archetypes that only give a single ability at a single level, making archetype stacking options actually possible for the first(?) time.

The open question that may or may not be answered in the CRB or COM archetype rules with any degree of clarity is whether an archetype that allows, but does not require you to pick an option at a given level conflicts with another archetype that gives something at the same level. I'm strongly inclined to yes.


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David knott 242 wrote:

Does taking one of these archetypes block you off from taking any other archetype? Obviously it prevents you from taking options at the same level that the other archetype grants you a feature -- but I can't recall whether there is a general "only one archetype per class" or "only one archetype per character" rule.

Core Rule book page 126 "You also cannot add more than one archetype to a specific class."...."If you multiclass and gain a level in a new class, you can add a new archetype to that class when you reach the appropriate level."


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BigNorseWolf wrote:
Azalah wrote:
Sorry, I'm agreeing with Metaphysician on this. You come to my table with the mentality of, "LOL, no," ya ain't playing at my table.

And you plan on policing exactly what sort of behavior as contradictory with being an esotericist?

I mean.. "thats behavior unbecoming a skycaptain..." sure. But an esotericist is just.. what.. they like the weird stuff?

Its quite easy. "Do you give your character a scholarly background? Do you RP them as actively seeking information and learning about occult lore? Do you have them show an indifference or aversion to matters technological?"

If the answer to these questions is "No, not really", then they are not actually playing the character on their sheet. Its no different then picking the Priest theme and then acting contrary to their declared religion, or taking the Steward archetype and yet providing no current or even past involvement with the Stewards.

Whether Class, Theme, Race, or Archetype, the choices you make in creating your character matter. If you don't want to play that character, then build a different character.


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Xenocrat wrote:
Azalah wrote:
Sorry, I'm agreeing with Metaphysician on this. You come to my table with the mentality of, "LOL, no," ya ain't playing at my table.
Read my character's mind. Good luck!

I don't need to read your mind. All I need to do is look at your actions. You can *think* whatever you want, as long as you don't create, and get sanctioned, one character, and then RP a completely different one. Its no different, fundamentally, then creating a PC whose a LG scholar of a pacifistic religion, and then having them murder a storekeeper in the first session to steal their stuff. The motive is irrelevant on the part of the player, the behavior is bad, and obvious, enough to be grounds for expulsion.

RPGs depend on mutual cooperation and respect on the part of the players and the GM. Lying to the GM is not conducive to a good game. And building a character you do not actually intend to play? Is lying to both the GM and the other players. After all, the other players are *also* building their own characters and intentions around the party and the setting.


Metaphysician wrote:
Xenocrat wrote:
Azalah wrote:
Sorry, I'm agreeing with Metaphysician on this. You come to my table with the mentality of, "LOL, no," ya ain't playing at my table.
Read my character's mind. Good luck!
I don't need to read your mind. All I need to do is look at your actions.

It it is trivial easy to avoid actions that conflict with this archetype. It is no way necessary or possible to demand actions (which actions? how often?) to affirmatively "own" your interpretation of the archetype's backstory.

It's entirely possible to take this archetype, take only the bonus spell, use every single spell slot except that one on tech things, and be a good character. Just as it's the easiest thing in the world to take Skyfire Centurion, use the abilities, and never provide or discuss your history with the related organization. "It's too painful, the past is the past."

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Starfinder Maps Subscriber

Xenocrat --

Thank you so much for these in-depth analyses. They're helping me process a lot of new material. I'm reading every word.

Hmm


Hmm wrote:

Xenocrat --

Thank you so much for these in-depth analyses. They're helping me process a lot of new material. I'm reading every word.

Hmm

Thanks, every new release I find that writing out stuff like this helps me digest it and remember the new options.


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Yes, thanks! Love your analysis threads!


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BigNorseWolf wrote:
Azalah wrote:
Sorry, I'm agreeing with Metaphysician on this. You come to my table with the mentality of, "LOL, no," ya ain't playing at my table.

And you plan on policing exactly what sort of behavior as contradictory with being an esotericist?

I mean.. "thats behavior unbecoming a skycaptain..." sure. But an esotericist is just.. what.. they like the weird stuff?

if a DM doesn't say "that's behaviour unbecoming a skycaptain" at least once during an AP, I don't want to be at his table. :-P

Grand Lodge

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I do have to agree with other posters though that the price of this archetype is being an Esotericist. They don't like tech.

Pact Worlds, p. 43 wrote:
A growing subset of magical scholars uninterested in technology—often derisively called “esotericists” by their fellow faculty—regularly provide the academy with new breakthroughs via the study of ancient magical arts.

They don't do tech augmentations or take tech shortcuts. This is a huge drawback to this archetype, and why I had to reject it for one of my future mystics. But it allows someone a little something special if someone wants to build a character like Royo (a bookish old-fashioned ysoki scholar from Starfinder Society Scenarios.)


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I am happy it doesn't have any prerequisites past being a spellcaster. I like the idea of being able to play a more spellcaster-y mage, without necessarily forcing all such players to go with x flavour.


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Hmm wrote:


They don't do tech augmentations or take tech shortcuts.

This has no more mechanical force than soldiers avoiding pistols because soldiers "tend to prefer heavy armor and weapons—the bigger, the better." or that an operative can't be a goofball because " You’re a consummate professional, and you always get the job done


BigNorseWolf wrote:
Hmm wrote:


They don't do tech augmentations or take tech shortcuts.

This has no more mechanical force than soldiers avoiding pistols because soldiers "tend to prefer heavy armor and weapons—the bigger, the better." or that an operative can't be a goofball because " You’re a consummate professional, and you always get the job done

But the flavor is hardwired and blatant.

Playing an Esotericist that is not tech-averse, completely ignoring what they are, would be the same as playing a Solarion that gets their powers from eating black and red licorice rather than from the stars and black holes.


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Rysky the Dark Solarion wrote:
BigNorseWolf wrote:
Hmm wrote:


They don't do tech augmentations or take tech shortcuts.

This has no more mechanical force than soldiers avoiding pistols because soldiers "tend to prefer heavy armor and weapons—the bigger, the better." or that an operative can't be a goofball because " You’re a consummate professional, and you always get the job done

But the flavor is hardwired and blatant.

Playing an Esotericist that is not tech-averse, completely ignoring what they are, would be the same as playing a Solarion that gets their powers from eating black and red licorice rather than from the stars and black holes.

Yes, and mystics must use their deity's favored weapon.

Except when they don't.


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There are explicitly some Technomancers who take this archetype and related magic hacks. Not All Esotericists.


Ravingdork wrote:
Rysky the Dark Solarion wrote:
BigNorseWolf wrote:
Hmm wrote:


They don't do tech augmentations or take tech shortcuts.

This has no more mechanical force than soldiers avoiding pistols because soldiers "tend to prefer heavy armor and weapons—the bigger, the better." or that an operative can't be a goofball because " You’re a consummate professional, and you always get the job done

But the flavor is hardwired and blatant.

Playing an Esotericist that is not tech-averse, completely ignoring what they are, would be the same as playing a Solarion that gets their powers from eating black and red licorice rather than from the stars and black holes.

Yes, and mystics must use their deity's favored weapon.

Except when they don't.

Mystics aren't powered by their Deities favored weapon, whilst Solarions are empowered by the stars and black holes.


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"My character is an avant-garde Esotericist, combining ancient knowledge with technology - he's post-post-modern"

Grand Lodge

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Ravingdork wrote:

Yes, and mystics must use their deity's favored weapon.

Except when they don't.

Alright... I'll bite. Where does it suggest that mystics must use their deity's favorite weapon? The core rulebook doesn't even list weapons for the deities. Am I missing something, Ravingdork?

Hmm

PS In case tone is not clear, I am being curious, not combative. I genuinely want to know the answer to this one.


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Hmm wrote:
Ravingdork wrote:

Yes, and mystics must use their deity's favored weapon.

Except when they don't.

Alright... I'll bite. Where does it suggest that mystics must use their deity's favorite weapon? The core rulebook doesn't even list weapons for the deities. Am I missing something, Ravingdork?

Hmm

PS In case tone is not clear, I am being curious, not combative. I genuinely want to know the answer to this one.

I was being somewhat facetious. Divine characters don't have deity favored weapons anymore. And even when they did (in P1E and P2E), characters weren't required to used them.

Though by some peoples' interpretations in this thread, you'd think they would be required by such characters, which is what I was poking fun at.


Ravingdork wrote:
Hmm wrote:
Ravingdork wrote:

Yes, and mystics must use their deity's favored weapon.

Except when they don't.

Alright... I'll bite. Where does it suggest that mystics must use their deity's favorite weapon? The core rulebook doesn't even list weapons for the deities. Am I missing something, Ravingdork?

Hmm

PS In case tone is not clear, I am being curious, not combative. I genuinely want to know the answer to this one.

I was being somewhat facetious. Divine characters don't have deity favored weapons anymore. And even when they did (in P1E and P2E), characters weren't required to used them.

Though by some peoples' interpretations in this thread, you'd think they would be required by such characters, which is what I was poking fun at.

No. No one thinks that. Your remark is all the way over there in left field.


The Ragi wrote:
"My character is an avant-garde Esotericist, combining ancient knowledge with technology - he's post-post-modern"

He's a leshy so he's a post post modern post?

Sovereign Court

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I also don't see anything binding in the esotericist saying that you must not use technology, or that you must not use certain technology.

You can totally be an esotericist who uses the newest comm unit to write blogs about how awful it is that everyone is always distracted by their comms, and who flies on luxury spaceships to conferences to complain about how modern aviation is ruining the environment.

If there were a hard requirement, it would have been written like one. Priest Theme has a hard requirement. This one doesn't.


I mean, if you were forced to not use advanced technology you'd be super screwed given there are barely any archaic weapons or archaic armour in the game, especially at high level.

It would mean this archetype is basically a death sentence.


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Swim to the next planet


BigNorseWolf wrote:
The Ragi wrote:
"My character is an avant-garde Esotericist, combining ancient knowledge with technology - he's post-post-modern"
He's a leshy so he's a post post modern post?

Giving a second thought, an avant-garde esotericist might be post-past.


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Rysky the Dark Solarion wrote:
Ravingdork wrote:
Hmm wrote:
Ravingdork wrote:

Yes, and mystics must use their deity's favored weapon.

Except when they don't.

Alright... I'll bite. Where does it suggest that mystics must use their deity's favorite weapon? The core rulebook doesn't even list weapons for the deities. Am I missing something, Ravingdork?

Hmm

PS In case tone is not clear, I am being curious, not combative. I genuinely want to know the answer to this one.

I was being somewhat facetious. Divine characters don't have deity favored weapons anymore. And even when they did (in P1E and P2E), characters weren't required to used them.

Though by some peoples' interpretations in this thread, you'd think they would be required by such characters, which is what I was poking fun at.

No. No one thinks that. Your remark is all the way over there in left field.

There was a thread with someone claiming exactly that just last week (that 2E divine characters HAD to use their deity's favored weapon).

So, yes, some people do think that.


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BigNorseWolf wrote:
Swim to the next planet

Can't afford the swim trunks because my esotericist doesn't believe in credstricks.


Ravingdork wrote:
Rysky the Dark Solarion wrote:
Ravingdork wrote:
Hmm wrote:
Ravingdork wrote:

Yes, and mystics must use their deity's favored weapon.

Except when they don't.

Alright... I'll bite. Where does it suggest that mystics must use their deity's favorite weapon? The core rulebook doesn't even list weapons for the deities. Am I missing something, Ravingdork?

Hmm

PS In case tone is not clear, I am being curious, not combative. I genuinely want to know the answer to this one.

I was being somewhat facetious. Divine characters don't have deity favored weapons anymore. And even when they did (in P1E and P2E), characters weren't required to used them.

Though by some peoples' interpretations in this thread, you'd think they would be required by such characters, which is what I was poking fun at.

No. No one thinks that. Your remark is all the way over there in left field.

There was a thread with someone claiming exactly that just last week (that 2E divine characters HAD to use their deity's favored weapon).

So, yes, some people do think that.

Hi goalpost, bye goalposts. And non-sequiturs.

We're talking about Starfinder, and you specifically said this thread and Mystics.


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There were goalposts? ;P

I can't help that you guys can't keep up with me. XD


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Personally I'm not entirely against the notion of divorcing an archetype from it's lore & reflavoring it, within reason.


FormerFiend wrote:
Personally I'm not entirely against the notion of divorcing an archetype from it's lore & reflavoring it, within reason.

It really depends on the level of crunch/flavor integration, which here is very very low.

Grand Lodge

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To be honest, while my inner munchkin is perfectly okay with justifying taking advantage of abilities even if the flavor doesn't mesh super well...buuuut in the case of the Esotericist, it would be odd for every default character to be one, especially given how the archetype is based on a cultural phenomenon which is considered quite fringe in the default setting. Granted, some of the abilities within the archetype enforce this (such as the limitations based on spell schools and being unable to affect technological items or constructs), but I find myself veering towards the side of some of the people objecting against taking the archetype just for mechanics. To me, it feels a bit odd to play an archetype without maintaining its theme at all. It can be within reason, so it's not like I'd stop using tech at all (unless I was playing a Hanakan), but it definitely feels wrong to just slap them on like a borrowed shirt.

To me, archetypes feel, intention-wise, the same as prestige classes in Pathfinder 1E did: intrinsically tied to the lore of the game. To treat them as bundles of math for your own advantage feels wrong.

Then again: that also feels a bit too gatekeepy for my tastes. There's nothing wrong with taking advantage of options, and nothing wrong with mechanics-over-lore playstyle. It ain't my cup of tea, but it feels wrong to impose on others. I wouldn't, but I don't think the present version of me would be comfortable arguing against this. I dunno, I'm more ambivalent than anything.


I think it's more justifiable in cases where only one or two esotericist features are taken. That mystic who chooses to swap a 9th level feat for spell shaping can always explain it as " a trick I learned from a loony colleague of mine."

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Oh that's a a solid point, actually


One thing at I feel is also useful to mention is that not everyone plays the Pact World's setting.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Milo v3 wrote:
One thing at I feel is also useful to mention is that not everyone plays the Pact World's setting.

This is true, in which case it becomes a moot point because then the GM can adjudicate the significance of the archetype however they want. But, if they *were* using the Pact Worlds setting, then it becomes an interesting and relevant discussion. Otherwise, if it's outside the setting, it becomes a weird "no-true-Scotsman" debate.


The Drunken Dragon wrote:
Milo v3 wrote:
One thing at I feel is also useful to mention is that not everyone plays the Pact World's setting.
This is true, in which case it becomes a moot point because then the GM can adjudicate the significance of the archetype however they want. But, if they *were* using the Pact Worlds setting, then it becomes an interesting and relevant discussion. Otherwise, if it's outside the setting, it becomes a weird "no-true-Scotsman" debate.

Except that it means we can freely talk about how the introduction of X options addition to the game alters how characters of certain types are built without having to deal with lore that isn't always applicable and isn't actually a mechanical requirement to the option.


The Drunken Dragon wrote:
Milo v3 wrote:
One thing at I feel is also useful to mention is that not everyone plays the Pact World's setting.
This is true, in which case it becomes a moot point because then the GM can adjudicate the significance of the archetype however they want. But, if they *were* using the Pact Worlds setting, then it becomes an interesting and relevant discussion. Otherwise, if it's outside the setting, it becomes a weird "no-true-Scotsman" debate.

Except that it means we can freely talk about how the introduction of X options addition to the game alters how characters of certain types are built without having to deal with lore that isn't always applicable and isn't actually a mechanical requirement to the option.


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The Drunken Dragon wrote:
Milo v3 wrote:
One thing at I feel is also useful to mention is that not everyone plays the Pact World's setting.
This is true, in which case it becomes a moot point because then the GM can adjudicate the significance of the archetype however they want. But, if they *were* using the Pact Worlds setting, then it becomes an interesting and relevant discussion. Otherwise, if it's outside the setting, it becomes a weird "no-true-Scotsman" debate.

Even within the setting, without tying a mechanical concept to the flavor the choice of what to do with the flavor is entirely in the hands of the player, because the player gets to decide how much they fit the stereotype of their class. Flavor, personality, and character are the purview of the player, not the flavor text of their mechanical options.


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Ravingdork wrote:
BigNorseWolf wrote:
Swim to the next planet
Can't afford the swim trunks because my esotericist doesn't believe in credstricks.

Don't worry about it. Space is big. You are unlikely to be caught skinny dipping there, and even if you are, you will almost certainly be outside the jurisdiction of anyone who cares. (Although they might be curious about how you are alive without much more than swim trunks.)

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