Designing the Inquisitor for Starfinder: Discipline Becomes Acumen

We’re still working on creating a Starfinder version of the Inquisitor class from PF1 (having already decided what is core to the classwritten up a draft of the basicscreated a spell list, and written up the adversary codexdetect zealot and judgment class features, and taken a first stab at one option for the inquisition class feature). I thought we were done when we did some inquisitor tactics… but I was wrong for two reasons.

First, while writing a short list of sample inquisitor tactics, I came up with tracking, which let an inquisitor add their inquisition value as a insight bonus to Survival when tracking, and at 5th level or higher expend a Resolve point to roll such checks twice and take the better of the two skills. That felt like a great addition, which lead me to thinking maybe every inquisition should automatically have 1 or 2 skills listed that get the same bonus as part of the inquisition. Expanding on that idea wouldn’t require me to write out all the inquisitions I want to use in the final version of the class, but I did want to explore the design space and see if it makes sense.

That quickly had me planning potential inquisitions and listing skills that might be associated with them. I soon realized I needed to think about class skills vs non-class skills. Getting an insight bonus to kills is nice, but the big +3 for putting a rank in a class skill has more impact up until 13th level. So, I thought, maybe each inquisition has either two class skills associated with it (and they get an insight bonus equal to the inquisition’s attack bonus), or has one non-class skill, which both becomes a class skill and gets the insight bonus.

I did a fair amount of work trying to tie either one non-class skill or two class skills to each of a variety of inquisitions; so the Celerity inquisition got just Acrobatics, while the Deceit inquisition got both Bluff and Disguise. But I wasn’t happy with all the pairings (the Flesh inquisition getting Athletics and Medicine was okay except for the name, and I never came up with one I liked better). Some worked great (the Investigation inquisition got Perception and Sense Motive) while others felt forced (the wrath inquisition got Intimidate, which was great, but the structure meant it needed a second class skill, and none were a good fit.)

Second, I began to see some ways in which linking skills to specific inquisitions might make the class less suitable for cooperative play. If a player is extremely excited to have the Starfarer inquisition, which might offer Piloting as a skill… what if some other players is running a character optimized to take the Pilot role in Starship combat? If the inquisitor maxes out the Piloting ranks, they likely still can’t compete with a high-Dex operative, and if the inquisitor ignores the skill, they feel part of their inquisition’s granted powers is useless.

While pondering that question I went back over all my previous posts. looking at old design ideas and notes is a good way to review what lead you to a new design issue. And, while doing so, I discovered I had completely forgotten an entire planned class feature! I had given the draft inquisitor “disciplines,” at 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter. But, now that I have versions of inquisitions and inquisitor tactics done, my original idea for disciplines isn’t needed. And if I axe that class feature, the inquisitor has nothing but spell upgrades when gaining levels 7, 11,15, and 19.

BUT! This means I have a concept I want to disconnect from any existing class feature, and a gap where a new class feature needs to go. And thus, discipline gets removed from the SF Inquisitor, and a new feature, acumen, is granted at level 3 and every 4 levels thereafter.

(Art by grandeduc)

Acumen (Ex): At 3rd level, your constant and disciplined study of topics related to your mission has given you greater talent with one or more skills. You may select two class skills, which now gain an insight bonus to skill checks equal to your judgement attack bonus. Alternatively you may select one skill that is not a class skill of yours. That becomes a class skill, and gains an insight bonus to skill checks equal to your judgement attack bonus.

You gain an additional acumen at 7th level, and every 4 levels thereafter. Each time you may select two new class skills, or one non-class skill, which gain the benefits of this class feature.

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About Owen K.C. Stephens

Owen K.C. Stephens Owen Kirker Clifford Stephens is a full-time ttRPG Writer, designer, developer, publisher, and consultant. He's the publisher for Rogue Genius Games, and has served as the Starfinder Design Lead for Paizo Publishing, the Freeport and Pathfinder RPG developer for Green Ronin, a developer for Rite Publishing, and the Editor-in-Chief for Evil Genius Games. Owen has written game material for numerous other companies, including Wizards of the Coast, Kobold Press, White Wolf, Steve Jackson Games and Upper Deck. He also consults, freelances, and in the off season, sleeps. He has a Pateon which supports his online work. You can find it at

Posted on August 24, 2021, in Game Design, Starfinder Development and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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