After I posted my draft of a Starfinder version of the PF1 inquisitor class, game designer and industry veteran Ryan Costello asked me a key question (and gave me permission to quote him on my blog about it):
“I noticed you mentioned in the conclusion that you are carrying over the PF1 Inquisitor teamwork feat focus. I always saw it as a strange fit for the theme. Any insight into why the class went that direction and why you are keeping it?”
So, this blog post is essentially my response.
I can only guess at the original design intent behind granting inquisitors bonus teamwork feats and solo tactics (which lets an inquisitor treat their teammates as having the same teamwork feats, making them much more useful) as a class feature in PF 1. While I worked on the book that was was introduced in, it was as a freelancer and all my work was to fill out support sections (archetypes, feats, spells, and so on), rather than do any design work on the base classes themselves. It’s worth noting that book was the APG, which is also where teamwork feats themselves were introduced, so it might be a simply and pragmatic decision to have one of the new classes tie into the new category of feats (as the cavalier class also did), and help differentiate them from clerics.
Of course one of the biggest fictional settings to heavily feature inquisitors is Warhammer 40k, and in that setting most inquisitors have a team of specialized agents that work for them. That doesn’t immediately equal teamwork, but the connection isn’t so tenuous I would discount it.
And you have to give inquisitors some kind of thematic hooks, and real-world examples of things like torture and bigotry don’t lend themselves well to the kind of heroic character Pathfinder mostly assumes players take the roles of. Also, with solo tactics, it’s less that an inquisitor is good at teamwork (working with people), and more that they are good at predicting how both allies and enemies will react in a way so precise they can use teamwork feats even when no one else is trained in those techniques, or even trying to use them. The inquisitor can work off people, taking advantage of their mere presence, almost like a kind of Super Combat Sense Motive.
Ultimately, I included the same thematic ideas because I set myself the task of creating a Starfinder version of the Pathfinder class, and I think this is a key element of that class, regardless of what the original thinking behind it was. But the fact it’s a different ecological niche remains true in Starfinder, which helps differentiate my inquisitor in a game system where there have been only 2 attack bonus progressions and 2 spell progressions to date, so something brand new always helps a class stand apart.
And, of course, since I designed my own teamwork feats, and plan to introduce them in the same book I introduce the final version of the Starfinder Inquisitor, the pragmatic consideration also applies. By putting a class with teamwork feats as a part of their legacy into a book that adds such feats (or, rather, my improved Starfinder versions of those feats) to the game, I am also driving greater engagement with different parts of the book.
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In the long run, this all comes back to the Starfinder Inquisitor I designed a draft version of. And, as a reminder, if you are a supporter of my Patreon in the timespan from today through tomorrow, you’ll get a slight-revised-and-expanded version of the class as a free pdf!
One common format of d20 game class design is to have selectable options as class features. These may be specializations — things you pick once that then give you fixed abilities as you gain levels (cleric domains, and sorcerer bloodlines are good fantasy examples of this, while mystic connections and operative specializations are the same idea in the Starfinder Roleplaying Game) — or may be a long set of talents that are abilities (some with prerequisites) you get to pick from every few levels (with the ur example being rogue talents, and everything from operative exploits, to mechanic tricks, and soldier gear boosts being iconic Starfinder examples).
These are things like will get endlessly expanded in expansions, campaign settings, houserules, and the blog posts of former-design-leads, so in the long run “enough” is “when the game stops being played.” But when the class is first introduced, you need to decide how many of these choices are presented to begin with. How much is “enough” to feel like there are a range of options with different focuses, themes, and effects. Obviously space constraints are always a downward pressure on these questions, but from a design point of view, you want there to be enough options at launch for players and GMs to have a feel for what kind of things you plan for those options to include, and for characters of the same class to feel different.
So, how much is enough? Well… it depends.
First, if you include bonus feats as choices (or the class feature is nothing but bonus feats, as with the fighter/soldier), you can count that as much more than one entry (depending on how many feats can be selected with the class feature). After that, it’s a question of how many different concepts you want to highlight, and how many such options a single character can take.
In this context, a character can only get a single specialization, so you don’t need as many of them. Talents, otoh, you usually get 5-to-10 of over the course of a single character’s career, so you need more to make sure that no member of the class is forced to pick the same talent as a different character with a different concept.
So, let’s look at the number of such class features that appeared in the Starfinder Core Rulebook, when the classes were first introduced. (I counted these by hand, so I might be off by 1 or 2 on one of these entries — which is fine, since I am looking for an idea of the range of options rather than an exacting tally.)
Improvisations – 28
Expertise talents – 19
Artificial Intelligence – 2 (One being the drone, which has ANOTHER set of selectable options)
Mechanic tricks – 30
Connections – 7
(The mystic also has spells, but that’s a bit different from selectable class features)
Specializations – 7
Exploits – 38
Stellar Mode – 2
Stellar Revelation – 31
Gear Boost – 12
Fighting style – 7
(These are in addition to gaining bonus combat feats at regular intervals, making the soldier highly customizable even with reduced number of gear boosts and fighting styles.)
magic hacks – 31
(The technomaner also has spells, but that’s a bit different from selectable class features)
It’s remarkable how similar some of those numbers are. It’s clear if you have an option that runs most of a class’s 20-level career, such as mystic connections, operative specializations, or soldier fighting styles, you want 7 of them to start. If you are doing talent-like choices, you want 20-40 of them (depending on how much the class depends on them, and how many other custom class features it gets).
So, what do we do with this knowledge?
Let’s apply it to our Starfinder Inquisitor., which is schedule to appear in a “full” version in the book Starfarer’s Companion II.
That class has inquisitions, which are very much in the “specialization” category for the kinds of class features we are discussing here. I only have one of those written up for the draft –the Battle Inquisition. I’m not going to have more than at-most one more for the free pdf version going to Patreon supporters, but when I release a “final” version of the class I’ll want 7 of those total. Offhand, I’d likely choose Battle, Madness, Occult, Solar, Technology, Tyrant, and Void for these first 7 slots, to give a wide range of options tied to both common Starfinder tropes, and inquisitor tropes from other science-fantasy fiction.
The class also has inquisitor tactics, which fill our “talent” design space. One of those — Team Tactics — is going to grant option to a range of teamwork feats designed for the class, so we can likely skew toward the lower end of the 20-40 talent number, especially since the class also picks either advanced melee weapon or longarm weapon proficiency at 1st, AND has spells. There are only 10 in the draft, so that number will need to be roughly double in the final version.
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