Sterling is an architect, writer and game designer. As an architect, he works on projects of all sizes, local to international. As a game designer and cartographer he works in fantasy settings and a galaxy far, far away.

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« Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale on The Tome Show | Main | Star Wars Wednesday - Designing Stats »

Star Wars Wednesday - Nonheroics

Continuing with the stat block creation discussion of the past two weeks, this time I want delve into the use of the nonheroic class in Star Wars RPG Saga Edition.

In a minute. First, I want to cover one important point on last week's notes on stat blocks for canon characters.

When creating canon characters, you're usually dealing with known character histories. That means the characters must have certain abilities available at certain times in their career. While Saga normally just printed the stats for a character as it was best known, the stats were built with their histories in mind so they could be deconstructed to a logical lower level if needed. So, this means building the character like you would a player character is pretty important. You must pay attention to the order of levels, ability score advancement and potentially the pickup of extra skills and languages if their Intelligence score increases along the way. Sometimes, you have to get pretty creative to fit it all in, and tricks like that can help.

So, nonheroics - what the heck is that class?

The nonheroic class is for use with gamemaster characters. Player characters should never start with or use a nonheroic class, and and the same it true for almost all major gamemaster characters*. They'll miss out on too many features of starting with heroic class, and be noticeably weaker in game play. The nonheroic class is just that - the class for everyone else in the Star Wars Universe, including minor minions, shopkeepers, professionals, typical droids, greater or lesser government officials, scientists and so on. Even combat specific characters like the average soldier, guard or thug are nonheroics. Just because they're combatants doesn't necessarily give them levels of soldier or scout. In game terms, characters with heroic levels are special in ways beyond years of training or experience that the average combatant often has.

Why not just give everyone heroic class levels? Why mess around with a special class? Several reasons:

  • Nonheroics don't get starting bonuses to their hit points, or add nonheroic class levels to defenses making them easier to hit and defeat, thus making combat quicker.
  • Nonheroics don't have bonus feats or talents, giving them fewer options in combat, and therefore fewer options for the gamemaster to track during game play.
  • Character creation is faster with nonheroics, since they have fewer options to pick from, saving the gamemaster preparation time when dealing with lesser characters. 

And more that will become more apparent as we go along. So, I may have gotten ahead of myself a bit. Let's back up and describe more of the features of the nonheroic class. See also page 277 of the Core Rulebook.

  • HP 1d4+Con modifier - the weakest of all classes.
  • 3 starting feats, selected from a limited list at 1st level.
  • Skills - Trained in 1 + Intelligence modifier, minimum 1. Any skill except Use the Force.
  • They gain feats in the normal progression of all characters, but gain no class bonus feats.
  • They can mulitclass into a heroic class.
  • They do not gain Force Points, Destiny points.
  • Their ability score increases are only 1 per every 4 levels.
  • When determining CL, 3 nonheroic levels equals 1 heroic level. This is why many nonheroic characters have 3, 6 or 9 nonheroic levels.

Nonheroic levels give the gamemaster (and game designer) some interesting options in character design, beyond the obvious uses listed above.

  • Give a character starting nonheroic levels whenever you want to reduce their hit points and defenses. You can still multi class into a heroic class to boost their abilities a bit more.
  • Use the fact that 3 nonheroic levels equals 1 heroic level to create a more experienced or more highly trained gamemaster character that logically should have more levels than the player character, without overpowering the player characters. Examples: a veteran soldier, commanding officer, advanced politician or highly trained professional.
  • The nonheroic's trained skill list includes all skills other than Use the Force. When creating a nonheroic character multiclassed into a heroic class, you can use this fact to give the character trained skills they otherwise would not be able to get from their heroic class. Example: a noble with Acrobatics.
  • Most nonheroic characters should be statistically simpler than the heroic characters, so don't shy away from using the Skill Training feat to boost the number of trained skills to what the character logically requires.This is very useful when creating scholarly or highly focused characters.
  • While the starting feat list is highly limited, don't forget that nonheroics gain level-based feats like all other classes, and those may be selected from the regular lists of feats.
  • Remember: armor always helps nonheroics that don't have any heroic levels. If you've questioned what benefit armor brings in the game, this is it - helps the "normal" people in the universe who have no heroic levels to add to their Reflex defense. If the character does multiclass into heroic levels, armor works the same as for the player characters.
  • Story wise, characters who start in regular professions but later become heroes are often best built with nonheroic levels then multiclassed into heroic levels. Rebels, for instance.
  • Just because nonheroics cannot be trained in Use the Force without multiclassing doesn't mean they can't have Force Sensitivity as one of their reguar feats. Actually, they gain access to Use the Force when they take Force Sensitivity. However, they would need to take Force Sensitivity as one of their Feats gained from level or a bonus feat (like starting Human), not one of the nonheroic starting feats.

Hopefully, this shows the versatility of the nonheroic class in the game. Nonheroics generally quick to create and easy to alter on the fly. It's highly adaptable to most any character type, with or without heroic classes in the mix. 

*Notable exception: Marn Hierogryph, of the Knights of the Old Republic comic.


Reader Comments (4)

Interesting that you would point out that the NH class can't train in UtF, since IIRC the feat force sensitivity adds UtF to your list of possible class skills to train in.

I'm not attempting to argue with you about the rule, but instead it shows two different ways of interpreting the role of a NH character who is sensitive in the force.

For instance, As my PC's would delve into adventures, I would occasionally harry them with NH that had a rudimentary training in UtF with maybe 1 force training feat. This gave my force wizard PC a reason to take more than one rebuke, and also gave him a sense of satisfaction at being able to reflect the powers back about half the time. A force using NH also is a bigger threat to higher level PC's than it's LEvel would normally indicate because of the inherent accuracy in force powers.

However, this interpretation has all the hallmarks of an "exploitation" of the rules, when in most Star Wars lore even the most rudmentary force user is more "heroic" than the average wampa. Making NH joe blows able to perform amazing force feats does cheapen it's meaning, and typically in most of the video games throw away force users aren't really there. Oh sure htere are armies of sith in KOTOR and it's kin, but even then those enemies are far superior to the sith troopers that are fought early on, and they only seem trivial because (if you built your character correctly) they are facing down a force god.

While I didn't come away with the same rule interpretation as you, it's an interesting element to think about when designing characters, especially antagonists for your PC's: How special should a force using NPC be, should they be able to be simply back ground fodder, or should all instances of the force be more purposeful than a trooper in the same design space?

Thanks for the thoughts.

July 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMajesticmoose

You are correct. Force Sensitivity adds Use the Force to your Skill list automatically, like it adds the Force talents as options beyond the class talents as well. This is the sort of thing that gets overlooked when not going back and rereading everything you're commenting on. That and I don't recall using it with a nonheroic.

Personally, any non-heroic Force users I'd use would be very low powered. Maybe a species with minimal Force use, or some kind of low level student. If they were higher (nonheroic) level, I'd leave them untrained for roleplaying/story purposes.

July 8, 2011 | Registered CommenterSterling Hershey

Can you give me a page reference for the CL of non-heroic characters? I've discussed the issue art length with my current GM who beleives as you state that they gain one point of CL every 3 level. It seems to me that many of them follow the pattern of 1 point of CL every 4 non-heroic levels rather than every 3 as is the case with the stormtrooper (SWSE 279) who is a CL 1 non-heroic 4, and the Heavy stormrooper (SWSE 279) who is CL 2 and non-heoric 8. The commando (TotG 22) is a non-heroic 8/soldier 4 at CL 6, this also bears out a 1 per 4 rather than 1 per 3 pattern.

In reference to force sensitivity, not only is it possible Rodney Thompson already did it. The Reborn (TotG 29) are force sensitve non-heroic 6s.

August 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSimm

I didn't find a page number, so it may be something I learned through freelancing for the game. But officially, yes, it's 3 nonheroic levels equals 1 CL.

Generally, you take the non-heroic CL, divide by 3 and disregard the remainder. So, that means you'll see nonheroic characters levels 1-5 usually listed as CL1. Noneheroic levels 6-8 are CL 2, 9-11 CL 3 and so on.

CLs may be occasionally altered due to influences other than strictly a level calculation. For instance, you might see a non-combatant nonheroic droid at CL0 and an armed nonheroic droid at CL 1 but their class is the same at nonheroic 2.

August 28, 2011 | Registered CommenterSterling Hershey

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