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.