Balancing a powerful(?) NPC


Recently, I’ve created a rouge clone that now works for the Imperials for my players to deal with as a mini-boss fight. However, I am not experienced in creating custom NPCs, and I wish for some feedback on how to make him balanced.

Here’s the NPC.

Nemesis class. Blackout’s purpose is to hide behind minions or in tall structures to snipe his opponents from safety. If the enemies get too close for comfort, he has a trusty pistol that he can use to annoy the PCs which shouldn’t be too fatal.

I’m planning on the players having a fight with him in a port area, with a lot of excess troopers around as well as a training arena for Imperial troopers (basically the same as the one we see on Kamino for the clones)

EDIT: I’ve just realized that I didn’t give him any talents besides Adversary. Do you guys have any suggestions talent-wise for a combat-focused NPC?

I’ll give more detailed feedback when I have time, but a key talent that fits the theme would be Imperial Valor, essentially allowing the character to redirect an incoming attack to an ally within Engaged range. AoR CRB, Moff statblock, I believe.

On the face of it, 5 Agility seems too high. That’s where you get to the point of “virtually impossible to miss.” If that isn’t of concern to you, then it isn’t. Just my two cents. I prefer giving 4 Agility and effects that allow either an increase in dice (True Aim) or a decrease in difficulty (Telescopic Optical Sight).

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The truth of balancing a character is that you’re balancing against something. When you weigh a tomato, you’re weighing it against weights. Otherwise, the scale just drops all the way. Therefore, I’m giving an underinformed opinion since I don’t know the characters and so will have to speak more generally.


Giving him a spread of 543333 seems a bit overstatted. Just for contrast, in my ~1,500 EXP game I gave Cody a spread of 433332 (though he isn’t an anti-party boss).

I would drop Agility to 4 and drop Presence to 2, with maybe Intellect alongside it. After all, he’s a combat character isn’t he? At max, that’d give a spread of 443322.


Giving him ranks in every skill is also a bit excessive (wait, some of them just aren’t showing?)—Giving him ranks in so many skills is excessive and makes things harder on you since it’s harder to remember his dice pools. A trick I often use is 0, YYG, YYYG. Unimportant skills with 0 ranks, moderately important skills with a pool of YYG/YYGG, and important skills with a pool of YYY/YYYG (or rarely YYYY).

That way I can quickly remember a dice pool based just on what the skill is. Mechanics? The NPC is a skilled mechanic with an Intellect of 3, so YYY. Ranged (Light)? It’s supplementary and he’s decently skilled with an Agility of 3, so YYG. Cool? Unimportant skill with a Presence of 2, so GG.

I’d suggest:
YYG Coercion, Leadership, Cool, Vigilance, Knowledge (Warfare)/YYGG Perception, Ranged (Light).
YYYG Stealth, Survival.
YYYY Ranged (Heavy)

This makes it much easier on you, since you only have to remember three skills specifically. The rest are all the equivalent of two ranks against a Characteristic of three or four. It’s also easier if you need to come up with a skill on the fly, so you know how to benchmark it. Specialty you didn’t realize he had? Give him four+two/three. Supplemental skill you didn’t expect? Three+two.


Don’t overdo it with talents, they’re even more prone to throw you for a loop than a jumble of skills. Generally, I recommend a base of Adversary, one or two utility talents (e.g. Imperial Valor), and one or two specialty talents. For example, an ISB agent of mine has Adversary, Barrage (specialty), and Durable (utility).

I’d recommend Imperial Valor and Point Blank 2 (for reasons I shall soon mention).


Tricked out pistols are cool, and make fun loot even if not better than a character’s current weapon. I have a character in one of my games who will frequently acquire special pistols on various missions, a habit I have enabled at various points and will continue to enable because it’s fun.

Anyway, equipment is tailored to a character’s activities. You can learn a lot about someone by looking in their trash, but you can learn more by looking at what they keep around.

The sniper is a fine choice, although I personally dislike the existence of Slow-Firing on snipers as it nerfs their DPS tremendously and makes it often even more boring to play a sniper character, on the rare occasion that you actually get the chance. For an NPC, it’s a balancing issue and you’ll have to choose whether to take it as-is or trick out a weapon that doesn’t have Slow-Firing.

At any rate, it needs attachments. I recommend a Telescopic Optical Sight, a Multi-Optic Sight, and a Custom Grip. The Electronic Sighting System is a good attachment, but its utility is halved when not at Short range, and you don’t want to use this rifle at short range (I’ll explain soon). The Custom Grip has the added utility of making it hard to use this weapon as a loot item, since it adds 2 Setback to use by someone to whom it isn’t tailored.
Additionally, the effective 3 Setback removal of the MOS and grip mean that the character could make frequent use of utility items such as smoke grenades, or of darkness, to make it harder for his opponents while suffering no ill-effects himself.

The pistol is also an excellent, thematic choice. However, it could use some more tricking out, as it’s currently just a stock weapon and as I mentioned earlier, tricked out pistols are cool.
A pistol is a last-ditch weapon used when his position is overrun, which will typically be one of the first tactics players will resort to (with the way turn-based systems work, it’s often effective).

To that end, give the pistol last-ditch bonuses, so they think they have him, but then switches to his pistol and hits far harder than they expected.

Add Filed Front Sight, Hair Trigger, and Electronic Sighting System. The drawback of the ESS is irrelevant if he’s already been overrun, if he hasn’t been overrun, he doesn’t need the pistol, so it’ll only be used at Short range anyway.

This setup will allow him to draw and aim as an incidental, aim again if he would like (for 3-4 Boosts, depending on whether you max the ESS), and fire with Linked 1, but 2 Setback. So it’s unpredictable (big dice pools are fun), and can punch hard. Add in Point Blank, and he can really put the hammer down on anyone who tries to jump on him too quickly.

“Imperial Clone Armor,” I take it that’s custom? I’d recommend either Clone Reconnaissance Armor or Storm Commando Armor. Not only does it give you a quick way to tell your characters what he looks like, but the Setback removal is sympathetic with the MOS, enhancing the effect of environmental manipulation. Besides, both look awesome, particularly in such situations as a dark, smoky warehouse, docking bay, or what-have-you.

If you really want to get him up to 6 Soak, then consider him to have Armor Master or Enduring baked into his statblock. You don’t have to list them, unless it’s enforced by RPG Sessions (one of several reasons I prefer SWSheets), just like you don’t list Toughened or Grit.

Other Equipment:
This is tricky, and I can’t really do this for you since I don’t really know what he does outside of combat. But giving him a survival knife type of thing (regardless of combat utility, which knives generally don’t have in this system) is thematic.
I specifically recommend Smoke Grenades, which is in line with my other suggestions. You can find them in the Explosives and Ordnance section of my spreadsheet.

Alternatively, use a poison gas grenade and fill it with some compound of your own devising to act like some kind of tear gas, while also providing the concealment.

It’s extensive, but I think that just about sums it up. Hope it helps!

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Yeah lol, I didn’t have time to go looking through all the armor types at the time of making the NPC.

I really like what you did, and I thank you for your time. I’ll go over it more extensively later today. Thanks again P-47!

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P-47 made a lot of great points, but regarding Talents I love Adversary as it’s an easy way to increase the difficulty and survivability of the NPC.

Other than that I like NPCs to have one or a few tricks that are more fun than a passive bonus. Active talents that “do” something special can make the NPC more memorable, as you seem to be building an adversary that might be a recurring enemy it’s fun to surprise the players with some trick, so they have to plan accordingly next time.

Fun talents:

  • Careful planning - This you could obviously do for “free” as a GM, but it’s kind of fun to activate the talent and introduce a new fact, such as a well planned escape route or a sudden ceiling collapse when the player characters come near the NPC.
  • Cunning snare - Similar to careful planning gives you an easy way to introduce a trap for the PCs.
  • Clever solution - If you keep Cunning high it’s a good way to boost any potential check you need to make.
  • Quick Fix - Same as clever solution but for Agility instead.
  • Natural Marksman - It’s nice when you really want to hit your target.

You could have just one active talent the first time they encounter the NPC, and then add one for the next encounter. An easy way to tweak the character and make sure he has new tricks up his sleeve for the next encounter.

I like “use only once” talents, as they often are powerful and adds tension. For example Natural Marksman, if you miss an important shot, the players might be relieved, but then you get to re roll the check, that creates instant nervousness. So don’t waste the talent on just any check, use it when it matters the most. “I will be KO’d if he hits me!” roll “Wonderful, it was a miss!” “A re roll?! Nooooooooo!” :slight_smile:

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Just to clarify, I wasn’t saying not to add Adversary, I considered that baked into the cake (see my earlier mention of a “base of Adversary”). When I said “Imperial Valor and Point Blank 2,” I was talking about additional to the existing talent. Adversary 2 seemed appropriate to me.

I see what you’re saying, but I tend to disagree. Beyond the GM aspect that single-use talents are easy to forget, to the players it can look like a sort of cheating. “Oh, you threw something challenging at the NPC, playing to a weakness? Well he can use his best Characteristic for it.” Or in the example of Natural Marksman, now the player feels like he has no chance and you just want to make sure he gets incapacitated. If you have a 75% chance of success, which will incapacitate, and you fail, the player feels lucky. If you can then reroll, there’s a total 6% chance of not incapacitating the character on the check. The incapacitation isn’t the issue, it’s the “cheating” to do it. While it might work well at some tables, in general I’d have to recommend against it.

As an example of where I have used one, I have a very high-level Adversary that’s a party challenge for PCs with roughly 1,500 EXP, and I gave him a Natural talent because when numbers are that high, a single failure (or a lack of Advantage/Triumph) can be very significant.

It’s a tool in the box, but it’s a last resort tool that I only recommend in extreme circumstances.

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Sorry, I was probably unclear as well, I got that you think Adversary is a good talent. And I just wanted to agree with that. :slight_smile:

You’re probably right that it depends a lot on the table. When I GM I like use only once-talents as they add a sudden boost and adds a surprise element to the encounter. And I generally remember to use them. But I agree, it depends on the group. At some tables it might feel like cheating, at some it works. So it’s important to know your group.

At our table an incapacitated character means that the group medic has something more interesting/useful to do than fire her light blaster which won’t do much damage anyways, if she even hits. Better to drag the incapacitated character to safety and use medicine and stims to help bring the PC back into the fight.


I’ve gone through and changed him around per your suggestions @P-47Thunderbolt. Could you link me to that spreadsheet you mentioned so I can look at the smoke grenades?

To clarify, when I was talking about setting skills to two proficiency dice, I wasn’t saying that they should be at 2 Skill ranks. My point was that if you make them YYG (whether that’s two ranks or three), they’re uniform.

For example, if both Vigilance and Cool are YYG, then you know that initiative is YYG regardless which is appropriate. So to streamline, I’d suggest bumping minimum “skilled skill” to YYG, drop Negotiation, and bump Deception to YYGG.

Currently, you have seven different dice pools. My suggestion would narrow that down to four, with two having the only difference be the Characteristic.

Hmm. This isn’t making a whole lot of sense to me. Do you have an example I can look at to further my understanding?

Here are some examples from your sheet:



That (limited scope view) gives you YG, YY, YYG, YGGG, YYGG, YYYG.

Here’s how I’d change it:



Same view, gives you YYG, YYGG, YYYG

See how much simpler it is?

Ahhh ok. That makes more sense. I’m a very visual person so I apologize for not understanding before.

I’ll get on fixing that up

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It might be simpler, if not by much. But the downside is, that the adversary isn´t any longer as he was thought of at the time of creation.
for example, now he is a far better leader but his negotiation skills are gone. Deception is far better.
I see and understand the approach here, but it never was a big issue with my villians to have too many different skills.
maybe this will be the case once I have to handle more than a half dozen at the same time, but so far it hasn´t.

In my experience, that’s just a part of the process. It’s up to the GM’s tastes how he wants to stat a given character, my suggestions are just suggestions.

I will often start with a general concept for an Adversary, then try to simplify it so it’s easier to run. In that process, sometimes I cut certain aspects of the character I had previously wanted to encourage, or realized that some applied stats didn’t really fit the true concept of the character, and so cut them.

That doesn’t mean doing something differently is wrong, but people have different styles and methods. I prefer to run my games while referring to as few notes/cards/etc. as possible, and I want to run my games as consistently as possible. Thus, I try to minimize the complexity of NPCs.

Speaking of Adversary… What sort of NPCs are appropriate to have it, and what sort are not?

Adversary only affects combat, correct? So maybe NPCs you want the PCs to fight should always have it? Maybe only nemesis level NPCs should have it?

If Adversary is only useful for combatants, should there be a social version of the talent as well?

I recently put together a pair of bounty hunters to harrass the PCs. Their goal is to capture a fugitive the PCs are harboring. The scenario will probably involve combat.

One bounty hunter is a combat guy, a marksman. Your typical sort of bounty hunter. Should he have Adversary?

The other one is formerly a droid tech. Basically a droid nerd turned bounty hunter. Should he have Adversary?

“Social version” would be Nobody’s Fool.

I use Adversary for any Rival I intend to proactively engage in some kind of combat, with rare exceptions (like if I make a very low-level Rival that’s more like a graduated Minion).

If the droid tech doesn’t engage in combat and is just tech support, then no Adversary is fine. But if you give him combat skills and a weapon, I’d tend to give him Adversary as well.

Adversary can sometimes simply be used for “plot armor.” For example, I had a Separatist general character who had some combat training (fancy pistol, a couple ranks of Ranged [Light]), but wasn’t a combatant. However, I gave her the plot armor of two ranks of Adversary to make it more difficult for the PCs to kill her (which partly represents her cleverness/elusiveness rather than offensive combat ability).

Generally speaking, I’d give Nemesis-level characters—particularly important ones—a rank or two in Adversary for the aforementioned “plot armor” if they somehow make the combat more difficult even if they don’t directly offensively engage.

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