The GM Awakens: The Path Less Traveled – The Aggressor

The Path Less Traveled is a regular series in which I’ll be examining a single specialization from the Star WarsEdge of the Empire/Age of Rebellion/Force and Destiny lines of games. The purpose and hope is to take a look at a specialization that perhaps many players might overlook or ones that are somewhat new to the game lines. We will look at strengths and weaknesses, synergies with other species and specializations, roles in a party, how to incorporate them into a campaign, and perhaps some uses which are not always obvious at first glance.

The Path Less Traveled series is something I have quite a bit of fun writing.  As I’ve only been a GM in the Star Wars RPG system, I’ve never been able to build a character and play as a player.  So with these examinations of specializations that don’t get chosen all the time, I sort of get the chance to create characters in my mind, character concepts, etc.  So these are a lot of fun for me.

Overview

This edition of The Path Less Traveled comes in from Chase LeMaster and his request from the d20 Facebook page.  This week’s specialization is one of my favorites that I’ve wanted to dive into: the Aggressor.  This fear-based Force-sensitive is an intimidating character build and one that can lay waste to those who dare oppose him or her.  The Aggressor can affect the battlefield even when he or she isn’t attacking by forcing fear checks on his foes and making them hesitate in battle.  The Aggressor shines in social situations as the other people involved are so intimidated by him as well.  The Aggressor doesn’t always fight, and they’re known for using their intimidation to prevent a fight from even breaking out.  But if the fighting does start, the mere sight of an Aggressor will be enough to make his or her adversaries think twice in the middle of the battle.  So let’s take a look at the Aggressor, and we’ll see what sorts of characters you can make with the specialization.

Skills and Characteristics

As the Aggressor is part of the Warrior career, the Aggressor gets access to Athletics, Brawl, Cool, Melee, Perception, and Survival as career skills.  Obviously a career made for fighting.  In addition, the Aggressor gains Coercion, Knowledge (Underworld), Ranged (Light), and Streetwise.  As a result, the Aggressor very easily could be a non-lightsaber wielding fighter, as Lightsaber is not one of the skills listed.  The Aggressor leans heavily on Coercion as we’ll see going through our discussion, and it’s that skill that greatly separates the Aggressor from many other Force and Destiny specializations.

Species

Because the species that one chooses should typically be based on what skills the chosen career and specialization have, the Aggressor should have several species as considerations for selection.  With the skills above of Athletics, Brawl, and Melee, a high Brawn is good to have.  Perception, Survival, and Streetwise all require a strong Cunning.  But there is one other characteristic that’s important for an Aggressor, and that’s Willpower.  The reason is, Coercion is a skill needed for some talents that the Aggressor has, but also for thematic purposes.  The Aggressor uses fear and intimidation to try and get out of fights, get information, and get through many situations.  So, while there’s just one skill related to it, consider a high Willpower depending on the type of Aggressor you wish to play.  Many players will focus on Brawn and Cunning, which you should, but don’t forget Willpower as part of your build.

As a result, several species have strong Brawn, Cunning, and Willpower starting out as good choices.  The Chevin and Weequay have 3s in both Brawn and Cunning, and a 2 in Willpower.  The Hutt has a 3 in Brawn and Willpower, with a 2 in Cunning.  The Anx, Aqualish, Elom, Lasat, Nikto, and Trandoshan all have 3s in Brawn, with 2s in the other two characteristics.  If you want to make sure you always have a 3 in Cunning, you can add Devaronian and Gotal to the list of good possibilities.  But don’t forget the Zabrak.  A 3 in Willpower with 2s across the board, with the exception of Presence which has a 1.  But the intriguing thing about Zabrak is Fearsome Countenance which allows you to always add an Advantage to all Coercion checks just based on how you look.

Talents

The talents for an Aggressor let the character lean on his intimidation and Coercion to manipulate social situations and sway combat.  The character should be scary when others go up against him/her and think twice when trying to attack.

There are a couple of paths through the talent tree for the Aggressor.  The left side has a lot of talents around being intimidating and fearsome, while the right side has talents to stay up in a fight!  So lets’ look at the highlights:

Starting on the left side, two ranks of Intimidating allow the character to upgrade the difficulty of Coercion checks targeting them, and upgrade Coercion checks targeting others.  With two ranks, every time you use Coercion, for a little strain, you can add some serious yellow dice to your checks.  Add to that three ranks of Fearsome, which makes it so if an adversary gets to engaged range with the character, like a Lightsaber fight, you force the character to make a fear check, with the difficulty equal to the number of ranks in Fearsome.  Get all three ranks and everyone you do hand-to-hand or melee fighting with will need to pass a hard fear check!

My favorite talents on this side are Terrify and Improved Terrify for sure.  Terrify is one of those fun talents that make you take some conflict just for knowing them.  It lets you make a hard Coercion check adding your Force Dice into the mix.  If you succeed, you get to disorient one target within medium range, per each success and spend two advantage to extend the duration and spend Force Points to immobilize the affected target.  The Improved Terrify version lets you reduce the Coercion check to average and can spend a Triumph to stagger a target.  Combine these with Fearsome and you’re affecting the entire battlefield just by being present.

On the right hand side, Sense Advantage will remove two setback dice for any NPC skill checks.  Crippling Blow will make your next combat check harder, but if the attack hits, the adversary suffers strain each time he moves for the rest of the encounter.  For minions, that’s the equivalent of bleeding out almost.  A couple ranks of Toughened makes you harder to drop, and a couple ranks of Prey on the Weak add one damage to a successful check against disoriented targets.  Mix that with Terrify and you have a potent attack!

The two best talents on this side are Heroic Fortitude which lets you spend a Destiny Point to ignore Critical Injuries related to Brawn or Agility, and Against All Odds, which lets you make a hard Resilience check with your Force Dice added.  You immediately heal wounds equal to successes and you can add Force Points to add successes too.  There is NO strain cost for this talent, meaning you likely, if you pump up your Resilience, may never drop unconscious from taking too many Wounds.

Specialization Synergy and Character Concepts

So what other specializations make a really cool Aggressor to match with?  Well, first off, any of the Lightsaber fighting styles can easily be your companion specialization.  Of course, the Shi-Cho Knight works because of its reliance on Brawn.  But also, with the Aggressor’s focus on Cunning and Willpower for their skills and Coercion checks, the Shien Expert and the Niman Disciple should be good matches if you’d like to swing a lightsaber.

In the Force and Destiny line there are tons of fun combinations.  However, I think an Aggressor/Armorer would be amazing.  A tank of a character that scares the snot out of his or her foes would be so much fun.  Able to take a ton of hits and when you get him down, Against All Odds gets you right back up!

The Sentry, which I might do in another edition of The Path Less Traveled, is a great spec to synergize an Aggressor with, thematically and mechanically.  The Sentry has many lightsaber-based talents, which are based in Brawn, and the idea of a “Batman” type character that attacks from the shadows and scares his foes is super fun.

But don’t just look at Force and Destiny for your choices to match with the Aggressor.  Remember that while the Aggressor is Force-sensitive, he or she does not have a Lightsaber skill to start out, meaning that the character will likely fight with many other weapons.  So with that, one place to look might be the Vanguard or the Trailblazer from Forged in Battle from the Age of Rebellion line.  Those specializations really focus on attacking first and getting the jump on your opponents.  If you combine that with the fearsome qualities of the Aggressor, you will be able to get the jump on your adversaries and they’ll be suffering from the effects of fear before they get to act, weakening them for the upcoming rounds.

From the Edge of the Empire line, one that intrigues me is the Enforcer from Dangerous Covenants.  This is a hand-to-hand fighting specialization that also relies of fear.  More ranks of Intimidating and Fearsome can seriously pump up your ability to control a fight with fear.  And lastly, I think the Bodyguard would be a great, thematic match.  Having a really scary bodyguard around and behind important people to protect just seems like a really amazing Star Wars character to play!

So how about you?  Have you played an Aggressor?  What was your build like?  Have you tried any of the combinations talked about here?

Catch you next time!

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Scott Alden

Scott Alden

Scott is a full-time IT Manager living in Lawrence, KS. (Rock Chalk, Jayhawk! Just outside Kansas City for those who don't know.) Scott is a veteran of several role playing, table top miniatures, video, and board games, starting with the Atari 2600 when he was 6, and the classic red box Dungeons and Dragons game when he was 12. After a long hiatus away from the hobby, Scott has recently picked up gaming once again, and is running two different campaigns in Fantasy Flight Games' Edge of the Empire/Age of Rebellion/Force and Destiny lines. He is an avid X-Wing miniatures player, as well as Armada, Imperial Assault, Space Hulk, and Rebellion. (His family is obviously a Star Wars family, right?) Scott is married to his high school sweetheart, and has 2 children in middle school, both Black Belts in Krav Maga martial arts.
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