D&D General Are NPCs like PCs?

Reynard

Legend
This is a spin off thread from one of the long and meandering "Monsters of the Multiverse" threads.

The question is relatively straight forward: do you prefer that NPCs and monsters operate by the same rules as PCs, or that they operate by their own rules. One of the most basic ways in which this might appear is should NPC and monster spellcasters have to use the same spells available to PCs, and if they don't that means the PCs should be able to learn that spell. It extends to racial abilities: if a monster race has an ability, does that require that a PC of that monster race should have that ability as well.

3E was very much in the camp of monsters and NPCs being built by the same system as PCs. This led to what i think was an interminable process of building NPCs and advancing monsters, which resulted in only marginal benefits (if any) in the actual play of those monsters and NPCs in a fight with the PCs. Older editions did not try to conflate them except that some monsters had "spell like abilities" and leaders were often indicated as "fighting as an x level y". 4E had monsters operating under theie own rules -- and just for full disclosure, while I was not a fan of 4E I do think the 4E monster stat block was the one thing the edition did right. 5E seems to be treading the line between the approaches and is probably closest to the pre-3E model in most cases (although the stat block is bigger).

I am in the camp that monsters do not need to use the same rules as PCs and in fact shouldn't. Players should not be able to look up what a monster or NPC can do in the PHB. Spellcasting monsters and NPCs should have their own list of magical abilities, all accessible in the statblock. Same for "feats" or "class abilities" for NPCs and monsters.

What is your preference?
 

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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I think that monsters and PCs could or could not use the same rules, but as to should, that depends on how the rest of the game is designed and what its goals of play are. In any case, I think D&D 4e monsters were far easier to design and manage in play than D&D 3e. D&D 5e is somewhere in between those two in my view, mostly as it relates to spells.
 




Why is this not a poll?

But yes, I prefer NPCs to operate under the same logic than the PCs, especially if they're of potential PC species. If PC goblins have a certain trait, NPC goblins have it too, if a NPC wizard has a spell, a PC wizard should be able to learn that spell too (at least when they kill the NPC wizard and loot their spellbook.) It matters less for weird things like beholders and dragons as those are not directly comparable anyway.

Some streamlining for ease of use is OK, but the NPCs should still feel sameish in practice than the PCs. Moments of "why can they do that, but I cannot?" should be avoided. (There of course could be some special situations where the fiction would result that outcome, but it shouldn't be the norm.)
 
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Leatherhead

Possibly a Idiot.
NPCs and PCs operate with the same Core Rules. But have different abilities/powers.

This has nothing to do with who is unique or special (for the record, this method creates unique "rulebreaking" NPCs more often than not) and everything to do with practical asymmetrical game design.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
I don't need them to be statted exactly the same, but an NPC who is doing what a PC does (paladin, adventuring wizard, warrior casting cleric) feels like it should have net equivalence in terms of abilities and special abilities while being encountered and active in the adventure (even if they aren't written the same) and should be viewed the same by those in the game world. And, in one case in the previous thread, the spells for the PC race NPCs that are commonly used should be commonly available to the PCs too. And if a PC could research a unique spell, so could the NPC.

I think 3.5 was too far one way with NPCs, and for some things 4 went too far the other.

This view causes me more cognitive dissonance when half of the MM is available to players to play, because I liked the 4e way for the "monster" humanoids before I thought of having them as PC available races.
 

NotAYakk

Legend
Nope.

Game wise, PCs should be full of dials and knobs for players to fiddle with. NPCs and Monsters do not need such dials and knobs, they get in the way.

Fiction wise, I like using D&D to play heroic fantasy. So I want PCs to be unusual; either by fate, or by early events in campaign.

As an example, in the campaign I am working on for the end of the pandemic(tm), without cheating mortals basically cap out at level 5.

Mages mostly use spell scrolls; some specialize in destroying them less often. Producing scrolls is done by trained scribes. Priests/shamans use relics. Some holy warriors are imbued with power from relics. Others make deals with spirits.

The PCs at level 1 are already unusual, if not exceedingly so. A Wizard PC was really good at not destroying the simplest of spell scrolls, for example; but wasn't very good at the higher magics.

In the Tier 1 plot, the PCs "stumble" over something big that both changes them and leads to ths rest of the campaign. Thus justifies their fast advancement in power, without having to have a world warped by it.

I don't like games where "adventuring" is a profession. I only need the PCs, and replacements for when they die/retire, to adventure.
 

It depends what you mean by "like PCs".

The rules (at least to me) are a user interface to enable sharing of the game world and the game. The PCs are a certain sort of characters controlled in a very specific way by players; it would make as much sense to force the DM to use all the same mechanics as the players do as it does to put a steering wheel for the passenger in a car.

Also by forcing the NPCs to work using the same techniques as professional adventurers you're seriously restricting the worldbuilding.
 



Lanefan

Victoria Rules
This is a spin off thread from one of the long and meandering "Monsters of the Multiverse" threads.

The question is relatively straight forward: do you prefer that NPCs and monsters operate by the same rules as PCs, or that they operate by their own rules. One of the most basic ways in which this might appear is should NPC and monster spellcasters have to use the same spells available to PCs, and if they don't that means the PCs should be able to learn that spell. It extends to racial abilities: if a monster race has an ability, does that require that a PC of that monster race should have that ability as well.
In all cases except spells, very much yes. And if a monster casts a previously-unknown spell (as opposed to using an innate ability, which can be anything) the PCs should at least have the possibility of somehow finding out what it is and learning it or replicating it.

The monster abilities are a large part of why I don't want monsters as PCs.
3E was very much in the camp of monsters and NPCs being built by the same system as PCs. This led to what i think was an interminable process of building NPCs and advancing monsters, which resulted in only marginal benefits (if any) in the actual play of those monsters and NPCs in a fight with the PCs.
The process needn't be interminable. In my view you can just choose whatever, as long as the end result is something that could be achieved if one went through the whole process properly.
Older editions did not try to conflate them except that some monsters had "spell like abilities" and leaders were often indicated as "fighting as an x level y". 4E had monsters operating under theie own rules -- and just for full disclosure, while I was not a fan of 4E I do think the 4E monster stat block was the one thing the edition did right. 5E seems to be treading the line between the approaches and is probably closest to the pre-3E model in most cases (although the stat block is bigger).

I am in the camp that monsters do not need to use the same rules as PCs and in fact shouldn't. Players should not be able to look up what a monster or NPC can do in the PHB. Spellcasting monsters and NPCs should have their own list of magical abilities, all accessible in the statblock. Same for "feats" or "class abilities" for NPCs and monsters.

What is your preference?
NPCs of the same species as PCs should follow the same rules, period, end of story. An Elf is an Elf, a Human is a Human, etc. They're all inhabitants of the same setting and don't walk around with little 'PC' or 'NPC' stickers on their foreheads.

That, and given character turnover etc. a background NPC today could very easily become someone's PC tomorrow.

Non-playable species and monsters - particularly those not native to the setting world - can vary all they like as long as they're consistent with themselves. Githi, being outsiders, have all kinds of spells the PCs will likely never have encountered (and probably don't want to).

But if the Kobolds have a religions caster or Shaman it's going to be built on the Nature Cleric chassis and use much the same spells, yes; and if Lich McEvilness is going to throw his own self-researched mage spell at the PCs then somewhere is going to be the book it's written in; and if the PCs find said book they in theory can access that spell for their own casters.
 


SkidAce

Legend
I think folks have already described my preference, but the bottom line is;

PCs and NPCs can be built differently, i.e. not all my NPC rogues may have sneak attack, some may have "club bash" instead. Add skills/delete skills, pick abilities from different classes to make the NPC feel multiclassed, etc etc , SURE GO FOR IT!

And there is no way I am going to build a full pc sheet for an NPC. However;

...the framework will be similar. Certain NPCs may have special abilities etc that they learned/developed on their own etc, And many organizations in the world have secret teachings. And you know, the player may say "I want to learn that" and I say "Okay, join that organization for several years learning their ways".

But creatures and NPCs that do things functionally the same as the PC classes do, will do them in the same fashion. I don't mind WotC creating special actions and abilities for creatures/mobs, but the majority of actions will be the same or similar.
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
3rd Edition was when I really came to love D&D, and it was exacting in having NPCs be the same as PCs. Anybody remember those huge tables in the DMG for NPCs of every class at every level?

I used to build my NPCs carefully, making sure they followed all the same rules as PCs, choosing their feats by level to make sure they had the right requirements...

Then 4e came out and blew all that out of the water. NPCs didn't have to replicate PCs, they just had to have the abilities needed for their roles.

I found this really liberating from a game design standpoint. No longer did I have to justify why or how NPCs did things by the rules... I could just have them do what I wanted them to do! It was much better for adventure and encounter design.

I've kept this up in 5e. My NPCs can do whatever I need them to do. There are rules behind it, but not the same rules as the PCs.
 


Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
This is a spin off thread from one of the long and meandering "Monsters of the Multiverse" threads.

The question is relatively straight forward: do you prefer that NPCs and monsters operate by the same rules as PCs, or that they operate by their own rules. One of the most basic ways in which this might appear is should NPC and monster spellcasters have to use the same spells available to PCs, and if they don't that means the PCs should be able to learn that spell. It extends to racial abilities: if a monster race has an ability, does that require that a PC of that monster race should have that ability as well.
I like a mix. Unimportant NPCs should just have a stat block or even no block and an idea of some basics. For important NPCs, I will roll them up or give them class levels.
 

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