D&D General Are NPCs like PCs?

Lyxen

Great Old One
If the PC needed a +7 in persuasion or deception that would come with years of training in a market, maybe I would let the PC swap out some other character things to get it. (Did you give up your school of magic training because you worked in the market place? A point of to hit and your armor training?).

You do realise, thought, that it's not something that PCs can do anyway, this swapping of things ? And that it would be (as @Lanefan says) a bad precedent to allow it in cases like this as it would "create a precedent" ?

It seems common in games I've been in to use rule 0, which you mention upthread, to let players modify the classes to fit their vision (a weapon proficiency they might not have by RAW, a different spell list for their cleric, etc...). Merchant training instead of a bunch of class skills seems ok (but I might warn the player that those skills might be much less useful to the party than some others).

But then, by doing that, you are already saying that the merchant has at least one level in a PC class, with everything else that goes with it including other more combat orientated proficiencies that he does not have any reason to have.

So actually, simply by forcing this at start, you are undermining the consistency of the character as he needs to function in the world.
 

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Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Yep, same experience here, over many, many years of gaming...

In 3e, I have had players asking me how an NPC could do certain things and questioning whether I had computed bonuses properly, which I found really annoying, but it was mostly to reassure himself that I was not "cheating" as a DM, which is a very bizarre and disrespectful thing to do as I'm never playing against the players anyway, but it's not exactly the same thing.
In one of the 5e games I'm running, the party a month or so ago thought they were fighting a druidy type who pulled out a reaction that goes with another class. It certainly surprised at least two of them and they were curious if it was a special item or something. (Nope, you just guessed the wrong class. And it surprised me that they were that shocked by it.)
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
In one of the 5e games I'm running, the party a month or so ago thought they were fighting a druidy type who pulled out a reaction that goes with another class. It certainly surprised at least two of them and they were curious if it was a special item or something. (Nope, you just guessed the wrong class. And it surprised me that they were that shocked by it.)

Some players are like that, and games like 3e suited them well, there was a certain amount of predictability due to metagaming that allows the players to take decisions that they thought tactical. It's fine to game like this, it's just not my preference.

In the genre, be it movies/books/shows/whatever, adversaries are not categorised into strict boxes, with only specific abilities. They always surprise the protagonist with unexpected moves and capabilities that increase the uncertainty and the feeling of a dangerous adventure.

This is my prefered way of playing, and as a side bonus it allows players to really roleplay their characters as if they were in a real fantasy world rather than one where all the strings are visible. Once more, if some people prefer to game the world rather than experience it, it's fine, it's just a question of preference, it's just not my own.
 

To read the question another way: I do wish I could use pc building rule to make balanced-for-combat npcs. The fact that I can't use a 5th-level fighter as a reasonable challenge in 5e DnD annoys me and is a flaw in the game.

Like I get why (they wanted smooth progressions of pc abilities that also look like the traditional progressions) and know not to, but I feel like I should be able to, ya know?
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
You do realise, thought, that it's not something that PCs can do anyway, this swapping of things ? And that it would be (as @Lanefan says) a bad precedent to allow it in cases like this as it would "create a precedent" ?

I'm pretty sure (checks the log for precedent) that if I can swap all of the rules in a 5e game for 3e and still claim it's 5e (!?!?) (double checks to make sure that was read correctly) that allowing customization of character classes is ok.

But seriously, I'm not sure I've had a DM since the mid80s not allow some flexibility in what the classes could do if it seemed balanced and fit the world - so I am super with that. I'm also fine with a DM who doesn't want to do that. Would the precedent problem be if I let one player do what seemed reasonable and balanced in terms of power level and world availability, and didn't let someone else?

But then, by doing that, you are already saying that the merchant has at least one level in a PC class, with everything else that goes with it including other more combat orientated proficiencies that he does not have any reason to have.

So actually, simply by forcing this at start, you are undermining the consistency of the character as he needs to function in the world.

It feels like there are several different arguments going on in this thread.
1) Do all NPCs need a PC class?
2) Do all NPCs need to have a regular class structure?
3) Do all NPCs need to roughly try to model something that could fit into a world where certain skillsets are modeled by the PC classes and others could be modeled by NPC classes I guess if anyone had the time for that?
4) Do powers NPCs have need to be gainable by the PCs right now.
5) Do powers NPCs have need to be gainable by a new starting PC if they did the appropriate things to get it, including possibly forgoing other powers or playing an NPC class (which might not have existed in written form until it was needed by the player wanting to do these things and convinced you they would do it if you wrote it up)?

I don't think conflating these helps anything. I'm voting yes for 3 and 5.

How am I saying the Merchant has a PC class? I am not invoking 1. Has anyone in this thread invoked 1?

@Lanefan , is there something you feel the above list is missing? Which are you arguing for? (And thanks for any feedback!)

If being one of the sacred chosen of nameless deity requires training since 6 months old... then a player who wants that power needs to have in their background that they started at 6 months old and everything that comes with that. How does that undermine anything?
 
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DND_Reborn

Legend
The fact that I can't use a 5th-level fighter as a reasonable challenge in 5e DnD annoys me and is a flaw in the game.
Out of curiosity I want to clarify what you mean by "can't" here.

Do you mean you literally can not use one? In which case why not?

Or

Do you mean you "can" but they aren't a reasonable challenge?

Or

Something else?
 


Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
And here is where the unbroachable difference lies: insofar as I care about what "makes sense" (which isn't a lot in the first place) it is only in the context of how it makes the game more fun. I don't care about simulation at all, and I don't care to go through the process of balancing a one time NPC ability for 20 levels of PC use.
I don't want to play a simulation, either. There's a whole lot of real estate in-between, nonsense and simulation, though. I'm in that area.
 

Out of curiosity I want to clarify what you mean by "can't" here.

Do you mean you literally can not use one? In which case why not?

Or

Do you mean you "can" but they aren't a reasonable challenge?

Or

Something else?
It's an unreasonable fight - the fighter hits twice as hard as a level-appropriate monster, but has half the hit points. The fight is basically rocket tag.
 

The bodyguard having abilities that no class has is a big red flag: either those abilities should be made avilable to at least one playable class (even if they're of no use in the field) or the bodyguard shouldn't have them.
Why? Bodyguard is not a PC class. If there was one it may have abilities very different from existing classes. Why would you restrict what a bodyguard can do / be for really no reason I can see?
 

To read the question another way: I do wish I could use pc building rule to make balanced-for-combat npcs. The fact that I can't use a 5th-level fighter as a reasonable challenge in 5e DnD annoys me and is a flaw in the game.

Like I get why (they wanted smooth progressions of pc abilities that also look like the traditional progressions) and know not to, but I feel like I should be able to, ya know?
I’m not a DM, but I fail to see why you couldn’t use a fighter as a challenge in 5e? I’m pretty sure our DM has some NPCs made like PCs and it seemed to work well from my side of the screen
 

NotAYakk

Legend
It's an unreasonable fight - the fighter hits twice as hard as a level-appropriate monster, but has half the hit points. The fight is basically rocket tag.
The Veteran is a monster similar to a 5th level fighter.

An 14 con L 5 fighter with the Tough feat has 10+6*4+4*5=54 HP. The Veteran has 58 HP.

The L 5 fighter with 16 strength has a +6 to hit and attacks for 1d8+5 damage per swing one handed (Dueling) x2. If they have 2 shortswords they instead attack for 1d6+3 times 3.

This nearly exactly matches the Veteran. The LS Veteran version does 2d10+6 (17) vs the Fighter LS 2d8+10 (19). The SS Veteran does 3d6+9 (19.5), same as Fighter.

The L 5 fighter has second wind (1d10+5) and an action surge on top of the Veteran and 1 additional point of proficiency.

So, literally, if you dropped a L 5 fighter into a game you could get a fight that was nearly indistinguishable on the PC side from using a stock Monster Manual Veteran. You could also build the Fighter to be less meaty and more aggressive.

I mean, action surge ain't nothing. The Veteran is probably closer to a L 4.5 fighter.

HP including Second Wind: 44 + 5.5 + 4 = 54
Cut Action Surge for +1 attack/round (a bit of an upgrade; over a 3 round fight, it is 6 attacks instead of 4).
Lose a point of proficiency.
Lose saving throw proficiency.
 
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Why? Bodyguard is not a PC class. If there was one it may have abilities very different from existing classes. Why would you restrict what a bodyguard can do / be for really no reason I can see?
Because even if they wouldn't, it's weird to say "you can't learn to do that, because you're a pc." The pc has the same question as the player, and the pc doesn't know they're a pc.

Basically, there should either be an in-universe reason why they can't or the door should (at least technically) be open to them learning it.

"You would need to be a 15th-level bodyguard" is an okay answer, because while levels don't exist in universe per se, they represent something (actually several things) that do exist in-universe (training and experience, mostly.) So hypothetically the fighter could have learned it, but they chose a different path.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
The Veteran is a monster similar to a 5th level fighter.

An 14 con L 5 fighter with the Tough feat has 10+6*4+4*5=54 HP. The Veteran has 58 HP.

The L 5 fighter with 16 strength has a +6 to hit and attacks for 1d8+5 damage per swing one handed (Dueling) x2. If they have 2 shortswords they instead attack for 1d6+3 times 3.

This nearly exactly matches the Veteran.

The L 5 fighter has second wind (1d10+5) and an action surge on top of the Veteran and 1 additional point of proficiency.

So, literally, if you dropped a L 5 fighter into a game you could get a fight that was nearly indistinguishable on the PC side from using a stock Monster Manual Veteran. You could also build the Fighter to be less meaty and more aggressive.
I've never used CR in 5e. Is it correct that five Veterans (each CR3, 700 XP) would be pretty close to the Hard encounter mark for 5 fifth level characters?
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Why? Bodyguard is not a PC class. If there was one it may have abilities very different from existing classes. Why would you restrict what a bodyguard can do / be for really no reason I can see?
Bodyguard isn't an NPC class, either. It's a job. A job that a PC fighter, ranger, paladin, monk, cleric, etc. can all do. Further, PC and NPC are purely metagame constructs. There is no difference in the game world, so in world restrictions based on those things make no sense.
 

NotAYakk

Legend
I've never used CR in 5e. Is it correct that five Veterans (each CR3, 700 XP) would be pretty close to the Hard encounter mark for 5 fifth level characters?
Lazy DM's CR is "add it up".

5 Veterans sum to 15 CR. 5 5th level PCs is 25 total levels. 15/25 is 0.6, a beyond deadly encounter.

(Easy is 20%, Medium 25%, Hard is 33%, Deadly is 40%).

Deadly in 5e means "there is a decent risk a PC will die".

(This doesn't work without fudge factors for CRs <=1 or >=20, and is approximate.)

The fancy "encounter size multiplier" and "XP" tables of 5e end up doing almost exactly the opposite of each other. Ie, (XP(CR) * N)*EncounterSizeMult(N) ends up being mostly linear in N*CR.
 
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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I've never used CR in 5e. Is it correct that five Veterans (each CR3, 700 XP) would be pretty close to the Hard encounter mark for 5 fifth level characters?
According to the XP Threshold table, close to it. Hard would be 3750xp worth of monsters. Your encounter is 3500.

Edit: No, wait. 5 of a monster multiplies that by 2. So it's beyond deadly as @NotAYakk said.
 

To read the question another way: I do wish I could use pc building rule to make balanced-for-combat npcs. The fact that I can't use a 5th-level fighter as a reasonable challenge in 5e DnD annoys me and is a flaw in the game.

Like I get why (they wanted smooth progressions of pc abilities that also look like the traditional progressions) and know not to, but I feel like I should be able to, ya know?
A 5th level fighter is a challenge for a party and you can use it that way. It's just not a challenge for a party of four 5th level PCs. Note that using PC built NPCs for creatures makes combat much more "swingy" because the NPCs will have fewer HP and die faster, but often will be able to nova and do more damage. So if unpredictable encounters are what you are going for...
 


I've never used CR in 5e. Is it correct that five Veterans (each CR3, 700 XP) would be pretty close to the Hard encounter mark for 5 fifth level characters?
Don't forget what "Hard" means. It does not mean hard or difficult for the party to win, it means they will probably have to use some of their resources. Even "Deadly" only means it is possible one or more PCs may die, so deadly encounters can still usually be "won" by a party.
 

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