D&D General Are NPCs like PCs?

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Actually, there are differences, the PCs can progress in level, whereas the NPCs can't. PCs have always been special, exactly like heroes in the genre. It does not preclude some NPCs to do that as well, but is your world with so little variety that everyone has to be equal and that there are only a very few well defined paths to power ?

Exactly. So would you preclude a PC from taking up merchanting (with no advancement in HP and combat skills) instead of continuing as a fighter, for example?
 

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Lyxen

Great Old One
Built with unique abilities. Not built in such a way that the DM cannot allow a PC who is interested in learning the ability to find a way to learn it. So yes, I am playing 5e ;)

So it's actually the other way around, you would customise the game to allow a PC to gain any ability from a NPC (actually meaning any monster) ? For example attacks which are always poisoned as for the assassin ? Shadow step absolutely at will ? War magic (When the githyanki uses its action to cast a spell, it can make one weapon attack as a bonus action) at will ? And many more example of powers which are incredibly powerful in the hands of PCs because they are at will, making them way more powerful than standard class powers ?

Have you ever done so ?

Nothing nonsense about it. So what if an NPC has a unique learned ability.

And what if it's not learned ? The Death Knight did not learn his abilities, but neither are they racial.

The DM can by 5e rules(the rules serve the DM and not the ther way around), allow a PC to learn it.

Yes, it's all very nice theoretically, but in practice, have you done so ?

Er, it's literally the opposite of a constraint. I'm giving the PCs something extra that makes the game more sensible. ;)

You think it's sensible to give NPC more or less at will powers to PCs ? What does it do to the game ?
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
Exactly. So would you preclude a PC from taking up merchanting (with no advancement in HP and combat skills) instead of continuing as a fighter, for example?

Actually, the PC can wait for an ASI, take a feat if the option is available, and get the proper skills, then wait for a few more levels and increase his charisma, or add some rogue level to get expertise, etc. But it's not really the same thing, and it's the reverse of what I'm asking, how do I create a simple (but reasonably good) merchant with not a single combat skill or proficiency while using a PC template ?
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
So it's actually the other way around, you would customise the game to allow a PC to gain any ability from a NPC (actually meaning any monster) ? For example attacks which are always poisoned as for the assassin ? Shadow step absolutely at will ? War magic (When the githyanki uses its action to cast a spell, it can make one weapon attack as a bonus action) at will ? And many more example of powers which are incredibly powerful in the hands of PCs because they are at will, making them way more powerful than standard class powers ?

Has @Maxperson or anyone on here said that PCs should be able to train in innate abilities of other species? Or have they focused on when humanoid things trained to learn combat maneuvers, or when a "mage" or "wizard" cast a spell, or when a humanoid merchant was pricing up goods?

Did anything in the post above I @'ed you in about conflating the different questions in this thread make/not-make sense? Or was it just unhelpful?
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Actually, the PC can wait for an ASI, take a feat if the option is available, and get the proper skills, then wait for a few more levels and increase his charisma, or add some rogue level to get expertise, etc. But it's not really the same thing, and it's the reverse of what I'm asking, how do I create a simple (but reasonably good) merchant with not a single combat skill or proficiency while using a PC template ?

I don't know. I asked in #305 if anyone in this thread had claimed it should be a thing. (One of my most hated things in 3/3.5/PF was that commoners/experts got more hitpoints as the leveled).
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
I agree. The question isn't whether the PC WILL want to learn the ability and do what it takes.

Just posing impossible conditions is exactly like forbidding it with extra steps...

The question is whether or not the PC is capable of learning an ability that there is no in-fiction reason to be unable to learn.

And the problem is that you are assuming that there is no "in-fiction reason to be unable to learn". For example, "Aura of Murder. As long as the death’s head is not incapacitated, hostile creatures within 5 feet of it gain vulnerability to piercing damage unless they have resistance or immunity to such damage." You have to be a fanatic of Bhaal, and therefore evil, in a campaign that does not allow evil PCs. Moreover, it's not learned, it a gift from the god.

I don't understand what this has to do with my argument.

Simply that if you have to take a PC path to progression (since they seem to be the only ones available), how do you designe a reasonnably good merchant with expertise in bargaining but no fighting skills at all ?

By 5e RAW some NPCs can. Not all NPCs have no class levels, but this is a Red Herring anyway. Whether or not NPCs gain levels is entirely irrelevant to whether or not a PC should be able to learn a skill that has no in-fiction reason to be barred from the PC.

And again, you are assuming that it's just a skill. But first, it might not be a skill that can be learned, it can be magic that only operates on specific individuals (again, common fantasy trope), and second, once more, are you ready to allow abilities that are incredibly powerful in a PC hand like Parry (+6 to AC as a reaction, absolutely at will).

And again, trading off with something unacceptable to a player does not count, it's just as good as saying no with extra steps.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
Has @Maxperson or anyone on here said that PCs should be able to train in innate abilities of other species?

Yes, from the start of this discussion, it's been about NPCs being different, it has never been about whether an ability is innate or not. I understand that some are now backing off and claiming this specifically for "skills", but it's not how it started, we've been discussing the Death Knight for quite a while now for example.

Or have they focused on when humanoid things trained to learn combat maneuvers, or when a "mage" or "wizard" cast a spell, or when a humanoid merchant was pricing up goods?

Discussions have been going in many directions, it seems now focussed on things that could be "learned".

Did anything in the post above I @'ed you in about conflating the different questions in this thread make/not-make sense? Or was it just unhelpful?

I wanted to answer it, but I had to work and it slipped in a long queue... :)
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
So it's actually the other way around, you would customise the game to allow a PC to gain any ability from a NPC (actually meaning any monster) ? For example attacks which are always poisoned as for the assassin ? Shadow step absolutely at will ? War magic (When the githyanki uses its action to cast a spell, it can make one weapon attack as a bonus action) at will ? And many more example of powers which are incredibly powerful in the hands of PCs because they are at will, making them way more powerful than standard class powers ?
There should be avenues. Is the price worth it? Maybe, maybe not. How long would it take a fighter to learn the shadowstep ability? He'd have to figure who teaches it, and that's probably someone who isn't nice and might as soon kill you as teach you. He'd have to agree to whatever that person wanted as the price, which might be steep. And it would take time. Again, the point isn't whether the PC WOULD learn it, but that it be possible(not guaranteed) to learn.
Have you ever done so ?
Yes, but it's very rare. 19 times out of 20(far less often really) the players don't even ask, so I don't bother to even figure it out unless someone does.
And what if it's not learned ? The Death Knight did not learn his abilities, but neither are they racial.
They are racial. Undead isn't a race, it's a category. Death Knight would be the specific race of undead, and those abilities are innate to the race.
Yes, it's all very nice theoretically, but in practice, have you done so ?
Yes, very rarely. Usually the price is such that even on those rare occasions that the player asks me about it, the PC opts not to pursue it.
You think it's sensible to give NPC more or less at will powers to PCs ? What does it do to the game ?
With a balancing cost, why not?
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
I don't know. I asked in #305 if anyone in this thread had claimed it should be a thing. (One of my most hated things in 3/3.5/PF was that commoners/experts got more hitpoints as the leveled).

Exactly my problem. Why should someone who is just becoming a better merchant get more hit points, better saves, additional proficiencies, etc. ?
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Yes, from the start of this discussion, it's been about NPCs being different, it has never been about whether an ability is innate or not.
This is just not true. From the get go I've been talking about learnable skills, not any sort of innate racial ability.
I understand that some are now backing off and claiming this specifically for "skills", but it's not how it started, we've been discussing the Death Knight for quite a while now for example.
That is not how it started for me. At no point was I ever arguing racial abilities should be learnable.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Exactly my problem. Why should someone who is just becoming a better merchant get more hit points, better saves, additional proficiencies, etc. ?
In post #305 I was trying to get at that I didn't think anyone in this thread itself was saying that all NPCs needed to have PC classes. At most that the ones that do PC class type things should be trying to emulate PC classes and that any skills they have should be things a person could have in theory learned instead of being a PC.

@Maxperson Have you claimed in here anywhere that all NPCs need to be written up with PC classes or even have fleshed out NPC classes? And going beyond this thread, did you like or dislike in 3/3.5/PF that skilled commoners and experts automatically came with better BAB and HP?
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Exactly my problem. Why should someone who is just becoming a better merchant get more hit points, better saves, additional proficiencies, etc. ?
Why should a cleric who bashes some orcs with a mace get more spells? Why should a rogue who doesn't practice a single roguish ability get better at them through combat? Why should a wizard who only casts cantrips suddenly be good enough to get 2nd level spells?

Leveling in general hasn't made complete sense, but it's a necessary evil in a system with levels.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
In post #305 I was trying to get at that I didn't think anyone in this thread itself was saying that all NPCs needed to have PC classes. At most that the ones that do PC class type things should be trying to emulate PC classes and that any skills they have should be things a person could have in theory learned instead of being a PC.

@Maxperson Have you claimed in here anywhere that all NPCs need to be written up with PC classes or even have fleshed out NPC classes? And going beyond this thread, did you like or dislike in 3/3.5/PF that skilled commoners and experts automatically came with better BAB and HP?
No. I've said the opposite more than once. I only do character levels for important NPCs. The rest of the time I use a stat block or even nothing at all beyond an idea of the NPCs personality.

I didn't care that commoners and experts gained hit points, etc. in 3e.
 

Azzy

KMF DM
It feels like it's always been a dial or slider somewhere between the two, and not a simulate everything/don't reflect any detail switch. Attempts at weapon speed, encumbrance rules, ASIs due to age, darkvision based on the infared or ultraviolet... to not so much
Sure, there's a spectrum there but D&D always errs on the side of less is more (whereas most simulationists err on the side of decidedly more). Encumbrance was originally measured in an abstracted coin weight, for instance. Hit points... Well, volumes have been written about hit points. In many circumstances, the simulationist attempts were tacked on later (like weapon speed, weapon vs armor mods), were poorly thought out, and/or proved unpopular. Most of these attempts were eventually weeded out, too.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
There should be avenues. Is the price worth it? Maybe, maybe not. How long would it take a fighter to learn the shadowstep ability? He'd have to figure who teaches it, and that's probably someone who isn't nice and might as soon kill you as teach you. He'd have to agree to whatever that person wanted as the price, which might be steep. And it would take time. Again, the point isn't whether the PC WOULD learn it, but that it be possible(not guaranteed) to learn.

OK, first if we are talking about learnable skills only, it's a bit different, just wanted to point out that that shadowstep is magic and might not be a skill, but a gift, linked to a race, a blood line, a divine status, etc.

Yes, but it's very rare. 19 times out of 20(far less often really) the players don't even ask, so I don't bother to even figure it out unless someone does.

Which is a polite way of saying "it's NPC only". :D

They are racial. Undead isn't a race, it's a category. Death Knight would be the specific race of undead, and those abilities are innate to the race.

Lord Soth was human, that is his race. After that, I don't think that various types of undeads are considered races. But anyway, as it's mostly magical, I think we can agree that it's not something that can be learned.

This is just not true. From the get go I've been talking about learnable skills, not any sort of innate racial ability.

OK, as mentioned above, this simplifies things a bit, but at the start of the discussion, it was any NPC ability (and seeing that any monster can be a NPC...).

Why should a cleric who bashes some orcs with a mace get more spells? Why should a rogue who doesn't practice a single roguish ability get better at them through combat? Why should a wizard who only casts cantrips suddenly be good enough to get 2nd level spells?

Leveling in general hasn't made complete sense, but it's a necessary evil in a system with levels.

The thing is that whereas there are mandatorily levels for PCs, there are not for NPCs / Monsters. So why impose that constraint on them ?
 

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.
That is not the same thing. I’m not suggesting a PC can’t possible do that thing. But is not something that is simple part of class feature. It would have to be carried out differently
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Just posing impossible conditions is exactly like forbidding it with extra steps...
What part of "possible" says "impossible" to you? Nothing I described in that post or any other that I've made here suggested that the DM make it impossible.
And the problem is that you are assuming that there is no "in-fiction reason to be unable to learn". For example, "Aura of Murder. As long as the death’s head is not incapacitated, hostile creatures within 5 feet of it gain vulnerability to piercing damage unless they have resistance or immunity to such damage." You have to be a fanatic of Bhaal, and therefore evil, in a campaign that does not allow evil PCs. Moreover, it's not learned, it a gift from the god.
I don't have a "no evil" rule in my game. If a PC wanted to pledge service to Bhaal, he could. He would be owned(body and soul) by Bhaal at that point and Bhaal would make use of him. I wouldn't make him an NPC, but you can be very sure that Bhaal would order specific murders and give other jobs to further Bhaal's influence to the PC.

He'd also need to still fit in with the party or the player would have to make another PC that did fit in. If the party was an evil one, fine. But if a member of a good heroic group pledges service to Bhaal like that, it would be a disruption to the game and the PC would have to be retired and brought back out in a future campaign where it was appropriate.

That sort of oath, though, is exactly the sort of cost I'm talking about. The PC CAN learn it, but probably will decide not to because of the cost. Or he might. It's still a possible ability to get for the PC.
Simply that if you have to take a PC path to progression (since they seem to be the only ones available), how do you designe a reasonnably good merchant with expertise in bargaining but no fighting skills at all ?
I've never argued that the PC path progression is the only one, though. I'd simply give the merchant a stat block.
And again, you are assuming that it's just a skill. But first, it might not be a skill that can be learned, it can be magic that only operates on specific individuals (again, common fantasy trope), and second, once more, are you ready to allow abilities that are incredibly powerful in a PC hand like Parry (+6 to AC as a reaction, absolutely at will).

And again, trading off with something unacceptable to a player does not count, it's just as good as saying no with extra steps.
If there is an in-fiction reason why it's not learnable, then it's not. 🤷‍♂️
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
OK, first if we are talking about learnable skills only, it's a bit different, just wanted to point out that that shadowstep is magic and might not be a skill, but a gift, linked to a race, a blood line, a divine status, etc.
Sure. It might, and if there's an in-fiction reason why it's not learnable or gainable(by making the same pacts, etc.), then the PC can't get it.
Which is a polite way of saying "it's NPC only". :D
If suddenly everything is a special gift or whatever and is unobtainable by a PC, then that's some significant bad faith on the part of the DM. Some things will be unique. Some will just involve high price. Some will be pretty easy.
Lord Soth was human, that is his race. After that, I don't think that various types of undeads are considered races. But anyway, as it's mostly magical, I think we can agree that it's not something that can be learned.
Humans are not undead. Races in D&D can change. Reincarnation changes race. If you've read Fizban's, a dragon can turn people into Dragonborn and the PC's race changes. Become undead changes your race. Humans are humanoid.

Look at vampires. They retain memories of their former lives, but no racial abilities. Those go away and they gain the new vampire racial abilities. Death Knight is a race, but one with a name that sounds more like a class.
The thing is that whereas there are mandatorily levels for PCs, there are not for NPCs / Monsters. So why impose that constraint on them ?
I don't impose it. I'm just saying that I was okay with it for 3e, because the same nonsense happened to the PCs. In 5e I use stat blocks or no stats at all for the vast majority of NPCs. Only a very few get class levels and/or full roll ups.
 

Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
No. I'm saying that giving an enemy a unique non-racial ability that cannot possibly be gained by a PC is nonsense.

And as far as trying to figure out balance for a PC goes, just give powerful abilities a high cost. The player will either determine that 1) it's not worth it or 2) it is worth it. If it's not worth it, you don't need to be concerned. If it is worth it, you've already roughly balanced it with the drawback, and if the remainder is a little bit unbalanced in favor of the PC, well that sort of thing is fun for the player so it falls squarely into the, "context of how it makes the game more fun" category.
Once again I think everyone is talking past each other to try to be right.

If I asked you if it's OK to give an NPC an ability that isn't listed in any of the class rules would you would say YES? This is what @Lyxen is saying is "NPCs follow different rules than PCs".

If I asked Lyxen if they would allow a player to gain access to an NPC ability at the expense of something else I'm guessing they would say they would consider it. I think you both agree on that as well.

If I asked you both if PC should have access to absolutely every power ever used by NPCs (besides racial ones) I'm guessing you both would say no because so e things just do not work for players (ghost possession as an example).

There really isn't anything you fundamentally disagree upon other than your definitions of "NPCs using PC rules".
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Once again I think everyone is talking past each other to try to be right.
I don't have to try. :p

Serious answer. I'm not trying to be right. I'm just telling my point of view and why I do the things that I do.
If I asked you if it's OK to give an NPC an ability that isn't listed in any of the class rules would you would say YES? This is what @Lyxen is saying is "NPCs follow different rules than PCs".
Yes. With very few exceptions, the same process could potentially be undertaken by the PCs. For instance, if I gave an NPC bodyguard a Shattering Defense ability that said that anytime a PC rolls a 1 when attacking him, he breaks that PC's weapon with his weapon, that skill would be potentially learnable by a PC. If on the other hand that Bodyguard's god granted him skin that shatters the weapons of his enemies when they roll a 1, it would be very hard and unlikely for a PC to achieve that. It would be possible, though, if the PC could somehow contact that god and offer something of equal value.
If I asked you both if PC should have access to absolutely every power ever used by NPCs (besides racial ones) I'm guessing you both would say no because so e things just do not work for players (ghost possession as an example).
Agreed.
There really isn't anything you fundamentally disagree upon other than your definitions of "NPCs using PC rules".
I don't even think we disagree there, since I think that NPCs can both use PC rules(RAW) and stat blocks(RAW) and nothing at all(RAW). I think he holds those same views.
 

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