D&D General Are NPCs like PCs?

NotAYakk

Legend
A level 4.5 fighter with neither a subclass nor ASI, if we weaken Action Surge.

So if we add in, say, a couple Battlemaster maneuvers and Polearm Master, suddenly the veteran starts really falling behind.
Or we make the fighter a champion (almost a noop subclass), and use toughness to build up HP.

Right ballpark is my point.
 

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Quartz

Hero
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.

I like it when they can; I also like it when they don't have to.

I'm mostly familiar with 3E and before so I'll go from there. It's great that you can create a NPC or creature from the ground up with all the correct HP, abilities, and whatnot. That's fantastic when you hand the character sheet to a guest player to play. But equally you can toss all that out the window and just scribble a few relevant notes because you won't need 90%+ of all the rest.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
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.

Agreed.

Yep. To be honest, this was the initial reason for my position, that every NPC power would be available wound be way too much. That some, in particular the ones that you coud potentially get from training would sometimes be available, why not of course.

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.

Indeed I do, I like 5e in that domain because of the flexibility here.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Yep. To be honest, this was the initial reason for my position, that every NPC power would be available wound be way too much. That some, in particular the ones that you coud potentially get from training would sometimes be available, why not of course.
Sure, but at what cost? So the PC needs to train. That could take years and the PCs generally don't have that long. Or maybe that ability is being worked on and will be the new 20th level capstone ability for him. I'm not suggesting that new abilities just be given to PCs because they practice a bit. ;)
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
Sure, but at what cost? So the PC needs to train. That could take years and the PCs generally don't have that long. Or maybe that ability is being worked on and will be the new 20th level capstone ability for him. I'm not suggesting that new abilities just be given to PCs because they practice a bit. ;)

I think we agree there as well, when I'm saying "available", I don't mean "immediately, without cost". It might be the case for some, but not for all. After that, it's really going to be on a case by case basis, depending on the DM, the setting, the characters, etc.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
What if I gave the bodyguard something like Pack Tactics instead of giving him abilities from a class. Instead of finding a few things to fit a role this ability feels like a good fit for a bodyguard, and simple to add.

I do not think that a fighter or rogue should learn that ability,
If you don't think a PC should be able to learn it then why on earth are you giving it to an NPC?
but the player may want to know how they can learn that. Should I come up with something to explain my method such as not giving him 2nd wind, pack tactics, and 2 attacks at 5th level. Should I let the player choose to give those abilities up to gain the pack tactics?
Do it however you want - making pack tactics a low-level warrior feat might be simplest in the 5e system - but do it, yes. :)

And if pack tactics is something that works well in bar fights but is unlikely to help much in field combat, that's fine. Note it as such in the feat write-up so players are fully informed, and carry on.
 



Lanefan

Victoria Rules
If "advocating" means pestering the DM for advantage or trying to impress that "by RAW they are entitled to" whatever, no, they don't. Call me a tyrant...
Advocating means, in part, pushing the rules envelope for any advantages that might be hanging around. And I wouldn't call you a tyrant for pushing back against that advocation, I'd instead call you a DM who is doing his job.
Actually, we completely disagree here. If, as a DM, I say "no evil PC" (which is a common campaign restriction) and your PC willfully commits an atrocity, and as a DM I judge that it turns him evil and therefore an NPC, that specific character in that campaign becomes just that, an NPC, which I control as the DM. You can find yourself another character to play, or leave the campaign and recreate the PC somewhere else, but the real character is still part of the campaign, as a NPC.
If you as DM say "No evil PCs" I walk out.

Why?

Because you're telling me how to play my character, and that just doesn't fly. Further, because you're willing to tell me how to play my character in this aspect it's clear I can't trust that you won't - then or later - tell me how to play it in other aspects. (examples I've seen posted by others in this forum include no in-character romances, character must be of the player's gender, etc.)

Guidelines are fine. Hard rules are not; and the only way you-as-DM can turn my character into an NPC is if I willingly hand it over to you (and in my view this includes even if-when I-as-player have left an ongoing campaign; the character still belongs to me and you need my permission to do anything significant with it).
And maybe it's not one that, as a DM, I want to master, and especially not one that the other players want to have in their game. So it's fine, it's a new flow, but controlled by the DM.
If the other players don't want it that's one thing, but as a DM I've always seen it as my job to more or less run whatever the players put in front of me; and this can (and does!) include all kinds of left turns, unexpected actions, and plain ol' crazy ship.

Sure, at session 0 I'll make a few preferences very clear as to what I don't like DMing (usually revolving around players trying to turn the game into Economics 101 by becomeing businesspeople instead of adventurers), but if a character and-or class exists as playable within the setting I don't restrict what a player can do with it.
Actually no, I don't. This is why I love 5e and its "rulings over rules". When I create such a ruling, it's local and adapted to the circumstances. As I'm pretty sure that these exact circumstances will not happen again, I am free to rule again as I wish for the next set of circumstances, which will be different.
If game-element X works a certain way this time but a different way next time under similar circumstances, how are the players supposed to be able to make informed decisions?
I'm not even sure what you are referring to, but the Wheel of Time has a fairly consistent magical system, which actually follows fairly closely what happens at high level in campaigns, with PCs becoming powerful, then taking on responsibilities, then needing to abandon them for a time, etc. And the same thing with anti/counter magic thingie, which suddenly pops up to create obstacles, then becomes wielded by the characters, before some anti-anti-magic things pop up.

After that, while I agree that the middle books are quite slow, it's still one of the best sagas of the genre, and the final (Brandon Sanderson again) is absolutely epic.
Even though it had bogged down as you say, I found myself even more disappointed with it once Sanderson took the helm.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
@Lanefan, I have a question for you. I tried to get the answer by looking through your posts, but I couldn't find it. If you have already answered and I missed it, sorry for rehashing it. Also, to be clear I am fine with NPCs & monsters being different from PCs. Ok, to the question!

Why do you feel that PCs and NPCs should be created the same?
Internal setting consistency.

The PCs are first and foremost members of the setting's general population. A PC Elf, for example, is just like any other Elf in the setting. A PC Ranger is just like any other Ranger in the setting. PCs aren't special snowflakes just because they come with PC stickers on 'em, and I want the mechanics to reflect this.

That said, the PCs might become special snowflakes because of what they do in the setting during their adventuring careers, but never because of their PC status alone.
Why is important that the NPC bodyguard only has abilities that a PC could have (even if all your PCs are casters)?

Why is important that a spell casting Monster can only cast spells a PC could have (even if all of your PCs are martials)?
All my PCs might be martials now but it's ironclad guaranteed that won't always be the case, and I have to look beyond the immediate here-and-now at the campaign-wide picture.
dave2008]
Yes! This is my experience as well. I have never had a player even question that monsters and NPCs have abilities that they do not.

@Lanefan. is your experience different?
Yes. In fact I'm sometimes that player myself, but only if someone else doesn't beat me to it.

If I'm playing an Elf and I see another Elf do something a typical Elf PC cannot, I ask (to myself) how and why can this be; and then in-character try to find the answers. And I'm by no means alone in this; if that NPC Elf has something that we can use, we want it. :)

Of course, it might not be the wisest idea for our characters to get it - e.g. let's say an Elf Fighter managed to Dominate a few of us during combat, on wondering how he did that we find a magic headband but the poor schlub PC who puts it on is in turn immediately Dominated by a major Demon who had been using the Elf Fighter as a puppet - but the opportunity should be there for us to find out if we can.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
And how do you model that in game terms ? Or are you just saying to the players "he is a good merchant, so you cannot get good prices from him" ? Do you roll checks, maybe persuasion ? What bonus do you ascribe ?
Everyone in my game has a proficiency at whatever their trade is, on an open-ended d10. A "master merchant" would at minimum be a 9, so if it came to a roll (which it likely wouldn't if freeform role-play could carry the situation) I'd roll a d10 and try to get 9 or less.
Of course not. Henchmen have always been NPCs, why should they have all PCs abilities ?
Three reasons:

One, I let players run their own henches. Two, henches very often end up graduating to become full PCs in their own right if-when the boss retires or is killed or if the player simply finds the hench more interesting/fun to play than the boss. Three, the only difference betwene a hench and a boss is level; henches are classed and levelled adventuring characters.

Note that I'm not talking about basic hirelings here e.g. the commoners a party might hire to look after their horses while the party's up in the mountains for a week. I'm talking about adventuring henches. I'm not sure offhand whether 5e even supports the concept (I think it does) but you'd have seen it in 3e as the "cohort" that came with the Leadership feat or in 1e where henches were an assumed fact of adventuring life.
I'm a bit lost there, why then do you need PC mechanics ?
Mechanics are there to abstract that which cannot be done in person at the table.

As most of this bodyguard's uniqueness is coming from his personality, which can be played out in person at the table, mechanics aren't required.
The thing is how do you create the NPC ? How do you assign abilities to him that make him a master merchant which is certainly not an adventurer ? Don't you need a +7 or more in persuation or deception ? How do you do this with PC rules without giving him levels ?
Start with a commoner. Give him decent Int and Wis scores and very good Cha. Give him a high to very high number on his merchanting skill (the d10 I mentioned upthread)*. Give him a personality that reeks of understated but obvious success, perhaps just a tiny bit overbearing but clearly internally strong, self-confident, and good at what he does. Give him some signs of wealth e.g. well-dressed but not flashy. Then roleplay the hell out of him if-when he meets any PCs.

* - even this can be skipped; it's a houserule system I use for PCs as well, to roughly determine how good they were at whatever they did before adventuring.
 


Lanefan

Victoria Rules
For the below, NPC in all cases means NPC member of a PC-playable species. Monsters need not apply here. :)

I'm also talking about powers/abilities/spells that others can learn; innate monster/creature abilities e.g. Elvish night-sight or Umber Hulk confusion effects are NOT part of this.
It feels like there are several different arguments going on in this thread.
1) Do all NPCs need a PC class?
No, but all healthy NPCs in theory have the potential to pick up a class if they're willing to put in the time and training (or work).
2) Do all NPCs need to have a regular class structure?
Yes, if this means what I think it means: NPCs use the same classes as PCs. That said, I'm very open to there being non-adventuring classes or quasi-classes geared mainly toward NPCs (Artificer being a good example); a player could make a PC one of these but it'd be nearly useless in the field.
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?
I don't understand the question.
4) Do powers NPCs have need to be gainable by the PCs right now.
If the powers are of a suitable level for the PCs then they should have been gainable by appropriate PCs all along. Adding them in now is a rather clunky retcon.
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)?
Yes, I think, if I'm understanding the question right.
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?
The 3e designers did, I think, long before this thread came about. :)
@Lanefan , is there something you feel the above list is missing? Which are you arguing for? (And thanks for any feedback!)
One thing: it all works in reverse as well. PC powers and abilities should be gainable by appropriate NPCs.
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?
Agreed. My only point about those sort of things is that overusing them can very quickly come across as contrived.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Because PC abilities serve an entirely different purpose than NPC abilities, because PCs and NPCs are different orders.

Say, the NPC's "pack attack" (or whatever) ability might have a "daily" or "encounter" power that is only that way because it was thought of for book keeping purposes to make the DMs life easier. Would you keep the power the same if the PCs wanted to recruit the NPC as a henchmen? Or would you modify it to make it work like it would for a regular party member? In either case, why couldn't that idea then be used for a new PC if one of the characters and the henchmen died, say?
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
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 is not a class for PCs or NPCs. If it was, it'd be a (probably sub-optimal for adventuring purposes) sub-class of Fighter and available to all.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Trying to insert simulationist "sensibilities" ionto D&D is an object lesson in futility.
I've never really found it to be so; but then I'm not trying to do it with a WotC-era version which are generally more gamist.
If you prefer a simulationist standpoint, other games (like GURPS, so I'm told) do it far better. D&D and games based on its chassis are a bad fit for a simulationist mindset, and this is something that has been noted since nigh the beginning.
As written the fit might not be great but a little kitbashing can go a very long way here. :)
 

Reynard

Legend
Say, the NPC's "pack attack" (or whatever) ability might have a "daily" or "encounter" power that is only that way because it was thought of for book keeping purposes to make the DMs life easier. Would you keep the power the same if the PCs wanted to recruit the NPC as a henchmen? Or would you modify it to make it work like it would for a regular party member? In either case, why couldn't that idea then be used for a new PC if one of the characters and the henchmen died, say?
If a NPCs ability was designed specifically to work like a PC ability, that's a different situation. That's unlikely to be the case in 5e, but I'll grant it's possible.

I also want to reiterate what I have already said: I absolutely don't have a problem with a player finding inspiration for an ability or spell or whatever they would like as a PC ability. The idea that I am arguing against is the idea that just because I give an evil wizard a unique spell or an assassin a unique attack for the purpose of creating a fun and interesting encounter, that I am somehow obligated to make that thing available to PCs and as such balanced for PCs. No, you can't have access to Darkfire Tentacle Swarm (or whatever).
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
And what if it's not learned ? The Death Knight did not learn his abilities, but neither are they racial.
Yes they are "racial", as in something inherent to the creature simply because of what it is; just like a 1e Vampire's level-drain attack is an inherent ability of the creature.
 


Cadence

Legend
Supporter
If a NPCs ability was designed specifically to work like a PC ability, that's a different situation. That's unlikely to be the case in 5e, but I'll grant it's possible.

I also want to reiterate what I have already said: I absolutely don't have a problem with a player finding inspiration for an ability or spell or whatever they would like as a PC ability. The idea that I am arguing against is the idea that just because I give an evil wizard a unique spell or an assassin a unique attack for the purpose of creating a fun and interesting encounter, that I am somehow obligated to make that thing available to PCs and as such balanced for PCs. No, you can't have access to Darkfire Tentacle Swarm (or whatever).

It makes me sad that you won't let me go on an epic quest to find a copy of the necronomican, train during my down time for 10 years, and pledge my soul to the great outer void, so that I can have that sweet sweet Darkforce Tentacle Swarm to use against the final BBEG.
 

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