D&D General Are NPCs like PCs?

dave2008

Legend
The starting point is irrelevant.
Not true, IME.
You could start at level 20 and even then the characters would in theory still be members of their species' populations, only with more abilities etc. acquired through experience and training.
Yes, I was agreeing with you there - that was what I was trying to say about starting at level 0 vs lvl 4. You have a lot more experience at level 4. However, even starting out at level 0 the characters have a backstory that can heavily influence their character's "starting" point. At least that is what seems logical to me and how I run my games. It does matter where you start. A human who was raised by apes tends to look a bit different than one who grew up as an English Lord ;)
Underneath all those levels a Dwarf would still be a Dwarf, just like all the other Dwarves.
Not true either (at least in my world). There is a huge range of is a "dwarf," just like there is a huge range of what makes a "human." At least that is the only way it feels authentic to me.
True, you can't hit all the possibilities but you can go through a string of what-ifs and plan ahead for them, and take things learned/ruled on from previous campaigns and bring them forward or tidy them up or re-visit it for the new campaign.
I guess. I just no longer find that type of work enjoyable or fruitful for the actual campaign. As a DM I enjoy:
  • playing the game with my friends
  • Making Monsters
  • Making NPCs
I used to enjoy (or at least thought I did) extensive world building and planning. As I got older, and I didn't see much to any benefit from all my planning and world building, I determined that my D&D time was better spent on having fun with my friends (playing more often).

Now, if you enjoy it and it benefits your group - great! It just has never really produce much if any benefit for me or my group. My group would never ask: "why is that dragon making a tail attack after each of our turns (legendary actions)?" or "why does that death knight's fireball do fire and necrotic damage?" - "why can't we do that?" These things just don't come up. They trust that if they want to do something outside the hard coded rules, they simply need to ask me and we will work it out.
True, but when you've been running for 20 years before that you had that 20 years of experience to draw on beofre this campaign began. (this is one huge advantage of using the same system long-term: rules and rulings from one campaign can - if desired - carry forward into the next, or be tweaked/refined to suit if they didn't work out that well)
Yes, but again I don't think that is much different from how we are currently playing and I still don't see the benefit of spending my time planning so much ahead. My 5e group is campaigning in the same homebrew world my 4e group did (so going on 14 years) with the same basic timeline. There was no need for us to tweak anything from the change in systems from 4e to 5e (and if you don't know - they are pretty different!), we just go with the flow and adjudicate things as they come up. We trust each other and work together. It is a beautiful thing!

Again, if it is something you enjoy - great. I just think, from this side of the screen and without really knowing you, you seem to come off as asserting there is s certain superior way things have to be: PCs must have access to everything an NPC can do, Monsters must cast spells the same way as PCs, there must be internal consistency, etc. IME, those things just aren't necessary (at least not to the extent you seem to champion).
 

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HammerMan

Legend
But then you are arbitrarily limiting what a NPC can do, IMO.
doesn't the system arbitrarily limit everyone?

Why can't a fighter learn to read a scroll? Because his class doesn't say wizard. Why can a rogue learn to evade damage or place a well aimed shot to add damage and a fighter can't? because that is just how the classes work.

Why can't my wizard have expertise in arcana... cause that is a bard/rogue ability.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
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.

Our players don't do that, first we have many DMs amongst our players, and second they have a tendency to present multiple sides to discuss things. After that, and after the silliness of 3e, the ball is now clearly in the DM's hand to stop arguments quickly so that play can move on.

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.)

First, I'm not telling you how to play the character, I'm telling you that there are some areas which foster conflict around the table, which is why they are forbidden. After that, the last points are actually a question of table limits, and should be clearly on the table from session 0, it's a good point made in Tasha. I have never encountered these two in particular, but all tables have limits and it's good to have them on the table at start so that everyone can be comfortable with playing.

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).

Honestly, it has not happened often, but the ownership has always been left to the DM. What would prevent him to have the character as an NPC in a campaign after a player has left it ? The player can claim all he wants that he has the character sheet, but all the history of the character is set in the campaign history, and that belongs to the table anyway.

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.

I have a different view here, and once more it's very well put forward in Tasha, in addition to the mutual respect between the DM and the players: "The players will respect one another, listen to one another, support one another, and do their utmost to preserve the cohesion of the adventuring party."

If the whole party goes in a direction, it's fine, but if one player decides to do a crazy thing that is disturbing the other players, it's a no-go for me. And that is honestly the situation that I've encountered the most often, one player deciding to torpedo everything that the party has been creating, usually because of personal boredom, or because he dislikes what the others are doing, to mark his territory or whatever.

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.

I have the same idea about economics, but that is actually a subset of what I wrote above, this is a friends collaborative game, it's about playing together, not going on one's own all the time, or even worse torpedoing what the rest of the players are doing. It does not preclude discussion or dissension, but I'm not here to run X games in parallel for X players.

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?

Because they should trust the consistency of the world rather than the consistency of the rules. The rules can only be a very rough modelling of the world, again clearly stated in the 5e SAC: "no set of rules could reasonably account for every contingency. If the rules tried to do so, the game would become unplayable."

So just because a rogue managed to hide behind a barrel in a dark warehouse once when the guard was inattentive does not mean that he will always be able to hide behind every barrel in the world in all circumstances. Maybe the next barrel is going to be a bit smaller, maybe there will be more light, maybe the guard will be more attentive.

And the player can make informed decisions by projecting himself in the world, listening to the DM and asking for clarifications when necessary. If I say "the warehouse is well lit" or "the barrels are rather small" or "the guards seem to be particularly attentive, as if they expected intruders", I expect the players to take that into account for their risk taking.

Even though it had bogged down as you say, I found myself even more disappointed with it once Sanderson took the helm.

Hmmm, strange, my whole family and most of my friends have read it and found the contrary. I guess our tastes are just not that similar...
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
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.

Lord Soth was human before he became a death knight, and this should be reflected in what he is now. Although they complicated things quite a bit, the 3e templates were good for this, undeath was just a template that was applied to a character, and the original race was not forgotten. 5e has almost done away with templates, but for story reasons I will never consider things like undeath or lycanthropy to be a change of race. You can consider it a change of race in game terms depending on the edition that you are playing and its jargon, but 5e does not have jargon anyway. :p
 

dave2008

Legend
doesn't the system arbitrarily limit everyone?

Why can't a fighter learn to read a scroll? Because his class doesn't say wizard. Why can a rogue learn to evade damage or place a well aimed shot to add damage and a fighter can't? because that is just how the classes work.

Why can't my wizard have expertise in arcana... cause that is a bard/rogue ability.
What you are talking about is PCs. And, the game actually does allow the PCs to do all of those things in the RAW (at least 5e does). Additionally, as the DM I am willing to work with anyone to allow them to do things beyond the limit of their class - that is what (again 5e) down time, training, and feats are for.

They system doesn't limit you much at all really. At least IME.
 

HammerMan

Legend
Lord Soth was human before he became a death knight, and this should be reflected in what he is now. Although they complicated things quite a bit, the 3e templates were good for this, undeath was just a template that was applied to a character, and the original race was not forgotten. 5e has almost done away with templates, but for story reasons I will never consider things like undeath or lycanthropy to be a change of race. You can consider it a change of race in game terms depending on the edition that you are playing and its jargon, but 5e does not have jargon anyway. :p
not withstanding 4e, did humans ever have anything? or is it the lack of special abilities?
 

HammerMan

Legend
What you are talking about is PCs. Andy, the game actually does allow the PCs to do all of those things in the RAW (at least 5e does). Additionally, as the DM I am willing to work with anyone to allow them to do things beyond the limit of their class - that is what (again 5e) down time, training, and feats are for.

They system doesn't limit you much at all really. At least IME.
Okay I will bite. Lets take uncanny dodge and +1d6 sneak attack (both rogue coded class features).

I am a fighter who just hit 6th level. I say I am going to train with my buddy the rogue (who also just hit 6th level) in how he 'rolls with blows' and how he 'places attacks to do more damage'. now as a warrior by flavor I should already be better at both than this pick pocket... but since he can talk 1/2 damage with a reaction and deal +3d6 damage on 1 blow, how do you handle this 'down time training'?

Now I say this knowing that in 2e we used to just make stuff up and I had wizards with wildshape, and fighters with single use spells... but that was longer ago then some players have been alive.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
not withstanding 4e, did humans ever have anything? or is it the lack of special abilities?

For me it's as much roleplaying, story and history than gaming terms, but also the fact that it might be different if another race than human was turned into an undead. Of course, it was important in 3e because the templates just modified a few things but did not replace the original stats. It was a great mechanism and honestly not that complicated in theory, but it was really hard to balance.

In 5e, I have applied it very simply by just adding abilities from the new "template" on top of the previous stats, which of course preserves whatever was there before.
 




Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
That is not really setting consistency though. It is a meta restriction that has no place in a living world.
I don't agree with that. While I don't think you have to build them the same(see my earlier posts), I do think that what one can learn to do, the other can learn to do. The reason for that is in the game world there are no PCs and NPCs. There are just people. PC and NPC are simply tags for the players to differentiate which people in the game world belong to which players. The PCs belong to the Players(capital P player) and the NPCs belong to the player who is DMing. Since there is no in-world differentiation between the two, what one can learn to do or acquire the ability to do, it's possible for the other as well. That's the internal consistency.
 


Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Lord Soth was human before he became a death knight, and this should be reflected in what he is now. Although they complicated things quite a bit, the 3e templates were good for this, undeath was just a template that was applied to a character, and the original race was not forgotten. 5e has almost done away with templates, but for story reasons I will never consider things like undeath or lycanthropy to be a change of race. You can consider it a change of race in game terms depending on the edition that you are playing and its jargon, but 5e does not have jargon anyway. :p
I just want to point out that most templates in 3e modified one race into another. This is also what 3e says of templates.

"Templates: Both intelligent and nonintelligent creatures with an unusual heritage (such as draconic or fiendish blood) or an inflicted change in their essential nature (undeath or lycanthropy) may be modified with a template."

A change in their essential nature is effectively a race change. While they may "technically" be the original race, they really are not.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
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.

OK, I forgot that you are not playing 5e, but it basically answers my question, you can use a very simple PC template (even 0-level) even for non-combat NPCs.

One, I let players run their own henches.

So do I, and having a simpler one keeps the game faster.

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.

Yes, we've had some in every edition, and after AD&D and before 5e, it was a pain because it slowed down combat so much.

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.

I can understand that if you are playing AD&D, but honestly since then, without making the game much too complicated in 5e, it's interesting to have abilities that actually allow you to protect someone, something that is easy to do with NPC abilities but are quire lacking for PCs, as it's not their strong suit. It worked better in 4e, but with too many other drawbacks in the system.

That being said, it's not that said abilities would be forbidden to PCs, it's just that it's not in the classes as built, and I'd rather not clutter our games with too much homebrew, especially since it's not requested by the players to have fun.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
"Templates: Both intelligent and nonintelligent creatures with an unusual heritage (such as draconic or fiendish blood) or an inflicted change in their essential nature (undeath or lycanthropy) may be modified with a template."

A change in their essential nature is effectively a race change. While they may "technically" be the original race, they really are not.

Huh, no. 3e had a very clear game jargon, a race is a race, and "essential nature" is not a race. If the race had been changed, it would have said it. Immediate proof from the monster manual:
1642695912257.png


He is a vampire, an undead, and still human.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Okay I will bite. Lets take uncanny dodge and +1d6 sneak attack (both rogue coded class features).

I am a fighter who just hit 6th level. I say I am going to train with my buddy the rogue (who also just hit 6th level) in how he 'rolls with blows' and how he 'places attacks to do more damage'. now as a warrior by flavor I should already be better at both than this pick pocket... but since he can talk 1/2 damage with a reaction and deal +3d6 damage on 1 blow, how do you handle this 'down time training'?

Now I say this knowing that in 2e we used to just make stuff up and I had wizards with wildshape, and fighters with single use spells... but that was longer ago then some players have been alive.

Was one of the options in UA for 3.5 letting a fighter take sneak attack instead of a feat and vice-versa for the rogue?
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Huh, no. 3e had a very clear game jargon, a race is a race, and "essential nature" is not a race.
Cool. I didn't say it was an actual change to race in that post. I said it was essentially a new race(which means basically yes, while technically no), and I'm right. A substantial change to the essential nature of a creature is a fundamental change to what they are(race).

Humans do not have an innate +6 to natural armor, ability to drain blood with their teeth, call forth rats, bats and wolves, dominate the wills of others, create spawn by draining victims completely of their blood, change forms into bats and wolves, possess damage reduction, heal as quickly as vampires do, assume gaseous form, resist cold and electricity, spider climb, resist turning and possess the stat bonuses that vampires do.

So while that vampire is technically human, he's not "human."
 

dave2008

Legend
Okay I will bite. Lets take uncanny dodge and +1d6 sneak attack (both rogue coded class features).

I am a fighter who just hit 6th level. I say I am going to train with my buddy the rogue (who also just hit 6th level) in how he 'rolls with blows' and how he 'places attacks to do more damage'. now as a warrior by flavor I should already be better at both than this pick pocket... but since he can talk 1/2 damage with a reaction and deal +3d6 damage on 1 blow, how do you handle this 'down time training'?

Now I say this knowing that in 2e we used to just make stuff up and I had wizards with wildshape, and fighters with single use spells... but that was longer ago then some players have been alive.
OK, to be clear, we are talking about adding uncanny dodge and sneak attack (1d6) to the fighter?

So, in my game (5e) I would say you would need down time (not sure of the time off the top of my head), money (note sure the cost off the top of my head), and 2 feats, your 6th and 8th to get both of those.

If I think about it some more I may tweak that a bit, but that is the general rule-of-thumb I use.
 

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