D&D General Are NPCs like PCs?

Sure, you gotta be consistent with your world design, but you don't need precise rules to make those decisions, nor do you need to make those decisions in advance.
I mean I want to have the overall framework in mind in advance. But yeah, detail decisions about individual NPCs don't need to be done in advance, in fact the purpose of the framework is to make them ore consistently in the fly. I often decide about NPCs that I don't expect to need full rules things like "She's about fifth level druidish person" so when I later need to improvise whether she can do a thing or not, that will give me at least a starting point.

And, if you think you made a mistake, it's always possible to fess up to it to your players and fix it later.
No! You double down and make up extensive fictional reasons why your 'mistake' was actually how it was planned all along and was in fact genius foreshadowing!
 

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Undrave

Hero
I mean I want to have the overall framework in mind in advance. But yeah, detail decisions about individual NPCs don't need to be done in advance, in fact the purpose of the framework is to make them ore consistently in the fly. I often decide about NPCs that I don't expect to need full rules things like "She's about fifth level druidish person" so when I later need to improvise whether she can do a thing or not, that will give me at least a starting point.

Yeah that sort of thing works. You just don't need to crack open the PHB and custom craft a character sheet for that NPC.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
When it comes to the mechanics of the game, they ARE game pieces. You only need the mechanics that will be useful to you as the DM, everything else that makes them a person is part of the illusion you weave for your players and you don't need to set them down on paper unless it comes up.

That local Cleric the PC encounter? Does he know how to remove a curse? Sure, why not. What level is he? I dunno, high enough for Greater Restoration, and yeah he has it prepared why wouldn't he?
That's all fine - I do much the same sort of thing on a regular basis.

My point isn't that you have to go through all the details. It's that if you're going to make something up shorthand, what you make up should fall within the bounds of what you could have got had you gone through all the details.

An extreme example: I can't just make up a 3rd-level Fighter and give it 85 hit points. Why? Because a 3rd-level Fighter simply can't get to 85 hit points* - that hit point total is clearly outside the bounds of what's achievable by rolling it up even if you rolled max h.p. every time.

* - unless it started with and maintained a Con score of about 50, which is equally unachievable.
Trying to figure out how many spell slots a NPC has and what all of his prepared spells are and what he has in his backpack in detail... all that stuff's useless and I'll just make arbitrary decisions if it comes up and then jot them down and stick with that, but until then that NPC is just in a state of quantum flux.
The only one of these I'd like to know in advance as DM is how many spell slots it has, so if the PCs ask it to cast spells for them I've a vague idea of how much it has in the tank.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
No, I'm telling you that if out of the whole infinite potential area of ethos, outlook, and actions, you cannot refrain yourself from doing things which are contrary to the table's usual way of play, you are indeed not welcome to play with that table. This is a collaborative game, the most collaborative ever, and group arguments always trump individual ones (especially if it's the individual basically asking for a license to act like a jerk).
Collaboration in itself is fine; but the second I get any sense that collaboration is being enforced I'll push back, and hard.

We get anough forced groupthink in real life, damned if I want it in the game as well (which is supposed to be an escape anyway).
And does this really happen with leaving sequels ? I had three friends (two now) who claimed that they could play that way, always had, but the result is that one of them was kicked twice from our tables, and out of the remaining 2, one has stopped playing in 2 of our current campaigns, and the last one is the ONLY ONE that still creates tension between players with his behaviour (I exceptionally allowed LE for my Avernus campaign, for another guy playing a priest of Tiamat, it's absolutely fine, but the guy playing - again - the assassin is very often at odds with the others, both in and outside of the game.

And these are very mature players. with decades of experience of the game, and really good friends out of the game.
I've had players at my table that, given what seem to be your tastes, would probably send you screaming for the hills. :) Not all of them worked out, but those that did will - in the best of ways - never be forgotten.

I guess it also comes down to how seriously everyone takes it all. I take it seriously enough to show up on time for the games and to pay attention during them but that's about it: I'm in it for laughs and entertainment (my own and others'), and I've long since learned not to take anything that happens in play all that seriously.

You want your PC to throw down on mine? Fine, do your best - but you'd better be prepared to lose... :)
Listen, I have played that way for years, but first it's not true that it sorts things out naturally, conflicts can arise at any time with a new objective in the campaign, we see that all the time even with characters who are reasonably congruent.

Second, the reason we don't play that way is because we unfortunately have just a few hours to play every week (compared to almost every evening when we were playing in a more free form mode). This means that we want to have adventures TOGETHER, including with the DM, and that almost every minute spent scheming against the others is a minute where at least some of the table is not participating.
I accept (and expect) as a simple fact of life that there's going to be times when I'm at the game but not involved in play. The reasons for this are many and varied: self-inflicted (I have my PC off doing something else at the time) or due to in-game bad luck (I fail a save and spend a combat paralyzed and unable to act) or because someone else is on a solo mission and I'm waiting back at base, or because I don't at the moment have a character at all (the last one's dead and the replacement hasn't met the party yet).

Over the long run ideally these moments tend to cancel out such that everyone is out of action for roughly the same total amount of time.

That, and there's always next session for what doesn't get done tonight. :)
Nope, if the player leaves with his character, the character does not disappear from the campaign, the DM is absolutely free to keep the ACTUAL character (the sheet does not mean anything, the character has only "existed" by being played inside the campaign).
I'm not talking about the physical character sheet; generally I'd leave that with the DM anyway.

If the DM wanted to use that character later in the campaign, however, at the very least I as its player/owner would expect a request for permission, and if for whatever unlikely reason my answer was "No" I'd expect the DM to show enough integrity to abide by that.
This is not real life, it's a game.
A game that in part tries to mirror real life, except with a LOT more freedom to do what you want.
It's a collaborative game, that you play as a team, and by doing so you have to accept the rules of the team.
Rules are made to be broken, aren't they?
It's simple respect. Your freedom stops where it begins to infringe on other's, and your fun HAS TO STOP when it infringes on the fun of others. Simple respect, simple consideration.

And that is absolutely fine, the only thing is that characters do not really exist, they are just figments of a player's imagination, so they are under HIS control, and if the character is acting like a jerk and makes is so that the experience is not OK for another player, than it is simply not OK.
If just one person not having fun is enough to veto something it's a wonder anything gets done. But from other things you've said it doesn't seem that hard-line, so...?
And it happens at our tables as well, but there is a difference in doing it because the planners have been doing it for a while and should be respectful of the non-tactician too, or whether it's done on purpose, up front, in a purely destroying manner that has no respect for the planners.

it's all a question of balance, and of respect, of the PLAYERS (the characters have nothing to do in there, they are only what the players want them to be).
My general guiding ethos is "Do what the character would do"; and if that means one character is going to plan for an hour while another will get bored and stir the pot after five minutes then that's exactly what happens.
And I don't consider it my job. My job is running a game for a reasonably united group of friends adventuring together, which again does not prevent discussion, dissension, even harsh words and fighting, or a bit of splitting, but as long as it stays within the boundaries of everyone having fun, which is not the case when people have to spend the majority of their time waiting for the DM to come back to them because everyone is off doing what they want in their corner.

We has sessions like this, which is why, call it a table rule, we don't do "side intrigues" with the DM going off with one player. We have exceptions of course, but in general everyone witnesses everything.
We try not to have players witness things their characters wouldn't, in order to keep player knowledge and character knowledge the same so as to prevent metagaming. And yes, sometimes this means lots of notes get passed from player to DM and back (and sometimes from player to player) or the DM goes off with a player for a few moments.
Especially in these days where it's so easy to zap out of the session on a phone...
Back in the day paperback books served the same purpose.
In that case, I agree, that kind of WORLD consistency is important, as you can see, the rules matter little here...
A ruling made now becomes a rule for the future.
 




Lyxen

Great Old One
I think it is highly preferable for the GM to be consistent in their rulings.
It's not incompatible, you can be consistent in your rulings because they reflect the world the same way without them turning into a rule that has to be followed all the time. Circumstances matter a lot, and over more than 7 years and tons of campaigns, we have never felt the need to formalise any ruling, and I can't remember an occasion of a player coming back to say "well, actually, if you remember what happened then..."

It's only 3e that forced us to create pages and pages of additional rules to remember, it did not happen before and never happened since then.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
It's not incompatible, you can be consistent in your rulings because they reflect the world the same way without them turning into a rule that has to be followed all the time. Circumstances matter a lot, and over more than 7 years and tons of campaigns, we have never felt the need to formalise any ruling, and I can't remember an occasion of a player coming back to say "well, actually, if you remember what happened then..."
I'd be that player were I in your game.

Truth be told, the most common situation we find the need for precedent-setting rulings is spells interacting with other spells in unexpected and-or unforeseen ways. A lot of this is due to our using a system where when spell A was first written spells B, C, D and the rest of the alphabet didn't exist and so spell A's write-up couldn't account for them.

What usually happens here is if a ruling is significant enough then the relevant write-up gets updated to include it (a big advantage of having our spells online is easy editing!), which locks it in.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
Truth be told, the most common situation we find the need for precedent-setting rulings is spells interacting with other spells in unexpected and-or unforeseen ways. A lot of this is due to our using a system where when spell A was first written spells B, C, D and the rest of the alphabet didn't exist and so spell A's write-up couldn't account for them.

What usually happens here is if a ruling is significant enough then the relevant write-up gets updated to include it (a big advantage of having our spells online is easy editing!), which locks it in.

That kind of case and your processing seems OK for your way of playing. But we don't have this sort of problem, the fairly simple rules of spell interaction in 5e have managed to resolve our problems so far without discussions.

And after that, I do believe that our players are as experienced as any, it's just that we obviously game by a different philosophy, which is that the world and the circumstances matter more than rules, that leaving the DM to arbitrate rulings in full consistency with the world makes the world more real than gaming a set of rules and, as importantly, resolving these situations faster and without discussion makes not only for a faster game where more happens in terms of playing, as well as a more pleasant one overall... And all that without losing consistency, as for us consistency of the world trumps consistency of the rules any day - not that there are conflicts between the two which occur that often since circumstances are everything.
 

One place where my players noticed a discrepancy between PC and NPC stat blocks was in RotFM when the had Vellynne Harpell on the team. They noted that she had a lot of hit points for an eighth level wizard.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
Collaboration in itself is fine; but the second I get any sense that collaboration is being enforced I'll push back, and hard.

It is a table rule (at all our tables), that players think about other players when choosing their actions. Not the characters, the players, so people are mindful of each other. It does not preclude characters acting like jerks, just the players acting like jerks. And if you don't abide by this table rule, then just don't play.

I've had players at my table that, given what seem to be your tastes, would probably send you screaming for the hills. :) Not all of them worked out, but those that did will - in the best of ways - never be forgotten.

We have moments too, but possibly more collective ones. And we have rebels too, it's just the characters, as long as it amuses the players.

I guess it also comes down to how seriously everyone takes it all. I take it seriously enough to show up on time for the games and to pay attention during them but that's about it: I'm in it for laughs and entertainment (my own and others'), and I've long since learned not to take anything that happens in play all that seriously.

I'm not sure it's a question of "seriously", it's a question of involvement. It's still a game, and we take it like that, but immersion is nice as long as it's not a source of conflict.

I accept (and expect) as a simple fact of life that there's going to be times when I'm at the game but not involved in play. The reasons for this are many and varied: self-inflicted (I have my PC off doing something else at the time) or due to in-game bad luck (I fail a save and spend a combat paralyzed and unable to act) or because someone else is on a solo mission and I'm waiting back at base, or because I don't at the moment have a character at all (the last one's dead and the replacement hasn't met the party yet).

And we accept that this is going to happen too, but we just do some efforts to keep it minimal. Not only does it mean that you play more, it also means that you play better (in the sense of the quality that you get back from the game), because you don't have time when you are connected and no-one else is.

Over the long run ideally these moments tend to cancel out such that everyone is out of action for roughly the same total amount of time.

It's not my experience, there are DM hoggers and people always scheming behind the others back, and the only counter to that if the DM does not balance things out is to start scheming as well, therefore lowering again the quality of play for the others. I had one such player (at least one who was worse than a few others at our tables), so for a few sessions, I had him sit outside five minutes for every minute that he took me out for solo play, because while he was doing his things, the others were playing as a group. That cured him very, very quickly. :p

If the DM wanted to use that character later in the campaign, however, at the very least I as its player/owner would expect a request for permission, and if for whatever unlikely reason my answer was "No" I'd expect the DM to show enough integrity to abide by that.

The permission to use the character in the campaign is granted the instant the character starts to live in the fantasy world. There is no need to require further permission. The DM is not oging to gimp his game, his world and its history just because one player slammed the door.

A game that in part tries to mirror real life, except with a LOT more freedom to do what you want.

But it's still a collaborative game amongst friends, and the intent is not to hurt your friends, nothing more.

Rules are made to be broken, aren't they?

Then why do you insist on transforming rulings into rules ? So that you can break them later ? :[p

If just one person not having fun is enough to veto something it's a wonder anything gets done. But from other things you've said it doesn't seem that hard-line, so...?

Because there is a difference between really destroying someone else's fun and just messing around a bit. The DM does it all the time, putting the characters in dangerous situations, messing around with them, etc. We just want the same limits from one player to the next.

The example that I've given you about planning is that if 4 players enjoy planning, and one find it boring, the "bored" guy will at least let the others to a bit of planning before doing something where all hell breaks loose. And the others will understand that too, realise that they had been planning for too long anyway, and respect what the needs of the other player.

My general guiding ethos is "Do what the character would do"; and if that means one character is going to plan for an hour while another will get bored and stir the pot after five minutes then that's exactly what happens.

And that is exactly what we want to avoid, since it's the route of Matt Colville's wangrods. :)

We try not to have players witness things their characters wouldn't, in order to keep player knowledge and character knowledge the same so as to prevent metagaming. And yes, sometimes this means lots of notes get passed from player to DM and back (and sometimes from player to player) or the DM goes off with a player for a few moments.

It still happens now and then with our group, but it's the exception rather than the norm.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
One place where my players noticed a discrepancy between PC and NPC stat blocks was in RotFM when the had Vellynne Harpell on the team. They noted that she had a lot of hit points for an eighth level wizard.

And how did they note that ? As a player, I don't even know how many hit points my fellow players have, and I certainly don't know their CON stat... And I might, metagaming, know that they are about the same level as I am, but NPCs don't have their level tattooed on their forehead, or the fight that they might have multiclassed or exceptional circumstances. In the world, we would probably notice if someone looks exceptionally resilient.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
It is a table rule (at all our tables), that players think about other players when choosing their actions. Not the characters, the players, so people are mindful of each other. It does not preclude characters acting like jerks, just the players acting like jerks. And if you don't abide by this table rule, then just don't play.
Which falls perfectly under my mantra of "what happens in character stays in character"; and if it holds like this all is fine. Yet from reading other posts you've made it seems you clamp down rather hard on characters acting like jerks even if the players aren't. Which is it?
And we accept that this is going to happen too, but we just do some efforts to keep it minimal. Not only does it mean that you play more, it also means that you play better (in the sense of the quality that you get back from the game), because you don't have time when you are connected and no-one else is.

It's not my experience, there are DM hoggers and people always scheming behind the others back, and the only counter to that if the DM does not balance things out is to start scheming as well, therefore lowering again the quality of play for the others. I had one such player (at least one who was worse than a few others at our tables), so for a few sessions, I had him sit outside five minutes for every minute that he took me out for solo play, because while he was doing his things, the others were playing as a group. That cured him very, very quickly. :p
The DM-hoggers are a nuisance, to be sure, but people scheming behind each others' back can lead to some excellent play*. I could bore everyone with a litany of grand stories about such things from games I've both DMed and played in; suffice it to say that as long as the players don't take it personally that sort of thing can be a blast. :)

* - though the plot or story won't advance very much if at all during this; but if they're having fun, who cares?
The permission to use the character in the campaign is granted the instant the character starts to live in the fantasy world. There is no need to require further permission. The DM is not oging to gimp his game, his world and its history just because one player slammed the door.
All it requires is that if my character was, say, a Thief; and after I've left the game the party looks to recruit a Thief, the DM either a) not use my Thief as that recruit and instead rolls up an NPC or b) ask me if it's OK that my character return to play without me.

Hardly what I'd call gimping the game.
Then why do you insist on transforming rulings into rules ? So that you can break them later ? :[p
More because if I don't hard-code them either someone will find a way to exploit the loophole or I'll forget my ruling and get it wrong sometime later.
Because there is a difference between really destroying someone else's fun and just messing around a bit. The DM does it all the time, putting the characters in dangerous situations, messing around with them, etc. We just want the same limits from one player to the next.
To me it all falls under 'just messing around', as does most of the game in general. :)
The example that I've given you about planning is that if 4 players enjoy planning, and one find it boring, the "bored" guy will at least let the others to a bit of planning before doing something where all hell breaks loose. And the others will understand that too, realise that they had been planning for too long anyway, and respect what the needs of the other player.
That's fair. If there's two who enjoy meticulous planning and two who don't*, however, then no matter what happens two people are going to be slightly annoyed: either the planners if the non-planners don't give them the chance, or the non-planners if they're made to wait for the planners to finish. Tolerance is required both ways.

* - I've been in this situation as one of the non-planners - we had two planners, two impatient types, and one who didn't care much either way. What often ended up happening is that the planners would plan and then when the time (finally!) came to put the plan into effect the impatients would ignore the plan and just improvise instead. It usually worked out OK... :)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
And how did they note that ? As a player, I don't even know how many hit points my fellow players have,
We generally do, for purposes of curing if nothing else.
and I certainly don't know their CON stat...
Stats are often shared around as part of general table banter; in character we know who in the party is tough and who isn't, but not in a numerical sense.
And I might, metagaming, know that they are about the same level as I am, but NPCs don't have their level tattooed on their forehead, or the fight that they might have multiclassed or exceptional circumstances. In the world, we would probably notice if someone looks exceptionally resilient.
Agreed all round.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
We generally do, for purposes of curing if nothing else.

People just say if they are feeling well or really unwell, and we manage it from there, actually.

Stats are often shared around as part of general table banter; in character we know who in the party is tough and who isn't, but not in a numerical sense.

Well, we don't share stats or any technical detail about characters, in some cases I did not even know the archetype of a fellow PC, for example, but I agree about toughness, after a while, you get an idea, you're just usually unsure where it comes from.
 

NotAYakk

Legend
What I'm talking about are precedent-setting rulings where the DM doesn't adhere to the precedent. An example: say my PC has got hold of an Adamantine Axe whose main property is that is cannot lose its edge no matter what. So, we get to a stone door our Rogue can't open and as my action I declare "I'll try using my axe to chop through it." The DM, who never considered idea this when dreaming up the Axe, thinks about it a moment then says "Well, if you don't mind spending half an hour at it and don't care how much noise you make then yes, you chop through the door" (i.e. makes a ruling and grants auto-success).

Simple fleeting moment in play, right. But wait. With that ruling the DM has just set and locked in a precedent: Adamantine Axes can cut through stone, albeit slowly. Which means I-as-player can now expect - or certainly should be able to expect - this to be a consistent thing going forward and thus can base decisions around this information; and if the next time I meet a similar stone door I'm told I can't cut though it I'm going to both in and out of character be asking why.
Except there are literally 100s of types of stone with very different properties.

The fact that you are making progress on Stone Door X should not, in a "realistic" situation, give you confidence it will work on stone object Y even stone door Z.

What you have is "at least one stone door can be cut through with the Adamantine Axe". What more, unless you are a master of both stone cutting and magical metals, you might not even know why this one door fell to the Adamantine Axe and the next one doesn't.

If you wanted to be confident that the Adamantine Axe could cut through almost any stone, you'd take some downtime and look into it. Try it on a whole pile of different stones of various thicknesses, figure out the cutting speed, etc.

Instead, if you just walk up to another stone door and start hacking away, "it didn't work" is plausible, and without that above research there is no reason why you'd know why it doesn't work in the moment.

Now, narratively, doing is a bit annoying for the player. But simulationist wise, knowing stuff is a lot of work, and knowing the specific interacation of adamantine axes and every type of stone is a ridiculously niche bit of knowledge.
 

aco175

Legend
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.
I might give the option to take 2 levels of rogue. These are class abilities you learn from rogues and at some point you are advancing in that class. I get that the player would want his PC to remain a straight fighter from a game purpose, but I would have to ask about other class abilities.

There is the magic initiate feat that allows a couple cantrips and a 1st level spell. That is basically 1 level of wizard. I guess I'm less sure now how to give class abilities to other classes.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
What you have is "at least one stone door can be cut through with the Adamantine Axe". What more, unless you are a master of both stone cutting and magical metals, you might not even know why this one door fell to the Adamantine Axe and the next one doesn't.

I agree, it's important that the player feels a victory at the time without the DM embarking too many constraints for the future. It's one of the most important difficulties in particular for high level adventures, what defenses the villains and strongholds have. We have all used things like strange materials, magic-infused walls, reinforced with walls of Force, magical fields, etc. but that is really high level, and having an axe that cuts through all mundane doors or even walls is a very strong plot-cutting element that might hamper the DM in creating appropriate challenges, in particular if he does not think about it when preparing the adventure. The DM already has to think about all the magical means at the party's disposal, so the more like this we add, the more difficult his job becomes.

It's all about the circumstances, but on top of that, there is a design principle at work here, which is absoluteness. It's very often better to state something like "it gives you a huge benefit..." than "it always...", because it avoids something becoming an absolute. Absolutes have a way of coming back to contradict each other (unstoppable force meeting immovable object), and to create problems in game design. Unfortunately, 5e has a few examples like that, can't think about one just now, but I'm sure you know what I think. Adding more (adamantine axe will cut through any door / substance) is usually a bad idea.
 

Xetheral

Three-Headed Sirrush
Again, I can't think of a single actual at the table occurrence where a player in a D&D game came away from an encounter unhappy that an enemy could do things they couldn't do.
It happened to me regularly in a long-running game where I was playing a Battlemaster/Thief that specialized in poisons. For every PC that isn't a Thief, applying poison to your weapon requires an Action, whereas a Thief can do it as a Bonus Action. The ability to apply poisons quickly was one of the key abilities that defined my character. However, NPCs who use poison don't require any action at all to apply it to their weapon--they just get free poison damage (or other poison effects) added to all of their attacks. So the class feature that supposedly made me a great poisoner made me worse at using poisons than every other poison-using character in the game world.

In particular, fighting Drow was maddening. They had better poisons than I did, could apply those poisons to their weapons faster (i.e. with no action), and since their poison wasn't actually an item leftover poison couldn't be looted. I couldn't even pick up their poison-coated weapon and use it immediately because the poison damage was part of the Drow statblock--if I used their poisoned weapon it somehow wouldn't do poison damage.

The disparate mechanical treatment of poisons between my poison-using PC and poison-using NPCs was one of the single most frustrating experiences I've ever had in D&D.
 

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