D&D General Are NPCs like PCs?

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.
Yeah, that is exactly the sort of disconnect I would want to avoid. NPCs don't need to be built exactly the same than PCs, but they should use rules similarly, especially ones where the disparity is easily noticeable to the players.
 

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Reynard

Legend
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.
"Drow blood is poisonous and so drow weapons have razor like blades on the pommels and handles that cause the blood to leak onto the blades and tips." Ta-da.
 






Galandris

Foggy Bottom Campaign Setting Fan
"Drow blood is poisonous and so drow weapons have razor like blades on the pommels and handles that cause the blood to leak onto the blades and tips." Ta-da.

Oh no... I can already imagine by players siphoning off the blood from their drow enemies in order to create a large supply of cheap poison. I'll refrain from using this explanation shudders. Too risky. Especially since the next question will come from the wizard : "How much blood does a shackled drow can produce a day without dying? Asking for a rogue friend..."
 



Reynard

Legend
"No. They're NPCs. They're built different for various reasons we're not going to litigate but which include the fact that you just requested a feature that hurts you just to prove a point. Everyone else is getting real tired of these antics. Please leave the table."
That's a little harsh. You can just say no. We do it all the time. "No, you can't play a vrock." "No, you can't cast cleric spells; you're a sorcerer." "No, gnomes don't exist."
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
That's a little harsh. You can just say no. We do it all the time. "No, you can't play a vrock." "No, you can't cast cleric spells; you're a sorcerer." "No, gnomes don't exist."
We're talking about different issues though. This is a player wanting something just to try to push some argument about NPC abilities having to be PC abilities. Once they're using the game to push the argument, they're just going to bother everyone at the table using their PCs as a prod and it's time to go.
 

We're talking about different issues though. This is a player wanting something just to try to push some argument about NPC abilities having to be PC abilities. Once they're using the game to push the argument, they're just going to bother everyone at the table using their PCs as a prod and it's time to go.
Don't worry. I would never play in your game in the first place. I appreciate if the fictional world is coherent and the rules are logically used to represent it, things which I know you've an active disdain of.
 


Lanefan

Victoria Rules
We're talking about different issues though. This is a player wanting something just to try to push some argument about NPC abilities having to be PC abilities.
Or to say that if Drow PCs don't have these abilities NPCs of the same species shouldn't have them either. Otherwise, the PCs aren't members of thier own population, which is ridiculous.
Once they're using the game to push the argument, they're just going to bother everyone at the table using their PCs as a prod and it's time to go.
No, if their species-based abilities are that unbalanced it's time to disallow Drow as PCs. Boom - problem solved. :)
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
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.

I understand the frustration, that being said, it's not that hard to correct. First, contrary to previous editions, in 5e, unless I'm mistaken, once applied, the poison stays on the blade for one minute, which is way longer than most fights, so there should not be a reason to reapply it.

As for applying it, for the sake of fairness, I would require NPCs like drows and assassins to use bonus action to apply it, with the assumption that they did it before combat in most cases. After that, find additional doses is another matter. Poison is not that balanced in the game, never has been whatever the edition, sop allowing too many doses of very potent poison for PCs is unbalancing the game, and I'm not sure that there is much that can be done about this.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I understand the frustration, that being said, it's not that hard to correct. First, contrary to previous editions, in 5e, unless I'm mistaken, once applied, the poison stays on the blade for one minute, which is way longer than most fights, so there should not be a reason to reapply it.

As for applying it, for the sake of fairness, I would require NPCs like drows and assassins to use bonus action to apply it, with the assumption that they did it before combat in most cases. After that, find additional doses is another matter. Poison is not that balanced in the game, never has been whatever the edition, sop allowing too many doses of very potent poison for PCs is unbalancing the game, and I'm not sure that there is much that can be done about this.
You could always go the 1e route and flag poison use as an Evil act; which would maybe make at least a few PCs think twice.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
You could always go the 1e route and flag poison use as an Evil act; which would maybe make at least a few PCs think twice.

I could, but I think that was a cheap trick of 1e, honestly, poison is evil but burning people to death is not ? Again, I understand the reason, poison is very hard to balance, it's just that I've never seen a proper treatment of it.
 


Galandris

Foggy Bottom Campaign Setting Fan
I could, but I think that was a cheap trick of 1e, honestly, poison is evil but burning people to death is not ? Again, I understand the reason, poison is very hard to balance, it's just that I've never seen a proper treatment of it.

While I think ability score damage are complicated, it was one of the way to do it well: it was effectively a NPC-only option because the players very rarely cared if the foe they damaged would die after a few hours or minutes... they wanted them defeated now. Assassins could thrive using a hit and run tactic, leaving their target as good as dead for story purpose, it would force the use of ressources from the heroes (like restoration or equivalent potions) and provide very little imbalance.
 

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