D&D 5E How common are magic, monsters, and NPC's with class levels anyways?

dave2008

Legend
Class levels are not very common and magic is particularly rare. In our world the highest class level of an NPC is 12th. There are a handful of people in the 9-11 range, but most don't get past level 5, and even that is fairly uncommon.
 

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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Consensus on a single option? Probably not.

Consensus on a sliding scale for all those elements and maybe a half dozen common combinations? Probably.

If you think of Magic, Monsters, and CLNPCs (Class/Leveled NPCs) each ranging on a scale from None - Low - Moderate - High my own typical setting would be low in all three categories.
Mine would be, I think, mid - high - high in sequence.

Magic isn't really a part of the everyday commoners' lives, with a few rare exceptions. But adventurers and higher-levelled NPCs (who use the same mechanics as PCs) are often exposed to and-or use it all the time.

Monsters are everywhere except where they are not, if that makes any sense. My setting isn't quite as extreme as 4e's points-of-light idea, but there's large swathes of wild land between the settled areas; and venturing into some of those swathes is very much not recommended unless you're sure you know what you're doing. :)

CLNPCs are fairly common. Low-level Fighters are everywhere - any army that's seen a few battles is full of them. Stay-at-home Clerics and Mages are common. Non-adventuring Thieves are common in towns and cities. And so on. The way I see it, these non-adventuring types can build up the same skills (a.k.a. levels) as can PCs provided they stick at it: it takes them much longer but usually at much less risk and probably at much less wealth accrual. Add in retired adventurers and yeah, CLNPCs are relatively common.

Adventuring is just the high-risk-high-reward means of gaining levels and wealth in a hurry.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
Mine would be, I think, mid - high - high in sequence.
Cool! It is interesting to hear how other people have their settings. :)

The way I see it, these non-adventuring types can build up the same skills (a.k.a. levels) as can PCs provided they stick at it: it takes them much longer but usually at much less risk and probably at much less wealth accrual. Add in retired adventurers and yeah, CLNPCs are relatively common.

Adventuring is just the high-risk-high-reward means of gaining levels and wealth in a hurry.
You know, this reminds me of what I used to do in AD&D...

You could "earn" 1 XP / level / day while "not adventuring" but through using your capabilities in every day life.

Back then a spell was worth 50 bonus xp / spell level IIRC, so every 7 or eight weeks a 1st level caster might have cause to use their single 1st level spell.

I actually wrote a VB program so I could select the class and amount of time in it to determine level.

For 5E, 300 xp for 2nd level would take about a year, 600 xp more for 3rd level about another year, and so on.

Here would be the chart for 5E:
1650136557603.png


So, after about 10 years an NPC would be 6th level, and would take over 81 and a half years to make 20th level.

But, of course, it never really felt right since that meant basically most NPC levels would be level 20... :D
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
Yeah AD&D didn't really have NPC classes for the most part (Dragon magazine had a few). Like a Sage? 8HD NPC with some magical abilities in the 1eDMG. 2e had a lot of "0-level" NPC's, but they didn't make much sense, given how the proficiency system worked (which they claimed was optional, but treated like a default). If you're a master weaponsmith, for example, you need 3 non-weapon proficiency slots for baseline proficiency, and obviously, you'd need more slots to be very good at your craft.

PC's only got a few of these (3-4 at level one depending on class, and an additional one every 3-4 levels). High Intelligence characters could be allowed to use some of their languages for more slots, but there was no provision for how many 0-level characters got or how they could earn more- the DM just had to assign them what they needed.

About class levels in 5e, I probably should have titled the thread better, I try to use HD as a metric for NPC's, since 5e wants to use monster stat blocks for all NPC's. This made me come to a realization that my answer might be staring me in the face: looking at the Monster Manual NPC's, I see the Archmage, who is an 18 HD arcane caster (CR 12), with resistance to damage from spells and non-magic weapons (plus advantage on spell and magic saves). The most powerful non-caster NPC is the Gladiator, at 15 HD (but only CR 5?).

So Hit Dice seem to be rather arbitrarily assigned, presumably to get the hit point totals desired as opposed to being any real metric of overall power level. I could try to infer relative power level, that is, an Archmage is equal in power to a 12th-level PC, but that doesn't really mean anything. I'm still left with, how many CR 12s exist in the game? And the answer is "as many as a campaign needs".
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
The most powerful non-caster NPC is the Gladiator, at 15 HD (but only CR 5?).
Maybe you missed the Assassin (only 12 HD, but CR 8) or are you just looking at HD?

Also, Volo's added the champion (22 HD, CR 9) and Warlord (27 HD, CR 12), which was the counter-point to the Archmage, et al.

So Hit Dice seem to be rather arbitrarily assigned, presumably to get the hit point totals desired as opposed to being any real metric of overall power level. I could try to infer relative power level, that is, an Archmage is equal in power to a 12th-level PC, but that doesn't really mean anything. I'm still left with, how many CR 12s exist in the game? And the answer is "as many as a campaign needs".
FWIW, I equate CR 12 to about level 18, or roughly 2/3 of level equal CR. So, a 12th-level PC would be about CR 8.

The Archmage, for instance, is an 18th-level spellcaster but with 99 hp. This is just 7 hp more than a 18th-level wizard would have. However, despite an INT 20, it only has a +9 on spell attacks while the same PC would be +11. This means the NPC's spells are a bit underpowered (easy save DC and lower spell attack), but it has just as many and a bit more HP. 🤷‍♂️

If we look at the Warlord (CR 12 also) and compare that to an 18th-level Fighter, its HP is MUCH HIGHER than an 18th-level Fighter (229 vs. 184!). With its legendary actions it could get up to 5 attacks per round, which is more than the Fighter would get at 3. And although it has some features, it doesn't have quite everything the PC Fighter would have. In a 1-1 match, it would get the same 3 attacks, so I think would be a fairly even fight depending on the Fighter build.

It would be great if the CR system was designed to have a fairly rough translation system to PC level, and the 2/3 x level is the best I've found for myself.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
Oh yeah, I did skip over the Assassin. I saw their HD and missed their CR. And yeah, the CR system for 5e is just weird. One thing I hated about running spellcasting enemies in premade adventures is that they always had access to higher level spells than the party, which felt weird. "Yes, I know you're 5th level, but this CR 5 is able to chuck 4th level spells at the party."
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
Well, IME a CR 4 higher than the party level works well, especially as a solo encounter (although I have the monster maximum hp instead of average), and personally it made sense that the bad guys could cast spells the good guys can't.

But yeah, CR is not as straight-forward as I would like...
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
Oh yeah, I did skip over the Assassin. I saw their HD and missed their CR. And yeah, the CR system for 5e is just weird. One thing I hated about running spellcasting enemies in premade adventures is that they always had access to higher level spells than the party, which felt weird. "Yes, I know you're 5th level, but this CR 5 is able to chuck 4th level spells at the party."
But CR doesn't really map to character levels (unfortunately imo). If you have 4 PCs in a party and you throw 4 monsters of level-equivalent CR at them, by the encounter guidelines that's supposed to be a more than deadly fight. (In practice I find the encounters that PCs can handle to be much higher when I don't have a 6-8 encounters per day assumption in my games, but the intent was that CR and PC level are only roughly connected, not a 1 to 1 equivalence in levels)
 

cbwjm

Legend
I have high amounts of magic, plenty of monsters, though central civilised areas are generally safe with more borders having to deal with monsters. Plenty of NPCs have "class levels", by that I mean an archmage might be an evoker, but I'm probably going to use a simplified NPC for it rather than building it out as a PC. Basically, in my games PCs are not unique.
 

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