D&D General NPC farmer & merchant levels by age

How much better is experience over youth and how would that work in game?

  • No difference, all peasants are 1st level

    Votes: 7 29.2%
  • A little - the experienced peasant gets a class feature like expertise at level 2

    Votes: 7 29.2%
  • Some - the experienced peasant is level 4 and takes a feat

    Votes: 5 20.8%
  • Quite a bit - the experienced peasant is 5th level with a feat and +3 proficiency bonus

    Votes: 3 12.5%
  • They are l33t -the experienced peasant is 8th level with feats, expertise & other class features

    Votes: 2 8.3%

kigmatzomat

Adventurer
The various magic discussions have me thinking about the foundational aspects of d&d society. So, I want to ignore magic and think farmers and the fundamental artisans like millers, weavers, brewers, coopers, cobblers and smiths. These people should make up the vast majority of the populace in almost every community.

How much variability should there be in their capabilities, if any? And if so, how to express that?

If a human farmer/crafter is 1st level at around age 17, how much more skilled is a farmer/crafter pushing 40, with 20yrs of experience and not yet suffering the ravages of time and what does that look like on a character sheet?

Clarification: I want this to be how you expect the typical hale & hearty mature adult with 20yrs experience to be relative to a 1st level 17yro. This would be like 30% of your adult population.

I don't specifically care about rules for a peasant class as much as I am trying to suss out how much impact "lived experience" should be represented in the game using the most relatable possible example. This would be a way to come up with experience levels of a population that make the setting "feel right".
 
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I voted level 1, because you don't have a 0 level option. Very few NPCs in my Greyhawk ever achieve anything like a class level. They can, however, become better at a particular skill because I don't require NPCs to work the same way as a PC. A master weaponsmith might have a +10 modifier while still only having 6 HP.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
I voted some but a level 4 peasant would be rare. I tend to keep Master level commoners (local Blacksmith, Village Apothecary, Head Farmer) around level 3.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
The Apprentice gets 1HD and proficiency in their job's tools.
The Trained gets 2HD and proficiency in their job's tools
The Expert gets 4HD, Expertise in their job's tools and +2 in their job's primary ability score.
The Master gets 5HD, Expertise and Reliable Talent in their job's tools and +2 in their job's primary ability score..

Now most peasants ony have d4 HD and no Con bonus.
 

kigmatzomat

Adventurer
I voted level 1, because you don't have a 0 level option. Very few NPCs in my Greyhawk ever achieve anything like a class level. They can, however, become better at a particular skill because I don't require NPCs to work the same way as a PC. A master weaponsmith might have a +10 modifier while still only having 6 HP.
I didn't because afaik, 5e doesn't have level 0. I was trying to stay within the dnd 5e mechanics. I don't specifically care about rules for a peasant class as much as I am trying to suss out how much "lived experience" should be modeled in the game.

I assumed a peasant would be uniformly bad at combat. Something like d2 hp/level and they get maybe 1 weapon proficiency from sling (the quintesential shepherd weapon useful for hunting small game & driving off varmints attacking their herds), a club, and maybe javelin (the pointy stick used for hunting pests in the fields, spear fishing/marlin spike)
 
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Cadence

Legend
Supporter
For NPCs I would entirely separate "combat levels" from "skill levels". Nothing annoyed me more about 3.5/PF than the world's greatest painter getting a bunch of hit dice and a decent BAB just because.

It feels like age can certainly help with acquiring more skill, but opportunity and will to take advantage of being pushed to improve seem more important. A motivated 20 year old with a wide variety of opportunities who takes it seriously can easily be more proficient than the 50 year old who never pushed themselves and has just done the same limited number of things as always.
 

kigmatzomat

Adventurer
I voted some but a level 4 peasant would be rare. I tend to keep Master level commoners (local Blacksmith, Village Apothecary, Head Farmer) around level 3.

I want this to be how you expect the typical hale & hearty mature adult with 20yrs experience to be relative to a 1st level 17yro. This would be like 30% of your adult population. (For things like smith maybe most apprentice smiths are in the city where there is enough work, and then they move to a village at master, but even then, 30% of smiths would be at this level.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
"Level" isn't really a concept to apply to most NPCs in 5th Edition.

Experience in a field will give NPCs higher bonuses or an occasional special ability in the relevant things to match what their narrative implies they should be able to do. But they don't get levels.

Old Farmer McGuckett will have have higher bonuses for farming and animal husbandry than McGuckett Jr. But their hit points and attack bonuses are about the same, unless the Old Farmer also has spent a few rounds in militias when raiders have come through town...
 

The tricky thing is that game stats are built around combat--being a better crafter/artisan doesn't make you tougher or more able to resist poison. Shakespeare was a commoner with a 30 in Performance (playwriting). Farmers in particular ought to have reasonably high physical stats--their jobs are outdoors and physically strenuous.
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
None of the options fit for me. Levels don't apply to NPCs in general.

I separate proficiency bonus from level and HD. They really shouldn't be tied together IMO and is a failure of design.

An "expert" blacksmith might be +10 (via double proficiency bonus), perhaps higher with ability modifier added in, but would have no levels and just 1 or 2 d8 for HD, if any, since HD really only matter for combat...

Otherwise, you can have a younger person with a high proficiency due to intense training, natural talent, or whatever reason. But, in general, I prefer experience (usually coming with age) to be the primary source of improvement in proficiency.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
The various magic discussions have me thinking about the foundational aspects of d&d society. So, I want to ignore magic and think farmers and the fundamental artisans like millers, weavers, brewers, coopers, cobblers and smiths. These people should make up the vast majority of the populace in almost every community.

How much variability should there be in their capabilities, if any? And if so, how to express that?

If a human farmer/crafter is 1st level at around age 17, how much more skilled is a farmer/crafter pushing 40, with 20yrs of experience and not yet suffering the ravages of time and what does that look like on a character sheet?

Clarification: I want this to be how you expect the typical hale & hearty mature adult with 20yrs experience to be relative to a 1st level 17yro. This would be like 30% of your adult population.

I don't specifically care about rules for a peasant class as much as I am trying to suss out how much impact "lived experience" should be represented in the game using the most relatable possible example. This would be a way to come up with experience levels of a population that make the setting "feel right".
You appear to add PC stuff to NPC. How about this.
Farmer commoner AC 10 HP 4
Old Farmer AC 10 HP 40 Crafting +10 +4 to hit due being in the tavern the pcs destroy every year.
Old Farmer Spouse AC 10 HP 20 Crafting +14 +6 to hit with rolling pin. They stay away from the tavern and studied their Martha Steward.
An NPC should have the HP AC and other abilities as needed. Or
Monsters cheat at the rules. NPC don't need no stinking rules.
 

For a long, long time (4 editions of D&D), NPCs were assumed to be built using roughly the same rules as PCs. The first two editions had the concept of the '0-level' normal human, who had some small hit die and their own extra-lousy line on hit tables in older editions, but special NPCs got character levels. 3rd ed decided monsters had six stats and skill ranks just like PCs, so you could look up the Stealth bonus for that otyugh, and there were NPC classes like commoner, noble, and adept (a sort of hedge-cleric-mage) for the 'extras' in the story. 4th ed had stats for human rabble and lackeys (which were 2nd level, interestingly enough). So there's been the assumption that NPCs are 'a different sort of PC' for a long, long time.

5e dispensed with that and just gave them statistics as necessary to the game. But it's a big change TBH.

I suspect there's a shadow of a fear that admitting that PCs are a different 'type of person' than NPCs would seem somehow racist/fascist--'these people count, these people don't' (though of course the PC/NPC split isn't really, or at least not entirely, based on ancestry, with humans being NPCs and PCs and players often wanting to play 'monsters' to the point orcs are nearly a PC race at this point). But that's just IMHO.
 


Cadence

Legend
Supporter
For a long, long time (4 editions of D&D), NPCs were assumed to be built using roughly the same rules as PCs. The first two editions had the concept of the '0-level' normal human, who had some small hit die and their own extra-lousy line on hit tables in older editions, but special NPCs got character levels. 3rd ed decided monsters had six stats and skill ranks just like PCs, so you could look up the Stealth bonus for that otyugh, and there were NPC classes like commoner, noble, and adept (a sort of hedge-cleric-mage) for the 'extras' in the story. 4th ed had stats for human rabble and lackeys (which were 2nd level, interestingly enough). So there's been the assumption that NPCs are 'a different sort of PC' for a long, long time.

Those all feel like arguments to me that for a long time that non-adventuring NPCs were decidedly not like PCs. The zero-level and specialized hireling tables in 1e, using entirely different classes in 3.5 that were for NPCs and weaker than the PC ones, the 4e doing what needed to be done with mooks...

That monsters had stats in 3 and 4 seems just like a matter of how the mechanics worked and not like making them more like PCs.
Per se.


I suspect there's a shadow of a fear that admitting that PCs are a different 'type of person' than NPCs would seem somehow racist/fascist--'these people count, these people don't' (though of course the PC/NPC split isn't really, or at least not entirely, based on ancestry, with humans being NPCs and PCs and players often wanting to play 'monsters' to the point orcs are nearly a PC race at this point). But that's just IMHO.

I've never read anything even hinting at that... Have you read quotes or intimations by anyone thinking that's the case? The only people I've ever heard upset about them being treated differently are those who feel PCs and NPCs having the same rules is super vital to the game making sense.
 

aco175

Legend
Typically, they are just names on a sheet until they need statblocks. If they are expected to do something for the plot of the game they might have a skill or knowledge needed. Both the young and old have problems in a fight and the heroes of the campaign tend to need to help save them.
 



Some have really high bonuses on a skill or two, maybe a tool or two.
The rest don't.

Less than 1% of mine are built using PC rules. Those are only the ones that appear in multiple game sessions, have a history of fighting/adventuring and who may join a combat.
 

I've never read anything even hinting at that... Have you read quotes or intimations by anyone thinking that's the case? The only people I've ever heard upset about them being treated differently are those who feel PCs and NPCs having the same rules is super vital to the game making sense.
IMHO only, and I said as much. I was wondering if anyone else had that thought. Maybe not!
 

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