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%

Galandris

Foggy Bottom Campaign Setting Fan
First Age Farmer: grow fruits whose taste will enthrall you for years standing there in bliss, possibly making you die right there.
Second Age Farmer: grow kiwis the size of pineapple. Fights a pack of wargs with shovel.
Third Age Farmer: runs away from danger and never gets the opportunity to earn a character class level.
Fourth Age Farmer: 1 HD, will probably die of illness before age 15. Enjoys being dirty and wearing crass colored shirts and pants.
 

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I was trying to stay within the dnd 5e mechanics.
NPCs specifically do not have levels in 5E. They have what abilities and statistics are appropriate for who they are. They are not defined by classes or levels. A master farmer might have a +20 on checks related to farming, But +0 for other nature related tasks that they may know nothing about. They might have 3 HP or hey might have 30. Depends on what the DM thinks they need.

Don't limit yourself to thinking that NPCs need to be built like PC's. 5E specifically says not to do that.
 
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kigmatzomat

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

The DMG gives three options with no clear bias for one. "When you give an NPC game statistics, you have three main options: giving the NPC only the few statistics it needs, give the NPC a monster stat block, or give the NPC a class and levels"
 

kigmatzomat

Adventurer
NPCs specifically do not have levels in 5E. They have what abilities and statistics are appropriate for who they are. They are not defined by classes or levels. A master farmer might have a +20 on checks related to farming, But +0 for other nature related tasks that they may know nothing about. They might have 3 HP or hey might have 30. Depends on what the DM thinks they need.

Don't limit yourself to thinking that NPCs need to be built like PC's. 5E specifically says not to do that.
Dmg: "When you give an NPC game statistics, you have three main options: giving the NPC only the few statistics it needs, give the NPC a monster stat block, or give the NPC a class and levels"
 

Dmg: "When you give an NPC game statistics, you have three main options: giving the NPC only the few statistics it needs, give the NPC a monster stat block, or give the NPC a class and levels"
That's actually four options. Note the conditional: "when". You don't need to give NPCs statistics at all.

And the idea is, you use the one that's most appropriate for how you are going to use the NPC. If the NPC will never be hit, it does not need hp. If it will never make a skill check, it does not need skills. The only time you would give an NPC class levels is if they are going to be a DM PC, fighting alongside the PCs and consuming resources. There has been a move towards giving any single-fight NPCs monster stat blocks since a large number of PC abilities and resources are irrelevant.
 

Galandris

Foggy Bottom Campaign Setting Fan
Also, I don't think the choice between the "four options" depends only on what is needed but also on players agreement on how the world works. If John the 40 years-old farmer who never left his farm can roll "Grow Wheat" at +20, then Level 1 barbarian Roger, whose backstory is that his village was destroyed by a dragon and he picked up a sword and vowed revenge, after 40 years of farming, will ask why he's merely growing wheat at +2. Some table will readily accept that "Your ability to grow wheat is totally irrelevant in the campaign called Against the Dragons, don't sweat it", while some will find that breaking immersion and want a ribbon wheat-growing ability for Roger.
 

The vast majority of people--not just peasants, people--do not have levels and cannot be measured in this way.

To put this in more concrete terms, though I'm pulling these numbers out of thin air:
50% of trained Waziri mages are at most level 1 and will never be any higher level. (Most of them aren't even level 1.*)
30% can hit level 2-3, but will never progress any further
15% can reach the lofty heights of 5th level, but will never progress any further
5% can maybe grow further, but rarely (if ever) get beyond 7th level

Of course, I play Dungeon World, so being 7th level is about 2/3 of the effective maximum in our game.** Similar patterns apply to everything else. Temple knights (Paladins), Safiqi priests (Clerics), Raven-Shadow assassins, Silver Thread pickpockets, Al-Rakkan soldiers, etc., etc. Anyone who just does ordinary manual labor certainly doesn't qualify for class levels and other such things. They might have skills or abilities related to their work, but that would never be represented in any way even remotely comparable to a PC's class levels.

*The primary uses of magic in the setting my group has developed are ritual in nature, rather than spellcasting. A "zeroth-level" spellcaster can manage rote spells and perhaps one or two "proper" spells in a day, but can do ritual after ritual as long as they have the right power source(s) and training. Hence, most Waziri mages do contract work, teaching, research, or some combination of the three.

**I have created "11th level" rules. When you reach level 11, you become Legendary, which gives you the Legendary move. You no longer spend XP to level up, and can instead spend it on other bonuses instead. Legendary characters are significantly more powerful in terms of what they can achieve, though they continue to be fragile in a variety of ways. My players care about the setting and NPCs though, so I can still threaten them via their allies and their status in the world. :devilish:
 

I think it is good idea to have some benchmarks for what the expected NPC skill bonuses are. I don't necessarily think that being older automatically makes you better at your job, but certainly some NPCs are more skilled than others. I'd expect NPC professionals having skill bonus related to their job ranging from +2 (+2 proficiency, 0 ability modifier) to +9 (+3 proficiency, expertise, +3 ability modifier). Most would be closer to the former, the latter would be some sort of renowned master.
 

Blackrat

He Who Lurks Beyond The Veil
Back in the day of 3rd edition, when there were the actual NPC classes, I made a system where NPC’s gained 1xp per day of adulthood. This would then be modified by living conditions. So a commoner human living in normal civilised lands would die of old age at somewhere around level 6-7, and one in harsh frontier at around lvl 11.
 
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DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
Here is my breakdown for proficiency bonus. As I mention upthread, I don't tie this to level or HD.

Novice +2
Apprentice +3-4
Journeyman +5-6
Expert +7-8
Master +9-10
Grand Master +11-12

Obviously the higher bonuses include expertise and ability modifier isn't factored in.

In this way, a younger, less-trained practitioner but with high ability might have a higher total modifier than an older, more-trained practitioner. However, in general, with age comes additional use and higher total modifier.
 

SkidAce

Legend
Supporter
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.
This is the way.

I also have given 0-1st level npcs feats or skills, much like your 4th level voting option.
 

kigmatzomat

Adventurer
That's actually four options. Note the conditional: "when". You don't need to give NPCs statistics at all.

Sure, and there is no reason every stablehand, server, or town crier needs a stat block, but that's been true of every rpg forever.

But if you go to smith to have work done that requires a skill check (fix something or haggle over prices), how much better is the 40yro than the 17yro?

Are they identical? Is the 40yro (expertise/+2) better? Are they (feat/advantage/+5) better? Are they (+5 & advantage =+10) better?
 

Sure, and there is no reason every stablehand, server, or town crier needs a stat block, but that's been true of every rpg forever.

But if you go to smith to have work done that requires a skill check (fix something or haggle over prices), how much better is the 40yro than the 17yro?

Are they identical? Is the 40yro (expertise/+2) better? Are they (feat/advantage/+5) better? Are they (+5 & advantage =+10) better?
How much better do you want them to be? Age is just another stat, and in this case, not the one that matters. As a rule of thumb, I would go with +4. Unless you have them billed as some kind of master craftsman they won't have more than proficiency +2 and +2 good stat.

Not even player characters get better by getting older.
 

while some will find that breaking immersion and want a ribbon wheat-growing ability for Roger.
Uh, pretty sure the rules say to give Roger the ribbon. If a DM thinks a background says a PC can do something, then they can do it. No roll needed. This desire to constantly provide mechanisms for stuff that just doesn't need it is understandable, but not needed.
Sure, and there is no reason every stablehand, server, or town crier needs a stat block, but that's been true of every rpg forever.
Uh, no. Go read the original B1/B2. Very few stat blocks and those that were there were generally very abbreviated. Lots' of games do not put stat blocks on NPCs. Lots do, but lots don't.
 


kigmatzomat

Adventurer
How much better do you want them to be? Age is just another stat, and in this case, not the one that matters. As a rule of thumb, I would go with +4. Unless you have them billed as some kind of master craftsman they won't have more than proficiency +2 and +2 good stat.

Not even player characters get better by getting older.
PCs get better by doing their job, aka adventuring, having experiences where they get points.

You will note I said these NPCs have 20 years of experience at their jobs. Dealing competition, droughts, bad materials, negotiating with other vendors, random issues with the government, whatever.

I picked age 40 because its the most experienced I though a human could be without age, accumulated injuries, senility, etc applying penalties.

And its not about how I want them to be. Its a poll of when your PCs go to a random town and meet a mature adult established smith, shop keeper, apothecary, herbalist, etc what skill rank do you assign that experienced NPC vs what you give the 17yro who knows all the fundamentals.
 

PCs get better by doing their job, aka adventuring, having experiences where they get points.
If you look at the amount of time that passes, PCs are typically level 1 for 18 years, then go from 1 to 20 over around 2 years, then spend the next 60 years gradually deteriorating. A steady progression it is not.

I picked age 40 because its the most experienced I though a human could be without age, accumulated injuries, senility, etc applying penalties.
What kind of world is it? A real world medieval peasant would most likely be dead by 40.

And what about elves? If non-adventurers advanced with time, then all 2000-year-old elves should be level 20, should they not?
And its not about how I want them to be. Its a poll of when your PCs go to a random town and meet a mature adult established smith, shop keeper, apothecary, herbalist, etc what skill rank do you assign that experienced NPC vs what you give the 17yro who knows all the fundamentals.
As I said, nothing more than +2. These guys are extras, not heroes. But unless they are directly negotiating with PCs or something similar, they don't have skills because they don't make skill checks to do their job. The farmer works the field and the crops grow, no skill check required. The blacksmith shoes the horses, no skill check required.
 

Oofta

Legend
NPCs have whatever statistics I think make sense for them, they don't have levels. They rarely if ever have PC levels (some NPCs do), most commoners never see combat in their lives depending on where they live. On the other hand, some live in a war torn or otherwise dangerous area and have had no choice but to fight for their lives. In that case I may grab an appropriate monster stat block, give them side kick or PC levels, whatever makes sense.

You need an "other" option.
 

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