D&D 5E NPCs/Monsters being able to use PC classes.


I ran a 3.x campaign for years and initially followed the monster creation rules to the letter. At low levels it was OK, but at high levels the work-benefit ratio went way down as the amount of work to stat up monsters and PCs kept climbing, and most of them died in their first encounter with the PCs. And the guidelines didn't work as advertised, so I was better off going with my gut much of the time.

I vastly prefer the 4e philosophy of monsters different to PCs and the standard monster stat block being simple. I can roleplay NPCs with little aid, but I need all the help I can get in running multiple monsters in combat. I can easily customise the rare NPC or monster to be more complex. For me, it's much easier to add extra features to a functional core mechanic than have a massively complex stat block I need to pare down in most cases to be usable.

I am deliberately prioritising in-game functionality over outside game functionality, as the major bottlenecks I encounter with handing monsters and PCs is in the game, when I am very busy and have no time for extraneous detail such as bloated stat blocks.

log in or register to remove this ad


Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
See I have exactly the opposite idea. I think forcing PCs and monsters into different rules is one of the worst things 4e did.

It works great from a gamist and narrativist perspective, but it fails miserably from a simulationist perspective.

Have you tried it? I found it succeeded just fine from a simulationist perspective. The reason is that a great amount of the rules governing PCs are irrelevant to monsters most, or all, of the time. And so the monsters continued to simulate quite well, even while missing a whole slew of data behind the scenes. Because it was behind the scenes and not generally relevant.

In addition, the missing data (but with general guidance from ability scores and other details that are provided) freed up the DM to have the monster act and react to specific situations a lot better, and a lot more in tune with simulating what that creature represents to the world rather than the rigid rules of all those detailed things.

It doesn't mean you cannot use the same things PCs have - just that you insert them when appropriate. So if it makes sense that the monster use a ritual the PCs use, then you insert that for the monster when appropriate.

In other words, using a different, more abbreviated set of flexible rules for monsters allowed for a lot more simulation without the drag fitting into sometimes irrelevant sets of constraints which, when applied to PCs, are not necessarily constraints due to the different roles of monsters and PCs.

This was something accomplished in OD&D, Basic/Expert D&D, AD&D 1e, AD&D 2e, and D&D 4e. The only version of the game which used the same rules for both monsters and PCs was 3e, and it's the source of some of the biggest complaints about 3e. Such complaints include that it takes too long to make higher level creatures, and those creatures often have a ton of useless data involved with them, and that it took away from the "mystery" of the game because the players fully understood the "engine" beneath the hood of those monsters. All of those problems are solved by separating the monster system from the PC system, while simultaneously allowing for simulation.
Last edited:

I understand what you're saying, and I agree about using abbreviated stats and filling in details as needed.

My contention is that the abbreviated stats need to be easily converted and expanded to PC stats. A monster needs to be inherently "PC-ready." The stats also need to produce similar results to PCs.

For instance, it wouldn't be acceptable to me to give a monster a general action bonus, like, say a +3 to all checks, rather than using its ability mods and appropriate proficiency bonus. (I realize no version of the game did that--I'm just providing a conceptual example.) Real examples that I find unacceptable are the AD&D entries that lack ability scores (other than intelligence) and use arbitrary damage values for attacks without reference to the actual weapons being used.

Failing to mention things like background traits and tool proficiencies is an example of something that I'm perfectly fine with. The monster entry format for the druid wildshapes in the current packet is fine. The only difference between them and intelligent creatures is that intelligent creatures would probably have more skills.

In 3e a full stat write-up was an unwieldy mess, which is why it created the problems. But since Next has much simpler stats, it's not a big problem. For instance, they did a pretty good job of replicating fighters (of the previous packet) in some of the bestiary addenda a few packets back.

I also see no reason that a well designer monster stat-block can't be designed to be readily converted to a PC. Let's pull something out of the current bestiary: minotaur.

First, the minotaur is one of the creatures that has an arbitrary attack bonus that differs only 1 point from what it would be using character rules. The majority of monsters in the bestiary have attack bonuses that are the same as, or differ by only 1 point from that of ability mod + proficiency bonus based on HD. The exceptions that differ by 2 or more points tend to be high level monsters having attack bonuses that are too low, and a few low-level critters have bonuses that are too high. I'm going to assume that the final product will simply use the same numbers as PCs. Why not? They're virtually identical most of the time and require less work to create--yay for bounded accuracy. I'm also going to assume they will list a couple of skills for the minotaur, just like for the druid wildshape creatures.

That is a perfectly PC-ready creature. It uses the same rules--it just doesn't have a character class. All that needs to be listed is the level in a PC class it is equivalent to (which, if designed right, could simply be the same level as listed for its encounter design) and a label as to how exotic it is (which could be on a table at the back of the monster manual). A half-page of rules in the DMG would indicate how to turn it into a PC. Probably by adding a background and adjusting ability scores if desired. Now it is an X level PC, give it the starting XP of a PC of that level, and you simply start adding additional classes through multiclassing as you level up.

So basically all I'm asking them to do is give me a number for each intelligent monster, so DMs can have a common frame of reference and everyone doesn't have to reinvent the wheel. I'm not sure how that would hurt anyone's game, as long as there isn't a sense of player entitlement. As a DM who often likes to restrict PCs to PHB races, I'm still interested in having these options.

It doesn't sound like we disagree too terribly much conceptually. Where we may differ is on what particulars should or should not make it into the listing. Do you feel that the current bestiary entries or druid wildshape creatures have too much information in their listings?


Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
Now that you explained it, yeah we agree. In fact, two of my players are using Bugbear races for their PCs, and we simply converted the existing Bugbear into a PC race using the guidance of the existing races. It turned out to be much easier than I thought it would be.

I don't think the current listing have too much information. They should all list the full set of ability scores. That's the core mechanic of the game - level, and ability scores. So leave those things in there for everything. Individual monsters will have unique abilities to them, but those abilities will generally be connected to an ability score and their rough level.


That's basically the idea I was thinking. For 3.x and for PF, I simply ignore the sections I don't need at the time, like fully fleshing out every skill and ability that isn't relevant to the scene I am writing. The difficulty with 4E is that a minion does not convert easily to anything, nor does any of their other specialized builds; they have potentially 4 or 5 different sets of mechanics going on for the same basic monster, and that to me is far more unwieldy than simply ignoring sections of a stat block I don't need.


Personally, I always treat the rules for PCs as the common way those professions operate in the world. If my group encounters an 8th level NPC wizard in town that wizard is a wizard just like a PC of that level would be. To the degree that I would abbreviate the information, it would be because some of it is not relevant for the situation at hand.

I tend to agree with Ahnehnois a lot.

A Simulationist in the GNS theory sense will want the rules to be the physics of his world. I find I tend to fall in that camp on most of these issues. I've seen Paraxis make his case here and at WOTC boards. The issue I take with him is his notion that the game should not be written with the assumption that DMs will use PCs. The problem with his thinking is that a LOT of DMs will use PCs regardless of the rule and failing to account for it is going to result in nothing but trouble for that DM. I'm for templates, simplified approximations, and real PC level add on rules. Let DMs do their thing as they see fit.

Voidrunner's Codex

Remove ads