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Rival adventurers - should they be built like monsters or PCs?

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Simple. PCs and NPCs follow the same rules ( @ccs hit this one too, upthread a bit) in the interest of internal consistency within the game world.
I thought that might be the case. I appreciate the input, but for me maintaining consistency between the rules for PCs and NPCs is not a high priority. It’s more important to me to capture the feel I’m going for than to adhere to symmetrical design.

This is why I said that party-v-party combats like these will be among the longest you'll ever run, because as DM you DO have to take the time to sort out what each NPC can and would do each time its turn comes up...and be merciless about doing it; as these NPCs are every bit as much out to kill the PCs as the PCs are out to kill them. Cutting corners will inevitably make things easier on the PCs.
I don’t anticipate my players being out to kill the other adventurers, and they certainly won’t be out to kill the PCs. They are first and foremost out to acquire one of the three weapons, and secondarily to acquire the other two. One group will have had prior experience with the PCs and will be perfectly willing to cooperate with them on the condition that the PCs let them take Whelm. Another will be after Wave, and be initially neutral towards the PCs. Whether they become friendly or hostile will depend on how likely they think the PCs are to help them get it, and how much they trust them to hand it over. The third group will be hostile and do whatever it takes to get Blackrazor. These are the ones most likely to end up in violent conflict with the PCs, and getting Blackrazor is still their first priority, so they are more likely to try to hamper or incapacitate the PCs and get ahead of them than they are to kill them, unless it becomes clear that killing them will be necessary to acquire it, or to escape with it.

@Charlaquin - why the 'sad' response?
I had just been hoping for a different reason than to maintain symmetry between the PCs and NPCs.
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
That is a solid point, with a monster stat block I would have a lot more flexibility, and would probably be easier on me to run.
An interesting note is that all of the official books that feature characters that actually have PC stats are presented as NPC stat blocks for easy of play. For example, in Acquisitions Inc. Jim Darkmagic is presented as a CR5 wizard NPC. I'm fairly certain it is possible to dig up a full character sheet that Mike has used in a game for Jim, however for a DM running a game will find it much easier to use the condensed NPC block since 90% of the abilities a PC will use aren't relevant for a potential fight.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I don’t anticipate my players being out to kill the other adventurers, and they certainly won’t be out to kill the PCs. They are first and foremost out to acquire one of the three weapons, and secondarily to acquire the other two. One group will have had prior experience with the PCs and will be perfectly willing to cooperate with them on the condition that the PCs let them take Whelm. Another will be after Wave, and be initially neutral towards the PCs. Whether they become friendly or hostile will depend on how likely they think the PCs are to help them get it, and how much they trust them to hand it over. The third group will be hostile and do whatever it takes to get Blackrazor. These are the ones most likely to end up in violent conflict with the PCs, and getting Blackrazor is still their first priority, so they are more likely to try to hamper or incapacitate the PCs and get ahead of them than they are to kill them, unless it becomes clear that killing them will be necessary to acquire it, or to escape with it.
Ah, so other than the Blackrazor group, a more friendly 'rivalry' than it first appeared. Got it.

I had just been hoping for a different reason than to maintain symmetry between the PCs and NPCs.
Why? There is no better reason. :)
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
Why? There is no better reason. :)
Mostly because in the end the most players wont notice or particular care that much about symmetry so much as fairness. A full group of PC built characters are actually dramatically more powerful than a similar group of NPC/monsters stat'd characters would be. So from an encounter building standpoint the PC builds have a much higher CR for a wide variety of reasons, but the main one is the amount of damage they can deal.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Mostly because in the end the most players wont notice or particular care that much about symmetry so much as fairness. A full group of PC built characters are actually dramatically more powerful than a similar group of NPC/monsters stat'd characters would be. So from an encounter building standpoint the PC builds have a much higher CR for a wide variety of reasons, but the main one is the amount of damage they can deal.
Which is why taking on another adventuring party is bloody dangerous! (and probably also presents a good argument for de-powering PCs somewhat)

And fairness goes both ways - what's good for the goose is good for the gander.

Reynard said:
Sure, but they can run a statblock just fine in the short term and then have the enjoyment of building the character themselves if it sticks.
Thus changing the makeup of the same individual in midstream, which to me makes it a different character.
 
Thus changing the makeup of the same individual in midstream, which to me makes it a different character.
Not necessarily. Anything that doesn't see play at the table is irrelevant, and anything that does just demands come consistency. So if the NPC was statted out as a Berserker, the player needs create a PC with a great axe and reckless attack, but has freedom regards to other stuff (staying in the theme of the character). I don't know too many players that would be happy being assigned a PC outside of a con game.
 

DM Dave1

Adventurer
You might find this actual play from DSPN Presents interesting:

Trek through the Undermountain

I've only listened to the first 4 episodes - and really I was looking for how to handle some puzzles - but the PCs do encounter a few other adventuring parties along the way. I'm not a fan of exactly how they run the game, but they are clearly having fun and there are certainly some nuggets of inspiration to be gleaned.

 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Ah, so other than the Blackrazor group, a more friendly 'rivalry' than it first appeared. Got it.
Yeah. Any of them have the potential to become hostile depending on how the players navigate their encounters with these other groups, but I wanted one to be willing to cooperate unless given a reason not to, one to be hostile by default and unlikely to be convinced to cooperate, and one that starts out indifferent and could equally likely swing either way. Partly for the sake of variety and partly because the survivors are all going to end up needing to work together later to successfully clear the Doomvault.

Why? There is no better reason. :)
Fair enough I suppose, but I would consider that a very strong argument in favor of building them with monster stat blocks, since it’s not a compelling reason to me.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Not necessarily. Anything that doesn't see play at the table is irrelevant, and anything that does just demands come consistency. So if the NPC was statted out as a Berserker, the player needs create a PC with a great axe and reckless attack, but has freedom regards to other stuff (staying in the theme of the character). I don't know too many players that would be happy being assigned a PC outside of a con game.
First, I was assuming the player wanted to take on the ex-NPC, either by choice or because it'd be a long time before any replacement PC could otherwise be introduced. "Sorry, Bob, the party don't have revival in the field and it'll be a while before anything new can come in. If you wanna play one of the enemy survivors that the party's taking in* there's an Elf MU, a Part-Orc sneak, a Dwarf Fighter who seems a bit on the berserk side, and a Human Fighter - take yer pick."

* - assume this decision has already been made, for these purposes.

And if the NPC was statted out as a Berserker and described as being x-feet tall, male, heavily bearded, wearing leather armour and carrying a selecton of axes and short blades; and bellowed insults at the PCs in what's probably Norse then all of those things need to be in the PC version.

Far simpler to have a rough-notes character sheet you can just hand to the player, isn't it?

(I see this far more often these days when the party end up taking in defeated-but-decent survivors - or opponents who switched sides partway through - as NPC party members: it's a common occurrence, and if I've already got these guys done up as PCs anyway I don't then have to re-do them on the spot.)

(and yes, party NPCs are in all ways the same as PCs, and the players run them sometimes when their PC is out of action)
 

aco175

Explorer
Keeping the world on the same plane, I do not call the fighter NPC a fighter, he is a warrior or a knight or something. This way he can have whatever powers I need and the players cannot say that they should have this or that power. I also tend to give the NPCs powers from 4e like a close burst 1 attack as an encounter power or recharge power. I also give some 5e powers like second wind but may make it heal a set amount to avoid more DM work or even make it a heal he could give another person.

Another thing I have tried in the past is to have the PCs fight each other with 'shadow' characters. A room creates duplicate characters of the PCs that attack each other. The players seem to like rolling to hit each other as their bad guy and then help each other as their good guy. The DM hardly needs to roll anything. You can just let the players handle both sides. It becomes a really tough fight even if you do not have the shadow PCs use the same magic items.
 

the Jester

Legend
Absolutely like monsters. There are a lot of parts of pc building that don't really matter to a monster- like, under all but the weirdest or most story-related circumstances, who cares if the guy you're fighting is a guild artisan?
 

David Howery

Adventurer
As a general rule, building NPCs the same as PCs was a good idea.... because players excel at squeezing every advantage out of the those builds, and anything they can do, you can use against them with NPCs. But... I admit, I've never played 5E, but having three tweaked up groups of PC-types going at it might be a hassle for the combat rules...
 

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