D&D General Should NPCs be built using the same rules as PCs?


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Emphatically not in D&D. In other systems it depends, but in D&D there are two very good reasons to not.
  • In terms of the DM's workload it is a waste of time and massively adds to the DM's workload with no serious benefit
  • In terms of worldbuilding PCs are just about all violent adventurers. People who learn their magic in libraries and labs should be allowed to level up with abilities with a whole lot less focus on combat, and far more flexibility and knowledge.
So not using the same mechanics for PCs and for most NPCs IMO makes for an easier to run game with better worldbuilding. Both are wins.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
i wouldn't strictly say they should be. they can be. there's no problem with building (especially humanoid) NPCs using PC rules. there's also no problem with inventing mechanics specifically for NPCs (and there isn't a problem with giving PCs a way to get their hands on said mechanics either).
Exactly. Having NPCs work exactly like PCs is a perfectly fine way to approach their design. But D&D is a fundamentally asymmetrical game, so there’s no reason they must or ought to be designed that way. There are advantages and disadvantages to either approach, and one doesn’t even need to be used to the exclusion of the other. Personally, I like to design NPCs similarly to PCs, but not to adhere strictly to keeping them exactly the same. Especially since PCs have a lot of statistical elements that are very rarely if ever relevant to track for NPCs.
 

MuhVerisimilitude

Adventurer
I think the danger with a symmetric design is that you can run into what happened with D&D 3.0, 3.5 and PF1, where every statblock was a list of feats and you had to know all the feats to use the stat blocks. I absolutely hated this with stuff like Power Attack... Having to do note manually in the stat block how the hit bonus would change because they were using Power Attack.
 

No. Because it does not matter.

Even with hostile players watching the DMs every move, the DM can still 100% use the rules and make any NPC. The DM can just create anything....by the rules.

But even more then that.....the DM can just make up classes, abilities, magic items, archetypes, or what ever on a whim. If a DM wants a thing, they can just make it.
 

TwoSix

Uncomfortably diegetic
Personally, I like to design NPCs similarly to PCs, but not to adhere strictly to keeping them exactly the same. Especially since PCs have a lot of statistical elements that are very rarely if ever relevant to track for NPCs.
Yep, 100% this. I retain the freedom to design an NPC in any way I see fit, but ultimately the goal of the NPC mechanics is to communicate the identity of the NPC within the game. I have no problem giving a "paladin" NPC a bunch of smite mechanics and a defensive aura, or a "rogue" type NPC a single highly damaging attack and a bunch of bonus actions dedicated to stealth and mobility.
 

Pedantic

Legend
I think the danger with a symmetric design is that you can run into what happened with D&D 3.0, 3.5 and PF1, where every statblock was a list of feats and you had to know all the feats to use the stat blocks. I absolutely hated this with stuff like Power Attack... Having to do note manually in the stat block how the hit bonus would change because they were using Power Attack.
That's a presentation and design problem more than anything. Assuming a more sensible binary design for Power Attack like PF1's (and assuming you want an accuracy/damage trade-off ability), then you're just adding one modified line to your likely actions in combat listing.
 

DammitVictor

Trust the Fungus
Supporter
No. They should follow the same in-game and in-narrative logic as PCs-- I'm not going to say it-- but I see no reason they should follow the same mechanical rules as the PCs and many reasons they shouldn't. They're not living in different worlds, they're just using different levels of resolution appropriate for different amounts of gameplay focus.
 


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