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


No. While there's nothing wrong with designing an NPC as a PC, I don't think it makes sense in many cases.

If every guard in the campaign is at least a 1st level fighter, then that means they're all proficient in plate mail. Why would Bob, the constable of a tiny, poor fisher town, be proficient in plate mail? He's probably never even seen a suit of plate armor in his life.

IMCs most priests are not clerics. They might be devout (or not) but they can't summon up even the most trivial of miracles. Clerics who can channel their deity's divine power are the exception, not the rule.

Cleric is an idiosyncratic class that probably shouldn't be representative of most clergy, for sure, but that's just a call to design more divine spellcasting classes, and/or more things like paladins that represent different endowments of divinity. I actually use sorcerers as "clerics" more often than not, with clerics largely ending up restricted to whatever deities make sense for their weird spell list.

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Victoria Rules
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.
Not a problem if you don't use feats... :)

That said, WotC-era stat blocks get bloated by their listing everything, every time. Contrast with 1e, where a stat block in a module usually consisted of just one or two lines of text and if you needed anything more detailed (which wasn't often) you referred to the MM.

Thing is, if I'm going to invent those mechanics for NPCs I might as well include them in the char-gen rules so that if a player wants to use them, there they are.
sure. if that's what you wanna do, then go right ahead. no problem with that either in my view.
I should note right here than whenever I refer to "NPC" I mean a non-player character of a PC-playable species. Non-PC-playable monsters aren't part of this discussion for me, as there's no need for symmetry and thus anything goes with designing them.
i figured you did, but also that there was no harm in being specific.


Uncomfortably diegetic
That sounds like a dearth of splatbooks raising its head and limiting the available builds to a too small and too similar pool, but, fundamentally I don't see the problem here. Yeah, that's what the players should be doing. They should plan for the abilities of their opposition, develop appropriate countermeasures, and then use that information to succeed.
Yea, I feel like this boils down to a fundamental psychological difference. I want to be surprised, recognizing the enemy's abilities immediately and knowing the appropriate counters just feels kind of blah.

Not to mention it also puts me in the unpleasant metagame trap of knowing what the NPC can do "as a player" but also knowing my character wouldn't be familiar with every single subclass and spell in the game like I am.


Victoria Rules
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.
As long as, if the levels of resolution are matched up, you end up with compatible beings, that's fine.

The problems come when NPCs get abilities PCs don't, just by virtue of being NPCs; or when NPCs don't get abilities that equivalent PCs do get. Why? Because when these are true, they are living in different worlds.

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Not really. As in the original game, monsters and PCs having different stat blocks and different rules (or no rules, in the case of monsters/NPCs) for determining their stats is fine.
And, an NPC could either be, like, a DMPC companion to the PCs, built just like one of them, a high-power NPC mentor/check that goes far off the rails, or a monster stat block.
How original are you thinking? Plenty of NPCs in TSR D&D are listed with classes and levels in adventures. Keep on the Borderlands is a good example.


Depends on the purpose of the NPC and the role they fill. The town guard or the cultist? No. But if the PCs interact with an NPC Wizard (as in, a Wizard in the same way a PC is a Wizard) then I think so. That isn't to say the GM needs to create that character in entirety, but if they need to answer a pertinent question (how many spells does she know? which ones?) then the GM should probably refer to the class rules.

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
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.
The word used was "should". Not "must" or "ought". It is subjective, based on the experience you want. For me to get the experience I want, they (more or less) should.

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