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What proportion of the population are adventurers?

In my travels, which includes living on three continents, I've toiled next to all manner of folk, and your blanket textbook assessment above is, in my humble opinion, inaccurate. Many 'skilled' people that I have had the honor of working beside had no degrees, little in the way of education; they learned their trades by application, not in a classroom. And this has been the way of the worker since time immemorial.
I'm inclined to agree, and I dropped the expectation that the average level in a D&D game world was 1st level back in the early 90's. Exposure to the FR didn't make me admire the FR as a setting, but it did force me to question the sacredness of my cows, and Gygaxian demographics was one of the things that went away, not the least of which is that Gygax himself didn't seem to really follow his own advice.

In my opinion, the average modern person is best modelled in D&D terms as a 2nd or 3rd level Expert. Granted, in the real world we don't have hit points, but a reasonable approximation - casual realism if you will - can still be made by assuming that average CON in the modern world is below 10 owing to our relatively sedentary lives and the fact that low CON individuals aren't winnowed out of the population with quite the frequency that they were before modern medicine.

Similarly, I tend to use demographics that models the average mature adult as a 2nd or 3rd level NPC classed individual (usually commoners or experts) which lower ability scores, no focus on combat skills, and fewer advantages than a PC. Thus, even though the PC's are lower level starting out than most of the population, they are with respect to combat skills typically quite remarkable even so - sufficiently so that they can reasonably take on challenges that most NPCs could not. On the other hand, they tend to be less competent starting out compared to NPCs in handling ordinary day to day challenges of commerce and farming, so it's pretty natural that they are looking to something other than trade as a means of survival. This also has the nice side effect that NPC's are easily exploitable nor are they completely helpless, so the PC's have motivation to perceive "the dungeon" rather than the town as were the action and profit is, and from a simulationist perspective the loose balance between the dungeon and the town is explained - neither side can easily destroy the other without heavy losses. It's the PC's and their PC's foils - the BBEG and his minions - that upset this balance and so drive the conflict.

As for your personal experience, I don't think you are necessarily 'multi-classed'. I just think you have several levels in some sort of NPC skill-money class like Expert, giving you ranks in a relatively large number of trade skills. Now, the guy I knew who got a PhD and then joined the Rangers to become a Combat Entomologist - he was multi-classed.
 
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SkidAce

Adventurer
In my case, I dropped out of highschool ( note, I did have high marks, it's a longer story..), did 8 years in the Bering Sea, got my GED in the mean time, as well as learned several aspects of the building industry on my off seasons, which I parlayed into my next chapter as a carpenter and builder...etc. and so on...
But I digress,

In my travels, which includes living on three continents, I've toiled next to all manner of folk, and your blanket textbook assessment above is, in my humble opinion, inaccurate. Many 'skilled' people that I have had the honor of working beside had no degrees, little in the way of education; they learned their trades by application, not in a classroom. And this has been the way of the worker since time immemorial.
I agree with your assessment.

But I don't feel that "experts" or "tradesmen" necessarily equal "adventurers" or leveled characters.

TBH, the man focus of leveled capability is combat and survive-ability, so mercenaries or guards could be "leveled". Hence the prevalent backgrounds of many adventurers are ex-mil etc. Not all of course.

But adventurers, IMO, are combat leveled/capable.
 

Stalker0

Adventurer
5e as a base doesn’t assume npcs follow pc rules. So you can have a 1st level npc thst is plenty competent at their trade but doesn’t have any extra survivability, and certainly would not want to do any adventuring.
 

Parmandur

Adventurer
If you compare the distribution of a 4d6 drop lowest roll with something like the normal distribution of scores you'd expect to find in a given population, less than 2/10ths of a percent would have an adventurer's distribution, so out of 2 million, there are at most around 3,800, or about 1 in 531.
This is the best answer.
 

Dausuul

Legend
Similarly, I tend to use demographics that models the average mature adult as a 2nd or 3rd level NPC classed individual (usually commoners or experts) which lower ability scores, no focus on combat skills, and fewer advantages than a PC.
How does this actually accomplish your goal, though? Skill-wise, there's no difference between level 0 and level 3. You have the same proficiency bonus and no ASIs.

To properly represent a high level of skill - the difference between a person who's never used the skill before and a person who's spent their life doing so, assuming equal native talent - requires that the experienced person should be able to reliably do things that the newbie can't even attempt. That implies a difference in skill of +10 or more (and some form of "take 10" ability like the rogue's Reliable Talent).

Using PC rules, to increase your bonus in a skill by +10 over your starting point, you need to be, not 2nd or 3rd level, but 9th level* or more. A world where everyone is 2nd- to 3rd-level is conceivable; a world where most folks are 9th level or higher is the Forgotten Realms absurd. It makes far more sense to just accept that the PC rules are designed to model adventuring heroes whose main skill sets are combat-oriented, and NPCs should not be bound by them. You can have an NPC with single-digit hit points, a +6 proficiency bonus, and Expertise in half a dozen skills. It doesn't break anything.

[SIZE=-2]*+4 proficiency bonus, +4 Expertise, +2 from ASIs.[/SIZE]
 
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How does this actually accomplish your goal, though? Skill-wise, there's no difference between level 0 and level 3. You have the same proficiency bonus and no ASIs.
By not playing 5e, a game that has basically no interest in demographics or areas of life that exist outside of the adventure?

The 5e answer is that NPC's don't use the same rules as PC's.
 

Stalker0

Adventurer
By not playing 5e, a game that has basically no interest in demographics or areas of life that exist outside of the adventure?

The 5e answer is that NPC's don't use the same rules as PC's.
Agreed.

Ultimately to me the far more important question is...how many true “spellcasters” exist in the world?

All said and done on a world scale, the commonality of certain spells has a much larger impact on things than some extra fighters or rogues.

If you assume that most wizards aren’t PCs but npcs...then how many spells can they cast and at what levels? This helps answers the key question of: if someone was looking for spell x, how reasonable would it be to find someone to cast it?

In a kingdom of 5 million people, is it reasonable to expect a few 9th level spells to be thrown around outside of the PCs, etc
 

Azzy

Explorer
Honestly, if you're looking for a static percentage or whatever, you're chaing your tail. How many will vary by setting and by DM—regardless of what half-baked demographics are put into a rulebook or the comparison of normal distributions to 4d6, or what not. There is no right answer other than what you want it to be? Do you want PCs to be special—then say that only PCs and important NPCs have levels. Do you want PCs to be run of the mill, then make class levels super common. Or find a middle ground or whatever.
 

Brashnir2

Villager
How many are out there in the world doesn't really matter - how many the PCs are exposed to is what matters. If they're all out there in the nebulous "somewhere" out of view of the party, then there may as well be zero. If they're regularly interacting with the party, it may seem like half of the population. Both are totally valid depending on the nature of the campaign.

It might make sense for adventurers to be out in the wilds beyond where others are unwilling to go, and thus be constantly alone. It might also make sense for the few people willing to go out there to constantly be bumping into one another since they're all after the same thing.


In a recent campaign I ran, the players encountered a lot of characters who could be called adventurers. Some were friends. Some were rivals. Some were retired quest givers. This doesn't mean they all had PC stat blocks - In fact, none of them did, because I find the game works better when NPCs are just NPCs statistically, even if their jobs are (or were) PC-like. The NPC stat blocks in Volo's for PC-like characters are great templates for these types of characters.
 

OB1

Registered User
For my campaign, I estimate about 1 in 1,000 individuals ever gain a level in a PC class. Then I assume about 66% die or retire before reaching the next level.
So in a world with about 200 million people I get at any given time the following

Tier 1 - 300,000
Tier 2 - 3,500
Tier 3 - 13
Tier 4 - 0

Tier 4 characters show up about once every 20 generations or so.
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
Pretty much just the PCs.
By not playing 5e, a game that has basically no interest in demographics or areas of life that exist outside of the adventure?

The 5e answer is that NPC's don't use the same rules as PC's.
This is in fact one of my favorite things about 5e. As my game is focused on the experience for the people at the table I try not to do any world building beyond what the PCs will interact with.

I find the thread interesting to read, but it won't in anyway effect how I run the game.
 
By not playing 5e, a game that has basically no interest in demographics or areas of life that exist outside of the adventure?

The 5e answer is that NPC's don't use the same rules as PC's.
Hmm...I was under the impression that the "5E answer" was play the game as you like, so if demographics are important to your setting design, have at it.

(Actually, that has been the answer in every variation of D&D, as far as I'm concerned)
 
Hmm...I was under the impression that the "5E answer" was play the game as you like, so if demographics are important to your setting design, have at it.

(Actually, that has been the answer in every variation of D&D, as far as I'm concerned)
Oh I agree, but for each addition the distance between 'as is' and 'as I like it' varies. For 5e on some fronts it would mean a lot more work than some other editions. And probably, on some other fronts it would mean less.

What I mean is that out of the box 5e doesn't answer the question of "What are ordinary NPCs in the setting like?" with any attempt at systematic or casual realism, and as such the DM would be on his own to build a system if he wanted a systematic answer to that question. So, for example, I'd find myself building rules for non-PC classed NPCs.
 
This is in fact one of my favorite things about 5e. As my game is focused on the experience for the people at the table I try not to do any world building beyond what the PCs will interact with.

I find the thread interesting to read, but it won't in anyway effect how I run the game.
That's great, but I can explain why it matters to my game and does impact how PC's interact with the world.

Demographics allow me as the DM to improvise while still mostly wearing my Referee hat with its stance of neutrality, without having to put on my Storyteller hat with its non-neutral goals or at least serving to keep in check the impulses of my Storyteller hat. In other words, without setting myself some guidelines for what NPCs were like, when I found myself stating up an NPC on the fly there would be a temptation to tailor the NPC to the level and abilities of the PCs or to the outcome I wanted to produce. And while that isn't all bad, when you are dealing with improvisation there is a strong temptation to Schrodinger's stat blocks, and that's a form of railroading. So by having an idea regarding average ability scores, average levels, commonality of classes, and indeed what stat block the every persons of the setting has, then when it matters what the abilities of an NPC are, I can import in an appropriate NPC without prejudice.

So for example, if the rogue wants to con a merchant, then I know I can make decision based on what I a priori established as fair and not based on whether I'm happy with the rogue's player making the decision to con the honest merchant. And if the rogue fails in his con, then I can make a decision on what stats the town watch has based on what I a priori established and not based on whether or not I want the rogue to get away rather than being caught. And my player's eventually come to see me as the sort of DM that gives them a fair shake, and doesn't level up every merchant in the town just because the rogue is now 10th level. And society stays what it is as the PC increases in power and importance, and so leveling up is meaningful, and not just merely fighting level 70 bears with the same chance of success and same difficulty that you had fighting a level 7 bear.

That's one of the reason world building is meaningful.
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
That's great, but I can explain why it matters to my game and does impact how PC's interact with the world.

Demographics allow me as the DM to improvise while still mostly wearing my Referee hat with its stance of neutrality, without having to put on my Storyteller hat with its non-neutral goals or at least serving to keep in check the impulses of my Storyteller hat. In other words, without setting myself some guidelines for what NPCs were like, when I found myself stating up an NPC on the fly there would be a temptation to tailor the NPC to the level and abilities of the PCs or to the outcome I wanted to produce. And while that isn't all bad, when you are dealing with improvisation there is a strong temptation to Schrodinger's stat blocks, and that's a form of railroading. So by having an idea regarding average ability scores, average levels, commonality of classes, and indeed what stat block the every persons of the setting has, then when it matters what the abilities of an NPC are, I can import in an appropriate NPC without prejudice.

So for example, if the rogue wants to con a merchant, then I know I can make decision based on what I a priori established as fair and not based on whether I'm happy with the rogue's player making the decision to con the honest merchant. And if the rogue fails in his con, then I can make a decision on what stats the town watch has based on what I a priori established and not based on whether or not I want the rogue to get away rather than being caught. And my player's eventually come to see me as the sort of DM that gives them a fair shake, and doesn't level up every merchant in the town just because the rogue is now 10th level. And society stays what it is as the PC increases in power and importance, and so leveling up is meaningful, and not just merely fighting level 70 bears with the same chance of success and same difficulty that you had fighting a level 7 bear.

That's one of the reason world building is meaningful.
Very interesting.

I avoid Schrodinger statblock by simply grabbing NPC statblocks form the book(s) and using them. I would never consider improving a merchant just because the rogue is a high level. Not just because I think it would be a horrible "gotcha" to the player, but because I am far to lazy to put effort into that NPC.

Unless there is a really good reason for this merchant to be special he wouldn't even get a statblock. The Rogue would most likely just make some sort of check(s) based on whatever approach they took against a DC I set.

"Was this merchant an Adventurer?" really isn't a question I would ask myself when considering what the DC is. "How shrewd is this merchant?" certainly is. I feel I can ask myself those kind of questions honestly as a neutral DM without any knowledge of demographics whatsoever.
 
Oh I agree, but for each addition the distance between 'as is' and 'as I like it' varies. For 5e on some fronts it would mean a lot more work than some other editions. And probably, on some other fronts it would mean less.

What I mean is that out of the box 5e doesn't answer the question of "What are ordinary NPCs in the setting like?" with any attempt at systematic or casual realism, and as such the DM would be on his own to build a system if he wanted a systematic answer to that question. So, for example, I'd find myself building rules for non-PC classed NPCs.
OK, fair enough - and I agree. This is an issue of setting design and to what degree the world exists beyond the active environment of game play. There are two polarities, one being the "Tolkien approach" in which setting design is a creative activity in itself, in some cases even more primary (to the DM) than game play; the other polarity being the "moving set piece" approach in which everything serves the set of game play itself. Most of us fall somewhere in-between, or incorporate elements of both.
 

Radaceus

Villager
My point was lost in a level of conceit, which is my using myself as an example ( also breaking a major rule of the intrawebs: When on the internet, Don't talk about your personal life on the internet...).

So, points of topic:
Levels vs Experience-
NPCS not 'leveling up' is absurd. for the purpose of game mechanics, NPCs are not created in the same manner as Player Characters, but they can still represent a nominal level as per their life experiences. This is a function of streamlining the game design, it's easier to manage, but it does not imply that NPCs are not experienced.

Location and Environment
Depending on their location, the common NPC in the area may be level 0 (having a little experience, at most a common laborer) and rise as high a rank as possible. How many Champions are out their (a 13+ level fighter stated as an NPC)? How many Priests (5th level spell caster)? how many Cult fanatics ( 4th level Spell caster)? How many Drow Elites? Red Wizards of Thay, of all tiers? Monks of the many brotherhoods? and so on...

Arguably, the citizenry of a major city is more likely to be tradespeople and merchants; a port city will have sailors and pirates. Theses citizens will probably be mostly fighters and thieves when represented by their stat blocks and available actions, and have a higher percentage of lower tier represented. A remote outpost will likely have more experienced NPCs, adventurers and explorers, and have a higher average tier represented. A place like Thay will have more spellcasters represented, the High Wood will have more elves represented.

Real World vs Fantasy Setting
Using real world history to dismiss, or rarefy, spellcasters is arbitrary. One could use Scientists, Doctors, and Engineers as an equivalent representation in the real world, Alchemists, Shamans, Astronomers if you want to use an early time setting instead of modern day.

With regards, to real world military versus fantasy, it again depends on location and environment, the Italian City States had a higher level of martial training per capita. The Ancient Greeks, and little siblings, the Early Romans, were highly trained on average; the same can be said of many of the 'barbarian' tribes roving across Europe in antiquity.
 

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