Should I give skills and full stats to NPCs?

Some friends have asked me to run a game for the first time. We are going to play All Flesh Must Be Eaten. It’s fun, easy and rules are not as important as actual roleplaying.

I have created the main storyline, maps for important places so I don’t have to come up with things that may contradict what I previously said, a bunch of side quests so there is plenty to do even if they decide to simply screw around and some random encounters so the game doesn’t feel on rails. I’ve also made myself a four page guide with tables, damage values, and such, just in case someone does something unexpected and I have to check something I can’t make up.

I have a problem with NPCs, though. I created the main antagonist following the rules on the book. I gave him the stats and chose the skills, and then I created a main henchmen to make things more even.

Then I started creating the rest of the NPCs. It was a royal pain in the ass, so instead of that I took a piece of paper for each one and wrote only the basic and secondary attributes, name and relation to other characters and clipped them all together.

That is, I have the main antagonist and two other important NPCs very defined (Attributes, qualities, drawbacks and skills) according to the rules, and the rest of them stored in pieces of paper.

  • Should I make a full character sheet for each NPC?

  • Should I give all of them qualities, drawbacks and skills or I can make them up if needed?

  • The important NPCs that are fully created, should follow the rules? should I boost random feats, skills or attributes?

  • I have also created two of those very simple NPC sheets for zombies, soldiers and random people running around, allowing me to generate random encounters with two or three rolls. Is this a good idea or should I make myself a good stack of generic NPCs just in case?

I have read this question and this one, but I am still unsure about following the rules for NPCs or not.

Rob’s answer was extremely useful. I made myself a handy dandy NPC generator and it worked like a charm. The players liked this way of coming up with NPCs and everything went smoothly, so I’m definitely keeping this approach.

Numenera – Higher than expected Health on NPCs

I’m looking to understand the Health inflation commonly printed in Cypher System material (Often in module adventures, or in the little sidebars when describing setting NPCs)

In Numenera Health (HP) is generally determined by the standard Target Number

Numenera – Discovery, p 222 (Also the same in 1st Edition)

Health: A creature’s target number is usually also its health, which is the amount of damage it can sustain before it is dead or incapacitated. For easy reference, the entries always list a creature’s health, even when it’s the normal amount for a creature of its level.

Which is 3 x the Difficultly level, just for reference.

The designers elude to a caveat that sometimes monsters will just break the usual defined health often for a much higher number. I recall somewhere in 1st Ed Numenera making reference to doing this to provide more challenging combats to higher tier characters.

A brief glossing of Discovery / Destiny I’ve grabbed some examples:

  • Discovery p 367 – Teratoma – Level: 3 HP: 12
  • Discovery p 381 – Octopus- Level: 3 HP: 15
  • Discovery p 369 – Teratoma (M) – Level: 4 HP: 15
  • Destiny p 371 – Assassin – Level: 4 HP: 20
  • Discovery p 375 – Weymel – Level: 5 HP: 20
  • Discovery p 385 – Latos – Level: 5 HP: 25
  • Destiny p 389 – Halcus – Level: 5 HP: 20
  • Destiny p 389 – Drayva – Level: 5 HP: 20
  • Destiny p 362 – Khagun Semper – Level: 5 HP: 26
  • Destiny p 373 – Soludi – Level: 6 HP: 24
  • Destiny p 398 – Heri – Level: 6 HP: 27
  • Destiny p 398 – Scrose – Level: 7 HP: 30

There are many, many more examples spread through out Cypher Systems, OG-Numenera, Discovery, Destiny, The Strange, and Predation. And they are not one offs or used liberally, HP inflation is extremely common. As you can seen from just this small list here creatures range from Boss encounter to lowly random animals with no rhyme or reason I can perceive. Across all level ranges.

My question is Why? Is there any systematic process for doing this? Is the standard HP suggested in the Creature section just too low? I’m looking for any notes from the designer, or even personal GM experience to help gauge what is the appropriate amount of HP one should be assigning to combatants.

How to make combat with a lot of NPCs more interesting and more manageable?

I am a DM for a D&D 4e campaign. During a recent encounter, my players took some NPC allies along with them. I allowed this, because there were only two PCs on that particular adventure, and I thought that combat might be more interesting if there were more than just a couple participants.

However, the problem with having such a skewed ratio of PCs to NPCs (like 2 PCs, 5 friendly NPCs, and 4 enemies) was that way more time was spent on the NPCs turns than on the PCs turns, which I don’t think was fun for anyone. In addition, it was very hard for me to keep track of nearly ten different NPCs in the fight.

First off, I think I can reduce the number of allies that the players have. I can safely kill of 2 or 3 without making anyone especially mad. However, both in this adventure and later ones, there will probably be times with the PCs adventure alongside NPCs, and I’d like to keep those combat encounters from having the same problem.

How do I make a fight in which a lot of friendly NPCs are involved more interesting and more streamlined, both for myself (the DM) and for my players?

Awarding XP when a player guesses an NPC’s motivations

Recently, whilst playing the 5e starter set with a fairly novice group, a player correctly guessed an NPC’s motivations. She passed a wisdom check that gave her an inkling the NPC was hiding something.

The exchange went something like this: [Spoilers for Lost Mines of Phalvender, 2nd/ 3rd act]

So, the rogue guessed pretty much what the background information to the campaign said about the NPC´s motivations.

At this point I was unsure whether to award any XP or give her any feedback because although her intuition was correct there was nothing to confirm that she was right, nor did she directly question the NPC on her theory.

What is the criteria for awarding experience points in situations like this?

Is it incorrect to use Passive Insight to tell Players what their Characters already know about NPCs?

I have a party of 4 noobs, 1 is a pro on other games but new to 5e (like myself – but I haven’t played in years), 3 are actually playing their first characters ever. Ages run from 13 to 50 (I love a challenge).

I don’t like telling players what they can and cannot do if the rules do not explicitly state it, but I also hate to bash new characters for new player naivety. I also try to keep house rules to a minimum (just to make it easier for them to learn the basic rules). So I kind of “chose” to read the Passive Insight score as a social version of the Passive Perception which can “determine whether anyone in the group notices a hidden threat” (PHB Ch.8).

One of the PCs, a 1st-Level Rogue, was setting a trap for a Slaver Ship Captain & Crew to aid the City Guard. To add to the tension, I had the Captain make a snide reference to the human cargo as ‘commodities.’ The Player, morally offended, snapped back, “shut up you freaking idiot.” Caught off-guard, I asked for his Passive Insight and responded, “With your knowledge of the underworld, you know insulting him like that in front of his men will require a violent show of authority. You can say that, but are you sure you want to?”

A little later the same Player went to strike a final blow to a surrendering NPC while others were striking to incapacitate. I did the same thing, ending with, “Your character has been around enough to know that executing a defenseless man in front of the guard would be murder. They might not notice, or they might let it go, but maybe not. Do you want to kill him or knock him unconscious?”

I’m willing to let the Players do the wrong thing and suffer consequences, I just want them to know the consequences ahead of time. The worst part is that I already know the score – it’s on the inside of my screen along with his AC & HP, I’m only asking to make it come from his character’s mind instead of my mouth. Of course, I fear that come will across as passive-aggressively robbing them of agency – which is why I’ve only done that about 3 other times in 13 sessions so far.

My question is, am I actually within the rules by doing this?

Bonus question: Is this a actually a spineless way to force character behavior while pretending like I’m giving them free will?

Are NPCs who want to gain class levels considered multi-classed?

Consider an Apprentice Wizard from Volo’s Guide to Monsters: its spellcasting is the same as a 1st-level wizard, its skills are from the wizard list, and it’s proficient in a weapon from the wizard list. Its stat block doesn’t have arcane recovery, but that could just be because it’s not relevant to combat. Other than obviously having 2d8 instead of the full value from 1d6 for its hit points, and the lack of saving throws, it’s basically like a 1st-level wizard.

So if you had one join your party, and had it gain a level, would it gain a spell slot and an arcane tradition as a 2nd-level wizard, or would it gain two more skills and two saving throws as a 1st-level wizard?

By the same token, if you wanted to give it some martial ability by giving it a level in fighter, would it be looking at getting proficiency in all weapons/armor, two skills, and two saving throws, or would it only be looking at weapons and light/medium armor and shields (but in actuality not be able to gain fighter levels because it doesn’t meet the strength/dexterity requirement)?

What if you wanted to do both of the above, giving it a level in wizard and one in fighter? (or possibly the other way around: fighter first then wizard after, if ability score requirements only let you do that order)

How can player characters, creatures and NPCs heal plants?

I would expect a druid to be able to tend to a damaged or blighted plant using magical means, as at level 1 they are granted the spell Cure Wounds. Also various woodland type magical creatures similar to Dryads that are all about love and healing and protecting the forest.

However, Cure Wounds targets a ‘Creature’. Does a non-magical plant count as a creature for the purposes of the spell? Or is there another way?

Healing a plant would be for example, curing wounds made into a tree by an axe if a person was interrupted while felling the tree, snapped stems, and non-magical disease like blight.

A player always wants to recruit NPCs into the party. How do I handle this?

TL;DR: I have a player who wants to recruit lots of NPCs to avoid putting his own character in danger and to grab more spotlight for himself. I’m concerned about how this will affect challenge balance and the amount of fun the other players have. He doesn’t want me to run the NPCs either.

I recently started running Lost Mine of Phandelver as a new DM with a group new to tabletop RPGs. One of the players is a long time friend of mine but he decided he wanted to try to recruit a goblin into the party temporarily. It was the last one of a group that they killed and I responded that they could try to persuade the goblin into fighting for them. He rolled real well and now the goblin follows them. Naturally it will most likely die or something else will happen that will make it no longer part of the party but, when I was talking to the player after the game, he went on that he would just try to recruit another creature or NPC they encounter and if he failed he would just keep trying with other creatures/NPCs.

Now for background I know that he enjoys playing games with a sort of overpowered sense. He likes to play god a little as well as have others get their hands dirty for him. (Example: In Skyrim he uses mods to have tons of followers that fight for him) He doesn’t care for a challenge that has real consequence. He prefers simulated challenge (he also uses mods to keep followers from dying so he can still have a challenge of a difficult encounter but it will never end in complete failure.) He has told me that he prefers this style of play and it doesn’t take away at all from the “fun” or enjoyment of the story and gameplay. He likes to take the spotlight and appear as a cool or respected or even idolized by others that may look up to his “greatness”.

So my question is how should I handle him wanting to constantly recruit non PCs into the party. I don’t mind the occasional NPC tagging along if the NPC’s goals can be met by doing so… but I don’t really like the idea of constantly having him persuading non PCs into the party to fight for him, especially if he does it to give him a sense of control over the party and take the spotlight as a leader all the time. I’m also worried a little bit about balancing and if the other two players will get annoyed with this. They seemed fine with this one instance but what if later down the line they grow tired of the concept and it steals from them trying to enjoy the game.

When I confronted him one on one about it and he told me his future plans I tried to gently let him know that I really wouldn’t be comfortable with this being a regular thing and stating that as a new DM I’m not 100% sure how to balance and make sure the other players don’t feel left out or over shadowed by his play style. Let’s just say he grew rather upset of me ruining his fun.

We never came to a conclusion and I’m not sure if I should just let him do what he wants and just keep losing and gaining followers in the party or should I be firm about this and say it can’t continue to happen more than the occasional NPC doing it for the NPCs own reasons or if I should create a permanent NPC follower. One of the problems is it can’t even be a NPC I control as a DM, he wants to control it.

I’m new to DMing and this is the first problem I’ve run into where I’m not really sure how to rule on it (and I’ve been very liberal with the “Yes you can try to do that” attitude) I would really appreciate any advice.

How do I deal with too many NPCs in my campaign?

I’m a first-time GM using the Fate Core system. I got into RPGs to help me work on my storytelling while having fun with my friends, so I’ve been GMing a homebrew campaign for about a year now. Unfortunately, my players also happen to be my friends who I usually talk to about my storytelling, so I’ve had little to no feedback on my campaign outside of a few other friends who I’m not as close with. Despite this, I think it’s going pretty well so far.

However, I’ve recently run into a bit of a roadblock. There are too many NPCs in my campaign. My campaign is intended to be short (the only reason it’s been going for so long is because we don’t have much opportunity to meet up for game sessions), and is also very focused. There are about four plot arcs and a finale with intermissions (we’re currently on arc three). My story is also set in a pretty unusual world (it’s basically the afterlife with a few twists and turns), and without going into much detail, basically there’s an overarching plot with characters that connect each arc and will be prominent in the finale.

My issue is that I’ve introduced too many NPCs that connect the arcs. It makes them difficult to get rid of easily. The nature of my world also makes it virtually impossible to kill them (again, afterlife), and it would feel too unnatural to put them on a train, especially because the BBEG is a major threat and kind of a nutcase, so anyone with the ability to stop him would naturally want to. This is combined with the fact that most of my NPCs are very strong-willed, capable people (as I have an ongoing theme in the story about resisting oppressive power systems).

I don’t want the campaign to feel cluttered with too many NPCs. As a storyteller, the idea of having characters who have no reason to be there irks me, but I can’t exactly edit them out of the story since they’ve already been introduced.

As I see it have a couple options:

  1. Find a way to take them out of the story. This will be difficult considering the setting.
  2. Give them a purpose so they don’t feel like they’re there for no reason, without making the story too cluttered with unnecessary plot points. The story is already pretty expansive, especially for a first-time GM, so I’m hesitant about this.
  3. Let them naturally fade into the background by not mentioning them/giving them anything to do. Basically they still exist in the narrative and are technically opposing the BBEG but really they’re just wallpaper. Would probably be unnatural as they have pretty strong/prominent personalities.

Which of these options would be the most natural/least jarring for my players? And how would I do it? Or am I missing another option entirely?

How to run NPCs with complicated mechanics?

When I need a run of the mill NPC I use the NPC classes which have simplified mechanics. These classes are great and make it really easy to quickly run their mechanics during combat without needing to learn/remember complex features. However I often find them a bit lacking in flavour or ability for more important NPCs.

Therefore, my preferred approach for creating interesting NPCs is to give levels in player classes to any NPC I think is important. I pick classes that are not present in the party to avoid overshadowing the players and for most of my campaign this has worked really well. The players think the NPC is cool because of the things they can do but they don’t feel like they are stealing the spotlight.

My issue is that as the campaign has gone on the higher level of these NPCs with PC levels has introduced more complicated mechanics. For example I recently used a level 8 magus similar to this one as an ally for the party. I have never played or used a magus so the mechanics of the class are all new to me.

For the sake of pacing I typically only use the things I can quickly read off the stat-block for my NPCs but this leaves out many of their best abilities simply because I don’t understand them or forgot about them. I don’t have the time (nor really the desire) to spend learning all the mechanics of a class for an NPC that may only appear in 2-3 encounters. So I’m looking for a better way to do this.

How can I run interesting NPCs with complex mechanics without spending lots of effort to learn them?

Frame challenges that present other ways to make interesting NPCs without the complex mechanics are acceptable, but answer such as “just use simpler classes” are not.