[CONAN] NPC Age And Level Progression System

NPC Average Age / Average Level

You may find lots of uses for this chart. I use it all the time in my game.

First off, 90% of the people that live during the Hyborian Age are characters level 1-10.

Those at level 11-20 are the truly exceptional beings, including god-like beings on the high end.

Click on this link for some great reading and analysis on the Third Edition D&D game: The Alexandrian Blog Archive D&D: Calibrating Your Expectations

Once you read that, you should have no trouble accepting that, in most towns and villages, NPCs should be 10th level or less, and probably much lower.

Second, consider that almost all of the faceless bad guys in the game are 1st to 3rd level.

Take a look at the Beastiary of the 2E Core Rulebook. Belit's Black Corsairs are generally 2nd level Pirates, when encountered. There's a note under their description that says that there are some, of course, that are lower of higher level, but very few will be higher than 3rd level.

Your typical Savage Cannibal from the Southern Black Kingdoms is a 3rd level Barbarian. A Chieftain might be 4th-5th level. The average Pict is a 1st level Barbarian. Raiding Party Leaders are 2nd-3rd level. Chieftains are usually 4th-5th level.

Your typical Zamorian urban Thief is 2nd level. A Gang Leader can be 4th-7th level. And a Theives Guild Master, or Master Thief would be in the 5th-10th level range.

Turanian Light Cavalry usually consists of 2nd level Turanian Soldiers. A typical officer or commander is 4th-5th level. And a Shah or Horde commander is 4th-7th level. Other light cavalry might be 2nd level Nomads or multiclassed as Nomad 1 / Soldier 1.

Your everyday Peasant is a 1st level Hyborian Commoner. An average Merchant is a multiclass Commoner 3 / Scholar 1. Your typical scary Sorcerer is a 4th level Scholar. A Dancing Girl might be a 2nd level Zingaran Temptress. City Guardsmen are usually 2nd level Soldiers. Bandits are typically 2nd level Borderers. Your local Sellsword for hire, known throughout the town as being handy with his blade, is, on average, a 4th level character: Soldier 2 / Borderer 2.

Use these examples to guide your creation of generic bad guys. Also consider how tough many of the Hyborian Age monsters are in comparison. I mean, a standard wolf is a 2 HD creature--a good match for your typical town guardsman or bandit living on the outskirts of town. A Grey Ape is, indeed, a fierce creature, at 6 HD, when compared to your common Soldier. Most of the beasts in the Beastiary are feared because most are more than a match for most of the fighting men available to fight it.

Next, I want to direct your attention to pages 11-12 of the 2E Conan RPG Core Rulebook.

1st level characters are young and untried adventurers who have just completed basic training in their chosen professions. A 1st level Barbarian is young, brave, hot-blooded, and unseasoned. A 1st level Pirate is a lowly deckswab, eager to make his fortune. A 1st level Noble has barely come of age and is still not worthy to inherit the authority due him by his birthright.

4th level characters are more established and considered a cut above average men (this means that the "average" man is 3rd level or less, which is what we see above with the samples from the Beastiary).

Right there, we're talking "average". Which means that about half of the NPCs the players encounter SHOULD be 3rd level or less.

The section goes with the examples: A 4th level Nomad is one of the finest warriors within a warband. A 4th level Soldier has been on the front lines of a battlefield several times.

8th level characters are skilled adventurers, famed across the land. In the Cimmeria sourcebook, the chiefs of the clans reach as high as 8th level, and are usually between 6-8th level. An 8th level Scholar, says the main rulebook, has mastered different forms of magic and can invoke potent sorcereries like demon summoning. An 8th level Thief can kill even the strongest man with a single well-placed blow and has the skills to sneak through an whole temple full of worshippers without being seen.

12th level characters, and characters higher than that, should be exceedingly rare. This is the level of legendary figures whose deeds will be remembered for generations to come. So, your famous kings would fall into this category. Great Sorcerers are also in this category. Characters like Conan, in his later years, Thulsa-Doom, Red Sonja, and Thoth-Amon, all fall into the category. Kull would fit into this category. Characters akin to those from other universes, like Elric, King Arthur and Lancelot, Achilles and Hector, Aragorn and Legolas, and Raistlin and Caramon, would all fall into this category. The closer a character is to level 20, the closer that character is akin to being like Hercules or Perseus--near god-like beings. If you review the article I link above, all of this makes perfect sense.

Given this breakdown, it's easy to predict what level of character will populate most towns and villages and all average NPCs that the player characters will meet.


Taking all of what I've written above into account, here is the NPC average Age and Experince Chart I developed for my campaign. Note that "average" NPCs don't find themselves at the highest levels--thus the chart does not go to Level 20.

Level 1 - Average Age = 15. Average number of years at this level = 3.
Level 2 - Average Age = 18. Average number of years at this level = 5.

Level 3 - Average Age = 23. Average number of years at this level = 8.
Level 4 - Average Age = 31. Average number of years at this level = 11.

Level 5 - Average Age = 42. Average number of years at this level = 14.
Level 6 - Average Age = 56. Average number of years at this level = 17.

Level 7 - Average Age = 73. Average number of years at this level = 19.
Level 8 - Average Age = 92. Average number of years at this level = 22.


Does this mean that every 31 year old the PCs meet is 4th level? No. What is indicated above is the average. There are 4th level characters that are in their 20's, or even younger, and there are 31 year olds who are a different level. The chart above is meant as a starting place. I suggest moving up or down one or two categories for vareity. There is no rule of thumb for the truly gifted, though. Thus, if your story calls for an 18th level Sorcerer that is 19 years old, then serve your story and not these guidelines.

Does this mean that NPCs can't be higher than 8th level? Of course not. It only means that MOST of the NPCs are 8th level or less. On average, all NPCs are 8th level or less.

NPCs typically don't live to be 92 years old! That's correct. But, if you do see an old geezer that's in his 90's, chances are he's 8th level, unless he's a "special" NPC that is not average. In other words, your average 92 year old NPC is 8th level.

NPCs don't live much longer than 60, on average! OK. I see that, too. That means that, on average, most NPCs reach 5th-6th-7th level before they die.

If my PCs befriend a NPC, leave that village, then return 5 years later, how much should I increase the level of the NPC that they befriended? Each category above also lists the average number of years the NPC will spend at that level. So, if the PC's friend was 1st level, then, chances are, he is 2nd level when the PCs return. If the NPC was 5th level, then the NPC is probably still going to be 5th level 5 years later. These level experience years are considered "non-adventuring" years. If the NPC is an adventurer, or if the NPC lives in an area where he's likely to gain experience fast (NPCs living on Aquilonia's annex of Pictland comes to mind), then the GM should take this into account when considering the new level of the NPC.

What if you have an NPC that you've roleplayed but not set stats to? If you've got a Captain of the Guard, let's say, and you think he's been in service of the king for 30 years, then the guy is about 45 years old (starting at age 15). And 45 years of experience, looking at the chart above, equates to about level 5 or level 6. Or, you can look at the number of years the NPC has been at the profession and figure his level that way: 30 years equates to about level 5. Experience is usually a better measure of average level than the character's age. You might have a 45 year old barkeep (5th level Commoner, using the chart) who's also accumulated 6 years worth of experience as a Thief and 3 years of experience as a Soldier in running his tavern. This would give you, on average, a 45 year old multi-classed character: Commoner (Bar Keep) 5 / Thief 3 / Soldier 2.

Is all of this written in stone? Nope. It's just a starting point--an average. The GM should adjust to fit his story and game needs.