Hopefully Helpfuly Hints On NPC creation


Here's a rough guide on how to make a few simple NPC archetypes. I'll be doing this guide in a step by step method they way I do. Hopefully this will help some newer players and maybe a few not so new players that might benefit from my method.

Step One: Concept and Role

The first thing to do is figure out the concept and role that you want and or need the NPC to fill. A Thief meant to be a recurring character is quiet different from the one made to draw the ire of the PCs by attempting to steal from the players. These are rough guidelines for determining level below but will need to be tweaked for different groups.

If the character is going to be a recurring villain I determine the level of the NPC as 3 higher than the players if it's a solo villain. This is roughly equal to a challenging encounter for the players by the D&D CR system. This will vary greatly defending on the players and class of the villain as well as a solo scholar will need to be a greater level to deal with a group of combat oriented players.

For a recurring villain that leads a group of baddies I would make him one level higher and give him an henchman for each of the PCs. The henchman would be one to two levels lower depending on the combat abilities of the players.

For a group of villains that are supposed to be a challenging fight I would have them be one level lower or equal to the players in level. I would have a number of them equal to the number of PC's x 1.5.

For a group of mooks I would have them face opponents of Levels equal to the average PC Level minus 3 or less. The mooks should be about equal tot he number of PC x2 with an additional .5 multiplier per additional level below the -3 that they are. These are rough guidelines again and are only a suggestion as opposed to idea etched into stone.

For other NPCs the break down goes like this for me, and unexperienced NPC would be level one. An experienced one would be level five and and powerful and experienced NPC would be tenth. These are for NPCs that aren't going to be in a physical confrontation with the players. These would be Blacksmiths, Bar keeps, Merchants and most commoner occupations. Generally I would have my players deal with the level five NPCs unless they were dealing with the novice NPCs. Rarely would they deal with level ten NPCs in this role unless they had to make deals with the heads of a trading company or other faction.

Example: I'm getting ready for a game tonight and I need to whip up a gang of cut purses and murders from Zamoria. This is going to be a hard fight for my players so I'm going to have four of them of equal level to my PC's level of three. I'm going to make the leader one level higher though. To make things a bit interesting I'm going to each of them a bit different. One is going to be a young cut purse, another a grizzled murder who leads them. The other two will be down on their luck former guards turned ruffians.

The will be named Yuri, Kovach, Slavos and Serveros. Not names that would realisticly be seen but simple enough for me to think up and tell the difference between them. Yuri will be a third level thief. Slavos and Serveros will have one level of Soldier and Two levels of Thief. Kovach will be a fourth level Thief.

Step Two: Starting Abilities

I use the guidelines the SRD lays out for ability scores for NPCs. The SRD has two option elite and non-elite arrays.

They are:

SRD said:
Elite Array

The elite array is: 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8. While the monster has one weakness compared to a typical member of its race, it is significantly better overall. The elite array is most appropriate for monsters who add levels in a player character class.
Nonelite Array

The nonelite array is: 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8. The nonelite array does not necessarily make a monster better than normal, but it does customize the monster as an individual with strengths and weaknesses compared to a typical member of its race. The nonelite array is most appropriate for monsters who add class levels in a NPC class.

Since you have a concept you should have a rough estimate of where the abilities should be. If the person is tough give him a higher Con, Strong as Bull? Pump up Strength. Everyone has faults even nameless NPCs. I tend to put the lower attributes into Int and Wis as they seem to be where most NPC should suffer. For merchants and the like the dump stat would Str, Con or Dex. Cha shouldn't really be a dump stat since most villains or NPCs of note have had to get noticed somehow and Cha helps with that.

Note if you want a completely average person just give them tens or elevens in everything. Depending on the level you may have to increase the attributes. This becomes a problem with Intelligence since you have to track different amounts of skill points. I'll deal with that later.

Example: I already have my NPC names and class levels down so here's how I would do the Abilities. Kovach would be elite while Yuri, Slavos, and Serveros would be non elite. I will add the Zamorian bonus and penalties in as well.

Kovach is a great thief sho his skill break down like this. He also gets one point for being fourth level. Which goes into Dex.

Str 8 Dex 16 Con 12 Int 15 Wis 8 Cha 14

Yuri is a young man and not fully grown His abilities will be.

Str 6 Dex 15 Con 11 Int 9 Wis 10 Cha 12

Slavos and Serveros are basically the same so I'm going to give them the same stats.

Str 11 Dex 11 Con 12 Int 10 Wis 11 Cha 8

Step Three: Skill Points

This is the most time intensive step. What I do to save time is for a single class character I find a number of skills equal to (Class Skill Ranks + Int Bonus) and max them out. The concept of the character determines where I place the ranks.

For multi-class characters I do it this way. Any skill I want that is on both skill list (This is where adaptability shines.) I max them out. Then I separate the classes into two different skill pools. The first pool is the base class (first class the NPC has) and the other pool (or pools if more than two classes.)

The base class has a number of skills at Class Level + 3 equal to (Class Skill Rank + Int Bonus) - The Number of skills maxed out that both classes shared.

The Additional Pools has a number o skills equal to class level equal to Class Skill Rank + Int Bonus) - The Number of skills maxed out that both classes shared.

Then I apply background skills. If they any of the skill list I apply them as bonus skill points to other skills. If not I add them at the value you normally get for them.

Example: I start with Kovach's skill points. He is a fourth level thief with a Int of 15. This gives him (8+2)=10 skills mazed out. I choose...

Hide, Move Silently, Bluff, Open Lock, Intimidate, Spot, Listen, Gather Info, Knowledge (Local), Sense Motive.

These will help him with his role as a murderer. So all of those skills are at seven ranks, the max for a fourth level thief. His background skills are Open Locks Disable Device and Sleight of hand and since Open Lock is up there I have two points to put into another class skill. I'll put it in Escape Artist. His skill now look like this

Hide 7, Move Silently 7, Bluff 7, Open Locks 7, Intimidate 7, Spot 7, Listen 7, Gather Info 7, Knowledge (Local) 7, Sense Motive 7, Disable Device 2, Sleight Of Hand 2, Escape Artist 2

Yuri is a third level cut purse with an Int 9 so he gets 7 skills maxed out.

Hide, Move Silently, Sleight Of Hand, Bluff, Sense Motive, Spot, Knowledge (Local)

Since one of them is a background skill I have two points which I'll put into Gather Info. His skills look like this.

Hide 6, Move Silently 6, Sleight Of Hand 6, Bluff 6, Sense Motive 6, Spot 6, Knowledge (Local)6, Disable Device 2, Open Lock 2, Gather Info 2

Slavos and Serveros are multiclass characters so I look at their skill list to see if anything is shared that I want. Intimidate and Knowledge (Local) are shared so I want them. So I'll max them out. Now the first class pool will be (2+0-2) or 0. I have no skill points left from Soldier in order to make any at 4 ranks (Soldier + 3 for being the first class.). Bummer. My second class pool is (8+0-2) which equals six. I get six skills at my thief level of 2.

I choose Hide, Move Silently, Spot, Listen, Profession (Guard) [Note I could have easily used the points from the soldier class as well which would make more sense, but it's easier this way.] and Search non of the background skills are already taken so I don't get to trade any points. Their skills are

Intimidate 6, Knowledge (Local) 6, Hide 2, Move Silently 2, Spot 2, Listen 2, Profession (Guard) 2, Search 2, Disable Device 2, Open Locks 2, Sleight Of Hand 2

Step Three: Feats and class abilities

This can be harder than skills since you need to keep track of prerequisites. It shouldn't be too hard since you should know what you need from the concept. A guard would have feats that effect awareness and fighting ability while a sneaky thief would have feats that help him sneak and avoid damage.

The easiest way to start is to write down a list of how many feats and class abilities you get and from where. Like this for a 6th level Khitian Soldier.

  • 1st level feat
  • 1st Level Bonus Feat from Soldier
  • Bonus Feat From Khitian
  • 2nd Level Bonus Feat From Soldier
  • 3rd level Character Feat
  • Formation Combat from Soldier Level 3
  • Fourth Level Bonus feat From Soldier
  • 6th Level Character Feat
  • 6th level Bonus Feat from Soldier

Then you go down the list and pick what you like. Like this.

  • Brawl
  • Weapon Focus (Unarmed Strike)
  • Improved Unarmed Strike
  • Power Attack
  • Parry
  • Formation Combat (Skirmisher)
  • Weapon Spec (Unarmed Strike)
  • Improved Two Weapon Combat
  • Two Weapon Defense

That took me about minute since I know what the feats do and I used the chart of feats to check requirements.

Example: Back to my gang of vile ruffians. I'm not doing a list since it takes upa lot of space and I don't want to do the code. Let's start with Kovach. He's a four level thief so he gets the following class abilities. Sneak Attack +2d6/+2d8, Sneak Attack Style (Dagger and Club), Trap Disarming, Eyes Of The Cat, Trap Sense +1, Light Footed

He gets one feat from favored class, one character feat both at first level and a third level character feat. He takes Stealthy, Armored Stealth and Improved Initiative these will help him as a murderer. He's not a toe to toe fighter or else he would have gone for Improved Feint as opposed to Stealthy and Armored Stealth.

Yuri's class abilities are Sneak Attack +2d6/+2d8, Sneak Attack Style (Dagger), Trap Disarming, Eyes Of The Cat, Trap Sense +1

He has the same number of feats as Kovach but since he's a cut purse he needs Deft Hands, Skill Focus (Sleight Of Hand) and Quick Draw. This will allow him to hide weapons on himself quite well and pick pockets quite well.

Slavos and Serveros have Sneak Attack +1d6/+1d8, Sneak Attack Style (Heavy Mace), Eyes Of The Cat and Trap Disarming. They have a character feat and soldier feat from first level. A favored class feat at second level and a character feat at third level.

Alertness, Toughness, Improved Initiative, Stealthy. The Alertness makes sense for guards and the other feats are to make them a bit tougher in an ambush.[/i]

Step Four: Equipment

Just give them what they need for their role or what you want the players to loot of of them. Many of the regional books give good ideas on what people have and Free Companies has good general info on troops of different nations. So just pick what fits the characters.

Example: Kovach will have a mail shirt prepared to the requirements of armored stealth, a club, a dagger and clothing.

Yuri will have a 2 daggers and clothing. Both daggers will be hidden on him.

Slavos and Serveros will have Heavy mace, and clothing. They are down on their luck.

Step Five: Finishing Touches

This is where you determine things to fill out a stat block. Most of this is cross referencing charts and adding Armor check penalties, ability bonus, and feat bonuses to skills. I ignore racial bonuses for NPCs that aren't going to be around for the long term.

Hit points are done on the average method which since dice never average out to an even number are done high on odd levels and low one even. So a d4 hit die provides 3 hit point on an odd level and 2 on an even. d6 is 4 and 3. d8 is 5 and 4. d10 is 6 and 5 and d12 is 7 and 6. NPC's at first level don't get max hit points unless they are elite.

I base Reputation on what makes sense.

So here are the characters I made while doing this. It took a lot longer than normal due tot he fact I was typing this out but normally this would have taken about ten minutes for all of these guys. Which is good since i didn't have to roll anything. HIgher levels added with more classes are when it gets a bit more time consuming.

Kovach said:
Kovach is the leader of a small gang of ruffians. He is a cold blooded murderer who uses people down on their luck as tools.

4th level Thief, Zamorian
Hit Points 25
Abilities: Str 8 Dex 16 Con 12 Int 15 Wis 8 Cha 14
Saves: Fort +2 Ref +7 Will +0
Dodge 15 (+3 Dex, +2 Class)
Parry 11 (+2 Class, -1 Str)
Init +11 (+3 Dex, +4 Ref, +4 Improved Initiative)
BAB/Grapple +3/+2
DR: 5 (Mail Shirt)
Attacks: Club +2 melee or +6 thrown 1d8-1 x2 AP 0 Rng 10ft or Dagger +6 finessed melee or thrown 1d4-1 19-20/x2 AP 0 Rng 10ft
Class Abilities: Sneak Attack +2d6/+2d8, Sneak Attack Style (Dagger and Club), Trap Disarming, Eyes Of The Cat, Trap Sense +1, Light Footed
Feats: Stealthy, Armored Stealth and Improved Initiative
Skills: Hide 7 (+12), Move Silently 7 (+12), Bluff 7 (+9), Open Locks 7 (+10), Intimidate 7 (+9), Spot 7 (+6), Listen 7 (+6), Gather Info 7 (+9), Knowledge (Local) 7 (+9), Sense Motive 7 (+6), Disable Device 2 (+4), Sleight Of Hand 2 (+2), Escape Artist 2 (+2)
Equipment mail shirt prepared to the requirements of armored stealth, a club, a dagger and clothing.

Yuri said:
Yuri is a young cut purse forced into the life a crime by a debt owed to Kovach.

3th level Thief, Zamorian
Hit Points 13
Abilities: Str 6 Dex 15 Con 11 Int 9 Wis 10 Cha 12
Saves: Fort +1 Ref +5 Will +1
Dodge 13 (+2 Dex, +1 Class)
Parry 9 (+1 Class, -2 Str)
Init +6 (+2 Dex, +4 Ref)
BAB/Grapple +2/+1
DR: 0
Attacks: Dagger Finessed Melee +4 1d4-2 19-20/x2 AP 0
Class Abilities: Sneak Attack +2d6/+2d8, Sneak Attack Style (Dagger), Trap Disarming, Eyes Of The Cat, Trap Sense +1
Feats: Deft Hands, Skill Focus (Sleight Of Hand) and Quick Draw
Skills: Hide 6 (+8), Move Silently 6 (+8), Sleight Of Hand 6 (+13), Bluff 6 (+7), Sense Motive 6 (+6), Spot 6 (+6), Knowledge (Local) 6 (+5), Disable Device 2 (+1), Open Lock 2 (+4), Gather Info 2 (+3)
Equipment 2 daggers (Hidden with a DC 23) and clothing

Slavos and Serveros said:
Slavos an Serveros are two good for nothing former guards trying to make a living at other people's expense.

1st level Soldier/ 2nd level Thief, Zamorian
Hit Points 21
Abilities: Str 11 Dex 11 Con 12 Int 10 Wis 11 Cha 8
Saves: Fort +3 Ref +2 Will +0
Dodge 11 ( +1 Class)
Parry 11 (+1 Class)
Init +6 (+2 Ref, +4 Improved Initiative)
BAB/Grapple +2/+2
DR: 0
Attacks: Heavy Mace +2 1d10 x2 AP 4
Class Abilities: Sneak Attack +1d6/+1d8, Sneak Attack Style (Heavy Mace), Eyes Of The Cat and Trap Disarming
Feats: Alertness, Toughness, Improved Initiative, Stealthy
Skills: Intimidate 6 (+5), Knowledge (Local) 6 (+6), Hide 2 (+4), Move Silently 2 (+4), Spot 2 (+4), Listen 2 (+4), Profession (Guard) 2 (+2), Search 2 (+2), Disable Device 2 (+2), Open Locks 2 (+2), Sleight Of Hand 2 (+2)
Equipment Heavy mace, and clothing

Hope this helps someone.


Wow! Thanks for the excellent info and for typing it all down for us yahoos.

I will definitely put it to good use.

I recommend you for a Cimmerian award! 8)