Monday, November 15, 2010

Discussion: Statting out NPCs

Note: Whoops, set the auto-post to 8 PM and not 8 AM like I'd meant to, sorry for this going up late.

So, I figured I'd get this week started with a discussion. We didn't have one last week, and that is just sad. Makes me feel like I'm just soap boxing, and I like the responses I get from people on here - which marking a topic 'discussion' seems to at least encourage.

Today's topic? How do you stat out your NPCs? Do you go the full 9 yards with your NPCs? Making them their own sheets and statting them out like little PCs with all the bells and whistles that go with? Or do you stick to cut down versions of the stats? Just what you need for combat and maybe a lying roll or two? Do you stick to the pregenerated NPCs given to you in the core/adventure book, or venture out into the world of DIY and make your own?

Now, obviously, there is going to be variation within each person. Some will stat out important NPCs fully, but use cut down or pre-generated stats for the mooks in combats. That is only natural and to be expected. After all, who wants to put 2 hours into making "Joe Henchman #43" who is only going to last about 2 rounds of combat before some PC removes his intestines with a milkshake and a butterfly?

Personally, I tend towards cut down stats, even for important NPCs. Generally I can keep them pretty consistent in my head, and I like having the wiggle room of "Yeah, he/she should have that" without having to deal with the "but I forgot to mark it down on their sheet!". This also lets me put them into a couple sessions with the PCs and see if they 1) survive and 2) gel with the players. If they do, and they are seeming to become significant, I will move them to the holy land of having a character sheet of their very own.

The downside to them having a character sheet of their own? Once they have a full set of hard mechanics, I play them like a PC would. Sure, there may be some limitations (villains are still intended to lose in the very end, though they may not), but in general I play them and use their stats to the best of that character's abilities. My Players have seen the difference between a "cut down" stats NPC and a fully statted one just in how vicious one played out in a couple of fights. Why? because if I put that much time into giving them all those bells and whistles, I intend to make them teet and jingle.

So, how about you? How do you approach statting your NPCs out for your game? The full sheet? Just a cut down? or some vague thoughts in your head and paramaters for die rolls?


  1. For me it strongly depends on the system I am running what I do.

    For a system I am very familiar with like Roll and Keep I'll do no sheet at all for the minor NPCs and a basic stat line for major ones.

    For Dark Heresy I'll do a stat line for minor NPCs, and for the ones that I expect the PCs to deal with extensively I do a full sheet. For the major NPCs that are way out of their direct sphere I don't make a full sheet until I have to.

    I think it comes down to really how well I know the system. The more I know it, the less I make for character sheets for NPCs.

  2. In general, all NPCs start as cut down versions. Depending how important the players make them to the game will determine if the NPC gets character sheet status. Kind of like a Bill becoming a Law!

    I once tried putting all NPCs on characer sheets, but my players took it as a sign the NPC must have alot of magic and treasure and would instantly try to bludgeon them for their possessions. Then I started adding heartbreaking background histories for them, i.e. a poor smith who was being blackmailed to work for the "real" villain in order to protect his 7 children from being killed (their mother was already taken from them & sold into slavery, etc). Guilt can be an effective RPG educator!