Gamemastery Guide NPCs (Rant Warning)


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

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Fair enough. Then again, I'm not the only one considering those things.

Silver Crusade

Bruunwald wrote:
It's 12:00. Happy New Year. In the spirit of the occasion, I won't mention what I think this thread is really about.

Far better to have not mentioned a hint of it at all. Attributing motives is a surefire way to poison the atmosphere of a forum.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Atarlost, you seem to have missed the stuff I wrote about the small inconsistencies not being very important when weighed against the greater consistent whole. You did read 3.5, right? It and LotR aren't the same.

If you do want to go over the details, however, then just because Tolkien never explicitly mentioned plate mail or other heavy armor (which, while I have no citation to the contrary, seems unlikely), is no reason to necessarily say that it doesn't exist. Even if that is true, however, it's a tangential point. The armor is medium armor, it still slows the wearer down, but that doesn't matter because the speed issue is taken care of as per the mechanics of a forced march.

Similarly, officers being "stronger" than other orcs can be taken care of via ability scores (some have a higher roll than others) skill and feat designations, etc. Likewise, the CR is, as I mentioned, not really a factor compared to class level. Ergo, since the orcs are all level 1 warriors, it makes perfect sense that a 5th-level Aragorn can kill so many - they're the same as "Forgotten Realms loser orcs."

Finally, it's worth noting that the essay doesn't address the question of Smaug - that's simply beyond its scope. If it had to, though, it's likely little different from using the bushwhacking rules in Green Ronin's Advanced GameMaster's Guide, which allow for a single shot to be a killing blow when the target is flat-footed and unaware of the attack.

You see? Problems solved. Everyone in Middle Earth is low-level, and the essay works fine.


Doskious Steele wrote:
Ashiel wrote:
I mean, the section could have been useful, but the majority of the NPCs aren't worth anything in an actual campaign. They don't fit in Golarion, nor Greyhawk, nor Forgotten Realms, nor Mystara, or even Planescape.

When I read through the gallery, I had a similar initial reaction. But I took a step back, and considered the purpose and motivation for publishing such a gallery, and I eventually remembered a snippet from one of the developers (in a blog, a forum post, or an Adventure Path introductory comment) to the effect that a handily common GM trick was to take a published stat block (for a Troll, say) and use the bulk of its statistics while describing the creature that the party sees as something entirely different (a mostly-white lump of mottled flesh with two skeletal limbs (of different structure) that extend out of the lump to attack, and retract back in). And perhaps you tweak some special abilities to additionally disguise the monster's mechanics (in this case, perhaps the regeneration is only overcome with acid or electricity, or whatever). Presto, a new "unique" monster that some wizard created to defend his secret lab, made up with roughly 30 seconds of actual work.

That's when it hit me. Statistics blocks published by Paizo are *not* creatures -- they're templates for creatures (and I don't mean templates like the Vampire template, I'm using the word in its general English context). In a programming environment, they'd be classified as default structures or somesuch, but as in advanced programming situations, they can be altered in their specific incarnations - the monster encountered by the PCs need not exactly match the monster in the Bestiary. Thus, the NPC Gallery doesn't describe **every** Beggar, Footsoldier, Mayor, Barmaid, Brigand, Doomspeaker, or Baron, it describes any of those characters (possibly with names swapped around) that might suit your campaign, for your PCs to interact with. The NPC Gallery doesn't present people who *do* exist, but people...

Yeah, you can have a lot of fun with stat blocks, change the description, some extra little special abilities. Make new monsters without changing the stats. Swap out special abilities if you wish, balance them, presto.

I have heard of dms running games with just some paper and pencils, no books. It can be done, I have got very close. Ha ha, once you know dnd well enough, you are the maker of the stats, you no longer need the books. For some dms, though, stat altering or editing is just too much trouble, that makes me sad though.


Jeraa wrote:
Quote:
Er, why would I need the barmaid's stats? In that scenario, I'd clearly have some sort of agenda for even running such a scene. If the PCs don't step in, she's going to die (or whatever bad thing I have planned), obviously, and the PCs get to feel horrible for not helping. If they do step in, I want her to either survive to make the PCs feel heroic and awesome, or die regardless to make the PCs feel the brutality of a particular location and drive them to make it better. I don't want to have no idea if she'll live or die and leave it up to chance--that serves no thematic purpose.
Some people prefer to not hold their players to a script. Let the dice and the PCs actions tell the story, not whatever the DM wrote down last night. Some people prefer a more open game then that.

No, my version is the one that let the PCs actions tell the story. In the other version where you bother rolling out Barmaid stats, random chance tells the story.


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mplindustries wrote:
Jeraa wrote:
Quote:
Er, why would I need the barmaid's stats? In that scenario, I'd clearly have some sort of agenda for even running such a scene. If the PCs don't step in, she's going to die (or whatever bad thing I have planned), obviously, and the PCs get to feel horrible for not helping. If they do step in, I want her to either survive to make the PCs feel heroic and awesome, or die regardless to make the PCs feel the brutality of a particular location and drive them to make it better. I don't want to have no idea if she'll live or die and leave it up to chance--that serves no thematic purpose.
Some people prefer to not hold their players to a script. Let the dice and the PCs actions tell the story, not whatever the DM wrote down last night. Some people prefer a more open game then that.
No, my version is the one that let the PCs actions tell the story. In the other version where you bother rolling out Barmaid stats, random chance tells the story.

As much as I respect that perspective, and have implemented it in the past, I feel obliged to point out that in the absence of stats for the barmaid the only thing that is resultant from that absence is a means of resolving any actions involving the barmaid in an equitable manner compared to the manner of resolution for actions not involving the barmaid. That is, if the barmaid has stats, and the PCs attack her assailants, the resolution of their attack rolls will be the same as if the barmaid does not have stats, but if instead the PCs do something that provokes a will save from the barmaid, for example, or fail to identify themselves as her saviors before attempting to Combat Maneuver: Reposition her, then having stats means that the GM has a means to fairly determine how the barmaid reacts, whereas in the absence of stats the barmaids reactions are governed exclusively by GM fiat.

In either case, the PCs actions will be resolved with an element of chance, per their mechanics, and if the GM has done their job correctly, the story will be told by a blend of PC actions and chance, as is (in my opinion) appropriate.


mdt wrote:

Well, depends on your deffinitions. I'd say spitting is an unarmed attack (it's not one of the specified natural attacks in the back of the beastiary). It's not poison, just a wad of saliva. You don't see unarmed attack in any stat blocks.

:)

But no, I was being facitious, as a level 10 Rakshasa should be able to kill a single 1st level character as easily as spitting on him, and with the same effort. :)

Rakshasas are from Indian myth. They are nearly invincible in most depictions, though they tend to get killed by demigods. The thing about PF and 3.0/3.5 is that the game depicts a whole range of realistic and unrealistic creatures, and the whole E6 thing would throw things like Rama and Hanuman out the window. Essentially, PF scales to 20+ because it also simulates things like Hindu demigods, Greek heroes, and Wu Xia. Golarion does also.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Jeff de luna wrote:
The thing about PF and 3.0/3.5 is that the game depicts a whole range of realistic and unrealistic creatures, and the whole E6 thing would throw things like Rama and Hanuman out the window. Essentially, PF scales to 20+ because it also simulates things like Hindu demigods, Greek heroes, and Wu Xia. Golarion does also.

Agreed, which is why it's ridiculous to state that npcs can only ever be level 5. The game is built on entirely different assumptions.

You have to either throw out the assumption that enemies exist over CR 6, or you have to throw out the assumption that NPCs cannot be higher than 5.

The problem is, there are people who subscribe to the Alexandrian Myth who want only half of that. They want the Alexandrian Myth to apply to everything except themselves. I just find that a bit hypocritical.


Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
deusvult wrote:

Well something to keep in mind is that NPCs aren't meant to exist in a vacuum.. they're intended to be used interactively with a PC. Take this to an extreme end of the logic, and they basically don't exist when PCs aren't around.

A more practical way to look at it however is that you don't need to worry about things like why is a barkeep CR 4 when a soldier is only 1/3. Don't think about them in relation to each other, think about how they relate to PCs.

The barkeep is there to take part in the ubiquitous tavern scenes in adventures.. places where PCs are notoriously prone to partaking in barfights (if not starting them outright). A barkeep is intended to be either a figure of some sort of stability, or the trump who ends the nonsense.

How does a soldier interact with PCs? 99% of the time, as mute or barely-speaking scenery. If they're being interacted with at all, they're probably making a bad perception roll vs PCs' stealth. In the rare event that nameless mook soldiers are fighting PCs, they fill the role of nameless mooks in every other RPG. They're there to go down.. and go down in large numbers. CR 1/3 is appropriate.

PS- its the same thing as with monsters. Why are CR 10+ monsters lurking in the wilderness around a city full of CR <1 humans.. and haven't just rampaged thru untouched until their tummies ache with all the babies they've eaten? Because there are level appropriate PCs nearby, and the monsters exist solely to be encounterd by said PCs.

Doskious Steele wrote:
Ashiel wrote:
I mean, the section could have been useful, but the majority of the NPCs aren't worth anything in an actual campaign. They don't fit in Golarion, nor Greyhawk, nor Forgotten Realms, nor Mystara, or even Planescape.

When I read through the gallery, I had a similar initial reaction. But I took a step back, and considered the purpose and motivation for publishing such a gallery, and I eventually remembered a snippet from one of the developers (in a blog, a forum post, or an Adventure Path introductory comment) to the effect that a handily common GM trick was to take a published stat block (for a Troll, say) and use the bulk of its statistics while describing the creature that the party sees as something entirely different (a mostly-white lump of mottled flesh with two skeletal limbs (of different structure) that extend out of the lump to attack, and retract back in). And perhaps you tweak some special abilities to additionally disguise the monster's mechanics (in this case, perhaps the regeneration is only overcome with acid or electricity, or whatever). Presto, a new "unique" monster that some wizard created to defend his secret lab, made up with roughly 30 seconds of actual work.

That's when it hit me. Statistics blocks published by Paizo are *not* creatures -- they're templates for creatures (and I don't mean templates like the Vampire template, I'm using the word in its general English context). In a programming environment, they'd be classified as default structures or somesuch, but as in advanced programming situations, they can be altered in their specific incarnations - the monster encountered by the PCs need not exactly match the monster in the Bestiary. Thus, the NPC Gallery doesn't describe **every** Beggar, Footsoldier, Mayor, Barmaid, Brigand, Doomspeaker, or Baron, it describes any of those characters (possibly with names swapped around) that might suit your campaign, for your PCs to interact with. The NPC Gallery doesn't present people who *do* exist, but people...

These two point cannot be stressed enough.

Silver Crusade

Ashiel wrote:


Village idiot; commoner 1; CR 1/3 is fair but should be CR 1/4 because he lacks equipment (see Gamemastering, Core Rulebook). His statblock is incorrect because his sling deals 1d3+1 damage but should be 1d3, and I can't figure out where the -1 penalty to hit is from. But ok, it's modestly fair.

-1 for the sling is because he is using stones rather than sling bullets.


Quote:

Agreed, which is why it's ridiculous to state that npcs can only ever be level 5. The game is built on entirely different assumptions.

You have to either throw out the assumption that enemies exist over CR 6, or you have to throw out the assumption that NPCs cannot be higher than 5.

The problem is, there are people who subscribe to the Alexandrian Myth who want only half of that. They want the Alexandrian Myth to apply to everything except themselves. I just find that a bit hypocritical.

The problem is that, from a skill-base point of view, everyone should be 1st to 5th level. If the NPCs are higher then that, then you start getting to the point where what are considered world records in the real world are being exceeded by everyone and their brother. Half the people with ranks in knowledge skills would qualify as geniuses in our world.

But that is a flaw of the d20 system - everything is tied to a characters level. The best swordsman can also break olympic jumping records, or rival Einstein in physics. Sometimes both (Assuming they put ranks into the skills.) You want to be a better farmer? Well, you also get tougher to kill (hp), faster reflexes (ref save), healthier (fort save), more determined (will save), and better able to defend yourself (BAB). Want to be a better warrior? Well, you also get to be a better underwater basket weaver too (or whatever you put your skills in.)

Pathfinder (And 3.0/3.5 D&D before it) try to cover multiple power levels at once. The skill DCs imply NPCs are lower level (otherwise the skill DCs become too easy to beat), while everything else implies a higher average level. You can't have both at the same time. If skill level was decoupled from character level, then there would be no problem. You could have 6th level fighters as cavalry, and 5th level farmers. But as it is now, those characters can make the toughest of things in our world look trivial.

Silver Crusade

The simple fix is to have NPCs be treated differently than PCs. Let their skills advance without anything else advancing.

Warriors could have BAB & skills advance but nothing else.


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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
mdt wrote:

I've always loved the Alexandrian Myth.

I don't have a problem with Justin Alexander's article. I think it can be useful to realize that competent literary heroes don't have to be high level, nor that highly competent individuals need to be high level.

That said, the article doesn't need to go beyond that either. I prefer my NPC to have more varying levels, myself. There's no right or wrong answer to whether they are 90% 1st level in a campaign or not. Individual tables can make heir own choice here. I thing PF's own assumption is for NPCs with higher levels, and I prefer that. I figure even the mundanes pick up a level every 5 to 10 years, depending on how challenging their environments are. Few non-exceptional individuals reach higher than 7th to 10th level, but I include a significant mix. I found decent rules to model this to be a strength of 3e over the 0 level NPCs of 1e.


I think giving most peasants skill focus and first level. LEt say you are a peasant 1st level commoner skill focus profession (farmer) if human maybe the prodigy feat from ultimate magic if I want them to be better farmers and give them a second craft. Heck using the same feats and right craft and profesion skills I can make swordsmiths. Skill focus and the scholar feat for a school teacher which makes them more knowledgable and an class them as an expert.

The Exchange Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

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The NPC gallery is a grab pile of stat blocks. You need a CR 7 enemy with a general theme? Flip through the NPC gallery and grap an appropriate one with a similar theme to what you want. I use them a lot and they work quite well. The labels on them are there in order to help classify them quickly, not as some sort of bizarre world building tool.

Shadow Lodge

Dennis Baker wrote:

The NPC gallery is a grab pile of stat blocks. You need a CR 7 enemy with a general theme? Flip through the NPC gallery and grap an appropriate one with a similar theme to what you want. I use them a lot and they work quite well. The labels on them are there in order to help classify them quickly, not as some sort of bizarre world building tool.

the NPC gallery may as well be another bestiary. and those NPCs, despite what thier CR Says, are nastier than similarly leveled monsters themselves. especially PC classed ones.


Atarlost wrote:
From the PC angle the writer is assuming Aragorn has skill focus as a martial character, a dubious prospect. More likely he's level 8, especially since the orcs he's fighting aren't CR 1/3 jokes.

What you're describing here makes me think you missed the point of the article. The article is talking about the arms race when one assumes "well if x is really tough,then y must be even tougher!". Also why can't Aragorn take skill focus? He's still a good deal tougher than his opponents.

At risk of derailing this thread any further, why can't Gandalf prepare spells? He works perfectly well as a level 5 wizard (or level 6 sorcerer, if you prefer.) If you're going to adapt him to the d20 system by the book, he's going to use vancian magic. And I see no reason WHY it doesnt work either. Where I DO get stuck is puzzling out all of Tolkein's magic items. THAT, I find, definately doesnt translate well.

Now back on topic, I like the NPC gallery, but you have to take it for what it is. A list of templates. I also like the way they've been used in thought excersizes like in Abraham Spalding's threads. It's been great seeing the thought excersizing stemming from having capable npcs rather than what I'm used to elsewhere.

ALL NPCS ARE LEVEL 1 COMMONERS. YOU DONT LIKE IT? DEATH BY HOUSECATS!

The Exchange Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

Rin No Yukihana wrote:
Dennis Baker wrote:

The NPC gallery is a grab pile of stat blocks. You need a CR 7 enemy with a general theme? Flip through the NPC gallery and grap an appropriate one with a similar theme to what you want. I use them a lot and they work quite well. The labels on them are there in order to help classify them quickly, not as some sort of bizarre world building tool.

the NPC gallery may as well be another bestiary. and those NPCs, despite what thier CR Says, are nastier than similarly leveled monsters themselves. especially PC classed ones.

As a general rule NPCs are nastier than an equivalent CR critter.

Looking at the gallery as a 'bestiary' is exactly the right way to look at it.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Dennis Baker wrote:


As a general rule NPCs are nastier than an equivalent CR critter.

Looking at the gallery as a 'bestiary' is exactly the right way to look at it.

And just like any other bestiary, it has a mixture of creatures that can be found in the world, from the lowly lizard to the awesome elder dragon. Obviously, the more dangerous something is, the rarer it will be (much as you see way more bunny rabbits than you do lions, and way more lions than you see vorpal bunnys).

However, that doesn't mean they don't exist, nor that they are especially rare when it comes to median level creatures (IE: CR 7 to 12).

I would be more than willing to agree that 60% of the population is at CR7 or less, based off the Bestiaries and the core rules. And beyond that, it drops off rapidly, with probably less than one-half of one percent at the vaulted CR 19 NPC.


Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
mdt wrote:
I would be more than willing to agree that 60% of the population is at CR7 or less, based off the Bestiaries and the core rules. And beyond that, it drops off rapidly, with probably less than one-half of one percent at the vaulted CR 19 NPC.

If one in two-hundred people are CR 19, then there is no need for the PCs. This remains true even if it is one in one thousand.

Grand Lodge

yes and no... If they are CR19, are they interested in Orc sweeps or anti bandit activity OR are they busy holding off the council of lords political machinations to reduce their overall tax burden? Leaves room for the CR 1 to 10 (or so) heros.

The Exchange Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

*SHRUG*

Paizo doesn't really specify in the core book what % of the population is what CR, it is deliberately left vague because different GMs have different ideas about what the fantasy realm should look like. Everything from a E6 type world to a post mage-war world where the only surviving humans are a tiny fraction very powerful portion of the previous population.

Even the Golarion books lack real guidance on this sort of thing beyond some vague ideas.


Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Helaman wrote:
yes and no... If they are CR19, are they interested in Orc sweeps or anti bandit activity OR are they busy holding off the council of lords political machinations to reduce their overall tax burden? Leaves room for the CR 1 to 10 (or so) heros.

I suppose so, but if you have enough Elminsters, Gandolfs, and Merlins in the world and the players themselves question whether they are needed at all.

It is strictly a metagame problem, but a problem none the less.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
uriel222 wrote:

I'd love to hear from the developers on the intent behind structuring the Gallery that way, but I'd always assumed that it was built from a narrativist (instead of a simulationist) viewpoint. That is, in a narrativist structure, the NPCs gain extra levels to represent large their "role" is in the game, similiar to the infamous "Star Trek" redshirts. Supposedly trained security staff were pushovers, but a ship's counselor could kick ass when the need arises, because people expect that from main characters. Consider the hardened warrior with a surprise serving tray to the head.

Essentially, the NPCs get the stats to represent their role in the story, instead of a more "realistic" simulation of how strong they would be objectively. The town guard is robust enough to give the PCs a challenge when arresting them for petty thievery, but those same guardsmen would have much lower stats in a war scene where they were but a handful in a group of hundreds.

This... You want simulation... play the wargame this game was descended from. However if you look at fantasy and western story models, than the Paizo NPC's are exactly what they should be.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Ravingdork wrote:
Helaman wrote:
yes and no... If they are CR19, are they interested in Orc sweeps or anti bandit activity OR are they busy holding off the council of lords political machinations to reduce their overall tax burden? Leaves room for the CR 1 to 10 (or so) heros.

I suppose so, but if you have enough Elminsters, Gandolfs, and Merlins in the world and the players themselves question whether they are needed at all.

It is strictly a metagame problem, but a problem none the less.

Merlin may be the best wizard ever, and Gandolf may be the best sorcerer or bard ever (he never prepares spells!), and Elminster may be scary wise, but they can all only be in one place at a time, and they can all only ever deal with one emergency at a time. And when they aren't dealing with something that requires their lofty power, they're sitting in a tower watching people struggle and die, and not raising a finger. Because they know if they go out and try to take care of everything, then the world is just as screwed up anyway, because they will become the keeper of the world.

If you've ever read the Belgariad, you'll know what I'm talking about. Belgarion's grandfather and his Aunt Pol and their entire family are about the most powerful people in the world. They really truly are demigods in a world full of 1 to 5 level mortals.

And they sit back and watch genocides, and let people worship a demonic god for thousands of years by sacrificing people regularly. Why? Because they know if they impose their will, then they become despots, and people will either hate them with a passion and fight and kill other humans to stop them, or worse, they'll be slavishly followed by normal humans, who will do things in their name they will not want.

So they let humans deal with human issues, and they only deal with things that they have to deal with, things that affect the entire world. One of them sat on a hillside for 200 years, watching a single city to learn about an evil demigod, to the point where moss grew all over him and everyone had thought he was a rock outcropping.

And stuff like that is why it's perfectly fine for there to be 1 to 20's in the world. The 10's are not going to worry about one little goblin band that's attacking one village, they have bigger fish in their kettle. And the group of 15's that they saw the day before aren't worried about the war the 10's are trying to stop, because they have to go stop a clan of Rakshasa from invading. And the level 20's that hired the 15's dis so because they are too busy stopping a demonic invasion in the north to deal with the Rakshasa. And the level 25's that told the 20's about the invasion are too busy keeping the demigods from starting another god war to be bothered with anything as lowly as demons.


If you run a population dynamics simulation assuming that people fight regularly, then you will find that it will be accurate that 90% of the world is level 5 or less (I gave exponential odds for overcoming level difference). Because of the exponential difficulty overcoming the level difference, the graph of population vs level was an exponential decay (assuming death was the result of a fight and a new level 1 guy would take his place).


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Where do you get a program to run population dynamics simulations on D&D? Who wrote it? What assumptions did they make about the world and the system? What assumptions did they make about motivations? How did it simulate gods and other outsiders? How did it take into account various magic items? Wealth? Feats?

I'm a programmer, and I know a bit about simulations on computers. They are only as good as the assumptions that go into them, and the accuracy of the data fed into them. If the assumptions are wrong, or the data faulty, then the results are garbage. Without knowing where you got your information, Erik542, your post is mostly just random words on a screen.

Serious scientific simulations (which require very large computers, or vast arrays of weaker computers, like fold at home project) take years to set up correctly for simulations, with testing over and over again with control samples. Since PF hasn't been around that long, I seriously doubt anyone's done any serious coding on a simulator.

Silver Crusade

Ravingdork wrote:

I suppose so, but if you have enough Elminsters, Gandolfs, and Merlins in the world and the players themselves question whether they are needed at all.

It is strictly a metagame problem, but a problem none the less.

It simply means there are more problems in the world than there are Elminsters and Gandalfs. Besides every game world has tons of high level characters. They are just all evil. Otherwise the PCs would have no one to fight.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Exactly Karkon. :) See, we can agree on things. :)

Checks to see the temperature on the 6th circle

Yeah, and didn't even end the world!

Silver Crusade

We agree quite frequently. I just play devil's advocate a lot.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Oh? That would explain the horns then. :)

Silver Crusade

Yes. Yes it does.


It might explain the horns, but the real question that springs to my mind is, "Do you have to pass a bar exam in Baator before you can land that gig?" ^_^

Back on topic...

Jeraa wrote:
The problem is that, from a skill-base point of view, everyone should be 1st to 5th level. If the NPCs are higher then that, then you start getting to the point where what are considered world records in the real world are being exceeded by everyone and their brother. Half the people with ranks in knowledge skills would qualify as geniuses in our world.

With respect, I'm not sure I accept the legitimacy of the underlying premises pertaining to this remark.

A high modifier in a Knowledge skill represents the depth and breadth of knowledge possessed by the individual in the specified field. This means that a character with Int 18 and 3 ranks in a class-skill knowledge category can be expected to have the same level of knowledge as a character with int 10 and 10 ranks in the same category that isn't a class skill for the second character. The first character must be a minimum of 3rd level, the second a minimum of 10th. However, the first character is much closer to being a genius than the second character.

This system includes an appropriate divorce between having knowledge and being smart - the second character had to work a lot harder at becoming knowledgeable, to be sure, but this does mimic real-world learning styles. One thing to remember is that the knowledge skills are incredibly broad in scope to ensure that sufficient granularity can be maintained at higher modifiers. For example, I'm a mathematician. I'm fairly smart (above average to be sure), and I've been studying it for over 10 years. There are lots of things that I know that the average Joe wouldn't, but the are plenty of specifics to the various branches of mathematics that I know next to nothing about that are well known to more skilled practitioners.

As far as world records, Jump is usually the go-to skill for this argument, which ignores the fact that the original 3rd edition jump rules included restrictions for believability that were recognized as too cumbersome for ease-of-play, and were dropped. Thus, the Jump skill (or Acrobatics rules governing jumping now) shouldn't be held up as realism-breaking, as the game is designed with that knowledge implicitly entailed in the skill.

Climb is actually a good candidate to support the 1-20 argument, as climbing an overhang or ceiling with handholds but no footholds is listed at DC 30, and is something done by non-record setting climbers. To take 10, a character would need a +20 modifier. Assuming that we have a fairly strong character (str 14) with skill focus (climb) and climb as a class skill, that means that 8 of that +20 modifier comes from innate talent. Thus, the character must be at least 12th level to take 10, and at least 2nd level to have any chance at success. Considering that world record climbers routinely attempt climbs regarded as more challenging than this (usually involving fatigue penalties), I don't see Climb checks as a source of inappropriate record-breaking.

Most skill checks are made against non-static DCs and thereby entail the virtue of scalability in use against more talented opposition, some of which ought to come from intelligent and potentially peaceful "monsters" that interact with NPC society from time to time. Granted, not every escape artist should be able to wriggle out of bonds tied by an Efrit, but in a world as big as Golarion, one or two who can should be expected, I would think...

Owner - House of Books and Games LLC

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mdt wrote:

Where do you get a program to run population dynamics simulations on D&D? ...

I'm a programmer, and I know a bit about simulations on computers. They are only as good as the assumptions that go into them, and the accuracy of the data fed into them.

The biggest fallacy in the whole thing is attempting to treat Pathfinder as an accurate simulation of a world that could possibly exist.

It's not. It can't. Pathfinder, like AD&D and D&D before it is a game that was designed to let a small group of players play the part of people who can make a difference in an imaginary world. Do you complain that Monopoly is a poor simulation of an economy? That Risk is a poor simulation of a war? At it's core, these type of discussions are the same thing.

The rules aren't meant to simulate a real economy, or accurately depict the odds of one person single-handedly beating an army, or what happens when such a non-typical person decides to become rich by crafting things, or to try to somehow create a set of physical rules for the universe that simultaneously let some people conjure gigantic balls of fire from nowhere while other folks can blithely fall 200 or more feet, swim in molten lava, or jump into pools of acid without automatic death.

The rules are an attempt to create a game that to some extent (and not perfectly, as has been stated multiple times), balances the various player classes so they can be in the same party and the players can enjoy the game.

Any attempt to justify it as a simulation is misguided and ultimately fruitless. The fact is, it doesn't matter what the population distribution is as much as it matters whether it's a world the players are having fun in.

I've yet to have a player come to me complaining that there weren't enough farmers in the village they just entered and it broke the realism for them, nor that there's been a shop in every town they entered, no matter how small. Such things make the game work. To hell with the simulationist aspects of it.

The irony is that I'm a huge simulationist. I put a ton of work into making my world make sense - but I know that's all for me, not needed to make the game work. I just think that consistency is important.

Edit: @mdt: I'm a programmer too. That's why, while I was very pleased with Magical Medieval Society: Western Europe, I was also very disappointed, for while it promised to give rules for creating things like towns and manors, instead it just gave vague guidelines, as I found out when I tried to actually write a program to use the rules. It was still useful, but I had to create a huge set of initial assumptions in order to get anywhere with it.

My favorite is the treasure generator based on Gygax's gem, jewelry and item tables from the AD&D DMG. I still use that to generate all of my non-magical valuables.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
GBoneHead wrote:


Lots of stuff

Good points all. I go into a lot of effort to make my worlds make sense too. It seems to work better.

Owner - House of Books and Games LLC

mdt wrote:
GBoneHead wrote:


Lots of stuff
Good points all. I go into a lot of effort to make my worlds make sense too. It seems to work better.

Heheh. You ninja'ed me while I was editing a response to you specifically in there :)


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

<---- Ninjakitty! Raowr!

The Exchange Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

gbonehead wrote:
The biggest fallacy in the whole thing is attempting to treat Pathfinder as an accurate simulation of a world that could possibly exist.

I'm SHOCKED, SHOCKED I tell you!

All this time....

All my illusions shattered in one post.

I'm going to go cry now.


But but but but but *insert random names here* all wrote lengthy forum posts about how 3.5 is a simulation of reality! How can you discount their collective wisdom! One of the even has a credit in a gaming book!

Shadow Lodge

it's not a simulation of reality. here are some things that prove it,

owls and bears can crossbreed

dragons can fly

high level monks can jump from planet to planet

a human with the right training can kick down 10 foot thick adamantine castle walls like they were made of rice paper.

wizards can take a handful of sulfur and bat feces and turn it to a 40 foot diameter globe of fire from over 600 feet away.

clerics can bring the dead back to life by throwing diamond dust at them, that same diamond dust solves a lot of other problems.

Dark Archive Contributor

Ravingdork wrote:
Helaman wrote:
yes and no... If they are CR19, are they interested in Orc sweeps or anti bandit activity OR are they busy holding off the council of lords political machinations to reduce their overall tax burden? Leaves room for the CR 1 to 10 (or so) heros.

I suppose so, but if you have enough Elminsters, Gandolfs, and Merlins in the world and the players themselves question whether they are needed at all.

It is strictly a metagame problem, but a problem none the less.

Bah, that's easy. Just like the real world, most of the high level characters are evil. That's why you need pcs.


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Nerdrage Ooze wrote:
But but but but but *insert random names here* all wrote lengthy forum posts about how 3.5 is a simulation of reality! How can you discount their collective wisdom! One of the even has a credit in a gaming book!

As one that does lengthy forum posts on how pathfinder works as a simulation I feel obliged to respond:

When I do my lengthy posts about how this part or that part of the system actually works its because I've sat down to play with the numbers as a personal interest in finding out if they can present a cohesive whole.

It has little to do with the accuracy of what that simulation presents in comparison with any else. I'm just plugging and chugging and seeing what comes out and then presenting that.

I find it delightful when it does in fact work, even if it doesn't meet the expectations I had going in, or comes out looking different than what I wanted.

For me it's the joy of playing with chaos theory and game theory in general -- it's noteworthy to me because most times the systems as designed weren't put together to actually work (at least according to the designers)...but then they do anyways.

This allow fascinates me to no end. The odds of something being put together in a way to 'simply be used by the PCs' that actually falls together into its own complex and functioning micro-system that can actually be picked apart, studied and analyzed as well as predicted is at once unsettling and extremely unlikely.

So I continue to play with the numbers because something tells me there is more there than the simple game that rests on the top. I present what I find because often people make claims that the system doesn't work simply because it doesn't fulfill their expectation.

The fact it doesn't fit their expectations is fine, but the system did work -- they just didn't expect what came out and I feel the need to point out the absolutely wonderful fact that it does work, just not as expected because to me the knowledge that this is true is a treasure that shouldn't be thrown out easily. It shows us that there is much to learn when we stand back and actually look at something without assuming we know it already.


mdt wrote:

Where do you get a program to run population dynamics simulations on D&D? Who wrote it? What assumptions did they make about the world and the system? What assumptions did they make about motivations? How did it simulate gods and other outsiders? How did it take into account various magic items? Wealth? Feats?

I'm a programmer, and I know a bit about simulations on computers. They are only as good as the assumptions that go into them, and the accuracy of the data fed into them. If the assumptions are wrong, or the data faulty, then the results are garbage. Without knowing where you got your information, Erik542, your post is mostly just random words on a screen.

Serious scientific simulations (which require very large computers, or vast arrays of weaker computers, like fold at home project) take years to set up correctly for simulations, with testing over and over again with control samples. Since PF hasn't been around that long, I seriously doubt anyone's done any serious coding on a simulator.

I wrote it using MATLAB. It used fairly simplistic assumptions. I assumed that people would fight other people randomly. I greatly simplified combat down to a single die roll. If your opponent was higher level, the chance of winning was 2^(-(N+1)) where N = their level - your level. Basically assumed that leveling up made you twice as strong. In retrospect I should run it assuming two levels made you twice as strong given the XP tables in both 3.5 and PF. Also winning a fight caused you to automatically level up while losing fight effectively reset you back to level 1 (in real terms, death rate = birth rate). Not too in depth, but enough to get the general structure of the population; also short enough for me to write in a few hours. I had a population of 20000 and ran it over 2.5 million fights. While the random fighting seems unreasonable at face value, it is a good compromise between people avoiding higher opponents and higher level opponents seeking out easy prey. Also one can justify the fast leveling by balancing the effect of resurrection; this essentially assumes that resurrection occurs about 93% of the time.

Interesting note: there is a minor spike in population near the level cap because I made it so that people do not get more powerful at level 20.

The effects of adjustments to this model:
If one wants to lower the resurrection rate, then this will cause people to level slower and thereby cause the population to be of a lower level.
Emphasizing the ability for higher level opponents to selectively fight lower level opponents will create a gulf between high level and low level with a larger portion of the population being 15+ and a near empty desert between 5 and 15. (Forgotten Realms essentially)
Emphasizing the ability to avoid getting sniped by high level opponents will cause the population to almost entirely be low level because the high levels will only be able to kill each other off.
Giving lower level guys a higher chance to beat higher level guys will cause the average level to go up. I believe that even with the adjustment of two levels = twice as strong, most of the population will still be level 5 or less. It will just mean that Einstein is level 8 instead of level 5.


This mayor is a CR 8, at least.


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I think some people are taking the Alexandrian blog the wrong way. The argument the guy was trying to make wasn't that you can only have NPC's below level 6, rather it was that below level 6 is where PC and NPC's still can model the real world and behave the way people in the real world do in situations. Thus, to calibrate your expectations you have to stop believing mid-high level characters are constrained by realistic physics, even the martial characters, and realize that they passed the limits of our world back at level 5-7.

He was pointing out that saying "Aragorn is a level 20 ranger" or "Einstein had to be a level 20 expert" and then being annoyed when the game allows them to do things they could never do isn't a fault of the system, but rather of the expectations of those playing it being off. D&D isn't at fault when you build a level 20 character and he survives falling off a cliff, or being immersed in lava, because D&D isn't simulating real world limits at level 20. It is perfectly ok for a world to have NPCs at level 10, 15, or 20 as long as the Players and DM understand what that means and don't constrain them to real world physical and mental limits.

Now, as to the actual topic of this thread, I personally think the NPCs in the GMG are not meant to be typical to everywhere in the world. All bandit lords aren't wearing a king's ransom in equipment, otherwise they'd all retire rich and happy, rather these NPCs are just blank slates with possible uses attributed to them.

If in your world you want the bandits in an area to be a weaker threat don't feel constrained by the CR 6 Highwaymen and CR 11 Bandit Lord. Make the average bandit a pickpocket(CR 1/2 rogue 1) or bandit(CR 1/2 warrior 2), toss in a couple Caravan Guards(CR 1 fighter 2) or Street Thugs(CR 1 fighter/rogue) as more elite members, and set a Burglar(CR 2 rogue 3) or Slaver(CR 3 fighter/rogue 2/2) as the band's leader. That's the beauty of the NPC Gallery, it's pages of pre-done stats that can be appropriated with whatever flavor is needed, usually by just swapping a couple skills, changing a weapon to one better suited for what you have in mind, and maybe swapping a feat or two.

Shadow Lodge

I think as most people have stated, the NPC's presented represent possibilities.

With reference to the NPC's being more dangerous than the average orc, how many orcs are Warrior 1? All humanoids that advance with class levels are represented in the players guide as level 1. In many cases this will be different.

There have been several discussions about NPC's on the boards, the relative power of say a level 2 or 3 commoner in relation to an off the shelf orc warrior 1. Again this is not really relevant unless your PC's are facing them. Most people will not be combat optimised, and poorly equiped, and thus will not represent a combat threat or encounter.

NPC's scale to meet your level. I populate my own world fairly consistently as that is important to me. However, in a PFS you are unlikely to meet NPC's that aren't appropriately scaled to the challenge of the adventure. In adventure paths, by the time you reach the 6th part you are likely to be meeting multiple 9th level NPC's in groups.

I wouldn't use most of the NPC's from the Gamemastery Guide myself, but I can see the use of them. I can also see why when the prerequisite is only 1000exps, why you may have a barmaid as a level 2 commoner without destroying the parity of the game.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
idilippy wrote:

I think some people are taking the Alexandrian blog the wrong way. The argument the guy was trying to make wasn't that you can only have NPC's below level 6, rather it was that below level 6 is where PC and NPC's still can model the real world and behave the way people in the real world do in situations. Thus, to calibrate your expectations you have to stop believing mid-high level characters are constrained by realistic physics, even the martial characters, and realize that they passed the limits of our world back at level 5-7.

He was pointing out that saying "Aragorn is a level 20 ranger" or "Einstein had to be a level 20 expert" and then being annoyed when the game allows them to do things they could never do isn't a fault of the system, but rather of the expectations of those playing it being off. D&D isn't at fault when you build a level 20 character and he survives falling off a cliff, or being immersed in lava, because D&D isn't simulating real world limits at level 20.

Which is how I took the article when I read it the first time. I thought it was interesting, and that it was flawed in several places due to his having a theory and looking for it to pan out. That's fairly common.

I don't hate the essay, nor the guy that wrote it. Again, I thought it was an interesting thought experiment, and I agree, that's probably what the guy was getting at.

What drives me bat**** insane is when someone points at it, and says 'Oh, well, there you go, the rules only support level 5 NPCs, I wish they'd dump the other 15 levels of NPC so all these people would play the game as it was intended rather than spout at me that there's level 10 innkeepers!'.

In fact, this thread was this exact response because someone pointed out to the OP that their holy grail NPCs are all level 1 to 3 with a few 4 and 5s was bogus in another thread, and they came over her to rant that Paizo put out a book that ignored the Alexandrian text.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber

Each GM has to decide for themselves what sort of level distribution the world has.

I personally like a distribution that looks like this:

50% level 1
25% level 2
12.5% level 3
etc.

If you work it all the way down, level 20 characters really are 1 in a million. It also puts the vast majority of the world in the 1-3 range, but still leaves room for some decently high level NPCs running around in larger kingdoms. But there should be plenty of room for low level heroics because the king's champion is busy.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I prefer a skewed bell curve myself, as I treat level 1's as people who are new to the world. Teenagers on their first adventure, apprentices just starting out, etc. So mine might look like...

Level 1 : 2%
Level 2 : 2%
Level 3 : 2%
Level 4 : 4%
Level 5 : 8%
Level 6 : 8%
Level 7 : 10%
Level 8 : 12%
Level 9 : 12%
Level 10 : 10%
Level 11 : 8%
Level 12 : 8%
Level 13 : 4%
Level 14 : 2%
Level 15 : 2%
Level 16 : 2%
Level 17 : 1%
Level 18 : 1%
Level 19 : 1%
Level 20 : 1%

Then, I also like stretching out my s-curves for progression. I use the fast exp chart for levels 1 to 5, medium for 6 to 15, and slow for 16 to 20.

The Exchange Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

I assume a bell curve with a high peak at 3rd level with a long tail stretching out to 20th level.

So something like:

8%
15%
40%
15%
8%
4%
3%
2%
1.5%

etc...

Level 20 would be about .0001% of the population.

I've considered the idea of using varying experience charts for character progression but I would break much earlier, switching to medium at 4th level and slow progression at 8th level.

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