Zero-level NPCs


Advice


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The rules don't exactly tell us how to build zero-level NPCs, but I think we can infer closely enough from the character creation rules. Which is why I'm not posting to the homebrew forum. I suggest that zero-level NPCs should get:
- standard benefits from ancestry, and
- standard benefits from background
The only tricky bit is that for PCs, all skill proficiencies come from class, so without a class, a zero-level NPC would have no training bonuses at all. As an alternate possibility, I suggest giving them minimal training, as follows:
- trained in unarmored defense, FORT saves and 2 simple weapons.
- untrained in all other weapons and armor
Finally, I suggest that when there are options between skills, feats and other benefits, most NPCs default to a skill. So zero-level NPCs don't bother with a feat, unless you really want to give them one.

Example: NPC human sailor
- Ancestry Human: 8hp, 25' speed, 2 ability boosts, speaks common (+1 regional language, if desired)
- skilled heritage + natural skill feat = 3 skills trained
- Background sailor: STR or DEX boost + free, Athletics, Sailing lore, ignore feat.
- Zero-level training: unarmored defense, FORT, 2 simple weapons.

This gives the following sample stat block:

Male human Sailor 0 Perception +0
Languages: Common
Skills: Athletics +4, Acrobatics, Thievery +3, Society, Sailing lore +2
Str +2, Dex +1, Con +1, Int +0, Wis +0, Cha +0
Items: Dagger, Javelin, Bandanna, ragged clothes, belt pouch w/1d6cp
AC 13; Fort +3, Ref +1, Will +0
HP 9 Speed 25’
Melee: Dagger +4, 1d4+2ps, agile, finesse, thrown 10’
Ranged: Javelin +3, 1d6+2p, thrown 30’

Seem fair? Is it more a homebrew or an extrapolation from the PC rules?


I don't see why they would ignore a feat, when instead of any combat feats they can just take a skill feat (including a new trained skill if they have int 12 or more).

Also, what save they get should depend on the character. A level 0 errand boy for a wizard is more likely trained in reflex or will saves than fort saves.

Other than that it seems alright, although considering the dissociation between PCs and NPCs in this edition, I feel no compunction to give noncombatant NPCs the bare minimum of training in skills. A 10 HP commoner could also be the world's greatest chef and have Legendary proficiency in Culinary Lore. He'd be able to use it to make a lot of money while remaining utterly incompetent in a fight.

Similarly I can easily see most nobles, merchants, and professionals being at least expert in Society or a few lores, maybe even with a few feats (Assurance in their professional lore skill basically means a salary job), all the while having no weapon or armor proficiency. Important non-adventuring NPCs should blow low level adventurers out of the water in their specialty without needing any combat ability.


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Hmmm.
I'm assuming that Paizo will eventually give us an NPC class template, with minimal combat training and slowly advancing skill training.

In the meantime, my basic zeo-level NPC profile could include:
- Training in unarmored defense, 2 simple weapons and one saving throw as desired.
- A few feats, as desired, from ancestry and background, although that would reduce the number of trained skills.

Honestly, most non-combattant NPCs don't actually need statblocks at all.

I would further assume that once we get a more robust NPC class template, it will include things like advancing skill training to expert or master at various levels. Anything more should really require a PC class with standard advancement.


Most noncombatant NPCs could still benefit from having a statblock for skill proficiencies, or even a handful of spells, just in case they need to mechanically interact with a PC. For instance a stage magician might be able to cast a few low level spells and be really good at deception and performance, but have nowhere near the adventuring ability of a PC class bard.

I do hope there will be rules for this kind of NPCs. 1e NPC classes always felt weird because you can't give them more skills or better non-combat spells without also making them good at fighting. And if I want to build an NPC to fight the PCs there's no reason not to use a PC class since I'm sinking the time into building them anyway.


Wheldrake wrote:

This gives the following sample stat block:

Male human Sailor 0 Perception +0
Languages: Common
Skills: Athletics +4, Acrobatics, Thievery +3, Society, Sailing lore +2
Str +2, Dex +1, Con +1, Int +0, Wis +0, Cha +0
Items: Dagger, Javelin, Bandanna, ragged clothes, belt pouch w/1d6cp
AC 13; Fort +3, Ref +1, Will +0
HP 9 Speed 25’
Melee: Dagger +4, 1d4+2ps, agile, finesse, thrown 10’
Ranged: Javelin +3, 1d6+2p, thrown 30’

Seem fair? Is it more a homebrew or an extrapolation from the PC rules?

Thank you, but in my personal opinion you hew far too close to existing PC rules. I really don't see why a level 0 monster should "not get a class". If the monster represents a sneaky humanoid it could totally get a Rogue feat or ability.

And I wouldn't bother with small details (like background). Just give it the skills it needs. Any signature feat becomes a monster ability.

Attack bonuses (for your Sailor) feel too low. The Duergar Sharpshooter and Orc Brute has +5 to +7, not +3 or +4. A L-1 goblin warrior sports an impressive +8 to attack.

Generally, your Sailor with a low 8 hp and a low AC 13 compares to a L-1 critter.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Agreed, it comes out as a level -1 creature, as far as CR is concerned. But it works well as an inept non-combattant who is thrust into combat despite himself.
You could spice it up with a feat. Or give it slightly better stats. But very soon, you're going to run up against what this guy will have at level 1.

So if you really want more, why not simply make it as a level one PC? Like this guy:

Veteran Pirate:

Male Human Sailor Rogue (Thief) 1 Perception +6
Languages: Common, Varisian, Chellaxian
Skills: Acrobatics +7, Athletics, Deception, Diplomacy, Intimidation, Medicine, Society, Survival +4, Arcana +5
Str +1, Dex +4, Con +0, Int +2, Wis +1, Cha +1
Items: Leather armor, Short sword, Dagger x6
AC 18; Fort +3 , Ref +9 , Will +6
HP 16 Speed 25’
Melee: Short sword +7, 1d6+4sp agile, finesse
Ranged: Dagger +7, 1d4+4, agile, finesse, thrown 10’
Sneak attack, Surprise attack
Underwater Marauder
Nimble Dodge (R) (p183) +2AC
Combat Climber (p260) not flat-footed, one hand free.


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I contest the notion that making full PCs is a solution.

I mean, for your home game, sure. But NPC stat blocks should be monsters.

And PF2 has (rightfully in my opinion) abandoned the notion monsters are built by the same rules that govern PCs. That's "PF1 thinking".

So there should absolutely be low-level villagers (cutthroats, bandits) that are monsters mimicking the abilities of Fighters, Barbarians and Rogues. And Commoners should not be the only ones at level 0.

Mimicking being the key word here. Just enough to change the monster from an anonymous bundle of 12 hit points into a creature that the players notice tries one or two tactics they themselves use.

Without reusing the ancestral abilities of Goblins and other monstrous humanoids. Humans (Elves, Dwarves etc) are much more defined by their "job" (town militia, sailor, etc) than their "race".

All this results in this:

Let's look at existing L0 monsters to determine appropriate L0 NPC values. Let's *not* extrapolate from player character chargen.

Zapp

PS. A "Veteran" Pirate to me is at least level 3... Just saying... :)

Liberty's Edge

Zapp wrote:
And PF2 has (rightfully in my opinion) abandoned the notion monsters are built by the same rules that govern PCs. That's "PF1 thinking".

This is incorrect. Per the people at Paizo (most notably Mark Seifter) this remains an entirely reasonable way to make adversaries. This is true because the math is designed to work out about the same either way.

It's not the only or most common way to make adversaries, nor something that should be overused (especially at high levels, since they need full PC WBL), but whenever you see an NPC in PF1 built with PC WBL and maybe extra point-buy? That's a character they might theoretically build with the the PC rules in PF2. Those characters are not common (indeed, I think they tend to be less than one per AP), but it's a valid option.

The example cited was Karzoug, from RotRL, who Mark Seifter noted would probably be made in this manner in PF2.

Now, using this for 1st level foes is super overkill on the effort front once we have the NPC creation rules, but it's perfectly valid as a placeholder option.


I did not mean to say that a NPC built using full PC rules is invalid, or that this approach to building NPCs is invalid.

I wanted to say that I look forward to GMing PF2 for a decade without ever having to build a single NPC using PC rules, and that I heartily recommend anyone creating NPCs for consumption by the public to adopt this approach as well :)

Do note that 5E is also described as having abandoned the notion monsters are built by the same rules that govern PCs. That notwithstanding you could still create 5E NPCs that are PCs. It's just that it's not worth the extra hassle; that very few people do it! :)

Liberty's Edge

Frogliacci wrote:
I do hope there will be rules for this kind of NPCs. 1e NPC classes always felt weird because you can't give them more skills or better non-combat spells without also making them good at fighting.

For 2E it wouldn’t be hard to do at least a “Commoner” class that offered minimal (or even 0+Con) hit points per level, training in one simple weapon. one or two skills, a few skill increases, and no class feats. As such a character advanced, they’d still get the non-class skill and general feats.

You could probably, reasonably, port over at least expert and Aristocrat similarly. Adept strikes me as more trouble than it’d be worth.


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Luke Styer wrote:
Frogliacci wrote:
I do hope there will be rules for this kind of NPCs. 1e NPC classes always felt weird because you can't give them more skills or better non-combat spells without also making them good at fighting.

For 2E it wouldn’t be hard to do at least a “Commoner” class that offered minimal (or even 0+Con) hit points per level, training in one simple weapon. one or two skills, a few skill increases, and no class feats. As such a character advanced, they’d still get the non-class skill and general feats.

You could probably, reasonably, port over at least expert and Aristocrat similarly. Adept strikes me as more trouble than it’d be worth.

In my initial post, I proposed the following:

- Zero-level training: unarmored defense, FORT, 2 simple weapons.

I set up the first guy's ancestry and background to give him skills rather than feats, but you could switch that around.

This method creates very weak combattants (about half the hit points of a 1st-level PC), with little training. You could then add whatever skill levels feel appropriate for a guy who had a trade, but had never gotten trained in combat. It works, while waiting for more details from the Game Mastery Guide.


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Based on the rules that they glossed over in the upcoming Game Master's Guide NPCs are not made in the same way that players are. They will be handled more like monsters in the bestiary.

They will appear as a "Creature" with a level equal to their combat challenge but they will typically have something that they're good at, and will count as a higher level challenge for those.

For example, someone may be a "-1 Creature" to function as a very weak combat challenge, on par with a standard level 1 character but count as an 8th level challenge when it comes to baking.

They also stated that the rules will be coming out soon prior to the GMG Release so look forward to it!


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Keep in mind a level 2 commoner should be an equivalent combatant to a 2nd level fighter. So if you build a class of commoners, and have levels, based on new design, they should be equivalent to equal level adventurers in a combat encounter. In second edition level is supposed to be something that defines how much of a challenge you are.

Instead, I think what you want, is what is supposed to come out in the GMG.

A list of basic NPC stats, with an expected HP, combat modifier, etc. to represent a range of -1, 0, or 1st level NPC opponents. Ones that you can simply specify the 'work-place lore' skill being + 5 (expert) or something similar and otherwise have a template to quickly build a NPC. You could choose the level 0 one instead of level -1 one for the blacksmith apprentice, because you want her to have more HP than the local scribe, and might actually give her a little bonus with attack rolls to hit and damage with her hammer.

So I'd avoid saying build an npc class 1-3rd level that would give you weak options. Instead, I'd say, if you want to try to go that route, you'd need to define a class with levels -1, 0, and 1. With the various options they have at those points. [basically just NPC templates though for that tier of opponent]

Liberty's Edge

Loreguard wrote:
Keep in mind a level 2 commoner should be an equivalent combatant to a 2nd level fighter.

Why? I’m not even sure the various classes in the CRB are all equivalent combatants.

Quote:
In second edition level is supposed to be something that defines how much of a challenge you are.

I’m not sure to what degree “challenge” means “in a fight.”

Quote:
Instead, I think what you want, is what is supposed to come out in the GMG.

Ultimately, yes, but as a stopgap until we get guidance on that, vaguely following the system we DO have seems simpler to me. What you’re proposing isn’t bad, but without guidance isn’t very intuitive for me. I’m still getting used to the idea that NPCs and monsters follow a different set of rules. That’s a massive paradigm shift for me.


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If it helps you visualize, here's a link from the paizo twitter covering some of the NPC entry examples in the GMG.

https://twitter.com/paizo/status/1172225884771799040

In this example you can see that the two shown are both "-1 Creature" challenges if you tried to beat them in a straight up fight, but if you're competing in the field of medicine they're much more skilled.


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Here's is the second page of that entry.

https://twitter.com/paizo/status/1172623550546665473


Gloom wrote:

Based on the rules that they glossed over in the upcoming Game Master's Guide NPCs are not made in the same way that players are. They will be handled more like monsters in the bestiary.

They will appear as a "Creature" with a level equal to their combat challenge but they will typically have something that they're good at, and will count as a higher level challenge for those.

For example, someone may be a "-1 Creature" to function as a very weak combat challenge, on par with a standard level 1 character but count as an 8th level challenge when it comes to baking.

They also stated that the rules will be coming out soon prior to the GMG Release so look forward to it!

This is good.

Just to note: if somebody is listed as a level -1 creature I would expect them to be on par with other -1 creatures.

(Yes that is "very weak" even to level 1 heroes. Just wanted to heed off the idea that the creature is weaker for its level to compensate for its awesomesauce baking skills. That is hopefully not the case.

If the creature instead was level 5, that hopefully means it is level 5 in the general adventuring sense. This does not necessarily mean it has to be as deadly as other level 5 creatures - some creatures are more defensive-minded and others are glass cannons. But a listing of level 5 should hopefully mean it's as appropriate as any other level 5 creature for encounter usage.

That it is level 13 or something in a baking contest is entirely different, is my point, is all :-)


Luke Styer wrote:
I’m still getting used to the idea that NPCs and monsters follow a different set of rules. That’s a massive paradigm shift for me.

I can respect that.

Hopefully you can interpret any pushback as creative criticism, encouraging you to let loose of the PF1 way of thinking, and embrace the PF2 way of thinking!

I think you're on the right path - just realizing that you're struggling is a great first step!

Good luck with your future monster building :-)


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

In my initial post, I wasn't suggesting creating an entire NPC class, merely trying to ascertain values for a zero-level NPC, based on the character creation rules. Soon it will be a moot point, with the publication of the Game Mastery Guide, but IMHO the character creation rules are robust enough that you can create a viable zero-level NPC by using only parts A and B without C. All you need to do is strap on a very limited set of training, well below that of the complete NPC classes.

If we wanted to create complete NPC classes, that would be fodder for the homebrew forum.

Liberty's Edge

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Zapp wrote:
let loose of the PF1 way of thinking, and embrace the PF2 way of thinking!

The PF2 way of thinking really isn’t my preference and probably never will be — I just prefer a single set of rules, but I think that the convenience of it will likely make up for that in practice.

But I’m definitely going need to see the rules to understand the separate set of rules for building NPCs because my first instinct is to go with what I already know.

Quote:
Good luck with your future monster building :-)

Thanks!


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Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Zapp wrote:
Gloom wrote:

Based on the rules that they glossed over in the upcoming Game Master's Guide NPCs are not made in the same way that players are. They will be handled more like monsters in the bestiary.

They will appear as a "Creature" with a level equal to their combat challenge but they will typically have something that they're good at, and will count as a higher level challenge for those.

For example, someone may be a "-1 Creature" to function as a very weak combat challenge, on par with a standard level 1 character but count as an 8th level challenge when it comes to baking.

They also stated that the rules will be coming out soon prior to the GMG Release so look forward to it!

This is good.

Just to note: if somebody is listed as a level -1 creature I would expect them to be on par with other -1 creatures.

(Yes that is "very weak" even to level 1 heroes. Just wanted to heed off the idea that the creature is weaker for its level to compensate for its awesomesauce baking skills. That is hopefully not the case.

If the creature instead was level 5, that hopefully means it is level 5 in the general adventuring sense. This does not necessarily mean it has to be as deadly as other level 5 creatures - some creatures are more defensive-minded and others are glass cannons. But a listing of level 5 should hopefully mean it's as appropriate as any other level 5 creature for encounter usage.

That it is level 13 or something in a baking contest is entirely different, is my point, is all :-)

That is exactly how it is handled in PF2e. The difficulty listed next to their type is the combat difficulty of the enemy. For the purpose of challenging them in the thing that they're good at they're considered a higher difficulty challenge.

In this way you could have someone that is the equivalent of a 1st level adventurer in combat but a legendary blacksmith or baker in terms of their skills with their craft. Same thing could also be said about a high ranking noble or politician being a "CREATURE -1" difficulty but a much higher difficulty should you try to challenge them socially in a king's court.

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