Monday, 4 April 2011

Original Standard in Action: NPC stats

It has been said that I'm a complicated man and no-one understands me except my woman. But when even she isn't clear what you're trying to achieve with a series of posts, it's time to get a concrete example going.

We're going to expand some elements of my one page dungeon "Egg of the Gazolba" (link to the right) with Original Standard stats. The introduction is mostly scene setting and can be skipped, but lurking in the back is a formidable woodsman who will have to be dealt with if the party isn't sufficiently cautious in covering their entry into the caves...
the keeper of the forest, one Syrax: high level, tracking ability near flawless in his own woods, prone to arrest trespassers
This casting decision sure makes him interesting...
So goes the mechanics-free description. First things first is his class. We have the four base classes to work with, and Iit's a good idea to also put in parentheses a word or two that can be matched to classes or races in more advanced settings, or treated as descriptive words otherwise. "High level" implies someone you don't want to meet; for low level characters, say 2-3, we can make him 9th level.

Syrax, Fighter (Ranger) Level 9. Another example might be Fighter (Ranger, Half-Elf). Descriptive words can be anything but obviously "Ranger" is going to be more understandable than "Puma Dancer."

Because he's an NPC, he gets stats: S 15, D 15, I 13, W 16, C 12, Ch 10.  The range of these stats, for NPCs at least, is pretty constant across versions.

And hit points ... Here we have a problem. The different editions of the game scale hit points very differently, but this is one of the most important stats you can provide. Or is it? Let's set a precedent and let the DM decide what a Level 9 character should have. I mean, I often forget the hit points I wrote down for a monster and just roll them up on the spot with a large stash of d8. If the person has above or below average hits for some reason, this can be remarked upon.

We can write down his weapons and equipment. I didn't because of space constraints of the one-page dungeon, but plausibly a tracking, sneaking ranger-type of high level will wear leather armor +1, carry longbow, 12 arrows +2 and 20 normal, longsword +2 and dagger. Note how simple magic item plusses are also OS across all editions.

It won't be necessary to list his Armor Class as this can be figured out from equipment and stats; alternatively, Swords & Wizardry style ascending and descending can be given, in this case AC5[14]. This light equipment also means his move is 12", or 6 new-style, but for an NPC this can also be figured out according to the rules in use.

Alignment, morale, friendliness can all be given descriptively, or left up to the GM. From the game text and "Ranger" description we know he is great at tracking in the woods, and will probably notice if the party leave any marks on the cliff face or large, obvious marks by the cave mouths 10 feet up. He's in good shape and because the climbing is "easy" he can get to the desired cave mouth without too much risk, but if he can't see much to choose among them he'll just watch the caves. And he can wait a long time. All these details could have been put in the module, but they also show that most of the time for an NPC, skill stats and mechanics can be reduced to "can they do it or not"? NPCs don't have to play by the same rules as PCs.

And his treasure ... well, the point is that he can't easily be defeated to get at it, but traveling light, he would carry about 20 gp for personal needs, well secured from clinking and probably hidden on his person. Treasure is more relevant to the monsters, and that's next up.

Anything else stats-wise you'd need to know about the ranger?


  1. That looks like a pretty solid example. What are your thoughts on spellcasters?

  2. I'm less concerned with representation of monsters/NPC's, since that's actually pretty easy to do on the fly- I'm more concerned with describing items, spells, tasks, environmental hazards, and other things in ways that are equally useful for a S&W player, an OSRIC player, a C&C player, or a Pathfinder player.

  3. I wouldn't put Hit Points, because hit dice and the effects of CON are different between different editions, and 3rd edition has maximum HP at first level as an official rule.