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DMG p. 120 says, "A nonplayer character counts as a monster of his or her level for calculating XP."

Does this strike anyone else as insane? A 50% chance of survival (for a party facing an equal number of NPCs of their level) makes a standard encounter, and is the same as facing the same number of standard monsters?
SyDarkSun, my 4e Dark Sun campaign
There are specific rules for creating NPCs; they are more in line with monster stats.  You *never* use a PC character sheet for an NPC.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.

DMG page 187.
"Along the same lines, treat NPCs as you would monsters. That is, only give them the things you’ll need to run them in an encounter or an adventure. Don’t stat out an NPC as a player stats out a player character. That’s just too much work for what you really need. Most NPCs, even opponents, only need as much detail as a monster. In the rare case where you want to build a campaign- long villain, then it might serve for you to fully stat out the NPC in PC fashion, but this should be the exception—the rare exception."

Basically in a nutshell, unless this group of npcs is designed to be a long-term rival/villans against the pc's they will and should have NPC statblocks which makes them significantly less powerful than a normal PC in a prolonged fight, especially at higher levels. I like to call npc statblocks, half-pc's because that's typically the number of powers they get compared to a standard pc (except at probably level 1). The dmg page 187,188 have the basic npc creation rules if you wanted to take a look at it.

EDIT: btw, thanks for the idea, now i'm going to stat out a full fledged long-term PC-party of rivals for my new neverwinter campaign. 

Standard NPCs are not meant to be the equal of PCs of equal level.  The best way to do that would be to apply a suitable template to make them elite monsters, as a group of elite monsters of the same level and number as the party would be so difficult as to give the party about a 50% chance of survival.  Statting out enemies of the PCs as though they were PCs would simple be an exercise in tedium.

That makes general sense...except the rules are really not as clear as you imply. The passage you quote, Saric, implies that the reason to not fully stat out most NPCs is time, not power level. Well, with the Character builder, it is tremendously easier to make a full-blown NPC than to make a monsterish NPC via the rules on P. 187-8, DMG.

Besides, honestly, how much sense does it make to say, "This character is the same level as you (especially in an organization, such as some religious orders, where rank is identical to level), therefore you can beat him easily."

But EVEN SO, even if my reading of the DMG is wrong, it very clearly allows for the possibility of PC-equivalent NPCs. How much XP are they worth?
SyDarkSun, my 4e Dark Sun campaign
Frankly, the rules aren't about making sense, they're about making balanced encounters.

Putting a full-blown PC as a "monster" for your players to fight won't be easily balanced.   You'll have a full day's worth of daily powers to blow in a single encounter, putting your offense on par or better than a solo monster; yet you won't have the hit points, multi-turns/off-turn attacks, and self-buffs to stand up to a 5-on-1 fight like a proper solo does.

Turns it into a game of "Who wins initiative?" to determine how deadly the encounter will be.

In summary, since you're going off the map with respect to encounter design, you might as well make up the xp value it's worth, too -- somewhere between a minion and a solo of that level.

Returned from hiatus; getting up to speed on 5e rules lawyering.

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