An NPC is NOT a PC with 1/4 the wealth of a PC!

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Here's where I think 4th Edition is going, and what I love about it as a DM. (I hope I'm not wrong.)

Gone are the days where the DM has to create the opponents for his PCs using the same complex rules of character generation that PCs use. It is a colossal waste of time for a DM to have to spend hours creating NPC opponents (even those of PC races and classes) using the PC character generation rules, when those NPCs are fated to die in roughly six rounds of combat and have their possessions stripped, appraised, and loaded into the bag of holding.

With the exception of a minority of key NPC "personalities", the opponents that PCs face are nothing more than obstacles in the way of the PCs goals. There is no need for them to "play by the same rules" that PCs do. They are nameless and faceless, with no need for backstory, friends, families, etc. Their "progression" from level 1 to their current level is irrelevant. They will not be missed or mourned. They are, to use movie parlance, merely "extras."

As a DM, I look forward to creating an NPC wizard by simply choosing a generic, level-appropriate "stat block" from the MM and customizing it. I hope that for every level, there will be a handful of different base stat blocks to cover the different NPC roles. Think of these stat blocks as a universal chassis upon which different cosmetic bodies can be attached. The NPC roles might be the same as the PC roles, but might also include others such as "dumb brute", "glass cannon", "sneaky threat", "annoying nuisance", etc.

Using this approach, the MM would have an opening "crunch" chapter with the generic stat blocks for thirty levels and however many roles. Then the monster writeups would be mostly "fluff" with a little "crunch" about their base stat block and any modifiers, their signature abilities, their equipment, and their tactics.

So you have this idea for the PC's to be ambushed at a mountain pass by a band of stone giant barbarian/rangers? Sure, you could take the time to start with the base stone giant and advance them with PC levels. But in the end, you'd (hopefully) do a reality check to make sure that their attack and damage bonuses, AC, saves, etc. were "about right for the party". So why bother with advancement up from the base creature? If the party is 14th level, then just grab some stat blocks from the 14th level set, give them their signature abilities (stealth, throwing rocks from cover, and rage in melee), and you're good to go!

I hope this is on the mark, because as a DM, it would make my life SO much easier.
So a critter template to apply to pregenerated roles based on level. I could definitely see where that would save a lot of time. Even if WOTC doesn't do something like that it would be useful to put together for a personal campaign.
With the exception of a minority of key NPC "personalities", the opponents that PCs face are nothing more than obstacles in the way of the PCs goals. There is no need for them to "play by the same rules" that PCs do. They are nameless and faceless, with no need for backstory, friends, families, etc. Their "progression" from level 1 to their current level is irrelevant. They will not be missed or mourned. They are, to use movie parlance, merely "extras."

As a DM, I look forward to creating an NPC wizard by simply choosing a generic, level-appropriate "stat block" from the MM and customizing it. I hope that for every level, there will be a handful of different base stat blocks to cover the different NPC roles. Think of these stat blocks as a universal chassis upon which different cosmetic bodies can be attached. The NPC roles might be the same as the PC roles, but might also include others such as "dumb brute", "glass cannon", "sneaky threat", "annoying nuisance", etc.

For monsters yes. And as a DM I use that method all the time for minor encounters.

For NPCs though it would irritate me. As a player I hate it when there are NPC classed characters that could not be built as PC characters. And I am the sort of person that works those things out in their head during a fight. A wizard with an AC of 17 either has a mage armor on and a high dexterity or a ring of protection or something. If he can cast fireball then he must be at least level 5 and cast x number of spells of different levels. And it irks me when NPCs have spell lists, items, stats and abilities that would be impossible or absurd.

Using this approach, the MM would have an opening "crunch" chapter with the generic stat blocks for thirty levels and however many roles. Then the monster writeups would be mostly "fluff" with a little "crunch" about their base stat block and any modifiers, their signature abilities, their equipment, and their tactics.

I doubt they would do it exactly like that no matter which way they lean. They have already said that one of their goals is to reduce page flipping in combat by including more description per monster. Hopefully they don't over do it, because if they really spell out everything in detail it is going to reduce the number of monsters.

Jay
Thing is the game already has lists of Generic NPC stat blocks. They are in the Dungeon masters guide. They can be quite easily applied and modified as needed.

Why would what would bein 4ed be any different than this with regards to PC class/race NPC's?
I hope this is on the mark, because as a DM, it would make my life SO much easier.

Yeah, I'm with you.
:D
I think I understand your point, but in the end does it really matter if the NPC wizard has a surprisingly high AC? Or more to the point, does it really matter WHY? The guy is just another speedbump in the way of the party reaching the hidden temple and slaying the necromancer. His job is to create an interesting challenge to the party, not to be certified "legit" by the Malevolent Union of Multiverse Non Player Characters.

Now, in today's 3e Christmas Tree world, as soon as the players suspect that the NPC wizard has a higher than usual AC, they'll be stripping him naked and speaking with dead to figure out where he hid the magic item that granted it, or scouring his spellbook for some spell that the PC wizard doesn't know. Feh, I say. Hardly heroic.

The PC's are special. In the vast majority of cases, they can do things no NPC can do. Once in a while, I don't think it matters that you throw an NPC at them that couldn't be built with PC rules. They're apples and oranges.

PC rules are for creating interesting and somewhat complex characters who get to use their various and sundry abilities over the course of hundreds of combat and non-combat encounters. Players have ample time to spend between sessions planning their character's backstory, personality, and advancement if they wish.

NPC's, as I've said, only need to be interesting, not complex. They get to use their abilities for approximately six rounds, rarely more, often much less. The amount of time needed to create them should be on par with the amount of screen time they get. Starting from generic level/role stat blocks, and taking a few minutes to tack on their unique abilities and items, would allow enemies to be created that are more or less guaranteed to be appropriate challenges for the party.

One caveat is that monsters in the MM's should have their "level appropriate" ranges defined. For example, I don't think that you should be able to create a "Level 1 Fire Giant" by starting from a "Level 1 Stupid Brute" stat block and modifying it. Not all monsters should be able to be customized across all 30 levels. (A level 3 tarrasque?)

That's my story and I'm sticking with it.
NPC's, as I've said, only need to be interesting, not complex. They get to use their abilities for approximately six rounds, rarely more, often much less. The amount of time needed to create them should be on par with the amount of screen time they get. Starting from generic level/role stat blocks, and taking a few minutes to tack on their unique abilities and items, would allow enemies to be created that are more or less guaranteed to be appropriate challenges for the party.

Yup. Most DMs just don't have the time to prepare NPCs like PCs are created. At high levels you're burning an hour or more per NPC, and they just don't last that long to make that time worth spending for the sake of rules equality. For my NPCs, I don't really want to waste time choosing feats and magical items, I don't want to waste a bunch of time writing out an NPC wizard's spell selection. That's boring.

If a system can take creating a 10th level wizard or fighter and change it from a 1-2 hour task to a 5-10 minute task, then it's worth it, even if NPCs can have abilities that PCs don't have.
I think I understand your point, but in the end does it really matter if the NPC wizard has a surprisingly high AC? Or more to the point, does it really matter WHY? The guy is just another speedbump in the way of the party reaching the hidden temple and slaying the necromancer. His job is to create an interesting challenge to the party, not to be certified "legit" by the Malevolent Union of Multiverse Non Player Characters.

The union may not matter but the players do. And I know I'm not the only one irked by this.

Now, in today's 3e Christmas Tree world, as soon as the players suspect that the NPC wizard has a higher than usual AC, they'll be stripping him naked and speaking with dead to figure out where he hid the magic item that granted it, or scouring his spellbook for some spell that the PC wizard doesn't know. Feh, I say. Hardly heroic.

That is something rather different and gets into your definition of heroic. I don't lean towards the Luke Skywalker side, I lean towards the John McClane side. And the McClane's are going to grab anything useful they find.

The PC's are special. In the vast majority of cases, they can do things no NPC can do. Once in a while, I don't think it matters that you throw an NPC at them that couldn't be built with PC rules. They're apples and oranges.

Once in a while doesn't bother me. Heck, I expect the top NPCs to have powerful bonuses and items, just like the PCs.

Nor do I expect minor NPCs to be fully fleshed out. If I'm creating a wizard that I know is going to fight it out, I'll list the spells they have memorized that I expect them to use plus a couple more. And if they last longer then expected I'll wing it. But I keep track of what they cast and insure they can't cast more or better spells then a PC could unless there is some justification. If I'm creating a high level character that will only appear once, I don't try to list their entire spell book, or figure every feat and every magic item they have. I work out stats for the ones that matter and wing the rest.

What does irk me is constantly running across NPC wizards with multiple quickened spells that would require them to be a high level caster or have some item or bonus that grants them that ability. Again and again, with no way of finding out how, or ever getting that bonus for myself. Running across NPC wizards with high ACs for which there is no explanation. Fighting against NPC clerics with domain spells that are not on any known domain list and which I can't find out how they got those abilities. Dealing with NPC fighters with constant hits require them to have a magic weapon, except the don't.

Once or twice is fine. The NPC fighter could simply have rolled absurdly well, I've seen it happen. Or they may have some special one off bonus, high level characters eventually get some. But when it happens all the time it gets very irritating. Not to mention it limits my ability to plan ahead. If I can't gauge and understand the NPCs abilities, I can't figure how dangerous they are.

One caveat is that monsters in the MM's should have their "level appropriate" ranges defined. For example, I don't think that you should be able to create a "Level 1 Fire Giant" by starting from a "Level 1 Stupid Brute" stat block and modifying it. Not all monsters should be able to be customized across all 30 levels. (A level 3 tarrasque?)

Heh, actually what worries me about that is running into the same monsters all the time. Level 1 - 3 are cave orcs, 4 - 6 are common orcs, 7 - 9 are war orcs, 10 - 12 are greater orcs, 13 - 15 are elite orcs and so on.

Jay
For NPCs though it would irritate me. As a player I hate it when there are NPC classed characters that could not be built as PC characters. And I am the sort of person that works those things out in their head during a fight. A wizard with an AC of 17 either has a mage armor on and a high dexterity or a ring of protection or something. If he can cast fireball then he must be at least level 5 and cast x number of spells of different levels. And it irks me when NPCs have spell lists, items, stats and abilities that would be impossible or absurd.

While I understand and sometimes agree, I, as a player, would be more than willing to let this go. Especially since I, as a DM, know what a pain it is to have to spend ridiculous amounts of time ensuring the numbers are right across the board for some wizard that will fight a grand total of 18-24 seconds before dying, just because one of my players might stop in the middle of the battle and say "Wait, how does he have a 19 Armor Class? That's not fair!!!"

This is a personal opinion, but I like combat in RPG's in general when you can just let go of the stat guessing game and number crunching and just fight as if you don't know the enemy's exact stats. It seems to make a better, more believable world when the PC's don't know, in-character, all of the exact mechanics of the game under the hood, and all monsters and spellcasters have the potential to be unique.
The union may not matter but the players do. And I know I'm not the only one irked by this.

Oh, I know. A lot of players are perturbed by this sort of thing for some reason.

But seriously, it's saving your DM hours of prep time, so I think you can live with a little discomfort in the name of not making your DM's life miserable.

So what if an NPC fighter had the benefits of a ring of protection even though he didn't really have one? Who cares if an NPC wizard had the ability to cast infinite fireballs or color sprays for the combat instead of a list of prepared spells?

Are these things going to make a huge difference?
I use something like that when I need to make something up quick. I figure out who thier target PC will be and give them an attack bonus that will hit 50% of the time. I dont give them hit points, I give them hits. The number of hits they can take before dropping. I usually only use that for single monsters though. Or you can always say that they dont all have the same HP totals. I use a similar system for saving throws and skill checks. Special abilities I usually give out to make the monster stand out.
Well, if the average fight in 4E is going to have a much larger number of enemies than 3rd, streamlining monster/npc creation in going to be a necessity. Im sure the MM will have a good deal of preprinted stat blocks (especially for all those ready for slaughter minions).

As far as tweaking monsters in 3rd ed, I have no problem with it, but some of the guys I play with do. I saw one guy throw a fit once because the our DM threw a couple of displacer beasts at us with evasion, and the player thought it meant each one had a ring. Turns out the DM just wanted to give them a small boost because it was a relatively easy fight.
one thing I also do to quikly advance a needed monster to be a threat to the party, is give it a +1 to all attack rolls, skill checks, ability check, saving thows, and ac per every level of advancement needed. I also give them 3 + con mod hp/level gained. So a CR 5 monster advanced to be a threat to a level 11 group gains a +6 to everything, and 6 x (3 + con mod) bonus hit points. Every other level of advancement adds one to damage with thier attacks and increases their damage reduction, spell resistence, and energy resistences by one each.