NPC Importance

( ⇪ House Rules )

To distinguish how capable a creature is, certain adjustments are made to their normal stats and abilities. There are “Major” NPCs/enemies, “Average” NPCs/enemies, and “Minion” NPCs/enemies. Minions are a carry-over from D&D 4th edition and can be used in large quantities to fill out the remainder of an expected challenge. At all levels, four minions combined should roughly have a CR equivalent to a single average version of that creature “per PC”.

Table: Monster CR by Importance
PC Avg ECL 4 Minions per PC is… 1 Average per PC is… 4PC Typical CR (XP Budget) 4PC Major CR (XP Budget)
1 CR 1/2 (CR 1/3 if 4+) per PC CR 1/2 per PC CR 2 (600 XP) CR 3 (900 XP)
2 CR 1/2 ~ 1 (CR 1/3 ~ 1/2 if 4+) per PC CR 1/2 ~ 1 per PC CR 3 (900 XP) CR 4 (1200 XP)
3 CR 1 (CR 1/2 if 4+) per PC CR 1 per PC CR 4 (1200 XP) CR 5 (1800 XP)
4 CR 1 ~ 2 (CR 1/2 ~ 1 if 4+) per PC CR 1 ~ 2 per PC CR 5 (1800 XP) CR 6 (2400 XP)
5 CR 2 (CR 1 if 4+) per PC CR 2 per PC CR 6 (2400 XP) CR 7 (3600 XP)
6 CR 3 (CR 2 if 4+) per PC CR 3 per PC CR 7 (3600 XP) CR 8 (4800 XP)
7 CR 4 (CR 3 if 4+) per PC CR 4 per PC CR 8 (4800 XP) CR 9 (7200 XP)
8 CR 5 (CR 4 if 4+) per PC CR 5 per PC CR 9 (7200 XP) CR 10 (9600 XP)
9 CR 6 (CR 5 if 4+) per PC CR 6 per PC CR 10 (9600 XP) CR 11 (14000 XP)
10 CR 7 (CR 6 if 4+) per PC CR 7 per PC CR 11 (14000 XP) CR 12 (19000 XP)
11 CR 8 (CR 7 if 4+) per PC CR 8 per PC CR 12 (19000 XP) CR 13 (29000 XP)
12 CR 9 (CR 8 if 4+) per PC CR 9 per PC CR 13 (29000 XP) CR 14 (38000 XP)
13 CR 10 (CR 9 if 4+) per PC CR 10 per PC CR 14 (38000 XP) CR 15 (58000 XP)
14 CR 11 (CR 10 if 4+) per PC CR 11 per PC CR 15 (58000 XP) CR 16 (77000 XP)
15 CR 12 (CR 11 if 4+) per PC CR 12 per PC CR 16 (77000 XP) CR 17 (120000 XP)
16 CR 13 (CR 12 if 4+) per PC CR 13 per PC CR 17 (120000 XP) CR 18 (150000 XP)
17 CR 14 (CR 13 if 4+) per PC CR 14 per PC CR 18 (150000 XP) CR 19 (230000 XP)
18 CR 15 (CR 14 if 4+) per PC CR 15 per PC CR 19 (230000 XP) CR 20 (310000 XP)
19 CR 16 (CR 15 if 4+) per PC CR 16 per PC CR 20 (310000 XP) CR 21 (460000 XP)
20 CR 17 (CR 16 if 4+) per PC CR 17 per PC CR 21 (460000 XP) CR 22 (620000 XP)

Minion NPCs

Minion creatures and NPCs…

  • have an initiative of 1+mod (is not rolled, is after all PCs/allies on that number)
  • have half as many Hit Dice (round up to the nearest HD step), for effects that care about hit dice
  • have full hit points, but their hit points drop to zero very easily (see below)
  • have no action points.
  • have a tiny number of save points (see below for how many)
  • might at-best have a few NPC class levels, but usually have no class levels at all
  • drop hit points to zero instantly if
    • it takes any damage from getting hit by an attack, but never takes damage from missed attacks.
    • it takes any damage as the result of a failed saving throw, but if they save for half damage they instead take no damage. On a fail their save points still apply, so roll a d10 for each minion, then only roll the second d10 (making it a d100) if the first d10 was in the borderline range (like if they have 35 FP and you roll a 3). If there are 5 or more identical minions affected, instead just assume the Expected Value percentage of those minions (rounded down) succeeded (so if they would each roll a d% with 5 FP after the reduction, 5% of them succeed on the save).
    • it takes damage from another effect (such as caltrops or magic missile or the splash from a splash weapon) which equals or exceeds their hit point maximum, otherwise they take no damage.
  • treats their hit point maximum as 1 hp for the purposes of nonlethal damage which fits the restrictions above.
  • always deals average (mid-point of the die curve) damage rounded-down, and can’t score critical hits
    • Xd4+Y = 2.5X (rounded-down) + Y
    • Xd6+Y = 3.5X (rounded-down) + Y
    • Xd8+Y = 4.5X (rounded-down) + Y
    • Xd10+Y = 5.5X (rounded-down) + Y
    • Xd12+Y = 6.5X (rounded-down) + Y
    • Xd20+Y = 10.5X (rounded-down) + Y
  • A special “group attack” aid another action is available to minions with an intelligence score. The aided minion is able to get a really good hit in because the other minions are hampering your ability to dodge it.
    • grants a +1 bonus or their intelligence bonus (whichever is higher) when aiding another identical minion on an attack roll (instead of the normal +2)
    • This aid another action can only be done while near the identical minion they’re aiding, and can aid both melee and ranged attacks.
    • Melee aiding must still be within reach (not necessarily adjacent) of both the aided minion and the target.
    • Ranged aiding however must be adjacent to the aided minion (the target doesn’t matter).
    • Minions must still roll against AC 10 (GM rolls it) to successfully provide aid.
    • If the aided attack hits, the minions are attacking in a group, and the damage is multiplied by the number of minions in the attack (both the attacker and all aiding minions).

You may choose to be treated as having the Great Cleave feat when you make an attack roll against a minion and your damage exceeds that creature’s normal maximum hit points, but with some exceptions:

  • The GM first tells you how much “excess damage” you did.
  • The extra attacks can be melee or ranged, not just melee.
  • The extra attacks can only target other minions with the same stats, and the GM will tell you which minions qualify.
  • If the attack is melee, the extra attacks can only target a qualifying minion within your reach.
  • If the attack is ranged, the extra attacks can only target a qualifying minion “in a straight line behind” the previous minion (at GM’s discretion), within the attack’s maximum range and (if the attack has a range increment) within one range increment of the previous minion.
  • You automatically hit, but only the excess damage applies to that minion (which will always drop it to zero hit points).
  • If this excess damage to a latter minion also exceeded that creature’s normal maximum hit points, you may repeat this process with the new amount of excess damage.

PCs cannot acquire or control minion versions of a creature (they’re either too fragile to submit, or too weak to be convinced), as minions are strictly something only the GM should control.

GM’s Note: Minions tactically will frequently take the aid another action (rolling against AC 10) to benefit an ally’s attack score or AC. They will also take the aid another action on an ally in order to draw the opponent’s attention, or use intimidate to demoralize an opponent if they can’t get to within melee range. Minions will typically prioritize aiding their commander (a non-minion) in this way instead of another minion.

To determine how much minions cost your budget:

  1. Get the CR of the listed version of that creature and find out how many of that would fill out your budget, as a starting point for judging difficulty. For example, if you have an enemy which is listed as CR 1/2, four of that listed creature would be enough to fill out an average challenge for an ECL 1 party, and six of them would be enough for a major challenge (although if you were to actually do that each creature’s CR would change, see below).
  2. Determine the CR of a set of 4 minions of that creature, and figure out whether you just want to fill out the budget with average and minion versions of that creature. For example, for an listed enemy with CR 1/2, that’s the same as saying four minion versions of that creature is CR 1/2.
  3. As per the Monster Challenge Ratings section of the Bell Curve Rolls variant, when encountering four or more of the same creature, reduce each creature’s CR by 1 step. Usually you’ll do this to minions, not average creatures unless the listed CR of the average version is already lower than the party’s ECL.
  4. With that possibly-reduced CR for having at least 4 of them, fill out your budget.
For Example: Let’s say we want to create a major challenge for an ECL 1 party, consisting of a CR 2 evil cleric and a bunch of minions, and some of those minions are the cleric’s commanded undead. The budget is 900 XP (the party only earns 600 XP).
The CR 2 cleric uses up 600 XP, so the remaining budget is 300 XP.

An evil cleric can command any number of undead whose total Hit Dice do not exceed his level. Minions count as only 1/2 their Hit Dice for the purpose of effects which care about that. A skeleton has 1 HD. That means the cleric could command four skeletons, for a combined CR as minions of 1/3, reduced to 1/4 because there’s 4 of them, so it’s 75 XP for all four minions. We have 225 XP left.

We can make the other minions cultists who have the stats of human warriors, each with a listed CR of 1/2. Four minion human warriors is the CR-equivalent of one listed human warrior (150 XP), and since there’s 4 of them you drop the CR of the set by by one step (100 XP for four minions, so 25 XP per minion). Nine minion cultists would cost 225 XP, but 9 more minions makes that a lot of minions, so it’s best to reduce it to 5 minions and give the cult a minor terrain advantage worth CR 1/3 (100 XP) like a plinth or balconies to fire from.

So one evil cleric, four skeletons, five cultists, and a minor terrain advantage. That sounds like a pretty major encounter for a level 1 party to me. However, realize that Area-of-Effect effects (like a burning hands spell or gun) can wipe out swaths of minions all at once. The Reflex score of the skeletons is 12 and for the cultists it’s even less. A typical level 1 character can afford a CL1 burning hands gun, which gets a +1 to the effectiveness roll. That means they have a 50% chance of rolling high enough to kill all of the minions caught in the AOE, although you’d still get to roll the Reflex Check for each minion.

Average NPCs

Average NPCs (including NPCs from PC abilities and feats such as intelligent familiars, psicrystals, cohorts, followers, etc.) and creatures that are more important than minions but aren’t really important have stats just like the original creature. Their initiative is 11+mod (is not rolled, but after all PCs/allies on that number, ). They are forbidden from having gestalt levels or optimized builds, might at-best have non-NPC class levels, and use the average array of ability scores as described in its stat block (usually all 10s and 11s, not counting ability score increases from existing Hit Dice and racial bonuses).

Average NPCs, except for NPCs from PC abilities and feats, may optionally have the nonelite array and a single action point if they need to last a while.
The nonelite array is: 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8 (a boost of +2,+2,+0,+0,-1,-2). The nonelite array does not necessarily make a monster better than normal, but it does customize the monster as an individual with strengths and weaknesses compared to a typical member of its race. Be sure to account for ability score increases they’ve already taken from having existing Hit Dice when applying the nonelite array.

Giving an NPC even a single action point may result in situations which look like you just fudged the Target Numbers the players are rolling against. For example, if they hit the NPC on a 15 but then didn’t hit on a 16, they’re going to be suspicious. Regardless of whether you actually fudged the numbers, or whether all you did was have the NPC use a Total Defense Action , action points represent the heroic side of an NPC (or at least, what they perceive as heroism). It’s thematically equivalent to how PCs can spend awesome-marks on each other to give a temporary bonus: the NPC has allies rooting for them too.

Major NPCs

Major NPCs have all the same stats as the original creature (including initiative being 11+mod, but after all PCs/allies on that number), plus the elite array and 2+(0.5xECL) action points. They frequently have gestalt levels and/or an optimized build.
The elite array is: 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8 (a boost of +4,+4,+2,+2,+0,-2). While the monster has one weakness compared to a typical member of its race, it is significantly better overall. Be sure to account for ability score increases they’ve already taken from having existing Hit Dice when applying the elite array.

Additionally, Major NPCs have a semi-hidden reserve of “tension” representing that the powers of the cosmos have invested in their life, their success, or both. Tension has a minimum of zero, starts its initiative at 5, rises 3 at the start of each of its later turns, and caps at 11 (use a D12 where the 12=0). That doesn’t mean they can’t be defeated or killed, but it does mean that they can in the right circumstances break free of restricting effects, auto-succeed when they need to auto-succeed, and recover their other abilities when appropriate. Before a combat, write down two “bypass abilities” and one “signature ability”, and what kinds of actions they are (standard, move, free, etc.).

  • cost 1 tension = get to spend action points on a single extra effect this round
  • cost 4 tension = BYPASS: a unique way to get out of a trap, stall, or other restricting situation which it could reasonably have or have on their person (such as an ally interceding as an immediate action, a regrouping of their minions to put a wall of bodies between them and the PCs, a one-use item of teleportation, a dispelling melee attack destroying an effect by force, force of will allowing a new saving throw with a +2 bonus, etc.)
  • cost 5 tension = auto-succeed (barely) at an attack or ability check or skill check (but not crit confirmation, AC, or a saving throw)
  • cost 8 tension = SIGNATURE: a unique ability that makes this NPC special (such as a breath weapon with a high save DC)
  • cost 10 tension = Strife drops to zero (but not nonlethal damage), or recover 40 in all save points, or bring a fallen ally back into the fight temporarily

A major NPC can only spend tension on their initiative, once per round. The degree of tension available to a major NPC in a fight should have some kind of obvious visual or auditory effect the PCs will notice (such as eldritch lines beginning to glow on the NPC’s skin) so that they can tell that the situation is getting worse for them. An obvious visual or auditory effect should also occur whenever they spend tension. Generally, a major NPC should favor waiting to get their bypass or signature ability back online as soon as possible, and use the other tension abilities only when necessary.

Default NPC Save Points

Adjust the save points of NPCs and monsters to meet the needs of your desired difficulty, but the importance of the enemy should affect the amount of save points you use “by-default”.

Table: Default NPC Save Points
Listed CR Minion NPCs Average NPCs Major NPCs
1 or less 15 + 5×[Base Save Bonus] 15 + 5×[Base Save Bonus] 15 + 5×[Base Save Bonus]
2 15 + 5×[Base Save Bonus] 15 + 5×[Base Save Bonus] 16 + 5×[Base Save Bonus]
3 15 + 5×[Base Save Bonus] 16 + 5×[Base Save Bonus] 17 + 5×[Base Save Bonus]
4 16 + 5×[Base Save Bonus] 18 + 5×[Base Save Bonus] 19 + 5×[Base Save Bonus]
5 17 + 5×[Base Save Bonus] 20 + 5×[Base Save Bonus] 21 + 5×[Base Save Bonus]
6 18 + 5×[Base Save Bonus] 22 + 5×[Base Save Bonus] 24 + 5×[Base Save Bonus]
7 19 + 5×[Base Save Bonus] 24 + 5×[Base Save Bonus] 27 + 5×[Base Save Bonus]
8 21 + 5×[Base Save Bonus] 27 + 5×[Base Save Bonus] 31 + 5×[Base Save Bonus]
9 23 + 5×[Base Save Bonus] 31 + 5×[Base Save Bonus] 35 + 5×[Base Save Bonus]
10 25 + 5×[Base Save Bonus] 35 + 5×[Base Save Bonus] 40 + 5×[Base Save Bonus]
11 27 + 5×[Base Save Bonus] 39 + 5×[Base Save Bonus] 45 + 5×[Base Save Bonus]
12 29 + 5×[Base Save Bonus] 43 + 5×[Base Save Bonus] 50 + 5×[Base Save Bonus]
13 31 + 5×[Base Save Bonus] 48 + 5×[Base Save Bonus] 50 + 5×[Base Save Bonus]
14 34 + 5×[Base Save Bonus] 50 + 5×[Base Save Bonus] 50 + 5×[Base Save Bonus]
15 37 + 5×[Base Save Bonus] 50 + 5×[Base Save Bonus] 50 + 5×[Base Save Bonus]
16 40 + 5×[Base Save Bonus] 50 + 5×[Base Save Bonus] 50 + 5×[Base Save Bonus]
17 43 + 5×[Base Save Bonus] 50 + 5×[Base Save Bonus] 50 + 5×[Base Save Bonus]
18 47 + 5×[Base Save Bonus] 50 + 5×[Base Save Bonus] 50 + 5×[Base Save Bonus]
19 or more 50 + 5×[Base Save Bonus] 50 + 5×[Base Save Bonus] 50 + 5×[Base Save Bonus]
GM’s Note: The math for this is
  1. Determine their Base Save Bonus for each save (subtract Ability Modifiers).
  2. Determine their maximum save points for each save (50 + 5×[Base Save Bonus]).
  3. Estimate their default save points for each save, as given in the table below:
    • For minion-like NPCs/enemies, use 15+(CR×CR/10).
    • For NPCs/enemies of average importance, use 15+(CR×CR/5).
    • For major NPCs/enemies (like bosses), use 15+(CR×CR/4).
    • Finally, for all NPCs/enemies, add an extra 5×[Base Save Bonus].
(The calculated value should not exceed the maximum value.)

NPC Importance

Hyperion Voyages Ternal Ternal