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 only one hit point, no action points, and a very tiny number of save points (see below for how many). Their Max HP is still the listed value, but they start combat with 1 HP (and think that they’re fine). They might at-best have a few NPC class levels, but usually have no class levels at all. A missed attack never damages a minion. When a minion is subjected to an effect that allows it to making a saving throw to take only half damage, and it succeeds on the saving throw (even if as a result of its save points), it instead takes no damage.

Minions always deal average (mid-point of the die curve) damage rounded-down.
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 minion is considered to have 1/4 of its normal hit dice (round up to the nearest HD step) for effects that care about how many hit dice something has. 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.

To determine how much minions cost your budget:

  1. Get the CR of the listed version of that creature and use how many of that would fill out your budget as a baseline 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.
  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 a bunch of those minions are the cleric’s commanded undead.
An evil cleric can command any number of undead whose total Hit Dice do not exceed his level. While minions count as only 1/4 their Hit Dice for the purpose of effects which care about that, let’s assume that the remaining 3/4 of the evil cleric’s commanded undead are elsewhere in the complex (and still under the cleric’s command). The remaining minions would have to be other creatures.
Let’s say their commanded undead are two (1/2 HD each) kobold zombie minions and four (1/4 HD each) human warrior skeleton minions.

So far, the total budget spent is…
  • One evil cleric (CR 2, or 600 XP),
  • Two kobold zombie minions (each CR 1/2 normally, CR 1/8 from being minions, or 54 XP together), and
  • Four human warrior skeleton minions (each CR 1/3 normally, so being a minion means each one has even lower CR so together they’re CR 1/3, dropped to CR 1/4 because there’s at least four of them, so 75 XP together),
…for a total of 729 XP and we have 171 XP left in the budget to spend on other minions.

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 drops the total CR of the set to 1/3 (100 XP). Having an additional 2 more human warrior minions (bringing the total number of human warrior minions to 6) would be therefore 150 XP, just slightly under budget. Add some minor terrain or location feature to the combat that gives the enemy a slight advantage and you’ve filled out the entire budget. So one evil cleric, two zombies, four skeletons, six cultists, and a neat location. That sounds like a pretty major encounter for a level 1 party to me.
GM’s Note: Yes, CR is kind-of nonsense. It’s a guideline, not a hard rule. In-general, so long as you’re good at preparing your PCs for an encounter by allowing them to find reasonable intel on a major enemy before they fight that enemy, you can often throw crazy nonsense combats at them and the PCs will surprise you.

If that still seems like overkill, you can always make the encounter easier through smart play. Maybe the cleric commanded the undead to “attack anyone not wearing this kind of robe”, pointing to the hooded robe the cultists and cleric are wearing. Depending on how many cultist robes you make available to the party, the party might be wearing some and therefore the undead wouldn’t attack those PCs.

Average NPCs

Average NPCs and creatures that are more important than minions but aren’t really important have stats just like the original creature. 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 (10s and 11s, not counting ability score increases from existing Hit Dice and racial bonuses).

They 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. 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.

Major NPCs

Major NPCs have all the same stats as the original creature, 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. 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.

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

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