Monday, July 16, 2012

NPC interaction in D&D 4E

NPC interaction in Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition

Non-player characters (NPCs) are used for various purposes
in the classic modules like H1: Keep on the Shadowfell and H2: Thunderspire Labyrinth.

Quest givers

Most NPCs that are encountered give the PCs quests to perform
in exchange for a reward.
There are many reasons why quest givers don't perform the quest themselves:
  • not powerful enough
  • more important things to do
  • PCs are better suited for the quest
  • Tricking or manipulating the PCs

This may result in NPCs which are passive and only stand still
in one place being there as quest givers for the PCs.
This play-style is valid choice, especially for a dungeon crawl
However, I like my quest givers to be more active:
  • I usually give them one or more goals related to their quests
  • I give them activities to do or other places to be
  • I try to give them a background, for example by using the Player's Handbook 2 backgrounds.
This implies there is an active world outside of what the PCs
are doing.

Buyers and Sellers

Buyers buy items from PCs at 1/5 of the price.
This is done so that PCs focus on getting money adventuring,
not from trading.
This choice is valid but I like to do the following:
  • Buyers and sellers both use market price as a guideline
  • Players get less gold as treasure
  • Several magic items are for sale, depending on the merchant
    Not every possible magic item in existence is available,
    only a few the merchant can logically create or purchase.
    I usually choose simple magic items that add to skills, defenses or damage rolls.


Like Quest givers, I like antagonists or villains to be more developed and active.
I don't like them waiting at the end of the dungeon performing some ritual.

An excellent resource for giving them more depth is the Villain Workshop.

Combat Encounters

When PCs fight wealthy or influential NPCs, it is expected that
NPCs would use the best magic items they can use.
If NPCs were created like PCs they would be hopelessly outmatched
in higher levels because they lack attack and defense bonuses from magic items.
The Dungeons Master's Guide gives NPCs bonuses depending on their level (inherent bonuses).

It's my opinion that PCs should also have inherent bonuses.
That way, the participants in the world are more alike which makes the world more believable to me.

When the treasure guidelines are being followed, NPCs cannot have
as much magic items on them as the average PC.
I choose it so that only PCs can use many magic items
and NPCs are limited to only a few.


Fourth Edition follows a more gamist style of play.
NPCs exist to support the PCs or to hand out quests.

Personally, I prefer a more simulationist style of play.
This means more active and believable NPCs who often
have their own goals, backstories and similar powers to PCs.

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