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how do you set "level" of NPC?


tgcb

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Something I can't grasp at the moment (among many other things), is how a GM knows how strong/powerful to make an NPC or group of NPC's in order to challenge the players.

Obviously D&D has the concept of levels to do this. In BRP, if you had a group of players and had to whip up a random NPC on the fly....how would you do it? What benchmarks on the players sheets would you go off of?

Thanks for your time!

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Since there are no levels in BRP, I assumed that some monsters will just be easier/harder than others. If I give something extraordinary powers, I'll probably think of some way the PCs can defeat it indirectly, however. Maybe a ghost can be banished by destroying its anchor, etc. I too am interested in what others have to say on this topic, however. :)

You can follow me on Google+ here: https://www.google.com/+PaulVasquezE

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Something I can't grasp at the moment (among many other things), is how a GM knows how strong/powerful to make an NPC or group of NPC's in order to challenge the players.

Obviously D&D has the concept of levels to do this. In BRP, if you had a group of players and had to whip up a random NPC on the fly....how would you do it? What benchmarks on the players sheets would you go off of?

Thanks for your time!

Well, you know the PCs - you can use their stats, powers and skills as your base point. Then adjust up or down. Remember, the way combat, armor, and active defense work in BRP, even weaker NPCs can present quite a challenge. And a mob of NPCs can be outright deadly. So, it isn't as difficult as you would think to present a challenge to your PCs.

Ian

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Something I can't grasp at the moment (among many other things), is how a GM knows how strong/powerful to make an NPC or group of NPC's in order to challenge the players.

My settings are "sandboxes", and like the real world they contain weak, average and

powerful characters and creatures. It is up to the player characters to gather the ne-

cessary informations to decide what they can do or not, when to fight, when to avoid

and when to run. I would dislike a predictable setting where the player characters can

expect to only encounter suitable "challenges" for their "level", this would seem too im-

plausible for my taste.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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You could use something similar to the original Treasure Factor from the original RQ2. You would need to update this to account for other skills and abilities. The TF calculation seems to only focus on combat capability (which overly represents combat masters such as the dwarven axe-berserker, but discriminates against other skills areas, such as the subversive political snake-tongue Krasht worshiper who could decimate your player character group with nothing but a few manipulative words).

The TF would represent a "Threat" or "Capability" Level, which can be used to compare the "levels" (general effectiveness) of Creatures, PCs and NPCs.

A monster gets 1 treasure factor for each of the following (which is used to calculate treasure on an RQ2 treasure table):

  • Each 5 points of hit points or fraction thereof.
  • Each 25% chance to hit, or portion thereof.
  • Each extra die of damage done by the monster.
  • Each point of armor protecting the monster's whole body.
  • Each combat spell possessed by the monster.
  • Each special power of the monster.
  • Each 5 levels of poison potency used by the monster.
  • Each extra attack the monster has.

PS: It is interesting to note how many gems are in the original rules that were lost (and perhaps 'rediscovered' in 'modern' RPGs).

Edited by dragonewt
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My settings are "sandboxes", and like the real world they contain weak, average and

powerful characters and creatures. It is up to the player characters to gather the ne-

cessary informations to decide what they can do or not, when to fight, when to avoid

and when to run. I would dislike a predictable setting where the player characters can

expect to only encounter suitable "challenges" for their "level", this would seem too im-

plausible for my taste.

Not sure how this addresses the question presented...?

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You could use something similar to the original Treasure Factor from the original RQ2. You would need to update this to account for other skills and abilities. The TF calculation seems to only focus on combat capability (which overly represents combat masters such as the dwarven axe-berserker, but discriminates against other skills areas, such as the subversive political snake-tongue Krasht worshiper who could decimate your player character group with nothing but a few manipulative words).

The TF would represent a "Threat" or "Capability" Level, which can be used to compare the "levels" (general effectiveness) of Creatures, PCs and NPCs.

A monster gets 1 treasure factor for each of the following (which is used to calculate treasure on an RQ2 treasure table):

  • Each 5 points of hit points or fraction thereof.
  • Each 25% chance to hit, or portion thereof.
  • Each extra die of damage done by the monster.
  • Each point of armor protecting the monster's whole body.
  • Each combat spell possessed by the monster.
  • Each special power of the monster.
  • Each 5 levels of poison potency used by the monster.
  • Each extra attack the monster has.

PS: It is interesting to note how many gems are in the original rules that were lost (and perhaps 'rediscovered' in 'modern' RPGs).

Very useful, thank you.

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My motto is, when in doubt, aim low. You can always increase the danger by calling in more combatants, adding a complication or changing the circumstances

Typically a PC in one of my games will start off with a combat skill someplace over 100%. Sometimes far over. For random encounters and the like I generally set the NPCs at around 30%. I'll also likely use the Minion rules for this. If I want to bump up the threat level, 30% will increase up to about 60% or so. Then it's an issue of deciding how many combatants are present.

For serious threats, I peg the main big bad at an approximate level of power to the players and give the big bad some backup in the 30% - 60% range. Like all things though, it depends on my mood.

I do think that running a bunch of mock combats will give you a good idea of how you should peg combat to meet your needs.

70/420

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I'm certainly no expert, but I've found this web site helpful:

CoCCG - Call of Cthulhu Creature Generator

It's basically a dice roller for people and critter stats, but the rolls vary among certain ranges: Absolutely Pathetic, Worthless, Lame, Lousy, Average, Awesome, Fantastic, Mighty, Out of This World. And you can generate up to 100 examples of a particular type of NPC in your chosen power range. For, say, teenagers (nothing special but young and healthy) I'd use Average. A competent adult might be Awesome, while an action movie star might be Awesome or Fantastic. Superheroes will tend to be Fantastic or Mighty. Competent goons would be Average, while cannon fodder minions might be Lousy or Lame.

As Chaot says, I use the skill level of starting player-characters to judge how competent an NPC should be. A typical starting PC has 250 skill points, giving him two or three abilities he's pretty good in (50% or more), but most averaging around 30-35%. A Big Bad might have 500 skill points, just like a starting superhero. A competent opponent would have 250 like the PCs. Minions might have a small number of skills in the 25-40% range.

Using both of these methods for (for example) a lion, you could come up with opponents ranging from Oz's Cowardly Lion to Narnia's Aslan while still adhering to BRP's standard characteristics rolls.

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As you can see Matt, there are a number of different approaches. In running a Super Hero campaign I tend to build the villians around the power levels of the players (if most do 3D6 damage with attacks then so do the villians they face, if most do 4D6, then so do the villians they face, and so on). What powers everyone has is also a key factor. If you can fly for example, there are many situations that will be very easy to deal with, but would challenge a hero that can't fly.

The main thing with most BRP games is that the characters will seldom become so powerful that they are immune to "normal human" attacks. Almost any fight can be deadly. Compare that to a level system game where a naked 10th level warrior-type could whipe out a village with a rusty dagger and never be in much danger. As was noted above, start low (low attack percentage, low armor, low damage) and you can adjust the challenge. Did they smoke the city guards? Fine, now a couple captains show up leading a group of more experienced guards.

Your players will adjust their play style as they become familiar with BRP, I hope. :)

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I'm certainly no expert, but I've found this web site helpful:

CoCCG - Call of Cthulhu Creature Generator

It's basically a dice roller for people and critter stats, but the rolls vary among certain ranges: Absolutely Pathetic, Worthless, Lame, Lousy, Average, Awesome, Fantastic, Mighty, Out of This World. And you can generate up to 100 examples of a particular type of NPC in your chosen power range. For, say, teenagers (nothing special but young and healthy) I'd use Average. A competent adult might be Awesome, while an action movie star might be Awesome or Fantastic. Superheroes will tend to be Fantastic or Mighty. Competent goons would be Average, while cannon fodder minions might be Lousy or Lame.

As Chaot says, I use the skill level of starting player-characters to judge how competent an NPC should be. A typical starting PC has 250 skill points, giving him two or three abilities he's pretty good in (50% or more), but most averaging around 30-35%. A Big Bad might have 500 skill points, just like a starting superhero. A competent opponent would have 250 like the PCs. Minions might have a small number of skills in the 25-40% range.

Using both of these methods for (for example) a lion, you could come up with opponents ranging from Oz's Cowardly Lion to Narnia's Aslan while still adhering to BRP's standard characteristics rolls.

Thanks for that web site! (Though it doesn't seem to do HP correctly...made 2 "Out of this world" Dwarves and they end up with at most 13 HP no matter what...but will experiment more).

Also thanks to all for the comments so far- hopefully we'll get more.

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Thanks for that web site! (Though it doesn't seem to do HP correctly...made 2 "Out of this world" Dwarves and they end up with at most 13 HP no matter what...but will experiment more).

Also thanks to all for the comments so far- hopefully we'll get more.

It's doing the standard HP = (SIZ + CON) / 2, where CON is getting an 18, but SIZ is only 7 or 8 (due to the dwarf's shortness).

HP being the sum of SIZ and CON is a heroic option. For a Dwarf as set in this generator, SIZ is 1d4+4. Not a typical fantasy dwarf ...

Ian

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For a Dwarf as set in this generator, SIZ is 1d4+4. Not a typical fantasy dwarf ...

Ian

Yes, these are Arthur Machen and Robert Howard dwarves, "Children of the Night," rather than Tolkien-style gem miners. Decadent, depraved Things That Were Once Men but have grown apart from humanity after long separation. Driven from the surface of prehistoric Europe by waves of invaders, they nurse an ancestral hatred of men, retaining their skill with Stone Age weaponry and dark, forgotten arts. Lock up your women and children and don't cross the moor at night (at least not alone) when the powers of evil are exalted.

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Yes, these are Arthur Machen and Robert Howard dwarves, "Children of the Night," rather than Tolkien-style gem miners. Decadent, depraved Things That Were Once Men but have grown apart from humanity after long separation. Driven from the surface of prehistoric Europe by waves of invaders, they nurse an ancestral hatred of men, retaining their skill with Stone Age weaponry and dark, forgotten arts. Lock up your women and children and don't cross the moor at night (at least not alone) when the powers of evil are exalted.

I'm so sick of Tolkien-influenced fantasy RPGs, this makes me happy! Of course, not as happy as I would be to play in a Harryhausen Sinbad world with no elves or dwarves or hobbits...

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But Sinbad movies absolutely have weird mutant people, usually feral descendants of whatever lost civilization he's discovered this time, and these nasty little dire dwarves qualify. Give 'em squad tactics and a shaman with a dirty magical trick or two up his sleeve, and let 'em be recruited as henchmen by your Harryhausenian Big Bad sorcerer. Nothing says "creepy" like horny little man-things drooling over the captive princess.

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Something I can't grasp at the moment (among many other things), is how a GM knows how strong/powerful to make an NPC or group of NPC's in order to challenge the players.

This is actually quite tricky, especially if you want every encounter to be balanced.

Obviously D&D has the concept of levels to do this. In BRP, if you had a group of players and had to whip up a random NPC on the fly....how would you do it? What benchmarks on the players sheets would you go off of?

Treasure Factors could give a very rough level, but I have found them unreliable for this.

In my opinion, a group of organised PCs can take down a smaller group of far more skilled NPCs.

Here is what I do when working out encounters.

1. For one on one encounters, the NPC should be pretty much the same skill, within 20%, with similar levels of armour and magic. Giving more armour will make it more challenging, more magic might make it more challenging depending on the magic, more damage will definitely make it more challenging.

2. For group encounters, NPCs can be within 40% skill, as PCs are capable of absorbing a higher level of differences than a lone PC can. Individual increases in damage/armour/magic might make a slight difference, but not a great deal.

3. For group encounters, being massively outnumbered might pose a problem, unless the foes are made of tissue paper. A 2:1 ratio of NPCs : PCs will be very difficult to beat, unless the PCs get into a position to minimise the numbers attacking them. A 3:2 ratio should be beatable, though, but will be a tough fight.

4. For a group of PCs against a single monster, unless the monster has so much armour that the PCs cannot penetrate it, the PCs are likely to win. Even then, the PCs will struggle on until they score enough critical hits to take it down.

Things that help PCs defeat far stronger opponents:

1. Healing each other

2. Ganging up on opponents - multiple attacks on the opponent, splitting attacks against different PCs

3. Using clever tactics

4. Missile weapons can soften up any opponents before the hand to hand fighting starts

5. Different combinations of spells can be used to a party's advantage

Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 

www.soltakss.com/index.html

Jonstown Compendium author. Find my contributions here

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My settings are "sandboxes", and like the real world they contain weak, average and

powerful characters and creatures. It is up to the player characters to gather the necessary informations to decide what they can do or not, when to fight, when to avoid and when to run. I would dislike a predictable setting where the player characters can

expect to only encounter suitable "challenges" for their "level", this would seem too implausible for my taste.

While I appreciate the guidelines various people have given - very useful in knowing how hard an encounter might be from a combat pov - I have to agree with rust on the general point. You can't only give PCs encounters that they can beat! Sometimes they MUST have things that scream RUN AWAY! otherwise they don't need to think and will get into 'combat autopilot mode'. Whatever sums you use surely you must from time to time, give something outrageous to the party (with suitable prompts/hints beforehand and options to get away).

I also agree with Chaot. You can always add one or two 'latecomers' to a fight to add a bit of pressure to the situation. My players groan when they see figures they have killed being fed back in as 'another three guards have heard the clamour and rushed to help their comrades'. As long as they still have the option to run it's still good. I quite like skirmishes that turn into full on battles by degrees. It has happened countless times in real life.

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While I appreciate the guidelines various people have given - very useful in knowing how hard an encounter might be from a combat pov - I have to agree with rust on the general point. You can't only give PCs encounters that they can beat! Sometimes they MUST have things that scream RUN AWAY! otherwise they don't need to think and will get into 'combat autopilot mode'. Whatever sums you use surely you must from time to time, give something outrageous to the party (with suitable prompts/hints beforehand and options to get away).

The thing is, though, that you are telling others the one, true way to play, when in fact there is none. Besides, nothing in the original question says we only want to give PCs a challenge they can defeat. That's a conclusion you and "rust" seem to have jumped to on your own. Not sure why.

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Treasure Factor or Threat Rating can be used to determine the approximate threat (the "level") of a LONE creature (which is what I suspect is the basis of your question).

Again, the threat depends on the context of a conflict - Eg: purely physical combat (with or without battle magic), or social conflict, etc...

So you could use a method that calculates based on the context (only accounting for abilities that are relevant to a given type of conflict - and have a short-cut of one for Combat, and maybe one for Pure Magic, and one for Social).

If you take into account group dynamics and strategy (and overall Group Threat Rating), then you would need to scale the TR accordingly (almost similar to increasing the threat rating per extra attack).

This could be a multiplier, or some kind of ratio. Such that 4 times the number of a given enemy might equate to about 8 times the Threat Rating, and 8 times the enemy would be maybe 24 times. However you would need to adjust this based on play-testing.

You could also multiply the TR for Group Morale, Commander Tactics and (for those who want this detail) effectiveness of communication for a commander to communicate requests and for the troops to understand them (player strategy could involve things like disrupting communications, killing a standard bearer, "sending someone in to negotiate", etc...).

This would provide a rough tool-kit for obtaining an estimate "level" per creature (for a given types of conflicts), and way to account for multiple entities (groups of a given dynamic).

Again, some GMs instinctively do this in their head based on feel. However, if the metrics were formalized, you might end up with something such as this.

PS: You would also need to account for how many individuals in a group can bring their attack to bear on single target (for "normal" circumstances). This would be a contextual TR against a given target.

Edited by dragonewt
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The thing is, though, that you are telling others the one, true way to play, when in fact there is none. Besides, nothing in the original question says we only want to give PCs a challenge they can defeat. That's a conclusion you and "rust" seem to have jumped to on your own. Not sure why.

I am definitely NOT telling anybody how they MUST play! I am suggesting that a 'system' that gives encounters based on the party stats will have consequences to gameplay if your players know about it. If a 'system' for sizing encounters helps you I'm fine. I prefer leaving the door open for encounters that break the 'system'

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While I appreciate the guidelines various people have given - very useful in knowing how hard an encounter might be from a combat pov - I have to agree with rust on the general point. You can't only give PCs encounters that they can beat!

In my experience, there is very little that a determined and well-organised party of PCs cannot defeat. Perhaps not the first time, or the second time, but eventually the PCs will come back and defeat the foe.

Sometimes they MUST have things that scream RUN AWAY! otherwise they don't need to think and will get into 'combat autopilot mode'.

Combat autopilot mode is something that a lot of parties fall into. It is very dangerous. The way to beat it is not to put a hideous undefeatable foe against them but to give their kill-crazy actions consequences. If it makes them outlaws or puts them in peril then that should work.

Whatever sums you use surely you must from time to time, give something outrageous to the party (with suitable prompts/hints beforehand and options to get away).

Ha!

Suitable prompts beforehand do not always work, believe me.

I ran a scenario where the PCs went against a group of vampires, led by Uzarl, a Mistress Race Troll Vampire who was several centuries old and who the NPCs in the campaign repeatedly warned the PCs against engaging. One Dark Troll PC was late to the party and missed all the warnings, so when he encountered Uzarl, he was so indignant and furious that such a thing could exist that he went hand to hand with her. The first thing they did was Sever Spirit each other and both died and came back with Divine Intervention, then they killed each other with Fear and Basilisk Gaze, and their allies used stored Divine Intervention to come back, then they fought hand to hand and used pretty much all their traded/drained healing magic to survive, before he killed her. The funny thing is that I designed Uzarl to be able to defeat the party of Rune Lords single handedly, yet a single very determined PC defeated her.

I also had a recurring NPC, a Giant Broo, that lasted approximately 3 SRs in combat with the PCs, as they were so terrified of him that they instantly killed him on sight. I couldn't work out why they were so scared of him as he had never posed a threat, but they continued to be terrified of him throughout the campaign, no matter how many times he turned up and no matter how many times they killed him.

In summary, no matter how gross you make an NPC, the PCs will always find a way of killing him/her.

Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 

www.soltakss.com/index.html

Jonstown Compendium author. Find my contributions here

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In summary, no matter how gross you make an NPC, the PCs will always find a way of killing him/her.

It depends a lot on a campaign's degree of player character script immunity.

For example, in my campaigns this degree is rather low, death tends to be

permanent, and as a result those player characters who decide to fight a

too dangerous opponent are usually killed, without any second chance to

fight the same enemy again with a better battle plan.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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