NPC Stat Blocks

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NPC and monster stat blocks underwent a significant design change in the swap from first edition to second edition. For context, first edition pathfinder was based in the legacy system of dungeons and Dragons 3.5 edition. One of the special aspects of that edition is how it worked to simulate as many ideas as possible. While that provided a rule set for most every situation or monster, the more creative the ideas or hybridization between established class structures added significant complexity.

To keep the simulation consistent player characters, monsters and non-player characters used very similar rules and followed discernable trends. Put in a solid twenty-year legacy of dedicated and creative people and the simulacra style of DnD 3.5 and Pathfinder first edition made many wonderful fans.

A significant counter point to complexity and simulation is that such systems are often barriers for new and less experienced players to enjoy the full suite of what the game had to offer. As inclusivity and shared experiences is part of the core of the Paizo game philosophy, their team used the switch to second edition to move away from complex simulation and untwined the creation principles shared between players, NPCs and monsters.

Their reason for doing so was to open the design space to make monsters more varied and allow NPC characters to provide unique challenges for high level games while not specifically matching player levels. Here is an example.

Let us take a master baker. This person is the most amazing baker in all of Avistan. They will have spent countless hours at their craft. What level should they be? In first edition that baker might have needed to be level 10. To be so awesome at baking his combat power had to match his skill level. In second edition the master baker can be much lower level, maybe level 5 but in baking they can match if not beat level 10 players. Thus, the baker’s combat potential is much lower but still high enough to thwack the level 1 rouge who keeps trying to steal his pastries. Now the NPC represents 2 kinds of challenges, as a combat encounter the master baker is a level 5 challenge with his rolling pin of pain, but in baking his skill is so superb that players must be wary to challenge him in his trade at level 10.

Why does that matter? In one sense it gives GMs the freedom to make challenges for their players in areas outside of combat with citizens the players may have overlooked. In another light this system provides a different take on world simulation. A master baker is likely unable to survive against a well accomplished fighter but can make sweets fit for royalty on command.

There are growing pains in the switch as well. Players use their power to size up the potential of threats arrayed against them. Their stats are their first frame of reference when dealing with the world. If NPCs and Monsters lean to far away from those perceptions, players can feel unnecessarily overwhelmed when the encounter might be simple in nature. GMs have a greater responsibility to telegraph useful information to the players so they can reasonably prepare to respond. Challenges should rarely be unfair towards players. This is a social game after all.

GM Chris

I am the GM and Producer and have been declared a monster and it maybe true. My TTRPGs experience extends back to D&D 3.0 from the year 2000 with periodic bursts of GMing. I enjoys digital TCGs, painting miniatures and dream of setting up the party for tragic yet heroic deaths that will emotionally scar the players until their dying days

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