“Less important NPCs, however, can be designed using a sort of shorthand. With this system, once the NPC’s career has been chosen, the referee merely decides whether the NPC is rated as Green, Experienced, Veteran or Elite. This ranking tells the referee what skill level the NPC has in Primary and Secondary skills related to his profession.” – 2300AD Director’s Guide, Game Designers’ Workshop, 1988.
I often need quick-and-dirty NPCs for Savage Worlds games, and this is what I use. It’s derived from the way that NPCs are handled in GDW’s 2300AD game.
The idea is that NPCs have the same die type for any attribute or skill which is appropriate for their role in the scenario. (Use common sense here; a Seasoned soldier probably has Strength d8 and Fighting d8, but Knowledge: Archaeology d8 or Smarts d8 are unlikely.) What about the skills and attributes not appropriate to the NPC’s role? Well, they rarely come into play, so what they are doesn’t matter much, but if you need them, attributes default to d6 (normal human level) and skills to d4-2 (untrained).
NPCs are divided into four “experience classes”, matching the first four ranks for Player Characters:
- Novice NPCs have d6 in relevant attributes and skills. Arcanists (mage, cleric, psion, whatever) have Bolt, Deflection and Healing. Fantasy fighters have leather armour and shortswords.
- Seasoned NPCs have d8. Arcanists add Blast to their powers. Fantasy fighters upgrade to chainmail and longswords.
- Veteran NPCs have d10. Fantasy fighters upgrade to plate armour and greatswords.
- Heroic NPCs have d12.
Add a personality from p. 99 of the rulebook and you’re ready. Curiously, the NPC chances of success with those skill die types match very closely to the 2300AD NPC ratings of Green, Experienced, Veteran and Elite, respectively.
Usually, the bulk of the opposition are Novices, with bosses being Seasoned, and the Big Bad being either Veteran or Heroic. If I want to determine the level of the opposition randomly, I roll a d20: 01-10 Novice, 11-15 Seasoned, 16-19 Veteran, 20 Heroic.
In dungeons, the typical NPC party encountered consists of an arcanist and a group of fighters, usually three. Depending on what I feel like, I might determine their level randomly (as above), or I might say that you find Novice NPCs on the first level of the dungeon, Seasoned on the second, and so on.
Some people think this is a great idea, and some think it’s terrible. I don’t think my players have worked out what’s going on yet, and if or when they do, I don’t think it will be important to them.