Solo, but never alone

In the context of roleplaying games, ‘solo’ can mean two things: that there is only one player, and no DM; or that  there is still one player, but also a DM (or GM, or Referee, or whichever term you prefer) doing a lot of heavy lifting. To follow, some thoughts about flavourfully handling a solo player character.

The DM-less game is really a different beast. It either requires a playbook – the Fighting Fantasy solution – or a really good set of random tables. With the advent of personal computers, both types of game moved very much under the electronic remit and eventually evolved into the modern computer RPG in all its multitude of forms. The solo random-table-crawl is still perfectly doable with pencil and paper, and it is a good engine for testing mechanics or just to keep the dice warm, but whilst nominally roleplaying, without a DM you are only using a small part of the toolkit and getting a correspondingly limited experience.

The solo game with a player and a DM does have the potential to deliver close to the full roleplaying experience, at least as close as you can get without having to deal with troublesome (or wildly creative!) co-players. Most RPGs are designed with a party of at least 4 player characters in mind: this obviously means that drastic measures have to be taken in adventure design to reduce the challenge of fights and adapt non-combat challenges to the capabilities of a single PC. Alternatively, the player or the DM can run additional non-player characters as allies in order to keep a fuller skill set in the game: a simple solution, often used, but not ideal. Either the player has to ‘be’ two or more different characters, or the DM has to find a way of playing the ally NPC(s) which isn’t distorted by the special knowledge the DM has about the game.

Here are two ideas for ways to solo-with-DM which use alternative methods of putting a diverse team at the lone player’s disposal.

1. We are legion

This idea is inspired by two comics that were around a few years ago. In Five Ghosts (by Barbiere and Moonyham), treasure-hunter Fabian Gray is possessed by the spirits of five diverse literary archtypes: the wizard, the vampire, the samurai, the archer and the detective. He is able to channel these spirits’ abilities with reasonable reliability. In Cowboy Ninja Viking (by Lieberman and Rossmo), the ‘hero’ Duncan is a product of a government program which inflicted multiple personality disorder on its subjects, allowing them to be one of three different individuals with different skills. Duncan’s personalities are the titular cowboy, ninja and viking: other agents from the program, now rogue assassins, have different sets. All these characters are completely insane, of course.

In class-based games like D&D, it’s pretty clear seen how ‘channelling ghosts’ or ‘suffering from multiple personalities’ might be used: new mental or magical class features such as specific skills, abilities, spells and so on can be accessed by the PC, whilst the basic attributes of the character would generally remain the same. If the benefits tend towards the powerful, the process should have a cost or an element of risk. Perhaps the channelling is physically stressful, and causes some hit point loss. Perhaps the multiple personalities cannot be controlled: they are selected at random, or a contest of a mental attribute (such as WIS or CHA in a D&D derivative) is necessary for the player character to reassert themselves.

For the game burden of this sort of feature to be kept more manageable than simply running a second PC, the benefits of different ghosts or personalities should be fairly limited: some effective new skills, or a handful of spells, for a short period of time, their use restricted in similar ways to major class powers. The intention is to supplement a lower-level solo PC’s capabilities to help compensate for the lack of a party, not unleash a demigod among mortals.

For example, if helping to build a character similar to Fabian Gray from the Five Ghosts comic as a solo PC in D&D 5e, the DM might suggest that Fabian is a rogue (thief) who can ‘channel’ each of his 5 different ghosts just once before needing to finish a long rest to regain the ability. Each channelling uses a free action, lasts for 3d4 minutes (or until the player stops it) and grants the following additional abilities based on the applicable ghost:

  • the wizard, Fabian gains the Magic Initiate feat (PHB 168) using the warlock spell list (not wizard, it’s just too flexible) but different spells can be selected each time the ghost is channelled, standard spellcasting component rules apply, any concentration breaks when the channelling ends
  • the vampire, Fabian gains the damage resistances, darkvision, regeneration (yep!), spider climb and vampire weaknesses of a Vampire Spawn (MM 298)
  • the samurai, Fabian gains the proficiencies, extra attack and improved critical of a 5th level fighter (champion) with the Defense fighting style (PHB 71-72)
  • the archer, Fabian gains both the Archery fighting style (+2 attack rolls with ranged weapons) and the Sharpshooter feat (PHB 170)
  • the detective, Fabian gains both the Alert and Dungeon Delver feats (PHB 165-166), plus the Ear for Deceit and Eye for Detail features of the rogue (inquisitive) from Unearthed Arcana: Gothic Heroes.

The DM might rule that only one ghost can be channelled at a time, or not: the player might be welcome to channel several or all ghosts simultaneously should ultimate badassery be required!

For additional uncertainty, the DM might also decide that each channelling does not last for a known period, but becomes increasingly unstable: after 1 minute, the player rolls 1d12, and a 1 means the ghost has gone; after another minute has passed, the player rolls again, and a 1 or 2 means the ghost is gone; and so on. Maybe a 12 rolled at any point could mean 2 minutes will pass before the next chanelling check. Perhaps the player could persuade the DM that the PC’s wisdom modifier could be used to adjust the result of chanelling checks; or that the PC has heard that ‘the dreamstone’, a magical artifact created to aid ghost channellers (it grants advantage when rolling channelling checks), is rumoured to be in the possession of the infamous spirit collector, Bilmu Ray.

For extra flavour, a solo PC enhancement idea like this can be played out as a terrible curse. In D&D 5e some mechanics which are related to this idea already exist for PCs with lycanthropy (MM 207): indeed, a solo PC from a physically weaker class can be buffed, with extra roleplaying potential, simply by suffering a werewhatever’s bite. An even darker-hued setting could use an occult version of multiple personalities. The player character is ‘possessed’ by several malign entities which they generally keep under tight control: at cost or with risk, they could release their control and gain new, fiendish abilities including physical changes with dramatic game effects such as wings or a shadow form. Rather than supplement the PC’s base abilities, some of these effects might partially replace them during an ‘unleashing’.

If the ability-broadening approach doesn’t suit at all, perhaps when tackling a more combat oriented adventure, the DM could go so far as to allow a solo PC a ‘Hulk out’ ability. For example, in D&D 5e, the druid’s Wild Shape rules (PHB 66-67) could be adapted to create a warlock whose warped pact means that they are metaphysically bonded with a powerful fiend: at a steep price such as exhaustion, hit point loss and/or temporary insanity, the player could assume the shape of a Barlgura (MM 56). I think a more limited version of this would be fun as a standard warlock feature in non-solo play, ask your DM about it today!

I have recently become aware that Pathfinder’s Occult Adventures includes a medium class which can channel various archetypes in a similar manner to my proposal. This is designed for normal group play, of course, but the ideas are quite interesting. Looking at the online reference document, the Pathfinder medium appears to work roughly like this: there are six archetypes (from the mythic adventures supplement, basically near-divine paragons) which can be channelled, each channelling takes an hour-long saence and the effects last an entire day, there are many complications and complicated ways of mitigating some complications (taking on taboos, for instance, which is a cute idea but seems better flavoured for a shaman or more primal spirit channeller).

2. We happy few

This idea owes something to the obscene amount of time I have spent playing Terror from the Deep and, more recently, the revival of XCOM. It proposes a basic system for managing a small party of simplified NPCs who accompany, aid and abet the adventurous solo PC.

Henchmen and hirelings played a bigger role in classical D&D than in recent editions, but using them is an obvious means of increasing the player character’s adapatability and suvivability in solo play. The plan here is that they are not fully-fledged NPCs or secondary PCs, which would defeat the purpose of trying to minimise the workload of running a solo game. Rather, they are handled more like animal companions or tame monsters, and have a light framework of rules to manage them as a group.

This section is more specific to D&D 5e, but hopefully at least conveys the gist of the idea for those who use different systems. In 5e, a character with the noble background can potentially already have retainers (but can’t take them into fight, PHB 136) and some very approximate guidance is given for purchasing sellswords (PHB 159). The DMG is positively discouraging about hirelings (DMG 94) but offers more concrete advice about managing NPC party members (DMG 92-93): it does suggest that these characters be fully ‘played’ rules and roleplaying wise. Which is not the point of this exercise, and hence the homebrew.

Putting the band together

So, the solo PC starts the adventure by gathering their band of misfits and mercenaries (or brave idealists!). Some or all of the band may come directly from a patron or sponsor, or the player may have to trawl the seedier taverns of town (or the local dojos, or the gladiatorial arena, etc.) in order to gather recruits. Ideally, this process will be roleplayed out – there’s a lot of fun here, we’re talking the first hour of The Seven Samurai! – but for speed it could simply be put it place.

Packages: band members come in packages, each comprising at least 2 NPCs from the Monster Manual’s Appendix B (MM 342-350, or other monsters, or scratchbuilt as though monsters according to DMG 273 onwards) with an individual CR value of no more than 3. Each package has a CR price (CRP) and may also have a cash price (a lump sum retainer to hire a, um, retainer). CR prices for packages are 1.25 to 1.5 times the sum of the CRs of their consituent NPCs, tending to be higher if the NPCs are more numerous, skillful or spellcasters. Cash prices are based on a similar rough calculation using the XP value of the NPCs.

The CR price is a balancing mechanic, the cash price is a game world thing. If the scenario incorporates hiring mercenaries, then it applies, but if the PC is gaining helpers in some other way – as rewards, as allies, as hostages, from the noble background (PHB 136), and so on – then the cash prices are irrelevant. The CRP budget should still apply, all being subject to DM discretion, naturally.

Budget: the typical CRP budget should be the same as the PC’s level plus 1. So a 1st-level PC can have a maximum of 2 CRP in their band, a 5th-level PC can have 6 CRP, and so on. This might be less if the adventure is less dangerous than average or well suited to the PC’s own abilities, or more if the adventure is especially dangerous, the PC is unsuited to the challenge (possible merely by being a lower-level spellcaster), or if the player fancies running their own Black Company. This PC level +1 limitation will give a higher-level PC a relatively weaker band, even if the CR 3 limit on individual NPCs is lifted: this is intentional, since over the 10th-level or so there should be very few equivalent adventurers in the game world, and their capabilities should probably be modelled using the full PC system.

There is also a monetary maintenance cost, calculated per diem, which the PC will probably have to meet but which, for convenience, is not due until after the adventure. For simplicity, upkeep for the entire band is 1 gp per day per 10 total maximum HP (round down) and even if a member dies or is dismissed their maintenance is still due in full (it goes to their family, friends or loan shark). On the upside, unless the PC and DM agreed that a different bargain was struck with the band members, all the treasure belongs to the player!

Example packages: some example packages using stat blocks in the 5e Monster Manual (mostly appendix B) follow. This first list is packages which provide basic support, or are well suited to being orc-fodder and ‘funnelled’ down to a few more interesting survivors:

  • ‘A retinue, three retainers’, CRP 1, retain 50 gp (free if noble PC has retainers), 1 noble (Artor, squire), 2 commoners (Shirk and Lurk, dogsbodies)
  • ‘They Who Met In A Tavern, four naïve newbies’, CRP 1, retain 100 gp, 1 bandit (Borin), 1 guard (Mives), 1 tribal warrior (Nocan), 1 commoner (Jones)
  • ‘Evangelist, a missionary, and two devotees’, CRP 1, retain 100 gp, 1 acolyte (Evangelist), 2 cultists (Daisy and Caddisee)
  • ‘Kall, of the wild’, CRP 1, retain 150 gp, 1 scout (Kall), 1 wolf (MM 341, Jack)
  • ‘Roki’s Ruffnecks, four fashionable freebooters (or, at least, cheapbooters)’, CRP 2, retain 300 gp, 1 thug (Roki), 1 scout (Poki), 2 bandits (Hoki and Koki)
  • ‘Samyal Clubb, a private enquiry agent, and assistant’, CRP 2, retain 350 gp, 1 spy (Clubb), 1 guard (Fred)
  • ‘Confessor Crowe and unworthy initiate’, CRP 3, retain 550 gp, 1 priest (Crowe), 1 commoner (Unworthy)
  • ‘Olga Eight-Fingers and Gripe, a total nutter and her mascot’, CRP 3, retain 888 gp or a random trinket (PHB 160), 1 berserker (Olga), 1 acolyte (Gripe)

This second list is stranger and costlier packages, with some capable combatants or unusual members, which can add punch and variety to the band of an ambitious soloist:

  • ‘Hirgad the Orphan, a half-giant, and Bertnor’, CRP 2, retain 300 gp, 1 half-ogre (MM 238, Hirgad; chaotic good alignment), 1 pseudodragon (MM 254, Bertnor)
  • ‘A Grey Order combat team, three reliable mercenaries’, CRP 3, retain 600 gp, 1 Grey Order swordmage, 2 Grey Order sergeants (see Creating NPCs at the very end of this article for stats)
  • ‘Blood Hawk, a flamboyant duellist, and austringer’, CRP 3, retain 650 gp, 1 bandit captain (Blood Hawk), 1 scout (Jess, austringer), 1 blood hawk (MM 319, My Pretty)
  • ‘The Flensers of Hadar, four cultists’, CRP 4, retain with a sacrificial victim (any live sentient humanoid), 1 cult fanatic (Yellow Mask), 3 cultists (Mutters, Squints and Twitches)
  • ‘The Outlanders, four wanderers from the far west’, CRP 4, retain 700 gp, 1 druid (Singing Raven), 3 tribal warriors (Rarely Bathes, Creeping Fox, Smiles Like Sunlight On Snow)
  • ‘Ulrik von Schwerenstein, a freeblade, and cup-bearer’, CRP 4, retain 800 gp, 1 knight (von Schwerenstein), 1 commoner (Kreep, cup-bearer)
  • ‘The Mastiff, a sellsword, and servant’, CRP 5, retain 1000 gp, 1 veteran (The Mastiff), 1 spy (Bob, servant ‘boy’)
  • ‘Rikket and Troog, a gnome and – wait, what is that? A tree?’, CRP 6, retain 1200 gp, 1 druid (gnome, Rikket), 1 awakened tree (MM 317, Troog; huge creature, see PHB 192 for dungeoneering issues)

Filling in details: races and alignments should suit the setting and the PC’s proclivities, and obey any restrictions in the Monster Manual or defined by the DM. Consult the chart of NPC racial features at DMG 282 but do not use it to modify the NPCs’ ability scores unless it is an actual monster (those not marked with asterix on the chart); do apply the racial features such as size, speed, special vision, etc. Note that NPCs in the same package should not have opposed alignments. Every NPC in the band should at least understand a common language, which will probably actually be Common. Don’t forget to change the hit dice if for creatures who are medium size (see MM 7). Hit points can be rolled up for each NPC, not forgetting the CON bonus, or the averages given the stat blocks used instead. Do come up with names (better ones than mine) and maybe a few details for the members of the band, perhaps rolling on the Appearance, Mannerism or Interaction Traits tables (DMG 89-90). The band might all wear a coloured sash, a badge, or even a proper uniform of the player’s devising.

Record keeping: be sure to record the band members and their packages. If using standard stat blocks, then only Name, alignment, HP, spell use, conditions and XP need to be tracked (also, if using a spellbook-based caster, a record of their repertoire will be needed). If using modified stat blocks, or the NPCs gain advancements (see below) then a full record is needed as for any new monster. It should all fit nicely on an index card if you write smallish. You could even draw a picture of your loyal henchperson on the back.

Taking the band on the road

Non-combat play: the packages, not the individual NPCs, are the basic units for determining marching order. Any special abilities relevant to non-combat play can be used just as though the NPCs were independent provided they are accompanied by the PC: but they must still generally move through the world as a package, and at the speed of the slowest member. To speed up play, each package can use use the number of its highest scoring member for passive and active perception tests. At the DM’s discretion, packages may be detached temorarily for mundane tasks or left ‘at base’; even if these are not expected to be dangerous, the DM might randomly check for mishaps and casualties if the adventure or environment make these possible.

Loyalty (DMG 93) needn’t be tracked: the members of the player’s band will follow the PC’s instructions provided they are paid and not asked to do anything gratuitously contrary to their alignments (such as good NPCs ordered to execute prisoners).

Healing and expendables: band NPCs use normal PC rules for healing during rests – their hit dice are shown in the MM stat blocks (monsters have hit dice based on size not class, see DMG 276). They are assumed to have the same number of rations, torches, and similar basic expendables as the solo PC. An initial outfitting of all band members is included in their retaining cost (even if the package was free: they brought the kit with them). NPCs with missile weapons have unlimited ammunition until they roll a miss, then they have 1d6 shots left; if an NPC gives ammunition to another character, then the recipient gets 1d6 pieces and the donor is immediately reduced to 1d6 remaining shots; when buying ammunition for NPCs, 20 pieces is assumed to restore the unlimited status. If using healer’s kit dependency (DMG 266) or if the player chooses to give uncommon expendables such as potions to the band, then these do need to be tracked on an individual basis.

Portage: each humanoid or similar NPC in the band is assumed to have a standard amount of spare weight capacity for luggage (ie. loot) without suffering encumbrance, according to size: small, 20 lbs; medium, 30 lbs; large or larger, 50 lbs. This is tracked as a total, not individually: a band of 4 medium-sized humanoid NPCs has an excess carrying capacity of 120 lb, evenly and handwavingly distributed among them. This may seem low, but it is intended to represent the available volume of carrying receptacles as well as sheer lifting capacity. If the player buys the band one or more pack animals (one mule can carry 420 lb., see PHB 155-157 for rules, MM 333 for stats) then at least one band member will have to stay with the animals during combat; likewise if the band are mounted on riding animals but choose to fight or explore dismounted.

Combat: in combat, each package rolls initiative once, as a group, using the modifiers of the least benefit or worst penalty: the package is only as responsive as its slowest member. When that initiative count occurs, the player chooses the order in which that package’s individual NPCs act. Each NPC is then free to manoeuvre in combat under the control of the player in exactly the same way as the DM would control monsters. (Alternatively, just handle initiative in the normal individual way: it is only a little more overhead, and gives nimbler NPCs a better chance of jumping the gun at the expense of some coordination.)

Morale: band NPCs are subject to basic morale rules. Whenever another member of their package (not the entire band) dies, falls unconscious, or becomes frightened, each other member of that package must pass a DC 13 Wisdom saving throw or become frightened themselves. A fail does not cause any additional test for other members of the package during the same turn. This frightened condition lasts until the NPC becomes unconscious, the combat ends, or they are rallied (see below). Frightened NPCs do not automatically flee (unlike monsters, DMG 273), but it may be prudent for the player to move them to relative safety where their disadvantage is less of a threat and they can attempt to self-rally (see below). A frightened band NPC can use the disengage action. Natural 20s on morale saving throws or rally checks (below) give the recipient the steadfast and reckless monster features (per Bearded Devil and berserker; MM 70, 344) until the end of the combat. Natural 1s on morale saving throws impose the frightened and paralyzed conditions.

Rallying: any other friendly character, NPC or PC, who is within 10 feet and who can be seen by the target, and is not frightened itself, can use one action to attempt to rally a frightened NPC. A successful DC 13 Charisma check by the rallier (if suitably justified or roleplayed, this could be done using the intimidation or persuasion skills) will end the frightened NPC’s condition. Various spell effects may also remove the frightened condition.

Self-rally: the player may opt to move a frightened band member out of line of sight of any enemies and fallen companions, in which case that NPC can repeat their DC 13 Wisdom saving throw as a free action once per turn, and will end their frightened condition if they pass. For the purposes of acting under the frightened condition (PHB 290), the source of a band NPC’s fear is the nearest enemy and/or body of a fallen companion which it can see. Other effects which cause the frightened condition, such as the horrific appearance monster feature (eg. Sea Hag, MM 179) take priority over these morale rules.

Experience: experience points gained during the adventure are distributed evenly between the solo PC and the band – in effect, the entire band earns XP as though it were one single ‘normal’ NPC, gaining 50% of the XP while the PC earns the other 50%. (This is far more advantageous for the solo PC than running ‘full’ NPC party members, who would get equal shares, which is partly compensated for the morale rules in combat and CR 3 cap on recruitment.) Experience points earned by the band are shared out evenly among all surviving members of the band who have intelligence scores of 4 or higher. The DM may also choose to award an individual band NPC some bonus XP if they do something difficult and awesome! If not using advancement (see below) then these XP don’t do anything except provide a basis for converting a band NPC to a proper class-based PC/NPC.

Band reorganisation: at the player’s behest, any Long Rest can be designated as a ‘band reorganisation phase’. If new armour and weapons are available from local vendors or loot, then band NPCs can be reequipped according to the proficiencies implied by their default gear in the Monster Manual: any simple weapons, any armour of the same category or lighter, those with medium or heavy armour are assumed to be proficient with shields too. Equipping a shielded NPC with a two-handed weapon (or using a versatile weapon two-handed) will deprive them of the shield’s benefit while they are wielding that weapon: also remember that it takes one action to sling (‘doff’) a shield in order to, say, use a spear’s versatile property. NPCs are free to dual wield, if not using a two-handed weapon, and gain a bonus attack with an additional melee weapon (if both weapons have the light property) but will not add their ability modifier (STR or DEX) to the damage roll for that attack (as per PCs without special feats). Prior to embarking on an adventure, it can assumed that the player has time for as many reorganisation phases as they like.

Martial weapon proficiencies should be treated a little carefully, although there is no reason why a band NPC couldn’t use a weapon with which they are not proficient if their proficiency bonus (usually +2, for some higher CR NPCs it will be +3) is deducted from their to hit modifier. Perhaps the NPC could even learn proficiency with an unfamiliar weapon by surviving a few fights whilst wielding it. Equipping members of the band with magic items should be approached carefully: at most, I would allow a band NPC with a CR of at least 1 (or 5 hit dice) to use uncommon or rare items which do not require attunement.

Spellcasting NPCs can use the reorganisation phase to prepare different spells to those in their MM stat blocks, obeying all the same restrictions for class, level and ability scores as PCs.

Mandatory reorganisation: there is one mandatory action in a band reorganisation phase. If a package in the band has suffered losses and has only one NPC left, the player has two choices: (a) to dismiss that package, in which case the surviving member immediately leaves the band (their maintenance cost will still be due in full, and don’t forget to redistribute any treasure they’re carrying!); or (b) merge the survivor’s package with another package, in which case the CRP value of the new combined package is that of the highest contributing package, regardless any actual change in CR total. Over time, the CRP of surviving packages can be expected to decrease relative to the capabilities of the NPCs in each package: this partly compensates for the PC level +1 CRP cap on band size. If there is only one surviving NPC in the entire band, then the mandatory dismissal rule is suspended until the player has an opportunity to recruit one or more new packages.

A package which has not taken losses can be dismissed, but cannot be merged: the option to merge is for blood-splattered survivors only. A package cannot be broken up by dismissing single individual NPCs, although a callous player could conceivably bring about the demise of some band members in order to create the opportinity to merge packages.

Spare CRP capacity created by packages being merged or dismissed, or by the solo PC gaining a level, can be filled by recruiting new packages, should the adventure offer an opportunity to do so (which it should).

Extended example of band creation and reorganisation

Hy P. O’Thetical is starting an adventure running a 3rd-level solo PC. Hy has 4 CRP (CR price, PC level +1) to spend on NPC packages for her new band, and 800 gp in the bank. The DM has arranged for a patron NPC to provide one package of support characters at no financial cost to the PC: an acolyte (CR 1/4) and 2 guards (2 x CR 1/8). This package is assigned a cost of 1 CRP, so Hy has 3 CRP remaining (and still has 800 gp). Hy takes her PC to the town square and hires a guide and a porter: one package comprising a scout (CR 1/2) and a commoner, at a cost of 1 CRP and 150 gp. Hy now has 2 CRP and 650 gp left. After some amusing misadventures in the red lantern district, Hy’s PC succeeds in recruiting another package: 2 thugs (2 x CR 1/2) and another commoner, costing 2 CRP and 300 gp. Hy has now spent her CRP budget, and has 350 gp left. The band has 8 members in 3 packages with, since all the recruits are conveniently human, an overall hit point total of 119. The maintenance cost for the band will be 11 gp per day (119/10, rounded down), which is due at the end of the upcoming adventure. Here is Hy’s band of merry henchpersons (imagine that they have been given a semblance of individuality, or at least interesting names):

  • package I – acolyte, guard, guard – CRP  1, cost 0 gp – total HP 31
  • package II – scout, commoner – CRP 1, cost 150 gp – total HP 20
  • package III – thug, thug, commoner – CRP 2, cost 300 gp – total HP 68

Remembering that the cost of basic adventuring gear like rations, torches and so on is included in the initial cost of a package, and seeing as she still has some cash on hand, Hy decides to upgrade some of the NPCs’ equipment. The acolyte has only simple weapon proficiency, and cannot wear armour: Hy spends 27 gp on a shortbow, 20 arrows (enough to qualify for the unlimited-till-miss rule) and a quiver. She also alters the acolyte’s prepared spell list by replacing sanctuary with shield of faith. The two guards are well-equipped already, so Hy just spends 2 gp to buy each of them 2 javelins (4 at 5 sp each). The scout, too, is well-equipped, but seeing as your most useful asset can never have too much armour and the scout has the required proficiency, Hy spends 45 gp on studded leather to improve the scout’s AC to 14. The DM agrees that the scout’s old leather armour was sellable for half its cost, so there’s a 5 gp rebate too! Given the small cost, the DM also handwaves giving the commoner in package II a quarterstaff instead of a club. The front rank of Hy’s band will likely be the two thugs: neither of them can use a shield or a martial melee weapon, so Hy decides that each will fight two-handed with a spear, costing 2 gp; they keep their maces in case they have to throw their spears. Although Hy has only spent 71 gp so far, she decides not to buy studded leather armour for the thugs. On a whim, she does equip the commoner in package III with a pair of handaxes, bringing the total expenditure to 81 gp. None of these modifications affect the spare carrying capacity of the band, which is 240 lb. (8 members x 30 lb.).

So, Hy’s heroes set off on their first adventure. It takes three days to march to the sinister, ruined temple of Yeenoghu and the first to die is the commoner from package II, eaten alive by a swarm of spiders. A few hours later, one of the guards falls into a spiked pit and is gruesomely impaled. Gnolls attack. The acolyte does sterling work curing the wounds taken by one of the thugs in a nasty skirmish around the gore-splashed trap, but that same brave thug succumbs to a brace of crimson arrows shot by the retreating pack lord. As dusk approaches, Hy decides it is time for a Long Rest and a much needed band reorganisation phase. Because the scout is now the sole survivor of package II, it must be dismissed or merged with another package: Hy is mindful of the band’s (somewhat compressed) order of march and moves the scout to package I. Both the source and target packages have a CRP of 1, so package I’s CRP is unchanged. Package II is dissolved, and having sustained 3 fatalities in 4 days of adventuring, Hy’s band now looks like this:

  • package I – scout, acolyte, guard – CRP 1
  • package II – (merged with package I)
  • package III – thug, commoner – CRP 2

The pooled carrying capacity of the band is now only 150 lb., but that doesn’t matter because they haven’t found any treasure yet anyway. Both the scout and the acolyte are down to their last fistful of arrows, and neither knows how to use the dead thug’s heavy crossbow properly. Nobody is more astonished than the surviving commoner that there is a surviving commoner. After a jittery night, when the remaining thug spent two hours on watch muttering and making a necklace of gnolls’ ears, the player character leads the band forth at dawn to seek revenge on the pack lord and his foul kin…

Advancement (building a better band)

Some kind of advancement for band NPCs is recommended for fun and flavour, but it is not necessary: the player could merely use band members until they die, are dismissed, are upgraded to ‘full’ PCs or NPCs, or the DM takes them away.

Simple advancement: at the simplest, advancement can be negotiated between the player and DM on a case-by-case basis. As a guideline for judging NPC advancements, a CR 1/4 NPC is roughly equivalent to a 1st level PC, and the ‘level’ of a monster stat block can be determined approximately by deducting 1 from the listed number of hit dice. For example, a scout (MM 349) has 3d8 hit dice, so it is broadly equivalent to a 2nd-level PC (and, indeed, is CR 1/2). Spellcaster levels are sometimes equivalent simply to the number of hit dice. The more special features or abilities a monster has, the less accurate an equivalency of CR 1/4 per PC level becomes, but the hit dice method remains a fairly useful rule of thumb. Although commoners are CR 0, they can be thought of in terms of 2 commoners fighting together being about CR 1/8 in value.

If band NPCs were equivalent to PCs (they’re not, but follow along for the guideline anyway), a band NPC who was recruited as a commoner (1 hit die, or level 0), and now has 300 XP ought to have gained similar features to a CR 1/2 NPC or 2nd-level PC:

  • 3 hit dice (type determined by size, d8 for medium creatures, per DMG 276)
  • 4 or 5 total points of positive ability score modifiers (a new 1st-level PC using the standard ability score array has -1, 0, +1, +1, +2, +2 in modifiers before racial adjustment, for a total of 5 positive modifiers: most NPCs trend a little lower)
  • 2-4 skills with proficiency
  • a monster feature (DMG 280-281) or 2nd-level spellcasting
  • multiattack (twice) and proficiency in one or more martial weapons, if not a pure spellcaster

Example of simple NPC advancement. A battle-tested adventuring band reaches a town, in a game using Train to Gain (DMG 131). The player proposes that they will go into quarters, and the PC will spend a week or two training and equipping the troops: commoners with at least 50 XP could be upgraded to CR 1/8 (2 hit dice) NPCs from MM appendix B (such as bandit or guard; options like cultist, noble or tribal warrior might depend on the PC’s own class or the game’s setting). The NPCs need not be equipped according to their MM entries, but the PC will pay for any new equipment required to enable the NPCs to gain any appropriate new proficiencies. For instance, upgrading to a guard will require some kind of medium armour and a shield. Perhaps a more experienced commoner with 100 XP could become a novice at a local temple, in exchange for a donation to the roof repair fund, and after a time be upgraded to an acolyte (a CR 1/4 NPC with only 2 hit dice, but also spellcasting). The DM might agree to this and set a fair price for the band’s lodging and training, but also determine that the temptations of town life are too much for one randomly chosen member of the band, who gets badly into debt at a gambling den. Will the player abandon this reprobate to their fate, or try to get them out of it?

Systematic advancement: ‘monsters’ aren’t really designed to take advancement systematically, but there is scope for a more structured approach based on the guidelines presented above. This might be especially appropriate for a DM-less solo player who wants to take an evolving band of NPCs on some random dungeon crawls (or lead a hobgoblin warband on a trail of bloody destruction, or a group of thieves through a series of heists, etc.). I specifically avoid a system of NPC classes: my intention is to mesh as closely as possible with what already exists in the core 5e rules, so what I do is use CR as a pseudo-level in order to structure advancements. This has the advantage of allowing more granularity and interest at lower levels because there is no need for the system to scale parallel to PC advancement: the results are characters who lack the powerful features of PC classes, but enjoy much more flexibility. Pathfinder (Core 448 onwards, and the NPC Codex) can be consulted for an example of a more sophisticated class-based NPC structure in the same rules tradition as 5e.

Experience: one important thing to bear in mind is that the entire band of NPCs share 50% of the experience earned by the player: the other half goes to the solo PC, so each band NPC gains XP at much slower pace than the PC. In order for the advancement of band NPCs to remain relevant at higher CRs, the earning rate for advancements shown in the NPC Advancement Table (below) uses a series of stepped increases rather than the logarithmic scale that a PC uses. Note that if we were to convert a band NPC at ‘CR 3’ (21,000 XP earned) to a PC there would be almost enough experience to gain 7th-level: comparison with the stat blocks for knight or veteran (MM 347, 350) suggests that this is reasonably equivalent.

NPC Advancement Table (features marked thus* are explained further below)

0 xp:   CR 0, commoner: 1 hit die, proficiency bonus is +2 until CR 2.1/4

50 xp:   CR 1/8: 2 hit dice, variable ability score increase*, 1 option*

100 xp:   CR 1/4: 2 hit dice, 2 options

300 xp:   CR 1/2: 3 hit dice, 3 options, ability score increase*

700 xp:   (CR 3/4): 4 hit dice, 3 options

1500 xp:   CR 1: 4 hit dice, 4 options, ability score increase

3000 xp:   (CR 1.1/4): 5 hit dice, 4 options, lieutenant*

5000 xp:   (CR 1.1/2): 5 hit dice, 5 options

7000 xp:   (CR 1.3/4): 6 hit dice, 5 options

9000 xp:   CR 2: 6 hit dice, 6 options, ability score increase

12,000 xp:   (CR 2.1/4): 7 hit dice, 6 options, proficiency bonus is +3 until maximum

15,000 xp:   (CR 2.1/2): 7 hit dice, 7 options

18,000 xp:   (CR 2.3/4): 8 hit dice, 7 options

21,000 xp:   CR 3: 8 hit dice, 8 options, ability score increase

25,000 xp:   Maximum: 9 hit dice, 8 options, proficiency bonus +4

*Variable ability score increase: this occurs at the 50 XP level and is intended to introduce a fun random element, and create the (slim) possibility of getting CR 1/8 NPCs with stats approaching those of a noble (MM 348). Roll 1d8 per ability score (ie. roll 1d8 for STR, then 1d8 for DEX, etc.) and consult this list for the result:

  • 1: no increase
  • 2 / 3: +1
  • 4: +1 and a skill
  • 5: +2
  • 6: +2 and a skill
  • 7: +3
  • 8: +3 and roll again, if second roll then +3 and a skill

Where ‘a skill’ is shown above, the NPC gains proficiency in a skill of the player’s choice which is associated with the relevant ability or saving throw proficiency in that ability (eg. the player rolls a 4 for DEX: they add 1 to the NPC’s DEX score, and they can also choose proficiency in their choice of acrobatics, sleight of hand or stealth or proficiency in dexterity saving throws). If the ability is CON then the player can choose any skill, or take proficiency in constitution saving throws.

As a more controllable alternative to the random method shown above, simply perform 4 consecutive ability score increases (see below) and give the character any 2 skill or saving throw proficiencies.

*Option: each option offered by the NPC Advancement Table comprises one benefit from the following list, and cannot be removed or changed once taken:

  • one additional hit die
  • proficiency in all armor, shields, and martial weapons
  • multiattack (2 attacks maximum) with a melee weapon and/or a non-loading ranged weapon (eg. shortbow, longbow)
  • one level of spellcasting (eg. 3rd-level spellcasting uses 3 options) as bard, cleric, druid, sorceror, or wizard (for simplicity, all levels of spellcasting must be taken from the same class and spells chosen from the basic lists in PHB 207 onwards); the NPC’s spellcasting level can never exceed its number of hit dice
  • any combination of 4 proficiencies from this list –
    • a language
    • a skill
    • a saving throw (proficiency in one ability, counts as 2 selections for NPCs at CR 2 or higher)
    • an armor category (light, medium, heavy: these stack, so medium has a pre-requisite of light, etc.)
    • shields
    • a martial weapon
    • a tool (see PHB 154 for tools)
  • one monster feature from the following list –
    • aggressive (per orc, MM 246)
    • ambusher (per kenku, MM 194)
    • keen hearing and sight (per scout, MM 349)
    • martial advantage (per hobgoblin, MM 186; additional damage is fixed at 2d6)
    • nimble escape (per goblin, MM 166)
    • pack tactics (per thug, MM 350)
    • parry (per noble, MM 348; use proficiency bonus to determine added AC)
    • reckless (per berserker, MM 344)
    • relentless (per giant boar, MM 323; damage threshold is fixed at 10)
    • surprise attack (per bugbear, MM 33)

*Ability score increase: this is the same a standard PC ability score increase (ie. +1 to two different abilities or +2 to one ability, maximum score of 20). It cannot be traded for access to PC feats, with one exception: a band NPC may forgo taking an ability score increase and instead take the Healer feat (PHB 167).

*Lieutenant is a special upgrade at the 3000 XP level which can be taken by only one NPC in the entire band. Should the existing lieutenant be dimissed or killed, another band NPC who has at least 3000 XP but has not yet taken the 5000 XP advancement can take the lieutenant upgrade. This can be done even if that NPC has already taken the other advancements at the 3000 XP level. Note that the idea here is to represent a particularly trusted subordinate, so NPCs joining the band with CR over 1 are exempted from gaining this upgrade whilst those recruited at CR 1 must still gain considerable experience before they qualify. The lieutenant upgrade gives the following benefits:

  • +1 WIS or + 1 CHA
  • the Brave attribute and leadership monster feature (both per knight, MM 347)
  • special exception to the rules governing NPC packages – the lieutenant can be separated from and merged with packages at will, although it must still always be a member of a package (if separating the lieutenant leaves a package with only one member, that one member is treated as a survivor and must immediately be merged or dismissed as normal)

Changing CR: the CR of a NPC need only be changed for reference; changing the NPC’s CR has no effect on the CR price (CRP) of the package to which it belongs. CRP is never recalculated as a result of advancement as long as the advancing NPC remains in the player’s band. Theoretically, if the player were to dismiss a much-advanced NPC and then attempt to rehire them, that NPC’s CR would contribute to the new package’s CRP and the player might not have enough budget to rehire that NPC.

Imported NPCs: the NPC Advancement Table will generally produce what appear to be less powerful characters per standard CR value than those available in the Monster Manual, but bear in mind that a CR 1 NPC in the book could in fact equate to a CR 1.3/4 level character from the table. If using the advancement system to develop NPCs imported above the commoner (CR 0) level from MM or elsewhere, simply start them at the appropriate CR (standard CRs are shown in bold in the table) with the assumption that they have earned the minimum XP and taken all the advancements for that level. When applying advancement to an imported NPC, all current hit dice count against the allowed number. For example, a newly recruited scout (CR 1/2) will have to earn 400 XP as part of the player’s band before qualifying for an advancement at 700 XP: at that stage, an NPC would gain 4 hit dice. Since the scout already has 3 hit dice, it will gain only 1 more.

Options work differently: rather than attempting to figure out how many options worth of features an NPC already has, most imported NPCs simply earn all the options for the relevant level and progress normally from that point. However, where a spellcaster’s level is known, that value should be deducted from the number of options earned (for instance, a druid advancing at 12,000 XP should earn 6 options; it is a 4th-level spellcaster, so it gains only 2 new options). In some cases, a NPC already has more hit dice than the Advancement Table would allow: deduct the excess hit dice from the allowed options, as though the options had already been used to buy additional hit dice (for example, a thug advancing to CR 1 already has 5 hit dice although only 4 are allowed; the new level allows 4 options, but one has effectively already been spent, so the thug can only spend 3 more options). Nevertheless, NPCs imported at higher CRs are likely to become significantly more powerful when they gain their first advancement.

Spellcaster advancement: note that the number of spellcasting levels which a NPC has may never, under any circumstances, exceed the number of its hit dice.

Non-humanoids: note that this advancement sytem is designed for humanoid or similar (giant, for example) NPCs. Beasts or real monsters with intelligence scores of 4 and higher can still earn experience points and use the progression method outlined above, but they should only take new hit dice and ability score improvements while ignoring any options. Creatures with intelligence scores of 3 and lower cannot earn experience points and should not be able to gain advancements: if there are any such creatures in the band they are not counted when sharing out experience.

Extended example of systematic NPC advancement

We return to Hy P. O’Thetical’s band of gnoll hunters. On their fifth day of adventuring, they succeeded in finding the pack lord just before it and its minions can complete the blood ritual which would create a deadly Fang of Yeenoghu. In a daring surprise attack, much aided by a brilliant critical hit from the acolyte’s second-last arrow (earning a 50 XP bonus from the DM), the band slay the pack lord and scatter the surviving gnolls. Amazingly, nobody else in the band dies, although the remaining thug is badly hurt by a trap while searching the ruined temple for treasure: about 550 gp 0f coins, gems, and assorted objets d’art are eventually found, plus two unidentified potions and 17 unusual crimson arrows taken from the dead gnoll pack lord’s quiver, and three terrified but mostly uneaten captives. Hy’s PC and her band prudently obliterate the macabre altar to Yeenoghu, and march back to town. After 8 days in the field, the player pays the band 88 gp, and the entire outfit has earned 1600 XP. 800 XP go to Hy’s PC (who is at 3rd level and needs another 1000 XP to reach the 4th level) and 800 XP are distributed evenly among the surviving members of the band (160 XP each). This is the situation:

  • package I – scout (CR 1/2, 300+160=460 xp), acolyte (CR 1/4, 100+50+160=310 xp), guard (CR 1/8, 50+160=210 xp)
  • package III – thug (CR 1/2, 300+160=460 xp), commoner (CR 0, 160 xp)

Neither the scout nor the thug have enough experience to earn advancement (they each need another 240 XP to reach the 700 XP level). However, the other members of the band do qualify for advancement. The commoner, who somehow survived its first adventure armed with two handaxes, can take a double step to the CR 1/4 level and gains 2 hit dice, a variable ability score increase, and 2 options. Hy opts for the randomised variable ability score increase and rolls a series of d8s with the following results: STR 4, DEX 1, CON 2, INT 4, WIS 8 then 5, CHA 1. The commoner’s ability scores are now: STR 11, DEX 10, CON 11, INT 11, WIS 15 (+2), CHA 10. Hy chooses to assign the ‘skill’ for STR to proficiency in strength saving throws, and that for INT to proficiency in investigation. Although she was hoping to develop an axe-throwing skirmisher, Hy sees that these stats are better suited to a wisdom-based spellcaster; with the acolyte also due an advancement (thanks to that 50 XP bonus), Hy decides to spend one of the commoner’s 2 options on 1st-level druid spellcasting rather than duplicate access to the cleric spell list. She selects the cantrips guidance and produce flame, and makes a note that this character will need to prepare 3 1st-level druid spells before embarking on the next adventure. She also decides to call this sort-of-apprentice-druid a ‘wildweaver’. With the wildweaver’s second option, Hy buys the following 4 proficiencies: Druidic language, survival (seems apt), light armour, shields.

The guard can also advance to the CR 1/4 level and will gain 1 option as a result; Hy decides to keep things simple and spend this on an extra hit die. Finally, the acolyte can advance to the CR 1/2 level, and earns an extra hit die, a new option, and an ability score increase. In order to reduce the band’s dependence on magical healing, Hy exercises the choice to trade the ability score increase for the Healer feat (this is the only PC feat which can be used by band NPCs with these rules) and makes a point of buying a couple of healer’s kits (5 gp each, see the chart on PHB 150). The newly-appointed healer’s new option is used to buy 4 proficiencies: wisdom saving throws, medicine, light armour, and shields. All of which leaves Hy’s heroes looking like this:

  • package I – scout (CR 1/2, 16 hp, 460 xp), healer (CR 1/2, 13 hp, 310 xp), guard (CR 1/4, 16 hp, 210 xp) – CRP 1, total HP 45
  • package III – thug (CR 1/2, 32 hp, 460 xp), wildweaver (CR 1/4, 9 hp, 160 xp) – CRP 2, total HP 41

Note that the CRP of the packages remains unchanged even though the sum of package I’s CRs now exceeds 1 and that of package III’s is not even 1. Assuming these characters survive, their later advancements will compensate for this discrepancy.

So, Hy now has 1 CRP and around 750 gp to spend on recruiting new band members. Adventure beckons!

Creating NPCs

The advancement system explained above can be used to create original NPCs to supplement those available in the Monster Manual. There is, for instance, a distinct lack of CR 1 NPCs in the book. Simply choose a target challenge rating from the NPC Advancement Table and retroactively apply all the relevant advancements to a commoner (MM 345) or similar character: maximums for hit dice and options are already shown, but do take any preceding ability score improvements into account. Note that for CRs of 1 and above there are a range of quarter-levels to choose from, allowing for a weaker or stronger character within that CR; taking the features of the 1.1/2 or 2.1/2 levels should give a solid average. In the case of NPCs with 5th-level or better spellcasting, the final CR of characters created using this system will likely be considerably higher than the target CR suggested by the table; if major offensive spells such as fireball are prepared, the character’s CR might be doubled. Also, when creating new NPCs, there is no need to follow the same restrictions on spellcaster class and spells which are suggested for the NPC advancement system.

Example of NPC creation using the advancement system. The DM wants to create a humanoid NPC of average capabilities for Challenge Rating 1, so consults the 1.1/2 row of the NPC Advancement Table. A commoner upgraded to this level gains 5 hit dice, 5 options, and has received a variable ability score increase plus 2 standard ability score increases. To save time, the DM will use the non-random alternative to variable ability score increase: 4 standard ability score increases and 2 skill proficiencies. The proficiency bonus will be +2. The concept for this NPC is ‘a promising young swordmage of the Grey Order’, so the DM emphasises intelligence and dexterity when formulating ability scores. Acrobatics and stealth are selected as the 2 skill proficiencies. The first of the 5 available options is used to buy 4 additional proficiencies: light and medium armor, martial weapon – rapier, and constitution saving throw (for concentration tests). A second option is used to gain multiattack. The third and fourth options are used to gain the nimble escape and parry monster features. The fifth and final option is used for 1st-level wizard spellcasting: the DM will select combat spells, avoiding those which require material components.

The Grey Order swordmage:

  • Medium humanoid (human), lawful neutral
  • AC 16 (breastplate – the Grey Order don’t pinch pennies on protection)
  • HP 27 (5d8 + 5)
  • Speed 30 ft.
  • STR 10, DEX 14 (+2), CON 12 (+1), INT 15 (+2), WIS 10, CHA 11
  • Saving throws: Con +3
  • Skills: Acrobatics +4, Stealth +4
  • Senses: passive Perception 10
  • Languages: Common
  • Challenge: 1 (200 XP)
  • Nimble Escape: the swordmage can take the Disengage or Hide action as a bonus action on each of its turns.
  • Spellcasting: the swordmage is a 1st-level spellcaster. Its spellcasting ability is Intelligence (spell save DC 12, +4 to hit with spell attacks). The swordmage has the following wizard spells prepared:
    • Cantrips (at will): fire bolt, shocking grasp, true strike
    • 1st level (2 slots): burning hands, shield, thunderwave
  • Multiattack: the swordmage makes two melee attacks
  • Greyblade (a silvered rapier): Melee weapon attack, +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d8+2) piercing damage
  • Parry: the swordmage adds 2 to its AC against one melee attack that would hit it. To do so, the swordmage must see the attacker and be wielding a melee weapon.

The ‘greyblade’ is a thrusting sword design specific to the Grey Order: it is forged from an alchemical silver alloy with a distinctive semi-matte finish, and has very simple hilt furniture to faciliate the wielder’s somatic casting.

This Grey Order swordmage might be represented by a 4th-level triple-class player character: fighter 1 (fighting style: duelist), rogue 2 (expertise: acrobatics, stealth), wizard 1. Dexterity and intelligence scores must be at least 13. Fighter is taken first, with acrobatics chosen as one skill, in order to get constitution saving throw proficiency and a nice big hit die. Then two levels of rogue are taken to get stealth, expertise and cunning action (for staying mobile; sneak attack isn’t too shabby either, and works with true strike). Arcane education, chiefly in abjuration and evocation combat magic, then commences: in addition to the spells prepared by the NPC above, a swordmage’s 1st-level spellbook would likely contain false lifefog cloud, and magic missile. At this stage of their career, the swordmage is known as an ‘apprentice-at-arms’.

Continued Order training guides swordmages towards gaining the fighter’s battle master archetype (this emphasis, along with a preference for flexible book-based magic, distinguishes Grey Order adepts from those who favour the path of the eldritch knight); after which the concentration is on spellcasting. Traditionally, a Grey Order swordmage will not keep a familiar until skilled enough to adopt an arcane tradition: owls are a favoured form for familiars, and the overwhelming majority of swordmages specialise in evocation. Having progressed to this stage of their career (7th-level character: fighter 3 / rogue 2 / wizard 2), such a swordmage is known as a ‘knight-scholar’. The War Caster feat (PHB 170) is, of course, the hallmark of any advanced swordmage and could be taken at the 4th or 8th character levels. A few Grey Order adepts develop an especially strong affinity for stealth and infiltration: rumour has it they embrace the assassin archetype and, as members of the Order’s secretive Black Chamber, study the subtleties of illusion and enchantment.

The Grey Order’s fortress-academy is situated in a wilderness of hills and moors. Various semi-nomadic tribes with considerable orcish ancestry roam this wilderness and have historic ties with the Order. It is among these people that most of its non-arcane recruits are found, including the ‘sergeants’ who are trained and equipped to support the swordmages in battle. A typical Grey Order sergeant NPC can be created by applying two levels of advancement and half-orc racial traits to a tribal warrior (MM 350): it will gain a CR of 1/2, 1 more hit die, 3 new options, and an ability score increase; plus the relentless monster feature (substituted for the Relentless Endurance PC trait), darkvision, proficiency in intimidation, and the ability to speak Common and Orc. In the following example, the 3 options are spent on one additional hit die, multiattack, and a set of proficiencies (athletics, stealth, survival, martial weapon – glaive).

The Grey Order sergeant:

  • Medium humanoid (half-orc), neutral
  • AC 14 (chain shirt)
  • HP 22 (4d8 + 4)
  • Speed: 30 ft.
  • STR 14 (+2), DEX 12 (+1), CON 12 (+1), INT 8 (-1), WIS 11, CHA 8 (-1)
  • Skills: Athletics +4, Intimidation +1, Stealth +3, Survival +2
  • Senses: darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 10
  • Languages: Common and Orc
  • Challenge: 1/2 (100 XP)
  • Pack Tactics: the sergeant has advantage on an attack roll against a creature if at least one of the sergeant’s allies is within 5 feet of the creature and the ally isn’t incapacitated.
  • Relentless (recharges after a short or long rest): if the sergeant takes 10 damage or less that would reduce it to 0 hit points, it is reduced to 1 hit point instead.
  • Multiattack: the sergeant makes two melee attacks or two ranged attacks
  • Glaive: Melee weapon attack, +4 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d10+2) slashing damage
  • Shortbow: Ranged weapon attack, +3 to hit, range 80/320 ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d6+1) piercing damage.

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