Friends & Foes: collection I

Here are ten new D&D 5e non-player characters, none with a challenge rating over 3, presented in the style of MM Appendix B; all built using the system introduced recently in my solo rules. This collection includes a rugged blacksmith, a versatile wizard-for-hire, an unusual ranger, and two historically-inspired warrior archetypes with variants, plus a little more information about the Grey Order!

A summary of my NPC creation system can be found at the end of this article.

Blacksmith

  • Medium humanoid (any race), any alignment
  • AC 12 (sturdy leather apron, boots and gauntlets)
  • HP 11 (2d8 + 2)
  • Speed 30 ft.
  • STR 13 (+1), DEX 12 (+1), CON 13 (+1), INT 10, WIS 10, CHA 9 (-1)
  • Saving throws: Con +3
  • Skills: Animal Handling +2, Smith’s tools +2
  • Senses: passive Perception 10
  • Languages: any one language (usually Common)
  • CR 1/8 (25 XP)
  • Actions
  • Two-weaponed: the smith makes one melee attack with its light hammer and one with its off-hand light hammer, or one ranged attack with its light hammer
  • Light hammer: Melee or ranged weapon attack, +3 to hit, reach 5 ft. or range 20/60 ft., one target. Hit: 3 (1d4+1) bludgeoning damage.
  • Off-hand light hammer: Melee weapon attack, +3 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit 2 (1d4) bludgeoning damage.

Known in equal measure for inexhaustible stamina and gruff manners, the blacksmith plays an essential part in the life of every village. Horseshoes, nails, hinges and hoes might be their ordinary business, but blacksmiths take just as much pride in their craftsmanship as the fanciest guild artisans – and they are a lot tougher.

Journeyman Abjurer

  • Medium humanoid (any race), any non-chaotic alignment
  • AC 11 (14 with mage armor)
  • HP 22 (5d8)
  • Speed 30 ft.
  • STR 10, DEX 13 (+1), CON 11, INT 16 (+3), WIS 12 (+1), CHA 10
  • Skills: Arcana +5, Investigation +5
  • Senses: passive Perception 11
  • Languages: any four languages
  • CR 2 (450 XP)
  • Familiar: the abjurer’s familiar is a raven (celestial)
  • Spellcasting: the abjurer is a 5th-level spellcaster. Its spellcasting ability is Intelligence (spell save DC 13, +5 to hit with spell attacks). The abjurer has the following wizard spells prepared:
    • Cantrips (at will): light, mage hand, prestidigitation, ray of frost
    • 1st level (4 slots): expeditious retreat, mage armor, protection from evil and good, shield
    • 2nd level (3 slots): knock, shatter
    • 3rd level (2 slots): dispel magic, counterspell
    • (Spellbook: alarm, arcane lock, detect magic, find familiar, identify, nystul’s magic aura)
  • Actions
  • Quarterstaff: Melee weapon attack, +2 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 3 (1d6) budgeoning damage, or 4 (1d8) bludgeoning damage if used with two hands

Ordinary folk can sometimes be gravely perplexed by eldritch difficulties, in which case they count themselves lucky if a journeyman abjurer is passing through or has set up shop in a nearby town. These investigators of the weird and solvers of arcane conundrums are often found wandering the world as wizards-for-hire: whether pursuing their own agenda or serving a greater good, they are part of normality’s bulwark against untamed chaos.

Horse Warden

  • Medium humanoid (any race), any alignment
  • AC 12 (studded leather)
  • HP 33 (6d8 + 6)
  • Speed 30 ft.
  • STR 13 (+1), DEX 11, CON 13 (+1), INT 10, WIS 15 (+2), CHA 10
  • Skills: Animal Handling +4, Nature +2, Perception +4, Survival +4
  • Senses: passive Perception 14
  • Languages: any one language (usually Common)
  • CR 1 (200 XP)
  • Spellcasting: the warden is a 2nd-level spellcaster. Its spellcasting ability is Wisdom (spell save DC 12, +4 to hit with spell attacks). The warden knows the following ranger spells:
    • 1st level (2 slots): animal friendship, hunter’s mark
  • Actions
  • Multiattack: the warden makes two melee attacks or two ranged attacks
  • Spear: Melee or ranged weapon attack, +3 to hit, reach 5 ft. or range 20/60 ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d6+1) piercing damage, or 5 (1d8+1) piercing damage if used in melee with two hands
  • Javelin: Ranged or melee weapon attack, +3 to hit, reach 5 ft. or range 30/120 ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d6+1) piercing damage

A horse warden protects the hunting preserves of wilderness settlements or noble landowners, and is usually also responsible for the care and training of the horses ridden by hunters. If encountered outdoors, a horse warden will almost always be mounted on a riding horse (MM 336) and often accompanied by 1d4 trained mastiffs (MM 332).

Nomadic Archer

  • Medium humanoid (any race), any alignment
  • AC 12
  • HP 11 (2d8 + 2)
  • Speed 30 ft.
  • STR 10, DEX 14 (+2), CON 13 (+1), INT 9 (-1), WIS 11, CHA 9 (-1)
  • Skills: Animal Handling +2, Survival +2
  • Senses: passive Perception 11
  • Languages: any one language
  • CR 1/8 (25 XP)
  • Born in the Saddle: while mounted, the archer has advantage on any Dexterity saving throws to avoid being dismounted. The archer also gains the benefit of a military saddle (PHB 155) regardles of the type of horse tack used.
  • Actions
  • Whip: Melee weapon attack, +4 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d4+2) slashing damage.
  • Shortbow: Ranged weapon attack, +4 to hit, range 80/320, one target. Hit: 5 (1d6+2) piercing damage.

Nomadic archers roam the great plains and grassy steppes on horseback, herding their livestock, hunting wild game and feuding with other tribes. Every now and then, a great leader is able to unite them and a nigh-unstoppable horde will descend on civilisation. A nomadic archer’s typical mount is a breed of hardy and somewhat bad-tempered pony (cost 30 gp, see PHB 157) which has the statistics of a mule (MM 333).

Mercenary Archer

  • Medium humanoid (any race), any alignment
  • AC 18 (scale mail, shield)
  • HP 32 (5d8 + 10)
  • Speed 30 ft.
  • STR 10, DEX 15 (+2), CON 14 (+2), INT 10, WIS 12 (+1), CHA 9 (-1)
  • Skills: Animal Handling +3, Intimidation +1, Survival +3
  • Senses: passive Perception 11
  • Languages: any two languages
  • CR 1 (200 XP)
  • Born in the Saddle: while mounted, the archer has advantage on any Dexterity saving throws to avoid being dismounted. The archer also gains the benefit of a military saddle (PHB 155) regardles of the type of horse tack used.
  • Actions
  • Multiattack: the archer makes two melee attacks or two ranged attacks
  • Scimitar: Melee weapon attack, +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d6+2) slashing damage.
  • Composite warbow (as longbow, but does not have the heavy property): Ranged weapon attack, +4 to hit, range 150/600, one target. Hit: 7 (1d8+2) piercing damage.

Some nomadic archers seek fortune and glory far from the wide ranges of their birth, and in time become mercenary archers. Deadly shots, in good armour and mounted on barded warhorses (MM 340), these cunning warriors are a potent threat on any battlefield; they also find ready employment in the household guard of mighty rulers or the police forces of wealthy cities.

Skirmisher

  • Medium humanoid (any race), any alignment
  • AC 13 (shield)
  • HP 9 (2d8)
  • Speed 30 ft.
  • STR 14 (+2), DEX 13 (+1), CON 11, INT 9 (-1), WIS 10, CHA 9 (-1)
  • Skills: Athletics +4, Stealth +3
  • Senses: passive Perception 10
  • Languages: any one language (usually Common)
  • CR 1/8 (25 XP)
  • Nimble Escape: the skirmisher can take the Disengage or Hide action as a bonus action on each of its turns.
  • Actions
  • Club: Melee weapon attack, +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d4+2) bludgeoning damage
  • Javelin: Ranged or melee weapon attack, +4 to hit, reach 5 ft. or range 30/120 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d6+2) piercing damage

Perhaps the most widespread of all types of warrior, the skirmisher uses mobility, missiles and persistence to wear foes down before suddenly closing in for the kill. Raids and ambushes are skirmishers’ preferred modes of warfare, and they are most at home in difficult terrain like hills and forests. Nevertheless, skirmishers also play a vital role on more formal battlefields: like a swarm of hornets, they harass and exhaust enemy troops. By using their elusiveness and speed, they avoid retribution and swiftly exploit emerging weaknesses.

Professional Skirmisher

  • Medium humanoid (any race), any alignment
  • AC 15 (hide armor, shield)
  • HP 16 (3d8 + 3)
  • Speed 30 ft.
  • STR 14 (+2), DEX 13 (+1), CON 12 (+1), INT 10, WIS 10, CHA 9 (-1)
  • Skills: Athletics +4, Stealth +3
  • Senses: passive Perception 10
  • Languages: any one language (usually Common)
  • CR 1/2 (100 XP)
  • Ambusher: the skirmisher has advantage on attack rolls against any creature it has surprised.
  • Nimble Escape: the skirmisher can take the Disengage or Hide action as a bonus action on each of its turns.
  • Actions
  • Mace: Melee weapon attack, +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d6+2) piercing damage
  • Javelin: Ranged or melee weapon attack, +4 to hit, reach 5 ft. or range 30/120 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d6+2) piercing damage

Battle-hardened Skirmisher

  • Medium humanoid (any race), any alignment
  • AC 16 (chain shirt, shield)
  • HP 27 (5d8 + 5)
  • Speed 30 ft.
  • STR 14 (+2), DEX 13 (+1), CON 13 (+1), INT 10, WIS 11, CHA 9 (-1)
  • Skills: Athletics +4, Stealth +3
  • Senses: passive Perception 10
  • Languages: any one language (usually Common)
  • CR 1 (200 XP)
  • Ambusher: the skirmisher has advantage on attack rolls against any creature it has surprised.
  • Nimble Escape: the skirmisher can take the Disengage or Hide action as a bonus action on each of its turns.
  • Surprise Attack: if the skirmisher surprises a creature and hits it with an attack during the first round of combat, the target takes an extra 7 (2d6) damage from the attack.
  • Actions
  • Multiattack: the skirmisher makes two melee attacks or two ranged attacks
  • War pick: Melee weapon attack, +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d8+2) piercing damage
  • Javelin: Ranged or melee weapon attack, +4 to hit, reach 5 ft. or range 30/120 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d6+2) piercing damage

At the end of my article on solo play I introduced the enigmatic Grey Order with two examples of how to use the NPC creation system: the swordmage, at the rank of apprentice-at-arms, and the sergeant, a half-orc soldier. Here are two more, relatively senior, members of the Order.

Grey Order Knight-Scholar

  • Medium humanoid (human), lawful neutral
  • AC 16 (adamantine breastplate)
  • HP 52 (8d8 + 16)
  • Speed 30 ft.
  • STR 10, DEX 14 (+2), CON 14 (+2), INT 16 (+3), WIS 11, CHA 11
  • Saving throws: Con +5
  • Skills: Acrobatics +5, Arcana +6, History +6, Stealth +5
  • Senses: passive Perception 10
  • Languages: Common, Elvish and Orc
  • CR 3 (700 XP)
  • Familiar: the knight-scholar’s familiar is an owl (celestial)
  • Nimble Escape: the knight-scholar can take the Disengage or Hide action as a bonus action on each of its turns.
  • Spellcasting: the knight-scholar is a 3rd-level spellcaster. Its spellcasting ability is Intelligence (spell save DC 14, +6 to hit with spell attacks). The knight-scholar has the following wizard spells prepared:
    • Cantrips (at will): fire bolt, shocking grasp, true strike
    • 1st level (4 slots): false life, magic missileshield
    • 2nd level (2 slots): magic weapon, scorching ray, shatter
    • (Spellbook: burning handsdetect magic, find familiar, fog cloud, longstrider, thunderwave)
  • Actions
  • Multiattack: the knight-scholar makes two melee attacks
  • Greyblade (a silvered rapier): Melee weapon attack, +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d8+2) piercing damage
  • Reactions
  • Parry: the knight-scholar adds 3 to its AC against one melee attack that would hit it. To do so, the knight-scholar must see the attacker and be wielding a melee weapon.

The Grey Order ensures that ample magical instruction is made available to advanced swordmages, who can access the fortress-academy’s renowned library in order to copy additional spells into their personal spellbooks. Consequently, this knight-scholar has added the find familiar and shatter spells to its repertoire.

Grey Order Centenar-Sergeant

  • Medium humanoid (half-orc), neutral
  • AC 17 (breastplate, shield)
  • HP 44 (8d8 + 8)
  • Speed: 30 ft.
  • STR 14 (+2), DEX 12 (+1), CON 13 (+1), INT 8 (-1), WIS 12 (+1), CHA 10
  • Saving throws: Wis +3
  • Skills: Athletics +4, Intimidation +2, Stealth + 3, Survival +3
  • Senses: darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 11
  • Languages: Common and Orc
  • CR 2 (450 XP)
  • Pack Tactics: the centenar has advantage on an attack roll against a creature if at least one of the centenar’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 centenar takes 10 damage or less that would reduce it to 0 hit points, it is reduced to 1 hit point instead
  • Actions
  • Multiattack: the centenar makes two melee attacks or two ranged attacks
  • Demiglaive (a battleaxe): Melee weapon attack, +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d8+2) slashing damage, or 7 (1d10+2) slashing damage if used with two hands
  • Javelin: Ranged or melee weapon attack, +4 to hit, range 30/120 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d6+2) piercing damage
  • Leadership (recharges after a short or long rest): for 1 minute, the centenar can utter a special command or warning whenever a non-hostile creature that it can see within 30 ft. of it makes an attack roll or a saving throw. The creature can add 1d4 to its roll provided it can understand the centenar. A creature can benefit from only one Leadership die at a time. This effect ends if the centenar is incapacitated.

The Grey Order centenar-sergeant, usually just called ‘centenar’, is the commander of a company of around 100 sergeants. A more junior officer, in charge of a file of about 20 sergeants, is called a ‘vintenar’. In practice, most companies have several centenars on their books: they are often detached to escort swordmages on protracted missions far from the fortress-academy, and then a vintenar is promoted to lead the company.

A ‘demiglaive’ is the Grey Order’s term for a one-or-two-handed weapon comprising the head of a glaive mounted on a shortened haft: it is handled more like an axe than a sword, although it has features in common with both. Some rare examples made by the Order are forged from the same silver alloy as the famous greyblades.

Summary of NPC creation system

This easy-to-use NPC creation system is a slightly modified version of the NPC advancement system suggested in my solo rules. Features irrelevant to creating NPCs from scratch have been stripped, and some options which were restricted by the solo rules have been restored. It is intended to help create ‘monster’ statistics for humanoid NPCs with challenge rating no higher than 3: the full class-based PHB system probably ought to be used to properly reflect the capabilities of most characters with higher CRs. More details and examples of use can be found at the end of the original article.

Simply choose a target challenge rating (CR) from the NPC Creation Table (below) and retroactively apply all the relevant advancements to a commoner (MM 345) or similar NPC. Maximums for hit dice and options are already shown, but do remember to take any preceding ability score improvements into account. Note that for CRs of 1/2 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 for CR 1 or CR 2. 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 could probably be doubled.

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

CR 0, commoner: 1 hit die, proficiency bonus is +2 until CR 3

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

CR 1/4: 2 hit dice, 2 options

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

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

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

(CR 1.1/4): 5 hit dice, 4 options

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

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

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

(CR 2.1/4): 7 hit dice, 6 options

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

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

CR 3: 8 hit dice, 8 options, ability score increase, proficiency bonus +3 possible

Maximum: 9 hit dice, 8 options

*Variable ability score increase: this occurs at the CR 1/8 level and is intended to introduce a fun random element, and create the (slim) possibility of producing 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 speedier and 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. The NPCs detailed above are mostly designed using this fixed increase method.

*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, see PHB 189/195 for bonus action and two-weapon fighting) with a melee weapon and/or a non-loading ranged weapon (eg. thrown, shortbow, longbow)
  • one level of spellcasting (eg. 3rd-level spellcasting uses 3 options; for casters like paladin, ranger, eldritch knight, etc. only count the levels at which spellcasting is possible); 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
  • one monster feature from the following list (see also DMG 280-281) –
    • aggressive (per orc, MM 246)
    • ambusher (per kenku, MM 194)
    • brute (per bugbear, MM 33; requires STR 15 or higher)
    • keen hearing and sight (per scout, MM 349)
    • leadership (per knight, MM 347)
    • 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; additional damage is fixed at 2d6)

*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 should not be traded for access to PC feats.

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