Friends & Foes: collection II

Here are ten more new D&D 5e non-player characters, none with a challenge rating over 3, presented in the style of MM Appendix B. This collection includes a quintet of less-than-law-abiding urbanites and a quartet of charismatic spellcasters. Finally, there’s also a glimpse of the Grey Order’s darker edge.

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

Urchin

  • Small humanoid (any race), any non-lawful alignment
  • AC 13
  • HP 6 (2d6)
  • Speed 30 ft.
  • STR 8 (-1), DEX 16 (+3), CON 10, INT 10, WIS 11, CHA 11
  • Skills: Deception +2, Sleight of Hand +5, Stealth +5
  • Senses: passive Perception 10
  • Languages: any one language (usually Common)
  • CR 1/8 (25 XP)
  • Nimble Escape: the urchin can take the Disengage or Hide action as a bonus action on each of its turns.
  • Pack Tactics: the urchin has advantage on an attack roll against a creature if at least one of the urchin’s allies is within 5 feet of the creature and the ally isn’t incapacitated.
  • Actions
  • Dagger: Melee or ranged weapon attack, +5 to hit, reach 5 ft. or range 20/60 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d4+3) piercing damage

Urchins are a common sight in on the streets of most towns, flitting hither-and-thither among the crowds as they run errands, carry messages, pilfer goods and pick pockets. Many are orphans, and some so-called orphanages are merely dormitories for gangs of undersized felons; others are struggling to provide for sick parents or even younger siblings, and crime is the only way they can make money. Most urchins are exploited by cruel or desperate adults who see them as little more than a cheap resource.

Troublemaker

  • Medium humanoid (any race), any non-lawful alignment
  • AC 13 (padded armor)
  • HP 9 (2d8)
  • Speed 30 ft.
  • STR 11, DEX 14 (+2), CON 11, INT 10, WIS 9 (-1), CHA 12 (+1)
  • Skills: Deception +3, Perception +1
  • Senses: passive Perception 11
  • Languages: any one language (usually Common)
  • CR 1/4 (50 XP)
  • Actions
  • Two-weaponed: the troublemaker makes one melee attack with its shortsword and one melee or ranged attack with its dagger
  • Shortsword: Melee weapon attack, +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d6+2) piercing damage
  • Dagger: Melee or ranged weapon attack, +4 to hit, reach 5 ft. or range 20/60 ft., one target. Hit: 2 (1d4) piercing damage, or 4 (1d4+2) piercing damage if the troublemaker has not drawn its shortsword
  • Reactions
  • Parry: the troublemaker adds 2 to its AC against one melee attack that would hit it. To do so, the troublemaker must see the attacker and be wielding a melee weapon.

Resplendent in their fashionable yet cleverly reinforced clothes, troublemakers can be found in almost any town: swaggering down the streets, striking nonchalant poses at corners, or passed out in the gutters. Some are members of apprentice or student societies, others are territorial ruffians, others besides are simply young and adventurous. All are alike in their love of trouble and the ringing clash of sharp steel.

Cardsharp

  • Medium humanoid (any race), any non-lawful alignment
  • AC 11
  • HP 13 (3d8)
  • Speed 30 ft.
  • STR 10, DEX 13 (+1), CON 10, INT 12 (+1), WIS 9 (-1), CHA 15 (+2)
  • Skills: Deception +4, Insight +1, Playing card set +2, Sleight of Hand +3,
  • Senses: passive Perception 9
  • Languages: any one language (usually Common)
  • CR 1/2 (100 XP)
  • Spellcasting: the cardsharp is a 1st-level spellcaster. Its spellcasting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 12, +4 to hit with spell attacks). The cardsharp knows the following sorcerer spells:
    • Cantrips (at will): friendsminor illusion, poison sprayprestidigitation
    • 1st level (2 slots): charm person, disguise self
  • Wild Magic: immediately after the cardsharp casts a sorcerer spell of 1st level or higher, a d20 is rolled. On result of 1, a random magical effect is created using the Wild Magic Surge table (PHB 104, ‘you’ refers to the cardsharp).
  • Actions
  • Dagger: Melee or ranged weapon attack, +3 to hit, reach 5 ft. or range 20/60 ft., one target. Hit: 3 (1d4+1) piercing damage

Some people are touched only slightly by a random ebb of wild magic, but nevertheless gain sorcerous abilities. Many of these are helplessly drawn into ways of life which flirt capriciously with lady luck, or madame fate: among them are cardsharps. Anywhere there is gambling, from the smoky back rooms of seedy taverns to the elegant salons where the wealthy wager fortunes, there is likely to be some obsessive player who seems to win suspiciously easily, only to then lose terribly – and, occasionally, explosively.

Huckster

  • Medium humanoid (any race), any non-lawful alignment
  • AC 14 (studded leather)
  • HP 22 (5d8)
  • Speed 30 ft.
  • STR 11, DEX 15 (+2), CON 10, INT 14 (+2), WIS 11, CHA 11
  • Saving throws: Dex +4
  • Skills: Deception +2, Intimidation +2, Playing card set +2, Sleight of Hand +4, Stealth +4
  • Senses: passive Perception 10
  • Languages: Thieves’ Cant and any one language
  • CR 1 (200 XP)
  • Nimble Escape: the huckster can take the Disengage or Hide action as a bonus action on each of its turns.
  • Spellcasting: the huckster is a 3rd-level spellcaster (arcane trickster). Its spellcasting ability is Intelligence (spell save DC 12, +4 to hit with spell attacks). The huckster knows the following wizard spells:
    • Cantrips (at will): mage hand (invisible, see PHB 98), message, ray of frost
    • 1st level (2 slots): charm person, disguise self, shield
  • Actions
  • Multiattack: the huckster makes two melee attacks or two ranged attacks
  • Rapier: Melee weapon attack, +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d8+2) piercing damage
  • Dagger: Ranged or melee weapon attack, +4 to hit, reach 5 ft. or range 20/60 ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d4+2) piercing damage

‘Never trust a huckster,’ is a common saying in more than one city. Hucksters are found amongst the cheats, pickpockets, muggers, collection agents, smugglers, fences, low-rent assassins and all-around ne’er-do-wells who lurk in the alleys of every town: and each brings the added menace of magic. The combination of arcane abilities and flexible ethics makes a huckster very useful to a criminal enterprise, but it comes with all that pride and ambition for which wizardly folk are notorious. Many guilds and gangs prefer not to recruit hucksters, whose loyalty is always suspect, and many hucksters learn to hide their powers as well as their true motives.

Mountebank

  • Medium humanoid (any race), any non-lawful alignment
  • AC 10
  • HP 22 (4d8 + 4)
  • Speed 30 ft.
  • STR 10, DEX 11, CON 12 (+1), INT 14 (+2), WIS 12 (+1), CHA 13 (+1)
  • Skills: Herbalism kit +2, Deception +3, Forgery kit +2, Persuasion +3, Performance +3
  • Senses: passive Perception 11
  • Languages: any two languages
  • CR 1 (200 XP)
  • Familiar: the mountebank’s familiar is a weasel (fey)
  • Spellcasting: the mountebank is a 3rd-level spellcaster. Its spellcasting ability is Intelligence (spell save DC 12, +4 to hit with spell attacks). The mountebank has the following wizard spells prepared:
    • Cantrips (at will): light, minor illusion, prestidigitation, shocking grasp
    • 1st level (4 slots): charm person, expeditious retreat, shield
    • 2nd level (2 slots): detect thoughts, suggestion
    • (Spellbook: detect magic, disguise self, find familiar, illusory script, unseen servant)
  • 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

Few town squares would feel complete without a mountebank entertaining a small crowd in the hope of selling their dubious wares, and some of these colourful individuals have more than a little arcane talent. Not all mountebanks are mere swindlers and peddlers of cheap tricks: some are spies who have found an ideal disguise, or criminals running some enterprise for their shadowy guild, or even relatively good-natured apocatheries whose remedial concoctions really do work.

Oathbreaker

  • Medium humanoid (any race), any evil alignment
  • AC 17 (splint)
  • HP 38 (7d8 + 7)
  • Speed 30 ft.
  • STR 16 (+3), DEX 11, CON 12 (+1), INT 10, WIS 9 (-1), CHA 15 (+2)
  • Skills: Athletics +5, Intimidation +4
  • Senses: passive Perception 9
  • Languages: any one language
  • CR 2 (450 XP)
  • Spellcasting: the oathbreaker is a 5th-level spellcaster. Its spellcasting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 12, +4 to hit with spell attacks). The oathbreaker has the following paladin spells prepared:
    • 1st level (4 slots): command, compelled duel, hellish rebuke, inflict wounds, searing smite, wrathful smite
    • 2nd level (2 slots): crown of madness, darkness
  • Steed: the oathbreaker’s steed is a warhorse (fiend)
  • Actions
  • Multiattack: the oathbreaker makes two melee attacks or one ranged attack
  • Greataxe: Melee weapon attack, +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 9 (1d12+3) slashing damage
  • Heavy crossbow: Ranged weapon attack, +2 to hit, range 100/400 ft., one target. Hit 5 (1d10) piercing damage

It is likely that, on the battlefield or amidst the unease of peace, a warrior inspired by the divine will eventually meet a challenge which their faith cannot easily overcome. Many falter – and some fall, casting their sacred vows aside. An oathbreaker finds that there is no shortage of sinister forces which delight in betrayal, and richly reward ongoing corruption with heady draughts of dark power.

Wild-witch

  • Medium humanoid (any race), any non-lawful alignment
  • AC 11
  • HP 18 (4d8)
  • Speed 30 ft.
  • STR 10, DEX 12 (+1), CON 11, INT 12 (+1), WIS 9 (-1), CHA 15 (+2)
  • Skills: Deception +4, Nature +3, Perception +1, Persuasion +4
  • Senses: passive Perception 11
  • Languages: any two languages
  • CR 1/2 (100 XP)
  • Spellcasting: the wild-witch is a 2nd-level spellcaster. Its spellcasting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 12, +4 to hit with spell attacks). The wild-witch knows the following warlock spells:
    • Cantrips and Invocations (at will): disguise self, minor illusion, poison spray, speak with animals
    • 1st level (2 slots): charm person, faerie firesleep
  • Actions
  • Dagger: Melee or ranged weapon attack, +3 to hit, reach 5 ft. or range 20/60 ft., one target. Hit: 3 (1d4+1) piercing damage

On occasion, an individual with an overflowing love of wild places and curiousity about wilder things will enter into a pact with one of the strange fey powers, and become a wild-witch. The price of knowledge is freedom: although most wild-witches like to see themselves as carefree students of the magic of the natural world, ultimately they serve an otherworldly, inscrutible and often cruel overlord. A handful of wild-witches make no pretence: they are the eager and vicious tools of truly menacing forces.

Goodwife

  • Medium humanoid (any race), any non-evil alignment
  • AC 10
  • HP 22 (4d8 + 4)
  • Speed 30 ft.
  • STR 10, DEX 11, CON 12 (+1), INT 11, WIS 12 (+1), CHA 14 (+2)
  • Skills: Herbalism kit +2, Insight +3, Medicine +3, Nature +2, Performance +4, Persuasion +4
  • Senses: passive Perception 11
  • Languages: any two languages
  • CR 1/2 (100 XP)
  • Spellcasting: the goodwife is a 2nd-level spellcaster. Its spellcasting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 12, +4 to hit with spell attacks). The goodwife is a singer and does not use a musical instrument as a spellcasting focus. The goodwife knows the following bard spells:
    • Cantrips (at will): friends, vicious mockery
    • 1st level (3 slots): bane, cure wounds, healing word, sleep, unseen servant
  • Actions
  • Sickle: Melee weapon attack, +2 to hit, reach 5ft., one target. Hit: 2 (1d4) slashing damage

Goodwives can be found in many rural communities. They are accomplished healers and gentle mediators who use their soothing songs to help ease the pain and conflict of people’s daily struggle for survival. A goodwife can be male or female, and usually both are known by the same title; in a few places, a male goodwife is referred to as a goodman.

Agent of the Abyss

  • Medium humanoid (any race), any non-lawful non-good alignment
  • AC 12 (leather armor, 14 with mage armor)
  • HP 27 (6d8)
  • Speed 30 ft.
  • STR 14 (+2), DEX 12 (+1), CON 11, INT 12 (+1), WIS 9 (-1), CHA 15 (+2)
  • Saving throws: Cha +5
  • Skills: Arcana +3, Deception +4, Investigation +3, Perception +1, Religion +3
  • Senses: passive Perception 11
  • Languages: any two languages
  • CR 2 (450 XP)
  • Familiar: the agent’s familiar is a quasit (fiend). When the agent takes an attack action, it can forgo one of its attacks to allow its familiar to make make one attack.
  • Magic Resistance: the agent has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects provided its familiar is within 10 feet.
  • Spellcasting: the agent is a 3rd-level spellcaster. Its spellcasting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 12, +4 to hit with spell attacks). The agent knows the following warlock spells:
    • Cantrips and Invocations (at will): detect magic, eldritch blast, friends, mage armor
    • 2nd level (2 slots): command, find familiar, hellish rebuke, invisibility, scorching ray
  • Actions
  • Multiattack: the agent makes two melee attacks
  • Longsword: 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

An agent of the Abyss is a mortal sworn to a pact with a demonic power, and who is often employed to investigate when one of their patron’s innumerable and baroque schemes is in jeopardy. Such agents come in many forms, but most tend have the means to solve problems with both magic and steel: capabilities well-suited, of course, to furthering the agent’s own grandiose ambitions.

Previously, I presented two of the Grey Order’s arcane mercenaries: a junior swordmage and the more senior knight-scholar. Here is an example of a clandestine operative employed by the Order’s notorious Black Chamber.

Black Chamber Knife-Scholar

  • Medium humanoid (human), lawful neutral
  • AC 16 (studded leather, cloak of protection)
  • HP 44 (8d8 + 8)
  • Speed 30 ft.
  • STR 10, DEX 16 (+3), CON 12 (+1), INT 16 (+3), WIS 11, CHA 11
  • Saving throws: Cha +1, Con +5, Dex +7, Int +4, Str +1, Wis +1
  • Skills: Acrobatics +6, Deception +3, Perception +3, Stealth +6
  • Senses: passive Perception 13
  • Languages: Common and Orc
  • CR 3 (700 XP)
  • Assassinate: during its first turn, the knife-scholar has advantage on attack rolls against any creature that hasn’t taken a turn. Any hit the knife-scholar scores against a surprised creature is a critical hit.
  • Familiar: the knife-scholar’s familar is a bat (celestial)
  • Nimble Escape: the knife-scholar can take the Disengage or Hide action as a bonus action on each of its turns.
  • Spellcasting: the knife-scholar is a 3rd-level spellcaster. Its spellcasting ability is Intelligence (spell save DC 14, +6 to hit with spell attacks). The knife-scholar has the following wizard spells prepared:
    • Cantrips (at will): fire bolt, minor illusion, shocking grasp, true strike
    • 1st level (4 slots): disguise self, false life, shield
    • 2nd level (2 slots): darkness, invisibility, spider climb
    • (Spellbook: burning hands, detect magic, find familiar, fog cloud, magic missile, thunderwave)
  • Actions
  • Multiattack: the knife-scholar makes two melee attacks or two ranged attacks
  • Blacknife (a +1 shortsword): Melee weapon attack, +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d6+4) piercing damage
  • Darts: Ranged weapon attack, +6 to hit, reach 5 ft. or range 20/60 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d4+3) piercing damage
  • Reactions
  • Parry: the knife-scholar adds 3 to its AC against one melee attack that would hit it. To do so, the knife-scholar must see the attacker and be wielding a melee weapon.

A knife-scholar is the razor in those deft fingers at the end of the long arm of the Black Chamber. Whereas the Grey Order’s swordmages rarely operate without support, knife-scholars almost always work alone. As well as magical equipment, the Order makes the fortress-academy’s extensive library available to senior adepts: this knife-scholar’s spellbook has been expanded with find familiar and darkness.

The ‘blacknife’ is a shorter version of the Order’s greyblade, enchanted to both increase effectiveness and prevent any reflection of light which might betray the presence of its wielder.

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)
    • grappler (per mimic, MM 220)
    • 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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