A quiet month …

Wow.  That has been an interesting month.  A cold followed by a bit of a cough (no, not coronavirus) slowed me down, and a whole series of other bits and pieces as well.  My wife is preparing to start a new job, so we have had all the up and downs of interviews and preparing to leave a long-term employer.  The government have added yet more paperwork for the training providers I work for (Part Time) and that inevitably gets pushed down to me.  However, this is just  …

There was a rant here that I took out  J  But you get the idea!

It has, on the other hand, been a quiet month on the game front.  I spent a few days thinking about building the Rules Website that I spoke about in the last post.  I even went as far as creating a game and a Wiki at RPoL so that I could think about structures and start putting some content together.  It didn’t go well, as I soon realized that I wanted to do a number of different things.

  1. I want to include the rules changes I have used (or have considered) to make my D20 games work faster, or more easily, on RPoL.  Anything that delays a player posting holds the game up.  Effects that run for more than one round, may need tracking over weeks of real time.  There are lots of little tweaks.  (Note:  I run slow games with a once-a-week post rate)
  2. I want the site to only contain ‘Core’ rules, but I also want it to be usable for both Pathfinder and 3.0/3.5e.  So whose core rules?  I suspect that this is not an insurmountable problem – but it is one that I haven’t thought about yet.
  3. I started putting my own tweaks in.  For example, Gnomes haven’t had a strong ‘persona’ across the game’s history, and every new version /publisher that comes along chops them about a bit more. Because of this, Gnomes don’t really feature in games worlds I write, and I found myself writing an article justifying why I wasn’t going to include them as a PC class on the website.  Now this is something I do want to do for my games world site –  but I don’t know that I want to mix the two up together.

So that project has been put on hold and sent back for more consideration.  One day I will learn to separate the three things – either that or I’ll just publish a whole new games system with an integral world …   Well, a man can dream :}

However, there have been some real positives this month.  We recently finished the Kingdom Round and I promised the players that I would start up a couple of pure RP threads for them to play around in.  These are ‘Fuzzy Time’ threads that run alongside the adventure threads.  The PCs are still out adventuring, slaying monsters and exploring deserted strongholds – but they are also doing social / RP things that are outside the normal timeline.  I monitor ‘Fuzzy’ threads, to make sure that they  don’t cross over with the ‘Adventure’ threads, but the players, generally, understand the concept and I don’t have to interfere all that often.  It has  worked really well as a way of letting players develop their characters, without interrupting play.

One thread took a group of  PCs into Restov, where they have been meeting up with their families, shopping and politicking.  That particular group gave been exploring their backstories and (in some cases) forging strong links and relationships between their characters.  A second group took a boat south to explore Jovvox  (Yeah!  Gnomes.  But this is Paizo’s game world, rather than mine) and Mivon.  So far we have got to Jovvox, and we are about to go and have dinner with a gnome merchant.  There are others who have been in the woods trying to catch a thylacine.   They have all been great fun to watch, and they have given me (and the players) an opportunity to understand the characters better.  And the ‘Boat Trip’ thread gave me the opportunity to wheel out one of my favourite NPCs – Helga! 

Helga first appeared in my Kingmaker table-top game, when I needed someone who knew their way about boats and Mivon.  As she was going to be a recurring NPC, she had to have a character sheet of her own, and that meant I could be a  bit more flexible within my own NPC guidelines.  Helga is a Half-Orc commoner, who grew up on the Mivon dockside and finished up working on the docks and as a sailor in The River Kingdoms.  And as everyone knows, River Kingdom sailors are not far short of Pirates ….

Helga is now L5 and has some nice gear for a commoner – including hand-me-down magic items passed on to her from her previous employers. She has a very low charisma, negative mods for Diplomacy and Bluff –  but a decent Intimidate modifier.  As a Ship’s captain she barks at her crew, threatens them –  but is always there alongside them with her Masterwork greataxe (or her Brass Knuckles) if ever they are in trouble.  Her Str and Dex  are high enough that she doesn’t get pushed around by the everyday folks of a city.

But she is great fun to play.  She is never very diplomatic in what she says to her bosses, and tends to tell things as she sees them, rather than prettying them up.  And then she shouts at her crew, and (potentially) anyone else she  is lower down the pecking order than she is.

I like playing Helga!


So far, I have blogged on commoners and experts and now it is the turn of the Warrior!  While commoners are a fantasy world’s labourers, and experts provide specialist skills – warriors are security.  They may well turn into an army during mass combat, but most of the time you use them as city watch, scouts or mercenaries. 

While experts often get their training from family members, military training is the easy to come by.  Towns, cities, militias, armies and even mercenary units are always looking for new recruits and they will take just about anyone who can show some basic aptitude – so there are always a few around when you need them. 

Most of my warriors are built with a standard NPC template (12,12,12,12,12,12) which gives a skill modifier of +1 in all areas, they get one trait, although if I have a warrior who will play a significant role in the game, s/he has their own character sheet and is designed as a ten point build.  Like many of my other NPCs, trained warriors are generally L3 – which means a small patrol is tough enough to deal with most other NPCs and minor countryside threats.  Larger patrols get dispatched to deal with tougher threats, if they are needed.

I use three standard builds.

City Guards

City guards are a visual deterrent to bad behaviour, some walk the streets, others guard the gates and more patrol the walls.  However, they should be visible enough that PC (and the NPCs)  know they are around.  My guards are able to trip people up, if it helps to take offenders into custody however, they will use force if need be and aren’t averse to taking a PC into negative hit-points should it be required.

  • Warrior L3
  • Initiative: +1 Perception +6, Sense Motive +6
  • AC: 15 HP: 30 (3d+9)
  • Fort +4: Ref 1: Will +3
  • Melee: Halberd +4 (d10+1 x3) Brace; Trip| Dagger +4 (d4+1 19-20 x2)
  • Ranged: LXB +4 (d8 19-20 x2) Range 20 | Dagger +4 (d4+1 19-20 x2) Range 10
  • Str:12, Dex:12, Con:12, Wis:12, Int:12, Cha:12 (+1 bonus all abilities)
  • Feats: L1: Toughness (+3hp) , Race: Iron Will (Will save +2), L3 Additional Traits (Suspicious, Eyes & ears of the City)
  • Skills: Climb +3 (+5), Diplomacy +4, Intimidate +5, Perception +7, Profession(Soldier) +5, Sense Motive +7, Swim +3 (+5) | (in brackets – without AC Penalty),
  • Favoured Class: HPx3
  • Gear: Chain Shirt, Halberd, LXB, Dagger, Signal Whistle.


Scouts patrol roads, villages, and  keep an eye any wilderness and are configured for that role.  While they aren’t rangers, they work well in the countryside and can survive, fairly easily, away from home. While they deal with small incursions, their main role is to keep their area safe and make sure that any incursion or risks are reported back. They are set up as missile troops, have survival and stealth skills, but aren’t particularly diplomatic.

  • Warrior L3
  • Initiative: +1 Perception: +6
  • AC: 14 HP: 30 (3d+9)
  • Fort +4: Ref 1: Will +3
  • Melee: Machete +4 (d6+1 19-20 x2) | Dagger +3 (d4+1 19-20 x2)
  • Ranged: Shortbow +4 (d8 20 x3) Range 60 | Dagger +3 (d4+1 19-20 x2) Range 10
  • Str:12, Dex:12, Con:12, Wis:12, Int:12, Cha:12 (+1 bonus all abilities)
  • Feats: L1: Toughness (+3hp) , Race: Iron Will (Will save +2), L3 Additional Traits (Militia veteran (Survival), Eyes & ears of the City)
  • Skills: Climb +5 (+6), Intimidate +5, Perception +7, Profession(Soldier) +5, Ride +5 (+6), Survival +7, Swim +5 (+6) | (in brackets – without AC Penalty),
  • Favoured Class: HPx3
  • Gear: Studded Leather, Short Bow, Machete, Dagger


Mercenaries fit in just about everywhere else, rather than working for the state (city, kingdom etc) they work for individuals.  You might find then riding with a caravan, accompanying a noble, or even guarding a shop somewhere, some will be in regular employment, others take short contracts.  They are the generalists and can turn their hand to anything.

  • Warrior L3
  • Initiative: +1 Perception:
  • AC: 15 HP: 30 (3d10+9)
  • Fort +4: Ref 1: Will +3
  • Melee: Short Sword +5 (d6+1 19-20/x2) | Dagger +4 (d4+1 19-20 x2)
  • Ranged: LXB +4 (d8 19-20 x2) Range 80 | Dagger +4 (d4+1 19-20 x2) Range 10
  • Str:12, Dex:12, Con:12, Wis:12, Int:12, Cha:12 (+1 bonus all abilities)
  • Feats: L1: Toughness (+3hp) , Race: Iron Will (Will save +2), L3 Weapon Focus (Short Sword)
  • Skills: Profession(Soldier) +6, Intimidate +6, Climb+6, Swim +6, Ride +6, Diplomacy +2, Sense Motive +2
  • Favoured Class: HPx3
  • Gear: Studded leather, Light Shield (wooden) Short Sword, Dagger, Light Crossbow.


A few weeks ago, I blogged on commoners, where I said that Commoners were the class that provide the unskilled and, I suppose, semi-skilled labour in my game world. The other NPC classes provide the skilled labour, management and administrative skills that hold the tapestry of civilization together. Warriors, Adepts and Aristocrats cover Defence, Religion and Leadership respectively – the Expert covers everything else.

My ‘standard’ experts are all built with a standard build template of – 12,12,12,12,12,12 – which gives a skill modifier of +1 in all areas. It makes it nice and easy to wing an expert when I need to. If I have an Expert who will play a significant role in the game, s/he has their own character sheet and is designed as a ten point build.

Experts are specialists, they are significantly better at what they do than characters from other classes, even PCs, at equivalent levels, as their whole life is spent working in their ‘chosen’ field. Chosen is a bit of a misnomer, of course, it is the skill that their family passed down to them. That skill is their family heritage – and not to be treated lightly. At first level they use a feat to for Skill Focus and gain the Family Background Trait from my house rules – which gives them big skill bonuses right from the start.

Heads of the ‘Business’ tend to be level three, while lower level experts are considered to be Apprentices or Journeymen. Most Skill Masters are L3, but they can develop to L5 (or even higher) as they get older – however, use those sparingly, as they probably deserve their own character sheet.

If, for example, if a PC walks into a carpentry workshop, they might find :-

  • The Master Cabinetmaker (L3 expert – Skills Craft:Wood 14, Craft:Bows 12, Profession:Merchant 7, Appraise 7 etc) In this case, the main ‘Family Skill’ is work working,  however this cabinet maker has used his L3 Feat to take Craft (Bows) which brings his skills in the second field up to Master Craftsman status. Masterwork tools add another +2 to his skills.
  • Apprentice Cabinetmakers – perhaps 1xL2 & 1xL1 experts with lower skill in the same thing as the master Craftsman. The apprentices do the basic working and shaping under supervision of their master while they, in turn, oversee the labourers. Their skills don’t really matter, as everything is calculated on the Master Craftsman’s skill.
  • Labourers. 3 or 4 commoners all with Craft:Wood skills between 4 and 6 – to carry out the most basic work.

For me, a master craftsman has at least 10 ranks in the appropriate craft skill – that way the NPC can ‘take 10’ and successfully craft the masterwork elements every time. I.e. They can regularly, and reliably, create masterwork items.

As an aside – most of the work in the Craft Workshop is done by the apprentices and labourers.  In this example, the Master Carpenter will choose the wood, specify basic shapes and probably even grain patterns. He might even scribe outlines on the material. Rough blanks are cut out by the labourers, then handed to the apprentices before being turned over to the master craftsman for finishing touches.

The same model works in other areas, in this case – the Legal Profession. If it suits your purposes, you could decide to give them access to a Law library, and increase their Profession:Lawyer skills by an extra +2. These guys probably all have Profession:Scribe (or something similar) as a secondary skill

  • Lawyer (L3 Expert, Profession:Lawyer 12)
  • 2x Legal Assistants (Expert, Profession:Lawyer 8/9) This score only counts if the PC is cheap and decides to have one of the assistants advise him.
  • 4x Clerks (Commoner Profession:Lawyer 1-3) These guys might be available to represent the common people of the town or the city.

In this example I have made the Expert a bit older and a bit more experienced.  Imagine a wheezy old sage working in a small building somewhere in city – he has spent his whole life learning about things … people in particular. Old age = +2 (Wis, Int, Cha), -3 (Str, Dex, Con) – so wheezy and getting infirm. However, enough time has passed that he is a L5 expert and has collected a decent selection of books (which I rule gives a +2 – but takes longer to get an answer).

  • Sage – L5 expert (Knowledge:Geography 17, Knowledge:People 15, Knowledge:Nobility 12, Linguistics 12, Librarian 10, Scribe 10)
  • 1x Apprentice – L2 expert – skills don’t really matter as their job is mainly to keep the library in order, fetch books as needed and listen to their master – this is one of the reason most sages are skilled librarians :}
  • 2x Servants. L2 commoners used to running errands on the sage’s behalf – they have Knowledge:Nobility 1 and Librarian 1, picked up as they have served ‘The master’.

TBH, though, a guy like this probably deserves his own character sheet as an PC worth their salt is liable to be back a few times. He has clearly spent a lifetime researching people of one type or another – he is the person the PCs go to when they want to know about the Humanoid Tribes in a given region, or custom and practice in the local town. He can detail the local Nobility along with whom the PCs need to speak to and then, almost as a side line, translate all those weird runes they found – and all without using magic!


It feels like a long time since I have posted on here, although it is really only a couple of weeks. Since that last post I have re-enacted an English Civil War Battle, been on a Bee Keeping Experience and spent a few days at a music festival! But life is getting back to normal – so another post about NPCs, and this time it is Commoners.

Commoners are the bedrock of a D20 society and make up over half of the NPCs in my games worlds. They provide all the unskilled labour that makes the economy work, and they are everywhere. Typically, you will find commoners working on farms, cutting trees, unloading ships, carrying goods around, cleaning out the stables, acting as servants, working behind a bar, working in the penny store – basically any job that requires minimal training or education is work for a commoner. They are the background – they shouldn’t stand out, and they shouldn’t be memorable. They should just be there, doing what ever needs doing. Because of that, most commoners remain part of the Copper Economy.

My standard commoners have all abilities set to 11. That works out, roughly, to a 5 point build or the equivalent of average abilities (10.5), plus racial bonuses. It is easy, straight forward and means commoners don’t get ability based bonuses on Skill Rolls. If I want a commoner to be different or significant, then I build personalized character sheets for them.

Level 1 Commoners

In my world every character starts out as an L1 Commoner – or at least with the same stats as an L1 commoner. Commoner-1 represents a young person who has just attained adulthood and is ready to make their way in the world (about 15 for a human). They haven’t learned anything useful, but are keen and ready to face the world. These are the guys who work for 1sp per day, doing jobs simple jobs such as cleaning, running errands, delivering messages or holding a PC’s horse OR go on to train in other classes. See my Training and Development post if you want a detailed explanation.

  • Commoner-1,   CR 1/3 ; Init +0
  • STR 11, DEX 11, CON 11, INT 11, WIS 11, CHA 11
  • Saves: Fort +2, Ref +0, Will +0
  • Defence: AC 10; HD (1d6); hp 6;
  • Offence: Club+0 (1d6); Punch +1 (1d3 non-lethal)
  • Skills:  Diplomacy +1, Perception +4, Sense Motive +1;
    (2 for level & 1 for chosen class)
  • Feats:  Endurance, Great Fortitude

They don’t have any traits, feats reflect the simplicity of their life so far, and they don’t have any saleable skills. As such they can be employed for 1sp per day to do unskilled work. They have full HP at level one (I do that with all of my NPCs) and then advance with average HP/level.

I use this basic profile for nearly all commoners regardless of race, gender, creed, background. It is close enough all the characters are all interchangeable background material, as far as the main game is concerned.

Level 2 Commoners

After a year or two, some L1 commoners retrain into a different NPC class, and follow different development paths, but the rest stay as commoners. Eventually, when they are18 or so, they gain enough experience to advance a level.

As a Commoner-2, they have learned some basic skills and can earn more than 1sp a day, if they are lucky. Some might be fortunate enough to have a regular job, such as builder’s labourer, cleaner, bar maid, stevedore or workshop assistant – it might be a part-time job, but it still provides a regular wage. However, many Commoner-2s still work on a casual basis. Sometimes they can pick up a few days semi-skilled work at other times, they might have to take unskilled work, just to keep some money coming in. In the countryside it is a bit different and many commoners are subsistence farmers or small holders – but they still need to take paid work such as farm labourer, road builder or groundsman, so they can pay taxes, rent and fees.

  • Commoner-2,   CR 1/2 ; Init +0
  • STR 11, DEX 11, CON 11, INT 11, WIS 11, CHA 11
  • Saves: Fort +2, Ref +0, Will +0
  • Defence: AC 10; HD (2d6); hp 9;
  • Offence: Club+1 (1d6); Punch +1 (1d3 non-lethal)
  • Skills:  Craft (X) +4, Diplomacy +2, Perception +4, Profession (X) +4, Sense Motive +1
  • Feats:  Endurance, Great Fortitude
  • Trait: See Below

A fairly standard progression with three extra skills added, in this case Diplomacy with generic craft and professional skills. They are all class skills, so they work they give a Skills Modifier of +4. In play, I give them what ever skill I want them to have 🙂 It might be Profession(Farmer) for a smallholder (or farm labourer) or Craft(Cloth) for someone who spins yarn or weaves cloth.

This helps me to keep skill levels consistent across a game. If a village doesn’t have a blacksmith (for example) there is might be someone who has farrier as a ‘second skill’. While they don’t do it full time, they shoe horses and do basic metal work when villagers need it. In this case, a PC might be able to get their chain mail ‘stitched’ back together, get metal spikes made, or a chain repaired. They won’t be able to find someone to make a sword – although the farrier might be able to make a club with nails in. Basically quick and simple fixes / replacements that will work OK until the PC get back to a town and get a proper fix. In reality, this is what I have been doing for years – this just formalizes it 🙂

The one big difference is that they might have a trait – but only if it fits with what I want the NPC to do. Again, this helps me to maintain consistency across the game without doing too much record keeping. Rather than recording everything separately, I just use the ‘standard’ profile with the following ‘add on’ traits.

  • Existing Traits
  • River Rat: +1 Dagger Damage and Swim+1
  • Bully: Intimidate is a class skill and Intimidate+1
  • Convincing Liar: Bluff is a class skill and Bluff+1
  • Criminal 1 : Disable Device is a class skill and Disable Device +1 (Disable Device +4)
  • Criminal 2 : Sleight of Hand is a class skill and +1 on Sleight of Hand (Sleight of Hand +4)  
  • Life of Toil: You gain a +1 trait bonus on Fortitude saves.
  • Poverty Stricken: Survival is a class skill and Survival +1 (Survival +4)
  • Suspicious: Sense Motive is a class skill and Sense Motive +1 (Sense Motive +4)    
  • Miner: Appraise is a class skill and Appraise +1  (Appraise +4)   
  • River Folk: Profession (sailor) +2 and +2 on any skill checks involving ropes
  • Smuggler: Bluff +1 and Sleight of Hand +1 :
  • New Traits
  • Military Auxiliary: Proficient with Light Crossbow & Dagger; Prof(Soldier) +1 (Military Servant / Missile Support)
  • Militia: Proficient with Spear & Darts; Prof(Soldier) +1 (P/T Reserve Soldier / Posse)
  • Watchman: Proficient with Club & Sling; Perception +1
  • Bandit: Proficient with Club & Light Crossbow; Intimidate +1
  • Poacher: Proficient with Dagger & Sling; Survival +1  (Small Game Hunting)
  • Street Guide: Knowledge Local is a class skill and Knowledge(Local)  +1  (Know(Local)  +4)    
  • House Keeper: Craft(Cooking)+1, Craft(Clothing) +1 (This could be a servant or a ‘stay at home’ husband/wife)

Level 3 Commoners

Commoner-3 represents NPCs who have grown into positions of responsibility. They are normally in their thirties and oversee other commoners, perhaps as head smallholder, senior teamster, or some other similar role. They are more perceptive, do their main job a bit better and have basic management and diplomacy skills. These are the guys who make decisions on behalf of their group and keep the commoner world working properly.

  • Commoner-3,   CR 1; Init +0
  • STR 11, DEX 11, CON 11, INT 11, WIS 11, CHA 11
  • Saves: Fort +3, Ref +1, Will +1
  • Defence: AC 10; HD (2d6); hp 13;
  • Offence: Club+1 (1d6); Punch +1 (1d3 non-lethal)
  • Skills:  Craft (X) +4, Diplomacy +3, Perception +6, Profession (X) +5, Profession (Team leader) +4, Sense Motive +3
  • Feats:  Alertness, Endurance, Great Fortitude
  • Trait: See Below

These are my get-out-of-jail-free NPCs. They are rolled out when I need an NPC with a slightly wiser head, or able to calm down situations. Most Commoner-3 NPCs are in regular work and earn enough to be right at the top of the Copper Economy or bottom of the Silver Economy. In the countryside, you will most likely find a Commoner-3 as the head of a household, and the highest level NPC in a smallholding.

Beyond Level 3

I can’t think of any commoner in my current games that are higher than L3. The last one, that I recall, was a half-orc called Helga. She was initially taken on as a crew member for the party’s boat and quickly took charge of the rest of the crew. Racial advantages, such as Intimidation and the ability to use a Great Axe, saw to that. She soon became a party favourite, took charge of shore parties and finished up with all sorts of cast-off magic items. I just checked my old files, and she progressed to Commoner-6, and possibly higher.

Guidelines, not rules 🙂 Be prepared to break them when you want to, just make sure you keep notes when you do.

The Economy

I have been round and around this subject so many times, because the various rules and rule iterations really don’t fit together very well – however, I have dome to a compromise position that gets reasonably close. 

I use a three tier economic model based on the principle that there aren’t enough regular jobs to go around and that many people have to take whatever work is available, when it is available.

The Copper Economy, is based on ‘Unskilled labour earns 1sp per day’ – a rule that made a lot of sense in AD&D, but stopped making sense with 3rd edition.   Many commoners, nearly all L1, most L2 and even a few L3 commoners live at this standard – as well as many other L1 NPC-class characters.

My views on the economy are partially informed by this post that deals with food and cooking.

The Copper Economy

Characters in the Copper Economy can afford things that are costed in Copper Pieces, but have to save for anything costed in Silver.  This probably means plain porridge for breakfast, a flat bread and an onion at mid-day, with vegetable stew (perhaps Potato, Beans, Turnip or Cabbage) for dinner.  A couple of times a week there might be some chicken or fish in the stew, and occasionally there might be some cheese with lunch. Clothing is often second hand, or hand-me-downs, that has often been altered or patched – it looks reasonably tidy, rather than ragged.  Even the lowest peasant has some personal pride.

Characters in the Copper Economy live communally – this might mean a whole family sharing two rooms in a city or a basic cottage in the countryside.  However, it could also be bunk rooms, dormitory accommodation, students room-sharing, or any other form of communal living.

The Silver Economy

The Silver Economy is based on Skills in the various d20 rule systems.  All of them seem to have a section that says ‘Earn ½ your skill roll in GP per week’, or something similar.  For most skilled NPCs in my world that works out at between 10 and 20sp per day, on average – this includes a few well-off commoners, most of the other NPC classes (once they have been trained) and NPCs with a few levels of a PC class. 

Characters in the Silver Economy can afford things that are costed in Silver Pieces, but have to save for anything costed in Gold.  Meals are more varied and include meat much more frequently – sometimes even twice a day.  Breakfast Porridge is still probably a staple, but it might be flavoured with honey, lunch might include an apple, a hard-boiled egg or cheese on a regular basis.  Dinner will quite often still be a stew (it is really easy to cook) but with more fish and meat, a better range of vegetables and bread to mop up the gravy.  NPCs in the silver economy have more than one set of clothes, with at least one decent-looking set for best.  At the top end of the Silver Economy scale, characters might have a courtier’s costume to attend up-scale events.

However, the biggest difference is privacy.  Silver Economy households have more rooms with specific purposes.  The head of the household and their spouse will have their own bedroom, children will probably share rooms, but there are separate rooms for the boys and the girls. There is a separate ‘living room’ for cooking and socialising.  The toilet only serves this household, there is probably a small private yard – rather than shared facilities.  There might be a live-in apprentice or even a servant, to help keep the house and workshops running smoothly.

The Gold Economy

The Gold Economy covers everyone who can readily purchase items valued at 1gp or more without saving.  This includes PCs, most NPCs with PC levels, many Aristocrats and a few higher level characters with other NPC classes.   It is by far the widest ranging part of the economy – but covers the least number of people.  It can include anything from a decent house in town, mansions, noble estates or even palaces.  Meals will be varied and enjoyable – accompanied by anything from a decent ale to an expensive wine.  It almost certainly involves at least one courtier’s costume and in some cases, noble or royal clothing.  It almost always includes servants or assistants – with the wealthiest having a whole entourage of staff.

Social Mobility

There isn’t much social mobility, most people stay at the economic level they were born to.  The big exception are characters with PC classes, who can crash through to the Gold Economy.  PCs tend to do this really quickly as they go adventuring and find huge amounts (in relative terms) of treasure.   NPCs with PC classes tend to do it more slowly, but normally enter the Gold Economy at higher levels – in my games that normally means level five or six,  although that could be very different in your games.

Other than that, moving between the economic bands is generational.  A commoner who does really well for themselves and moves to the top part of the Copper Economy might be able to afford Military Training for their eldest child.  That child might then work their way into the Silver Economy as a sergeant or junior office in the local military, and be able to afford a better education for their own children and establish a whole generation into the Silver Economy.  In the next generation, one of the children mi break into the Gold Economy …


There has been lots of stuff written about demographics in Fantasy Worlds. In AD&D just everyone who wasn’t a PC was a level 0 Commoner – except for a few special character classes such as the sage.  In early D20 all the NPCs were L1 because they didn’t get XP – but that was never reflected in the modules or APs that people wrote.  Then we went through a phase of NPCs learn something every day – and there were a series of well worked out character sheets and histories for L20 commoners.  None of which quite made sense, or made for a consistent game world.  So I did some analysis, made some calculations – and decided that I could make the numbers say whatever I wanted them to.   So I just made some decisions ….

Something like 60% of the characters in my worlds are commoners, and they average out at (roughly) second level.  Younger Commoners are L1, the average adult is L2 and some reach L3.  A very few go beyond that, but they are few and far between.  There are two main reasons for that:  I want Commoners who won’t die at the drop of a hat; and I want to control the skill levels available to commoners.  Commoners are equally distributed between towns, cities and the countryside, and provide the basic labour force across the land.  In the countryside they are small holders and farm labourers, in settlements they perform all the grunt labour and low skilled jobs.

Another 30% of the population are NPC classes – Adept, Aristocrat, Expert and Warrior.  There are fewer Aristocrats than the other classes – but they all average out at about L3.  Again, that is an arbitrary figure, but it means that Experts can be significantly more skilful than Commoners, that Warriors make reasonable guards and that there is an Adept in most temples who can brew potions.  Lower levels are still in training, and there are a few higher levels – but rarely higher than L5.   You will find more of these classes in towns than you will in the countryside.  The markets are a lot bigger with more people to protect, pray for and sell to.

The last 10% of the population have PC classes.  This includes all the Player Characters as well as their peers, colleagues, competition and many of their enemies.  In my world, most of these have some sort of ‘adventuring’ experience – although I am quite flexible in the way I count adventuring.  Working as a caravan guard or a mercenary counts, so might body guard, working as a navigator or a missionary, dealing with bandits on the frontier or nursing the injured in a war zone.  Years ago, I had a sage character, who accompanied a group as a chronicler and field artist –  be flexible, it all counts.  However, many of these PCs are lowish level and, unless they are in direct competition with the party, rarely go above tenth level.  Enemies are always of a high enough level to pose a decent threat.

Most turn up where you would expect them:  Clerics in temples; Rangers and Barbarians in the wilds; Fighters and Paladins running the military; Wizards in colleges and towers.  However, they are also the wildcards that let me do the unusual – the Oracle in a distant cave, the weird old witch or even a self-sufficient village miles from anywhere.

It makes for a stable, predictable, world where the PCs are the stars of the show –  but still lets me throw in the occasional curve-ball to keep them on their toes.

NPC Training and Development

A strange place to start, perhaps, but this is the concept that underpins much of my thinking in world design, although it doesn’t really affect the players and their characters at all.  However, in a campaign game you have some idea of the PCs background, where they have come from, where they learned their skills, what ages they are –  all things guided by various game rules.  This just codifiers those rules for NPCs and tweaks them slightly to make a useable framework.

The playing areas of my worlds are very human-centric – so the number work well for humans and half-orcs and can stretch to halflings and half-elves without too much hassle.  Elves, Dwarves and gnomes are generally home educated, although the stages are about the same.  99% of NPCs go through the following stages – although not all of them continue to the end.  In my worlds any NPC that doesn’t fit this model has a personal history and character sheet – although it is probably short and basic.

  • Child – Minimal stats
  • Adolescent – Young Template Commoner
  • Adult – Commoner Class
  • Adult – NPC Class
  • Adult – PC Class


Up to about the age of ten or eleven for a human or half-orc, longer for a half-elf or halfling.  Children stay at home, looked after by parents or servants and play.  They don’t have skills and they don’t have stats.  They run away if they are attacked and tend to get very shy if they are spoken to by strangers – or they gable about everything under the sun that is interesting to them.  Take your pick.


Four or five years until they reach their Adult Age.  This is a time when the character starts to interact with the wider world, they go to school and do minor jobs for a few coppers, and they start learning how to interact with people.  For most adolescents school  doesn’t happen every day – instead they might attend two or three half days a week where they learn reading, writing, arithmetic, local customs and basic social behaviour.  Between lessons these are the kids you hold your horse, run errands or deliver messages.  Some street kids might be begging, picking pockets, stealing fruit from market stalls or acting as lookout for older street gangs.

If every you need stats for an adolescent –  treat them as a commoner with the young template and  no skill points  (ie natural roll in every skill).  You are unlikely to employ these guys for a whole day at a time, but you might drop them a copper or two for holding your horse or delivering a message.

Adult – Commoner

When humans reach the age of fifteen, or thereabouts, they become full blown L1 commoners – over half of them stop their education here.  Most of these L1 Commoners don’t have useful skill and need to go out to find work, in the 1sp per day unskilled labour market.  After a few years of this (I normally say 20-21 for a human) they have seen enough to advance to L2, and learn a useful skill which lets them hold down a regular job.  A few will go on to be L3 commoners, even less will become L4 or L5 Commoners.  This 60% of the population make up the working class whose labour keeps the world working.

Adult – NPC Class

The rest are the lucky ones – they come from a wealthy family, a skilled family, a family with contacts, have a benefactor or are extremely gifted.  But somehow someone takes them on as a trainee or pays for them to go to school for extra training.  This might be an apprenticeship, working in the family business or going to a school of some description.  Whatever it is, the character remains an L1 commoner for a year or so and earns next to nothing (more of the 1sp per day employment market).   

Once the training is completed, and the character is about sixteen years old, they become an L1 in the appropriate NPC class (Aristocrat, Adept, Expert or Warrior) learn saleable skills and start to earn better money.  However, the training doesn’t stop there.  The NPC may be working in a family business or serving as a junior member of a temple, as a mage’s apprentice or taking work as a body guard – and gaining experience in their chosen vocation and perhaps taking extra classes.  I use the following ball-park figures and say twenty years old for L2 and twenty-five years old for L3 – with most going on to get those extra levels.  A few will go on to become L4 or L5, and possibly (in exceptional circumstances) L6.  Higher levels are very rare.

NPC class characters probably make up about 30% of the population of my worlds, and manage the day-to-day running of the world.

Adult – PC Class

Few, about 10%, go on to train into PC classes.  These characters are exceptional – they either have wealth families, are really lucky, or have outstanding abilities.  These guys go on to be leaders, specialists and companions (or competition) for the PCs.  In their training the passed through the NPC class stage –  but then either went out adventuring or followed the same path as Adults with  NPC  classes.  It is only when they get to higher levels or they come into direct conflict with your PCs that you need specific character sheets for them.

PCs are most likely to meet Clerics running larger churches,   Fighters as military officers and Wizards as academics.  Other classes slide into equivalent social when appropriate.

The main exception is Aristocrats who go on for PC class training.  Unlike other characters, they generally multi-class aristocrat with their PC class – so they retain the traditional aristocrat abilities as well as their class abilities.