Commoners

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.

Posted in NPCs, World Building.

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