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.