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  • Age and Power Level of NPCs

    I don't quite understand how powerful NPCs should be according to their age.

    In 1st edition there were a more-or-less working formula from the corebook (about 4 exp per year of unlife), that could be easily calculated from the stats of New Orleans Kindred (written in the last appendix). But the new rules of experience (and especially starting experience) are rather confusing. If I make a vampire about 250 years old (Rank Elder) that means 50 exp only. Roughly dividing it between Attributes-Skills-Merits-Disciplines I get 12/12/12/12 (+2 exp). That means +3 dots for Attributes, +6 dots for skills, +12 dots of Merits and +3-4 dots of Disciplines. Isn't it too little? Especially compared to the 1ed and quite fast growing power of PCs?

    I mean, let's imagine a powerful 300yo Witch from the Circle of the Crone. I imagine her truly powerful in the concept. She turned city park into her mandragora garden, allied with mandragora spirit of rank 5, that is also a totem of the Pure pack, she's a master of Animalism (that helps her to rule and defend her territory) and Cruac... And when I start counting her dots I find not enough to fit in her power. She has Blood Potency 7, and can reach 7 in attributes or skills. So she can have one attribute of 7, one or two skills of 7 and... that's all, folks! All the other stats remain mediocre at best. And active PC-neonate soon will be much stronger! Even if she has Cruac 5, she'll have just 2 dots in her clan Disciplines. Meh. Especially when I use rules from the Blood Sorcery manual.

    On the other hand, if I decide to count (one exp per year of unlife) it comes closer to the statistics of 1ed Kindred from New Orleans, but I'm not quite sure that NPCs don't become too powerful. Especially compared to the Methuselahs from Thousand Years of Night manual.

    How do you decide the power level of your NPCs?

  • #2
    Originally posted by Aleksay View Post
    I don't quite understand how powerful NPCs should be according to their age.

    In 1st edition there were a more-or-less working formula from the corebook (about 4 exp per year of unlife), that could be easily calculated from the stats of New Orleans Kindred (written in the last appendix). But the new rules of experience (and especially starting experience) are rather confusing. If I make a vampire about 250 years old (Rank Elder) that means 50 exp only. Roughly dividing it between Attributes-Skills-Merits-Disciplines I get 12/12/12/12 (+2 exp). That means +3 dots for Attributes, +6 dots for skills, +12 dots of Merits and +3-4 dots of Disciplines. Isn't it too little? Especially compared to the 1ed and quite fast growing power of PCs?
    The chart is not for NPCs in the first place, because NPCs do not track experience.

    I mean, let's imagine a powerful 300yo Witch from the Circle of the Crone. I imagine her truly powerful in the concept. She turned city park into her mandragora garden, allied with mandragora spirit of rank 5, that is also a totem of the Pure pack, she's a master of Animalism (that helps her to rule and defend her territory) and Cruac...
    "Let's imagine a crossover character who can pretty much only exist in an environment of isolation, societal breakdown, or delicately-balanced politics, then ignore half of the advancement-neutral resources that that situation provides her for the sake of complaining about the advancement mechanics for starting player characters not back-justifying the numbers I associate with this fiated-in character concept that the camera isn't going to follow outside of engagement with the player characters."

    How do you decide the power level of your NPCs?
    By thinking about what I actually need them to be able to do, remembering that that's mostly what they're going to be working with in the timescale of a single story, and restraining myself from throwing on a bunch of extra stuff in the name of versatility. Maybe reference the Horror Potency chart in Chronicles if I'm feeling a need to match Trait totals to Supernatural Tolerance levels.


    Resident Sanguinary Analyst
    Currently Consuming: Changeling: the Lost 1e

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Satchel View Post
      The chart is not for NPCs in the first place, because NPCs do not track experience.
      Why? Don't they live in the same world with PCs?


      Originally posted by Satchel View Post
      "Let's imagine a crossover character who can pretty much only exist in an environment of isolation, societal breakdown, or delicately-balanced politics, then ignore half of the advancement-neutral resources that that situation provides her for the sake of complaining about the advancement mechanics for starting player characters not back-justifying the numbers I associate with this fiated-in character concept that the camera isn't going to follow outside of engagement with the player characters."
      Let's imagine a large-scale setting to put PCs in to do their agendas I context of the world around them. Let's inhabit this setting with powerful people so that it wouldn't be like they appear from vacuum and disappear when nobody watches them. Let's imagine that the setting has some common laws for every inhabitant.

      Originally posted by Satchel View Post
      By thinking about what I actually need them to be able to do, remembering that that's mostly what they're going to be working with in the timescale of a single story, and restraining myself from throwing on a bunch of extra stuff in the name of versatility. Maybe reference the Horror Potency chart in Chronicles if I'm feeling a need to match Trait totals to Supernatural Tolerance levels.
      Okay, but even there I got where I started. It means to determine stats just for the story, won't it eventually break the unity of the setting, when the PCs get too much exp? That means eventually throwing Methuselahs against the PC-neonates, or auto-level other neonates so that they'll be stronger then elders in the beginning of the chronicle? I just don't understand it, really.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Aleksay View Post
        Why? Don't they live in the same world with PCs?
        Beats and Experiences are not an in-universe resource and Chronicles of Darkness is not a world-simulator. NPCs are part of the setting and therefore anything that would affect their advancement is as much a function of Storyteller decisions as the weather or the disposition of the local populace.

        Let's imagine a large-scale setting to put PCs in to do their agendas I context of the world around them. Let's inhabit this setting with powerful people so that it wouldn't be like they appear from vacuum and disappear when nobody watches them. Let's imagine that the setting has some common laws for every inhabitant.
        Let's imagine that "NPCs are constructed with traits that do not need to be paid for out of a system balanced to push PCs to choose between quick specific gains and slow general gains" does not translate to a world without object permanence.

        Okay, but even there I got where I started. It means to determine stats just for the story, won't it eventually break the unity of the setting, when the PCs get too much exp?
        No, because "eventually" the story has progressed to the point where you can justify just adding things to NPCs' sheets as time goes on, especially for low-investment things like Merits and Devotions. You don't need to make an itemized list of where all an elder's dots came from to say "Okay, this guy's been playing politics well and building his case for the last six chapters, he can probably swing a few more dots in City Status and Feeding Grounds," or "Okay, the PCs wrapped up that thing with the Bishop neatly, maybe that Dragon's finally made a breakthrough on learning a Devotion to exploit that Wyrm's Nest they found in the last story."

        That means eventually throwing Methuselahs against the PC-neonates, or auto-level other neonates so that they'll be stronger then elders in the beginning of the chronicle?
        No. Where on earth are you getting the idea that NPC neonates have to be stronger than starter-PC elders? The level names on the Experience chart are not prescriptive and there is generally not a constant influx of new vampires in any setting that isn't dealing with a should-probably-be-focal amount of "this place is fucked, what do we do?" in play.


        Resident Sanguinary Analyst
        Currently Consuming: Changeling: the Lost 1e

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Aleksay View Post
          How do you decide the power level of your NPCs?
          I wing it, really. I'm currently running a long-term Vampire game (both in that it's going to be running for a while, and in that it's covering roughly 600 years of time), and there's a pretty wide range of NPCs. The biggest thing I keep in mind is kind of two-fold: 1) PCs are naturally disruptive to the order of things. This is both in the sense that player are kind of just. . .agents of chaos sometimes, and in that they progress at a faster rate than normies do, and 2) NPCs cover a wide range of archtypes, from Vampires that are just smart and strong enough to survive, but not to really advance, to prodigies -- the Vampires who are naturals at their new (un)life. And those two types of NPCs shouldn't really be gaining the same sort of XP, or have the same "level" of sheets after being around for 50 years.

          Another thing to consider is that (and I don't know that this is directly, or even indirectly, backed up in the books rather than my own personal take) Vampires sort of exist on a J-curve when it comes to power, and that while there are a LOT of Neonates and lower-end Ancilla, they just aren't going to last. The sheer frenzy of being a new Vampire is going to weed a lot of them out -- either from being disposable pawns in Elders games, being too inexperienced to properly avoid Hunters and too weak to be able to outright defeat a Cell that comes knocking, or even just the endless flash-pan power struggle that happens at the lower ranks of being a Vampire. Otherwise, the world would be just chock-full of two thousand year old Vampires. And the power they gain isn't just from dots on their sheet. It comes from the sheer, unholy amounts of information and experience they have, not to mention the allies/"allies" in their pockets. Players of Neonates are struggling to gain minor puppets -- to find police officers that aren't under someone else's sway already, but also relevant to the tasks they have in mind, and able to be kept for any length of time. Elders, even ones without Dominate or Majesty, do that almost absent-mindedly, if they aren't just making one of their Vampiric lackeys do it for them.

          And that's probably another REALLY important thing to consider. That Witch you were talking about? 300 years old? Let's, for sake of argument, say she Embraces someone on an average of. . .10 years. So that's THIRTY Kindred she's made. But, as mentioned before, a lot of them won't make it, long-term. Let's say, between attrition and the most recently-embraced still being around, that a fifth of those thirty exist. And then half of those, maybe, are both loyal to her on some level and in the city. So that's three OTHER Vampires, loyal to this Witch, with their own things going on, who are between 300 and 0 years old, and between BP 7 and 1. And also ANY of the above Vampires might have Embraced their own, who may be around, and may be loyal to the Witch. And all of this is before counting the non-statted resources and knowledge that they are all going to have.

          So, yeah, even if you decide to run with a system that ends up with Elders having a less-than-exciting sheet (though, having sevens on your sheet is pretty damn exciting), they're almost always going to be as scary if not scarier in other ways.

          Jesus this post really got away from me. Anyway, yeah: wing it. If you want a system, I'd do something like 1XP per first 50 years, then 15 every 50 after that (not counting the free boost in BP every 50 years). Add some, or a bunch, for Vampires that are paragons of the unliving, remove some for those that aren't.

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          • #6
            I remind myself of the "rules" of story-telling (not Storytelling) accumulated over time (often from others):

            1. Wherever the PCs are is the most important place/action in the world at that moment.

            2. Characters should be conserved and re-used whenever feasible.

            3. NPCs are driven by story roles not stats: rate them on a scale of 1 to 5, with 3 as even parity with the PCs as they currently are. Decide over campaign time if this benchmark should slip one way or the other. Wish to be mean? Set the PC parity mark to 2... or 1. (For hopped-up mortals.)

            4. Don't try to define too much. Let the players talk and they'll do half the work of brainstorming for you. They'll also break all the work you already put in, anyway.

            5. Relationships matter more than attributes. Define generally who knows who, what and where, and what they want out of (un)life. Let them run free.

            6. Unstat things. Default competent dice pool to 1+2xPowerStat, vary up and down 1 or 2 dice if you need to.

            7. Trying to get someplace? PCs are going to get there: early, on time, late, or "too late". Adjust the scene accordingly. Can be used for "accomplishing something" as well.

            Relax. It's a game and you won't be able to hold all the details in your head anyway. If you know how the actors are likely to behave, roll dice and let the chaos in!

            --Khanwulf

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