View Full Version : Non-mechanical Npc Powers

2010-08-12, 11:09 PM
So in an effort to help a friend and fellow player learn the rules of DnD 3.5, I threw together a very quick and dirty plotline to hold together the meat grinder of goblins I was going to throw at her. The plan was to get her familiar with making various attack rolls and kill checks. Just really basic stuff like that. In the end, however, I couldn't resist giving the leader of the goblins a back story and personality, and thus was born the blood-addicted sprite/water spirit. I gave her all kinds of special abilities that she shouldn't rightly have had. I let her heal so long as she was near a lake she was attached to, gave her a couple of other abilities to tie her to the lake and make her feel like more of a lake spirit, and generally made her a more capable villain.

All in all, it was a really great day of role-playing, way better than was expected, and it was largely due to the special stuff I let the sprite have that, by the rules, she shouldn't have had.

I stuck to the rules I gave her once I came up with them, but I was basically making up things she could do as I went, and it really really worked well. So what do you guys think about something like this? Giving NPC's powers and capabilities that aren't strictly defined by rules in systems like DnD?

2010-08-12, 11:14 PM
Never let the rules get in the way of good gaming. Nobody ever walks away from a session and says, "man, I love how close that was to RAW"

2010-08-12, 11:27 PM
Excepting my all-time favorite big bad (an ullitharid cerebromancer) the villains that caught my players' attention the most were those that didn't really play by the rules. Whether this was an encounter where the goal was simply to stay alive for 10 rounds with the bad guy having several forms and even being able to use AoE spells when formless (technically they also had to protect an NPC who was performing a cleansing ritual, but she had a force field), or the super ghost that the most that ever got statted out was 1) eldritch blast could hurt him and hurt him bad enough to make him leave, and 2) he knew maximized orb of fire. The latter was going to be the next BBEG and finally fight the PCs in his new body as a mercurial greatsword wielding gish but the game fell apart before then (me and one of the players moved away).

My next campaign all the story important villains had MacGuffins that gave them special powers. That said their favorite was the shadow-clone of the at that point BBEG (who had god-like powers because the first 3 sessions were me making things up as I went along and he had the super MacGuffin) who actually managed to kill a PC.

My only experience DMing 4e has been seat of my pants with only a vague understanding of monster stats (no MM before me and 20 minute warning I'm DMing) but the PCs have liked them.

tl;dr: I find I'm more successful as a DM when I'm not a stickler for the rules and make monsters that can bend them.

2010-08-13, 08:27 AM
I usually regard the rules to be guidelines and nothing more when making bad guys. As long as the abilities given isn't too lame or powerfull and as long as they make sense it's cool. One of my players favorite was The Smiling One; He had two bodies with different powers (one was heavy melee and the other was spellcaster). When one body where killed the other one had to be destroyed within 3 rounds or it would respawn.