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A PC's Wealth by Level (DMG 135) is determined by the PC's effective character level, but how does the DM determine an NPC's gear value on Table 4-23: NPC Gear Value (DMG 127)? Does the DM use the creature's Challenge Rating (or the entire encounter's Encounter Level), the creature's Hit Dice, the creature's levels in its classes, some combination (e.g. Hit Dice plus class levels), or something else entirely?

Using just character level for an NPC dwarf Ftr9 or whatever is self-explanatory, but what about creatures of greater complexity?

  • Example 1: A CR 2 jackalwere (FF 107) has 4 HD. The DM gives him 2 levels of aristocrat (DMG 108). Because NPC classes are always nonassociated class levels (MM 294), this makes the final jackalwere CR 3, HD 6, and level 2. What's this NPC's gear value?
  • Example 2 The DM advances an androsphinx (MM 232-3) to 36 HD, making the androsphinx CR 17. The DM gives the androsphinx 1 level of cleric, making the final androsphix CR 18, HD 37, and level 1. What's this NPC's gear value?

A Published Example
The CR 15 Sample Elite Vampire (MM 251-2) with 13 HD is an "Elite Vampire, 13th-Level Half-Elf Monk/Shadowdancer" with the following gear...

  • +2 keen (DMG 225) kama (18,302 gp; 2 lbs.)
  • +1 frost (DMG 224) sling (8,300 gp; 0 lbs.)
  • +1 sling bullets (10) (47 gp ea.; 0.5 lbs. ea.)
  • bracers of armor +3 (DMG 250) (9,000 gp; 1 lb.)
  • periapt of wisdom +4 (DMG 263-4) (16,000 gp; 0 lbs.)
  • ring of protection +2 (DMG 232) (8,000 gp; 0 lbs.)

... costing a total of 60,072 gp, a little over 1,000 gp more than amount recommended by Table 4-23: NPC Gear Value for a 15th-level NPC, which makes me think Table 4-23: NPC Gear Value is probably based on Challenge Rating, but a definitive answer's appreciated.

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2 Answers 2

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Use the rules presented for treasure allocation by Encounter Level in DMG p. 51 and Magic Item Compendium p.229 et. seq. The limiting factor is treasure claimable by the PCs upon victory not being unbalancing, which is a function of the "Encounter Level." The NPCS class level guides are just a shorthand for this. Instead of gold coins or jewels, swap out gear. This is addressed in MIC p. 227.

As a non-rule based opinion, it should be fine to give a nonplayer character/monster stronger than indicated gear or gear-equivalents if it cannot be coopted or liquidated by the PCs in a way that would unbalance them, in order to make it more challenging; early editions of D&D justified over-gearing drow with the excuse that the equipment would be ruined upon contact with sunlight (assumed to be unavoidable for PCs). Third Edition moved away from this, but the logic of it returned with "Weapons of Legacy" and to a lesser extent the equipment sets in MIC; even if they potentially granted unbalancing power, such power could be made not immediately available simply by killing the character and taking his stuff.

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Well, of course the rules are under Treasure. Where else would the rules for equipping NPCs be? – Hey I Can Chan Jan 13 '14 at 20:31
My point is, they go by the Encounter Level for the whole encounter, as opposed to character level or hit dice or even challenge rating of the individual monster/character. – Epiphanis Jan 13 '14 at 20:48

Nonsensically, It Can Be Based on ECL

While Epiphanis's answer points to the Dungeon Master's Guide wherein it says that

Many monsters advance by adding class levels (see the Monster Manual). To determine treasure for monsters with class levels, first give them equipment. Use Table 4–23: NPC Gear Value (page 127) and use just their class levels to determine the value of their equipment. Then generate their treasure according to their monster entry and the rules under Building a Treasure, below. This may generate more items that the monster can use, and that’s fine.... (51)

This method means the monster has adventuring gear--its NPC gear value--in addition to its normal treasure.

But the Monster Manual says that

If you choose to equip a monster with gear, use its ECL as its character level for purposes of determining how much equipment it can purchase. Generally, only monsters with an Advancement entry of "By character class" receive NPC gear; other creatures adding character levels should be treated as monsters of the appropriate CR and assigned treasure, not equipment. (291)

...And that's insane.

In other words, the Monster Manual wants the DM to compute the monster's ECL--adding its its Hit Dice, level adjustment, and class levels--, then use the creature's ECL to determine where it falls on Table 4–23: NPC Gear Value.

  • Example 1: The jackalwere has 4 Hit Dice, 2 class levels, and an unlisted level adjustment, which forces the DM to give the jackalwere a +4 level adjustment after resorting to the horrible, horrible Level Adjustment Factors from pages 11-13 of Savage Species.1 The jackalwere should have the wealth of a level 10 NPC.
  • Example 2: The androsphinx shouldn't have NPC wealth at all, instead determining its treasure according it its CR 18. But if the DM ignored that pregnant generally and gave it NPC wealth anyway, the androsphinx has 36 Hit Dice, 1 class level, and a +5 level adjustment.2 The androsphinx would have the wealth of a level 42 NPC, that is--if my math is correct--6,897,000 gp (ELH 317).3

By the way, that "[e]lite vampire, 13th-level half-elf Monk/Shadowdancer" has 13 Hit Dice from class levels and a +5 level adjustment, so according the Monster Manual's own rules--and this should surprise no one--the example should be equipped as a level 18 NPC with gear worth 130,000 gp, nearly twice as much as it has now.

While there's undoubtedly grist here for the killer DM (e.g. a stone giant from MM 124 who's a War1 should have the wealth of a level 19 NPC yet is CR 8, the mind flayer Sor9 on MM 187-8 should have the wealth of a level 24 NPC yet is CR 13), there's literally no other reason to use these rules except to kill PCs using monsters lucky enough to advance by class level.

I recommend against the Monster Manual's guidelines--despite it being the primary source for information about monsters--, and would go with the Dungeon Master's Guide's guidelines instead as the primary source of information about wealth by level.

  1. The Tome of Horrors--Revised apparently lists its jackalwere as having a +2 level adjustment, and this post on the Brilliant Gameologists forum lists the Fiend Folio jackalwere as having a +3 level adjustment. It surprises me not at all that Savage Species computes the jackalwere's level adjustment higher than both.
  2. As a cohort. Good enough.
  3. My math's probably incorrect, but a level 42 PC has, like, 17.7 million gp (DMG 209), so there's that. 6.9 million gp would be a lot for a CR 18 creature, though (about the combined wealth of 9 level 20 characters).
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That's an excellent point and good recommendations. Although I tend to approach it from the "killer DM" perspective myself. – Epiphanis Oct 7 '14 at 11:58

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