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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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1 Answer 1

up vote 3 down vote accepted

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 at 20:31
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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 at 20:48

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