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I’m DM in one of my D&D games and I want a NPC to be a Wood Elf, Ranger, is it possible to make that NPC on a character sheet? Just like a player would build their characters, so I can keep stats and the weapon’s bonuses and have the Wood Elf’s bonuses too?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Why do you want to do this exactly? It would help if you could include some information on what problem you’re trying to solve with this question. You say ”so I can keep stats and weapons bonuses and things” but it’s not clear what you mean by that. Stats and weapon bonuses are already on npc stat blocks. I also suggest having a look through other D&D 5e questions on this subject. I’m fairly sure we’ve already got a Q&A on this but I don’t have time at the moment to look for it myself. \$\endgroup\$ – Purple Monkey May 6 at 21:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ You're the DM. You can do whatever you like. \$\endgroup\$ – DM_with_secrets May 7 at 7:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ As a bit of trivia, in 3.5 everything used the same rules (or roughly the same rules). You built both NPC(including monsters/mobs) and PCs using mostly the same set of rules. 5e mostly went away from that approach. \$\endgroup\$ – Drejzer May 7 at 10:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ The "so I can keep stats and the weapon’s bonuses and things" rationale is still confusing. I suggest you to delete or rephrase it. A DM don't need PC generation rules in order to keep stats and bonuses of an NPC, so you probably mean something different. \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor May 7 at 12:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ There's the question you are asking "can I stat them this way?" and the question you should be asking "should I make my own character to join the party?" \$\endgroup\$ – Studoku May 7 at 13:29
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You can certainly build an NPC using the PC rules. It's even directly mentioned in the Dungeon Master's Guide (p. 282).

Beware...

However, there's rarely, if ever, any good reason to go that far. NPCs are simple by design -- your NPCs have to share brainspace with every other NPC in the scene, where a PC normally has a whole human brain all to itself. NPCs are made to keep their stat block simple and accessible, so you can see everything they do more or less at a glance and don't have to do any serious bookkeeping to stay on top of it. (This is somewhat less true of boss monsters but, well, they're boss monsters.)

And for the trouble, there just isn't much payoff. Your players will never see the character sheet you worked on; they only interact with a tiny fraction of that information. Just one or two well-chosen abilities will give your NPC the feel of 'ranger' or 'sorcerer' just as effectively as going through the whole process.

And I hate to say it, but there's a real risk that when you spend so much time building a really cool character, you'll be less willing to let the character stop being in the spotlight, or pass entirely out of the game if the PCs just decide they don't want to deal with 'em. The DMPC is a well-known problem, and it very often starts when you say "This idea is so cool, I should write them up as a character! They'll join the party for this adventure and lead the way!"

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 For mentioning the DMPC problem - I've played with a DM who did this and there is always the danger the DM starts playing their own game and the players are just an (increasingly frustrated) audience. \$\endgroup\$ – Lio Elbammalf May 7 at 8:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don’t do that, if I built a cool character, couldn’t I say he took a break for a while, then wanted to get back into it? And the NPC could not be as good as they used to? \$\endgroup\$ – Devils _Spawn May 7 at 11:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DevilsbestfriendisLunar "NPC used to be a big-time hero but retired and is rusty" is certainly a background you could use, but that's nothing to do with how you represent the NPC in mechanics. You can use the same backstory whether you use an NPC stat block or do a full character sheet. Just be careful that too much action doesn't move entirely behind the DM screen -- it's not much fun to watch the DM roll dice and move numbers around, or even to listen to the DM just narrate a fight the PCs feel like they should be center-stage for. \$\endgroup\$ – Darth Pseudonym May 7 at 11:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ Good point, I’ll watch out for that! \$\endgroup\$ – Devils _Spawn May 7 at 12:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think the comment about such a NPC being a big investment to build and keep track of only applies if you're doing it by hand. A tool like Black cat DM's Familiar lets you create a NPC like this in seconds and automates keeping track of everything, including what actions to offer in combat. It's not really much extra work than creating a NPC from the monster manual. \$\endgroup\$ – Dughall May 9 at 20:07
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You are the Dungeon Master. I do that for a lot of strong NPC's such as rivals, temporary teammates, or villains. I wouldn't do it too often, but it is completely up to you how to build your NPC's. The DMG page 282 says the following:

You can build the NPC as you would a player character, as discussed in the Player's Handbook

So yes, you can design a NPC like a PC

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    \$\begingroup\$ For future reference, even though the edition has now been clarified: please avoid answering questions where the system (or edition in this case, when applicable) hasn’t been specified. \$\endgroup\$ – Purple Monkey May 6 at 21:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ok, I will refrain from doing that in the future. \$\endgroup\$ – user70687 May 6 at 21:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ "I wouldn't do it too often" Why not? Takes too much time? Or some other reason? I'd guess it's "takes too much time", but you're the one that's tried it, so you know more about that than I do. \$\endgroup\$ – A. B. May 7 at 5:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @A.B. I wouldn't do it because it will be constrained to the character sheet. Put in some general stats but leave his combat abilities up in the air so you can balance any fights on the fly. The general rule is (from Shadowrun sourcebooks), if you put in a stat block, players will kill it. \$\endgroup\$ – Nelson May 7 at 6:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Nelson That's a completely different point. user68fd is saying they wouldn't build an NPC on a PC character sheet too often, with the alternative being to create a regular NPC statblock. No-one's talking about NPCs with no stat block at all. \$\endgroup\$ – DM_with_secrets May 7 at 7:33
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I often do that. Any NPC that:

  • a) Is a major plot participant (BBEG, party patron or sponsor, local mayor/king/liege),
  • b) Will Adventure with the party (Ally, person they are guarding, boss of the merchant caravan they are guarding, etc.)
  • c) Will be a recurring character (their contact at the Sage's Guild, the street urchin who worships the party and wants to become an adventurer and keeps following them around, etc.)

I have also made a simplified 1-page character sheet, and some of those NPCs, especially relatively simple ones, might go on that, at least at first. Also some NPCs that need some extra detail, but aren't important enough for a full write-up -- the innkeeper where they are staying for a few weeks, a shopkeeper whose store they repeatedly patronize (or are planning to rob), the chief of the town constabulary, etc.

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You can do whatever you want.

But, I would be concerned over the motive.

Often fleshing out an NPC in that fashion means you want them to stick around for a long time. The question is.. why? And, why track them like a PC unless.. you want to play them like a PC.

So, this makes me wonder if you're trying to secretly play a PC by creating an NPC ran like a PC, and shoe-horning it into the player group.

I've seen DM's do this before, and it often becomes frustrating:

  • The DM wants to secretly play a PC, so they dream up an NPC. They put a lot of time and work into them. Then they introduce it to the party. The party may just think it's another NPC, and don't want it. So, the DM will go to lengths to force it on them. This just ticks off players, and it makes them feel railroaded.

  • The DM will often use meta-knowledge to play their pet NPC/PC "the right way". IE: they will use DM knowledge to have their pet NPC make all the right decisions. This creates a litmus test, where-by the players are comparing their actions to the NPC the DM is mucking with, and the players can start to feel like screw-ups... despising how the DM's pet NPC just "happened to know" about a trap, or an ambush or was conveniently not around during some other bad situation. So, the players will start to hate both the pet NPC.. and the DM for coddling the pet NPC. A DM may not be purposefully trying to do this, but they still subconciously can. And, the players pick up on it, and it starts to make the players feel like their PC's are second class citizens compared to the DM's pet NPC.

  • If the DM starts to expect their pet NPC to get a share of the loot or be treated as an equal to the party.. this will go further to tick off the players... and clearly show that the DM is just secretly running a PC in the party. If the DM tries to side-track this by letting the party split its own loot, but their pet NPC some how magically "finds" upgraded gear and stuff later while "off doing something without the party", then it will just tick off the players. The players have to fight and earn their gear..meanwhile the DM has the pet NPC just wander off and stumble across goodies... that's, once again, setting a clear difference between how party vs NPC are treated.

  • Really bad DM's will turn their pet NPC into a "mary sue"... They'll make major rule-bending or rule-breaking exceptions for their pet... "Oh, it's a sword only wizards can use.. there's no wizard in the party, so guess my pet NPC will use it!" (This was a DM trying to shoe-horn a pet NPC into the party to live out their Gandalf fantasies one time). DM makes a bad roll that could end their NPC ... they decide to flub the roll so their NPC never dies, or just story-tells some BS to justify how their NPC has plot-armor protecting them "the dragon would have killed him, but.. uh.. fate intervenes, and a part of the cave falls down, and blocks the dragon's fire.. b/c uh.. I was actually making a saving throw to dodge the falling rock, not the dragon's breath". Blatant favoritism will really tick off the players.

  • The DM will often use their pet NPC to "guide" the players on where to go. The DM thinks they're being smart and subtle, but it's often blatant and annoys the players. "My pet NPC decides that s/he wants to go down into the save, because... reasons." Gee, guess the DM wants use to go into the cave. Ok, whatever. The party will start to feel like they're in a passenger seat while the pet NPC drives. It's even worse if the DM uses the NPC to railroad the party into encounters the DM is trying to force on them... "Oh no, you entered a room that's secretly a trap!" (because the party followed pet NPC into the room knowing the DM wanted them to go in there, and pet NPC has been the "go here, do this" guide the whole time). All of this is blatant when the DM goes "Well, pet NPC doesn't care what you guys want to do, they're going to go do THIS instead..." .. and either the pet NPC wanders off on their own, to which the DM justifies their alone time by "rewarding" them with goodies or info the players don't know or whatever, of the players are stuck following the pet NPC like it's some teen drama queen throwing a tantrum going off doing it's own thing, and they have to follow to make sure it stays out of trouble.

So.... I would heavily question WHY you're wanting to make an NPC as a PC.

If you want to do something like that, my suggestion is...

  • let the party know you'd like to run a PC while also DM'ing. This lets them know that a person being introduced soon is actually a new party member, and they'll use meta-knowledge to be more kind in allowing it into the party.

  • let someone ELSE control your PC while you're DM'ing. Talk to one party member you trust, and ask that they control your character. This creates a clear divide between DM domain and Player domain, so no chance of DM meta-knowledge or favoritism interfering.

This makes the assumption that that's your goal, but that's the only reason I can really think of to drastically flesh-out an NPC in PC-fashion... b/c you have a pet NPC you want to treat like a real PC, and it can lead to a downward spiral.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast May 8 at 10:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ One further potential reason is: I want players to feel that the NPC has to abide by the same rules as them. Especially if plot-twists are involved, I'd prefer the character involved in the twist to be somewhat predictable in their abilities, For example: A character is believed dead. If the twist is that the character is actually still alive because of "plot device ##321" it cheapens the moment. If they are alive because they were a wizard with "Clone" in their spell book, players feel like they could have guessed it and will be more surprised by the twist. \$\endgroup\$ – RHS May 10 at 12:07
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It's usually not worth the effort - not unless you expect to be playing them yourself as a character with the party in regular combat encounters.

As the DM, you already have a lot of prep to do for any given situation. So whether or not you create a character sheet for an NPC should be directly related to how much information you expect you'll need for that NPC.

As a general guide:

  • NPCs that are not expected to participate in combat do not need any in-game stats. You can roleplay their reactions and interactions with characters without knowing their exact in-game stats.
  • NPCs that could potentially have combat with the Player Characters should be represented by a creature block - either a generic one for a group of similar NPCs (such as town guards or bandits) or a specific one for a unique combatant (such as a recurring antagonist or unique gladiatorial combatant)
  • NPCs that will be in combat with the PCs as allies can still get along with just a Monster Stat Block, but if they appear frequently enough, you may want to consider making a full Player Character sheet for them.
  • DMPCS should always have their own player character sheet - to keep everything above the board.
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Using Character Sheets to keep things tidy

Fillable CharacterSheet PDFs can help you to keep things manageable. Although for most NPC a whole character sheet is just too much paperwork, because you don't need that much space. But there are minimized sheets for NPCs.

Sometimes you want an NPC to be equal or even stronger than your party, in such cases it can be wise to use a standard character sheet. Especially spell caster NPCs can get a little bit messy if they are just a pile of notes.

But NPCs don't have to follow PC rules

If it's a friendly NPC that is a sidekick of your party it's not wise to have them equal powered, because your player characters are those who matter. Tho you can side an allied DMPC with them to make things easier in a tutorial session for new players. But don't you dare to let that DMPC stay for long.

If it's an enemy NPC it's not always wise to follow the rules as well. Sometimes your villain has to break the rules to keep things exciting; maybe unique spells, special weapon techniques, some other abilities or just additional feats that can create an interesting encounter.

This kind of villain NPC are very special characters; a big bad or special named henchman... the Darth Vaders and Boba Fetts of your campaign so to speak.

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