I'm a fairly new ST, though I've tried my hand at it before. I think I'm doing better this time but I'm realizing that I'm having trouble statting NPCs. I'm not sure how strong to make them in comparison to the PCs, because I'm not sure how that'll roll out in a fight. What advice is there for statting NPCs and balancing them against the PCs? How many points should I allocate to them?

For example, if I want an NPC to be overpowering but possible to beat back, how do I construct the NPC in order to present that specific degree of challenge? If I want this five-on-one fight to be a challenge, how do I make that happen? If I'm statting up potential allies in such a fight, how do I determine their stats so that their help can turn an overpowering fight into one the PCs can beat?

I know I could use ST privileges and just add or remove stuff on-the-fly to adjust difficulty, but that doesn't help me figure out how to set up NPCs in the first place. Are there any rules of thumb for determining relative power levels?

I played through the Changeling demo once, and I felt like the players made short work of the True Fae at the end, in spite of the fact that the Ogre PC decided to pick up a weapon instead of using his brute strength resulting in fighting at a penalty. I'm not sure if the ease of the fight was because of a mistake I was making running it, or if that NPC opponent was just not that powerful. If I knew how to judge NPC challenge, I would be able to tell if I'm running fights right.

How do I stat NPCs so they're at a level relative to the group that I want them to be?


4 Answers 4


Equinox Road has rules for turning Changelings into True Fae. The fact is that, by the book, supernaturals are generally STAGGERINGLY overpowered compared to mortals so if you want them to face a True Fae and "win" your best bet is probably just to keep combat out of the equation. Faeries are all about rules, after all.

  • \$\begingroup\$ win is relative, where winning equals survival... \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 3, 2014 at 17:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ updated question to clarify, this is more than just about fairies, I'm just trying to figure out relative power levels. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 3, 2014 at 18:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ the original question has been updated to make the original intent of the question more clear. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 22, 2014 at 2:19

Going by the question, I don't know what your party is comprised of. I agree with Wesley's answer about Equinox Road to stat the Fae in question. I'm assuming you already have an idea of what build you want to use for attitude, powers, etc. if they've already shown up but if they haven't done anything noteworthy, this is the best place to be in as an ST. When it comes to something like the Fae, if they're powerful then they likely have underlings. Have the party make challenges against the Fae because they'll likely be intrigued at most of what comes before them. Even better, they can challenge the underlings for a temporary favor from the Fae. This can easily include crazy little things like "Leave our territory for a year and a day" if the Fae gets troublesome.

In the end, it is rather hard to corner a Fae when they don't want to be. There's no reason that it can't pull its punches and Bamf! out when it decides the party is where it wants them. Thanks to the enigmatic nature of things, you don't even have to have the master plan etched out just yet because while methodical, no NPC lives in a vacuum if you don't want them to. The Fae can develop allies to placate, enemies to subvert, and debts to pay. If the party's actions result in its favor, nothing says there needs to be a direct conflict.

When it comes to building any NPC I recommend starting with building a basic character through whatever core you need to use, and then taking a look at pg.35 of the NWoD PHB:

Advanced Characters For more experienced characters, the Storyteller might choose to award experience points that may be spent before play begins.

  • Seasoned characters: 35 points
  • Expert characters: 75 points
  • Heroic characters: 100 experience points

Another huge factor, especially in any WoD game is environment. Want a par character to beat some Kindred? Put them in a room where beams of sunlight pierce at every angle so that they risk taking Aggravated Damage for no reason whatsoever. Fighting a pack of wolfies? Well, you're digging your own grave there but you can still have a villain keep sidestepping to and from the Gauntlet when most of the pack gets through and pick them off gradually. Fighting a bunch of Mages? Get a vanilla mortal audience to make them eat paradox by the spoonful if they want to go full tilt.

Everything has a weakness, and as long as your environment caters to one side, the fight will change. If the shift makes the situation ridiculous, then it can change. Don't be so concerned with the ending as with everyone enjoying the game. If you feel like something went wrong in the demo, look at the rules again and see where you might have given some undue bonuses or ignored penalties. If it all checked out and the players just got prodigious rolls, then it's par for the course. If you took a being that runs and hides and made them duke it out in a standup fight on an open field in perfect lighting, then that's something to consider too.

  • \$\begingroup\$ updated question to clarify, this is more than just about fairies, I'm just trying to figure out relative power levels. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 3, 2014 at 18:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ Added more to my answer. I hope it gives you something to work with. \$\endgroup\$
    – CatLord
    Commented Jul 4, 2014 at 2:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ the original question has been updated to make the original intent of the question more clear. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 22, 2014 at 2:20

Give your NPCs every advantage they can, because the deck is stacked against them.

What you're seeing is the "focused fire" problem that pops up in supernatural games pretty often. It's in genre for there to be one big adversary, like Dracula or Freddy Krueger or IT, pit against a team of hunters or investigators or even just mortals. The problem is that in games, unlike fiction, the monster gets one action a turn while the PCs get four or five, and the PCs have a single target whereas the monster can often only attack one of the PC team at a time. Since multiple actions reduce die pools and wound penalties are often a thing, single-foe adversaries just don't have the resilience they should.

Extra dots aren't really sufficient here; the things that make for an overwhelming but beatable scene are extra NPC underlings (to reduce the 'single target' problem) and broad scale immunities with a weakness that's solvable (to manage the 'wound penalties' and fewer net actions" problem.)


NB: This answer is based on NWOD, not GMC.

My Mage game last week. Two players split from the rest to go on a sidequest. While travelling to objective, at one point they encountered two street thugs trying to break into their car. Players confronted them: thugs were spooked but didn't leave. PC1 rolled [Presence + Intimidation] vs Thug's [Resistance]. PC1 won but only scared them so Thugs make their rolls with penalties now. Fight ensued. PCs armed with throwing knives and a pistol (and magic, of course); Thugs armed with crowbar and a pistol. PCs won but took 3L a pop.

Typical random combat encounter at my club. Now, if I'm reading your question right, you're not asking "scenarios" but you just want to know how to generic stat build enemies for any given situation, right? Like a boss, yeah!

Ok, first off: creating NPCs like they're PCs is like the worst thing you could possibly do. Do NOT do this. They will be WAYYYY too strong for most PCs -- including combat-based PCs! -- to handle without heavy losses at the very least. Every encounter will end up like a boss fight. I cannot emphasize this enough.

Second: keep it simple. What's actually relevant for your NPCs in the given encounter? Usually it's just something to roll against and some health -- maybe something to roll with. So basic stats: Power/Attack, Finesse/Defend/Mobility, Resistance/Resist, Health, Defense, Initiative. After this, we get fancy: special powers and weapons and armor and stuff -- anything that can be used to mess with the PCs' (or other NPCs'!) stuff, usually in the form of simple bonus modifiers and changes to what kind of damage the NPC does and maybe some special effects (like setting someone on fire, mind control).

Third: keep it REALLL simple! Stat block example below but generally keep it under lock. So, Health should be 1-2 dots -- if an NPC is hit, they usually "die" straight away, never mind whachu' heard! Base attack pool should be between 2-4 dice -- honestly, I would do 1-3 for straight-up civilians with 1 Health. Defend should follow as too should Resist: the former might be used for driving and rooftop jumps, the latter for resisting mind control and being intimidated (like above). Defense should usually be 1, maybe 2. Armor might be 1, 2 at most for big bads or other serious cats. Pre-calc Intitiative at the low-mid end, so 5s to 13s, keep it simple, no need to roll. Add +1 to attack with a pistol, for instance, with it doing Lethal damage and you're golden.

Thug (Crowbar)
Attack = 4
Defend = 2
Resist = 2
Health = 3
Defense = 1
Initiative = 6
Equip: Crowbar (first DMG point is Lethal, rest is Bashing)

Thug (Pistol)
Attack = 2
Defend = 3
Resist = 2
Health = 2
Defense = 1
Initiative = 11
Equip: Light Pistol (+1 Attack; do Lethal damage)

Generally, pre-written NPCs is a bad place to start when doing custom content, same with demos and like material. And encounter design is both an art and a science, so it's a bad double whammy effect. Most like, the True Fae boss was created wit5h a specific party makeup in mind, if what you're saying is that your PCs smashed through it. Straight-up, if that's the case, then that boss was not combat-focused, which is what you needed.

One of the things to keep in mind whenever you're running an encounter is that you represent the NPCs. Make them look good, son! Destroy those PC's as hard and as fast as you can! There's this concept of non-antagonistic relationships between GM and players. Screw that and don't get caught in that line of thinking -- this is not the time for that! Don't get petty, don't get disingenuous and don't obscure the battlefield for the players by omitting information or something. Keep major info clear, like oil barrels, dangling scaffolding or bubbling acid vats underneath broken gangway railings. Perceptive players will pick up on your descs and reward them for that. And hey, following from the above, once a PC "hits" an NPC minion, generally "kill them off" first time even if it's just knocking to the ground and they're writhing in pain. Have that "screw you guys, you're not winning" mindset and your battles will be more memorable for it. But do keep it fair, yeah?

When it comes to balancing up your opponents with your PCs, well, think about what they can do. Are they are the investigative types? Make enemies stealthy. Are they courageous and intimidating? Make em' strong-willed but few. Are they combat beasts? Very strong few or many dangerous weaklings. Don't get caught in the trap of "it's not just all about combat". No, it IS all about combat as that's the basis of your questions and that's the example you've given. Combat doesn't mean hack 'n' slash -- it means badass dives, cover under suppressive, wall tile shattering fire and pitched standoffs and power duals in any decent NWOD game. At the same time it's lethal -- punish reckleness, reward cunning. And don't be afraid to retcon rolls, especially if they're GM-only. Fairness, more often than not, is not "fair" to players and in NWOD, shotgun-toting enemies can wreck your PCs skrak with them 9-agains and +3, even 5 Wyrd Changelings with multiple badass lvl 4 Contracts. Free throws ain't free, yo!

I strongly recommend using what I've said here as a base. Otherwise, you're setting yourself up -- and your players -- to fail. By the way, these enemies are statted for taking on 0-23(EXP) PCs, so keep that in mind, yo.

  • \$\begingroup\$ When you want to update an answer, use the edit button instead of posting a new answer and deleting the old one. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 22, 2014 at 15:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ I haven't noticed the problem you describe of full health (fully decked out) npc's being too powerful. Is that something you encounter when you have the same number of enemies (or more) than number of PC's? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 15:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ There's several factors that play into that. Thing is, how many enemies have your PCs found themselves up against in an average encounter of yours? Also, what kinda gear have you strapped on your NPCs and how do you have them fight? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 20:14

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