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The amount of NPCs in the MM are ok, but I'm wanting to create a highly magically charged campaign and one of the central NPCs is a Dwarf Wizard with a constantly summoned familiar. My question is this: Do I need to merely adapt the Mage type NPC from the MM or should I roll out the character and, effectively, generate him just like a PC. 5E is just getting started (DMG isn't even out yet), I know, but I'm very certain of how I want this guy to come across: Stephen Hawking as a dwarven mage, basically.

**Note: He won't be around all the time, but he'll be a Professor X kind of mastermind who guides the PCs.

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You have two options (and hey, they're the ones you mentioned in your question!), and it sort of depends on what exactly you're wanting to do.

First and foremost, most likely the advice I give here is only any good until we see the full NPC creation rules in the DMG where hopefully there will be much easier shorthands than what I'm going to suggest.

The by far and away easiest thing to do is to take the Mage NPC, spell swap for find familiar (something you're given full license to do in the rules, and even if you werent...well you're the DM) and just be done. Also add a racial trait to him to make him feel more like a dwarf.

Your other option is to build up a Wizard as if he was a PC. I'd advise against feats and just take the most basic options and equipment.

The first approach is way easier. You have a set CR, you don't have to rummage for the right spells or anything else really. The cons here are that you don't have any scaling rules for the NPC (he's set at CR 6), and he doesn't necessarily feel enough like a dwarf. These may or may not be problems for you.

The second approach has the pros of being fully scalable, and can be built as a dwarf so it will have a dwarf's racial traits etc. On the flip side, we don't have a PC->CR guide yet so you'll have to guess and it's a ton more work than just pulling up an NPC that's already created.

In a lot of ways what you do probably depends on context. If this is a one-off villain for an encounter, use the pre-gen'd NPC. But if this is a long running villain who is worth more of your time, build him as a PC and maybe even level him with the party.

Given that this character is going to be a quest giver, I'd be inclined to create him with PC rules as the customization offered in that set is going to be far better than what's available for monsters right now (in a month or so, I might change this answer, but I just don't know yet). The only caution is that if you make him too much higher level than the PCs then I wouldn't ever (or maybe only on super rare occasions) let him fight with them. (DM PCs aren't a great idea anyways, though, so there's that)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This answer should be updated, given the availability of DMG. \$\endgroup\$ – Thanuir Sep 2 '18 at 14:57
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If he is going to be the leader of your PCs, I would start him off as a Mage from the MM with the dwarven traits from the PHB, adding the stat increases to the Mage stats. If you don't feel like recalculating the base HP due to the increased Con, I would just take the max HP of the Mages. If you go the Mountain Dwarf route, put him in a breastplate or scale mail and wield a weapon from the dwarven combat training selection to further separate him from a cookie Mage npc. While he is in the background and the PCs are leveling up, after a significant amount of time, switch him from the Mage to the Archmage to keep him ahead of your PCs as long as it won't unbalance your game. So, it's less time consuming than building him from scratch but you'll still get a unique feel of him as a NPC.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Why should the quest giver increase so in strength? \$\endgroup\$ – Thanuir Sep 2 '18 at 14:58
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The NPC mage is essentially a level 9 wizard. Whether you use that or roll up a whole class really just depends on whether it's necessary for the campaign. If your NPC isn't meant to fight either alongside or against the players, then using the simple Mage stat block will be sufficient. On the other hand if you intend for him to be a major opponent and/or ally, then you should probably stat him out as a full character.

In any case, whether or not he has a familiar is unlikely to affect anything much one way or another, so just give him a familiar and don't worry about the mechanics of it. Encounter building in any version of DnD is not an exact science, and adding or removing a familiar or spell slot isn't going to break anything.

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