As part of an early quest, my PCs are likely to face off against a wizard.

The problem here is that the stat block for Mage NPCs listed in the Basic Rules has a Challenge Rating of 6, while the PCs are going to be five Level 1s. So, instead of messing with the stat block and risk weakening it too much/too little, I'm choosing to create a Level 1 Wizard PC and use it as an NPC for this quest.

The problem with that is that, as far as I can tell, there aren't any designated rules for assigning either Challenge Ratings or XP values to a PC. So, should I just give the wizard a Challenge Rating equal to his level (and thus have him give 200 xp when killed), or is there a better way to do this?

(This is different from Determining "level" of an NPC ally for purpose of budgeting encounter XP, because he's asking for a way to assign a level to an NPC, while I'm asking for a way to assign an XP value/Challenge Rating to a PC (for use as an NPC). Similar questions, but different.)

up vote 21 down vote accepted

I've been struggling with this but figured it out, I think. The thing that's hard to get from a lot of D&D player/DMs' perspective is that there simply is no level => challenge correlation directly. Challenge is almost entirely derived from:

  • Hit points
  • Damage per round (from your most damaging attacks)

And to a lesser degree from:

  • Save DC or attack bonus on the attacks
  • Armor Class
  • Miscellaneous special abilities

So, with that in mind, it's entirely possible to create two different second-level NPCs that have wildly different challenge ratings. That, and NPC/monster "characters" often have things like multiattack at their disposal, which is a little harder for PCs to achieve.

So what you really need to do is create the character as you want, then figure out what kind of damage they can put out round-for-round and derive a challenge from that. There's virtually no way to jump right from a class/level combo into a challenge rating and experience value.

Assuming that you have already created the character sheet for the wizard, all you need to do now is look at p.274 in the DMG.

On this page, there is a table for determining challenge rating (and hence XP) by looking at proficiency bonus, armour class, hit points, attack bonus (or save DC, if the creature uses that more), and damage/round.

The explanation of how this process works is on the page, but I will quickly go through an example here. I will use this character sheet:

Defensive CR: (CR 1/8)

  • Proficiency bonus: +2 (CR 0-4)
  • Armour class: 12 (CR 0)
  • Hit points: 8 (CR 1/8)

Offensive CR: (CR 1)

  • Attack bonus: +5 (CR 4)
  • Damage/round: 1d10 (CR 1/2)

Average Challenge Rating = CR 1/2 (100xp)

As you can probably see, quite a bit of rounding is required to get the above result, and different rounding could have resulted in a different result. As a rule of thumb, and to be on the safe side, I always round up.

Note that most of the information on the character sheet is completely ignored when determining CR. This means that it doesn't really matter which skills or saving throw proficiencies you give your wizard, as long as you don't go over the top.

The problem you will face is that, although the wizard can deal fairly high damage for their CR, they have very few hit points. Don't expect them to survive longer than a round. You will probably want to give them some sort of protection to ensure that a single lucky hit from a fighter doesn't take them down.

  • @András Thanks for the spot. Now corrected. When I wrote this, I think I must have thought that you averaged the CRs that atk. bonus and dmg./round would give you. I'm surprised it's taken this long for people to notice though... – Ladifas Nov 20 at 12:16

Appendix B of the Monster Manual provides several examples that can provide some guidance.

For cleric/druids, the CR is generally half the spell-casting level.


Challenge: 1/4 ... a 1st-level spellcaster

(The example provided is an unarmored acolyte, so the CR is lower that it would be for a cleric in typical armor.)

Cult Fanatic:

Challenge: 2 ... a 4th-lvel spellcaster


Challenge: 2 ... a 4th-level spellcaster


Challenge: 2 ... a 5th-level spellcaster

For mages, the CR is 2/3 the spellcasting level.


Challenge 6 ... a 9th-level spellcaster


Challenge: 12 ... an 18th-level spellcaster


If you roll well for your custom character, optimize it, or equip it well, it will probably be a bit stronger than these examples.

For example, most 9th level "PC" mages out there have a higher Int (and DC) and AC that the NPC "Mage" on MM page 347. You can use these numbers as a quick "thumb in the air" before creating a custom monster, and assume the CR (as calculated from the DMG) will be a little higher.

  • Have you tried these with a custom creature? How did it fare? – daze413 Mar 20 '16 at 14:49
  • @daze413 good question, I added a little more to my answer. To calculate the CR as accurately as possible, the DM Guide has the answers (as Ladislas describes). But you won't have those numbers until after you create the custom character. – Tim Grant Mar 20 '16 at 15:37

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