There Is No Such Thing As a 2nd Level Blogger in D&D

I just saw a picture on a writing site of a woman sitting on her floor next to the couch, grapes and nail polish kit, two phones, shoes, and an empty notebook on the floor. It made me want to write this:

Adventurers in D&D get levels because they’re rough and tough and don’t take shit from nobody (much like Clint Eastwood brand toilet paper). You dig into a dungeon full of death-traps and alien brainsuckers and you come out more experienced and tougher. I can get behind this.

What I don’t like is some NPC in town who never left his neighborhood and someone says he’s a 4th level Shoeshine or Meatpacker. Take any Receptionist and add 20 years of experience, I don’t think that’s going to represent even a single extra Hit Point. If anything, a sedentary lifestyle should reduce HP.

I think that’s why I don’t like the NPC classes in 3E D&D (Expert, Commoner, Noble, etc) because some peasant who hits 20th level Milkmaid shouldn’t be able to take 20 stabs to the head and walk away whistling. And if the game doesn’t give detailed rules for a Limner/Painter’s daily duties, and the only people who will be good at it are dedicated NPCs, and there are in fact no ways for the NPC to actually gain levels unless he spends all day taking potshots at sewer rats and stray children from his roof, why include levels for townie NPCs at all?

I’d just as soon say the NPC gains “pseudolevels” based entirely on time spent working, and he acts as multiple workers based on his rank.

Apprentice: 0-1 yr – Acts as 1/2 man
Basic: 2 yr – Acts as 1 man
Normal: 3-5 yr – Acts as 2 men
Expert: 6-11 yr – Acts as 3 men
Master: 12-22 yr – Acts as 4 men, always produces excellent work
Grandmaster: 45+ yr – Acts as 5 men, always produces amazing work

You could stick with the standard D&D system if you really wanted to. Here’s how I’d construct an NPC class.

Commoner
Gains XP: Every month of work gives 120 XP (except first year is no XP apprenticeship)
XP Requirements: As Fighter
Benefits: Act as men equal to level for work related to specialty (choose something fairly specific – blacksmith vs. jeweler or armorer or weaponsmith is ok, metalsmith is too broad, blade maker is too specific).
HP: Only 1d6 ever, modified by CON (never improving)
Saves: Worst of 1st level Fighter, M-U, or Thief in each category (never improving)

Partial work months or part-time hours give partial XP. So if you’re a PC Fighter who wants to do blacksmithing (because World of Warcraft has you convinced it’s a great idea or you just need to fulfill the Dwarf Smith stereotype) and you practice for 8 hours one day per week while your party is in town, you’ll gain your first 150 blacksmithing XP after 7 months.

And no, you can’t gain XP in Blacksmith by adventuring, much like you can’t gain Fighter XP by blacksmithing.

Now we could use the 3E model for professions and crafts, where your skill check (in this case, your worker-equivalent) determines how much money you make. In that case, a lawyer earns as much as a shoeshine and a basketmaker earns as much as jeweler. That is to say, it’s dumb. But it’s also very simple.

We could rate professions, say 1-6, in terms of (a) portability, (b) profitability, and (c) demand. A jeweler or tailor is a much more likely profession for an adventurer than a smelter because it’s tough to carry a forge around. Jewelery is much more profitable than weaving per piece, but the number of pieces demanded is much lower. Then we have to figure out based on population how much demand there is for the PC to dump his goods on the market. Maybe a jeweler just ends up working fewer hours than the weaver and still makes more money: that’s fine. Maybe craftsmen and professionals end up gravitating toward cities: that’s expected.

Of course there will probably be guilds, or at least strong-arm types who want to control the market illicitly. The easiest way to handle this is adding the fees / extortion money to the normal taxes levied, and roleplay it only if someone tries to dodge the tax.

When we talk about sale price of goods, remember the book price is how much adventurers pay for things at the shop. Unless a tailor spends half his time working the register, or hires someone to do it, he’s going to be selling his goods to a merchant instead of selling directly. The merchant is thus a speculator instead of a professional, and his profit is based on how much of his investment he sells and at what price. His role doesn’t fit in this rule. Even if he participates in the carrying trade, he hires sailors and so forth, and we’re talking about caravans and foreign trade instead of a guy working on some metal to make it pretty.

Anyway, the tailor will buy materials, add his labor, and sell the goods to a merchant. But the merchant wants to make a profit! So the tailor obviously can’t charge book price. And his costs for materials, facility, and taxes will cut into his profit. He probably makes just about enough to live off of and save a little tiny bit.

And that’s great! That’s how it is. Adventurers despair, you can’t actually get rich working for the Man. Yes, it’s more profitable to steal from the dungeon or whatever. Why do players keep trying to get a sideline in crafting? In my experience, it’s because they either want to roleplay a craftsman (very rare) or else get a little extra money. But by “a little” they mean “a good percentage boost to what I make in the dungeon” otherwise it really isn’t worth the time and skill points.

As a side note, there’s no reason to play an NPC class in 3E. Not even if you’re an NPC. NPCs should all just be Rogues because they get lots of skill points and are more survivable.

Heck, you could ignore the two proposed NPC level schemes and say every NPC is a Thief.

2 Responses to “There Is No Such Thing As a 2nd Level Blogger in D&D”

  1. Link Skywalker (@linkskywalker) Says:

    I’ve never encountered players who want to craft primarily for profit, nor any who want to role play as craftspeople.

    In my experience, players want to craft on the side for a number of reasons:

    *It’s something their characters can do in off-hours. In the week between adventures the wizard is researching spells and the cleric is blessing holy water, what can the fighter do? How about make a really cool set of armor?

    *It provides situational benefits in play. A blacksmith will be better able to identify types of metals, and the quality of craftsmanship.

    *Players like self sufficiency. Finding a legendary sword is cool. Wresting it from the hands of a demon is cooler. For some players, making the swords yourself, and describing exactly how it would be engraved, is the coolest of all.

    If crafting isn’t fun for you or your players, that’s fine. It’s not at the core of the game, after all. The core of the game is delving for treasure, facing dangers, and trying your best to survive.

    But I don’t think people who do enjoy crafting are wrong.

  2. Geoffrey Says:

    I think levels for NPCs do make sense because a lot of D&D worlds are fucking hardcore. A peasant who has to deal with kobolds and ankhegs eating his cows will get at least a few xp out of that. They still are not comparable to adventurers, but someone who lives in constant dread of being eaten by something should gain soe hp. The same with some cities btw, rotten hives of scum and villaney that they are…

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