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NPC building and average stat attributes

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  • NPC building and average stat attributes

    During discussion about broadswords, there came up one thing that seems to be a common misconception when it comes to NPC and "average stats" as described in a book (in this case, DA guide ). I decided this really deserves an answer - but it also wasn't quite the topic to delve into there, so I created a new thread. The thing is, that many games (DA included) provide us with a value of "average" or "normal" stats. It's generally a good thing - it gives us some idea about how strong/fast/smart our characters really are compared to the rest of the populace.
    However, not that rarely those values are confused for guidelines that apply to every type of "basic" NPC the same way. "This guy is nothing special, he should have Strength of 1 since that's the average" could make sense... unless said guy is a woodcutter, for example...
    So, more to the point:
    If the guide tells us that 0-1 is the average attribute it does not mean that's the average for everyone.
    If you take chantry scholars, you probably won't find many with Cunning 1 or worse. Warrior with Strength 1 would be considered weak. A bard with Communication 1 is a disaster - and how long would 1-dexterity thief go uncaught, even if he only picked the easiest targets?

    Average attribute level just doesn't take into account character's occupation - even if they do work globally.
    To have an example, let's take Avvarian Hunter, the first combatant NPC given in Adversary section of GM manual, with following attributes:
    1 Communication (Animal Handling)
    2 Constitution (Drinking, Stamina)
    0 Cunning
    1 Dexterity
    0 Magic
    1 Perception (Seeing, Tracking)
    2 Strength (Axes, Climbing)
    1 Willpower (Morale)

    It doesn't take much math to find out his average is 1. That IS the average-joe of Avvars - but he still has Strength 2 and Constitution 2. He's an Avvar, a sturdy barbarian and a bit of a warrior - his attributes don't make him exceptional, they only show his strength and weaknesses corresponding to requirements and "training" associated with being an avvarian hunter.

    Of course, most opponents in the guide (even the more-or-less human ones) don't have the average stat of 1 - "basic" Chasing Stalker is considerably more elite than, say, a "basic" Fereldan Brigand - and their stats reflect that with averages of 1,6 and 1. Still, the GM needs to remember - even the most average of Average Joes WILL have attributes appropriate for his main occupation higher than the, well, average. Because if he didn't - he wouldn't be Average Joe; he would be Weak Joe that is poorly suited to what he does.

    So, as the final advice for GMs and players - remember the context. If someone is supposed to be strong - the question remains "strong by what standards". A Strength 1 mage might be considered actually quite strong, but a Strength 1 warrior might actually get laughed at. And a Communication 2 bard? That's above average - but in his line of work still means that he's either a beginner or really lacks talent.
    Basically - while I consider adding the "average attribute" information a good practice in RPG manuals, it's still only the average. And on average... well. On average the Mabari trainer and his hound have 3 legs each

  • #2
    Re: NPC building and average stat attributes

    Well it's also worth considering focuses in this case, a communication 2 minstrel with performance is effectively a four, exceptional by the book's standards, but only fairly good at lieing, persuading, seducing, or leading (average is 0 not 1, one is above average, or at least high end of average.).