Player characters usually rocket up levels in a short amount of time but for the NPC’s just going about their lives how fast do they level up? If they are gaining experience from day to day troubles what level would they reach? Most are going to stay at 1st level throughout their lives but for those that encounter lots of small challenges over time what level of skill could they have expected to have reached?
Tiers of Play: The Tiers of play is also a good guide of what higher-level point you want typical NPC’s in your world. Do you want NPC’s that do not come up against constant huge challenges to reach the 20th level by the end of their lifespan or somewhere far lower?
- Tier 1: Levels 1-4 – Local Heroes
- Tier 2: Levels 5-10 – Heroes of the Realm
- Tier 3: Levels 11-16 – Masters of the Realm
- Tier 4: Levels 17-20 – Masters of the World
Typically you would want the normal NPC high level to be somewhere around Tier 2 and 3 at the highest. Well, that’s what I like! This cap creates exceptional NPC’s with a level of power that fits their station in the world but not the vitality of player characters. These NPCs are the great crafters that PC’s get items from, the leaders of nations, the generals of armies, the master artisans and learned sages of forgotten lore. They typically have stable relationships in their society and established resources they can call from. If we start a human average Level 1 at 20 years of age and have the level progression slow as they pass each stage of life we can have them reaching the following progression milestones by age.
Adulthood: 1st Level
Middle Age: 6th Level
Old Age: 10th Level
Venerable: 14th Level
This scale for a human is approximately 1 level every 3 years to Middle Age, 1 level for 4 years to Old Age, and 1 level every 5 years to Venerable Age which upon reaching becomes the max level. You can use this base to alter the age of races with different lifespans. Unfortunately, Life spans and ages are missing from Core D&D 5th Edition but we can pull some ages to use as a guide from Version 3.5.
|Race||Average Starting Age||Middle Age||Old Age||Venerable|
You can also add in adjustments to the effects of aging to see what extra things they might have learned. There are always NPC exceptions to this guideline. Other NPC’s that have run into similar levels of danger as PC’s and of course villains may be higher level at different stages but this can give you a good guide of what age to level ratio to expect.