Demographics of NPC levels

Once upon a time when D&D was young and called ‘Advanced Dungeons and Dragons,’ I got my hands on this supplement, the ‘World Builder’s Guidebook’. It has many tables and describes many options an inspiring DM can use to create a world of their own. Tables for resources, kingdom sizes, tables to help generate populations and many, many hexagonal maps.

World Builder’s Guidebook.

This is all good stuff but what I wanted to know is how many of the people in that kingdom were of a Characters Class? How many high-level characters are there? And how many of each kind of class is there? I would presume rogues and fighters would be more common than wizards and clerics- and if that is true then to what degree? If there was an abundance of clerics wouldn’t that mean healing and should be cheap and readily available? If the players needed expert help was that actually very common? SO many pressing questions!

And did this book help? Yes! Well, a little. Buried right at the back in a few paragraphs is an offhand section that gives a guide on how to generate how many high-level people are in a settlement. Here I pass on the paraphrased info and advise what’s the use of that information.

Step 1 – How many people live in the settlement.

This system generated populations by settlement, namely thorps, villages, towns and cities. It’s a bit of a complicated process so for the purpose of this here is some numbers for three levels of population density:

Village 300 pop
Town  2500 pop
City    20,000 pop

In these agrarian societies, the majority of the population is going to be peasants. This is the humanoid ‘Commoner’ in the Monster Manual. In the historical real-world people that fit that description would have taken up 85-90% of the population. For this fantasy world, I’m going to skew it lower to 80% of the population. The next 15% of the population is taken up by other NPC classes. These are the more skilled humanoids but not having the same level of skill as adventurers such as the warrior, pirate, bandit, priest, noble, knight, scout, mage etc. Lastly, we have 5% left for NPC’s with a playable PC class. 

So for a Village of 300, this would make : 
80% Commoners: 240
15% Other NPC Classes: 45
5% PC Classes: 15

Now, what level are all these people? We take half the number of each group and make them 1st level, then make half of what’s remaining 2nd Level and so on until we don’t have any left.

For Example: Of the 240 Commoners 120 are 1st level. This leaves 120, so half of these are 2nd level. This leaves 60 and half of these are 3rd level and so on. Each time you half an amount round up to the nearest even number i.e. a 15 gets halved to an 8 instead of 7.5. So let’s see what this produces with a Village, Town and City. If you have some leftovers you can add them wherever you want. 

Here is an example of a Village, Town and City breakdown in class groups and levels.

Village 300 pop. 

80% Commoners 240. 1st level: 120, 2nd level: 60, 3rd level: 30, 4th level: 15, 5th level:8, 6th level: 4, 7th level: 2, 8th level: 1 

Other non-NPC
15% Other NPC Classes 45. 1st level: 24, 2nd level: 12, 3rd level: 6, 4th Level: 3, 5th Level: 1 

PC Classes
5% PC Classes 15, 1st level: 8, 2nd level: 4, 3rd level: 2, 4th level: 1

Town 2500 pop.

Peasants Commoners 2000. 1st Level: 1000, 2nd Level: 500, 3rd level: 250, 4th Level: 125, 5th Level: 64, 6th Level: 32, 7th Level: 16, 8th Level: 8, 9th Level: 4, 10th Level: 1

Other non NPC 
15% Other NPC Classes 375. 1st level: 188, 2nd Level: 94, 3rd Level: 48, 4th Level: 24, 5th Level: 12, 6th Level: 6, 7th Level: 3 

PC Classes
5% PC Classes 125. 1st Level: 64, 2nd Level: 32, 3rd Level: 16, 4th Level: 8, 5th Level: 4, 6th Level: 1 

City 20,000 pop.

80% Commoners 16,000. 1st Level: 8,000, 2nd Level: 4,000, 3rd Level: 2,000, 4th Level: 1,000, 5th Level: 500, 6th Level: 250, 7th Level: 125, 8th Level: 64, 9th Level: 32, 10th Level: 16, 11th Level: 8, 12th Level: 4, 13th Level: 2, 14th Level: 1

Other non NPC 

15% Other NPC Classes 3000. 1st Level: 1500, 2nd Level: 750, 3rd Level: 376, 4th Level: 188, 5th Level: 94, 6th Level: 48, 7th Level: 24, 8th Level: 12, 9th Level: 6, 10th Level: 3, 11th Level: 2, 12th Level: 1

PC Classes

5% PC Classes 1000. 1st Level: 500, 2nd Level: 250, 3rd Level: 125, 4th Level: 62, 5th Level: 31, 6th Level: 16, 7th Level: 8, 8th Level: 4, 9th Level: 2, 10th Level: 1

Now we have a good idea of what levels of people can be found in a settlement. If you want to take this a step further you could break down each group of levels again based on what percentage of each class you think would make up the society according to what’s common in the campaign world. For example, if it’s a highly militant society then you could make 70% of the non-NPCs warriors and berserkers and the PC Classes 70% fighters. If the town is ruled by a religious order then you might increase the percentage of classes in priests, and clerics. 

Otherwise, this gives you a baseline of what kind of help or resistance is available in town for the players. For instance, if you made your highest level PC class in a City a Cleric then they are the only person powerful enough to cast a ‘Raise Dead’ or ‘Greater Restoration’ spell that the party might need. What if the players want to hire a bunch of skilled but cheap fighters in the town? Well, there are 94 2nd level people here and you think that 70% being warriors suits your campaign setting so the best they could possibly get is 65. The warriors could be part of a few mercenary groups of maybe all in service of a higher level warrior in town. Getting the resources the players want is up to your campaign and setting but this system helps you generate what to expect. And if your players are descending into being murder hobo’s then you have an idea of what kind of resistance is typically available. Don’t forget you can also flavour the levels of these people with NPC level by age and aging heroes rules.

Always keep in mind this system is meant to be used as giving you an idea for a baseline of what is normal. You can always throw in a campaign-specific high-level character or remove what’s generated. It also helps balance the players’ powers against the world and as they reach higher levels and truly become the very few people with the power and skill in the world to tackle the campaigns’ oncoming threat.


-Gavin The Thomson

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