As a storyteller, you put a lot of thought and care into running your games. And that includes your NPCs. You try to give them personalities and make them interesting. But you can’t possibly generate stats for every single potential NPC the party might want to interact with. In most cases, you don’t really need full stats for non-essential NPCs. But there may be cases when you need to roll opposed checks for these characters, and you need consistent guidelines to determine success or failure.
NPC Opposed Check Bonuses:
1. Roll the d20
2. With very few exceptions, any character can attempt any ability check untrained. When doing so, they can add the lower of their related two attributes to the check. For example, an NPC that has never swung a sword and has no ranks on the Martial Weapons Group can still attempt to do so, but instead of adding both Dexterity and Wits to the roll, he would add the lower of those two scores. Since 1 is considered the “average” of any attribute, assume 1 is the lowest score and add that to the roll.
3. Is it something the NPC would logically be trained in? A town guard would logically be trained to use a sword, while a barmaid would not. In the case where the NPC should logically be trained to perform the action, add 2 to the roll. 1 point signifies the “rank” in the ability, while the other point signifies the average score for the second related attribute to perform the action.
4. Is there something in how you described the character to justify a modifier? Did you describe the NPC has being catlike in his movements? He may have a Dexterity higher than the average score of 1. In that case, add an additional point to the roll to account for the description. Did you describe him as carrying an impressive sword? Well, he probably should know how to use it. Give him an additional one rank on the roll. In most cases, you should never give a non-essential NPC more than an additional two to four points in this case. If the NPC is supposed to be that exceptional, he probably should have been properly written up in advance and not just given overpowering stats on the fly.
Using this method, you can quickly decide on the amount of bonus to add to the roll, resulting in a bonus for non-essential NPCs ranging from +1 to +7. If you are feeling tempted to give them higher bonuses than that, keep in mind that as non-essential NPCs, they generally SHOULD be weaker than the players. Adding excessively high bonuses to non-essential NPCs can lead players to think you are stacking the deck against them, leading to adversarial gameplay. It can also lead players to think they are being railroaded into a specific set of actions.
You can even use this method to quickly design non-essential but recurring characters, like the bartender at a favorite tavern, a local sheriff, or a friendly merchant. Simply jot down some notes to keep track of the character’s demeanor and purpose so you can quickly reference it to make checks.
You may end up with a sheet that looks like this:
Jude, trading post owner, suspicious, grumpy
Nick, bartender, surly, strong
Valerie, barmaid, flirty, graceful
Gregory, mayor, skittish, honest
Whenever the players need to make opposed checks versus one of these NPCs, you can check your character notes and quickly determine what bonuses they should get to the roll. Just looking at your notes, the players would have a harder time manipulating Jude than they would Gregory. Valerie will do better of Presence checks than Nick. You can quickly just do the math in your head to determine what sort of bonuses these NPCs would get on various opposed checks.
How Much Health Should the NPC Have?
Unless an NPC suffers from some sort of disability, the least amount of DT the NPC can have is 9. This assumes a Score of 1, representing the human average, in the Constitution, Willpower, and Faith Attributes.
Fighter-type NPCs (guards, bouncers, ruffians, etc) should be treated as if they have a Consitition of 2. This would give them 12 DT.
Again, as non-essential NPCs, the will generally be weaker than the PCs unless there is a good reason otherwise. For example, a band of orc barbarians may have a Constitution of 3, a logical assumption. This would give them 15 DT. If you are tempted to give a non-essential NPC more DT, you should probably think about the NPC's actual role in the game. If you want a really tough character, you should be giving it a complete stat block.
There is no need to stat out every possible NPC for your game. Use cheat notes to give yourself a quick reminder of the NPC's role in the story.