D&D 5e: Abstracted NPC Ally

For my current D&D campaign (Age of Heroes), I’ve attempted to create a rules-light NPC ally stat block. I don’t want to keep track of stats, lists of proficiencies or any of that.

To keep things simple, I’ve broken it up into what matters. Other than their Loyalty score (5e Dungeon Master Guide), which is kept hidden from the players, this is all that they see:

Stats

  • Advantage: has an Advantage to rolls using this stat
  • Disadvantage: has a Disadvantage to rolls using this stat
  • Skills (+X): Gets to use Proficiency bonus (equal to average of party) on checks using these stats

Roleplaying

  • Talent: Something (not combat-related) that the NPC is very good at doing (usually always succeeds; no roll needed)
  • Mannerism: A physical quirk
  • Interaction: A social quirk

Background

  • Ideals: what they strive for (affects Loyalty)
  • Bond: what matters to them (affects Loyalty)
  • Flaw: what could cause problems for the party

Equipment

  • Weapon: listed first, their main form of attack
  • other stuff, kept brief (main outfit, things of worth etc…)

As for Combat, the NPC lasts a number of rounds equal to the average party level. That means that after X number of rounds, they are taken out either due to exhaustion, wounds, bad morale or whatever.

Here is Adja, the first NPC ally that my players have welcomed into the party:

Adja, freed slave

Adja

Stats

  • Advantage: Dexterity
  • Disadvantage: Strength
  • Skills (+2): Dexterity, Wisdom, Charisma.

Roleplaying

  • Talent: Drinks everyone under the table.
  • Mannerism: Stares into the distance.
  • Interaction: Curious

Background

  • Ideals: Greed and Freedom
  • Bond: loyal to Arcas, who freed her.
  • Flaw: Heavy drinker.

Equipment

  • Weapon: Bleeder (+1 knife, DC 15 Constitution save or extra 2d10 bleeding damage)
  • Lagashian peasant garb
  • Kushite golden slave ankle collar (worth 20 gp)
  • 40 sp.

Age of Heroes: Session Two

In this session, the heroes set forth into the Hyades Desert in search of a clue to the disappearance of the antelope herds.

King Abazu of Kush
King Abazu of Kush

Cast of characters:

  • Protus, the Criminal-Ranger (PC played by Ryan)
  • Pythias, the Sailor-Warlock (PC played by Andrew)
  • Arcas, the Noble-Rogue (PC played by Jonathan)
  • Abazu, the Kushite King
  • Coronos, the Athenian Philosopher
  • Thuxra, the Persian Oracle
  • Adja, the freed slave (becomes an NPC ally)

They traveled past the ominously dormant volcano, rumored to be the lair of a dragon. The desolate landscape was bleak and heartbreaking.

They arrived at a small outpost where travelers stocked up on fresh supplies and water from a well. There they decided to travel to Lagash, a great oasis city in the middle of the desert. They also decided to travel with a caravan that was led by three strange foreigners: a king, a philosopher and an oracle.

Each of these individuals were on the same divine mission: to follow the black star which would appear over the Hyades Desert. This omen would lead them to a great event which would herald an individual who would change the world. Their destination was in the same direction as Lagash.

Thuxra, Persian Oracle
Thuxra, Persian Oracle

Along their three-day journey, they had a few choice encounters:

  • An old ruin from a forgotten civilization, dedicated to a reptilian Titan who favored sacrifice. Pythias found a strange green Lotus flower blooming under a cracked sacrificial alter.
  • While sneaking into King Abazu’s wagon to inspect his riches, Arcas found one of the ruler’s concubines. She was chained to the spot and seemed happy to speak to someone. When he was about to leave, a eunuch-slave spotted him and the imprisoned concubine slit his throat. The three heroes hid the body in the ruins.
  • On the second night, Arcas visited the concubine again. They traded stories, and their names. Her’s was Adja: her people had been conquered by the Kushites and she was enslaved. She promised to safely give him as much treasure that he could carry if she took her with him.
  • One night they arrived at a small shepherd village where the three men expected to find what they were looking for. Pythias went along to witness this event. They found, in a manger, a young family had just given birth. When the three men saw the child, they tossed their gifts in a hurry and recoiled in horror. The father tried to raise a weapon to slay the infant but couldn’t and suddenly threw his arm into a fire. Pythias saw that the baby had reptilian eyes and filled him with dread. Protecting himself with magic, he destroyed the child with sorcery. The body turned into a pile of serpents.
  • Philosopher Coronos of Athens
    Philosopher Coronos of Athens

    Coronus, the philosopher committed suicide. Abazu, the king, fled into the desert, probably to his doom. Thuxra, the oracle, told the heroes that he was going to find the Ziggurat of Hyades, in search of answers to this horrendous event. He gave them a small treasure.

  • The heroes took as much treasure that they could in such a short time and went off toward Lagash, bringing Adja the (now freed) slave.

On the night that they arrived at Lagash, they found that the city was in the middle of a great festivity in which everyone wore masks. A series of things occured on their first night:

  • They discovered that only nobles with the proper seal could openly bear weapons. All others had to check them in or leave them in their homes.
  • They found a tavern called the Howling Adder, which is popular with young, bored nobility. This was where they rented their rooms.
  • Each character set off to do some exploration and carousing; Protus gambled successfully and learned of three dangerous but wise witches, as well as their names, while Arcas found out about Lagash’s Gorgon Queen who lived in a palace full of riches (but woke up outside his room, thankfully unharmed and not robbed) and Pythias discovered, with the help of a strange peddler selling magically intoxicating tobacco, the Great Library of Menkhat. He could not find a way in: all of the ground floor doorways were locked.
  • Adja
    Adja

    None of the characters bothered to notice what Adja was doing (she drank with a Maggot Naga, who told her of the wondrous Zoo of Ping Feng). After a night of carousing, she woke up in Pythias’ bed.

Gaming material used in this adventure (links to product pages):

Age of Heroes Session One

Art by Matt Buck
Art by Matt Buck

The heroes, Arcas the Rogue, Pythias the Warlock and Protus the Ranger, set forth into the forbidden forests to find Eos, the lead hunter, and bring him back to the village.

Protus, having been present during the initial expedition into the woods, led the party to the base camp, only to find that had been ransacked. Even worse, they found the charred remains of a human body in a fire pit as well as a head of a well-liked young villager on a pole.

Their investigations of the scene gave only one clue: goat hoof prints, about the size of those of a Satyr. They proceeded with caution.

After a few days travel into the woods, they encountered giant spiders, a giant toad attacking a satyr (who issued a warning to the heroes to leave) and a cave where a hunter had hidden three magical black arrows that are especially harmful to spiders.

It was an arduous journey: the weather was cold, rainy and foggy and they burned through many torches. By the end, they were worn out and exhausted. It was a gruelling lesson in outdoor survival. It also revealed that the gods can be cruel and unusual (especially when they saw a giant spider with a human face).

spider

Eventually, after many hardships from the weather and Arcas’ poisoned wounds, they found the heart of the infestation. In a ruined temple of Dionysus, there was a strange dome made of fines and roots. Inside were some Maenads and a satyr playing a song on pipes. In the centre, attached to a strange tree with four huge faces, was the hunter Eos.

After a clever plan, they managed to rescue Eos but did not have a chance to excise the abomination. Arcas killed three of the Maenads before they had a chance to rip him to shreds.

art by telthona
art by telthona

Once Eos is healed, he plans on training new hunters and warriors and leading an expedition back into the forest to cleanse it of the horrible creature that is responsible for ruining the island’s crops. Perhaps the heroes will join them when they are wiser and stronger.

After a month recovering back in the village, the heroes decided that they would next follow the cryptic words of an old blind sage and travel into the desert on the southern part of the island. There they hope to find the reason for the shortage of Antelope herds on the island.