Monsters are great enemies, but humanoid NPCs can be the greatest enemies of all!
The SRD and Creature Codex provide some useful standard NPCs to throw at players, but there are holes in the power spread . . . let’s fill those up with more great options!
Options for Fighters
Fighters are great for GMs. Sometimes they can be dastardly villains, enacting their own ignoble ventures. Other times, they can be the amoral muscle for a client flush with gold and gems—the wizard, priest or cultist with nefarious plans.
The SRD contains three NPC stat blocks for generalist fighters:
- The CR 1/2 thug is a low-level frontline combatant. Its potent combination of Pack Tactics and Multiattack offsets a low AC.
- The CR 3 veteran is a fierce but straightforward opponent, boasting a high AC, ample hit points and up to three attacks each round.
- The CR 5 gladiator is a mid-level combat monster, using both spear and shield to attack while also using its reaction to parry away attacks.
This leaves quite the spread for GMs who want to challenge their players with fighter-types. At very low levels, a small group of thugs may be challenging, while the veteran and gladiator are quite deadly. As the PCs grow in power and level, veterans and eventually gladiators become pedestrian, needing to attack in groups.
A GM can supplement with monstrous foes, but this may do disservice to the storyline when the GM has to do cartwheels to explain the presence of certain foes. A GM can add more NPCs, but this risks longer battles with more enemies choking the initiative order. A GM can create a NPC using character creation guidelines, but then the GM is reading a character sheet instead of a stat block.
So what’s a GM to do?
More Wieldy Warriors
Two new NPC entries for fighters sit between the existing options: the soldier and the battlefield captain. Both use unique weapon maneuvers found in Beyond Damage Dice and Midgard Heroes Handbook. Both are front-line fighters a GM can throw at the characters when an unscrupulous warrior is called for.
Note on Using Maneuvers: These NPCs each have several different weapons, along with an associated maneuver. Generally, an NPC should have only one weapon. Feel free to add different weapons and maneuvers from Beyond Damage Dice, but unless is a measurable benefit beyond a few points of damage, limit its usage to a number of times per day equal to the NPC’s proficiency bonus.
Unlike the thug, the soldier has proper training. Clad in better armor, the soldier wields more potent weapons. When surrounded by lesser warriors, the soldier assumes the role of tactician, directing allies to victory.
Medium Humanoid (Any Race), Any Alignment
Armor Class 14 (chain shirt)
Hit Points 45 (7d8 + 14)
Speed 30 ft.
STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
15 (+2) 12 (+1) 14 (+2) 12 (+1) 10 (+0) 10 (+0)
Skills Athletics +4
Senses passive Perception 10
Languages Any one language (usually Common)
Challenge 1 (200 XP) Proficiency Bonus +2
Brave. The soldier has advantage on saving throws against being frightened.
Halberd. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d10 + 2) slashing damage.
Tripping Attack. On a hit with a halberd attack, a target creature must make a DC 12 Constitution saving throw or be knocked prone. This maneuver may be used twice before a short or long rest.
Morningstar. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d8 + 2) piercing damage.
Bruising Blow. On a hit with a morningstar attack, a target creature must make a DC 12 Constitution saving throw or it cannot add its Dexterity modifier to AC until the start of its next turn. This maneuver may be used twice before a long rest.
Javelin. Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft. or range 30/120 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d6 + 2) piercing damage.
Fearsome Accuracy. On a hit with a javelin attack from a range of 35–120 feet, the target creature must make a DC 12 Wisdom saving throw or be frightened of the soldier until the end of its next turn. This maneuver may be used twice before a long rest.
Combat Direction. The soldier instructs an ally within 60 feet to use its reaction to Disengage and move up to half its speed.
The battlefield captain commands of a company of warriors. Even more than the soldier, the battlefield captain is a student of war and a master tactician, ordering around warriors during the fight. The battlefield captain is also a survivor and has learned to take advantage of the inexperience of his opponents—or his warriors.
Medium Humanoid (Any Race), Any Alignment
Armor Class 17 (half plate)
Hit Points 150 (20d8 + 60)
Speed 30 ft.
|18 (+4)||14 (+2)||16 (+3)||10 (+0)||13 (+1)||15 (+2)|
Saving Throws Str +7, Wis +4
Skills Athletics +7, Insight +4, Intimidation +5, Perception +4
Senses Passive Perception 14
Languages Any two languages
Challenge 8 (3,900 XP) Proficiency Bonus +3
Legendary Resistance. If the captain fails a saving throw, they can choose to succeed instead. This ability may be used three times before a long rest.
Multiattack. The captain makes three melee attacks using one of the weapons below.
Greatsword. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 11 (2d6 + 4) slashing damage.
Arcing Slash. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., two targets. Hit: 7 (1d6 + 4) slashing damage.
Maul. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 10 (1d12 + 4) bludgeoning damage.
Hurling Impact. Ranged Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, range 10/20 ft., one target. Hit: 10 (1d12 + 4) bludgeoning damage. If the target is a creature, it must succeed on a DC 15 Strength saving throw or be pushed 15 feet away from the captain.
Longbow. Ranged Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, range 150/600 feet, one target. Hit: 6 (1d8 + 2) piercing damage.
Pinning Shot. On a hit with the captain’s longbow attack, a target creature must make a DC 12 Strength saving throw or be pinned in place. On a failed save, the target creature’s speed is reduced to 0 feet and cannot move until it uses its action to successfully remove the arrow with a DC 12 Strength check. This maneuver may be used three times before a long rest.
Let Slip the Hounds of War (recharge 4–6). The captain orders an ally within 60 feet to use their reaction to make a melee or ranged weapon attack against a creature. The ally has advantage on this attack if it attacked that creature in the last round.
Second Wind. The captain recovers 15 (1d10 + 10) hp. This maneuver may be used once before a long rest.
Battlefield Intuition. When a melee weapon attack misses the captain, they can make a Wisdom (Insight) check. If the result of this check exceeds the result of the creature’s attack roll, the captain has advantage on weapon attacks made against the creature until the end of the captain’s next turn. This reaction may be used three times before a short or long rest.
Redirect Attack. When a creature the captain can see targets them with an attack, the captain chooses an ally within 5 feet of it. The two swap places, and the chosen ally becomes the target instead.
About Benjamin Eastman
Benjamin L. Eastman was introduced to D&D by his four closest friends—who immediately betrayed his trust by sacrificing his first character to a demonic artifact. Undeterred, he’s played all manner of RPGs in the intervening years. In addition to writing Warlock lairs and monsters for Kobold Press, he’s contributed to the Stargate RPG and Americana, and co-authored DMs Guild adventures including Baby Tarrasque. He is perhaps proudest of the bar brawl—his first published monster in the Creature Codex.