You may have noticed, if you’ve been here before, that this blog is very much a work in progress. I’ve never had a blog before, so I’m only slowly going through and finding all the things I can toggle, tweak, and toy with to make this appear the way I’d like it to. Hence, if you’re a regular reader, you’ll see this site slowly change over time.
Today’s one of the bigger changes, that being the name of this blog. Don’t get me wrong, calling it “Alzrius’s Blog” was certainly doing what it should in terms of description – I’m Alzrius and this is my blog – but it just wasn’t poetic enough. So yeah, I’m taking my name out of the title, and instead changing it to its new moniker: Intelligence Check.
Why call it that? Well, because that’s sort of what I’m making each time I make a new post. I’m hoping to lend some new insight into something familiar, or even unfamiliar, and showcase things in a way that’s different from how they usually appear. Of course, other times I’m just trying to be entertaining…but calling this “Charisma Check” didn’t seem quite as catchy.
But enough self-aggrandizing, let’s move on! Today’s topic is another break from the Bestiary, to focus on something else:
I recently started thinking about 0-level characters after a conversation I had with the DM for my Pathfinder game. I was pressing him for stats about the town our characters were in, and he offhandedly replied that most of the town guards were 0-level characters.
Now, this made me blink since Pathfinder doesn’t have 0-level characters. The lowest you can be is to have one level in an NPC class. However, I cut my teeth on Second Edition, and though I’m not totally sure, I think it did have 0-level NPCs in it. Needless to say, that got me thinking about the what’s and why’s of having such characters in Pathfinder, and contrasting the idea versus low-level NPCs.
First, we need to define just what a 0-level NPC is. Okay, simple enough. It’s a character with no class (insert lame joke about being uncouth here). More specifically, it’s a character with no class features – specifically, no Hit Dice, no skill points, no Base Attack Bonus, no Base Saves, and no level-based things (like feats, which are gained at odd-numbered levels).
Now, some of this is a problem. A character with no Hit Dice has no hit points…and a character with no hit points is dead. So by default, we can’t have that. Instead, we’ll assign all 0-level characters a flat 2 hit points – this is because even the weakest NPC classes (which don’t, as I recall, grant full hit points at 1st level) have a d6 hit die, which has an average of 3 hit points (rounded down), so it nicely shows how these guys are less than even level one nobodies. They have more than 1 hit point because otherwise they’d die from a stubbed toe (let alone something really lethal, like a cat’s claws).
So then, what does our 0-level character’s stat block look like? Well, here’s an example. Remember, this affects only class, so all racial abilities apply. I’m also using base stats of 10 and 11, since no 0-level characters are noteworthy in any particular regard.
Joe Average, 0-level Human: CR 1/8; XP 50; Medium humanoid (human); hp 2; Init +0; Spd 30 ft.; AC 10, touch 10, flat-footed 10; Base Atk +0; CMB +0; CMD 10; Melee unarmed strike +0 (1d3 nonlethal); AL N; Fort +0, Ref +0, Will +0; Str 10, Dex 11, Con 10, Int 11, Wis 10, Cha 13; Languages Common.
And there you have it; that’s your base 0-level character right there. Of course, I can foresee a few questions about this build coming, so I’ll answer them here ahead of time:
Where are this guy’s skills and feats? They’re not listed, because he doesn’t have any. Remember, 0-level characters get no feats, and no skill points. Humans, you’ll notice, get their bonus racial feat and bonus skill point starting at 1st-level, which this guy hasn’t achieved yet. He likewise has no armor check penalty, no racial bonuses or penalties (being a human), no class skill bonus since he has no class skills (and no points to spend in them anyway), etc. Basically, the only thing this guy will get is a +1 to untrained skill checks that are Charisma-based, due to his 13 there.
Why does he have a Charisma of 13? You said all 0-level characters had stats of 10 or 11? I did, but any racial bonuses are taken into account. A Pathfinder human has a +2 to one ability score of his choice; this guy wanted to be a bit more charismatic than most people.
What weapons and armor is this guy proficient in? None, save for his unarmed strike (which everyone is always proficient in). Real proficiencies are reserved for people who actually gain a level in something.
Why is his Challenge Rating 1/8? Because that’s the lowest CR possible for a Pathfinder character. Simply put, this guy is about as unthreatening as you can possibly make a creature, short of removing things like the ability to attack altogether. As such, he deserves the lowest CR imaginable, since he’d never be able to seriously threaten a 1st-level character.
Can I play a 0-level PC? You can…but it’s a really bad idea. For one thing, just playing such a weak character is an invitation to wind up with a dead PC. There’s virtually no creature in the Bestiary or anywhere else that couldn’t kill such a character in one hit. Moreover, it’s tricky to have a 0-level character and keep to things like “no remarkable ability scores” since PCs would end up rolling for those anyway once they hit 1st-level; and that leads us to the final question…
How much XP does it take for a 0-level character to hit 1st-level? This is a tricky one, since normal 1st-level characters start off with 0 XP. Strictly speaking, I’d say a 0-level character shouldn’t be able to gain XP; they’re the background characters, the ones who don’t count for anything in any regard, so the idea of them bettering themselves and growing stronger is counter-intuitive.
That said, if you really want a value to level-up one of these guys, I recommend having them reach 1st-level at 50 XP – this is the value of another CR 1/8 creature (and hence, the value of another 0-level NPC). The implication here is that killing someone is enough to make you hit 1st-level; a grim message, though an apropos one for games like Pathfinder, which can be summarized as “kill things and take their stuff.” A quick tip though – if you have PCs going this route, don’t let them gain XP from doing dinky things like finding the most non-threatening animal they can (e.g. a chicken) and killing it for its XP.
Once they level up though, they can then roll (or purchase) their ability scores – which might be a bit awkward to explain how they’re suddenly so different, especially if some go down, so you might want to bend that rule and let them roll up their ability scores as 0-level PCs (after all, aren’t heroes a cut about the rest?) – and choose what class they want to take.
And there you have it! Rules for making characters who truly don’t matter. The next time it’s important to know anything about minor background characters, and you don’t want to bother calculating the skills or picking a feat for your commoner, just pull out a 0-level NPC. And if you’re actually going to try and run a PC this way, good luck…you’ll need it.
Beyond that, did I fail my Intelligence check for this post and leave something important out? If so, post a comment and let me know!