Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Economics of a Basic Pathfinder NPC - Just How Poor (or Rich) Are They?


This has been a point of contention within my RPG group, just how much is an average Joe suppose to make in the game? I've never given it much thought; I just go with peasants making about 1 GP a year. But after so many sessions, I think it's time for me to tackle the question of, just how does the financials look like of the many nameless NPC that dots our games.


Let's start with some stated parameters. According to Ultimate Campaign (Gaining Capital), unskilled labor is 1sp a day for NPCs. This is also noted under their respective description in the Core Rulebook. This is compared to the 5sp that PC characters are suppose to make under the same unskilled circumstances. Furthermore, daily income for skilled PCs can be done by taking the appropriate skill check and then dividing it by 10, gaining that much in GP (rounding down to the nearest silver). I will proceed from this point forth assuming the following:
1. We will be dealing with Basic NPCs (not heroic ones)
2. Basic NPC earns 1/5 compared to their Heroic counterparts (and PCs)
3. A workweek is 5 days
4. Unskilled labor is 1sp for basic NPC
5. All skilled labor checks will Take 10 for the average gains
6. Base stats of all basic NPC will be 10
7. A skilled NPC will have the skill used for money making as a class skill
8. Nothing aside from the skill rank and base attribute score will be used (no traits or feats)
9. We will use the Paizo's Monthly Cost of Living table from the Core Rulebook:
Destitute (0 gp/month): The PC is homeless and lives in the wilderness or on the streets. 
Poor (3 gp/month): The PC lives in common rooms of taverns, with his parents, or in some other communal situation.
Average (10 gp/month): The PC lives in his own apartment, small house, or similar location—this is the lifestyle of most trained or skilled experts or warriors. 
Wealthy (100 gp/month): The PC has a sizable home or a nice suite of rooms in a fine inn. 
Extravagant (1,000 gp/month): The PC lives in a mansion, castle, or other extravagant home—he might even own the building in question. 

Unskilled Basic NPC Personal Finance

Let's start with the basic laborer, your burger flipper or your mover. These guys earn 1sp per day for their unskilled work. Thus, in a month, they will earn 2gp:
(1sp /day) * (5 days /week) * (4 weeks /month) = 20sp or 2gp

Given that they make 2gp every month, this puts them square in the Destitute category as they will not be able to afford the 3gp/ month of the poor tier. Of course, if they work 30 days a month, then that will just cover the expenses and breaks even.

Unskilled @20 days /month = 2gp /month
Unskilled @20 days /month = 3gp /month

Skilled Basic NPC Personal Finance

Now this is where things starts to change. A skilled NPC is basically is any NPC that has at least 1 rank in some kind of skill that might allow them to work, such as Sleight of Hands for pick pocketing or just a normal Craft/Profession skill. The equation is as follows:
(Skill Check/10 sp /day) * (20 workdays /month) = gp/ month

Now let's assume a level 1 NPC with one point in any of the professions would result in a Take 10 result of 14:
10 (Take 10) + 0 (Attribute Bonus) + 1 (Skill rank) + 3 (Class Skill Bonus)

Plugging 14 into the monthly equation will result in 2.8gp a month, just barely under the poor rating. Only once an NPC has hit level 2 can they start generating enough cash to break even. However, if a level 1 NPC can work 2 more extra days, they will be break even with .8cp to spare every month! Here's a chart of some basic NPC earnings:

Lv1 Skilled @20 days /month = 2.8gp /month
Lv1 Skilled @22 days /month = 3.08gp /month
Lv2 Skilled @20 days /month = 3gp /month
Lv5 Skilled @20 days /month = 3.6gp /month
Lv10 Skilled @20 days /month = 4.8gp /month
Lv20 Skilled @20 days /month = 6.8gp /month

What does this mean for your average NPC?

Sadness, that's what. No matter how hard your NPC tries, they will be forever stuck living at the poor level. Now granted, poor doesn't mean beggar level. If you can afford 2gp /month, you're simply living with other people, maybe with like 3 generations in a household rather than just 2 or something of that like. But it's still sad that even the most experienced of the basic doctors can never expect to own their own house.

Hold on just a moment though.

Let's be more realistic here. It is still possible for an NPC to reach the average level if we apply some factors we left out originally. Before we were assuming average stats all round without factoring any assistance, your basic Joe. Now, we are going to add some skills into the mix and try to create a more educated commoner. 

In order for a person to be able to afford the average tier, they will need a Take 10 result of 50. A basic NPC starts off with a 13 in his highest ability score. Let's also assume you are human or picked a race with a bonus to the moneymaking skill. That pushes it to 15, or a +2. We will also be taking Skill Focus to pump up the chosen skill by +3, or +6 by level 10. So at level one, they will have a Take 10 check of 19, resulting in 3.8gp /month (not bad eh?). 

By level 10, you can expect a Take 10 check of 35. By that level, the level 10 bonus of Skill Focus will kick in. You will also have taken 2 more attribute points at level 4 and 8, bringing the attribute bonus to +3. In addition, you can grab the Prodigy feat, adding another +2 to your check.

And once you are level 20, you will have taken another 3 more points to your attribute of choice to 20, or a +5. This brings your Take 10 check to 47, including your skills ranks. We're also going to apply age bonus, which can increase your mental ability score as you get older. We only need to advance your age twice to 22, so you'll be at 48. Finally to round everything off, you will need a Masterwork toolset, which will add +2 to your skill of choice, bringing you just to the 10gp /month needed for an average lifestyle. 

Of course, there are other methods of adding even more to your check, but they are usually restricted in some fashion by race. With this, by old age, it is very possible to have an NPC finally have a place to call home. Earlier of course, if you want to give up your weekends and toy with racial features.