OK, So I am not Jean Valjean. I’m not even French. Here is a little story for you that got me thinking about NPCs in the world around the party and could be useful to DnD DMs moving over to Rolemaster.
I took up fencing with Sabre and Epee after the London 2012 Olympics. I started with Sabre but after six months or so I tried Epee and for me it was everything I was looking for in a sword fight.
Three months ago I took up horse riding again. I did it for a few years as a teenager but gave it up when I was about 14. They say that at that age boys either give up horse riding or turn super competitive. I obviously was one of the former not the latter.
Tomorrow I am going running, just for fitness. I swore I would only go running when I saw a happy jogger. They always look in pain to me but I am getting fatter by the week and need to do something as I am 47 in three weeks time and staying fit is not getting any easier.
Back in February I was going to a gaming weekend with a friend and I commented that with the fencing and new horseriding hobby, if I could find an archery club near me I could be a first level fighter by the time I am 50. My friend replied that I was probably higher level than that as a Computer Technician (a SpaceMaster profession).
He was probably right but what level am I and what level are the normal people in the world around the player characters?
In DnD most people are 0 level human, 1d6 hit points, AC 10 as I remember. Things are a litte different in Rolemaster. Rolemaster has a profession (class) called ‘No Profession’ and that is a sort of generic person. If you really needed to detail someone because they have become important to the story then unless they are one of the player character professions (or an evil variant) then the No Profession is where you would start.
But at what level? For most people that the party meet, who cares? You do not need to roll every waiter and barmaid the players meet nor every blacksmith or horse dealer. I would only consider creating NPCs that are going to have a direct impact on the players story and will have to make skill rolls or combat rolls and the like.
I normaly work on this schedule. People who are just living their normal lives whatever that may be with no significant threats, I give them one level for every five years beyond the age of 16. for people living a harder life or with regular existential threats then it is one level for every four years. This is where I would put your normal gate/town or wall guard and even farmers living on the very edge of civilisasation. For people who are actively going into dangerous situations on a daily basis such as caravan guards, sell swords or tyrants bodyguards then it is one level for every three years.
So here are some concrete examples.
A courtesan, early 20s, would be 2nd level with a couple of skill ranks in performing arts type skills such as dance or playing an instrument, social and political history, heraldry and etiquette. I imagine that would take up most of their development points but you may want to buy a single rank in dagger if it is that sort of world. The character would be useful to the party in helping them navigate the dangers of a political campaign and may have skills they lack.
A farmer, 56 years old, raising crops and live stock. Here we have an 8th level NPC with skills in various ‘Lores’, herb lore, flora lore (so he knows what to plant where and when), fauna lore (so he knows what to feed each animal and what predators are local), animal handling, loading, driving, some animal healing. Some performing arts, a bit of dance and a musical instrument, useful for attracting a wife and a few ranks in weapon skills. There probably have been a few instances of banditry in the area, joining a posse or driving off or hunting wolves and that sort of thing. He may even have served in a peasant levy at some time. I doubt he has a sword but spears are good all round weapons, easy to make and do not need much metal, bows are likewise and both are good for hunting.
The guys stood at the city gates or patrolling the walls could vary. In a war torn area a guard in his early thirties could be 5th level in a peaceful region just 3rd. If the same guard had been in the rank and file of an army in a protracted war then he could be as high as 6th level.
In these three examples I would make the courtesan and the farmer ‘No Profession’ but the guards would be fighters. Character Law has a table of all the core professions with typical armour types, and skills and even the typical number of spell lists and to what level.
So what am I? Well I’m nearly 47, living a peaceful not particularly stressful or dangerous life so by my own reckoning I would be a 7th level No Profession or IT professional (in RM parlance that would probably make me a rogue or thief depending on your opinion of IT guys)