[RPG] What exactly is an NPC


I think every DM-controlled creature is an NPC but is there a definition somewhere?
Is an ooze an NPC? What about a dog or a golem? Does it need to be intelligent? Does it need to have class levels?

Best Answer

In the 3.5e Player's Handbook, in the Glossary, a NPC is defined as:

nonplayer character (NPC): A character controlled by the Dungeon Master rather than by one of the other players in a game session, as opposed to a player character.


character: A fictional individual within the confines of a fantasy game setting. The words “character” and “creature” are often used synonymously within these rules, since almost any creature could be a character within the game, and every character is a creature (as opposed to an object).

And of course

creature: A living or otherwise active being, not an object. The terms “creature” and “character” are sometimes used interchangeably.

It's therefore crystal clear RAW that a NPC is any active creature in the game's setting controlled by the DM instead of a player, from a cleric to a zombie to a dog to an animated candelabra.

The entirety of the DMG chapter 4 - Nonplayer Characters can help unpack this for you, it starts with the heading "Everyone in the World" and has sections for "Animals and Other Monsters," et al.