The basic design principle of CoR is change. Nothing in the entire world is permanent. Not the great Kingdom in the North. Not the great white spires of the temple of light, not the hamlet of fisher folk by the sea not even you or me.
Everything in CoE crumbles to dust even our family lines will eventually die out. The reason for this is how can you have a great story if nothing changes? In rift the great dragons are dead, the great threat to the world ended yet visit a starter zone and it’s like nothing happened.
NPCs whether they have limited reapawns or are one and done they will always be more fragile than Players. There is an actual Lore based reason why players can respawn and NPCs can’t. However CoE is a game and as has been pointed out SBS is kicking around the idea of LIMITED reapawns for them.
Even if they have limited respawns a commander should always think twice about taking an army of NPCs to battle. They each have needs and desires as well as a number based opinion of their leader. If that drops too low they will flee. Players... not going to happen. They will stand with their guild (mmo style) until hell freezes over regardless of the odds.
I get it would be nice to have an AI army to counterbalance the big guilds. Zerg armies h e been talked about, dissected, analyzed and ultimately accepted as part of mmo culture. This thread alone is full of foils and ways to counter that style of combat gameplay that actually exist within the realm of CoE currently and do not require a complete rewrite of the NPC design.
Allowing your fear of large guilds destroying the game or running roughshod isn’t healthy for the design of the world. Instead you need to stop looking at it from an equality standpoint and see NPCs for what they are.
Originally back in 2015 NPCs were nothing they were literal placeholders that existed for one purpose to be taken over by a players soul. Their lives were one and done unless “soul jacked” by a player. They were meant to do the mundane tasks that players wouldn’t want to do in order to keep the world functioning. That’s all. They were sorta bought and sold when tokens were introduced to the online store. People could donate to their mayor and depending on the number of tokens the settlement grew in size and would start with extra NPCs.
An NPC army will never ever even with limited reapawns be the equal of a player army, nor should they. In my opinion you should never have a 1:1 ratio if you are going to fight a player army it should be 10:1 or more. Your example you keep tossing out is a very poor one. A player army with voice coms will always beat an army of NPCs of equal size, you even point out the weakness of AI versus players but continue to beat the dead horse of reapawns being the issue. Instead you need to view NPCs like I said above a resource no different than a sword, or a horse.
If I have a horse and ride it into battle it gives me an advantage in energy, speed, and such yet a single arrow will kill it and it’s gone for good. My shield protects me from arrows but if I get disarmed and fail to pick it up it’s gone forever as well.
Your NPCs are much in the same vein. You have an awesome blacksmith who is best at his craft. Because he’s a big guy he hits hard with a war maul. Yet if he dies you lose access to his skills.
All about choice. Big guilds will always have an advantage and while the design of CoE will mitigate it there is never going to be a point where your example works out in the smaller groups favor unless they outwit their opposition. NPCs won’t allow them to over power them ever.
And for the record at the moment I’m a count of 1. I do not have a guild backing me nor any friends starting in my family. An immortal army of NPCs would be nice but wouldn’t truly fit the spirit of the game SBS wants to build.