Once again welcome back to the Gamecraft 25, the ongoing lists of inspiration and ideas for your roleplaying games. NPCs are one of the most important features of any roleplaying game. They are a key element in bringing the setting to life, and help the players immerse themselves in the world. I like to use NPCs for a myriad of purposes as gamemaster, but I also strongly encourage my players to create NPCs. In my mind, nothing adds to a character’s development and believability like knowing something about his friends, family, associates, rivals, and lovers. All of these people not only serve to help define a character, but also are great tools to be exploited by the gamemaster. Using NPCs that have a solid connection to the characters always makes for a better game.
In this installment of the Gamecraft 25, we’re going to look at memorable NPCs. These NPCs can fill any number of roles in your game, and can serve as allies, patrons, contacts, friends, or even rivals. They can be sources of information, people that need assistance, or even the old flame that tends to complicate a hero’s life. Although I didn’t intend for this list to include villains (they’ll be featured in the next list) any of the NPCs here could turn out to be a great antagonist. That being said, here’s this week’s Gamecraft 25, Memorable NPCs:
- “Crazy” street preacher whose apocalyptic ramblings sometimes hold vital insights into the heroes’ current situation.
- Rival group of adventurers who are more popular with the locals than the heroes.
- Monster or creature that normally serves as an antagonist - perhaps a stone giant contact, or a medusa patron, maybe even a simple hobgoblin bartender.
- Masked vigilante in a large city.
- Small-time criminal, maybe a con-man or a fence, which frequently provides the heroes with good information and rumors.
- Local celebrity. This could be a actor, artist, musician, nobleman, or just some playboy dilettante.
- Religious sect of nuns that keep to themselves in an isolated abbey.
- Infernal creature looking to “go straight.” Maybe a devil that has escaped hell.
- Group of street urchins who always seem to be in the know.
- Hooker with a heart of gold.
- Incompetent “villain” who views the heroes as his arch-rivals, but is little more than a bumbling nuisance (think Wily Coyote or the Monarch from Venture Brothers).
- Gypsy fortune teller that always appears when the heroes need her, but not when they are looking for her.
- Exiled noble from an exotic, foreign land.
- Supernatural creature bound to an object or place. Could be a demon, devil, elemental, or an imprisoned spirit.
- The “chosen one” or a messiah figure for an important religious sect.
- Charismatic agent of the government. The heroes may or may not know of the agent’s allegiance to “crown and country.”
- A forgotten, once-great hero, retired and now enjoying his golden years.
- A “persistent” individual. Someone the heroes are aware of, but don’t ever have the opportunity to interact with. The individual can be seen watching the heroes from a tower in the city or from a nearby hilltop when they emerge from a dungeon.
- Lonely ghost in some long-forgotten area.
- An intelligent object with goals and desires.
- The ex-spouse of one of the heroes that has gone on to marry a local noble.
- An “imaginary” friend to one of the heroes. No one else can see or hear the friend, but their insights often prove “interesting.” Is the friend something supernatural, or is it all in the hero’s head?
- Intelligent animal, like a stray cat. Could it have been someone’s familiar?
- Arrogant captain of the town guard that is jealous of the heroes’ status, wealth, and fame.
- A mysterious “stranger.” The heroes have no idea who this person is, but periodically receive letters from someone with important information, maps, clues, or other valuable insight.
That does it for this 25. See you all next time!
Image by Alta Steyn.