Ok, now that we’ve taken a look at Didius in the last post, let’s see what we can do with those details.
Let’s take your typical NPC…
What’s their role? Protagonist (plays a major role, potentially helping the characters)? Antagonist (presenting a challenge or obstacle to the characters)? Foil (offers a contrast or other point of view from the protagonist)? Walk-on (a character with a small part to play but who may not appear again in the story). Simple d4 roll there.
Now, are they going to change? Are they static (never-changing) or dynamic (growing over time)? Are they flat (one or two traits that don’t change), rounded (complex traits that may change over time), or stock (stereotypical characters that fit a particular mold)? Seems like a d10 (or d5) roll here.
d10 Character Development
Lastly, what do they need? We can use Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs here. Perhaps it’s a physical need (food, water, sleep) or one of safety (in danger, may lose job, lost something important, worried for family’s safety, their health is endangered, or they may lose their property)? Are they looking for love (friendship, family, intimacy)? Perhaps they are seeking some esteem (self-esteem, respect of others, a sense of achievement) or some form of self-actualization (morality, creativity, spontaneity, a solution to a problem, avoidance of prejudice, etc.)? This could be a fun table.
4. Personal safety
5. Job security
6. Item security
7. Family safety
8. Health in danger
9. Property safety
14. Respect of others
19. Problem solution
20. Acceptance of others
Working through some examples
- (Foil/Static/Item Security) Let’s say that the PC’s party has a planner who treats every situation like it needs a plan and everybody agrees to it. A foil for that person would be someone who does things on the spur-of-the-moment. So the foil to the party planner would be a NPC who approaches the group about a job recovering a stolen item. The catch is that the party has to go now, since he knows where the thief is right this second and we may never find him again, and he wants to go with them. On the mission, he turns out to be a bumbling fool who can’t follow the simplest directions and completely gets under the skin of the planner.
- (Walk-on/Stock/Acceptance) In this case, let’s say it’s a woman in a pub who is sitting at the bar with a mug of ale, muttering to herself. She is having issues with the church not recognizing her union with her girlfriend. There may be no deeper story than that, but it has nothing to do with whatever the PCs’ main goals happen to be.
- (Antagonist/Flat/Achievement) Here we have a youngster, in his early teens perhaps, who always seems to be a step ahead of the PCs. Any location they need to visit, he’s leaving as they get there. Any item they have to find, he has in his possession moments before the PCs get there. Obviously the young man is talented and being directed by someone who knows what they’re doing, but the fact that he’s enjoying staying one step ahead of the PCs rubs it in that much more…
I suspect this approach still needs some work, but I like where it’s heading. It might be simplified or expanded upon in a few ways, so keep an eye out for a new Insta-NPCs product before long.
What’s YOUR favorite method of creating unique NPCs? Please share!