When filling your game worlds with people, places, and things, how often do you think about the art on the walls or in the halls? How about the artists who created such pieces?

insta-npc-6-coverThis is an area of world building that is often glossed over and completely missed as a source of opportunity. Imagine a sculpture commissioned by a noble family with a clue strategically placed in plain sight. Or a painting designed to cover an old map to the family treasure.

But sometimes a rose is just a rose and means nothing more than the fact that a gardener or landscape artist chose to add some beauty to an otherwise dreary corner of the world…

History is filled with stories of famous artists and the impact they have had on those around them. From the story of the Mona Lisa that becomes more clear as art historians discover additional clues revealed through technological advances to the art stolen by the Nazis during World War II that is still being found decades later. Why not use art in our own worlds to illuminate the past or shed light on futures yet to be revealed?

Insta-NPCs #6 aims to help you come up with those details for your games through two detailed processes – one for creating individual (or group) artists, and one for creating actual pieces of art.

Let’s say we went through the process and ended up with this collection of details for an artist:

  • Individual or Group? Group
  • Alive or Dead? Alive
  • Production? Unknown
  • Style? Abstract
  • Medium? Theater
  • Dedication? Passionate
  • Tools? Movement
  • Love? Form
  • Subject? Spiritual matters

simple_candleThis collection of details may inspire me to come up with something like:

The Sisterhood of Morpheon is dedicated to the expression of love for their deity, Aeon – goddess of space and time. They express their love and affection through the use of dance upon a stage, behind back-lit screens that only show their movement via light and shadow. In a few days, they will be unveiling their latest production during the full moon in the open-air ampitheater.

Using the same supplement, we can also construct a collection of details to inspire a description of the sisterhood’s artistic creation…

  • Subject? Motion
  • Medium? Dance
  • Style? Story
  • Tools? Lights
  • Creator? Sisterhood of Morpheon
  • Creator state? Definitely alive

That might lead to…

The Flight of Spheres is the Sisterhood of Morpheon’s latest creation, telling the story of how Aeon set the stars and planets in motion with a gentle touch and a breath, granting life to the lifeless and form to the void. Through the use of candles burning with flames of unique colors, they will show the flow from void to sphere through dance, smoke, and movement.

Such an event may bring nobles and politicians, business owners, and the artistically curious together to a singular event that can be a hotbed for thieves, assassins, and those individuals with nefarious purposes – as well as a place for mysterious events to be revealed on a big stage from the heavens. Perhaps Aeon is displeased with the performance and chooses to unleash a hellish meteor shower on the unsuspecting audience?

This is a great example of how art can be used to inspire events and set the stage for all sorts of fun things to occur in a gaming session. I would be very curious how a group of PCs might use this event. They might use the distraction as an excuse to steal an item usually not unprotected or sneak into the event to discuss a current adventure with a key NPC they haven’t been able to approach otherwise. And those are just two possibilities I can come up with.

Insta-NPCs #6: Shh… Artists at work! is available now!

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