Surprise NPCs

Welcome to a slightly different NPC Tuesday where we look at surprise NPCs. Tonight I didn’t want to create a new NPC or look at expanding upon an existing one but I wanted to look at the process I follow.


Surprise NPCs


Tonight I wanted to explore something that we may realise we do that’s natural for some of us who have been in the game for a while. Creating NPCs is an artform. Whether we take the time and effort to carefully sculpt a NPC to fit our campaign or we just need to answer the question our players throw at us “Hi, my name is Togrim the Terrible. Who are you?”

To aid in the brief discussion I have created a flow diagram that I asked myself when thinking about the different NPCs that I have created before (created in Canva)

As we can see we have a few questions here to answer and the rest are kind of obvious but I will explain below.

  • Quest – Is this for a quest. Is this the princess coming to the Tavern to find the roughest looking group around to ask them to kidnap her?
    • Side – Is it a side quest? See “Can you get me floof mellons from a nearby field. I will pay you handsomely for each one you can bring back?”
    • Core – Main story line quest. The princess changing her mind or the parameters around her kidnap.
  • Actor – is this someone on the streets / road / in the building. Are they someone you need to add in that doesn’t immediately result in a quest.
    • Agent – A spy, thief, butler, someone working for someone.
    • Distraction – a pickpocket, crying maiden, innkeeper – someone who serves no immediate purpose other than to distract from the main quest at hand.
    • Vendor – someone who sells something to the party whether its potions, lotions, axes, mittens, information or.. errhm.. something more non-pg friendly.
      • Stocked – are they in stock? Do we need a side quest to get that item in?

There are some common themes across the trees. These are things that will pop-up constantly the more you go through your NPC and jot down notes.

  • Dangerous – Are they dangerous..
    • Yes? Does the party know this? How to they react?
    • No? What do they do?
  • Help/Hinder? Are they friend of foe? Gere to help the party or here to set them back?
  • Motivation? – what motivates them? If they aren’t pushing the core plot along then what do they want with the party?
  • Permanency? Are they permanent? Once this interaction is done do they disappear, or die? OR do they stick around and reappear later?
  • Vulnerability* (only called out once) – Do they have a weakness. Are they vulnerable to silver. OR do they only want to save their family and that’s why they are working with the Kings hunter to bring back his daughter?
  • And of course, Appearance – This includes the name but how do you describe this person/creature/thing? Are they a human, bat, lizardfolk or talking spoon. Descriptions including how we Role play NPCs can cement them into permanency for our party.

Although not an exhaustive list I will use this for the next few months and see if I can tweak it. Most of us follow something similar and occasionally do it automatically when our party asks the dreaded questions “what’s your name” or “who are you?”.

Another night down and I have a new printout at my desk. Thanks for joining me tonight and hopefully this can be useful for you in impromptu NPC creation. Don’t forget to come back tomorrow as we cover off another end of campaign writeup and, as always, don’t forget to roll with advantage,
The Brazen Wolfe