Dungeons & Dragons Online

Let your players make NPCs (that also work as back up characters)

So this is not unique advice, but I thought I'd share because it has worked better then my wildest expectations.

I've been running a campaign for a little over a year now. There's been some turn over of people needing to leave due to life, but it has been an overall VERY positive experience. One of my players brought me a subclass they thought was cool, and asked if they could make them as a backup character and I said sure, but flesh it out fully, we'll make them an NPC first. That'll let me test out the subclass a little, while also creating a narrative thread to the party.

They did so with gusto, and I let the rest of the party do the same. The whole week has been jokes and half-secrets among the players about these new characters and they're all super excited about them.

Today some players couldn't make it, so we had a mini session 0 for those new characters. It was a lot of fun tying some of the backstories together, and figuring out how to integrate their ideas into the world. By the end, I had acquired a slew of benefits.

  • Half a dozen new locations, factions and events I need to flesh out, but half the work is done for me. They're interesting and new and a true collaboration between myself and the party.
  • 6 new NPCs that are deeply fleshed out and have strong hooks I can use for the current party. Even some former players, who are still in the chat, might get in on it.
  • A whole new party that we can take on adventures. I'm currently on the last major arc of this half of the campaign, and while I have ideas and threads that will carry through, I think after this arc we'll all want a little break for a few weeks. Me to prep, and them to get a change of pace.
  • Backup characters. This is honestly the least of it, as I really hope it doesn't come to this. But there's already been one PC death, and they know I don't fudge shit. So always good to have.
  • Deeper immersion in the world from the players. My players are pros, so its not like they weren't super engaged to begin with. But there's an extra level added when they are, whole cloth, coming up with people, places and events. The ownership draws them in and I think that makes things more enjoyable for everyone.
  • Finally, its just fun. Fun talking with the players out of character but still focused on the game. Fun seeing their new builds, and fun seeing how I could use them in interesting ways.
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So thats my little piece on some of the benefits of having players make NPCs. I hope this encourages some other DMs to do the same.


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