I had an idea recently for how to easily create and remember less-important NPCs.
The idea came from the concern that when we need an NPC for a routine event, it’s really hard to come up with something that’s not only memorable, it’s hard to keep that NPC consistent in our own head as a DM. Like, your party will go into the blacksmith, get some stuff, and then come back four levels later… and you’re like “shit, I forgot what makes this guy their own own guy and not just some rando blacksmith”.
The solution? Rather than make up an NPC with a bunch of details, just think of a minor character from a movie/book/TV show that you know really well, use that character as a base, and write it down in your notes. Now, I mean you have to know them really well, as in, they’re a character with maybe only a few lines, but it’s in one of your favourite movies.
For example, I have seen the original Blade Runner a million times. At one point, the hero buys a bottle of liquor from a middle-aged woman at a roadside stand (almost). She’s kinda gruff, has an eyepatch, seems very down to business but she’s not judgmental or anything… I’ve seen the scene forty times so I KNOW who this woman is.
So, if I’m running a game and the party is going into a shop that’s not super important plot-wise… maybe I just use this character as a template. I literally just think of that character when roleplaying the D&D character.
The easiest way to do this is to try and transpose the NPC’s job or role into a modern environment. For example, let’s say you’ve got an average guard at some castle. In the modern world he might be a cop. Or if they’re a blacksmith, maybe it’s an auto-mechanic. If they’re a guy who runs a magic shop, maybe they’re a computer salesman.
What you end up with is literally a single phrase describing the NPC. They’re a serving wench at the town pub, but you write down “Julia Hondrar, waitress who takes the order for toast in Five Easy Pieces”. They’re a beggar on the streets of Neverwinter, but you write down “Sara, homeless lady who parks in front of the dojo in ‘Cobra Kai’”. They’re an orc warrior, but you write down “Kork, dumb guy from Iowa whose head gets blown off in Starship Troopers.”
Again, your references may vary, but that’s the point. They’re personal to you, only you.
- 1. My players just want to be murder hobos 2. They just goof off while playing and not focus on the game and 3. They don’t understand that they are meant to be playing a character, not themselves!
- When a timeskip becomes a fight with a religious assassin cult and PC death
- Just finished Vanquish, a game that’s been lying half-finished in my library for a year, and had a pretty good time.
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