Wednesday 12 August 2009

One Line NPC's

Whenever I run (or play) D&D I find it's the incidental characters that provide the 'colour' to a scene. Not every NPC needs to be a fully fleshed out and stat'ed character. In fact its become a bit of an in-joke that the GM needs a name for every person encountered, no matter how insignificant. Some GM's can make up an NPC on the spot with little or no preparation but I like to have at least something fleshed out in advance.

I came up with a simple list of 'One Line' NPC's. Basically each NPC is described in the simplest of terms (Location, Name, Race, Occupation, Description, Character). Enough information is available for the GM to portray a seemingly 'real' character and form the basis of a more detailed description if that NPC becomes more important to the unfolding story.

Here are a few examples of Simple NPC's I have used in my own game:
  • Market, Eyrion, Dwarf, An entertainer, Thin, Talkative
  • Market, Yarenrian, Human, Peddler, Scarred, Knowledgeable
  • Market, Qarrian, Dwarf, Poet/minstrel, Stout, Very Helpful
  • Citadel, Ilonrian, Human, Guardsman, Filthy, Arrogant
  • Citadel, Atjtur, Human, Guardsman, Tough looking, Quiet
  • Palace, Malanyon, Elf, A groom, Well dressed, Knowledgeable
  • Palace, Quanuard, Human, A noble, Very obese, Calm & Aloof
  • Trade Quarter, Errian, Human, A Fletcher, Young, Likable
  • Trade Quarter, Malwen, Human, A glassblower, Neat, Morose
  • Trade Quarter, Quanam, Elf, Innkeeper, Refined features, Friendly

For me the biggest advantage of a prepared list like this is consistency. I can craft some simple characters that fit with their location and the message I want to convey. This sort of NPC is easy to prepare, quick to develop and helps give a location a sense of 'realness'.


  1. Makes sense .... simple and to the point. And you have enough information to expand if needed.

  2. Yup.

    When I used to DM (for the kids at the after school club - I'm not so hot DM-ing for grown-ups!) I did something very similar. However, though I can improvise stuff quite well, my memory's rubbish, so I always made sure to write any emergent details down too...

  3. REminds me of the old Judges Guild 'City States' guide book. At most you got a couple of lines detailing the NPC character unless they where key to the story.

    I used to keep track of the NPCs on file cards and added a short history of encounters with the main characters if required. This lead to basic 'passers by' becoming more real as the campaign progressed and could trip up players every now and then. Of course the NPCs had imperfect memory so I would not follow the notes every time.



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