Building compelling NPCs is a tricky, tricky business. And it’s made even trickier by the fact that people don’t even REALLY understand what NPCs are. That’s a shame, because good NPCs are literally the key to emotional investment in games.
Tagalongs: NPCs that join the party. They are often derided, frequently misunderstood, and rarely used well. Because people are dumba$&es. Which is sad because Tagalongs are a GREAT Tool for your GMing Toolbox!
Everyone knows that the easiest way to start an adventure is to just have some damned NPC show up and tell the PCs what to do and how to do it. After all, that’s what MMORPGS do and it works for them. So why not do the same in D&D? Because Quest Givers can be so much more than expository text. Don’t waste that potential.
What do you do when your players force you to turn a nameless, faceless nobody into an actual NPC? What do you do when they don’t even start with a nameless, faceless nobody? How do you make NPCs out of nothing?
People like to make a big thing out of factions, guilds, collectives, churches, cults, and organizations. But they don’t need to be complicated at all. In fact, they are remarkably simple. You just need a little lesson from Star Trek. You know, before it got crappy.
While not every NPC is a monster, every monster is an NPC. And that’s what this is all about. NPC antagonists. The violent and the non-violent. We’re talking enemies today.
When is an NPC not an NPC? When it’s a villain. Because villains are more than mere NPCs. Because villains create plots. And I don’t mean evil schemes. I mean stories.
Villains are stories, but they are also people. And that means they have personality traits and fears and hopes and dreams and interactions, right? Well, if you want a good game, you don’t want too much of that crap.