Everyone has a favorite player character, whether it is one of yours when you were a player or one played by a member of your gaming group when you were game master. It’s the character you trot out and reminisce about when remembering the grand adventures of the past.
But characters don’t live in the world by themselves. The world is full of other non-player characters all run by the GM to give them something to do. Someone to interact with. Someone to fight.
Recently, Johnn Four, author of the Roleplaying Tips newsletter, send out a pair of articles on “3 Line NPCs” and ran a contest to see what kind of NPCs people would create to help him populate the Chaos Keep setting he is working on. I, unfortunately, failed to make a submission, being a little too swamped by work and family responsibilities to have time to sit down and think of a good one. However, the series and contest got me to thinking about all the NPC’s that populate our games. As game masters, we’re always having to come up with new ones and are always looking for sources of inspiration.
Who’s Your Favorite NPC?
And that brings us to this month’s blog carnival topic. Everyone has a favorite player character, but who is (or was) your favorite NPC? Maybe it was a villain you faced as a player, maybe it was a favorite henchman, or some other inhabitant of the world that provided comic relief or stood out in some way. Maybe it was an NPC you, as GM, put a lot of work into that you just loved to have pop up and help, hinder, or annoy your players.
For this month’s blog carnival, we want to you dust of those memories and spotlight your favorite NPC (or NPCs) from current or past games. Who were they? What role did they play in your game? How did your players interact with them? What made them memorable? Why did they stand out and cause you to like/love/hate them?
Share your stories and help us generate a who’s who of famous or infamous NPCs that can provide inspiration to all the game masters out there looking for ideas.
Toady I’ll share a memorable NPC, though not my favorite. I’m going to save that one for a post later in the month, but this one comes close.
Our intrepid NPC doesn’t even have a name. At least not that I ever learned in the 4+ years gaming in that campaign setting (I’m sure he has one and I could find out if I drove over to my old GM’s house and asked him). He was always just known to us as The Highwayman. He set up shop on a small coastal road that was the only access to a town that had another important NPC that our group liked to visit for information and advice (That NPC was the former captain of the king’s guard).
Whenever you traveled down the road, he would accost you with a ringing “Stand and Deliver!” as he stepped out of the trees lining the road with his double barreled (very) heavy crossbow. The game system was RuneQuest and one good hit from that thing would really ruin your weekend as it could punch through plate armor and still probably kill you. He was only one man, but you didn’t want to take the chance of losing a character in a little skirmish. It was easier (and safer) to just pay up.
Because, you see, The Highwayman wasn’t very bright. He had a really low intelligence score. He wasn’t really interested in taking all your money, he was operating more as a toll collector. And since he wasn’t very bright, it didn’t really matter how many or what kind of coins you gave him. You could give him brass pennies, copper crowns, or gold dragons and he would gladly accept any of them. Of course we didn’t know that at first and since we were rich adventurers, we were mostly carrying silver and gold and paid with those coins. Then after you’d given him the coins, he’d tip his hat, wish you a good day, and go back into the forest.
After a time we wised up and started carrying brass pennies when we went through there as it didn’t matter, although some of the characters still gave him gold or silver, just to be nice. But he made a killing off us the first few times we went through there before we figured it out.
One of the final memorable moments with this NPC, before the campaign took us out of that area, was when we had been headed down to the small town (it was called Kir if memory serves. I’d have to go dig out my old map to be sure) when we got wind of an invading force that had landed and was working its way up the coast. We were spotted and were being pursued up the road when we heard the familiar “Stand and Deliver!” We didn’t even break stride as we galloped past, tossing coins as we went. A few moments later, we heard “Stand and De— <thump>”. The force pursuing us had just ridden him down. By that time we had become kind of fond of the guy as a part of the setting and so, once the issue of the invading force was resolved, we went back to Kir specifically to make sure he was okay. I think we kind of felt bad for what had happened.
In the end The Highwayman was memorable not because he was integral to the campaign’s plot but because he was a fun character that added life and humor to what would have otherwise been a boring bit of the game. He didn’t really serve any purpose but flavor (and maybe to relieve us of a bit of our hard earned loot). Still, he was memorable and one of the few NPCs that immediately sprang to mind as I was thinking about this topic. and it’s been nearly 20 years since I played in that campaign.
Come Join the Fun
So who was your favorite NPC? Share links to their stories in the comments below. At the end of the month I’ll do a follow-up article to share a bit about the NPC’s highlighted and give everyone all the links.
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