Day Fourteen in the “30 Days of D&D” challenge is Favorite NPC.
Players are the heroes, the stars of the epic adventure, upon whom the spotlight shines and about whom the story is meant to be told.
Non-Player Characters are supporting actors filling up the world, the “everybody else,” almost always played by the DM. Whether it’s the innkeeper or the salty guard captain or the evil necromancer raising an undead army, the NPCs are there to spice up the game and create interaction, but they’re not meant to steal the show.
When played well, some NPCs can still garner significant attention and affection from the group–either as a trusted ally or a hated foe.
I know I’ve done something right when the party keeps bringing up the name of someone they’ve encountered, and several have achieved that status.
Faelynn, the washed-up, binge-drinking former leader of a band of rival heroes, is one my players reference for laughs.
The leader of a small quest-hub town is a guy whose Pathfinder miniature figurine is like fantasy Nick Fury holding two axes over his shoulders. My daughter threatened to disown me for not calling him “Samuel El-Axen” from the moment he entered the scene… and that is now his name.
I wrote about Fleuris the good necromancer and Asslya the mentally scarred spirit-talker, both of which I love to add to the mix.
Right now, my favorite NPC is a little
male goblin no wait male halfling no wait female elf sorcerer who has a knack for getting reincarnations off that Wild Magic surge table.
Early on in the game, the low-level heroes found out that some goblins were sneaking into the town and filching supplies. The PCs followed the tunnel to the goblins’ lair and had a good fight with some ranged magic users and archers. I took advantage of the description of “booyahg” as the goblins’ limited understanding of magic in Volo’s Guide to Monsters, and so I really wanted to bring that out in the game.
One of the goblin casters got a fumble. Yes, I’ve been using fumbles on nat 1s and crits on nat 20s, combined with a crit hit deck and fumble deck which are unfortunately designed around 3.5 rules. The fumble card I drew said “Wild Magic surge,” and had some minor bad effect… but that seemed like perfect justification to roll on the surge table for the goblin.
Come to think of it, unless I misread it, Volo’s says that you roll every time the goblins cast, because they suck at magic. Or maybe that’s how I wanted to read it.
I rolled the effect that grants an immediate cast of reincarnation if the creature dies within one minute. Needless to say, the PCs knew that caster = bad, and my poor goblin wasn’t long for this world.
They flipped out when suddenly a cloud of light enveloped the dead goblin and it got up as a halfling, then ran to hide in a secluded room of the cavern. The bloodthirsty players charged toward the hiding
goblin halfling, ready to strike… until a pathetic attempt I made at distracting them actually made them feel pity for this little guy.
Cue role-playing, lengthy discussions of “Are you REALLY going to try to change and not be evil?” and warnings that they would be watching his every move. Based on the cloud of light, we named the halfling “Brightborn,” and he guided the PCs through the rest of the cave.
Well… he also accidentally dropped a fireball on top of himself and the party, then played it off as a sign of power from the chaotic evil gods, shouting, “I AM THE EMISSARY OF KURNN!”
He popped up a few more times over the course of many sessions, most recently via a handwritten note to come to the Laughing Mountain Inn and “look for the elf.”
They enter and find a blonde female who waves them over. “Hey guys, it’s me,” she whispers with a nervous grin. “I’m the emissary of Kurnn and all that. So… um… you won’t believe what happened…”