What is this about?
This is about a selection of Non-player characters, that interested GMs may use for their next game. But in order to make use these NPCs properly, you might want to read how and why they are organized in this manner.
Why is it important?
Non-player characters(NPCs) are the backbone of any RPG. They can be frightening antagonists for the player characters(PCs), close friends or allies in times of need, they can be pesky merchants who ask a very insolent price for this precious artifact the PCs need desperately.
The worst thing happening to an NPC in your game is actually not dying, the worst thing is never to be remembered by the PCs… “Who was that again?” or “Ah this… guy… died? Ok… back to the story…”. Memorability is the currency for each and every NPC.
The best thing that happens to an NPC is being part of that one crazy story the PCs like to remember fondly and enjoy to retell every now and then. And that is what every GM should be aiming for when creating major NPCs.
In order to make the NPC memorable, the GM needs to make him/her distuingishable from other NPCs in the game. But the game world is usually filled with thousands of NPCs, so one has to distinguish between (at least) two categories of NPCs: the minor and the major NPC.
The minor NPC
The minor version are random people, the crowd in the masses, people passing by, minions of that terrible nethermancer, that scourges the land – basically all NPCs that fill your game world so it doesnt look as empty.
Every once in a while the PCs are interested in someone you created on the spot, either because you forgot to put someone there or put in there for more flavour in that particular situation. If this NPC is recurring later, be sure to take notes and develop this character further to a major NPC, when this becomes apparent.
The major NPC
The other type is the one you want to make memorable and distuingishable from other characters in the story. There are many ways to make that happen: using a different voice, changing your hand gestures when performing, having your face locked into a crazy position, using different hats, a.s.o.
You can do all theses things or just few of them, it doesnt matter. The only important thing here is that you need to make it consistently and that you feel comfortable doing it.
In the heat of the game, i sometimes (often) forget how this character sounded like, what his gesture was, what his motivation was, some little thing the player remembered… and they always remember exactly these things…
So i needed to store these informations on paper. But the problem is my notes are never really good organized and i need time to re-read everything which takes time and this may mess with the pace of the game.
So i had to build something with a structure based on my notes, that i could remember by quickly reading a few lines, so i can get into character and remember all the little things that brings the character to life.
And the solution imho was the character aspects of Fate Core. If you’re not familiar with it, i’ll briefly tell you about it in the next section. If you are familiar go to the section “how to read this”.
Brief intermission about Fate Core
The deeper game mechanics of Fate Core are not important right now, if you’re interested, visit this page.
The part i found most useful for my NPCs as a GM are how the character vitals are handled. Each character is framed around a couple of key phrases, which are called aspects.
The core of the character is the high concept (central idea of the character), each character has a dilemma (basically a quirk or flaw) and then there are three further aspects that further outline that particular character, mainly coming from key moments in their life.
I said it was brief, didn’t I?! If you need more info read the Fate Core Manual.
How to read the NPC entries
In coming weeks and months i will present you a couple of NPCs of mine. Please use them in your game as you like, just let me know in the comments of each character what you think of them. For each of those NPCs i’ll put a picture of him/her with how i imagined this particular character. Those images are made with Heromachine.
Each character will be presented in the following way:
- Essence of the character:
- Who to think of: When playing that character, i always think of some protagonist of a tv show or movie to help me warming up to the point of making quick heat-of-the-moment decisions, so basically “What would … do?”
- Fate Core aspects: To quickly remember how this one is ticking. This is a fast way to remember the most important aspects of the character. They are drawn from all other notes and compressed into five key phrases that help framing the character. If you have difficulties following so far, just have a look at the characters, most of it is self-explanatory.
- Type of NPC: In my game this typification helps me to define the attitude of this NPC towards the PCs. Is this a villain, an asset or someone in need?
- Further notes: all the little details about this character will be presented in this part. Again, when creating a one-off character you won’t need this level of detail. However, this is useful for major NPCs, that you want to bring to life and draw ideas on how to decide what this character would do next. Not all need to be filled right away but may be useful as the game progresses.
- Backstory: Each character in a story should have outlined some backstory to find motivations for that particular character in that particular scenario and what his/her impact to the story is.
- Crunch: I designed the character with a game system in mind, so if possible, i will give you the crunchy game details of all skills, proficiencies, talents, quirks & flaws the character might have.