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Welcome back, Dice Fondlers! Last time, we learned more about the dungeon our party will be exploring and the potential threats lurking beneath it. We even got a little bit of history to go along with that. In this article, we take a look at building three NPCs to fill in major characters that can help us keep the game interesting: our villain, our adventure patron, and a potential ally.
General NPC Setup
In the Dungeon Master’s Guide, there’s a great chapter stuffed full of tables for fleshing out NPCs. It lets us pick out unique characteristics, high/low stats, odd skills, habits, personality quirks, ideals, bonds, and flaws. If we were building a game from scratch without the random tables, we’d focus on telling a tight narrative. With the tables, of course, we’ll get base characters and then customize them to fit the plot thus far. We’ll leave the names and genders of these characters floating in space. They can be appended as needed for the group playing and allow us a wider range of options later.
Building the Villain NPC
Let’s start with our villain. We know that this character is a humanoid conqueror from two articles ago. This character’s defining appearance is “incredibly ugly.” While that’s a pretty standard dynamic for evil in classic fiction, let’s put a twist on it. Let’s assume that the character is only “ugly” for their race. Perhaps they’re from a race humans would typically find ugly and are what we might consider attractive? Or perhaps they are from an incredibly “beautiful” race and are merely “attractive” by human standards? This character is very Dextrous but not particularly Intelligent. They have a beautiful singing voice and are constantly singing quietly to themselves. They are hot-headed. Oddly, their primary Ideal is whimsy. They do what they wish to do, when they want, how they want. One of their driving reasons for their behavior is a romantic interest, and their flaw is their foolhardy bravery. For the villain, we also check a later table for their end villainous goal. It appears our villain is seeking immortality through absorbing the essence of a legendary creature or person. While unexpected, it lets us put together a pretty intact picture of this villain.
Between temperament, our musings on what “ugly” could mean, and their wishes, I’m going to guess our villain is an Eladrin, a type of Elf that has extra-strength roots in the Feywild. An “ugly” Elf could still well be considered attractive by many other races standards. Their exposure to Fae may well have also tainted this character’s mood, allowing for both the whimsy and the bad temper, the singing and the scheming. Perhaps this Eladrin also knows the origins of the Trembling Giant and seeks to absorb the life of the entire Myconid colony at once. That would certainly extend an already long-lived Elf’s lifespan considerably. Or perhaps… We haven’t connected our romantic interest yet, have we? Perhaps our villain is seeking to resurrect their beloved Shadow of the Colossus style by stuffing soul after soul into them. While Resurrection is normally a more easily acquired task than this, perhaps our Elf has been denied those methods through the anger of a deity.
Adventure Patron NPC Setup
Next up is our adventure patron. While we know this individual is a respected elder, we haven’t previously explored much else. According to our tables, our patron is usually seen wearing formal, clean clothes. They are highly Charismatic, with poor Dexterity. They paint beautifully and speak in whispers. They can be irritable, are loyal to a patron of their own, and have a scandalous history. This individual also highly respects the Ideal of… Domination? Now, this is a strange mix we have. Some items, like the formal clothes, are easily handwaved away through them being well dressed as a symbol of wealth or position. The typically evil ideal, having another patron, and having a scandalous history, though… Those all point somewhere else. In fact, they point toward a character that could be a villain if our party continues playing this campaign long enough. After all, we don’t know what happened to the worshipers of our evil temple, do we? Perhaps our “respected elder” was once their religious leader, a priest(ess) of the highest order who was forced into hiding. That would explain their knowledge of the map and their eagerness for the party to travel to its location. They seek to let someone else do the heavy lifting before taking control of the Trembling Giant themselves. We still don’t know this character’s race, as far as stats go, so let’s make them Human. In a world full of variety, perhaps this person felt the need to bend knee to a powerful deity in order to compete.
Experienced Adventurer Ally NPC Setup
With the story starting to heat up, let’s dive into our potential ally NPC. Previously, we found out that they were an experienced adventurer. Now, the appearance chart says this character has “a strange skin color.” While this could simply mean someone with albinism or another condition, that strikes me as unnecessary shaming of real people in a fantasy game. Let’s instead project a wilder color onto this character’s skin like a bright purple or a neon green. Perhaps they dabbled with Wild Magic a few too many times and are now bright orange? In fact, let’s go with that. Plugging in the standard artist color wheel (starting with Red as 1), let’s get a random color. And… blue. So, we have a character the color of a smurf. They have a high Intelligence, but poor Constitution. They are an expert dart thrower and are quite curious. They constantly tug at their beard or twirl their hair, they deeply respect honor, and they are out for revenge. They also hide the fact that they have a secret crime they are to blame for.
Putting these together, and tying our possible ally into the story helps fill in some story holes. Let’s say that the secret crime of this character was waking the Trembling Giant in the first place. They had originally been with the Neutral Good Human Barbarians and helped them in their quest. However, something went wrong and the Myconids went out of control. They lost many of their friends to the spores and in backfiring, the magic they were dabbling with turned their skin a permanent shade of blue. Now, they’re seeking to return to the temple and undo what they helped start in the beginning. They may even have hopes about rescuing some of their friends from the spores (a normally impossible task).
Alright, readers, with these three fleshed out more fully, it’s time to end this installment. Next time, we’ll talk combat, the fine details of 5e’s encounter builder, and some pointers on building a random dungeon using the random map creator in the DMG. Until then, folks…
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