Roleplaying can be scary. Creating compelling stories and interesting NPCs while trying to keep your notes straight is terrifying and honestly hard. So it’s likely that some things will slip through the cracks and as a new DM this is likely to happen fairly frequently. After my second session ended, I saw a major hole in my plot plans – my characters had no motivation. I had a well laid path, I had at this point thought more in depth about my story – but getting them from point A to point B seemed impossible. With no motivation, my entire story could fall through, so I had to find a solution.
My players were all as relatively new to DnD as I was and this meant that I had to do a lot of guiding through the world I had created, but this guidance was clumsy. I knew there had to be a more effective way to help them, and then it came to me. The solution was elegant and simple – semi-permanent NPC. I use the word ‘permanent’ loosely, knowing that anything is possible, but this was essentially my plan; using an NPC as a voice to guide the characters along on their story.
She changed everything. L has been with my party for nearly 9 sessions now and I honestly don’t know what I would have done without her. Having a more permanent NPC can change the tone of your adventure, adding humor where there wasn’t or creating an additional level of suspense. They can act as a guide that feels more natural for when players get lost or need advice. They are an additional voice for you and might bring your campaign the added authenticity you might have been missing. So how do you create a compelling NPC that will effectively move the story forward? There are several things you need to decide right from the beginning.
Firstly, what do you need to them to do? When you bring a quest giving or guiding NPC into the story, make sure they have a purpose. If you don’t even know why they’re there, neither will your party. Secondly, what are their motivations? This may seem very similar to their purpose, but, think of their purpose in a more out of character context – their function in terms of the game. Their motivation should be backed by some sort of backstory, their personality and their actions. Why are they doing this thing you need them to do? What do they get out of it?
Thirdly and finally, make your NPC interesting, dynamic and a complete character. If your NPC (especially one that is serving an important purpose) is bland, flat, or uninteresting it’s unlikely your party will want to help or follow them. Interesting characteristics like a quirk, a facial feature, a strange backstory, or even just a character voice can all help to add to the dynamism of the NPC. (If you need a place to start, the DMG, beginning on page 89, provides list of tables to help you pick out appearance, ideals, mannerisms, etc. )
Give your players a reason to latch onto this character. Play them like they are just another member of the party, and if you pull it off, you’ll not only be able to get your players where you need them to be, but you’ll create a more interesting and fleshed out world.
Stay chill friends,