epic preparation – p6 – NPCs

NPC definition and setup according to character backgrounds

You hopefully still remember part four of this guide where we took a few (more or less) random characters and interweaved them to our player’s character-backgrounds. Now we will take a closer look onto a few of them and add some more to make this a bit more like a real-world.

As a general guideline to the epic campaign – npc creation step:

Not everything is epic. I know this isn’t conform to 4e rules where you adjust difficulties with character level (I stop the rant immediately, honestly), but one of the most important keys to an epic game is – make the players feel special – even more special than they did in your normal games. They wield a lot of power and you should not step in and cut their power by taking countless as-powerful-characters out of your mighty-book-of-npcs. Honestly, with that in mind you should start np-character generation.

So what is it we will need? We start out with the mindmap of all the characters from chapter 4 and make a short list of all npcs mentioned there. I’m pretty sure you will end up with something like this:

  • Evil Villain 1 – arch enemy of  Player1
  • Evil Villain 2 – arch enemy of Player 2 and 4
  • Tavernkeeper
  • Magical stuff – shop owner
  • childhood friend of Player 2
  • old friend of Player 1 and 3

So what is your job now? You take this whole list and map it out for a few stats, (this is where 4e was very handy – the short preparation of stats). Then you think about what villains and the other npcs need on their own. You might start a mindmap of your own with all important network he needs, but you will end up fletching out around 5-20 characters depending on the social aspect and how much you like to improvise during your games. I’ve seen a lot of great blog-postings lately, which focus on villain creation, Bard of Valiant and A Butterfly Dreaming both have started seperate articles on this aspect so you might want to look up their posts.

This is where prestige classes come in very useful for me, it’s all about shaping a villain and the special abilities of certain prestige classes are great to add some variety to a game. Usually I would go for a concept start (e.g. necromancer) and will try to find something with a special touch – Pale Master would probably one of the first to think about. I’ve found at necromancergames.com the freebie download section very interesting. They got a Corpse Caster, a gruesome caster who at certain power levels can transfer wounds he suffers himself to specially prepared corpses. At the same homepage you find a conversion of the Death Master – another start or addition if we prepare a necromancer here. Don’t forget there is a “official” book on necromancy as well, called Libris Mortis. But usually you will find more material than you can imagine on virtually any direction you want to take it.

So of the twenty npc’s you will prepare for your adventure don’t put too much time into details, a general overview will be the most important – I’ll show you one I would use:

Name: Ardigior of Velcebra

Occupation: King’s Counselor

Useful stuff: shares a history with Player1 (childhood friends), was always the better wizard.. transformed the town of Miklaa close to (Cityname) into a wasteland and has acquired the souls of all former inhabitants has bargained high and is a favorite of (evil god’s) playthings lately – on the other hand he has earned the scorn of the goddess of death and mortality for capturing so many souls.
Ardigior will use his former friend in any possible way to gather even more souls for his plan to become a king of his own empire in  (an underdark city). He has achieved much so far but will get a little overmotivated and anxious to get things done – therefore he’ll be a little careless to avoid backtracing things to his person… His furthermost advantage is his seat as in the council of the realm and while he’s known to be a wicked old stranger, his advice was most valueable to the king in several challenges. Ardigior hardly ever seeks a contest of strength and his main expertise is creation and conjuration. He’s an explorer of worlds, though he hardly ever left this one. He has created an undead simulacrum of himself that journeys through the planes and gathers useful information, keeping rather close contact and accumulating specialities…*

His favorite phrase is: “Ye must be not yerself young boy…”, he even referred to the king in this way when old (Kings name) proposed an attack on (another country).

(insert stats, abilities and possessions here)

Ardigior has two pacts with Yuguloth lords which he is tempted to betray… (details)

and so on, that’s very much how I would setup a villain’s note in my gm journal. I hardly need a lot of stats, spells or items, though I would probably use the generator of dm-genie to get one on the fly during the preparation sessions. Most importantly don’t stress the abilities of your villains. I’ve read a few postings on DMPCs lately and I have to admit, I’m not particularly fond of DMPCs myself. As soon as a player gets the impression he isn’t in the middle of the game and you’re favoring npcs over the players – I suggest you give the Dungeon Master’s seat for a while to another player on your table. This is one of the most favorable positions a dm can have – the resting place to regather ideas and create great adventures for future use.

So, you’ve got one – now get the other 4-19 😉 – have fun creating your characters and make sure to have not too many of these munchkin over-villains in your repertoire. In the coming days we’ll have a look at the political setup of our world (sounds incredible boring, but it isn’t – honestly). Hope you enjoy the series and keep reading if you do.

The whole series (links to the posts will be active after publishing of them).

Getting started on Preparing an Epic-Level Adventure – part one
Problems of an Epic-Level Campaign
Epic Character Generation Preparing an Epic-Level Adventure – part two
History and Geography Preparing an Epic-Level Adventure – part three
Background Interweaving Preparing an Epic-Level Adventure – part four
Additional resources (links)
Specialities and Resources Preparing an Epic-Level Adventure – part five
NPC Definitions and Setup Preparing an Epic-Level Adventure – part six
Political Setup Preparing an Epic-Level Adventure – part seven
Actionplan Preparing an Epic-Level Adventure – part eight
Weaving it together Preparing an Epic-Level Adventure – part nine

2 thoughts on “epic preparation – p6 – NPCs

  1. Thank you for flowers :).
    Maybe you feel like sharing your major npcs – I am always very interested to get my hands on npcs of other Dungeon Masters, a lot of creative potential there. We should organize some NPC sharing stuff – I mean honestly – that would be a nice thing.

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