Generally, I don’t detail numbers for the NPCs of my games. Unless I expect the PCs to pick a fight with one of them, I don’t even created stat blocks. I look at the NPC’s history, role in the game, personality and profession to decide what they can do, which is generally I need them to do in a particular situation. If the players start to interact extensively with an NPC, then I’ll create a character sheet for them.
It saves me work, as I only end up detailing the NPCs that need it: Joe, the butcher — who the PCs only see once when they beat him at a card game in the tavern — doesn’t need any details. Even critical or important NPCs don’t usually get more than the very cursory stat treatment, though I’m likely to have several pages of history, background notes, political ties, etc. written out for them. If I need stats, I tend to make them up on the spot, noting them down for future reference. In particular, I don’t sit down and figure out how many levels of Noble or Commoner a particular NPC has.
That being said, I do keep some notes of characters with PC class levels. Most residents of Meadowbrook won’t have PC classes and if they do, they’re not likely to be very high level. The most likely candidates for PC class levels are:
- Our half-elf magic shop shopkeeper
- The head of the fix-it guild
- Head of the town guard
- Head of the thieves’ guild
- Clerics of the local shrines
Just for fun, let’s add some retired adventurers to the town residents:
- The owner of one of the inns
- One of the blacksmiths
- The head of the dockworkers guild
A note about retired adventurers: I’ve never liked the profession of “adventurer”. To me, adventuring is something a character does, not something they are. So, in Meadowbrook, a retired adventurer is someone who went on adventures in their younger days, but has gotten the restlessness out of their blood and settled down. No one advertises for adventurers in my world; instead, you’ll see requests for “hardy souls” or “brave youths”.
That gives us some characters with PC class levels. To that, we can add “notable citizens” who, even without PC class levels, are important to Meadowbrook, to wit:
- The mayor
- The magistrates
Let’s create a brief background for each of our “notables”:
Darius is the only actual resident of Meadowbrook with any elven blood. While elves may stop occasionally for a night or two, they don’t generally like to live within towns; they prefer their own settlements, which they call “groves”. Born of a human mother and an elven father, Darius was raised outside of both cultures. Showing an early talent for music and a prodigious memory, he became a bard, spending almost 20 years as an itinerant musician and “troubleshooter for hire”. Eventually tired of travel, he settled down in Meadowbrook five years ago, just as the town became a trade stop. He opened a magic and “what-not” store he named “Darius’ Doodads”.
More gregarious than many “half-bloods” (who usually inherit their elven parent’s aloofness), Darius enjoys chatting with anyone who comes into his shop. He can frequently be found after hours at The Butter Churn — the favorite watering hole for the town’s residents — trading his songs and stories for dinner or drinks (though never to the point of becoming drunk). He’s free with information and will happily share what he knows with anyone who asks, provided they share their own adventures and stories. He likes Meadowbrook’s quiet and strong sense of community; he has made many friends in both Littletun and Bigtun, making him welcome wherever he goes in town.
Darius’ Doodads (called “Doodles” by the locals) sells magic items, paper goods, antiques, knickknacks and anything unusual that strikes Darius’ fancy. The magic items tend to the practical, as most of his business comes from the local populace, but occasionally he has a magic weapon or “adventuring” item.
Stats: (AD&D 3.5 ed): Male, half-elf, 10th level Bard. Neutral good. Very high charisma-type scores, high intelligence and wisdom scores, average everything else. Darius’ spell list covers a wide variety of spells, with no real focus in any one type. I’m not going to detail out his stat numbers or his spell list for two reasons:
- I can give him whatever I need him to have when I need it.
- I want to make these characters transferable to other fantasy games than D&D.
Magic and portability
Whenever Darius uses a spell, I’ll make a note of it, building his spell list as I go along. That way, he doesn’t end up with “useless” spells taking up slots and the spell list is appropriate to the game system being used.
As an example of portability, in 4th ed Ars Magica Darius’ magical arts might look something like this:
Cr 3, In 4, Mu 4, Pe 1, Re4
An 2, Aq 3, Au 3, Co 3, He 1, Ig 2, Im 3, Me 5, Te 2, Vi 4
and might include the following spells:
- Discern Images of Truth and Falsehood
- Frosty Breath of the Spoken Lie
- Veil of Invisibility
- The Chiurgeon’s Healing Touch
- Eyes of the Cat
- The Gentle Beast
- Rise of the Feathery Body
And, of course, he’d have the virtue Fairie Blood
[Note: these are just off the top of my head — I haven’t sat down to balance them out according to mechanics rules and the spell list is certainly not exhaustive].
Next time: Notable character continued — Barsus Tinner, the head of the fix-it guild.