Tag Archives: NPCs

City Creation: Kael Pathfinder Stoutpoppy, Swordsmith

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Since the PCs aren’t likely to interact with Meadowbrook’s blacksmiths other than to have items repaired or commission new ones, I’m not going to spend much time detailing them.

Most Meadowbrook’s blacksmiths focus on creating practical items — horseshoes, plows and farming implements, iron nails and building tools, etc. Kael Pathfinder Stoutpoppy is the exception to the rule: he’s only swordsmith in Meadowbrook. While he can and does do other types of blacksmithing to pay the bills, his primary love is creating strong, beautiful blades.

Kael Pathfinder Stoutpoppy

Kael is a former ranger who settled down in Meadowbrook. While his home and shop are actually outside of the city proper, he and his wife, Janna, are frequent faces in town, especially at The Butter Churn tavern. While adventuring, Kael met and fell in love with Janna Stoutpoppy, a skilled fighter in the group he traveled with. When the two of them decided to retire and settle down, they chose Meadowbrook — Janna’s home town.

While Kael and Janna aren’t the only human-halfling couple Meadowbrook’s history, the match is unusual enough to raise eyebrows and start gossip tongues wagging. The Stoutpoppys had some difficulty accepting an human son-in-law, but Kael’s friendly, outgoing personality finally won over Janna’s parents. The rest of the Stoutpoppy clan, including Janna’s two sisters and her brother aren’t so generous of spirit and the divide has split appart the clan. Janna’s siblings have not spoken to her for the last three years. The couple are very much in love, but the situation has put a strain on their marriage; currently, the two of them are discussing plans to move to a larger city where they won’t stand out so much.

A skilled storyteller, Kael can frequently be found at The Butter Churn when not working. He’s frequently pressed to tell stories of his and Janna’s younger, wilder days.

Janna Stoutpoppy

Janna herself is much quieter than her husband. She’s friendly enough, but much more reserved and usually content to let her more outgoing half speak for both of them.

Her split with her family weighs heavily on her, though she does her best not to show it. She’s glad her parents have come around about Kael, but the fact that her siblings and most of her clan refuse to speak to her saddens her greatly. She also experiences some discrimination in the town; a few of the merchants, both human and halfling, refuse to serve her or Kael. She loves Kael deeply, but the situation is putting a lot of strain on her. She and Kael have begun to talk about moving to an area where there are more couples like them, something she’s not sure she wants to do. She feels torn by her love for Kael and her love for her family.

For her own part, Janna is an excellent fighter, extremely skilled at taking down opponents several times her size. She’s agile and intelligent, though very shy without a sword in her hand. Her shyness can come off as cold or haughty to those meeting her for the first time.

  • Kael Pathfinder Stoutpoppy, human ranger (AD&D terms: 10th level ranger).
  • Janna Stoutpoppy, halfling fighter/warrior (AD&D terms: 11th level fighter)

Note about halfling names in Meadowbrook’s world: Among halflings, property is passed down matriliniarly, from mother to daughter. Consequently, most husbands take their wife’s surname after marriage, adding it after their own. Kael and Janna followed this tradition, hoping that would help them gain more acceptence in Janna’s home town. Unfortunately, this hasn’t had the effect they’d desired.

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Character Backgrounds

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There’s a continuum about character backgrounds. I use detailed character backgrounds in my games; in fact, I warn players that I reserve the right to fill in any character history they don’t. Other GMs don’t bother with backgrounds at all — a sentence or two at the top of the character sheet. It really depends on the individual GM’s game style.

I can’t even begin to building campaign until I know the PCs involved; for me, the PCs are the campaign. Player-written character backgrounds provide me with a wealth of ideas I would have never come up with on my own. I give my players free reign to create NPCs in their background, with the caveat that all NPCs need to approved by me. This takes some of the background work off of my shoulders; I can use the PCs backgrounds to help flesh out the population of my city/world/setting. Frequently, I find I can substitute someone from a PCs background for one listed in the adventure, thereby helping to get at least one PC more invested in the current story.

Sometimes I can even tie NPCs from one character’s background to those of another PC. This makes a connection between those two PCs, right off the bat. These connections don’t have to be friends, or even like each other. Having an NPC from one character hate the NPC from another character has led to some great role-playing in past games. Even better is when I can actually use the same NPC for at least one additional PC. Locations are something else I mine character backgrounds for. Usually, the player has given me some idea of what that location is like, even if it’s just “small farming town”. Businesses, towns, homes, farms from character backgrounds have all become integral to various campaigns I’ve run.

I always have players give me written copies of their background. That way I can go back and look up details I may have missed the first time through. If a player is having a hard time coming up with anything for a background, I sit down with the player and walk her through a series of questions. I’ve found character questionnaires can really help a player get “unstuck”.

Even really basic stuff like “how old is your character” or “what color is his hair” can trigger ideas for the player. Every player I’ve ever dealt with has at least an idea about what his character looks like, including clothing. If a player seems really stuck, I’ll ask questions about that: “why are your character’s colors red and blue?”, “why would she wear that hat?”, etc. And if a player is really, really, stuck for ideas or is looking for a challenge (I’ve had players who said “surprise me”), I’m more than happy to take over. But in that case, I warn them they’re going to be stuck with whatever I give them.

Usually, a PC only needs their background tweaked; in that case, I’ll make my revisions and hand the player a copy. Maybe I swap out the town in their background for one that already exists, or maybe I change their childhood friend to an NPC already in the game — I try to keep as much of the player’s work as possible.

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