Zombie Murder Mystery

A Look at Novel Non-Playable Character Ideas Within the RPG Genre

Written by Expy - Published on July 30, 2018

Russian theater practitioner Konstantin Stanislavski is said to have once remarked that “there are no small parts, only small actors”. Whether you know them as cameos or supporting roles, the importance of the “bit part” player cannot be overstated and this is a concept which is arguably explored in games more than in any other medium. The concept of the non-playing characters (or NPCs) has existed within the gaming realm ever since quintessential tabletop RPG classics such as Dungeons and Dragons introduced a more interactive, storytelling style and the fact that the game continues to sell well on sites such as Amazon despite being released all the way back in 1974 is a testament to this.

While NPCs are generally helpful towards your cause or at the very least, not openly hostile to it, some are undoubtedly of more intrinsic value than others and. With that being said, below are a few suggestions that we have for gaming developers looking to introduce new NPCs into their tabletop RPG games and a few examples of existing characters which could be used to draw inspiration from.

The Butt of All the Jokes

No matter what game you’re playing, there’s always room for a bit of light-hearted comic relief and that can often come in the form of an NPC. Whether it’s a batch of awful jokes or simply a comical physical appearance, the more difficult RPGs can sometimes leave you in need of a good laugh. A comedic fortune teller who hands out disparaging remarks at an abandoned carnival sounds good to us and would undoubtedly provide players with a few laughs if nothing else of any value.

The Lucky Charm

With the difficulty of tabletop RPGs in years gone by, such as Phoenix Command, everyone needs a bit of luck on their side every now and again. If there are any developers reading this, we suggest a lucky sidekick that you can choose to bring in when the chips are down. Of course, a leprechaun covered from head to toe in luminous green would be a little bit stereotypical but how about a walking four-leaf clover? To make the character as realistic as possible, look at real-world stats and figures to help shape your character. For example, an infographic on the world’s winners by Betway Casino highlighted the fact that winners tend to be born on a Tuesday sometime in 1981 and with a zodiac sign of Cancer. Perhaps there’s even a name in there somewhere?

The Mysterious But Highly Dangerous Ally

When it comes to some of the more mature RPGs, there’s always one character that you definitely don’t want to mess with. Our suggestion is a highly intelligent character whose appearance is befitting of a gentleman in an attempt to hide a checkered past. Dressed in a waistcoat, fully pressed suit and thick-rimmed black glasses, the Clark Kent look is often the perfect disguise to hide the most sinister secrets and something along those lines would certainly do the trick. If you’re still not quite sure, then you could do worse than visit eBay and purchase a batch of Superman comics for as little as 99 cents in order to draw inspiration from one of the best-kept secrets in superhero history.

The Nutjob

It’s important that NPCs are memorable because, if the player doesn’t form some sort of emotional attachment to the character, then they simply won’t care what happens to them and this could adversely affect their decision making. The best way to ensure your NPC is remembered is by making them stand out in some way and mental derangement is often a decent bet in this regard. However, it would probably be advisable to not make the character too crazy – there’s a fine line between incompetent and useless and the latter can often render the NPC obsolete.

Memorable Traits and Unique Special Abilities Are a Must

It’s fair to say that with the number of RPGs currently on the market, most options have been exhausted with regards to the appearance and roles of NPCs. However, when it comes to unique powers, there’s still plenty that hasn’t been tried yet and this is where you really let your creative juices flow.

Forget mind reading and the ability to counteract gravity – it’s been done. Instead, think more along the lines of the ability to urinate perfect tasting ale or the power to recognize when someone is telling a lie. Okay, they may not be the best ideas ever but they’re fairly unique (we hope).

As has been previously mentioned, an NPC needs to add value to the game as well as being memorable in some way, shape or form. If you think you’ve come up with one of the greatest ideas the tabletop gaming industry has ever seen then it’s probably a good idea to hop onto Reddit or other social media platforms just to check that it hasn’t already been done – there are some creative minds out there on the internet.

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Written by Expy

Meet Expy The Red Dragon

Expy is the mascot for DungeonMastering.com and the real mastermind behind Expy Games. He likes to hoard treasure, terrorize neighbors, burn down villages, and tell white dragon jokes..

No matter how fearful the legends claim dragons are, they always end up being defeated in 5 rounds by adventuring parties they encounter. That’s what dragons are – experience points for the heroes in your Dungeons & Dragon party. And this mascot is no different, hence the name Expy.

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