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Characteristics of an NPC

Written by Expy - Published on February 8, 2008

Random thoughts

I was thinking about the physics of dragon flight. It doesn’t make much sense. However I haven’t really investigated the matter. Expy – my red dragon friend and mascot – tells me: “Dragons fly. Accept it and stop whining.”

Does anyone have scientific insight into this? Should dragons be able to fly?

The characteristics of NPCs

What motivates this guy?
Getting people to wonder
what motivates him.

All right, here’s a quicksheet I use when I need to come up with a credible NPC in 5 minutes or less. Keep this short list on your DM screen or near your notes and it might help you play improvised NPCs more consistently. I improvise about half the NPCs my players interact with – and some of them even stick around, usually when I took at least 2 minutes to figure out how they fit in the grand scheme of things.

  • Motive – Why is the NPC the way he or she is?
  • The Past – What happened? What were the life-altering event for the NPC?
  • Network – People act differently when they’re with different people. Who belongs in the NPC’s network?
  • Reputation – What do people say about the NPC?
  • Stereotype & Appearance – Any description that might convey a meaning to the PCs before the talk to the NPC falls in this category

Short and sweet! What do you think? Anything else you would have on a create-NPC-in-5-minutes quicksheet? And don’t forget about the dragon flight physics – let me know.

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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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14 Responses to “Characteristics of an NPC”
  1. Joshua Jabin says:

    Dragons don’t need to be able to follow the laws of physics in order to be able to fly. They are highly magical creatures, and magic is fully capable of overriding any physical issues that would normally be able to prevent dragons from flying.

  2. Yax says:

    Fair enough. But if they’re so magical why are they only poor in flying maneuvering?

  3. niggle says:

    If you want a really cool scientific look at how dragon flight may be possible, animal planet did a special on the topic, Dragons: A Fantasy Made Real. I believe they described dragon flight as being possible by methane sacks in the chest that could also be used for breathing fire. The dragons exhale the methane and use flint they eat to spark the gas. pretty cool, but totally unrealistic. As a bonus Patrick Stewart is the narrator.

  4. Yax says:

    Thanks for the scoops . Maybe Expy is right after all. No need to figure it out. If animal planet can’t come up with something better, what chance do I have?

  5. Tommi says:

    On NPCS: What do they want a player character to do (or all of them, which is even better)?

    Why should the PCs help him?

    Why should the PCs not help him?

  6. Russell says:

    Birds can fly, bats can fly, humans have made it possible for tons of metal to fly, why not a dragon?
    Take some x-rays of Expy’s bone and wing structure to see how they are constructed. I bet they are hollow like a bird’s.
    I bet you’re thinking, “Dragon’s are HUGE!” That’s true, but a turkey can fly and they are huge in comparison to their wingspan.
    I saw that show and it was cool. I don’t agree with the whole method of flight or fire breathing either. It also doesn’t take into account that except for Krynn dragons, not all D&D dragons breathe fire (unless they changed the rules in 3e).

  7. Templeton says:

    No Dragons should not be able to fly, but then bumble bees should not be able fly either.

  8. argokirby says:

    I think that if a 747 can fly, than so can a dragon. Its not about weight or even wing span, Dragons have a huge wingspan, its about thrust. I think that is where the magic comes in. Magical thrust.

    I also want to point out that bumble bees do not fly. Its a trick of their wings bending the light that causes an optical illusion of them to be floating in the air.

  9. argokirby says:

    I’d love to see a sample NPC you related using these steps, to get a better idea of how to implement them.

  10. Yax says:

    I’ll see if I can find old notes.

  11. Reverend Mike says:

    Thanks to the Discovery Channel’s documentary on how dragons would work, they can’t fly…except in D&D…which is them have supranatural magic powers…

  12. loneGM says:

    Lets see… perhaps notes as to what themes the NPC represents in your story(if you’re that kind of DM), or reminders to yourself as to how to portray him. Vocal inflection, posture, etc.


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