You need to read Better NPCs: 5 questions, 50 answers (Part I) before you read this post.
All right. I was about halfway through my last post when real life interrupted my blogging. Let’s keep asking questions about our retired rogue Diedric Flagstone.
Question #3: Where is Diedric Flagstone hiding?
- At the local thieves’ guild.
- At his cousin’s farm.
- In the sewers.
- In another city.
- In another country.
- On the streets, with the beggars.
- At the mayor’s house.
- In the king’s palace.
- In an outer plane.
- In an Inn.
This simple exercise brought me to wonder: who does Diedric know? He was a fearless and rich adventurer in his youth so he must have known a lot of people. And he probably knew important people too. All good rogues have contacts high up. For this question, I’ll choose answer #4. Diedric is hiding in another city. He has a friend who is councelor to the mayor in that neighboring city. This will allow for conflict to arise between cities, maybe even nations. But I’m not there yet. I’m still working on Diedric.
Question #4: How did Diedric meet his contact(s) high up.
- He used to be a bounty hunter.
- He used to be a politician.
- He killed a roaming dragon.
- He blackmailed a disliked aristocratic figure.
- His sister married a noble.
- He used to be a jeweler and his customers later became acquaintances or friends.
- He was the king’s assassin.
- He was an informant for the merchant’s guild.
- He acquired a fortune by adventuring and mingled in the young nobles extravagant parties.
- He owns large estates in the country. His neighbors there are important members of the nobility.
I like a combination of #4 and #10 here. The fact that he has a sister humanizes Diedric. On the other hand, he would only go see her when he had to hide for a while. Her large estates in the country were perfect for that. The brother-in-law was a noble and liked Diedric’s company. He is now the one protecting our jewel thief. The estates in the country are a great mini-adventure within the campaign – the PCs will go out of the city and find the estates run over by evil creatures. If and when they get rid of the vermin, they find a lot of clues about Diedric’s habits at the country mansion. These clues could lead to the discovery of the thief’s whereabouts.
This is great. Just by trying to figure who Diedric is, I’m thinking of adventure plots. I just have one more question to go and I feel like I will have solid foundation for a successful adventure.
Question #5: What made Diedric an exceptional rogue? (or what makes him a formidable opponent?)
- He is the smartest man in the king’s land.
- He is a master engineer – locks and buildings have no secret for him.
- He is a great impersonator.
- He can slow down his heart beat and feign death convincingly.
- He has an extensive knowledge of poisons.
- He befriended a magical creature and has learned some special magical ability from it.
- He was a champion bowman.
- He has a magic invisibility cloak.
- He is incredibly lucky.
- He has dragon-blood – and knows or ignores it.
What would spice things up the most? If you are good at creating paranoia you could somehow inform the players that he knew poisons or was an assassin and they would constantly be looking over their shoulder. My strength as a DM does not lie there and I think I would go for answer #6. He befriended and kept in touch with a magical creature. He has magical powers that the creature taught him. His magical beast of a friend will also notice that he disapeared and go looking for him – eventually getting in the way of my players’ characters.
An unexpected event becomes a twist
You may have noticed that the answers I liked the most were never the first ones I found. Respectively they were: #3, #9 & 10, #4, #4 & 10, and #6. Don’t go for the obvious storyline. Keep the players guessing.
How long did it take?
I spent about 3 hours writing my 2 posts on better NPCs. I ended with 1 pretty deep character and a few extra ones that I had not seen coming. I also have adventure hooks ideas, 1 mini-adventure to squeeze into my campaign, an extra magical-beast-villain to spice things up, and a lot of conflict – personal and international – to come.
I really hope this technique will work for you as well as it does for me. Let me know how it goes if you give it a shot.
Any suggestions for the Diedric Flagstone Jewel Theft Case?
Feel free to leave comments or e-mail me.
I started using this technique (1 question, many answers) after reading Characters & Viewpoint from Orson Scott Card in the Elements of writing fiction book series. Check it out. It’s worth it.