Category Archives: RPGs

Quick NPC Ideas

If you need an NPC quickly here are a couple of ideas.

Do you need a classed NPC?

Use one of your own old characters from back in the day. This works best if you have played a character of the type you need. However, you can easily transfer names and traits onto any class.

You can also steal a classed NPC from another GM’s world. You may not know their stats, but you know how to present them.

Do you need a generic NPC?

Steal one from one of your GM’s campaigns. Tavern owner, shoop keeper, etc.

Do you need a trait for a monster?

Take examples of how the past GMs you have played with expressed their orcs, ogres, giants, etc.

The beauty of taking characters from one game to another is also that it doesn’t have to be rule specific or genre specific. For example, a greedy merchant can be a robber baron, Wall Street investment banker, space corporation executive, etc. The main thing you are after is the portrayal of the character, the class, race, and abilities are secondary.

Pay Attention

The key to acquiring new NPC concepts is to pay attention to the repertoire of other GMs. Playing in other games whether in person, online, or at conventions, is a great way to get exposed to NPC “templates.”  The more memorable the portrayal, the easier to recall. However, not all memorable NPC’s are over the top, larger than life personas. Many are regular people, and can be bland or generic. Reviewing lists of character traits in the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide is a good way to be on the right wavelength to pull out a believable persona.

Friends, family, wait staff, work colleagues, basically anyone you have ever interacted with can have something to offer to help build NPCs.

Movies, TV, books, magazines, etc. all have characters who have traits that are memorable. All of them are fair game to help you make the next town’s tavern owner different from the last. Street urchins can have traits and manners of speaking like the characters from The Little Rascals (I prefer the originals from the B&W shorts).

Build Templates

If you struggle with on the spot development of NPCs, build templates that emphasize a major trait but flavored with minor traits. For example, a greedy merchant template could take the used car salesman trope and flavor it base on your own experience buying used cars. Some talk fast, some dress gaudily, others dress sharply, some dress slovenly. Greed can take different forms. One is honest so does not lie to gain the sale, while others have no scruples other than whatever it takes to get the sale.

You can also sit with the DMG and roll on the tables to build random NPCs. They can just be collections of traits on index cards, and you just grab the next one when it is needed. You can also script them in a spreadsheet, power shell, bash, or programs like Inspiration Pad Pro. Then you can generate hundreds and pull one out when you need it, or even on the fly at the table.


Find a way that works best for you. Build a mental catalog as you go on a long walk or drive, or mow the lawn. Create a card catalog or lists on the computer. Whether you speak in different voices, or just describe their mannerisms and tone, you should always be able to come up with a new NPC’s characteristics on the fly.

Tell Me About Your Character – I Was Interviewed

I have the distinction of being the subject for the first episode of the third season of Tell Me About Your Character (TMAYC). TMAYC is an interview style podcast where +Steve Keller asks the right questions to get the context to help people share why their favorite character is their favorite.  I interviewed Steve about TMAYC and his favorite character over on Multiverse.

In my interview, I go into details about the character, Griswald, in my brother Robert’s campaign, that is the source of the name of this blog. I have written about these various stories in my interview here:



I noticed at the end of my interview that I mis-spoke and said that the other characters killed me, when I meant to say they killed the Rancor which had swallowed me.

All articles where I discuss Griswald.

Solo Roleplaying

Solo roleplaying may seem counter-intuitive to many.  Playing an RPG solo instead of with a GM and other players. The idea goes way back to at least the late 1970’s, if not earlier. With the 1st Edition AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide, there are tables to generate random dungeons. One can use table to determine random encounters, NPC personalities, etc. Also in that time frame were the choose your own adventure books. The first computer RPGs were text based solo forays into dungeons or ruins.

Way back when, I tried to do solo play using the tables in the DMG, but did not have the patience for it. I have read other’s postings about their efforts in solo RPG play in recent years, and even follow the Lone Wolf Roleplaying G+ Community. Two people that I follow on G+ for other reasons, +Matt Jackson for maps & RPG ideas, and +Sophia Brandt who does great reviews and gives a non-US take on RPGs.

Today, I am home sick with no voice, and I watched a Hangout hosted by +Ray Otus, with Sophia as special guest on the topic of solo RPGs. While watching this and hearing the different perspectives, and discussing ways to handle the GM piece of the puzzle, I felt inspired to try solo play again.

My Approach

Since AD&D 1e is my go to game, and I focus my blog on the OSR, I got to thinking about the tools available to me. Use the standard hexcrawl model. Town is safe and not the place of adventure. Maybe ask the barkeep or some other person in town where one can find adventure. Use the NPC personality traits tables to flesh out the NPCs to get an idea of how helpful or expensive their information might be. Then use the hexcrawl rules to determine the surrounding terrain and weather. The dungeon/ruins/source of adventure is a certain direction and so many miles/days from town. Use the chance of getting lost, and if the character(s) know they are lost. This would require having enough food, or ability to forage for food. Have random encounters, etc. The monster reaction table and morale tables would come in handy. Use the random dungeon tables to determine the entrance to the dungeon.

One could use different tools for decision making, such as Rory’s Story Cubes, decks of cards, the d30 Sandbox Companion, d30 GM Companion, GM Emulator, etc. There are also many solo play engines discussed at the Lone Wolf G+ Community. There are so many useful tables out there in the OSR, that you can take your favorites to build your own solo play method.

Hexcrawl Practice

I see this as one way for a GM to practice running a hexcrawl and finding the method that works best for them. One could even use solo hexcrawl play to build a sandbox for future group play. For example, use this to build the back story of your region in the starting hexcrawl. Something along the lines of How to Host a Dungeon. I’m not sure how well that would work in practice, but I see it as a way for a GM to be a player in their own world.

One of the other common uses of solo play is testing one’s own game, adventure, or custom classes,  new monsters, or house rules. It would also be a good way to try out a new ruleset to make sure one knows it before group play.

You can roll dice, or use tools like NBOS’ Inspiration Pad, for quick results once your tables are built.

There are lots of free and low cost solo play engines. One could also use rules light systems like Swords & Wizardry Light or RISUS, or even FATE. As with all things RPG, find what works best for you. The only way to know is to try.