The Gassy Gnoll: My Favorite NPCs (June RPG Blog Carnival)

As a GM, it’s your job to populate the world the PCs inhabit. This means not only defining the “where” that they live in, but also the “who” they interact with. A land with no people is deadly quiet and boring. And so our NPCs are born…

RPG Blog Carnival logoThis month’s RPG Blog Carnival topic is all about your favorite NPCs (hosted by the Arcane Game Lore blog), so I thought I’d bring up a few of my favorites from my own gaming history as both a GM and a player.

Let’s go way back to my days running a Palladium Fantasy Role Playing Game campaign back in the last few years of college and even after. In those days I often had a standby inn – the Deer Head. It magically appeared in darn near every town the PCs visited. And the innkeeper was an old, gnarled gray-haired man with poor hearing who would have to check out anybody attempting to get up to the second floor and into a room.

Did he have a name? Probably several. Did he really have a purpose? Not really beyond driving my players crazy. How did he drive them crazy? With an insane way of talking like a deaf old man who wanted to chat with anyone who darkened his little area of the inn. “Eh?! Who goes there? Got yer key? What room ya gonna to? Have ye tried the stew? Damn ye and yer drinkin’!” It would just go on and on, a litany of annoying questions and swearing just to keep the PCs from getting where they wanted to go immediately.

He was fun!

Another of my favorites was a gnomish messenger from the Hidden Kingdom (back when I was working on the Moebius Adventures RPG). If you needed to send a message anywhere in the world, you could take it to an outpost of the gnomes and it would be delivered magically to the destination within days, sometimes even hours or mere moments. Well, like any stereotypical postal worker, these guys would silver and copper the PCs to death, charging exorbitant fees, demanding to know package contents, and generally harassing the mailer to no end.

Unlike the crazy innkeeper, there were many varieties of these tiny guys. Some were happy to help. Others were crabby and wanted nothing to do with anybody asking questions. Still others were simply incompetent buffoons who blithely did their jobs and bungled deliveries regularly. It just depended on how mean I felt like being!

But again – they were all fun.

These days as a player in a 4e Zeitgeist campaign, our boss Stover Delft is a character we’ve come to love to hate. It might be grudging admiration, but the fact that he causes us so much grief as a group of constables counteracts any positive vibes we may have for him. The picture that our GM Jason puts up shows the character without arms looking askance over a shoulder and he seems to be wearing some sort of padded sweater or armor.

But every time we’re called into his office, we wonder how we’re getting in trouble THIS time. And inevitably we are definitely in trouble to some degree. 🙂

So there you have it… a few of my favorite NPCs as a GM and player. My favorite NPCs are those who drive the players nuts. And honestly I think we need more colorful characters in our games, so I’m always on the lookout for more!

Who are some of your favorites?

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