Thursday, March 29, 2012

Adding the Quirk Into NPCs

After our session of BSing last night one of the subjects we spoke was quirky characters added to the game.  I love having a sprinkling of them in my games.  I was just working on an adventure last night and the set up is a beat up village outside the evil temple (that was once a good temple).  There is one guy name Gordon who refuses to leave even though he and his house are attacked each night.  As I explained it to Trey, "He's like that old guy you see on the news who refuses to leave even though there is lava inching closer or the tidal wave looms over him."

Quirky is cool and fun, but it only works if there is a reason.  You don't have to get into a psycho-analytical involvement, but it helps maintain the continuity if there is a reason for the quirkiness.  In my newbie game there was a small mage guild in town.  The 'host' mage (think greeter at wal-mart) was a very difficult man.  He asked a lot of questions and when answers were given he became very suspicious.  He would do this for a while until it seemed the business was legitimate.  He figures if he acts crazy enough people won't bother him and the others for help as much.  Otherwise villagers would be bugging them constantly.  The players never knew why he did what he did, but they still talk about him today.  (Partially because I was fucking funny when I played him.)

There are some quirky NPCs that don't need that much detail.  Maybe just one thing that sets them off.  A personality trait or physical tic or feature that's exaggerated.  All it takes it one memorable detail and the players are more likely to remember.  Ex. Herbert the merchant deals in fine wines.  Or.  Herbert the Merchant is known for his fine wines and giggles like a small girl when he's amused. Not the best example, but now the players have an identifier hung on old Herbert making it easier for them to remember.  "Lets go see the giggle guy for some wine."

Don't mistake quirky characters as secondary, or weak or bit players.  They can be significant and have a great deal of influence in the game.  And a quirk does not need to define the NPC, but accent him or her.  I'll use a Whisk analogy, the quirk isn't the meat, its the seasoning.  But you have to make sure you have a good piece of meat of the seasoning won't matter.  (I learned this trick over at Hack & Slash, Thanks Courtney)

Like all good things, don't overdo it or the quirkiness becomes watered down and becomes a David Lynch movie.  Oww, didn't see that shot towards David coming.  But being weird to be weird is boring and not weird.

I'm done.  Off to work.  Hi ho.  Hi ho.


  1. It's Hack & Slash

    Also: It's my trick. So, neener, neener, copycat.

    Also: No link?

  2. Hack and Clash would be a cool blog name, though...

  3. @-C: Let's you and him fight. (as Wimpy would say) ;)

    @Blue - Hell yeah, it would.

    Good post, Tim. A useful topic.

  4. There's an npc in my campaign, a Swiss soldier, who seems to understand every language spoken to him, but only ever replies in German.

  5. -C > ha, fixed it. Thought i did do a link, but it must no have taken.

    Mr. Blue > I like the sound of that.

    Trey > Not sure why I took a shot at Lynch just happened.

    Black V > Very cool.

  6. My Pathfinder group recently encountered a quirky NPC and he made our night. We had returned to town, and our fighter had insisted on dragging these two nice chests back with him. Well he was trying to sell them to this gnome shopkeeper but the shop keeper kept offering him a 'door # 2' a bag with something in it, instead of paying the fighter cash. We all became the crowd in 'Lets make a deal' some shouting, take the money, others shouting, 'take the bag!'. Good times..

  7. I had a DM who threw an insane wagoneer at our party. He kept ranting about seeing a "big dragon...BIIIIIG dragon" over and over. Incessantly. As a non sequitur too. The DM played insanity perfectly. We could not get any useful information from the man about the surroundings and we completely discounted everything he DID tell us.


    Until the big dragon dropped on our heads.

  8. Adding quirky NPC characters can add spice to anything. It appears that the Republican Party added several to the campaign at the start of the primary season.

    (And yes, the Dems did this in the beginning of 2008 too).