Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Developing NPCs

The picture is of my latest release. the 5th in my NPC Card series on my Patreon. Traksha is a troglodyte with psychopathic tendencies who survives in the Komor Forest by trading with a human he hasn't killed and a lot of goblins he has killed. 

Why create a psychopathic troglodyte NPC? Not sure why you wouldn't want one. Traksha is one type of NPC I like to create. A creature or person who is an oddity within their own culture. While I love a horde of nameless orcs washing over the landscape, burning and killing, leaving a swath of perfect destruction behind, I also enjoy adding a personal touch. An enemy you can put a name to isan enemy worth killing. Hell, the party may find he or she worth an exchange of words. *GASP* Probably not, but should increase the chances.

Let's talk about developing an antagonist NPC. In Traksha sace most of what the party experiences at first is the result of his actions. A group of dead goblins. A family of homesteaders killed as they slept. Both are bad, but let's take it a step farther. Let's make Traksha a bit more malevolent. After killing the homesteaders he brought with him a pair of goblin feet he sliced off earlier in the week and fashioned gruesome footwear. To put the blame on the goblins. And, it amused Traksha.

If the party investigates, they find the dead goblins. It appears the killers have been killed. This could be the end of it until more killings happen, but one of the more inquisitive of the party investigates a bit more and notices the goblins have been dead longer than the homesteaders. The game is afoot.

Traksha isn't the kind of NPC that you want to throw into a head on fight with the party. He knows he won't survive. He's the kind of NPC that works behind the scenes for as long as the GM deems him valuable as an unknown. Also, it allows the party to use investigation tactics. I'm not talking about a simple roll, I'm talking about gathering information to discover habits, track and find him.

When I use an NPC like Traksha, I'm using Swords & Wizardry Continual Light as the system, hit points are low, combat is fast and deadly. When in combat he chooses the environment to give him the best chance. So play him smart, but allow the players the chance to figure him out. To understand Traksha's tells and habits.

One of the suggestions I would have when running Traksha and NPCs like him, run situations backwards from when the party encounters a situation the NPC influenced or encounters the NPC. Let's take the goblin patrol scene first. I would create a minimum of three connective dots (I sometimes use four to five) that lead to the current scene.

Here's an example. We are running the scene backwards.

  • Goblins are all dead, Traksha strips them of the supplies and decides to slice the feet off of one of the larger goblins. He has an idea he thinks is funny.
  • Goblins are hunting when the lead goblin is flung into the air by a snare trap. The fat goblin in the rear makes an odd squeaking sound.  He stands there, blood flowing out of a large slit across his throat. Traksha uses his camouflage ability to get into position. Three goblins left, he is patient. He takes out each goblin from behind (wounds will show this). 
  • Traksha knows the goblins use this hunting path. He placed foot snares to distract and surprise the goblins. He is using a rocky terrain spot to blend into and give him the freedom to escape without a trace if need be. For now, he takes up a position he can spot the goblins approach. 
Your details don't have to be extensive. But, some small details can make the party encountering the goblins more interesting. And most important, it provides information about Traksha, how he thinks and behaves.

With each NPC Card I create at my Patreon I offer up suggestions and situations. You can click over to my Micro-Adventures Patreon to grab a free version of the PDF and consider joining if you would like to get a physical copy of Traksha.