Dice Upon A Time: Using NPCs to Engage Your Players

Utilizing NPCs to educate new players and to entice new and old players to roleplay is something that should be in every Dungeon Master’s Bag of Tricks. In the latest episode of Dice Upon A Time, Bob and Connor discuss their various approaches, offering DMs plenty of food for thought.

There is no greater tool for a DM than a host of Non-Player Characters, be they a one-off merchant stranded on the road with a busted axle or a reoccurring noblewoman who is constantly meddling in the party’s affairs.

NPCs bring life to a DM’s world. Their actions, in many ways, dictate those of the players. Through interactions with them, your players learn the subtleties of the world you’re creating. Whether on the small stage or in the spotlight, dead center, each and every  encounter with an NPC is an opportunity to encourage roleplay, to develop sub and main plotlines, and to sometimes use misdirection.

Who better to instruct the party in the mores of the cultural landscape than through a chance encounter with a down and out gambler with a drinking problem and an unsettled debt? Or a broken-hearted widow that’s run afoul of the local sheriff?

All this and more should be at the ready for the DM. Fully realized characters with rich backstories and colorful tales should be in your holsters, ready to be drawn quickly and with precision. Connor and I favor creating them ourselves. Some DMs model their NPCs after characters from television, movies, or literature. Some purchase pre-generated characters from a number of different sources, in fact, I have seen NPC Cards from Paizo that were intriguing, but my preference (and near passion) for improvisational creation always has me shying away from such things.

However you choose to address the issue, utilizing NPCs to bring verisimilitude to your gaming table is a trick you do not want to come up short on, believe me. It makes all the difference in the world.

— Bob

 

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