[RPG] What goes into creating NPCs


When I play as DM, I'm never sure how to create my NPCs. Do I have a whole page on them, with all their languages, proficiencies, weapons, ability scores and etc? Or do I keep it simple, like just their weapons and personalities?

Whenever I make an NPC, I always get really scared that my players will become best friends with them and I thought they would just be somebody they pass by.

But I hate making almost another character sheet just for an NPC. And I know that my players will always love a NPC I know nothing about because my players just love to screw me over.

What is the process for developing/creating NPCs?

Best Answer

It Depends

If you have the Dungeon Master's Guide, the first few pages of Chapter 4 talk about "Quick NPCs" and "Detailed NPCs," which pretty well encapsulate your two main approaches above-- Quick NPCs might have a name and a few characteristics written on a note card, while Detailed NPCs have complete stats.

There is no reason that all your NPCs should be only one type.

Whether they get the full detailed treatment depends largely on whether you intend, at the time of their creation, for them to play some critical role in a fight (which will need stats) or to the plot (which may need a detailed set of motivations and history) or if they're just local color.

You Can Promote Your NPCs

But the real dilemma, I think, is what if you choose wrong or the situation evolves?

If your players have shunned your Detailed NPC, well, no big deal. You lost some time in prep, but probably not that much because it's only one guy.

But if they latch onto a Quick NPC, that's great! You've all, collectively, improvised your way into something you never foresaw. This is where the fun comes from! Just take out the note card and write down everything you improvised that seems important and then (if necessary) between sessions upgrade the note card to a full stat block.

What really tends to fall out of this process are a bunch of Quick NPCs, a handful of Detailed NPCs, and a bunch that are somewhere in between, with just enough notes jotted down to help me remember what they were doing, even if they aren't worth a full stat block.