Bryan Howard recently submitted this tip to Roleplaying Tips:
Former PCs as NPCs
The best and easiest way to have great NPCs is to inject your old characters. The fighter who settled down and opened
a tavern, school or guild. The cleric who built his own temple.
Another way is to use former player characters who have parted ways and left the group for whatever reason. This way you already have a history and a personality for the NPC.
This is a classic tip because it’s a good one. Do you do it? If not, start.
Another past tip from the ezine advised GMs to get a copy of each PC at every level or each stage of significant improvement. By the time a D&D PC is level 20, you’ve got 20 NPCs. If the player was an optimizer, you’ve got 20 killer NPCs.
Archive both aspects of a PC: crunch and fluff = 3
Ask your players for a copy of their PCs each level. Do this also to handle absentee players so you have a recent version of their character on hand for rulings.
With copy in hand or on disc, annotate it with personality details if the player has not already.
Note everything you can think of that defines the PC’s unique presence in the group:
- Character demeanor
- Favourite sayings
Combined with the stats, you have a wonderful NPC that you not only have details for, but fond memories of to draw upon when roleplaying him.
But wait, there’s more. As a sneaky GM, you will also want to record the character’s best tactics. This is where the crunch (statistics) meet an aspect of fluff (tactics) to give you dangerous NPCs. Note his:
- Positioning and movement
- Preferred attack types
- Ability and feat combos
- Tactical equipment use
- Spell picks and uses
- Skill usage
One thing NPCs can do well that many PCs cannot is show weakness. Nobody is perfect. Players want to be heroes, and unless your game has a flaws system, chances are the PCs show no weaknesses.
You will want to round out PCs converted to NPCs by adding a weakness or two.
Make your favourite a villain
Like parents, game masters do not want to admit they have a favourite character in their campaigns. But we do. Good GMs will ensure no preferential treatment is given. Great GMs will try to bring out the best in the other PCs. However, that one PC makes you laugh that little bit extra, or cause you to lean forward a couple inches more when he acts.
Pay homage to these PCs by turning them into villains in your future campaigns. There are many ways to turn a good PC into a menace:
- Make them evil
- Change their philosophy to “the end justifies the means”
- Give them a dilemma that forces them to make horrible choices
- Bite them with a vampire
- Give them an alignment changing or cursed magic item
Submit PCs to community sites
Pay it forward by adding these pre-built great characters to community sites to share with other GMs and help them populate their campaigns. I know of a couple sites where you can do this. If you know of others, drop us a comment: