Role Playing Tips - By Johnn Four
5 WAYS TO MAKE YOUR NPCS BETTER & MORE MEMORABLE
I just got through reading Issue 25 ( NPC Parley Tricks:
http://www.roleplayingtips.com/issue25.html ) and I thought
I would throw in some stuff I do, or have seen, to help
flush out the NPCs a little more.
1. Drink Plenty Of Liquids!
This may sound silly, but I find that when I GM I tend to be
loud and boisterous and my throat gets parched halfway
through a game. You have to have some saliva in your mouth
in order to keep articulating and speaking as your NPCs. I
strongly suggest carbonated water (Perrier). Soda pop and
beer work fine too, but too much caffeine isn't good for you
and alcohol has a tendency to make you roll the dice off the
[Johnn: I've never liked Perrier, but I've just discovered a
new drink: Perrier or club soda with a freshly squeezed
slice of lime or lemon. The fruit adds great flavour, the
carbonation still scours the skin off your tongue like a
good soda should, and there's no sugar-low tiring and drying
you out afterwards.
Don't take this drink to the wrong side of town though, if
you know what I mean.]
2. Add Personality Quirks To Your NPCs
This I find is one of the best ways to remind the PCs who it
is they are talking to, even if you don't change your voice
* I have an NPC that scratches his hair all the time.
* Usually when I am speaking as an NPC king, I stand up and
talk over the PCs heads, even if I am talking TO them.
* One of my favorite NPCs is a pompous ass who thinks he is
good looking. Whenever he talks he smiles a lot and he
changes his profile, often sweeping the entire room with his
* Another NPC I use has a perpetual cold. Whenever he talks,
I throw in a sniffle between sentences.
Don't over-do it though. If you exaggerate these quirks too
much it might detract from what you are saying and you will
just appear goofy. Be subtle. Folding your hands behind your
back will do a lot to convey the attitude of an NPC who is
serious or militant. Stroking your chin when you listen to a
PC will give off the impression that the NPC is intelligent
or very perceptive.
[Johnn: OK, here's where we as a group can really help each
other out. Please email any personality quirks you have used
or can think of and I'll make one big list for everyone to
use as a wonderful game master NPC-making tool.
Email to: email@example.com ]
3. Use Clothes And Props
You don't have to go very far to get them. A simple coat
with a hood, a hat, some sunglasses or even a stick can do
wonders to add some flair to your NPCs.
For example, in my games, there is a strange, yet enigmatic
NPC who sometimes shows up mysteriously to give the PCs some
advice in the form of riddles. When I announce that this
person is approaching the group, one of the PCs immediately
jumps up and places a cowl on my head to keep my face
hidden. I still don't know why my PCs do this, but they have
already set it in their minds that this particular NPC keeps
her face hidden. It adds to her "mysteriousness" I guess.
Sometimes I will have an NPC use a cane or a stick but I
generally find that as soon as I place the prop down, one of
the players HAS to pick it up to fidget with it. So when not
in use, place the prop behind you and out of sight. Players
won't covet what they can't see.
[Johnn: I've got a "Props" issue coming up and would love to
hear your props examples, experiences and ideas. Again, when
done, I'll put all your feedback into an online resource for
you to tap into. Email to: firstname.lastname@example.org ]
4. Physical Contact
Yes, yes, I know that this is a big no no, but hear me out
for a second. If your players are really okay with this, you
can simulate some forms of physical contact.
* When an NPC strikes a deal with the PCs, why not shake
* I have an NPC who is this big "mother-hen" like character
who just looooooves the PCs. Whenever the PCs come to see
her, she HAS to give them all a hug. So yes, I would
physically get up, run around the table and give each player
Now I would only suggest this with a group that you are
friends with. I mean you don't want to creep anybody out.
Usually this kind of physical contact is amusing and usually
sends the players into a fit of giggles. But, the players
identify the NPC almost instantly with this kind of act and
nothing causes the players to give you their complete and
undivided attention more than when you touch them in some
DO NOT, for the love of all that is holy, hurt the players
or make them uncomfortable. Usually I do this just once when
introducing the NPC for the first time. After that, trust
me, players remember an NPC that shook their hand vigorously
or placed a cold hand on their shoulder to get their
attention (that cold bottle of Perrier does wonders).
[Johnn: although this is a touchy subject do any of you have
other examples? Physical contact does affect us more than
words and pictures and it adds another great dimension to
the game--just heed Marc's warnings.
* Whispering in the player's ear when an NPC does so
* Pushing the player in the shoulder with your index finger
(gently) when a bully NPC does so
* Laying a hand on a player's head as a priest does so when
giving a blessing or casting a spell
Email other suggestions to: email@example.com ]
5. Use pictures
Hey look, I'm a 220 lb, 30 year old male. Do you think I can
convincingly act out a female NPC who has the looks that can
make Cindy Crawford jealous?
Get a magazine, flip through some pages and cut out the face
of someone who looks appropriate. Then, using a paper clip,
attach it to the back of your GMing screen so that all
players can see whenever you are playing that particular
NPC. You don't have to do it for all NPCs, just the ones you
feel you will have trouble trying to convey. Don't use
famous celebrities. Use those models you see in magazine
[Johnn: I use Magic cards and other collectible cards for
the same use as a prop. Also, RPG books and supplements have
great illustrations of people that you can photocopy, cut up
and hand out.
What other sources can you think of?
Email to: firstname.lastname@example.org ]
Hope these help!
--Marc R. Kinsville marck@CAE.CA
Have more fun at every game!