Role Playing Tips - By Johnn Four
7 QUIRK TIPS & 40 QUIRKS FOR YOUR REFERENCE
1. Use Quirks As Plot Hooks
Quirks can do double-duty for your campaign, saving you time
& mental energy.
First, they can enhance your stories, campaign and game
world by making your NPCs more 3-dimensional and
interesting. That's the standard reason for using quirks.
Second, and an often under-used technique by GMs, they can
serve as realistic and natural plot hooks. They are great
ways to draw your players into your stories and encounters.
Ask yourself how or why did the quirk develop in the NPC?
What is the story behind the strange behavior? Then make the
story unresolved, unfinished or open-ended so that the PCs
have a chance to get involved (i.e. whatever caused the
NPC's quirk is still out there...and now the PCs have
learned about it, what will they do?).
For example, a barkeep at the PCs' favorite tavern has the
stuttering quirk. The first time the characters meet the
barkeep you assign him that quirk and he is no longer a
boring, faceless NPC.
Then, a few game weeks and two game sessions later, the PCs
are chatting with the barkeep and discover that he has only
been stuttering for a little while. In fact, before "the
horrible event" the barkeep was able to speak perfectly. A
few months ago, the man and his fiance were travelling to
the local church to arrange the upcoming ceremony's details
when they were waylaid by thieves. He put up a fight but was
eventually knocked unconscious. And when he awoke his life
savings (to pay for the wedding) and his fiance were gone...
This little encounter would really entertain your players.
It's a sad story and there's a chance that the PCs could get
involved and make things right again. But, also, it reveals
something new about someone the characters already know.
Your game world will seem deeper and more interesting.
So, figure out the how's or why's behind NPC quirks and use them
to introduce new stories or side-adventures.
2. Use Quirks To Enhance Your Story
You can not only use quirks as plot hooks but also as ways
to enhance your existing story. Once you figure out the
story behind the quirk you can use this information to tie
people, events and your game world together.
For example, our barkeep from tip #1 began stuttering
because of a traumatic incident that happened months ago. In
a flash of inspiration you decide that the barkeep speaks
certain words perfectly clear and this tips the PCs off that
there's something more behind the speech impediment. They
ask questions and the story comes out. And the party now has
a new lead on the group of bandits they've already been
searching for...The barkeep's quirk and story were a great
way to help the PCs and your campaign without seeming
contrived or forced.
3. Assign Quirks Only To Certain NPCs
Not every NPC should have a quirk. It would be difficult for
you to constantly create new quirks for all of the people
the PCs meet or learn about. Also, you may alter the feeling
or mood of your campaign if everyone in it has strange
Every major NPC that the characters interact with should
have distinct personalities. And quirks can help make
personalities distinct. So, feel free to give major NPCs one
or more quirks.
For your minor NPCs though, sprinkle your quirks around.
Many of your NPCs will seem to be normal during their brief
interactions with the PCs so there's no need to give quirks
to them yet. Other NPCs have unusual quirks but actively try
to hide them, so they don't need to be given quirks right
As a rule of thumb, give every third or fourth minor NPC
that the characters meet a quirk. Unless the PCs are going
out and meeting a lot of people in a session, that ratio
lets you guess how many quirks you'll need to prepare before
the game. Knowing what to prepare is often half the battle.
4. Use Secret & Intermittent Quirks
In tip #2 we discussed how revealing the story behind a
quirk can be very entertaining and adds great depth to your
campaign. Using secret or intermittent quirks has the same
Make it so that some quirks are only revealed when a certain
event or circumstance triggers them. And some might only
show up during stress, excitement or when feeling a specific
emotion. Your players will be surprised and very interested
when an NPC they've known suddenly displays a quirky
5. Use Quirks For Monsters, Magic Items And Cultures Too
A quirk is a way to make someone, or something, different
and special. Do your players say "oh, it's just another +1
dagger"? Can they use Star Trek and Star Wars to figure out
all of your alien races? Do they heave heavy sighs when
being delayed by boring bodyguards or another pack of
Use quirks to turn the usual into the unusual. Next time a
character starts to put the new +1 dagger into the bottom of
their knapsack with the others, casually mention the
dagger's strange design or unusual alloy. Make those
standard bodyguards absent minded or have them constantly
looking over their shoulders. And gives those humans in the
kingdom next door a generally shared common trait like being
neat freaks or slow talkers.
These quirks will probably not affect things game rules-
wise, but they sure make a difference in game play.
6. Quirks Can Be Serious
A quirk basically translates into unusual behavior for the
NPC. And it's tempting to turn quirks into humourous and
silly roleplaying events. But, constant silliness soon
becomes tiresome in some campaigns, so try to make your
quirks more serious in nature.
For example, a person with a fear of small dogs doesn't have
to react by jumping into the arms of the nearest person and
screaming hysterically. The reaction could be more serious
such as running away without a word, drawing a weapon and
attacking, verbally assaulting the dog's owner, chewing his
lips until they bleed, becoming quiet and unco-operative.
Resist the temptation (and, it seems I am always tempted!)
to turn quirks and the encounter into a comedy.
7. Give Quirks Different Aspects So They Remain Unique
After creating the fifth NPC that likes to pace and wear
green hats, your limited simply of quirks are going to
become boring. They will no longer make your NPCs different
To fix this, try to come up with a special angle or feature
of the quirk before assigning it. Come up with a different
aspect so that NPCs with similar quirks are not the exact
Examples of things you can change to make quirks different:
* Frequency: does the quirk appear all the time, every few
minutes, a few times a day?...
* Degree of affliction: many quirks can have ranges of
effects from mild to severe.
* Odd link: whenever the quirk appears other strange things
often happen. Coincidence?
* Groupings: rather than giving several people different
quirks, give them all the same one(s). That's also a great
way to create a different session mood...strangeness,
surrealness, magical. And I bet you have already started
thinking of some plot hooks for this, haven't you? :)
* Trigger: have the quirk appear only under special
circumstances and make these circumstances different for
every NPC who shares the same quirk.
8. Create A Quirks List To Reference During Play
& 40 Quirk Examples
Take the 40 quirks below, all of them submitted by Tips
readers, paste them into a new Notepad page and print them
out. Whenever you need a quirk while planning or during
play, choose a quirk from the list, put a checkmark by it
and try to give it a different angle before using it. When
all the quirks have been checkmarked, make a new list or
cycle through the old list again, constantly putting new
aspects on the quirks as you use them.
1. Absent minded.
2. Obsessive about being perfectly clean and neat.
3. If what's happening isn't about their interests or what
they need, they slowly fade off into some unknown train
4. Smooths out wrinkles in their clothing during
5. Wrings their hands.
6. Fears strangers.
7. Keeps looking over their shoulder.
8. Keeps shifting their weapon from hand to hand.
9. Has mood swings.
10. Gets angered at strange, specific things.
11. Paranoid with EXTREMELY wide eyes.
12. Uses the same hand gestures in conversation as they do
when casting spells.
13. Actively starts pacing whenever still for a period of
14. Obsessed with a specific weapon, item, person, place or
monster, often telling long, boring stories about it.
15. Rolls their eyes when talking about other people.
16. Is easily cowed.
17. Gossips about other people and makes things up about
18. Cannot make decisions. Asks others what to do several
times before deciding.
19. Bad flatulence.
20. Speaks slow and deliberately.
21. Flips hair out of the way arrogantly.
22. Chews lips and flip-flops over decisions.
23. Snooty. Talks with their nose up and looks down on
24. Uses a dismissive hand wave (fingers pointing down with
a sweeping motion).
25. Gives belly laughs and rocks back and forth in their
26. Very nervous. Darting eyes, wringing hands, quavering
27. Speaks in a low, deep voice, pausing after every
sentence to carefully choose their words.
28. Constantly changes their gaze, making eye-contact with
everyone around them again and again, in rapid succession.
29. Near-sighted. Squints at whoever is talking to them.
30. Is well-bred and waves their hand around in the air all
the time, as though to fan away the unpleasant odor of
31. Has a nasal voice.
32. Has a whiny voice.
33. Has a breathy voice, like Marilyn Monroe.
34. Uses a "signature phrase" (i.e. "Jinkies!" "By the Sons
of Warvan, you shall be avenged!" "Holy rusted metal,
Batman!" "Tubular!" "Make it so!" "Shards and Shells!"
"By your command.").
35. Uses a few words of gibberish that represents phrases
from their native language. Works especially well for
swear words and exclamations.
36. Uses the same vocal pause repeatedly (i.e. ummmm, er,
like, and so, uh).
37. Speaks very quickly.
38. Speaks very slowly like they are not intelligent.
39. Speaks very slowly as if it isn't their native tongue
and they are translating things in their head.
40. Looks boldly at the PCs with tight lips and narrowed
Have more fun at every game!