NPC the RPG

The world needs heroes. Small pockets of civilization are surrounded by darkness and monsters lurk in every shadow. Heroes are all that stand between survival and overwhelming chaos.

The hero fights back the darkness, discovers treasures from older, brighter times and earns accolades and praise from King and Commoner alike.

You are not that hero.

Welcome to the world of the NPC. You are the lowly barkeep, shopkeeper or farmer who toils long and hard just to survive. You do not possess a shining blade or enchanted wand. You cannot summon spirits, cast fireballs or slay Giants with a single mighty blow. Your life is destined to be brutal, short and forgotten.

You do not fight Orcs, Beholders or Dragons. No, you battle daily against a far more dangerous foe.

All those bloody heroes.

NPC the RPG is a role-playing campaign concept for Fourth Edition D&D where the players are the other guys. They are the villagers and town folk who are usually characterized by the GM. Here, the tables are turned and the “heroes” are played by the GM while the players take on the role of what would normally be an NPC. Perhaps he is the barman out to fleece the heroes by charging inflated room rates or a farmer caught up with a local cult. You could be a comely wench stuck with a Paladin’s unwanted bairn in the oven and out for revenge, or a Wizard’s drooling idiot brother. In short, if your armour type is “dirt and sackcloth”, that’s you.

 

Adventuring

NPCs don’t do adventuring, but they do have adventures. Every single day is a battle for survival, especially when there are tanks and tac-nukes (or, as we call them, “Fighters” and “Wizards”) roaming the streets. A glance in the wrong direction could result in you being the innocent victim of Cleave, or be caught in the blast from a misdirected Fireball. At least now that Magic Missile doesn’t miss you have slightly less chance of being hit by accident.

You rarely get involved in combat (at least, not on purpose) – you fight worse than a 1st level D&D character from 1978 – but are more likely to rely on cunning, wits and a good pair of heels to survive.

Possible adventures include:

  • Finding the most suitable (ie, strongest and most gullible) hero to solve your Carrion Crawler problem (“You can sleep in my barn for a few silvers. It might need clearing out first.”)
  • Stealing the Fighter’s bulging coin purse. Good luck with that.
  • A private rivalry between taverns turns into a price war and a battle to divest as many heroes of their coin as possible.
  • Tracking down the hero who knocked your sister up last summer.
  • The Goblins are invading! You are town guards. Stay alive, or die trying.
  • A Wizard has ordered obscure herbs from the Stinking Swamp of Death. You are the herbalist’s apprentice. Sorry about that.
  • A horde of angry birds are inexplicably catapulting themselves into the town walls. What’s that about?
  • Mistress Goherty is the most eligible (not to mention richest) widow in town. The characters are all rivals for her attention. Last one still alive wins her hand in marriage.
  • The heroes have all gone to war in a distant land. You are all alone, and the darkness is closing in. Time to learn what it takes to be a hero after all.

 

Creating an NPC PC

Attributes: Roll 3d6, in order and modify by your Race (see below).

Class: None. You have no class. You are the under Class. You have no Powers, Special Abilities or Skill Training beyond those provided by your Race (if any) or Background Option.

Feats: None, beyond those provided by your Race (if any).

Bonus to Defense: None, beyond those provided by your Race (if any).

Weapon and Armour Proficiencies: None, beyond those provided by your Race (if any).

Hit Points: Equal to your Constitution Score

Healing Surges per Day: 1 + Constitution Modifier (minimum 1)

Race: Any. Human is perhaps the most useful as it grants a bonus Feat (hint: could be used to gain a Weapon Proficiency or a Multi-Class Feat to represent incomplete or unfinished formal training), Skill Training (select any one skill from the list) and a bonus to all Defences. If Human, take the Heroic Effort Racial Power. Half-Elf is another good choice as Dilettante grants use of one at-will Power from any class as a per Encounter ability.

Starting Gold: 10gp, carefully hoarded. Spend it wisely.

Background Option: Use Background Options to further customize and personalize the character. Use these to grant Skill Training in one applicable skill, or +2 in one already Trained Skill (only useful for Human characters who gains Skill Training from their Race). This overrides the usual rules for Background Options where a skill is added to the Class’s Skill list.

 

Example Characters

Gudrun Berrydown, Human barkeep at The Gobbling Gryphon
STR 17, CON 10, DEX 14, INT 10, WIS 12, CHA 8
HP 10, Surges 1, Init +2, AC 12, Fort 14, Ref 13, Will 12

Perception +6, Streetwise +4
Heroic Effort, Weapon Proficiency (Greatclub)
Background: Pivotal Event – Murder

One-Eyed Colin, Dwarven short teller of tall tales
STR 7, CON 10, DEX 14, INT 11, WIS 5, CHA 14
HP 10, Surges 1, Init +2, AC 12, Fort 10, Ref 12, Will 12

Bluff +7, Dungeoneering -1, Endurance +2
Cast Iron Stomach, Dwarven Resilience, Encumbered Speed, Stand Your Ground
Weapon Proficiency (Throwing Hammer, Warhammer)
Background: Dwarf Outcast

Gwendoline,Half-elf illegitimate daughter of Greydalf the Grand
STR 12, CON 15, DEX 12, INT 14, WIS 12, CHA 14
HP 15, Surges 3, Init +1, AC 12, Fort 12, Ref 12, Will 12

Arcana +7, Diplomacy +4, Insight +3
Dilettante: Magic Missile/Encounter 
Dual Heritage, Group Diplomacy
Background:  Seer

Butt, Halfling layabout (aren’t they all?)
STR 12, CON 17, DEX 16, INT 8, WIS 8, CHA 9
HP 17, Surges 3, Init +3, AC 13, Fort 13, Ref 13, Will 9

Acrobatics +5, Thievery +10
Bold, Nimble Reaction, Second Chance
Background: Occupation – Thief

Artur, Human boy and secret future king of Aengland. Also, self-deluded.
STR 11, CON 8, DEX 14, INT 11, WIS 12, CHA 12
HP 8, Surges 1, Init +2, AC 12, Fort 11, Ref 13, Will 12

History +7
Heroic Effort, Human Perseverance
Background: Geography – Urban

 

Advancement

Don’t be silly. Commoners never advance. That town guard will still be exactly the same ten years from now; a little greyer, perhaps, but that is all.

Instead, at the end of each game session the player can generate an additional character. They might be related in some way to an existing one (a wife, son or brother) or come from completely different stock. Over time the player will have a pool of characters to use in-game, a veritable virtual village of personalities to draw upon during any session.

What that happens, it’s time to kill a few off. 

What can I say? Life is tough.

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10 Responses

  1. symatt says:

    you know this is crazy but it just might work.
    Fantastic stuff. get players to make these then they can be people their heroes actually know

  2. Elton says:

    I bet you can write the SF version of this blog post.
    :D

  3. Risus Monkey says:

    Sounds like a perfect scenario for a Risus or Fiasco con game.

  4. Jonathan says:

    I can’t decide if this is wonderful, or terrifying … or both. Almost certainly both. :D

    Now if I can just decide if you’re serious, or if this is just extraordinarily brilliant satire…

  5. This is AWESOME! I am filled with some kind of awe.

    Seriously dude, this is genius. Its the most old school new school old school thing I’ve ever seen. A hundred handed thumbs up.

  6. drow says:

    race: any? uhm… RED DRAGON.

  7. Another, truly wonderful idea. I may just steal this for a 6d6 one-shot adventure.

  8. Craig says:

    If you split the players between PC’s and NPC’s, all you’d need to do during a game is drink beer and roll for wandering monsters!

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