It has happened to me as a DM countless times: the party walks into a new town or city which I have carefully prepared with descriptions and quest-giving NPCs, only for the party to pull the first dunce they see off the street to shake down. This means coming up with a name, an accent, relationships to other people in town, all in the span of a few seconds. Now, before you say “Mister DM sir, why don’t you just have this random person point the party in the direction of the quest-giver and have them be on their way?” I want to assure you that no party in the history of DnD has followed precise, intentional instructions. Additionally, it brings into question why that random person knows of the quest-giver (assuming the quest-giver isn’t the lord of the town or some such). It is the nature of the game to welcome and encourage exploring and shenanigans, and if you’re not careful the half-finished schmuck they pull off the street will become a recurring character that the party falls in love with. Ad-libbing is fun, or can be, but if you want a baseline for some of these characters, or just some names to blurt out that you don’t have to make up on the spot, here are 7 NPCs with backstories, ideals, flaws, bonds and descriptions.
Nirra is a blacksmith by trade and a florist by hobby. She was left at the local church as a child, with no memory of her parents or where she came from. The church was happy to help her out, provided she could make regularly scheduled donations to maintain the church and its uses. To do this, they pawned her off as an apprentice to the local smith, who took a liking to her and eventually adopted her as his own. She would go on to surpass him in skill and take over the shop when he passed away. She lives a happy life, always either working at the forge or foraging for new species of flowers she’s never encountered before. Her shop always smells lovely, and each piece of armor or weapon that comes out of it includes a free bouquet.
Bond: The now-edlerly monk who originally took her in off the street
Ideal: People tend to be good
Flaw: Easily distracted
Ackban wants to be a wizard more than anything in this world or the next. The poor sixteen year old faces a significant barrier though, in the form of dyslexia which makes studying the books he loves so dearly very difficult. Whenever possible he will seek out new people in town just to see if they know anything about magic or how he can make studying magic easier. Currently he understands the theory behind casting spells, but has not yet acquired enough materials or knowledge to successfully cast anything. He works at the local book store saving up to go to Mage’s College.
Bond: Mom (he’s a momma’s boy)
Ideal: Intelligence is the most powerful force
Bol loves bowls. Bol is a troll. People like Bol because Bol works hard, and accepts payment in bowls. Any kind of bowl. Bol named herself after the first bowl she ever saw. Bol lives on the edge of town, and ventures in when she needs more food or bowls. Bol knows all the best places in town: blacksmith makes metal bowls, carpenter makes wooden bowls, alchemist has bowls with lids, the lord has fancy bowls. Bol will happily direct anyone towards a place to find bowls, or do an odd job or two in return for a bowl.
Bond: The nearest bowl
Ideal: Bowls are the best
Sir Gwaint Gervan Gyndomantenera
The proud, vain, handsome Sir Gwaint knows he’s the best. He believes it so strongly that he got it engraved on his shield in Elvish. He will refuse to do any task, fight any man or beast, or even speak to someone who has not yet earned his respect. It is of course very difficult to earn his respect when he refuses to talk to you. He gained his ego in the crusades that occurred some twenty years ago, when he proved himself to be a very worthy knight indeed, scaling walls, saving princesses. He did in fact do all this, but upon returning to his hometown he used his hard-won gold to retire and devote himself to the study of ale and whisky. It has taken years, but Sir Gwaint is now sure that both ale and whisky are good. He is a regular at most of the pubs in town, and will happily tell the tales of his conquests, though will not at all be interested in sticking around once he’s done speaking.
Bond: Fair lady Eleanor, whom he rescued and subsequently dumped him a year later for being a pompous ass
Ideal: Heroes prove themselves through action
Steven is very forgettable. He stands at an average height, average weight, speaks in a bit of a monotone and has very little of interest to say. Steven works three different jobs in the city, so it is not uncommon to run into him many times in the same day, though remembering the encounters may prove difficult. In reality, Steven used to be a very powerful Archmage who was defeated by a band of heroes that wiped his memory and implanted that of a young farmboy. Steven has no knowledge of this, and is quite content working his jobs, eating his cheese, and being woefully rejected by the local princess. Well, rejected is a strong word. She doesn’t know he exists.
Bond: The princess
Ideal: Hard work pays off
Flaw: Little to no free thought
Reginald Arthur John
Reginald Arthur John is the local sheriff or captain of the guard. He is a set upon man who carries two items which makes him distinct from most other city guards or lawmen: a billy club, which he keeps near him at all times, and bloody crossbow bolt. The billy club has gotten him out of innumerable scrapes, and he’s not willing to keep the law without it by his side. The bloody bolt was from his first case, in which someone fired randomly into crowds of townsfolk during a Midsummer’s celebration with a crossbow. This bolt struck and killed a little girl. Reginald Arthur John carries it as a reminder or why he does what he does.
Bond: The law
Loolan is an elderly elf, and the most prolific political activist in town. She has a long history of disagreeing with whatever party, lord or king happens to be ruling at the time, often encouraging others to take to the streets in protest. Some people believe this is because of the mistreatment of elves she received in the town she grew up in, which was dominated by humans and dwarves that looked down on the fir elven folk. Loolan is always happy to chat about the local government, gossip about potential scandals, or plot fanciful ways that a group could overthrow the town’s leader. She’s overly critical of anyone associated with the government, and ferments her own brand of fairly decent red wine.
Bond: Her husband, Arno (stays out of politics but is supportive)
Ideal: All must be accountable for their actions
Flaw: Conspiracy theorist
Use these NPCs in any way you see fit, or don’t. Some of them could be quest-givers if they fit the approach you’re looking for, or they could just be used to spice up the towns your party passes through. Whatever it may be, we hope you find some use for them even if it’s nothing more than their names. If you end up with great stories or have critiques of these assets, reach out to us! We love hearing from you and want to continue to deliver great content.