From King To Pawn: A Simple Way To Scope Your NPCs

My business partner in crime, Jochen Linnemann, shared this great tip with me yesterday about a cool method for managing your NPCs….


Just now, I read about an NPC classification scheme The Dark Eye uses for its publications:

King: Cornerstone NPC, important for the living world and future campaigns and adventures.

Knight: Important NPC that will be reused in future adventures and encounters.

Rook: NPC recurring and important only to the current adventure.

Pawn: NPC that’s often a one-timer who’s important only to an encounter.

I like it because I remember playing a Pathfinder adventure path book by book, only reading the current adventure in advance, not the whole campaign. A character from the first adventure became the central figure of the second adventure, without prior notice in the first adventure. As a GM, I had a hard time reconsolidating events and the background plot as that NPC only played a side role in my first adventure, but the second adventure relied on the PCs’ relationship to that NPC.

I also see a problem for inexperienced GMs who will likely try to protect kings and knights beyond reason….

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Great tip! Thank you Jochen.

Johnn, if you have my book, GM Mastery: NPC Essentials, check out Chapter 1’s NPC roles section. It goes into more prep and creation detail ala Jochen’s tip.

Also check out the table Story Roles vs NPC Elements in Chapter 7 that helps you define and organize your NPCs by role.

If you don’t yet own GM Mastery: NPC Essentials, here’s a bundle for you to help you level up your NPC game.

Have more fun at every game!

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