What Roles To Build For A Grand Cast Of NPCs

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0966

It’s fine to have a big Cast of Non-Player Characters whipped up, but that does not get us all the way to a campaign filled with intrigue, roleplaying, and twisty-crazy developments.

You want some specific story roles filled to make that happen.

Use my quick 3 Line NPC creation method and build one NPC for each role.

Do this and you’ll have all the key ingredients in place for a campaign full of life, intrigue, and depth.

Here’s the checklist of story roles:


At least one big baddie to drive your overarching long-term plot arc.

2-5 Villain Lieutenants

These become stage bosses who head factions that drive the PCs into spitting fits of agitation.

They will provide epic moments of satisfaction when finally defeated, leading up to a grand finale confrontation with the villain.


An ally PCs can earn who gives you an in-game device for helping when the party gets stuck, conflicted, or too sidetracked.


Sometimes ally, sometimes seeming enemy, and always interfering with the PCs’ best intentions. You might need more than one in this role if angered players go murder hobo on these poor NPCs.

Key Persona

Nobles, guild leaders, and powerful NPCs of the world who have resources (wealth, contacts, items, etc.) the PCs want or must counteract as plots unfold.

Whether enemy or ally, their deaths will shock your players when you let the GM guillotine fall for big drams.

Mentors & Merchants

Recurring adventure-economy resources for PCs (buy and sell, items and information). You want to also leverage these NPCs for plot points.


Key minions in the fight. Disposable, catalysts, and always sandpaper rubbing against the PCs’ objectives.


Create a reskinnable archetype of rank-and-file for every faction. Spawn these into cohorts each with a simple distinguishable difference for unlimited varieties of interesting foes.


Specific to your milieu. Unique NPCs you set up with key loot, clues, and mysteries. The dragon and its horde. The hag and her swamp syndicate. The djinn hiding in the shadows of the black market.


My favourite! NPCs who spur players into action because they’re annoying af.

Did I forget any? Let me know.

Happy NPC building!