A Quick Hack To Create Character Tentacles In Your World

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #1049

The better connected a character is to your world, the better the gameplay.

Sometimes you can mine character backgrounds for all kinds of cool campaign stuff.

Relationships with NPCs, for example, give you fantastic GMing options.

Use these folks for quest hooks, plot complications, party resources, and roleplaying moments.

However, some players don’t create any such relationships. They don’t think or care about it at character creation.

Here’s a quick hack you can use to help players build NPC relationships fast.

Use this hack to ground PCs to your setting (pun intended!) and develop your milieu at the same time.

Create NPC Relationships in Four Steps

Take the following steps to build a quick list of five NPCs who have a relationship with the party.

Step 1: Queue Up a Name Generator

I use Fantasy Name Generators.

I also use the built-in name generators from Campaign Logger.

And I’ve created Duskfall-specific name generators in Campaign Logger using our public data files here.

When a player selects an NPC, you’ll be ready with a name if needed to prevent silly NPC names from ruining the theme and mood.

Step 2: Find Five NPC Images

Check Pinterest for tons of sorted images.

Here’s a small board I made for NPCs.

If you use Campaign Logger, I made an example fantasy images generator. I put 100 image references together and the generator selects one at random. You can download the JSON file here. (And here’s a 37 second video showing the generator in use.)

Just generate, save to your Campaign Log, and move on to Step 3.

Find at least one image per player.

Step 3. Name Each NPC

Show the first NPC image to a player. Ask them to name the NPC or generate the name if you prefer.

Each player gets at least one NPC image and name.

Step 4. Pick a Relationship

Ask the player to decide who the NPC is to their character.

Alternatively, roll on the table below. Roll a d3 for relationship type and a d20 for nature of NPC.

If a player is uncomfortable with the result, roll again.

d20 NPC Relationships

Roll Relationship (d3: Friend, Rival, Enemy)
1 Childhood relationship
2 Bully
3 Owes a favour
4 Drug dealer
5 Cousin
6 Investigating the PC
7 Sage
8 Craftsman
9 Noble
10 Labourer
11 Has noble friends
12 Smuggler
13 Fences stolen goods
14 Has criminal contacts
15 Bounty hunter
16 Thieves’ Guild member
17 Priest
18 Soldier
19 Guard
20 Wizard

For example, I roll a 2 and a 14.

That gets me a rival who has criminal contacts.

Try It Out

That’s all you need to do to get five+ NPC relationships created for the PCs.

It takes less than a minute to:

  • Generate a random NPC image
  • Show it to a player
  • Generate a name
  • Roll for the relationship
  • Do this five times

If you’ve got extra time, you might consider hand-picking images to choose from, and customizing the relationship table for greater campaign relevance.

And if your players are into it, you could ask them for a bit of personal history or background with each NPC.

At minimum though, you’ve now got five NPCs with pics, names, and relationships to PCs and milieu.

A perfect starter set to get your players involved with your campaign and setting.

Try this out yourself and let me know how it goes.