Creating an NPC with Story Cubes

(Ported over from my original blog post on my Yoteden blog.)
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Over on Solo Nexus, JF put together something fun which was to create an NPC for roleplaying with  random rolls of Rory’s Story Cubes.  For those non-gamers, an NPC is a non-player character which is a story character NOT played by one of the players.  For example, the bartender at the local bar, a city guard or a player character’s family member.

NPCExample

This should clear things up, right?

The story cubes are nine different dice that each have a different symbol on them.  The symbols and images are what you use to tell a story.  The idea is that the image on the die can be used in any way to spur an idea for the character.  By using the dice with three sets of three questions you are able to put together a random character for the player characters to encounter.  You could also do this for a player character or for a writing exercise.  You also don’t need Story Cubes.  You could do this with any sort of randomizer.  For instance, you could use Magic the Gathering cards, Tarot cards or even “Random page” on Wikipedia.

Directions: You roll three of the Story Cubes, one for each question in the sets below.  You can mix and match those three dice with any of the three questions.  Once you roll those three dice, you can’t use those particular dice again for the remainder of the exercise.  IE: grab another three for the next set of questions.  Easy, right?

I love this kind of creativity and decided to give it a go with my own set of dice.

StoryCubes
It’s easier to first decide the setting of the game world.  For this run I’m going to create a NPC in a fantasy adventure setting.  I’m not sure how they will turn out but with a little tweaking I’m sure the NPC could fit into any setting.  A random 50/50 die roll tells me the character is a female.

The first set of questions —

Obvious NPC Story Elements

1. The NPC’s role in the world: discerned by clothes, demeanor, initial introduction, etc.
2. The NPC’s current home or home-base: learned through initial introduction, casual conversation, etc.
3. The NPC’s signature/unique talent: learned through casual conversation, simple getting-to-know-you questions, etc

Taking three dice I roll the symbols for a cane, a rainbow and a single die (dice).

NPC01
1. Role in the World – Rainbow.  This character is particularly cheerful and pleasant most of the time.  The demeanor is not meant to be offensive or rude.  She is just a positive person with a happy, cheerful attitude.  Her clothing tends to be brightly colored and stylish.  Though not always carrying a smile she is almost always in a good mood.

2. Current home or home base – Cane.  (Here I decide to use the cane as a symbol for something older.)  This character lives in an older side of town known for its antique homes and architecture.  Whether they live in a well-to-do heritage house or an older run down antique home is not known.  She is known, however, as someone who comes from the “old” side of town.  This could indicate an old family lineage with some wealth or someone that was lucky enough to buy one of the older, run down homes.

3. Signature/Unique Talent — Dice.  This character can see the odds and gamble like nobody’s business.  She has an uncanny ability to be lucky for herself and others.  Of course, she’s also a gambler.  She knows how to play cards, dice games or any other wager that is designed to take your money.  She also knows how to look at a situation and weigh the odds successfully most of the time.  It’s her gift and a bit of a curse.

I’ve got a decent picture of her so far.  I’ll grab three more dice and give a roll for the second set of questions.  This time I get the Moon, a Fountain, and a Clock.

NPC02

Personal NPC Story Elements

4. The NPC’s special knowledge about others: requires a bit of trust, shared view of the world, things in common, etc.
5. The NPC’s special item/tool/useful possession: requires a bit more trust, shared view of the world, things in common, etc.
6. The NPC’s ally/allegiance to a group or organization: requires the certainty that the PC is not an adversary to the ally or     allied group or shares their POV.

4. Special knowledge about others – Clock.  She has a very special knowledge about the timing of not only important people but important matters in the city.  Not only does she know the coming and goings of important officials to and from the casinos and taverns she frequents but she also seems to have an uncanny ability to know the progress and timing of events about to happen.

5. Special Item/Tool/Useful Possession – Fountain.  From living in the city or area for so long, she knows a great deal about the city/village itself and more importantly a secret network of tunnels that connect all the parks in the city.  This also works nicely with #6 below.

6. Ally/Allegiance to a group – Moon.  She is an ally with a group of female mages and witches that often come through the city called the Order of the Alabaster Moon.  Matter of fact, she is one of their agents and she reports to them what she can glean from her time around the taverns and casinos of the city (which, with her ability, tends to be quite a bit!)

Time for the final round of dice, Round Three! For this final roll I roll the last three Story Cubes and get… A Foot, Smiley Face, and Chaos Star.

NPC03
Intimate NPC Story Elements

7. A past experience that has shaped the NPC’s current self.
8. A present situation that the NPC is embroiled in that could affect the PC directly or indirectly.
9. A future goal the NPC is hoping to attain…could the PC help?

7. Past Experience — Happy Face.  In the past she inherited her current home and resources from a relative.  It was a favorite uncle, aunt, grandparent who she loved dearly.  It is a great happiness and honor to her to own and care for the home and her place in the city.  Up until now, things have been very good for her.

8. Present Situation — Chaos Star.  Troubling and chaotic times have fallen on her.  She has lost connection to her sisters in the Order of the Alabaster Moon as well as hearing troubling news coming from the taverns and casinos of a new, thieves guild based gambling ring which wants to run out all contenders.  Chaotic times have appeared in her life.

9. Future goal — The Foot.   She would like to travel, perhaps to a far-away famous landmark or city.  Perhaps she could journey for a short time with the PC’s and help them with their luck?  Of course, before she could leave her home she would need to settle this problem with the thieves guild gambling ring and/or make connection to her Sisters again.  Perhaps she has a trip planned and the only thing standing in the way is her disconnection to her Sisters.  Surely the PC’s could help find out what is going on?

And, done.  What we have is a really good NPC which only needs a moderate amount of fleshing out to be done and perhaps given stats based on what system you would like to use.   Since it’s a fantasy setting we haven’t really chosen race or age yet.  You could do that with more random die rolls or just go with what feels right.

For instance, in this case, I would have to go with a human or, possibly, a half-elf.  Depending on her age she could become a love interest for a male PC or an adventuring pal for a fellow sister.  Perhaps one of the PC’s have a connection to or is one of the sisters of the Order of the Alabaster Moon and they need to contact this NPC regarding an issue or for information?

And to think, I don’t even have a name for her!

Any ideas?

Next up – Doing the same thing with nine tarot cards!

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