Creating an NPC with Tarot Cards

(This is an old post which I am porting over here from my Yoteden blog.)
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When I ran through this the first time, I used Rory’s StoryCubes to generate an NPC character for roleplaying.  This time I’ll use a 78 card tarot deck for each of the 9 items below.  I will go through each set of three elements and draw three cards.  With those three cards I’ll assign them to whichever element seems to work the best.  Once used, those cards will not be placed back in the deck.  For meanings  I’ll not only use the creative imagery of the card but also the “traditional” meaning of each of the cards as I know them.  (Important – credit where credit is due.  This set-up is not mine.  I found this as a post on Solo Nexus which I recommend you check out!)

Before we go ANY further, a personal note on tarot cards – I’ve had tarot decks in my life for several decades now.  I know them quite well.  I’ve collected a few decks and I enjoy not only the cards but their history.  Here’s the shocking statement.  Are you ready?

Tarot cards are pieces of cardboard.

They are wonderful tools to spark creativity and story creation.  When not drawing them for story and character creation they can also be handy in helping you look at a problem a little differently, changing the perspective a bit so you can see something you might have missed. Carrying a deck around with you will not get you struck by lightning or taken over by the Devil.   (From what I know of the cards chances are good it will be just the opposite.)  For this exercise I’m using a mini-deck of the Hanson-Roberts Tarot Deck that I keep handy for gaming.

Alright, that’s out of the way.

I rolled the setting from a chart over on Solo Nexus and came up with Swashbuckling Fable.  I modified this a bit to be a “Swashbuckling Fairy Tale.”  Maybe something like Snow White meets The Three Musketeers?

threemusketeersAs before, I have no idea what kind of character/NPC  is going to show up until I draw the random elements.  That being said, Here we go!

Obvious NPC Story Elements Queen of Swords, Eight of Swords, The Empress
(Looks like this NPC will be a female character just because two of these are highly feminine cards.)

Firstset

1. The NPC’s role in the world: discerned by clothes, demeanor, initial introduction, etc.
Queen of Swords – A learned swords woman, very skilled and experienced warrior.  She will most often be wearing armor or a standard guard uniform when seen out and around.  Her demeanor would be very too the point and, at first, terse.

2. The NPC’s current home or home-base: learned through initial introduction, casual conversation, etc.
Eight of Swords – This was left over because the other two fell into place so easily.  This one was tough at first.  Eight of swords can indicate capture, being blocked, etc.  For some reason I think of being captured or holding things at bay and I have to go with a city guard or a county marshal.  Someone with the power to lock people up. I think this woman is a captain of the guard.  This really doesn’t go along with the image of the card but it’s the first thing that jumped into my mind.  The other idea would be someone held hostage or held against her will but it doesn’t seem right.

3. The NPC’s signature/unique talent: learned through casual conversation, simple getting-to-know-you questions,  etc
The Empress – This is a bit harder to grasp but I think this just means that once past the initial outward appearance, the PC’s would find her to be very caring and endearing.  She would show that she deeply cares about the city and the people she protects daily.  A softer side would show itself fairly quickly if the PC’s got on her good side.

Personal NPC Story ElementsEight of Rods, Six of Rods, Three of Cups

secondset

4. The NPC’s special knowledge about others: requires a bit of trust, shared view of the world, things in common, etc.
Three of Cups – I decided to go with the image on the card a bit more.  I see three women not necessarily dancing or partying (which is typical for the 3 of Cups) but standing close and perhaps talking or even whispering.  With her Empress card above I’ll say she knows a fair amount of secrets and rumors around the city.  She is trusted by many and so they share information with her.

5. The NPC’s special item/tool/useful possession: requires a bit more trust, shared view of the world, things in common, etc.
Eight of Rods – This card usually stands for movement and travel.  I would say she has a special item that allows her to move very quickly around the city.  Perhaps a magic ring or her cloak with either teleportation or speed cast onto it?  (I had thought about a flying mount but that might not be “secret” enough?)  Regardless, she has the ability to be anywhere she needs to be VERY quickly.

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.
Six of Rods – Usually means victory or a parade.  What struck me is the man and his red cape.  I ran with it.  The Scarlet Cloaks are the city guards and they work closely with the locals to maintain order and protection.  She is quite successful at what she does, has the respect of most of the city officials and is a house hold name to many that call the city home.

Intimate NPC Story ElementsThe High Priestess, Five of Cups, Two of Swords

thirdset

7. A past experience that has shaped the NPC’s current self.
Five of cups – Despair.  Loss.   This character originally started as an orphan, a poor street waif that had to struggle and live in poverty after losing her parents to either an accident or a violence.  She was adopted in her pre-teens and as she neared adulthood she was given a chance to use her toughness and intelligence in the city guard.  This is what powers her drive to care for those less fortunate.  She has been there and understands.

8. A present situation that the NPC is embroiled in that could affect the PC directly or indirectly.
The High Priestess – She is currently investigating some rumors that indicate a local female mage or priest could be involved in criminal activity.  The card indicates that this woman would have significant power herself and so would need to be approached cautiously.

9. A future goal the NPC is hoping to attain…could the PC help?
Two of Swords – The captain is having to decide whether or not to pursue further investigation of the High Priestess character. She is torn over the woman’s innocence but is unable to investigate with her guards directly.  (Perhaps she has been ordered to “back down” by politicians in the city?)  She could possibly want the PC’s to check out the Priestess character and her operation a bit more closely.  Can the PC’s find out information that would help the captain decide to push forward or to ignore the High Priestess and her organization?

And, we’re done.  We have a Captain of the Scarlet Cloaks (or possibly higher rank) who is very good at her job but also takes a nurturing, caring stance as well.   She needs a name and, of course, stats for whatever system you would like to use.  One powerful NPC that could be a player character’s best friend or worst enemy.  Not someone to trifle with at the very least!

(Post edit – Also, I’m enjoying this process so much I think I’ll continue to make NPC’s when the mood strikes me.  All NPC’s will be placed under the Category of NPC on the right hand column.  That way, over time, someone can check here if they need an NPC in a hurry!  Feel free to use them if you need them!)

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