Here we go with a new feature where I build an NPC from a series of random elements. Sometimes it will be Story Cubes, sometimes tarot cards, or, maybe, even wikipedia articles. (Did you know there was a “Random Page” link?) Heck, I might get crazy and combine all three! I’ve done this before in the early stages of my blog and I enjoy the process.
I use a list of nine questions that were first created on a now quiet blog called Solo Nexus. You take 3 sets of 3 questions. Each set of 3 questions gets 3 random elements which you use to answer the questions. Each set of questions has a level of intimacy with it which go in this order, Obvious, Personal and Intimate. This helps give the NPC depth as the PC’s get to know them. The random elements can be moved to fit whichever question you feel it works best with. Once you’ve done the first set, you move on to the next one. Mix in some creativity and, at first, you get a puzzle that is fun to solve and then you get a character. Read on below and you’ll get the idea!
For this NPC, I’ll go with a modern superhero setting. Who knows, I might use the character in the upcoming Supers sandbox? Of course, the NPC will be generic enough that they could be fit into any setting with a little tweaking. The other settings I chose from week to week will be based on whimsy and maybe an eventual random chart.
The random element for today will be the good old Ryder-Waite Tarot deck. It’s a standard deck and it’s symbols are pretty clear to understand. As I’ve said before, tarot decks are just pretty, colored tools. They work great for creative, visual thinkers like myself. If you have a problem with them, I’m sorry, I’m still going to use them. I’ll draw three cards for each 3 question set and then pick a card that I think fits or works.
At the end I will wrap it all up and present a quick write-up for the character as well as possible story hooks to involve the PC’s.
Let’s get started!
The first three random elements are…. (drumroll)
Obvious NPC Story Elements
(Things that are immediately apparent about the NPC or that can be learned through casual conversation.)
The NPC’s role in the world: discerned by clothes, demeanor, initial introduction, etc.
Page of Swords. The NPC is a young courier in the city. At first I thought a bike courier but perhaps they drive. Or both. They’re a very fast thinker and shrewd in their dealings. The NPC handles messages and information quickly and efficiently. They know their way around the city the PC’s call home.
The NPC’s current home or home-base: learned through initial introduction, casual conversation, etc.
Queen of Swords. The NPC is young and still lives with their family. The mother is head of the household, is wealthy, and runs an important business within the city. I see her as being a corporate mogul, perhaps? A politician? Possibly on the City Council and well known? Their home is like a castle and the mother runs it with love and care for her family. (I got the Queen of Swords the last time I did this with Tarot cards. What’s up with that?)
The NPC’s signature/unique talent: learned through casual conversation, simple getting-to-know-you questions, etc.
9 of Cups. The NPC has wealth at their disposal. They have money from their courier service and practices lessons from her family. The NPC is also caring and generous. Possibly a ray of light for the PCs if they are having a bad day, etc. The NPC, perhaps, gives freely and could be a resource to the PC’s?
2nd Set of cards
Personal NPC Story Elements
(Requires more trust with the PC or a shared view of the world and some things in common.)
The NPC’s special item/tool/useful possession:
7 0f Cups. A tough one. This card stands for fantasy, illusions and wishful thinking. The special tool the Courier has is their positive attitude that perhaps borders on the edge of delusional. For them, the glass is always 3/4 full. I don’t see it coming across in an irritating way but just a simple, happy frame of mind.
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.
5 of Pentacles. The NPC works closely with several charity non-profits and shelters in the city taking care of those in need. They often run supplies and food to elderly, homeless, etc. The NPC uses their knowledge of the city to help get important information and people where they need to go and the NPC is VERY good at it!
The NPC’s view of the world:
6 of Cups. The NPC has a fondness for another time period and lives their life around the ideals of that time period. For instance, I’m thinking of this NPC as someone who wears classy vintage clothing and a bit of flair like someone who walked out of a 60’s pulp film. They think the world should be more like that and they want to be an agent of change to help move the world toward it.
3rd Set of Cards
((This was a tough batch but I think I was able to get it sorted out.))
Intimate NPC Story Elements
(Requires that the PC’s are good friends and/or that the NPC trusts the PC’s)
A past experience that has shaped the NPC’s current self.
High Priestess. Mysteries, intuition, Higher powers, etc. The NPC had an encounter with a female mystic when she was young and was an older friend. She introduced the NPC to their mental gifts of clarity, sharpness and quick thinking and put them on the path to helping others. This is was a defining moment for the NPC as it eventually led to where they are now and away from their’s family’s upper-crust lifestyle.
A present situation that the NPC is embroiled in that could affect the PC directly or indirectly.
Hierophant. Conformity, Tradition and Group Identity. This one fits nicely. Obviously, the family or someone in the family wants the NPC to return to the fold. The family wants the NPC to bring their clarity and intelligence to the family business. I’m not sure the mother is being heavy-handed but perhaps it’s the father? A Grandfather? A friend of the mother’s who is in another business or shares business dealings?
A future goal the NPC is hoping to attain…could the PC help?
The Fool. Beginnings. A free spirit. The NPC wants out. They want away from their family. They want to take their talents on the road and away from the social pressures of their wealthy family. They want to run away. Perhaps they want the PC’s to help get them out of town or to help them disappear? Maybe become a hero? Perhaps they want to join the PC’s? This would be a subplot that could be hinted at and revealed, in time, as the NPC became more known.
Age – Older Teenager. 15 – 17
Sex – Male or Female
Race – Any
Skills – High Intelligence, Persuasion, Bike Riding (high level), City Knowledge, Quick Thinker
At first the NPC is just scenery. The PC’s would see the Courier zipping through traffic, hopping around obstacles as they dash about on their errands. The Courier is striking because even though dashing around on a bicycle through crowded city streets, they are always well-dressed. Maybe wearing a fedora and a suit-jacket one day and colorful, clean camouflage pants the next. They will stand out as they have a very strong sense of style. The other thing the PC’s would notice, besides the skill with a bike, is that the Courier is always smiling, in love with what they are doing. If they see the PC’s frequently, the Courier will begin to wave or at least say, “Hello” as they ride past. If there is any discussion at all, it is always cheerful, upbeat and the Courier seems to constantly want to help. If asked about, it is known the Courier works for local non-profits to help get food, supplies and medicine to elderly, homeless and those in need. The NPC is doing hero work.
A PC who engages the Courier would find the Courier is a one-stop shop for any geographic information about the city. They know the nooks, crannies, ins and outs of every neighborhood, for good or for ill. The Courier knows shortcuts and what’s happening down by the South River Bridge. They might know anything and everything. They could be a valuable resource for a superhero crimefighter! Or, the courier could just turn into a trusted friend and ally.
They will also find out the Courier comes from big money and big power in the political circles of the city. Luckily for the Courier, their mother is a good human being who trusts her child. However, it also seems that there are some in the family or in the business that think the Courier needs to “stop this foolishness and bring their skills and intelligence to the family’s benefit.” (The details for this are for the GM to sort out. Perhaps the father or a friend to the mother is involved in some shady dealings and wants the Courier to help with their intimate knowledge of the city? )
At the Courier’s most intimate, they want away from their family and their family’s influence. They know they have always been supported by the Family and they want to go it alone, get away. Matter of fact, this might be the only thing that knocks their cheerful attitude down a peg or two. It might get the attention of the PC’s if suddenly their cheerful courier buddy was a little more down in the dumps about something. Whether this is actually running away or breaking ties to a negative influence in the “family”. It would not be too hard to build a subplot around this idea.
Hooks to get the Courier involved with the PC’s
— If the Courier knows the PC’s are heroes – “Hey, you might want to know I saw a weird thing down by the docks yesterday. Bunch of suspicious guys, vans and, well, cages!”
–“You need to know more about things? You should go talk to that Courier. They know the city like nobody!”
–The Courier has a package for one of the PC’s and, in their usual charming way, strikes up a conversation.
— The PC’s hear the sound of an accident or see it occur. Basically, the Courier has put his bike in the way of a car that was about to run over an older woman who had tripped in the street. Let the PC’s interact however they would like.
— The Courier might be a last-minute financial save for the PC’s. “Hey, guys, I heard you needed some help? I’ll get you those (insert expensive things) and maybe you can keep an eye on the Project housing for a while?” Or, the Courier might just give them the money without making a deal!