Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Here's what I'm saying to you, fellow GMs: When you're stuck for ideas, scavenge. Hell, scavenge from other games, yours or someone else's -- especially the broken stuff. Nothing's sacred when the muse gets hungry.

Case in point: last night I (finally) sat down to make some notes for my continuing one-on-one Castles & Crusades game with my wife. We are shifting the campaign to an urban environment for a bit, as she wanted her character to learn two-weapon fighting from a master. Easy. But since I couldn't get off my ass to write up a city, I just wrote up a troika list instead.

The first 2 NPCs were easy -- an experienced swordsmaster (who looks like Rik Mayall with an eyepatch) and a fellow student (a swashbuckler chick I doodled in a notebook back in November '04). Good. Great. Now, for that third NPC...

I can't tell you how I assembled all the different parts; if I could codify and synthesize the creative process, I would put it into pill form and charge exorbitant prices. All I can tell you is that I took an article I read on, a PC from one of the worst games I ever played in, and some dorks I knew in high school...and made myself an OK NPC.

Once't upon a time, in the early days of so-called D&D 3rd Edition, a college buddy started up a game and I rolled up a 16-year-old sorceror so I could play in it. The character, whom I'll call 'Anton' because I have no idea what the hell I really named him, was your typical well-meaning but outcast weirdo teenaged kid who, you know, could cast spells without reading them. Swank. His personal motivation, as I expressly told the DM, was to go adventuring and gain a large enough personal fortune so that he could eventually build a little house, marry the right girl, and keep doing his sorceror thang in the safety and quiet of his own digs. Seriously, dude didn't want much.

So what happened? Well, the DM saw fit to let a bunch of 2nd-level PCs kill a CR 2 black dragon (it took, like, 5, 6 rounds or something) and take its stuff. Gold. Jewels. Art objects. Magic Items. Wham! All at 2nd level! Oh, and we got to sell the dragon's remains, too...

So now, young Anton had what he wanted. He was done! He commissioned some local builders to get their build on, and he paid for a new house. I told the DM as much. At 16, Anton had achieved what he wanted. Done!

Of course, the DM's line wasn't stopping at that platform, if you dig my meaning, and soon enough our PCs were back to adventuring, then getting geased to keep adventuring, and eventually just not showing up anymore. Chugga-chugga-crash. Presumably, Anton just went back to his new house, eventually turned 17, and...hell, I dunno. Who knows? He didn't have the girl, but...

Somehow, while I was fishing for a third NPC, I thought of this guy. Bingo! I had my third NPC.

Trouble is, Anton's too nice to be interesting. Aside from the satisfaction he can derive from his fellow villagers looking at his manor house and wishing they'd been less forthcoming with the hurled fish guts and so on, he's benign. Boring.

Enter that article.

Child prodigies, it seems (or at least, this article says), tend to be pricks -- egotistical little jackwads to whom no one says no. Sure, there are exceptions, but they don't make for good NPCs. Horny young sorcerors who develop huge egos, however, do. Especially when they start acting like the aforementioned doofuses from high school -- you know the ones, the guys who just had to be these mysterious, exotic non-conformists and who were convinced that the weirder they acted, the more tail they'd get? Yeah, that dude.

Enter Eldon the Unconforming, a 3rd-level, male, chaotic-neutral sorceror whose vital stats are: AC 12, hp 6. He's spotted out my wife's PC, decided that he wants her, and that he can charm her by being cosmopolitan and mysterious and never speaking above a whisper. A continuing villain, a constant foil, a foppish, preening little wacktard who will go to extraordinary lengths to get what he wants because dammit he's better than normal people, he has a lot of gold, and no one ever tells him no.

That...that was a lot of post, wasn't it?