Other NPC Characteristics
Of course, NPCs are more than just personalities and character traits. Each
NPC, like each player character, has abilities and a unique physical appearance.
However, considering NPCs come from the entire range of humanity (and some
fantasy races, as well!), no tables are given to fill in these details. A few
tables simply cannot do justice to the huge variety of an entire game world.
Furthermore, the physical appearance and abilities should be determined by the
needs of the story, not random choice. If the player characters are dealing
with an innkeeper, the NPC should be an ordinary person, not a powerful member of
a character class. Furthermore, he should act, dress and behave like an
innkeeper. Therefore, the DM could decide the innkeeper is fat and florid,
over-talkative, with no exceptional ability scores.
On the other hand, say the PCs encounter a mysterious stranger, a character of
great power. Here, the DM decides the stranger's mere appearance radiates a
powerful charismatic appeal. The stranger's Charisma score is exceptionally high.
To make the NPC even more impressive, the DM assigns him a character class and
quite a high level.
In both examples above, the DM decided what effect he wanted from the NPC and
built the character around that.
Every aspect of an NPC is a tool for the DM. Some are quite obvious, others
may arise only in special occasions. Listed below are some of the areas a DM can
use to create a distinctive character. Some descriptive words have been listed
for each area to spur the imagination. A good thesaurus can provide even more
adjectives useful for describing characters.
Game Information: Character class (if any), level (if any), race, alignment.
Age: ancient, child, decrepit, elderly, middle-aged, patriarchal, teen-aged,
Height: bean-pole, gangly, gigantic, hulking, lanky, looming, runt, short, small,
stumpy, tall, tiny, willowy.
Weight: broad-shouldered, fat, gaunt, obese, plump, pot-bellied, rotund, scarecrow,
skinny, slender, slim, statuesque, stout, thin, trim
Hair: bald, braided, color (any), cropped, curly, frazzled, greasy, grizzled,
leonine, limp, salt-and-pepper, sparse, straight, thick, thin, wavy, widow's peaked,
Manner of speech: accented, breathless, crisp, guttural, high-pitched, lisp, loud, nasal, slow,
squeaky, stutter, wheezy, whiny, whispery.
Facial characteristics: bearded, buck-toothed, chiseled, doe-eyed, fine-featured, florid, gap-toothed,
goggle-eyed, grizzled, jowled, jug-eared, pock-marked, pug nose, ruddy,
scarred, squinty, thin-lipped, toothless, weather-beaten, wrinkled.
Of course, there are thousands of possible NPC aspects that could also be
used: skin color, stature, bearing, gait, and eye color are only a few more.
Sometimes it is useful for a DM to make a list of all the words he can think of that
describe a person. Once such a list is made, the DM can keep that with his game
notes, ready to use any time he needs to quickly characterize an NPC.
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