wrecan
- Jun 2005 -
19235 Posts

Random Personae for NPCs

In today’s blog, I will be using not my own words, but the considered wisdom of the EGG himself, E. Gary Gygax. I have been playing D&D nearly constantly since 1983, and almost always as a Dungeon Master, and throughout my playing, there has been one set of charts from the Dungeon Master’s Guide that I have always found to be most useful to me: random generation of non-player character personae. Heck, it’s also useful in helping to develop a player character’s persona!

I have found that randomly generating the personae of background characters offers surprising results that can help to generate surprising and memorable characters that I might not have otherwise considered. I would not use these charts for plot-specific NPCs, beyond inspiration (which is how Gygax tells us to use the charts). But for “background NPCs”, I have found it a useful tool for creating a richer campaign world.

I amended the chart only by removing “Adjustments to Ability Dice rolls for Non-Player Characters”, and I changed the “Alignments” tables for the current ruleset. I have also re-arranged some of the charts to better accommodate the forum of the blogs on this website. From pages 100-102 of the 1st Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide, by Gary Gygax (illustration by David C. Sutherland III):

Personae of Non-Player Characters
It is often highly desirable, if not absolutely necessary, to have well-developed non-player characters (NPCs). In order to easily develop these personae, the tables below are offered for consideration. Note that the various facts and traits are given in a sequence which allows the character to develop itself – with judicial help from the DM. Thus, Alignment, Appearance, Possessions, and then General Tendencies are given. The first three will, of necessity, modify the fourth, and the latter will similarly greatly modify the other traits.

The personae of special NPCs should be selected (and embellished, if you will) from the tables (or see THE ROGUES GALLERY from TSR). Other NPCs can be developed randomly, or by a combination of random and considered selection. No fewer than three General Tendencies should be determined, and several more can be added if the DM desires. Of course, some are contradictory, and if a random selection indicates such dichotomy, roll until noncontradictory tendencies are discovered. In like manner, successively generated traits should not conflict with the General Tendencies previously developed – unless the NPC is insane, in which case such conflict is quite permissible. A brief explanation of each fact and trait is given after the tables.

FACTS TABLES

Alignment (d10) Possessions (or wealth (d10) Sanity(d10)
1. lawful good 1. none 1. very stable
2. good 2. scant 2. normal
3. good 3. scant 3. normal
4. unaligned 4. average 4. normal
5. unaligned 5. average 5. normal
6. unaligned 6. average 6. normal
7. unaligned 7. average 7. neurotic
8. evil 8. above average 8. unstable
9. evil 9. exceptional 9. insane*
0. chaotic evil 0. superabundant 0. maniacal*

* Roll again, and if either insane or maniacal is indicated a second time, the character then conforms to that sanity level; in all other cases the second roll stands in pace of the first.

Appearance (roll separately for each category)

Age (d10) General(d10)
1. young 1. dirty
2. youthful 2. clean
3. youthful 3. unkempt
4. mature 4. immaculate
5. mature 5. rough
6. mature 6. ragged
7. mature 7. dandyish
8. middle-aged 8. foppish
9. old 9. non-descript
0. ancient 0. imposing

TRAITS TABLES
General Tendencies (d12, d6)

1. optimist 13. precise/exacting
2. pessimist 14. perceptive
3. hedonist 15. opinionated/contrary
4. altruist 16. violent/warlike
5. helpful/kindly 17. studious
6. careless 18. foul/barbaric
7. caprisiouc/mischievous 19. cruel/callous
8. sober 20. practical joker/prankster
9. curious/inquisitive 21. servile/obsequious
10. moody 22. fanatical/obsessive
11. trusting 23. malevolent
12. suspicious/cautious 24. loquacious

Personality (d8, d8)

1-5 Average 6-7 Extroverted 8 Introverted
1. modest 1. forceful 1. retiring
2. egoist/arrogant 2. overbearing 2. taciturn
3. friendly 3. friendly 3. friendly
4. aloof 4. blustering 4. aloof
5. hostile 5. antagonistic 5. hostile
6. well-spoken 6. rude 6. rude
7. diplomatic 7. rash 7. courteous
8. abrasive 8. diplomatic 8. solitary/secretive

 

Disposition (d10) Intellect (d10)
1. cheerful 1. dull
2. morose 2. average
3. compassionate/sensitive 3. average
4. unfeeling/insensitive 4. active
5. humble 5. active
6. proud/haughty 6. dreaming
7. even tempered 7. ponderous
8. hot tempered 8. anti-intellectual
9. easy-going 9. scheming
0. harsh 0. brilliant
Nature (d6) Materialism (d6)
1. soft-hearted 1. aesthetic
2. forgiving 2. intellectualist
3. hard-hearted 3. average
4. unforgiving 4. covetous
5. jealous 5. greedy
6. vengeful 6. avaricious
Honesty (d8) Bravery (d8) Energy (d8) Thrift (d8)
1. scrupulous 1. normal 1. slothful 1. miserly
2. very honorable 2. normal 2. lazy 2. mean
3. truthful 3. normal 3. normal 3. thrifty
4. average 4. foolhardy 4. normal 4. average
5. average 5. brave 5. normal 5. average
6. average 6. fearless 6. energetic 6. spendthrift
7. liar 7. cowardly 7. energetic 7. spendthrift
8. deceitful 8. craven 8. driven 8. wastrel

 

Morals (d12) Piety (d12)
1. aesthetic 1. saintly
2. virtuous 2. martyr/zealot
3. normal 3. pious
4. normal 4. reverent
5. lusty 5. average
6. lusty 6. average
7. lustful 7. average
8. immoral 8. average
9. amoral 9. impious
10. perverted* 10. irreverent
11. sadistic* 11. iconoclastic
12. depraved* 12. irreligious

* Roll again; if perverted, sadistic, or depraved is again indicated, the character is that; otherwise, the second roll tells the true morals, and the first roll is ignored in favor of the second.

Interests (d12, d6)

1. religion 13. wines & spirits
2. legends 14. foods & preparation
3. history 15. gambling
4. nature 16. drugs
5. horticulture 17. collector*
6. husbandry 18. collector*
7. exotic animals 19. collector*
8. hunting 20. collector*
9. fishing 21. community service
10. handicrafts 22. altruism
11. athletics 23. none
12. politics 24. none

* See Collections table below.

Collections (d12)
1. knives & daggers
2. swords
3. weapons
4. shields & weapons
5. armor
6. books & scrolls
7. minerals & gems
8. armaments & jewelry
9. coins & tokens
10. trophies & skins
11. porcelain, china & crystal
12. artwork*
* This includes tapestries, paintings, statuary, carvings, etc.

FACTS

Alignment is preferably selected for created NPCs. For encountered NPCs, the DM can select the alignment or generate t randomly, as best suits the particular situation.

Appearance:

Age can be actual or apparent – such as by means of disguise, magic, etc.

General (appearance) can be due to the exacting circumstances or a true characteristic. Appearance will be modified by possessions.

Possessions indicate the number of garments, adornment, weapons, goods, property, etc. according to the circumstances particular to the NPC in question. Actual and apparent possessions can differ greatly – the miserly individual, for example, will never display wealth.

Sanity is the measure of the mental balance of the NPC against the norm. The type of insanity or maniacal bent is usually documented by Traits rolls.

TRAITS

General Tendencies are given to guide and direct the generation of following traits and the operation of the NPC in actual play. Conflicting Traits should be disregarded unless the NPC is insane. Some tendencies have two listings separated by a slash. The DM should either immediately select one – in the case of a predetermined NPC – or list both and select the one that better suits the NPC when the balance of the other Traits are determined – in cases of encountered NPCs.

Personality:

Average indicates a typical personality type with one or more outstanding tendencies. The average personality will seldom be noticeably outstanding in any of its tendencies until the NPC is well-known through dealings and association.

Extroverted personalities are more readily apparent, as ill be their outstanding tendencies. The extroverted NPC will be gregarious and tend toward being in positions which deal with people or power.

Introverted indicates that the NPC is basically inwardlooking and prefers his or her own company to that of others. Monks and other hermits are two good, if not polar, examples. The encountered NPC introvert will seldom be in a people-oriented occupation or with a large party of humans.

Disposition is the indicator of the general inclination of the NPC personality with regard to mood or manner.

Nature describes the disposition tendencies, and as a modifier it must be carefully watched to avoid contradiction, i.e. compassionate and hard-hearted, unfeeling and softhearted.

Bravery indicates the courage of the NPC with regard to threats, risk, hazard, etc.

Intellect describes to the DM the manner in which the NPC’s mental processes function, and it will modify the intelligence rating in four out of eight cases (dreaming – brilliant). The “dreaming” and “ponderous” intellects will tend to ratiocinate more slowly. The “scheming” intellect will, at times, perform brilliantly, and the “brilliant” intellect will perform above its stated intelligence rating due to discernment and insight.

Energy is basically self-explanatory. The “driven” individual is certainly neurotic, typically obsessive and often fanatical.

Thrift, like energy, is self-explanatory. The various degrees of saving and spending must be considered with care.

Materialism denotes the regard the NPC has for goods and property. Thrift and Materialism complement each other.

Honesty describes the NPC’s basic veracity and tendencies in dealing with others.

Piety is the rating of the religious view of the NPC. “Saintly” will be modified to fit the alignment of the NPC and the Piety Trait must fit the character class as well.

Morals refer to the sexual tendencies of the NPC, although this trait rating can be used with regard to some ethical questions.

Interests describe the pastimes, avocations and hobbies of NPCs. More than one Interest is possible for those characters which are not otherwise obsessive or devoted to some vocation or calling.

Collections simply indicate the field of Interest of the “Collector”. Other sorts can be added as desired. In game use, the collector of swords, for example, will be a likely contact for player characters wishing to dispose of such weapons gained as loot during an adventure.

Blog Followers 3 Comments 2

Comments