I love creating new and interesting things for my sandbox campaign world – new nations, tribes, organisations, locations, whatever!
But sometimes my imagination lets me down and I get stuck with what to create next.
When this happen I like to do one of my favourite things to shake me out of the mental/creative block – character generation.
This is an awesome thing to do for two main reasons:
- You get some cool NPCs for your world, and
- You can use the process to create something more than just the NPC
To illustrate this I want to give you a couple of recent examples.
If you don’t know already I have kicked off a new sandbox campaign for new players and they are helping me create the world as we go.
One of the players created a Mountain Dwarf who was clanless after an explosion destroyed his settlement, leaving him the last known survivor.
From that we worked out each Mountain Dwarven settlement that was in the Dragonspine Mountains was built around one of the Dwarven Deities and that now he was clanless (and homeless) his honour would not be restored until he restored his clan and home.
From this one character I was able to create an entire way of the world for Mountain Dwarves in general.
Simply by extrapolating one thing about the character and applying that to all Mountain Dwarves.
Now, you only have a limited number of PCs so you will quickly run out of ideas from them, but you have an infinite number of NPCs you can draw from.
And this is where my love of character generation comes in handy.
Another example is from one of the characters I created.
I decided to create a variant human character and gave her the feat Observant.
The text of that feat states: “[You are] quick to notice details of your environment.”
I then asked myself why my new NPC would be like this?
I decided it’s not just her, but the nation she came from, that notice details of their environment. They are suspicious of outsiders and are always on the look out for devious plots.
Having the abilities the feat gives would help them know what is going on.
I then created a name for the Nation and wrote a small blurb about it. But not much else – I can always make up more later.
But what I did create is enough to give me a good understanding of where she came from and what her character is like – suspicious and not quick to trust.
I also gave her the Background from the Sword Coast’s Adventure Guide, Faction Agent.
This gave me a chance to make up a faction that exists in my world.
I decided on an organisation that watches magic-users and makes sure none of them are using their powers for evil.
I only made her up at first level, so I decide she was an agent whose role was to find magic-users, identify them, and report back on them.
I ended up making her a Rogue, so all of this fit together nicely: She was from a nation that was general distrustful and thus made her more intuitive to her surroundings, and recruited and trained by an organisation that kept tabs on magic-users as a rogue and scout.
Not bad from one NPC.
I could give you countless more examples, but I won’t. It’s now your turn to go out and create your own NPC.
Use backgounds, skills, feats, classes, races – whatever to extrapolate and generate ideas about your world simply by asking the question “why would they have that?”
And let me know the results down below.