In my last article about NPCs, I wrote that NPCs are memorable when they’re consistently useful or adversarial to the party. Outside of exchanging goods and money with the PCs, or harrying them at every turn, how can you make your party care about an NPC? Here are twenty possibilities.
1: They have precisely the tool or piece of information the party needs to overcome a current or upcoming snag. They must be convinced to give it up.
2: Either related to a party member by blood or knew them when they were just a kid. Expectations ripe for fulfillment or subversion.
3: They’re willing to help the party with pretty much anything, as long as the plan can be construed as light-hearted mischief.
4: Freely shares luxury goods with the party. Acquired them through reprehensible means. Lies about it.
5: Knows important strategic info about a common enemy. Going after the enemy for a totally unrelated reason.
6: Utterly loathes the party, but is compelled to assist them to the best of their ability by a greater force/higher power.
7: A low-level adversary from earlier who barely escaped. “Not you again!” Party probably doesn’t recognize them.
8: Ferociously arrogant. Challenges a party member to a contest of strength/intellect/whatever, preferably in a crowd. Good or sore loser.
9: Shares an interest with a party member, wants nothing more than to talk shop. Can provide resources or contacts.
10: Repeated attempts to assist the party fail comically. At a critical moment, displays unexpected mastery.
11: Unnervingly fascinated by party’s gear. If allowed to inspect, provides appraisals, identification, or other useful info.
12: Claims the party owes them taxes/fees/fines. Claims authority, may or may not actually represent one.
13: Representative of a small fan club of one of the party members. The fan club may be creepy and/or merchandise-driven.
14: An alternate identity or personality of someone the party met earlier.
15: Slips a secret message to the party: a dire warning, a helpful hint, a cry for help, mad scrawls, or just nice poetry.
16: About to attempt something risky; operating on bad information. The party could exploit for profit or set straight. What you don’t know can’t hurt you…
17: An amateur artist/scientist. Eager to capture the party’s likeness/recruit them to test a new invention.
18: Self-proclaimed arch-nemesis of a party member or an ally of the party’s. Constantly trying to one-up the target of their ire.
19: Lets the party in on a secret/”secret” investigation of something important/trivial, tries to enlist their help.
20: The party catches them doing something compromising/badass/unusual. They play dumb, then buy the party’s silence.