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Just toss a handfull of D6s and get a useful NPC…

Crafting a memorable non-player character (NPC) can be a challenging task, but it’s not as time consuming or difficult as you might initially think. You don’t need a complicated backstory and you certainly don’t need to write up a grand plot for every NPC the players encounter. It’s actually much simpler than that.

After 20 years of GM experience I’ve learned a few things about designing NPCs that the players like or dislike (both are equally valuable depending on what purpose the NPC is supposed to serve):

  1. Don’t overdo it – Always avoid over-prep! You never know what will actually be used in play, and time spent prepping stuff that won’t every be used is frustrating and a waste. You should instead focus on the base prep you need to run the game, and support yourself with useful random tables to help you improvise the rest. It’s the most efficient way of running the game.
  2. Improvised NPCs tend to be favorites –  You can spend hours trying to come up with the coolest and most likable NPC, but at the end of the day, the NPC that your players will fall in love with will always be that goblin barmaid you made up at the spot because the players asked “Who is serving us the ale?“, it’s just one of the undying truths of ttrpgs.
  3. You need a base to improvise from – Just making up a useful NPC on the spot is virtually impossible mid play. So you need some sort of base to build off of, and the tables below are in my experience the best possible base.

So based on that experience, I’ve built this set of NPC generator tables to help you quickly build interesting and useful NPCs. You can use all the tables, or just two if you like, there is no inherent value in always using all of them, but it is easier to run the NPC the more you know about him/her. You are of course free to add anything else you want to your NPCs, such as magical tattoos, funny voices or an affiliation with the local goblin clan.

But what about all the weird combinations that can occur?

Good question, so what happens when you roll: Edward the barber that wants to protect a sacred grove, who fears the tale of the vanishing inn and who also prefers to walk backward? Well personally I don’t see an issue, it sounds like a pretty funny and interesting NPC, one that would probably be the start of some obscure but interesting quest, at least in my game. In your game the quirk; “Prefers to walk backward” might be too weird, and fine, just don’t use it. But I highly recommend that you try out these eccentric NPCs that the tables will generate, because they are memorable, unique and weirdly relatable.

D66 NPC names

This table contains a mix of human, dwarven and elven names to help you generate diverse NPCs of the three most iconic fantasy ancestries. You can of course also name a Dragonborn “Edward” if you like, it’s your game, so don’t feel limited to only humans, dwarves and elves.

D66Male nameFemale name
11JohnLaria
12WilliamElara
13BarthRosalind
14RuganArina
15GariasAva
16HenryMyrna
21EdwardCharlotte
22EdowinGaralyn
23AndersAbigail
24SamuelMirena
25GeorgeGarinna
26AradinLiora
31ArthurGrace
32ElricDarielle
33FrederickScarlett
34RolanIsobel
35PaulCaelin
36DavidTamsin
41DurnarDorna
42BrondarBruni
43GruffinGreta
44TordekThalina
45KurnanKelda
46DrakarDrina
51FargrimFaela
52BorinBorina
53EldrinElara
54ThalorThalria
55ArannisSylvari
56SilvionLirel
61LorianCaelia
62CaelumValeria
63ElionIllyndra
64ValandorElandria
65IlthorArinna
66ElandrinSilviana

D66 NPC occupations

A mix of 36 real and fantasy occupations, someone’s got to be a mason right?

D66Occupation
11Blacksmith
12Alchemist
13Innkeeper
14Herbalist
15Bard
16Scribe
21Mercenary
22Healer
23Hunter
24Fisherman
25Miner
26Mason
31Tailor
32Jeweler
33Cartographer
34Librarian
35Farmer
36Leatherworker
41Potter
42Carpenter
43Weaver
44Miller
45Baker
46Butcher
51Guard
52Sailor
53Horse Breeder
54Cobbler
55Enchanter
56Seer
61Merchant
62Tanner
63Falconer
64Barber
65Brewer
66Silversmith

D66 NPC goals

Goals help you run your NPCs, because when you know what they want you can make more realistic decisions. And remember, the fisherman who want’s to win the archery contest isn’t unrealistic, he’s relatable, because it’s the perfect metaphor for most people’s real world situation.

D66Goal
11Retrieve a lost heirloom
12Earn respect in the village
13Learn a forbidden spell
14Pay off a looming debt
15Find a missing sibling
16Win the local archery contest
21Protect a sacred grove
22Translate an ancient tome
23Cure a loved one's illness
24Prove their innocence
25Rebuild a ruined home
26Join a renowned guild
31Discover a hidden talent
32Overcome a personal fear
33Forge a legendary weapon
34Uncover their true lineage
35Start a successful business
36Befriend a mythical creature
41Settle an old score
42Master a new musical instrument
43Find a rare alchemical ingredient
44Win the heart of a local
45Organize a village festival
46Solve a mysterious disappearance
51Travel to a distant land
52Catch the biggest fish
53Train under a legendary hero
54Mend a broken family bond
55Build a monument in town
56Unravel a local legend
61Establish a school of magic
62Plant a magical grove
63Break a family curse
64Secure a seat on the council
65Lead a village defense force
66Find the Fountain of Youth

D66 NPC fears

An NPCs biggest fear can be a great way to add some depth. You shouldn’t reveal the fear when the PCs first meet this character, you should keep it a secret, but a secret that sometimes bubble up to the surface, the way our fears tend to do in every day life. The herbalist offering the PCs a quest at the tavern might have a fear of the elderly, and might start to act weird when her old neighbour walks in to the tavern. The players might suspect a plot twist or some secret evil cult, but it’s just a red herring that adds a unique touch to the quest giver.

D66Fear
11The Mayor
12Thunder and Lightning
13The Ancient Stone Circle
14Authority Figures
15Cats
16Public Humiliation
21Midnight
22The Unknown
23Healers and Herbalists
24Mirrors
25The Village Elder
26Gusts of Wind
31The Haunted Well
32Soldiers
33Ravens
34Being Forgotten
35Livestock
36Darkness
41Blacksmiths
42Sharp Objects
43The Town's Bard
44Diseases
45The Cursed Statue
46Nobility
51Snakes
52Rejection
53Dawn
54Open fires
55Fishermen
56Books
61The Village's Herbalist
62Floods
63The Old Bridge
64Crowds
65Spiders
66Failure

D66 NPC quirks

A good quirk makes the NPC memorable in an easy and fun manner. “Activate” the quirk whenever it adds whatever you want it to add, be that comic relief, tension, annoyance or pitty.

D66Quirk
11Wears an eyepatch for style, not necessity
12Speaks in rhymes
13Hums when nervous
14Collects feathers
15Always carries a bouquet of dried flowers
16Winks excessively
21Makes "dad noises" when moving around
22Laughs at inappropriate times
23Carries a lucky pebble
24Refuses to make eye contact
25Always late
26Counts steps when walking
31Whispers to plants
32Avoids stepping on cracks
33Constantly doodles
34Wears a mysterious amulet
35Never sits with back to door
36Always kind of rude
41Taps fingers to a secret rhythm
42Prefers to walk backward
43Obsessed with the moon
44Wears gloves indoors
45Repeats last word of sentences
46Carries a vial of strange liquid
51Hates the sound of bells
52Always wears a hat
53Refuses to shake hands
54Talks to animals
55Wears a ring on every finger
56Carries an old key
61Snaps fingers when thinking
62Refuses to eat anything green
63Always smells like lavender
64Avoids direct sunlight
65Insists on being called "Captain"
66Keeps a pet spider

Example outputs from this NPC generator

This NPC generator doesn’t give you fully fleshed out NPCs with every single detail you need, you still need to fit them into the setting or scenario, which usually requires some creative thinking. Below are three example NPCs I rolled up using the tables, together with some minor details to make them usable at the table.

1: Ilthor the Silversmith

Ilthor lives in a small stone house by the river. Ilthor is renowned for his skill in forging silver weapons and have helped arm many of the church’s undead hunters. But Ilthor’s passion lies elsewhere, he dreams of winning the village’s yearly fishing tournament, but his fear of flowing water makes it near impossible for him to practice. Therefore he is now looking for someone to acquire a magical potion of courage for him, to help him overcome his fear so that he stands a chance at winning the tournament.

2: Olivia the Seer

Olivia is a moody seer living in the harbor district of Stonegate (the capital of the light-weight campaign setting included in our game system: Adventurous). She is in fierce competition with Dalia, another seer, who she thinks deliver’s much to optimistic predictions to her customers. Olivia and Dalia where once partners, but Dalia double crossed Olivia and took over their joint business. Since that day Olivia dreams of getting back at Dalia and becoming the most popular seer on the coast. Olivia is terrified of being forgotten and will go to great lengths to get back at Dalia.

3: Henry the Blacksmith

Henry is the blacksmith at a large farming estate. He was born on the estate and took over as the blacksmith when his father fell ill. Henry loathes the monotonous life at the farm and dreams of traveling to distant lands. He secretly draws sketches of faraway places that he wants to visit, but keeps them hidden due to fear of ridicule from other workers on the estate.

Closing thoughts on this NPC generator

I’ve built this NPC generator to make it as easy as possible for you to make up useful and interesting NPCs. After being a GM for 20 years I know from experience that these attributes; Name, occupation, goal, fear and quirk are the ones that are most useful at the table. Writing two paragraphs of backstory very rarely adds anything to the game, and it’s usually a big waste of time, because the first thing the players will ask about is something you haven’t written down, it’s just how ttrpgs work. But if you got these fundamental attributes nailed down you can easily improvise anything from backstory to most suitable reply to the question: “Why can’t we get paid more gold for XYZ?”. So don’t spend time on intricate backstories for your NPCs, focus instead on a good foundation that helps you improvise.

If you like this NPC generator be sure to check out our D66 prophecies generator and our list of 10 Lightning themed magic items, I hope they make prepping your next game easier.

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