Saturday, December 22, 2012

NPC Adventurers

I don't know about everyone else, but I love using NPC adventuring parties in my campaigns. The idea of other heroes (or even "antiheroes") running around in possible competition with our PC adventuring group just invites new twists and flavors of drama.

I've had PC adventurers stumble into battles-in-progress between foes they could not otherwise defeat and a party of NPC adventurers that have worn the enemy down a bit. I've had pseudo-friendly competition between PCs and NPCs over the same prize. I've had PCs stumble across the remains of NPC adventurers that they know were higher level, just to throw a bit of a scare into them as they explored the same dungeon that claimed the lives of these "greater heroes."

NPCs in my games are often used as a way for the DM to have a direct hand in the adventure, when needed. Otherwise, they tend to assume the roles of indirect opposition. Yes, there are NPC villains - but I refer to them as villains. It is fun for me to present uncertain antagonists during the course of an adventure. I like to challenge the players and present the occasional moral dilemma.

True heroes cannot simply slay fellow adventurers out of hand - but they also cannot let these interlopers run off with their XP and treasure. What to do? How to salvage their reputations when a rival party succeeds where they have failed? Partner up, or waste valuable resources in senseless conflict? Another dimension is added to the game.

What follows is an NPC adventuring party I intend to use as the default example group in my own campaign-specific B/X rulebook. Some backgrounds should be recognizable from one or more "classic" tropes. Others...hopefully, not so much.

The Flamebearers

·         Adventuring group sponsored by the Circle of the Silver Flame - a cabal dedicated to knowledge and the advancement of magic.

·         Madis of the Silver Flame: Journeyman magic user in service to the Circle. Her father was a member of the Circle, before he was lost during a mission. Madis adventures in the hope of learning his fate, and someday joining the Circle.

·         Brother Brown is a cleric in plain brown robes with a deep cowl and brown leather mask covering his entire face. His eyes are brown and one is always bloodshot. Nearly killed by wights during an early adventure, Brother Brown has spent the better part of a year in meditation and recovery. Which deity he serves is unknown.

·         Cestus Bulwark is a massive human fighter with a shaven head and red goatee. He often wears a pair of cesti which he uses like bucklers in combat. He is a brutal man, fond of singing, and loyal to his friends. In his youth, he trained to be a singer, but a number of growth spurts in his adolescence and teens left him more suited for battle. He retains a fine singing voice.

·         Dagger Norane was a mugger and low-rent assassin who found himself in and out of a few thieves' guilds. When trying to mug a man in an alley, he found himself vastly outmatched. Brutally beaten, horribly tortured, and finally slain - he was surprised to awaken nearly a week later in his own ratty cot in a fleabag hostel. The last thing he recalls is the man's hand, with a gold-and-silver ring set with a large fire opal and a golden phoenix within, slitting his throat with a knife. Shaken to his core, Dagger seeks honor and redemption as a professional adventurer - hoping to become a hero someday. His given name is Daglan.

·         Brevan Stout chose his adventuring name from the side of a keg in a faraway pub. What his given name and his past may be are none of your damn business.

·         Arlenn Winterbrand is an elf maid who favors sword and shield over wand and scroll. Long white hair and ice-blue eyes. Very pale skin. Her mother supposedly died in childbirth, but was said to have been some kind of winter faerie that left the newborn infant with her father, then departed for parts unknown. Wields a frost blade in battle, supposedly left to her by her lost mother.


  1. I have used a semi-regular group of somewhat adversarial adventurers in my games before. I find they work well even when they don't directly impact the player's game. The news of what the other, competing group is up to can add verisimilitude to the game world.