NPCs for any D&D occassion
Many a Dungeon Master has encountered a creative wall when it comes to creating interesting, believable nonplayer characters for Dungeons & Dragons. Some only need a brief description and a name, but others can become key points in a campaign setting. They give an identity and culture to the world of the game.
It can be a challenge, though – it’s hard to predict which NPCs your party will take interest in and seek out in future sessions, and sometimes you have to come up with an NPC on the fly when the session takes an unexpected turn. Enter Limitless Adventures’ Non Player Characters vol. 1. The book contains 100 pre-written NPCs with descriptions, stats and loot that can be put into any campaign.
The book organises NPCs into eight categories: ally, charge, contact, foe, hireling, merchant, sage, and quest giver. Some NPCs fit into multiple categories, so the book’s chapters are more broadly sorted into allies, contacts, foes, merchants, and arch enemies. Each character includes a name, a brief description, stats, treasure, and quest hooks that can be found for each under the Further Adventure subtitle.
Where Limitless NPC vol. 1 shines
In playtesting this book, the treasure listings were one of the features that proved more useful than I anticipated. Coming up with interesting loot items for NPCs and enemies is something I dedicated far more time to in session planning than I originally realised.
Using the book’s treasure sections took away one element of the work, and Limitless’ treasure listings are all character-appropriate: meagre items for the beggar, fine weaponry for the elvish archer, survivalist items for the druid or ranger. The book provides an array of loot items for NPCs that contributes to their characterisation and makes session planning just that little bit simpler.
Another strong feature in the book is the Further Adventure section for each NPC. This section offers short, often single-sentence plot hooks that can be incorporated into a campaign. The short, minimal nature of these plot hooks is one of their best assets. An example from the book is simply the line “Ella knows of a fairy circle rumored to contain magical powers…” A single opening line, which serves as a writing prompt for DMs but still allows them to use their own creativity and shape their own ideas for a session around the prompt. Making the Further Adventure section full of plot hook prompts gives DMs a head start, but leaves the plot hook flexible enough to fit any campaign setting.
Limitless NPCs makes sure to leave out no essential information for each of their characters. NPCs with animal companions include stats for those animals, along with notes for DMs on skill checks and DCs for specific encounters associated with some of the NPCs. Descriptions of special items are included where needed as well. This attention to detail makes for a polished and complete resource that Limitless Adventures can be proud to have developed.
Of course, like all content, Limitless NPCs has its flaws. While reading through the text, I noticed a heavy leaning towards male NPCs. This disparity was large enough to make me want to tally up the divide to find out if the disparity was real or imagined.
Arch enemies is the only category with an even split between male and female characters, with each other category ranging from 75-82 percent male. This may seem trivial to some players, but as a woman who DMs for, and plays in, very mixed-gender groups, I did find the heavy leaning towards male NPCs disappointing. [EDITOR’S NOTE: It is not at all trivial, absolutely an astute observation!]
The character descriptions are a great resource that helps bring each NPC to life, but the descriptions are primarily physical, with far less to indicate personality or affect. Even as little as a sentence on how the character speaks or behaves would build on the existing descriptions to make these characters feel more grounded in reality and believable. One of the biggest challenges DMs face in bringing NPCs to life is giving them diverse speech patterns and personalities. If Limitless NPCs provided more of this it would be a real boon to users.
One might argue it would be better if the characters in Limitless NPCs weren’t so grounded in a particular setting, though this is easy enough for DMs to work around when inputting the NPCs into a homebrew setting, and convenient for DMs working with Limitless Adventures’ other materials.
Overall, Limitless NPCs vol. 1 is a well-rounded resource that DMs can continue coming back to for inspiration, NPC stats, or a quick NPC brought into the game on the fly when a party strays from the planned area. While in this reviewer’s opinion the text would have been improved by including more female characters, Limitless NPCs is nonetheless a useful resource I expect I will reach for again in the future, when putting together NPCs for a new city, town, or adventure. The characters provide a great basis to work from, and are easy to modify for a different setting. If you find more of your session planning is dedicated to crafting NPCs than you’d like, I recommend giving this resource a try.[amazon_link asins=’B01K3MJMD0,B01MRVJ1TB,0786966106′ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’nerdarchy-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’5ac7a46c-764a-11e7-9872-9b38238f0e13′]