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How To Create Non-Player Characters for RPGs (Game Master Tips)

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Come hither as Matt Mercer tells you how to be a better GM / DM. Today’s episode he teaches you how to create NPCs—both good and evil. Catch these tips a week early on Vessel, and on GeekandSundry.com every Friday! For more on RPGs, go to http://bit.ly/GS_RPG Visit us on http://geekandsundry.com Subscribe to Geek and Sundry: http://goo.gl/B62jl Join our community at: http://geekandsundry.com/community Twitter: http://twitter.com/geekandsundry Facebook: http://facebook.com/geekandsundry Instagram: http://instagram.com/geekandsundry Google+: https://plus.google.com/+GeekandSundry/
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Text Comments (362)
Rivers RPG Channel (3 days ago)
Nice ideas
Alan Capelari (8 days ago)
"Some villains think they're heroes." Thanos sends greetings.
Patrick Peoples (16 days ago)
This rally helped with NPC characters.
Mcewb (18 days ago)
"He's got uh um a laser sword" 👌
wyldbladze (22 days ago)
Wasn't paying attention in the first video, but damn, those wall sconces are friggin awesome.
Terry Farr (1 month ago)
Ominous...[giving the impression that something bad or unpleasant is going to happen; threatening; inauspicious.] How is fleshing out NPCs more than is required ominous? 0:26
John Cage (1 month ago)
I love your NPCs. You give them so much personality they feel real and unique. I enjoy that a lot on CriticalRole. Wonderful examples: Best possible shopkeeper(s) Pumat Sol or great villain The Gentleman.
Hannah Pilkey (1 month ago)
Psiberzerker (1 month ago)
A good villain is probably more than a 6 and a half minute video to describe how to make a Good antagonist. Sometimes, the PCs are the villians, and the antagonist is some sort of Hero type. (Forgotten Realms, anyone? Don't tell me you've never run a game where EVERYONE wanted to play Dark Elves.) Sure, they can rob, cheat, and assassinate other villians, or, you can write a really Good Hero party. That was my favorite one, they run off to do evil, laughing wickedly, and then they run into a standard Hero Party. Priest, Crusaders (Knight) maybe some Landsknexts hired by the local lord to rid his lands of this evil. Just to show the players what it's like from the other side of the mirror, and those have been some of the funnest games we've ever played, because honestly it's hilarious! (Not to mention any D&D veteran knows exactly what dismantles the standard party structure, like kill the Healer first. He makes killing everyone else so much harder!)
Psiberzerker (1 month ago)
"If you have all the time in the world, you can flesh out every single person..." I have a stack this thick of characters. I write custom NPCs for that particular location/champaign/scene too, but after a few years, if you don't throw out Character Sheets, you can just reach into the stack, "You walk around the corner, and run into." [Garfargle] "Mister Funkenwangels..." I mean, when you first get started, go ahead, and crank out a bunch of Characters, but for me, the NPCs are just the ones nobody Else is playing at the moment. Unless they're crucial to the story, like someone they need to get information from, and player can take over an NPC if they want to. When new players show up, or someone dies, and they want to pick right up instead of starting over with carte blanche, then they can go through the Character Pool, and pick one out. This is why i much prefer Urban settings (And similar character densities, like subterranian settlements, or whatever) because, there's always more characters on hand, it's a seedy kinda town, though. So, most folk'll mind their own business, and not get involved, unless they some reason (Like something to be gained) by it. You ever read any Thieve's World? Kinda like that, you can play whoever you like, but if you don't have a character in mind, I have a stack of them right here, you can pick one out. Make minor alterations, then be up and running again in a couple minutes. Pro-Tip: Pencil, so you can change things, like the Name of the character.
Psiberzerker (1 month ago)
I'v even had players run into their old character sheets (Slightly altered) then realize, "Hey, like Goeddes?" So, I say, "You knew Goeddes? He's my hero!" Adjusted down a few levels, but guess what. That time he jumped on the head of a dragon, and held onto the ear while the rest of the party hosed it down with damage? Yeah, everyone heard about it, and now here's this young lad, who idolized him so much, he wanted to be just like Goeddes when he grew up. But then again, that was a few years ago...
Ringboi BesauceMain (1 month ago)
The more I watch these, I’m seeing what he’s taking about in Critical Role in almost every situation
lord dracunyan (1 month ago)
Anatoliy Savchak (2 months ago)
About everything and nothing in particular. Really?? These are tips?
Ethan Ruigrok (2 months ago)
My favourite kind of NPC is the 'Meatshield' NPC, who comes along with the party early on through some sort of events, and meatshields for the level 2 adventurers pitted against a much stronger boss :D (spoiler, the meatshield almost always dies)
-The Shadow Cat- (2 months ago)
He said what are their fears and I went "WOOH ALREADY DONE THAT!!"
tiezukae (2 months ago)
The editing is hilarious
E. Gordbort (3 months ago)
Villain idea: A well-meaning adventurer who went murder hobo after a series of unfortunate events starting with killing some random merchant
Jessica Brown (3 months ago)
Also, I am doing a spin-off of Force Grey: Lost City of Omu. Any hints?
Jessica Brown (3 months ago)
Any ideas on how to do voices better Matt Mercer?
Super Basic News (3 months ago)
Are you a #npc??
Sockrates (3 months ago)
Helps keep the psychosis at bay. ME: Hahaha! *internally* He knows!!😳
Ivan Dimitrov (4 months ago)
Youre the freakin best Matt! Thank you!!
Kitten Twist (4 months ago)
I suddenly understand why his players fear/respect him
Loki (4 months ago)
Hewwo, fwends :зc
Matthew kornman (4 months ago)
So for those of you watching.... what are some of your best NPCs you used for your Campiagns. Want to here cool examples for my inspiration for campaigns.
Blackroan (5 months ago)
Villains are just Heroes for the other side
EverythingIC (5 months ago)
"If you have a lot of time on your hands, you can flesh out every NPC... but that can be a little... ominous." Are you speaking from experience, Mr. Mercer?
Kendra Fitzpatrick (5 months ago)
B. T. (5 months ago)
Hah. Funny to watch this after Lorenzo's fall.
Callum Hening (5 months ago)
Ominous? Do you mean onerous or monotonous?
Pidge2015 (5 months ago)
Red Con One Media (7 months ago)
Do you guys use a green screen for your background?
JKoby99 (7 months ago)
Does somone know the background music?
ace15892001 (8 months ago)
I wish I had your skill with voice changing My Psycho-sises all sound like me and it gets very confusing
Wrath (8 months ago)
"They'll remember... *They always remember...* "
Lelouch Lamperouge (8 months ago)
"It helps keep the psychosis away ..." Something you want to tell us there Matt? You feeling okay?
Io Wolf (8 months ago)
Fun fact. My game that im running in the world of danmachu. The players are told that this man stole his mate and children. Through an encounter where he used necrotic spells and sphere of death.. They found out he's simply an individual who takes shifty jobs, but did no crimes and before 5hey end up killing him, they let him go and gain access to the black market which works on new spells, unchecked by the Mages at the coast tower that would have their hands cut off for their dangerous separation of old magic
Io Wolf (8 months ago)
Never judge a book by its cover
ZoroarkWarrior (9 months ago)
"Not fwends" killed me XD
Worst Beat Productions (11 months ago)
1:33 and 1:41
Isaac Collard (11 months ago)
4:13 like when clerics slit Dwarf throats with a Mace of Disruption....
a fellow human (1 year ago)
keeps the psychosis at bay... I f**king lost it
Caleb Evans (1 year ago)
"Silly voices," They said. "They keep the psychosis at bay," They said. "Put down that knife," They said. "Ahhhghhh my intestines are spilling out," They said. -DMs everywhere
tristonanan (3 months ago)
What episode of Welcome to Night Vale is that from?
TheSmashMaster9000 (4 months ago)
"My leg hurts!" "I need blood!" "But I don't want to have a robot arm!"
shadowcarn (1 year ago)
I had an inside joke goblin appear called Dirty Water, he crawled out of well in a town struck by a horrible disease which was slowly turning the whole continent to undead. My friend's thought he was funny and so my friend decided he wanted to tame the creature and have it as a servant. I was smug and went "sure role a persuasion check, safe in the knowledge this would never happen. The guy rolled a Nat 20. I'd let a little bit slip about how the creature fed off children that wondered off, and so my home brew goblin class of child eater became a thing and I had to roll up stats. He's now been a recurring character in various of the other campaigns I DM and everyone seems to take a shine to him.
Qu Jee (1 year ago)
2:18 this will never not be funny
TheUsernameIsInUse (1 year ago)
*They Remember* o__o
Cade Hoch (1 year ago)
I really love this guy
Lucas Tadeu (1 year ago)
If you are playing DnD 5E you can use >>> http://rpgtinker.com <<< an amazing site to auto-build NPC sheets. By the way, thanks for the videos, they are as amazing as Matt Mercer is too xD
Funman (1 year ago)
Its High Noon!
Вася Перов (1 year ago)
you top , привет из России ;)
Maarten Bos (1 year ago)
"They always remember" oh man... so true.
SpongeBoi MemePants (1 year ago)
Please beat my rubbish mentality into submission
Alexandra Lake (1 year ago)
“They always remember”
RG 14 (1 year ago)
Do you guys recommend who literally just start playing D&D dm
Tyler Knox01 (1 year ago)
They always remember...
Areta Figueiredo (1 year ago)
Good video. If all GM knew how to accept badassness from the characters... Some just got pissed off, cheat and find a way to kill them, or to save the villain....Loving your tips.
MadSwedishGamer (1 year ago)
I was DM-ing for my friend who's a Monk that got his magic sword stolen, so he had o track down the thief gang that stole it, so I had a guard follow him there and help. The guard sadly perished in the skirmish that followed, but his sacrifice allowed the Monk to slay the gang and retrieve his weapon.
La Brujita (1 year ago)
Descriptions of his NPC making strategies make me wish we could see his notes on fan favorites like Gilmore, Allura, and Kima, and villains like Ripley and the Briarwoods. Maybe after the campaign.
Joe Francis (1 year ago)
If you want to talk about moral gray areas, I read in a recap of a campaign this girl played a Paladin and she violently crushed two guards' heads like grapes. And it was perfectly in character.
Luke Handscomb (1 year ago)
Voices... Yes... and forgetting which goes with whom... Yeah, I've done that. I've recently started, in each NPC's file, recording a short voice clip of them doing an introduction of themselves. I'm /hoping/ it'll be more successful than simply writing a description. I was never very good at describing voices.
Travis Stoll (1 year ago)
After seeing this video, I want to play D&D. Matt, u persuaded me.
Travis Stoll (1 year ago)
All Hail Matt Mercer!
Perry Born (1 year ago)
yeaaaaah, accidents happen... like when you're playing a Paladin and you accidentally light a roof on fire and knock out a family of farmers whom's house you just burned down...
Classic Gamer Harth (1 year ago)
How's this, an ancient king who wants revenge on those who took his kingdom and split in three, but is pretending to befriend the heroes of the story because a) one is a descendant of one of the revolutionaries, b) he sees them as a threat, or c) both
NinjaOfTheKeyboard1 (1 year ago)
2:10 I snorted loud enough to wake the cat in the living room.
doublea125 (1 year ago)
On the topic of voices, I made all of my NPC's in one town have exactly the same voice. This somehow blew up from an odd quip to the PC's trying to find the source of this madness. It was comical, especially when they all had to do their best impersonation of the voice until they finally uplifted the curse and could speak normally again.
Anthony (1 year ago)
Watching this as I was planning a game that has a grey moral path
Michael Mrozek (1 year ago)
I have a npc who might not do a whole lot of fighting but is going to be a good fighter because of story should I still flesh him out a a fighter
Martijn Bouman (7 months ago)
You can always use the NPS Warrior class.
Jessica Lee (1 year ago)
Don't put TOO much work into big NPCs. My old group met a villain who the DM had built up as this major thing, he walked into the room, said, _"Good evening."_ and everyone let loose all their most powerful abilities and items on him and just cooked him on the spot, before he even had a turn. We discovered later that he wasn't what we thought he was. Every group that I run, some big written-out NPC with a character voice and everything, gets left as a resource in a town the players visit MAYBE one additional time in the campaign, or just bypassed entirely. At least in those cases, if they have a whole NPC character sheet but never made a single roll, it's easy to just slap a different name on the sheet and have the players meet a "different" character later.
DeltaBlaZe77 (1 year ago)
Players: "Wait it could be a trap..." Me (In my head): Well it wasn't going to be...but good idea. XD
RyanMFTV (1 year ago)
in the campaign im in i took on a mission given to me by my thieves guild contact..had to recover a ring from an abnormally tall dwarf..i jump him and knock him out and ruthlessly cut off his finger with the ring and leave a note in thieves cant telling him debts are paid with interest...turns out he won tue ring fairly in a bet and my associate was salty about it so now i have to face the consequences to that at some point...i also wear a face mask now out of paranoia cause the dwarf saw my face before i knocked him out. great story my DM is doin.
Lilac Smile (1 year ago)
*Not fwends*
Charles Richardson (1 year ago)
lol like when Doughty killed those guards
skilladunge (1 year ago)
My name is Timmi, when he called my name I freaked out. Just a bit tho.. He knows of me, I must hide.
Tieguai999 (1 year ago)
and you have to hide bodies...happens...often
Karol (1 year ago)
What are those books you keep referring to? I'm new to DMing and those personality archetypes would be greata a help!
eric welch (1 year ago)
I want to be Matt Mercer's friend!!
Freddy November (1 year ago)
I'd love to see Matt Mercer's D.M. notes lol
Will F.M (1 year ago)
Dude, DM training by McCree himself!
Salsa (1 year ago)
Fwends..! *Not fwends..!*
Chris Kelm (1 year ago)
in summation, notes
JTeenmining (1 year ago)
I currently need some help on a campaign I want to run, thing is I've never played so I don't know what to use and what not to, I know proficiency will be a thing I also have a good story, however the pcs are limited to several heroes, you get buffs for having certain heroes on the team and if you have all 6, there is a 7th one but due to him being op he doesn't take part, basically he's an npc even though in actuality he's main character in the book the campaign is based off of (one I'm currently writing) anyway, the pcs have to do 3 things in each nation of the world, have the people love them, defeat the military, and finally defeat the King of each nation, each big hero a pc can play as comes from one of the 6 elemental nations, the op one comes from technology, also characters from the books can be either friend or foe, as well some of the monsters, usually the strongest ones, are intelligent as "monsters" fall under the classes of flora, fauna and beserker... but yeah, my biggest problem will be balancing I think, anyway I'd like to hear your guys' thoughts on it, heck if you play it on critrole Matt could help build the world... anyway only recently found you guys and loving the content
Eldanon1 (1 year ago)
Who knew Leon S. Kennedy was a highly skilled DM?
highlandrab19 (1 year ago)
Arbitrary "IT'S HIGH NOON" here
Frank Robins, Jr. (1 year ago)
What about players who use normally unimportant NPCs to work for them around town? I am currently playing a Knowledge domain Cleric. For those of you thinking I'm the healer, think again. I can heal, but, my skill set and personality goes far beyond just that small part. I speak seven languages. However, I don't speak dwarven, gnomish, or halfling. Medicine and nature are two of my character's skills, I use them to great effect to help others raise money and get me the things I want to further my own commercial enterprises. I used thaumaturgy against some bandits. Those bandits now protect the carters from my city who are paying me a percentage of their wages for protection. More are joining as they realize that bandits leaving them alone is worth the extra expense.
Miles Ried (1 year ago)
i was planing on making a shape-shifter character and i named them raishan and i couldn't figure out why that sounded so familiar.
ultimateninjaboi (1 year ago)
If you're writing a campaign, and you're relatively new, here's a tip. if you wanna do voices, and you know your range of voices is currently limited, or you're only comfortable within a certain area of voice types for now, try to build that into the campaign. like, for me. aside from my usual North American accent, I can comfortably put on a Scottish accent, and give it some good variations, as well. so, for the sake of my own sanity, I'd write a campaign focused around humans and dwarves. perhaps set it in a Dwarven city or stronghold. maybe make a conflict or rising tensions based on Humans vs Dwarves in the campaign setting. etc.
Grandfather_Paradox (1 year ago)
This, from the man who brought us *Viktor* _the Black Powder Merchant_ .
AdamofBlastWorks (1 year ago)
What about a campaign with just a bunch of smaller groups of bandits all the way through? Or some end goal objective that isn't defeating someone. I was planning to do a sci-fi campaign where the players have to somehow rebuild their ship after they crash on a wasteland world... not sure how that would go though... like why are they fighting bandits? to get payed to buy the parts they need or to pay the space port? Do rhe bandits have some spare parts they need? What am I thinking? Also if I intend for their story to continue after they leave the planet it might make sense if I kept it a bit short so they don't get through too many levels for their characters to still grow in later campaigns. which might also fit to keep the quests from becoming repetitive bounty hunts or stealing stuff from bandits.
Scott Brown (1 year ago)
"I don't remember what Timmy sounds like. But they'll remember. They always remember." Truer words were never spoken about players.
Mareva Xander (1 year ago)
T. R. (1 year ago)
In the campaign I'm running the main "villain" is a leader of a dragon worshiping cult. He's not particularly powerful, or even physically menacing, but he's very cunning and always manages to stay one step ahead of the heroes. They've come very close to stopping him a few times, but he manages to narrowly escape. However... on this week's adventure they're going to see that he is himself only a pawn for an Ice Giant lord seeking the artifact they've been after. Either way, he's been a great lead antagonist, and has constantly spurned the heroes without ever actually endangering them directly with physical combat. It goes to show that you don't have to be a 50 foot dragon to seem like a tough foe to a group of adventurers.
U-Hu Gaming (1 year ago)
what was the name of the archetype book for 3.5?
Krystle Leis (1 year ago)
The scheming liar: Raishan The Tyrant: thordak
Dane Baltes (1 year ago)
How would I make a villain for a group of murder hobos who fight everything to the bitter end. I can create a raid boss they shouldn't be able to kill, then they decide to charisma check it down. So I am at a loss for a grand villain.
bLitz 100 H (1 year ago)
Guys anyone here who has tips for dungeons and dragons ??
MidRangeGaming (1 year ago)
I'm very interested in becoming a GM as we have a handful of people willing to play but our previous GM doesn't want to anymore. My main problem however is keeping players on the path where they "should" be going while making it feel like its their decision as well as memorising every detail about every conversation... Feels like it would take weeks to prepare even a 2 hour session
Connor Menghini (1 year ago)
This video series is great, I love the part where he talks about how players play in the "grey" area and hiding bodies. I am running a game as a DM for the first time and my roommate immediately used charm person on a famous war general to find out his information, stuck him in a barrel, and rolled him onto a ship. He made the campaign more difficult to run because that NPC was supposed to help them but I rolled with it. I think this might be what changes his alignment from Lawful good to more of a Chaotic Neutral character and he might come back later as a bad guy with a personal vendetta against them.
MrEffectfilms (1 year ago)
This is a great series for RPGs but also just storytelling in general. I can actually use these videos for character development for my own stories and ideas.
Wolfhound (1 year ago)
I've been playing/running Dungeons and Dragons since the "red Box" days of basic pre-ad&d. I love the changes over the years to how games have been able to develop with more and more detail and I LOVE this series. Thank you for making it!!
delaney klutes (1 year ago)
Hey so what type of DnD does Critical Role play? 5e?
Sonic Halo (1 year ago)
nope, custom campaign that happened to go through the underdark in the early episodes. Most of the series is on the surface. good luck catching up, welcome to the critters
Laralee Valdez (1 year ago)
Yes, and I think they're playing Out of the Abyss ... could be wrong though, I'm only on episode 4 LOL

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