Lazy GMing: Inside your NPCs Heads and Hearts

Recently, I played around with random tables for village names, industries, street plans and then a plot hook to give the PCs something to do.

Since then I have been playing with a new web-based toy and I thought you may like it.

Before I introduce it I want to explain the how and why of using it.

What it does is provide you with a couple of little pictures or icons, I use two but you will have an option for one to six at a time. These icons are completely random, sometimes vague and always open to interpretation. The way I have been using it is to grabl two icons for every NPC I am adding to an adventure, at the planning stage not during play. The icons are used as inspiration for what is in the NPCs hearts or minds.

For example. I created a Lady in Waiting for an adventure thinking that the PCs may want to use a charm or suggestion spell to turn an insider on to their side. When I created the NPC I drew a Wheel and a Shield icon. The first thing that came into my head was that a wheel can mean change or revolution and the shield could mean being defensive or hiding something. All of a sudden this lady in waiting is actually very sympathetic to a group of anti royalists but is hiding her sympathies.

The chances of this ever coming out in play is probably under 1% but if it did, if a player decided or overcast Telepathy on her for no reason I suddenly have an answer to what is going on in her head. If you charm her and now she is your friend and you raise the subject of breaking in to the castle then she is actually going to be more open to the idea than another NPC.

I grabbed two more icons for a military type and got an Arrow and Flaming breath, that immediately said typical sergeant major to me, straight to the point and will ball you out for the slightest discretion.

Since I have been using these, they add about 30 seconds to creating an NPC but they add a whole world of potential depth to people your PCs meet and can create endless sub-plots and side quests if you wanted.

So that is what it is for. The tool is called Zero Dice and you can find it at Tangent Zero. Leave the Dice Type to image and then click one of the “roll 1” to “Roll 6” buttons.

As another example I have an NPC who will be sharing a dungeon with the PCs. Let us find out more about him.

So I am seeing a deadly plant and a gift. It could be that our prisoner is a gifted poisoner but I like the idea more that he stupidly send a poisonous plant (poison ivy maybe) to the lord of the castle as a sort of protest.

You do not need to take the icons literally, there are some icons in the set that contain battery charge levels such as these…

I use these often as an indication of energy levels, or stress or even health. Not everyone you meet is going to be on full hits, some people are having a bad day even before they meet the PCs.

You just have to let your imagination be inspired by these visual prompts.

2 Replies to “Lazy GMing: Inside your NPCs Heads and Hearts”

  1. What you mention is basically what these dice offer:
    I’ve been using them for years now, but instead of rolling myself, I give them to the players to roll when I need to create an answer to a question they asked (are there items of X kind in the city, is there a contact that can provide Y) and I have a blast using them for dream and vision spells, and also for research results (higher research bonus yields more dice to roll!).

    1. Yes they follow exactly the same principle.

      The advantages of the web version are that the collection grows on an almost weekly basis and that every throw of the dice is picking from up to 3500 options.

      Practically it is faster to grab two icons from the full range than either just roll two dice, with a very limited range of options, or roll a handful and either pick and choose the ones that ones you want.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *