I created a simple system for generating NPCs for the solo Masks game I’ve been writing. However, I talked with a friend of mine who was finding NPC creation challenging. Together, we worked out a system that took her at most 10 minutes to come up with NPCs to which she could immediately give a voice.
Here’s a combination of those two systems.
- Good ideas flow “downriver”
- Surface details are always “downriver” from inner nature
- Inner nature is always something recognizably and archetypically human
- Try to answer questions by looping back to established material and characters
- Come up with a core Condition
- Come up with quirks, behaviors, or other surface traits
- Write a short narrative that connects the Condition to the surface traits
- Start asking questions of that narrative: who? how? why?
- Answer questions by looking for opportunities from nearby narratives
A character’s “core Condition” is one standard Masks Condition that this NPC effectively always has marked. Roll a 1d6: on a 1 it’s Afraid, 2 Angry, 3 Guilty, 4 Hopeless, or 5 Insecure. Roll again (or twice more) on a 6.
Surface traits are the NPC’s personality, behaviors, and anything else people tend to notice about them.
If you aren’t sure about what surface traits they have, start here:
- Roll 2d6. On a 2-5, they are bad at something. On a 6-8, they’re okay. On a 9-12, they’re awesome.
- Roll 2d6 again. On a 2-5, it’s scholastics, on a 6-8 it’s sports or extracurriculars, and on 9-12 it’s socializing or partying.
Add 1 to the rolls for preppy or popular kids, subtract 1 for nerds, introverts, or unpopular kids.
Brett’s core Condition is Afraid. Brett’s first surface trait is that he does stupid stunts.
Here’s some questions that we can ask. Some have been answered, while others can be filled in.
- How does Afraid connect to stupid stunts? Just to prove he “ISN’T afraid”.
- Why does that matter? He got scared by some of his buddies during a sleepover during ghost stories and he’s never lived it down, so now he has this thing about proving he’s not a coward. The idea of ghosts still freaks him out, but he’ll deny it with every living breath
- What kind of stupid stunts does he do?
- Who goads him into doing stupid stunts because they know they can because this kid is a glutton for punishment?
- Was the ghost story true?
- What type of consequences have resulted from his stunts?
- Does he get in trouble at school? With his parents?
- Ever get hurt doing a stunt?
Carol’s core Condition is Guilty. Carol’s first surface trait is that she’s a star basketball player.
Here’s the questions that came from that.
- How does Guilty connect to basketball? she doesn’t want to be, but her father always wanted to play basketball and never made the team She secretly wants to quit but she knows it would crush her father, and with how well she plays she might be able to get a college scholarship.
- What would she rather be doing? She would much rather be doing an internship at a science lab.
- What did her father end up doing instead? What does her mom think about this?
- Who knows that she wants to take the internship? What do they think about that?
- Why science? What interests her about the internship?
- Who is already in the science lab? How does she feel about them?
- Who thinks the world of her for playing basketball?
- How do they get along? It’s awkward because they probably get along fine until sports come up, and then she’s like “oh… yeah… sports…”