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A Guide to NPC Creation for Neverwinter Nights


This guide is for fans of Neverwinter Nights (NWN) who do not have access to Non-Player Character (NPC) creation reference material. Since NWN is using the Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) rules published by Wizards of the Coast, some of that material was researched and compiled here, with NWN in mind. The Dungeon Master's Guide was an invaluable source of information. This article is also partly inspired by a similar article by Bill Rawlinson at the Neverwinter Nexus, as well as the writings of Aaron Allston, Orson Scott Card, Robert J. Ray, Kirk Botula, and countless others.

Even if you are a module designer familiar with D&D, you may find this NPC Creation guide useful, since it may bring to light some aspects of NPC creation for NWN that you have not considered.

One of the first things you will define when creating NPCs is their game statistics. Discussed below in Part I: Game Statistics, these are the real in-game variables that you will be assigning to NPCs as you create them in your modules. They are Race, Class, Level, Alignment, Ability Scores, Feats, Skills, Spells, Special Abilities, Special Possessions, Appearance and Factions. After this is Part II: Background. The information you enter here may not be fully implemented in-game as statistics, but you will need to fill in at least some of it to make an NPC interesting for your players, as well as make use of the NPC's role in the story you plan to tell in your game. This will help tremendously when designing dialogs.

In fact, for storytelling purposes, the game stats are less important than the background you give your NPC. You can use the same template for all of the Fighters in your module, but if you change the appearance and all of the entries that follow, each one will be a unique character, even if they all have the same abilities. A fighter who is brave, tells jokes, and works as a blacksmith is very different from a fighter who is callous, likes to gamble, and works as a bodyguard, even if their game statistics are identical.

For each NPC you create, you can fill out a copy of the NPC Worksheet. For minor NPCs, only a few entries need to be filled in. For example, a city guard NPC might need nothing more than Race, Class, Level, and Alignment — the details can be ignored for now. Major NPCs should be as detailed as possible. Also, you can approach the NPC Worksheet from different angles. You might want to start defining the parameters outlined in Part II before developing Part I. Or, you could pick any data point and grow the NPC from any single idea.

Part I - Game Statistics

Race: The standard races allowed for PCs and NPCs are Dwarf, Elf, Gnome, Half-elf, Halfling, Half-orc, and Human. NPCs may also be other races, creature and monster types, including Aberration, Animal, Beast, Construct, Dragon, Elemental, Giant, Humanoid (such as goblin, orc, etc.), Magical Beast, Outsider, Shapechanger, Undead, or Vermin.

Class: This is the type of training and education the NPC grew up with. The eleven PC classes are Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer, and Wizard. NPCs can be any PC class, as well as Adept (a shaman, or semi-Cleric), Aristocrat (a noble type), Expert (a professional or merchant), Commoner, or Warrior (a semi-Fighter). Also, non-humanoid NPCs may have a Class specific to their race, so you may just assume their Class is "Monster" for simplicity. For complex characters, you can combine up to three Classes (known as Multiclassing).

Level: An NPC's level is a measure of his overall power and experience. A level-1 NPC is typical of the majority of people found in any town, while a level-20 NPC is a rare individual and a veritable superman. Most non-PC creatures have a minimum level, which means you can simply indicate as "default" for simplicity. For example, an Umber Hulk can be considered a level-8 creature by default. A Multiclassed NPC must have at least one level in each Class he has, and you should add them together to determine the NPC's overall Level. For example, an NPC who is a Fighter level-3 and also a Sorcerer level-2, is a level-5 NPC. Generally, total levels cannot exceed 20.

Alignment: The NPC's general moral outlook. It can be thought of as a loose guideline to how the NPC behaves. There are nine alignments, composed of two aspects: Law vs. Chaos, and Good vs. Evil. Thus, an NPC may be Lawful (L), Neutral (N), or Chaotic (C) in behavior, as well as Good (G), Neutral (N) or Evil (E) by nature. One who is Neutral in behavior and Neutral by nature is "True Neutral", or simply Neutral. The nine alignments therefore are LG, LN, LE, NG, N, NE, CG, CN, and CE.

Ability Scores: These represent the basic abilities of Strength (STR), Constitution (CON), Intelligence (INT), Wisdom (WIS), Dexterity (DEX), and Charisma (CHA). A higher score means more ability; for example, an NPC with an INT 15 is smarter than one with an INT of 8. For the sake of simplicity you can use the table below, or distribute the average scores of 15, 14, 13, 12, 10 and 8 among the six abilities as you wish. This is consistent with the point-buy method used in Neverwinter Nights for a PC made with 25 points. An experienced NPC will have better abilities: for every four levels the NPC is, you may add one point to any of the six abilities.



Ability scores by Class:


Barbarian 15  14  13  10  12   8

Bard      10  13  12  14   8  15

Cleric    13   8  14  10  15  12

Druid     10  14  13  12  15   8

Fighter   15  13  14  10  12   8

Monk      14  13  12  10  15   8

Paladin   14   8  12  10  13  15

Ranger    14  15  13  10  12   8

Rogue     12  15  13  14  10   8

Sorcerer   8  14  13  10  12  15

Wizard    10  14  13  15  12   8




Racial adjustments:


Dwarf     -   -  +2   -   -  -2

Elf       -  +2  -2   -   -   -

Gnome    -2   -  +2   -   -   -

Half-orc +2   -   -  -2   -  -2

Halfling -2  +2   -   -   -   -

Note that The Half-elf and Human races have no adjustments



If all this seems daunting, for simplicity you can just point out the NPC's strongest and weakest abilities. For example, you can describe a stereotypical Half-orc Barbarian NPC as having STR 17 and CHA 6, or simply say he is strong but repulsive.

Feats, Skills, and Spells: These are specific abilities an NPC has learned or is born with, and tend to be related to the NPC's Class. Most NPCs will have one or more Feats, which are special maneuvers that enhance an NPCs combat or spellcasting abilities, and can be thought of as special talents. All NPCs have at least a few skills, and a fair number will have a dozen or more. Skills are areas of expertise in specific activities, ranging from disabling traps and opening locks, to listening and searching. Spells are magical effects that are available only to spell-casting Classes (Bard, Cleric, Druid, Sorcerer, Wizard, and, at level-4, the Paladin and Ranger). For the most part, you can leave the details until later, and simply assume your NPCs have the Feats, Skills and Spells most suited to his purpose in your module. You can write in whatever you think the NPC should be especially proficient at. For example, a Wizard NPC might be good at casting spells in combat, is skilled cook and archer, and is noted for his Fireball spell. Don't be afraid to list skills that may not exist in-game – they will still add character to you NPC, and you might discover an interesting way to implement new skills when scripting your module.

Special Abilities: These are abilities that usually come with an NPC's Race or Class. You don't need to add the details now, except for special cases where you think your NPC will have some unusual ability that is not standard for more typical NPCs.

Possessions: You can list the NPC's armor and weapons here, as well as any other items of note. If your NPC has any items that are integral to his role in your module, you should list them here.

Appearance: NWN will allow great variety concerning the appearance of most NPCs. Appearance can include things like beauty or ugliness, dress style, grooming, tattoos and defining marks or accoutrements. "Average" is also acceptable for minor NPCs.

Factions: Who are the NPC's allies and enemies? Does the NPC have a patron, employer, provider, or know someone more powerful? Who are his friends and aquaintances? His family? Does he have any subordinates, dependents, or servants?


Part II - Background

Attitude: Aggressive, Defensive, Neutral, or Special. You should include a paragraph on what first impression the NPC will make on the players. What is the NPC's usual greeting dialog? What is her attitude in general, towards the world and the people around her? What will change her attitude?

Activities & Occupation: What does the NPC spend most of his time doing? What other activities does he perform? This can be as simple as stating the NPC's job, or what the PC will see him doing when they meet. If you make a simple schedule for the NPC, then to the players he will seem to have a life of his own.

Personality Traits: While Alignment describes the general moral stance an NPC has, his personality reveals more details. You should select one to three strong personality traits that can quickly describe the NPC's character. Is he Honorable or Treacherous? Kind or Cruel? Generous or Greedy? Patient or Anxious? Ambitious or Lazy? To make things interesting, you can often pick a trait that is at first glance contrary to the overall personality, such as having a Bard NPC that is Humorous and Kind, but also Spiteful to other bards.

Likes & Dislikes: Describing a few quirks can help add extra definition to encounters with an NPC. Indicate if hes like or dislikes certain commonly encountered things like dogs, children, men, women, magic-users, nobility, beggars, or situations like drinking, singing, combat, or even uncommon things like magical devices or ghosts. Such quirks may have been acquired recently, or brought on by a childhood event.

Concerns: What are the NPC's concerns? Describe the NPC's familial and political involvements, her interests or hobbies.

Objectives: While an NPC's Activities & Occupation may indicate what his goals may be, that is not always the case. Think about his short- and long-term objective concerning his personal or professional life, his family, environment, or status.

Motive: Once you know what your NPC's objectives are, you can determine what his motives are. By looking at her Attitude and Personality, you should be able to find an interesting reason why she seeks to fulfill her goals. It may be as simple as "Revenge" or "Atonement", or as complex as you wish.

History: The NPC's past is as important as his future. For important NPC's, the more you can write about your NPC's history, the better. By now you should have quite a few hooks for her story, and the details of her past should coalesce from the ideas you have recorded about her Background. Alternatively, you may start with her History and discover the details of her Background grow from her story.



Sample NPC Worksheet

Name: Bangrah

I. Game Statistics

Race: Orc

Class & Level: Barbarian 1/Cleric 1

Alignment: NG

Ability Scores: STR 15, DEX 11, CON 11, INT 8, WIS 12, CHA 8

Feats, Skills, and Spells: Run; Appraise; Hide; Listen; Spot

Special Abilities: racial Dark Vision

Possessions: Chainmail shirt; Large shield; Mace of Tawnos - Bangrah believes his mace was granted to him by a deity he calls Tawnos. In fact, it is an ordinary mace.

Appearance: Grungy. Bangrah's barbarian origins are apparent to anyone. Only the crude painting on his shield hints at the possibility that he is a holy man.

Factions: Bangrah is an outcast among his tribesmen. He worships Tawnos, a deity no one has ever heard of. He has made a few friends in the city, including a female Half-orc Monk named Svala.

II. Background

Attitude: Neutral. Bangrah is crude, direct, and friendly. "Yarg! Does ye know where temple is, please?"

Activities & Occupation: Spends most of his time seeking the temple of Tawnos. His daily routine while in the city begins when he awakens shortly before noon and leaves his room at the inn. After breakfast at the inn, he visits Svala, and then other friends at the temple of Pelor and at his favorite tavern for dinner. After dinner he visits the orphanage to make a donation and listen to the stories the children tell. Later he goes to the library and spends hours attempting to find any information he can about Tawnos, or deities like him. He is ususally frustrated by the lack of information or his own inability to understand the texts, and leaves with a headache, in search of a few tankards of ale before turning in for the night.

Personality Traits: Oblivious, Single-minded, Brusk. Bangrah has adopted a sort of chivalrous code of conduct, and attempts to be especially courteous to females.

Likes & Dislikes: Bangrah admires Clerics of Pelor, Lathander and Ilmater, and fears evil Clerics. He is fascinated by children of all races.

Concerns: Bangrah has shunned his barbarian past, and will not hesitate fighting other Orcs if they exert their evil tendencies upon innocent victims.

Objectives: Bangrah is driven by his quest to find the temple of Tawnos. He will sometimes go on adventures involving lost temples or ruined places of ancient worship.

Motive: Bangrah seeks Tawnos as a way to explain a vision he had.

History: When Bangrah came to the age of manhood, he took part in a brutal massacre upon a halfling village. While he and his barbarian orc tribe plundered the settlement, he felt a sharp pain in his skull and a blinding white light, and he passed out. He woke up back at his tribe's camp, and remembered a vision he had before passing out. A brilliant being of light, called Tawnos, came to him and showed him the fate of his tribe if their raids continued – they would be wiped out by a vengeful army. Then Tawnos showed Bangrah a lifetime of good deeds and the rewards they brought, convincing the orc that his tribe must atone for their evil. Alas, his fellow tribesmen only laughed, and eventually he was outcast. For the past three years he has been seeking guidance from a deity he has only seen once. He refuses to believe that Tawnos may have been nothing more than a hallucination, and becomes hostile at anyone who suggest it. While finding a temple to an unknown god is a daunting task, he thinks he has had an epiphany recently, when he found a friend in the kindly Monk, Svala. She spoke of an ancient deity known to her order whose name is Tarnos – which sounds exactly like "Tawnos" in Bangrah's native speaking accent. Now Bangrah may finally have a lead to follow.

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