Home RPG Games 17 Extra Suggestions To Assist Your NPCs Survive

17 Extra Suggestions To Assist Your NPCs Survive


Ask Gamers to Create Them For You

From RPT GM Tiago

Earlier than I begin the marketing campaign I’m at the moment working, I requested my gamers to create NPCs for the city.

I feel it was nice, as a result of now they actually look after the NPCs they created, in order that they wouldn’t kill them and not using a purpose.

An additional good impact of doing so is that I’ve much less work making ready the marketing campaign, and the gamers really feel extra included within the story we’re creating collectively.

Use the Storyteller or Referee Mannequin

From RPT GM Jim

Hello Johnn,

Along with your tips about serving to NPCs survive the gamers, a bunch may also make clear what they need the GM’s position to be.

If the group needs the GM to be extra referee than storyteller, character deaths occur after they occur and that’s that.

As your suggestions level out, you possibly can supply the PCs in-world incentives and penalties for letting an NPC reside, however within the referee mannequin, if an NPC dies, so be it.

Think about it an anticipated consequence of the referee mannequin as a substitute of an issue to be stopped.

If the group needs the GM to be extra storyteller than referee, character deaths occur solely after they’re becoming for the story — after they’re thrilling, dramatic, satisfying, or intriguing.

You don’t should play each combat to the loss of life anyway. In fiction and in actuality, most individuals would give up or flee as a substitute of preventing to the loss of life. Or exterior circumstances might all of the sudden intervene earlier than the character dies, in the event that they make for an excellent story.

Good gamers can settle for that sure issues occur for the sake of an excellent story.

A storyteller GM might resolve that loss of life by the principles doesn’t should be literal, rapid loss of life (for NPCs or PCs).

Take the character out of motion for not less than the present scene, however use loss of life as just one choice amongst a number of.

For instance, as a substitute of dying:

  • The character faints or falls unconscious.
  • The character is pressured to give up or flee in a near-helpless state.
  • The character’s allies present up at that second to face guard or to take the character away as a result of “There’s a giant distinction between principally useless and all useless.”
  • The character lingers for days, weeks, or months in a bedridden state, simply barely capable of speak or transfer.
  • The character has a technique to make a sudden exit from the scene, even when it’s an unglamorous or cowardly exit. It might be a secret escape hatch, a getaway car, a secret hiding place, or a teleportation, for instance. A sudden exit will be good storytelling for a recurring villain, however possibly solely as soon as.
  • Except the PCs take steps to make completely certain the NPC is useless, they discover out later that by some means the NPC didn’t die in any case (or died and was introduced again).

Even when an NPC dies, an excellent storyteller runs with it as a substitute of resisting it.

Make the loss of life thrilling, dramatic, satisfying, or intriguing, even when the NPC was (till this second) a anonymous no person.

You most likely weren’t banking on the NPC’s loss of life, however now that it’s right here, use it as a storytelling alternative.


  • Now or later, there are penalties for this NPC’s loss of life. There are pragmatic penalties like killing the one smith on the town, however create story penalties too. There’s a ripple impact. Consider not less than one NPC, place, or factor that modifications or responds in attention-grabbing methods due to this loss of life, and in addition discover a technique to let the PCs learn about it. (It’s not a cool ripple impact till the gamers discover out about it.)
  • The NPC utters some dying phrases, presumably an essential piece of knowledge you’ve been desirous to share, or presumably a cryptic comment of unknown significance. It’s virtually a rule that the NPC will die earlier than answering any questions.
  • The NPC utters some dying phrases, however dies earlier than attending to the great half. “Chances are you’ll discover the item you search within the fortress of ….” [aaargh].
  • The NPC stuffs a MacGuffin right into a PC’s palms, begging for it to be protected or delivered — and sure dying earlier than offering full data.
    • Clues on the NPC’s physique reveal details about new or present puzzles.
  • The NPC seems to be essential in methods the PCs didn’t notice, after which they could have an “Oh no, what have we completed” response.
  • The NPC utters a loss of life curse or an ominous prophecy earlier than dying.
  • Proper earlier than dying, the NPC makes scary threats about dire penalties. The threats are empty, however the PCs don’t know that.
  • The NPC makes a startling deathbed confession, akin to having been a giant fan of the PCs, or being the reason for some previous drawback that they had. Perhaps the NPC says it was an honor dealing with the PCs as opponents. Perhaps the NPC expresses remorse for opposing the PCs. And with these phrases, the NPC dies.
  • The NPC’s dying motion is to “click on the detonator” (or spring the lure, mild the fireplace, or take another drastic motion), creating a brand new rapid problem for the PCs. There might be completely different motives for this. The NPC would somewhat die than have the PCs succeed. The NPC is making an attempt to get rid of proof. The NPC doesn’t need the place or possessions to fall into the fallacious palms. The NPC says, “If it’s my time to die, I’m taking you with me.”

In both the referee mannequin or the storyteller mannequin, it doesn’t should be a foul factor when the PCs kill an NPC.

Go Solo

From RPT GM Dean

Hey Johnn,

Have the NPC encountered when the characters are outdoors the get together setting: as people whether or not consuming meals on the inn, off gathering provides, and even simply the outdated ‘psst! hey buddy, over right here!’ from a aspect avenue.

Usually, gamers are extra keen to interact in dialogue and data gathering when on their very own, with out the remainder of the staff within the scenario with them.

The NPC is the Goal

From RPT GM David

Hello Johnn,

My NPCs that have to survive:

  • Have data the get together wants or is trying to discover out
  • Defending or recovering the NPC is the target (possibly you want them to achieve entry or lead the get together to the bottom)
  • Killing the NPC would draw to a lot consideration or depart proof behind
  • Generally the NPC has been assigned by one other NPC.

For instance:

The dialog with the again alley gem seller on the town was that in the event you discover the person on the hill he could assist….

However he’s laborious to seek out….

And you might want to be careful for him….

I feel he’s the one one which remembers all these outdated tales….

That approach the get together will get a lead and they’re sort of advised to not kill him.

Have a fantastic sport.

Swap to Milestone XP

From RPT GM C.

Hiya Johnn,

If the marketing campaign is a milestone kind sport, I feel it’s a lot simpler to have NPCs survive the gamers PCs.

I feel it’s because a milestone marketing campaign is extra story pushed.

You possibly can introduce an NPC and, because the contact unfolds, the gamers will put the NPC into certainly one of three buckets. Both they think about the NPC an ally, enemy or they’re impartial to them.

After the gamers have made this dedication they act accordingly.

If the marketing campaign is XP pushed, then it’s laborious for a NPC to outlive contact with the PCs as a result of an NPC is considered one other supply of XP.

I feel one of the simplest ways to deal with an XP sport is to be upfront at session zero. Telling the gamers that an NPC in your sport has essentially the most to supply, so far as XP, if the gamers throughout position play can accurately decide what kind of NPC they’re making contact with.

An NPC accurately decided to be an ally can present quests or rewards (typically cash, typically data, and typically objects or a technique to receive an merchandise that advantages the get together) that result in higher XP positive factors than merely treating a NPC as one other kind of monster.

I’ve all the time stated that if the gamers I’m taking part in with are extra about surviving and dungeon delving than storytelling then let’s play 4e.

Large Brother

From RPT GM Heiko

For some actually annoying NPCs I take advantage of the Large Brother methodology.

I’ve a recurring NPC, Mr. Smythons, who’s the assistant of a strong Mage Girl.

He mocks on the PC typically, however they didn’t dare assault him but, fearing the wrath of his mistress.

And he or she can be the one the place our PC Wizard will get his schooling/spells/lore.


From RPT GM Gwydion

Gamers in my campaigns know that homicide is punishable by loss of life.

And if not executed, they are going to be excommunicated. Ahead postings for no gross sales or contracts, and potential bounties to all populated locations past.

Lastly, all my essential NPCs are skilled in issues associated to their craft. The smithy is a excessive stage swordsman with uncanny knife throwing capabilities.

Additionally they have “a approach out” through lure door, alarm, hidden lure (explosive or in any other case), spell, and so on.

I had one character check me on this with an apothecary solely to have the complete get together die of poison and illness from objects inside the retailer. She was severe about theft. All the pieces was coated or tainted with solely her information on the cures.

She supplied “tea” after a sale that should be drank or no deal. Those that merely browsed had been effective until she cautioned you ‘to not contact that’ for some purpose…

They killed her after an argument and took no matter they wished, rapidly leaving city (additionally stole contemporary horses that later returned).

The TPK was NOT fairly….

Have a fantastic week!

You Can not Cover


One trick I came upon helps in conserving NPC alive is to current to the gamers throughout early quests and adventures how divination works in case of homicide.

Principally, the primary potential assignements for the get together is often somebody trying to discover who murdered or kindapped their liked one.

As a lawyer, I’ve all the time imagined how legal instances would seem like in excessive and low magic settings. It appears believable that even in low magic settings a seer or priest within the native temple may give some clue as as to who the assassin is or the place to seek out him.

The barrier to that will be cash, after all.

However loss of life of outstanding (or nicely linked nicely) NPCs ought to nearly all the time contain investigation by scrying or oracle, until there isn’t any one within the NPC’s destiny.

This often retains my liver-collecting homicide hobo at bay.

And if that fails, tingling sensations describing to the get together what it looks like being scryed, noticed, or their intestine telling them somebody is aware of their whereabouts ought to assist.

And if that fails additionally, an try and blackmail get together due to their wrong-doings is a pleasant start line to new journey.

I even maintain concepts of who would blackmail get together and why, and what would a letter or word with calls for seem like, as a technique to direct the get together to areas the place I’m extra ready.

Escort Quest

From RPT GM Valen

I’ve a trick I discovered from MMORPGs, like World of Warcraft. I make it very clear to the gamers that there are not any expertise rewards for randomly killing NPCs.

Nearly all of my XP is constructed round finishing quests and quest aims.

After explaining my background with MMORPGs, I additionally use the specter of an escort quest to remind them that the story is extra essential than XP from kills. (In most video games, escort quests are terrible.)

A part of the explanation I modified rewards is that I actually hate the grinding nature of XP for kills within the first place.

It was the sample with WOW previous to 1.7 that you just killed all the things within the zone as you walked by it killing creatures for the quests. MMORPGs pace up these rewards by doing the maths and “cube” rolls within the background in actual time, however it’s nonetheless a grind.

It’s approach worse within the tabletop setting. If it looks like a grind to me, it must be as terrible for the gamers.

(WOW switched to utilizing quests to satisfy leveling expertise with 1.7 to get rid of the necessity to grind.)

So, figuring out there may be little worth to killing somebody until the journey truly known as for it stops a variety of these calculations.

Use Flattery

From RPT GM Brett


An NPC who makes the get together be ok with themselves may have a significantly better probability of surviving.

Gamers will probably be much less prone to kill an NPC who thinks their characters are superior.

I had a bunch that killed each goblin they got here throughout till they bumped into one who regarded up at them with starry-eyed admiration. They stored him round as a mascot.

They’re additionally much less prone to kill somebody who thanks them and tells them how a lot they’re appreciated.

This tactic does imply the NPC will look favorably on the PCs, however it doesn’t imply they may robotically give the gamers all the things they ask for.

The captain of the guard could categorical his appreciation in direction of the gamers for killing the citizen-murdering manticore, calling them heroes and shaking their palms, however his responsibility as captain nonetheless comes first and he is not going to betray his oaths for the PCs.

This tactic relies on the gamers feeling some stage of empathy in direction of the NPCs and caring about taking part in to their character’s alignment.

Spotlight the Vital Bits

From RPT GM Mark of the Pixie

I’ve discovered one other hidden issue is what system you’re taking part in in.

D&D (in all its incarnations) has a HUGE fight focus. Your characters kill as a result of 80-90% of their character sheet and books are concerning the mechanics of killing. 1-2% of the mechanics are about speaking to NPCs.

The very system is telling them that preventing IS what the sport is about, so clearly they SHOULD combat and kill issues.

Gumshoe (simply as a random counter-example) has an investigation focus. You don’t actually get homicide hobos in that sport.

Strive utilizing a yellow highlighter to emphasise the social stats and expertise in your D&D sheet. By making it stand out, gamers are extra possible to make use of it.

Make It Price Extra

RPT Gold Patron Christopher

Hello Johnn,

I principally run character/story pushed campaigns, so I don’t have an issue with NPC slaughter.

Previously I’ve used an identical method to show them: give gamers the warning by establishing the worth of the NPC at first.

If the NPC is slain, make the results present within the problem getting the (data, help, connection, and so on.) that the slain NPC would have supplied tougher.

After all, have a backup plan in place.

For instance, if the NPC thief would have supplied instructions to the native crime lord for 10 GP, make the subsequent NPC tavern proprietor cost extra.

This often curtails the gamers from slaying NPCs on sight.

Make Them a Linchpin

From RPT GM MaLcoLm

Hello Johnn,

I had this picture of a bunch of individuals standing round discussing one thing, when all of the sudden somebody palms the cooper a crossbow. The archer has to retie his shoe, and says, “Are you able to maintain this for a second?”

Then the Homicide Hoboes are available, somebody clearly saying, “I throw a fireball on the man with the crossbow.”

Poor Tom Cooper of Smithtown.

And for the remainder of the marketing campaign it’s going to be:

“Oh, you might want to know <the key of the McGuffin>?

Effectively the individual you might want to speak with is Tom Cooper over in Smithtown.

“Oh you might want to get entry to <the place the PCs have to go>? Effectively the individual you might want to rent is Tom Cooper, over in Smithtown, nicest man on the planet, and is aware of his approach round <tough terrain>.”

In all places the staff goes, the one that might clear up their issues is somebody they murdered due to <random not nice causes.>

In all probability extra enjoyable for me than them.

Except I can rope the gamers into constructing the strains for me, then it might develop into a self-reinforcing “don’t be a homicide hobo” construction.

Set an Instance

From RPT GM Xavier

I present gamers the setting’s tone and lore.

Meaning making ready some scenes the place they get to BE half the marketing campaign’s social construction.

That makes the trick.

An instance: first journey, they’re of their city’s pageant. Their mother and father or tutors are with them and assist them by a collection of coming of age video games.

There you could have the city’s mayor, that nasty rival child whose father is your father’s greatest pal, and so on.

Are you an orphan? Nice, I’ll present you the individuals who raised you or your avenue associates who look as much as you.

One other related instance will be: you need to be mercenaries? Excellent. You have got a popularity since you are nicely skilled, so a service provider pays you to guard a caravan from the orcs and also you’ll get cash.

By the best way, right here’s your home within the metropolis the place you reside and prepare, and also you’ve bought purchasers who belief you and promote your wares. They get what they should make the wares from caravans, those you shield.

After all, there’s this dangerous mercenary firm who’s an enemy of yours. Duel these different mercenaries to loss of life in the event you dare, there are metropolis legal guidelines about that. Additionally, there’s orcs to combat with, a lot of them.

Third instance: you need to journey the world, no ties to anybody, nice.

Right here’s the map of the land.

There are three factions battling.

Very first thing you see is a full blown battle with NPCs far more highly effective than you. Somebody wins and also you’ve bought meals for 3 days. Now you possibly can resolve to try to steal from corpses, steal from their provide strains, promote your swords and spells to any of the factions.

In the event you go full homicide hobos you already know the warlords are gonna crush you. You’ve seen a battle, so if you wish to be bandits and rob and kill, higher be stealthy.

Nonetheless, a marketing campaign may name for a homicide hobo fashion. Like: let’s be merciless pirates or raiders from the wild when a powerful civilaization is falling.

So typically I don’t need to cease them.

That will get me to my closing level. I feel the actual resolution comes from speaking to the gamers earlier than the sport and making a sport/story everyone likes.

Then they don’t go murdering NPCs like there’s no tomorrow as a result of this isn’t the sort of factor they need to do.

Make It a Powerful World

From RPT Gold Patron ER

I’ve been taking part in this sport too lengthy.

There could also be a few of your viewers who keep in mind The Metropolis-State of the Invincible Overlord, and different such supplies.

Even the streetsweepers had been, like, fifth stage characters with some sort of class.

“However why?” the homicide hobos requested.

“Trigger events like yours have been by earlier than, and everyone else is useless. Any individual has to do that work, and these guys are all which might be left….”

Aside from the goblins, however the get together didn’t know that but. 🙂

Run a Gritty Setting

From RPT GM Mike G.

Hey, Johnn.

These had been good suggestions. 

Generally I additionally enable the PCs to see justice in motion. I do that early on, quickly after the PCs have come into a brand new space. I deal with it as a present occasion.

Brutal punishment was kind of widespread within the Center Ages, so I allow them to witness a typical scene, however I additionally prefer to convey to the PCs that the criminals being punished are as highly effective or extra highly effective than they’re.

If the PCs are third stage they usually see NPCs which might be not less than third stage being flogged or executed, it makes them notice that there are repercussions AND that the legislation right here is actually capable of deal with their form.

After all, it needn’t be the authorized authorities which might be doling out punishment. It might be a mob hit on NPCs which might be twice the extent of the PCs. It might be a mob of vigilantes that take issues into their very own palms as a result of the native officers are feeble. 

A extra attention-grabbing query turns into “How you can you convey the extent of NPCs to the gamers”?

That is essential, for a lot of gamers suppose they’re extra highly effective than most individuals on the town, so seeing punishment has no impact on them (“It wouldn’t occur to me”).

For warrior varieties, you possibly can enable PCs to see them in motion. The PCs may witness a battle, joust, grand melee (match), or raid.

In such instances, describe the NPC as a whole badass, hinting at sport mechanics with out truly mentioning them.

Maybe you point out how briskly he’s, delivering pictures seemingly twice as quick as his opponents.

Maybe he’s very sturdy and delivers crushing injury, splintering wood shields or rending enemy armor.

Maybe he is a good horseman, knocking others out of the saddle and shifting his horse effortlessly.

These are in-game methods of claiming “This man has multiple assault per spherical”, “This man offers a lot of injury”, and “This man can dop issues on a horse that you just can not but do”.

Take an identical method with different lessons. A thief could even decide the pocket of the highest-level thief within the get together, and the PC could not notice till a lot later, when he sees his merchandise across the neck of the NPC thief.

Bear in mind too an attention-grabbing maxim that I learn someplace: “What criminals worry excess of a policeman’s gun is his radio”.

I might collect eight associates, arm all of them with AR-15s, commit a nasty crime, and simply drive off the primary two policemen that arrived on the scene. It’s the 30 different SWAT officers with related or higher weapons that may kill us all.

That’s what offers not less than semi-intelligent criminals some pause.

Some sport mechanics are problematic right here.

I feel there must be vital bonuses when individuals gang up on others. No fighter ought to be capable to stand amidst a dozen enemies and swat them with impunity.

On one finish of the spectrum, expert warriors working collectively (a SWAT staff, for instance) can handily defeat lesser foes. So when the Lord Mayor of the city sends out his elite guards, the homicide hobo PCs ought to run!

On the opposite finish of the spectrum, even an untrained mob in motion (a la the French Revolution) is terrifying.

I tailored the swarm mechanics from D&D 3E and use it for people. Even highly effective PCs will probably be hurled to the bottom and crushed to loss of life by sheer numbers (their excessive stage is just not meaningless – it often permits them to flee in ways in which commoners can not).

One other associated query that offers with design:

How do gamers get it of their heads that they will get away with something?

There are a number of solutions (most should do with the DM permitting an excessive amount of), however one which I seen has been rooted within the video games themselves (not less than D&D, which influenced many others in flip).

In early AD&D, Gygax talked about in a number of locations that PCs are superior to most individuals. They’re a minimize above, whereas most commoners are 0-level individuals.

That naturally offers gamers the concept that their Sixth-level PCs can stroll all around the locals.

Associated to that is one other drawback. Early AD&D, although it included an excessive amount of unbelievable parts (magic, monsters, and so on.) tried for a semblance of realism.

Magic and monsters actually existed, however they weren’t on full show on each avenue nook. They weren’t taken from granted. They weren’t mundane.

These DMs that attempted to retain this ingredient (like me) had been at a severe drawback as a result of the PCs had been basically the one ones quickly progressing in energy.

I stored most NPCs at decrease ranges to maintain the flavour of the sport practical, because it was supposed. This solely inspired the homicide hobo drawback.

But, if I did what many DMs did over time, which was merely to jack up the ability stage of everybody, the flavour of a sensible world falls aside.

This leads to what’s now widespread (not less than in D&D), which is a world the place PCs start as rock stars (considerably equal to Batman) and finally develop into nearly tremendous human (considerably equal to Superman).

The way you deal with this relies strongly on what kind of sport you need.

For people who actually need to maintain the practical really feel to a world (even with its magic and monsters), you might want to decelerate PC leveling.

Certainly, when you could have a fantastic story going, leveling is just not a objective; it’s incidental.

In my world, Ninth-Eleventh stage is the highest tier, typically talking. These are essentially the most gifted individuals within the identified world. I alter all the things to that commonplace.

Thus, bishops in a strong church could also be seventh stage. Influential monks could also be 4th or fifth stage. Widespread monks, although they aren’t that widespread) could also be third stage. With warriors, knights of renown could also be Sixth stage and above. Common knights of the realm could also be fifth stage. Knights that had been elevated too early could also be third or 4th stage.

That’s my reply, however I think that most individuals love their excessive ranges and such. In that case, in a world of superheroes, it is sensible to have extraordinarily highly effective NPCs that may simply put the PCs of their locations.

Have a Clear Social Contract

From RPT GM Istrian

Hello Johnn,

The issue you’re describing sounds prefer it’s extra about setting participant expectations proper, somewhat than discovering methods for his or her homicidal tendencies to have penalties.

And let’s face it, if the loss of life of an NPC has seemingly-unrelated penalties, then the gamers will simply suppose the GM is taking it out on them for killing his favourite NPC.

I inform my gamers “this isn’t a murderhobo marketing campaign.”

It really works more often than not.

The few occasions it hasn’t labored, I merely requested “Why do you need to kill X?”

If there’s a powerful motivation that might later be used for character progress, then I enable it even when the tone of the marketing campaign shouldn’t.

If there isn’t, then I politely ask the participant to depart just because they’re within the fallacious marketing campaign and it’s not going to be enjoyable for them or me.

Or I inform my gamers, “It is a sandbox, do no matter you need and kill whoever you need, there will probably be penalties each good and dangerous each time.”

The nice and the dangerous don’t essentially come on the similar time, however it’s essential that each exist: gamers have an actual selection, they usually belief that I received’t be arbitrary with them.

Focus on these sport grasp suggestions on this thread on the official Roleplaying Suggestions neighborhood discussion board.


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