Hello, intrepid Dungeon Masters, it is time to get creative and discuss how to build an NPC for D&D 5e! I am your trusty guide today, here to sprinkle a dash of spice and a sprinkle of salt into the soup of your D&D campaign. Let’s jump straight into the whimsical (and somewhat wonky) world of fleshing out Non-Player Characters (NPCs). You know, those characters who are usually as engaging as a rock gnome’s pet rock. Today we’re going to change that. Using D&D source books like The Player’s Handbook, Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, Xanthar’s Guide to Everything and MANY MORE as inspiration we outline some sure fire ways to bring your NPC to life!
Step 1: Every NPC has a Name (and It’s Not Always Bob)
An NPC’s name is like a magical incantation. A well-chosen name can conjure images, hint at the backstory, and even give clues about the NPC’s personality. The moniker “Thorngrim the Fearless” promises a whole lot more intrigue than “Bob the Bartender.” Sorry, Bob, we love your ale, but we need to up your game! Unless Bob is secretly an Archmage… Now, that’s a plot twist! A great tip is to keep a spreadsheet or scratch paper with names you can pull from the Heavens on a whim. There will NO DOUBT be a player that asks for the most innocuous NPC’s name so be prepared!
Step 2: Throw in the Kitchen Sink (of Traits)
Why should the adventurers have all the fun? NPCs deserve characteristics too! Roll a D20 and assign each number a unique trait. 1 might be “uncontrollable sneezing when nervous,” 20 could be “secretly loves romantic ballads.” Let’s make it interesting, folks! When adventurers encounter your NPC, roll to determine what fun quirk they’ll display. Remember, the more unpredictable and dynamic, the better. You want your players raising their eyebrows, not falling asleep in their dice trays. Here is an additional tip. For those NPC’s that you want to REALLY make shine – give them a famous actor as their voice/swagger template. Bust out your best Fast and the Furious Dom Toretto impression the next time your party stops by the tavern. Because it’s unique and because D&D means Family!
Step 3: Give Them Some Baggage (Not Just Literal Ones)
Everyone has secrets, fears, dreams, and a favorite flavor of potion. Make sure your NPCs have these too! Your NPCs should be more than quest vending machines. Is the blacksmith hiding a magic sword he’s afraid to use? Does the royal guard have a crush on the court mage? Little details like these can bring your NPCs to life, and they also create opportunities for side quests and plot development. Who knew getting a love potion for a smitten guard could be so entertaining?
Step 4: A Little Loquaciousness Goes a Long Way
How your NPC communicates can say a lot about them. Does the grizzled warrior speak in short, gruff sentences, or does the elf in the corner pepper her speech with poetic metaphors? Speech patterns, accents, and favorite phrases can make your NPCs memorable and add a ton of flavor to your campaign. Just remember, if you give an NPC a thick dwarvish accent, you’d better be ready to commit!
Step 5: Actions Speak Louder than Stats
How an NPC acts can reveal more about their personality than what they say. The barmaid who’s always polishing the same mug, the beggar who doffs his cap with surprising elegance, the quiet librarian who practices knife-throwing when she thinks no one’s watching—these actions can tell your players a lot about who these characters really are, making interactions more immersive and fun.
Step 6: Motivations Make the World Go Round
Don’t forget that every NPC has motivations, just like real people. From the dragon aspiring to be the next top chef to the humble goblin who just wants a pet unicorn—every NPC should want something. It might not always be something the adventurers can help with, but it sure makes your world feel real and alive.
How To build an NPC for 5e
And there you have it! With these six steps, your NPCs will be as lively and colorful as a bard’s wardrobe. Just remember, the most important rule is to have fun with it. After all, Dungeons & Dragons is a game, and what’s a game without a little silliness, surprise, and a smattering of unexpected romantic ballads? So go forth, fearless Dungeon Masters, and may your NPCs be as unforgettable as your wildest adventures!
What tips and tricks do YOU have for creating an unforgettable Dungeons & Dragons 5e NPC? Any How To words of wisdom that YOU would like to share? Let us know in the comments below!
And while you’re here we would be honored if you checked out MORE articles from the Nerd Night News archives – LIKE THIS ONE! The Best D&D 5e Deities for New Players.