A quote from my solo campaign that really got me thinking about how players perceive Npcs.
Does your players treat your precious Npcs like nothing but obstacles, exploits and cannon fodder, whether they are gelatinous cubes or humans?
And if so, what can we do to change it?
Seven things I've learned about NPCs
Players want their characters to be special, and a secret is one way to do it. It is also a way to better connect the character with the game world.
Treasure is both the bane and boon of gaming campaigns. The purpose of all this was to bring up some more obvious, but often overlooked, types of treasure. The focus too often is on gold, gems, and magic items when the fun could be enriched by recognizing some awkward, but just as valuable, alternate items. Don’t pass up that ornately carved throne gathering dust in the lair of ogres. Don’t pass up that odd colored flower that your character has never seen. Take it all with you. You never know what you might get for it.
As the PCs travel the road, right after a bend they hear a sharp whistle and call: "Heeey, not so lazy, move your asses!" It is a large man that calls, and there are unwilling workers that listen. A small company, 10-15 men work on the road, push boulders aside, dig up roots from under the road, etc. The large man that shouted turns to you, smiles fast and mutters something under his breath, sounds like cursing some lazy worker. "Where does the road bring you from, travellers?" And does a little small-talk.
And what is really happening? A group of bandits is 'adapting' the road for shady purposes. The road will not be wider, but tighter, with enough cover around (and a few traps perhaps), and will become an ideal spot for ambushing travellers or entire caravans. The bandit leader wants them all to appear harmless. The 'lazy worker' he cursed was actually a guard that should give warning before any travellers come around (fallen asleep). Not surprisingly, the boss may decide for an ambush even now.