NPCs can be so dry and bland when they come up and you aren't prepared for them. Other NPCs often times only have the stats rolled up and their personalities are neglected. That is where a list of simple characteristics can come in handy and you can stereotype the NPC and at least give them some kind of quirk that defines them a little better. Nobody may remember the innkeeper at that one city, but they may very well remember the innkeeper that picked his nose right before he gave the players their change. Just some little things to define the NPCs and make them more real. Some can be used by players as well to spice up their character a little.
- Keeps unsuccessfully trying to make jokes about dead animals.
- Curses often and apologizes each time.
- Comes close and puts their hands on those they talk to.
- Flips a coin and checks how it lands before answering questions.
- Answers every question with another question, thinking they're clever.
- Loses track of the conversation as if bored.
- Doesn't understand anything explained to them.
- Puts out his hand for some coin if any question is asked.
- Uses odd expletives, such as 'Spoon!'
- Agrees with anything the players say.
- Has conversations with themself.
- Makes odd random noises.
- Has a catch phrase that makes no sense, like 'Ice cream can!' or 'Oranges don't dance.'
- Talks in a whisper.
- Makes a nickname for everyone and most objects as well. Calls spoons 'soup shovels', calls knives 'sharpie-sharps', gold 'pretty pennies', etc
- Calls everyone Skipper. Chappy. Cap'n. Lala.
- Sings the sentences.
- Talks like a pirate. Arrrgh.
- Giggles when he/she hears random words, saying 'That's dirty!'
- Cannot correctly pronounce a party member's name, no matter how many times it's explained to them.
- Can't stand being asked the same question three times.
- Talks with a dead relative or friend.
- Startlingly begins to shout in MIDDLE OF THE SENTENCE
- Mutters or mouths words to him/herself after he/she is done speaking.
- Pops pimples and zits in the midst of conversation.
- Asks you to become a 'dummy', for some unpleasant activity, like self-defense training.
- Speaks with brevity, all sentences are as short as possible.
- He/she trails of in the middle of an important sentence and wanders away. If pursued, he/she will turn around and start again where he left off.
- Compares everything to the days of youth, when everything was so much better...
- Before actually talking to someone carefully scans their footprints.
- Yells 'IA Cthulhu' at random intervals.
- Must always have the last word.
- Offers a nice sum in gold if they do not talk to him.
- Suggests that the PC smells and needs a bath in subtle or unsubtle terms.
- Finishes sentences with 'so...' (e.g. 'I've been to the King and he said yes, so...').
- Spells out words before he/she S-A-Y-S says them.
- Is constantly spewing useless and/or gross facts.
- Makes throaty growling noises.
- Speaks in riddles or couplets.
- Refers to others as boy or lass until they prove themselves.
- Tendency to stop half-way through a sentence, pause, then go back and correct themself.
- Repeats key words spoken to him and nods as if in agreement.
- Mutters to self when frustrated with others.
- Constantly hums or sings off key.
- Tends to ask stupid questions.
- Picks fingernails with a dagger.
- Picks nose and/or pulls out a nose hair.
- Constantly pulls on their ear.
- Kisses a token on a necklace often for luck.
- Constantly chewing on something.
- Constantly shuffling cards or rolling dice.
- Twirls a coin between their fingers.
- Bows as they speaks in a subservient manner.
- Trips often when they walk.
- Frequently bumps or walks into things right in front of them.
- Cracks their knuckles.
- Has a nervous twitch.
- Constantly looking over their shoulder as if they expect somebody.
- Shuffles their feet.
- Always has one hand in their pocket.
- Has a hand stuffed into their shirt, ala Napoleon.
- Dances for any reason whatsoever.
- Ears wiggle uncontrollably when lying.
- Scratches and claws at his/her scalp in a distracting manner.
- Spits out unidentifiable bits of mush during lulls in conversation.
- Dodges questions - physically.
- Sneezes without covering their mouth.
- Occasionally makes rapid moves or something a bit unexpected, only to say: 'Now that was a surprise, huh?'
- Never smiles.
- Spits often as a curse.
- Constantly picks a scab causing it to bleed.
- Keeps checks their pocket for something as if to make sure it is still there.
- Moves as if sneaking about even in daylight or with people around.
- During pauses in the conversation, he/she gazes longingly in the direction of a man/woman across the room.
- Relieves himself wherever it is convenient for him. (nearest wall, darkest corner, behind a fruit stand)
- Tends to stare at attractive members of the opposite sex.
- Licks walls. (not as uncommon as it may sound)
- Absent-mindedly waggles leg/hand at a speed which varies with how excited they are
- Goes crosseyed when excited.
- If still for some time they then stretch, their bones cracking loudly.
- Has one lazy eye which slowly rolls to the side during conversation.
- Has horrible garlic breath.
- Has two differently colored eyes.
- Fingernails are dark green with a fungus.
- Their eyebrow hairs closest to their nose are exceptionally long, like antenna.
- Has a skin condition which leaves a wine colored stain on their face.
- Frequently farts.
- Horrible scarred/burned face and hands.
- Walks with a limp and a cane.
- Missing all front upper teeth.
- Missing one or more limbs, or other body feature (ear, nose, leg).
- Has six fingers on their right hand
- Has a tattoo on their forehead. They may or may not be aware of it.
- Has teeth filed to points.
- Has a club limb.
- Has an extensive tattoo that seems out of place on their person. (A fat pink bunny on a bouncer, or a city official with a winged skull on their hand's webbing)
- Has one (green, purple, red, orange) finger.
- Has lost an eye and replaced it with a gem.
- Has a bone pierced through their nose.
- Has perfect, shining white teeth.
- The joints of one limb occasionally freeze and can only be used again after they're beaten.
- Has a ludicrously long or oddly shaped nose.
- Has a strange allergic reaction. (hives from copper, or alcohol gives them a rash)
- Can have their appearance summarized best as resembling sort of animal. (a turtle, a monkey, a mouse)
- Has pierced eyebrows.
- Their eyes water constantly, making them look miserable and sad.
- Constantly sniffles and/or suffers from a runny nose.
- Squints often.
- Has poor hygiene but does not notice.
- Looks sleepy, yawns... (watch out, contagious)
- Very heavy/noisy breather.
- Looks malnourished.
- Has an unevenly grown beard that he constantly scratches.
- Has an intricate tribal tattoo over their back they are secretive about.
- Wears a large hat that they constantly take off and putting back on.
- Wears a shirt that is too small, buttons are bulging and their belly is hanging out.
- Wears an unusual medical device, like some headgear attached to their nose instead of braces on their teeth, or a glove with fingertips a foot long.
- Doesn't wear shoes. (applies to races that do anyway, wears shoes for races that don't)
- Socks keep falling down so has to keep pulling them up.
- Has no belt and constantly pulling up their pants.
- Has an obsession with making their own clothes but has not developed the talent. As a result their clothes are tatty.
- Always wears a scarf wrapped tightly around his neck, even indoors.
- Wears a shackle on a wrist or ankle.
- Is not a fan of clothes, and simply does not wear any.
- Pretends nothing can harm them.
- Believes themselves to be an illegitimate child of someone important.
- Believes they are cursed in some way.
- Considers themself extremely smart, and tries to show it.
- Impulsively counts things. (number of bricks in a wall, number of words in a sentence)
- Treats any and all creatures or objects as sapient, whether they are or not.
- Is obsessive compulsive.
- Obsessed with diets and weight loss.
- Believes they are a miniature giant.
- Is extremely egotistical.
- Feels the need for a true love.
- Believes it is unacceptable for a person of this position to get drunk, but would like to so much...
- An artistic soul, seeks beauty in the ugly things (and people). Like you.
- Thinks they're a legandary hero suffering from a geas (may or may not be true.)
- Very inquisitive about everything. Wants every detail.
- Is a compulsive liar
- Always knows better.
- Wishes he was a royal and is jealous of those that are.
- After stressfull situations needs to be alone for a while
- Annoying, melancholy, and negative, suffers from severe depression.
Fears, Phobias, Aversions
- Aversion to heat.
- Aversion to light.
- Aversion to certain animals (eg. insects, magpies, frogs)
- Freaks out over some small, common item or detail
- Has an irrational fear of the number 14
- Is afraid of dust.
- Avoids any kind of personal contact, is terribly afraid of poisoning or getting dirty or catching some disease.
- Is insanely paranoid.
- Chokes on anything they drink.
- Has an exotic drink with something alive in it. Like a fish or small octopus, maybe a frog or snake.
- Puts a small umbrella in everthing edible. Drinks, sandwiches, soup, fruit, crackers, cheese, anything.
- Sucks eggs.
- Eats peanuts in the shell and the shell too.
- Extremely picky with food
- Carves small vegetables with remarkable skill into people, animals, and things, then smashes and eats them.
- Pops nuts or small fruits off their bicep to catch them in their mouth.
- Always manages to be eating some type of pie.
- Enjoys eating raw onions.
- Drinks only water.
- Offers to buy any material on the players. Belt, pouch, weapon, offers money for everything.
- Wants to be bribed by an addition to their unusual collection, like odd hats or the big toes of unusual creatures.
- Has inside of coat full of trinkets and small jewelry for sale.
- Keeps slaves on a chain behind them
- Tends to put or keep things up their nose.
- Has a spoon they keep in their mouth and treats like a pipe.
- Has a small corner of a printed circut board for an earring; swears it's some kind of shale and an old family heirloom.
- Has a cloak kept closed with a strip of wool and split burr shells.
- Has found something valuable, and asks if you lost it, but will start to raise doubts should you agree.
- Has some black market goods for sale.
- Very interested in an item on the PC, looking to get one of their own.
- Has a wooden staff that he is constantly rubbing or using to lean on.
- Has magic beans given to him by his mother.
- Acts insane around people he doens't like.
- Acts insane around strangers.
- Acts like a drooling idiot for unknown reasons.
- Has an eye for one of the players and leads all conversation towards that.
- Knows everybody of 'inconsequence' and is constantly interrupted by saying hi to people.
- Is a secret follower of some god/cult/organisation, that is not in the the least way secret
- Is very interested in a previous NPC that he PC has met. Possibly because they owe him money.
- Does not like physical contact with others
- Instantly hates a person for no good reason and knows it.
- Irritatingly modest, even about things that he/she had nothing to do with.
- Becomes noticeably angry for no reason (Could be used as a red herring in mystery-solving adventures)
- Knows some nice ladies that would love to meet you...
- Asks about contacts or people to see in different cities.
- Is constantly running schemes past people
- Punchs/kicks people for small mistakes
- Asks random people if they are willing to be a sacrifice for an obscure deity
- Promises revenge for all evil done to him by others
- Loves animals more than people.
Hopes, Plans, and Dreams
- Plans to write a book about the inevitable fall of this civilisation.
- Wants a pet ooze/slime
- Wishes to purchase some farm land and retire.
- Incessantly fantasizes about marriage and married life. Possibly with some severe misconceptions.
- Expert rat catcher, even in the middle of conversations will jump or chase a rat if he sees it.
- Can predict the weather with perfect accuracy.
- Has a talent for finding wild potatoes and can cook them like nothing you have ever tasted.
- Sharp-eyed, seems to notice everything that happens around
- Claims to be able to Detect Lies.
- Has a supernatural talent, but tries to hide it and get rid of it
- Is/was a master of some bizzare local sport
- Looking to learn a talent that the PC has. Willing to pay for it.
- Loves to invent and tell spooky stories, anytime.
- Merchant minded and always looking for a new angle.
- Constantly makes reference to things which seem random at the time but which later turn out that he could never have known because they hadn't happened yet (e.g. is humming the main theme from an opera the day before its premiere, talks about King John when the current reigning monarch is King Fred who later that day abdicates in favour of his younger brother, John)
- Has mystical ability of communicating with drunks, meaningfully
- Has a cat that always follows and comes when he calls.
- Has a hairless pet that they dress up and fawn over.
- Is oblivious to the fact they're indecently exposed.
- IS an illegitimate child of someone important (maybe even a king or god)
- Collects hair from everybody he meets. Has braids tied all over himself from hair he has 'borrowed.'
- Writes everything down into a little notebook.
- Has just paid the taxes or a loan, and complains everywhere on the terrible rates, that this is practically thievery, etc.
- An up-and-coming activist, wants to change some obscure and little used law for even more obscure reasons. And you could help!
- Is an escaped prisoner, in stolen clothes, and looks for a place to hide.
- Did not want this life, but got no chance, and will complain about it
- Carries a wand. Doesn't do anything with it, but he is always fidgeting with it. When asked about it he will grunt out incoherencies and change the subject.
- Is wearing a costume of some ancient hero, and tries to play him/her to the smallest detail.
- Immersed into a new fascinating philosophy involving meditating in trance, tea rituals, etc.
- Orienteering-disabled, has a hard time to navigate own village or town, cannot show way to any place.
- Is legitimately paranoid, because some one or thing is really after them.
- Always seen sitting in the same place. He is never seen anywhere else
- Is only short but somehow dominates the room. Maybe it's the piercing eyes
- Does everything with a flourish.
- Non-stop fresh and full of energy
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? Responses (20)-20
Update: Half of the entries seemed to disappear once I hit submit.
Pure gold, folks!
Great to have in a single list. Now I just need a 1d247
1d1000, reroll over 247 ?)
Or use the chat roller?
I've seen many lists like this one before, but that doesn't mean that they are not necessary. The only suggestion I can offer is to take the same characteristics again and reorganize them in a different section of the sub. Perhaps group them into categories like physical vs mannerisms, or gross vs irrititating vs charming vs disturbing etc. That way it would be easier to use such a large list if you're looking for something specific, rather than relying on a dice roll for a random characteristic. Not that the dice roll method is bad -- it just doesn't help me find something that fits an NPC concept I already have.
You wished it, and so it was done.
Damn useful list, I agree with Dossta's idea about sub lists. But you have already done the hard part for us typing all of these out. Thanks
Update: Moved things into categories as was requested. Remember, this is a wiki so everyone should be able to edit it.
The headings are nice, so game systems publish whole books of character generation tables (Traveller...I am looking at you). These tables must fill some innate need gamers have to let dice rolls describe the universe.
Well done, I could see this expanded by quite a bit. I would have a hard time taking most of these NPCs seriously (nose picker, pimple squeezer, indecent exposure, drooling idiot, egg sucker, etc.) and a few I would be almost afraid of (notebook guy, pet ooze, dummy recruiter, licks walls, etc.). I find this list both fascinates me and disturbs me about the locals in your fantasy world.
Another excellent list that needs to be in every GM's binder!
Wow. Very full list! The sublists make it easier to find types of traits, and definitely create some interesting characters when mixed randomly.
Good stuff! Begs to be inserted into a generator!
Well this is a goody. The history link has some odd numbers. Apparently it was updated 45 years ago... :P
Very good. 5/5
Stealing liberally from this here