Non-Playable Characters – 15 Tips for How To Make Memorable NPCs

Shop Keeper


Non-player characters, or NPCs, are an integral part of any Dungeons and Dragons campaign. They can be anything from shopkeepers and quest givers to powerful villains and allies. While it’s easy to create NPCs as simple plot devices or background characters, taking the time to fully flesh out and develop these characters can greatly enhance the immersion and enjoyment of your game. Here are some tips for creating memorable and believable NPCs in D&D.

  1. Give them a unique personality and appearance.

    One of the most important things to consider when creating an NPC is their personality and how they present themselves. Are they friendly and outgoing, or are they more reserved and secretive? Do they have any quirks or mannerisms that set them apart? Physical appearance is also important, as it can give players a visual representation of the character and help them better understand their personality. This could be as simple as giving them a quirky hat or a memorable catchphrase. You could also give them a distinct accent or even a physical characteristic like a scar or tattoo!
  2. Make them believable.

    Even if your NPC is a fantastical creature or inhabitant of a magical world, it’s important to consider how they would behave and interact with others in a believable way. This can help the NPC feel more like a real person and less like a one-dimensional plot device.
  3. Give them a role and purpose. 

    Every NPC should have a clear role and purpose in the story. Whether they’re a major player or a minor background character, having a specific function helps give the NPC a sense of depth and motivation.
  4. Give them a backstory. 

    A well-developed backstory can add depth and complexity to an NPC, making them feel more realistic and believable. Consider their family and relationships, their goals and motivations, and any major events that have shaped their life. This can also give you, as the Dungeon Master, more material to draw on when roleplaying the NPC.
  5. Make them dynamic. 

    While it’s important for NPCs to have a consistent personality, they should also be able to change and grow over time. Maybe they start out as a minor antagonist, but through the course of the campaign they become an ally. Or perhaps they are initially helpful, but a series of events causes them to become more mistrusting and bitter. Dynamic NPCs can help keep the story interesting and unpredictable for players. Did your players steal from the shop keep? Maybe that comes back to bite them later, when it sends that NPC into a life of crime to make ends meet. Did they pay a little extra to tip the hotel steward? Maybe that little bit of gold made just enough difference in their lives to break them out of the only career that was made available to them and can somehow reward your players in the future!
  6. Use body language and dialogue to bring them to life. 

    When roleplaying an NPC, pay attention to how you use your body language and voice. These elements can help convey the NPC’s personality and help players better understand them. It’s also important to consider the NPC’s dialogue and how they speak – are they formal and polite, or are they more casual and blunt?
  7. Make them unique. 

    While it’s important for NPCs to feel believable, it’s also important to make them stand out and be memorable. This could be through their appearance, personality, or role in the story.
  8. Make them relatable. 

    Even if your NPC is from a different culture or has a very different background than your players, try to find ways to make them relatable. This could be through shared experiences, shared values, or simply a shared sense of humor.
  9. Give them a clear motivation. 

    Every character, whether player or NPC, should have a clear motivation for their actions. What drives your NPC? Do they have a personal goal they are striving towards? Are they working towards the greater good, or do they have a more selfish motivation? Giving your NPC a clear motivation will help make them feel like a fully fleshed-out character rather than just a plot device.
  10. Use their appearance and personality to reflect their role in the world. 

    If your NPC is a noble, you might give them a regal appearance and a haughty demeanor. If they are a commoner, they might be more rough around the edges and down-to-earth. Use these visual and behavioral cues to help your players understand the NPC’s place in the world and how they might interact with them.
  11. Give them flaws and weaknesses. 

    No character is perfect, and this is especially true for NPCs. Giving your NPC flaws and weaknesses not only makes them more relatable, but it also gives your players an opportunity to bond with them and potentially help them overcome their flaws.
  12. Make them memorable through their actions. 

    An NPC doesn’t have to be the star of the show to be memorable. Sometimes, it’s the little things they do that stick with your players. Maybe they have a unique way of solving problems, or they always have a kind word to offer in difficult situations. These small actions can help make your NPC stand out in the minds of your players.
  13. Use them to add depth to your world. 

    Your NPCs can be more than just quest givers or shopkeepers. They can also be a way to add depth and flavor to your world. For example, you might have an NPC who is an expert on the local flora and fauna, or another who is a historian with a wealth of knowledge about the region’s past. These NPCs can provide your players with valuable information and help make your world feel more alive.
  14. Vary their level of importance. 

    Not every NPC needs to be a central figure in your game. Some NPCs might only appear briefly and serve a very specific purpose, while others might be recurring characters with a more central role. Varying the level of importance of your NPCs helps keep things interesting and helps prevent your players from feeling like they are constantly interacting with the same group of characters.
  15. Don’t be afraid to improvise. 

    While it’s important to have a clear idea of who your NPC is and what they are all about, don’t be afraid to let the NPC’s personality and behavior evolve as you interact with them during the game. This can add a sense of realism and unpredictability to your NPC and make them feel more like a living, breathing character. You can even ask your players for input on how they would like the NPC to behave or what actions they think the NPC might take. This can help make your NPCs feel more like a collaborative effort between you and your players.

In conclusion, creating memorable non-player characters in D&D is an important task for any Dungeon Master. By giving your NPCs distinct appearances and personalities, making them relatable, giving them clear motivations, and using them to add depth to your world, you can bring your campaign to life and create memorable experiences for your players. Don’t be afraid to improvise and let your NPC’s personality and behavior evolve as you play, and remember to have fun!


Return to Blog