100 Descriptors for nondescript NPCs

By definition, urban settings in fantasy role-playing games (RPGs) are filled with people. Generally, only a handful of the non-player characters (NPCs) in a given city are likely to be sought by the heroes, so the remaining inhabitants are reduced to “generic townsfolk” status. 

There is nothing inherently wrong with generic townsfolk living in an RPG setting. Having prominent NPCs quickly enter the story helps the players distinguish between NPCs who are clearly to be part of the story and the nameless NPCs who won’t. It also helps the players avoid wasting time and energy on an NPC that won’t be able to further the plot.

But it is important to remember that the background details make an RPG setting more believable to players, and having such details on hand – even if the players never ask for them – is part of being a well-prepared dungeon master (DM).

The following list of physical and behavioral descriptors was compiled so that a DM can provide better physical descriptions of generic folk with a handful of percentile rolls. Whether in response to a hero stopping passerby to ask questions or just to provide better background imagery when describing a street scene.

This list has been exported as an Adobe .pdf file, can can be downloaded by visiting the Free Downloads page or clicking here.

Roll percentile dice to determine that the NPC…

  1. Has missing or crooked teeth
  2. Walks with a limp
  3. Is unusually short
  4. Is unshaven
  5. Has a pet ferret
  6. Gestures often when talking
  7. Has unkempt hair or beard
  8. Has freckles or moles
  9. Is blind
  10. Has a pot belly
  11. Wheezes when breathing
  12. Wears an unusual hat
  13. Has a pet ferret
  14. Is deaf
  15. Has hairy knuckles
  16. Has a prominent, bulbous or hooked nose
  17. Has watery eyes
  18. Suffers from intestinal gas
  19. Has an unusual eye color
  20. Is exceptionally handsome or beautiful
  21. Carries a sachet of fragrant herbs
  22. Has breath heavy with the stench of garlic
  23. Has a bandaged wound
  24. Speaks very loudly
  25. Is missing one or more fingers
  26. Is gaunt or thin
  27. Smells of manure
  28. Talks to his or herself
  29. Wears well-made or finely-tailored clothing
  30. Carries a small pouch of sawdust for good luck
  31. Has ink stains on his or her hands
  32. Frequently interrupts others during conversation
  33. Smells of ale or malt
  34. Likes to eat or is eating carrots
  35. Is unusually tall
  36. Sings or hums to his or herself
  37. Tends to spit or drool while talking
  38. Just had a bath
  39. Has extremely bushy eyebrows
  40. Has large ears
  41. Wears a ring on every finger
  42. Wears muddy footwear
  43. Carries a small mirror, in which the NPC frequently checks his or her appearance
  44. Is balding or bald
  45. Frequently chews mint leaves to freshen breath
  46. Wears a necklace or brooch bearing a religious symbol 
  47. Is pigeon-toed
  48. Laughs easily and heartily
  49. Is playing a musical instrument
  50. Wears an old cloak, like those issued by the army
  51. Has fleas or lice
  52. Is overweight
  53. Is sweating profusely
  54. Has perfect teeth
  55. Wears simple or homespun clothing
  56. Is barefoot
  57. Wears perfume
  58. Has calloused hands
  59. Has bloodshot eyes
  60. Obviously bites his or her fingernails
  61. Has sores on his or her face or lips
  62. Talks with a lisp or slurred speech
  63. Has a severe cough
  64. Whistles constantly
  65. Wears mismatched clothing
  66. Walks with military bearing
  67. Has numerous, visible tattoos
  68. Has one or more gold teeth
  69. Wears hobnailed boots
  70. Smells like fish
  71. Has a fine pewter stein tied to his or her belt
  72. Is heavily muscled
  73. Wears threadbare clothing
  74. Carries a weapon of high quality
  75. Has a thin layer of soot covering clothes and exposed skin
  76. Has several skin piercings or nose rings
  77. Talks very quickly
  78. Laughs nervously between sentences when speaking
  79. Smokes a clay pipe
  80. Wears a backpack
  81. Has profuse nose hair
  82. Is sun tanned or sunburned
  83. Carries a pet snake
  84. Wears a dead rat around his or her neck to ward off evil spirits
  85. Talks to his or herself
  86. Doesn’t seem to blink (at least not often, anyway)
  87. Cracks knuckles often
  88. Sneezes frequently or suffers from allergies
  89. Has a high-pitched voice
  90. Has ornately braided hair or beard
  91. Grumbles to self
  92. Has very long fingernails
  93. Is bow-legged
  94. Has a habit of picking his or her teeth with a knife
  95. Is very affectionate, and punctuates most conversations with hand-shaking, back-slapping and hugs
  96. Has sausage fingers
  97. Likes to eat or is eating sardines
  98. Has hives or a skin rash
  99. Has full lips
  100. Has visible bruises

One comment on “100 Descriptors for nondescript NPCs

  1. […] 100 Descriptors for nondescript NPCs from The RPG Athenaeum (rpgathenaeum.wordpress.com) […]

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