Insta-NPCs #6: Shh... Artists at Work...

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Insta-NPCs #6: Shh... Artists at Work...

Have you ever created an amazing place for your campaign only to discover that you don't immediately have a collection of NPCs to fill it? Or have your PCs ever stumbled into a place you haven't had time to fully develop as a living, breathing part of the campaign?

Well, why not take out a handful of dice and roll up an instant NPC! Or in this case, an "Insta-NPC"!

The Insta-NPCs product line is designed to offer one or more tables to roll on to figure out a little something about the NPC you're pulling together.

When filling your game worlds with people, places, and things, how often do you think about the art on the walls or in the halls? How about the artists who created such pieces?

This is an area of worldbuilding that is often glossed over and completely missed as a source of opportunity. Imagine a sculpture commissioned by a noble family with a clue strategically placed in plain sight. Or a painting designed to cover an old map to the family treasure.

But sometimes a rose is just a rose and means nothing more than the fact that a gardener or landscape artist chose to add some beauty to an otherwise dreary corner of the world...

History is filled with stories of famous artists and the impact they have had on those around them. From the story of the Mona Lisa that becomes more clear as art historians discover additional clues revealed through technological advances to the art stolen by the Nazis during World War II that is still being found decades later. Why not use art in our own worlds to illuminate the past or shed light on futures yet to be revealed?

Insta-NPCs #6: Shh... Artists at Work... aims to help you come up with those details for your games through not one, but two detailed processes - one for creating individual (or group) artists, and one for creating actual pieces of art.

But how does it work exactly?

Let's say I collect the following details for an artist:

  • johnny_automatic_oxenIndividual or Group? Individual
  • Alive or Dead? Alive
  • Production? Occasional
  • Style? Story
  • Medium? Architecture
  • Dedication? Inspired
  • Tools? Words
  • Love? Tone
  • Subject? Pastoral

This one is a bit tricky, but I might come up with something like this:

Eder Rosz is not your traditional builder, but has a unique specialty. He focuses entirely on the building of barns for small farmers and ranchers on the plains. His construction methods are pretty standard, but he takes his inspiration from classic pastoral poetry from the Greeks. A barn built for a farmer using oxen in the fields may be inspired to be triangular like a plow based on Virgil's "First Georgic" - "The time has come for my groaning ox to drag / My heavy plow across the fields, so that / The plow blade shines as the furrow rubs against it..." The very words of the poet may then be featured on a plaque located within the construction as a bit of a calling card... Rosz has built nearly a dozen barns over the last decade, each still standing strong on the Great Plains.

Though this particular artist may not be world renowned, he has a piece of history in an area the PCs may be exploring. Such details (and his knowledge of Greek poetry) may in fact be an important

johnny_automatic_lion_with_swordOr perhaps I needed a piece of art to help inspire some history for a kingdom and come up with these details:

  • Subject? Individuals
  • Medium? Song
  • Style? Abstract
  • Tools? Emotion
  • Creator? A Bard from the Harpers (chosen, not rolled)
  • Creator state? Dead

The piece may be described as:

The "Battle of Magav Creek" was written by Yaxan Tinh, a fine poet and bard of the finest training, nearly a century ago. The song memorializes the battle fought by the great King Hadan on the edge of the Kingdom of Roon. An orcish leader had raised a small army in an attempt to take back land they thought rightfully theirs (though lost long ago through conquest). The Rooni army met the orcs on the field near Magav Creek in a campaign that lasted weeks. Finally in a desperate attempt to end the bloodshed, King Hadan led a charge across Magav Creek deep into orc territory demanding audience. He fought the orc leader Kayne in single combat, losing an arm and almost his life in the process but was victorious. The song is hardly sung these days, as Tinh and Hadan long ago left the mortal realms, but can still be heard sung by the older soldiers of the lands from time to time...

From just a few words, in context, a GM's muse can come up with some strange and wonderful things!

Like all Moebius Adventures supplements, Insta-NPCs #6: Shh... Artists at Work... is designed to be system- and genre-neutral. This 13 page PDF includes nine tables with examples, three worksheets, some examples, and four unique NPCs (with portraits) you can use right away.

This is the next in a series of short, system-neutral supplements from Moebius Adventures designed to encourage more creative descriptions in your games. Be sure to check out everything else that's available to stimulate your imagination!

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