Players Do not Care About Your NPC

I don’t care what my players think about an NPC as long as there is some kind of emotion. Whether my group hates an NPC, laughs at or with them, is saddened by them, or gets irritated by them, there’s at least an emotional connection.

The worst case is an NPC gets met with apathy. No emotion. Like a cure light wounds roll when you’re just down one hit point.

So forming an emotional connection between players and NPC is important.

To that end, here are 10 common GM mistakes and reasons why your players don’t care about your NPC.

  1. NPC can’t be killed. The NPC who escapes harm every time isn’t worth caring about.
  2. NPC is just a skill personified. They are a one-trick goblin pony only regarded for their utility.
  3. NPC shows no vulnerability. Stress, loss, wounds, break-ups. Those without vulnerability are shunned.
  4. NPC gets more GM love than the PCs. Avoid having pet NPCs who drive the action and get the spotlight.
  5. No reaction. The NPC is scripted and doesn’t change or react to the PCs. Example, a cardboard NPC that’s always just a pompous paladin.
  6. Alien. The NPC is too hard to figure out. There’s no common values, relatable traits, or anything to bond with.
  7. Just a plot hook. You can’t see the golden exclamation mark floating over their head, but it’s there and the players know it.
  8. NPC doesn’t roleplay. As GM, you run them third person, meta. The players can’t interact with them in-game, in first person.
  9. NPC is a cartoon. Every barkeep is burly, quiet, and cleaning a mug. A quick skill check should knock a hook out of him and then the players can be on their way.
  10. One touch. The NPC is a throwaway character. He’s just filler and not even worth whacking for the XP.