Adapting Keep on the Shadowfell: The NPCs

Keep on the Shadowfell presents 10 different non-player characters to interact with in the town of Winterhaven, but not much more than a sentence or two of personality for each one (they tend to be defined more in terms of occupation than persona.) Rather than rattling off a list of people they could talk to upon arrival in town I slimmed the list of NPCs down considerably:

  • Lord Ernest Padraig –  The lord of Winterhaven (the players immediately took to calling him “Patty.”) He has information about the people of Winterhaven and begs for help with his bandit problem. Padraig has little to provide in the way of physical resources or information on how to solve the problems at hand. At first I played him with a pretty lousy scottish-esque accent but I couldn’t keep that up and dropped it altogether. He is always friendly and outgoing to the players, though at time concerned with their lack of progress. After the second conversation Padraig had with the players I started to see him as kind of a blustery politician: charming and outgoing, but providing no real solutions and somewhat helpless.
  • Salvana Wrafton – The proprietor of Wrafton’s, the only tavern in town. Her role is minimal beyond providing food and lodging, she also directs the players to other NPCs that hang around in her tavern.
  • Valthrun the Prescient – A scholar and sage, he will provide some critical information later in the story to help the player piece together what might be going on at the Keep on the Shadowfell. I envisioned him as kind of an absent minded academic: well versed in the history of the area, but completely unaware of current events. In conversations Valthrun is likely to trail off without finishing sentences and is usually too distracted to offer all the information players need without some additional coaxing from them.
  • Elian the Old – an old farmer and Valthrun’s drinking buddy. So far he has zero dialogue but I always mention that he’s hanging around the tavern. I guess he’s kind of Keep of the Shadowfell’s Morn.
  • Ninaran – I decided to introduce Ninaran the elven ranger later in the story, with the idea that she would only be able to get to Winterhaven after the roads were safer. Once there she wouldn’t be particularly friendly to the players but would be the prime source for information on the surrounding area that they would need to locate the Kobold’s base camp.

So in the end more than half of the townies named in the module make no appearance. Even with this cut down list my players would still mismatch names and roles and make other silly mistakes. Having a smaller cast or characters just seemed more practical for the player’s sake, but it also let me create more personality for each of the important NPCs.

I think that is the way to go. Whenever I run In Nomine, I end up trimming out 2-3 NPCs that I figure will just confuse everybody (and we still probably end up with more NPCs than we need). I do think it can be fun to just toss around the names of characters and locations with flashy titles just to provide decoration for a setting, but that can put me under the gun to actually come up with quests/content for those things if the players think they’re relevant. (I’m looking at you, Valorex, unimpregnable Tether of Technology … and you, Grady Denton, guy only introduced so you could meet the other guy who was possessing him, not so you could follow him to work and find out about his personal life…)

I have also made a list characters with brief description next to them to help the players stay organized, sadly most of the characters working for the bad guy now say “(Deceased.)” next to them.

I don’t know about the others, but for me it’s Paddy, with Ds not Ts. Would you prefer we called him Ernie? :)