It's become a punchline by now: you carefully craft key NPCs to deliver exposition and provide drama, only to see your players ignore them and make eyes at the turnip farmer in the background.
You weren't ready. The turnip farmer was window dressing, a nameless NPC whom you now have to develop on the fly. How will you do it?
Many experienced GMs advise having a list of names handy behind the screen so you can mark one off when you need to use it. That's a start, but you have to prepare that list ahead of time (boo!) and you still need to pull species, gender and age out of your ass (double boo!) while you're deciding which name to take from the list.
Isn't there a better solution?
With the Deck of Many Names, you'll never again be unprepared for whichever random NPC your players decide to get more familiar with. Each of the 120 cards in this deck contains a name, as well as prompts for species, gender, and age. Just shuffle the deck before your first session, and even if you need to generate an NPC every week, you'll still be set for over two years!
The Deck of Many Names will be a deck of 120 cards. Since I'm a small publisher, it will be available via DriveThruRPG's print-on-demand (POD) service, rather than me printing a large stock to sell from inventory. Each card in the deck will contain the following information:
Name: Each card provides the NPC with a given name. No need to prepare a list ahead of time, make space for a full sheet of paper, or scratch names out as you use them. Just pull a card and you're done!
Gender: Cards include a field indicating the NPC's gender, so you don't have to worry about accidentally defaulting to your own gender or trying to remember the gender ratio of your previous NPCs while trying to flesh out a character on the fly.
Species: It's easy to accidentally default to humans when rendering an NPC on the fly (or to overcompensate and make everyone a rare species), so the Deck of Many Names has that taken care of as well! It covers all the classic fantasy ancestries, though sometimes under a more generic name (no lawsuits please).
Age: Each card includes a generalized age category of young, middle, or old. Why not a specific age? Because this way, you can interpret the age in the context of the situation. For example, "young" for a random passerby in the market might mean a child, while a "young" town guard could be a 19-year-old cadet. Whatever fits the scene!
Quirks/Description: The bottom of the card includes a small field of text to give you a roleplaying cue — such as a personality quirk or distinguishing feature — in case you need a little prompt beyond the basic character details. Use it, ignore it, or expand on it!
Regardless of how much money we raise, about a third of it will disappear into fees and taxes. Boo.
After that, about $500.00 covers what I've already invested in the graphics used on the cards, front and back, as displayed above. Then, I'll have to hire someone to take those graphics and turn them into a 240-page print file full of individual card images. I anticipate this costing about another $500.00, but that's just a rough estimate — it could be more.
If you're keeping score, you'll see that leaves only a couple hundred bucks to cover any unexpected expenses or to pay me for my own work. I'm cutting this close to the wire because I believe in the project and really want to see it work, rather than risk a failed campaign due to a higher funding goal.
On the off chance we go past the funding goal, it would be nice to actually get paid for a change, but if we get a big enough margin we can talk about potential stretch goals, like a second deck. I'd be happy to take suggestions from backers as well!
Risks and challenges
Naturally, this carries the risks you would expect: a contractor could flake out, I could be hit by a bus, and so forth. However, I've delivered in the past, and I fully intend to deliver again.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)