This post originally appeared on the now-defunct Arcane Game Lore blog.
Now that my co-bloggers here at Arcane Game Lore have chimed in as well, I figured I’d better put up my entry for the month’s RPG Blog Carnival and post one of my all time favorite NPCs. I had intended to do this post a week or so ago near the middle of the month but life got a little crazy and I kept putting it off. This is a bit of a long post. I like to tell stories and it’s these stories that make my NPC memorable for the role the NPC played in them.
As I’ve thought about the topic and considered NPC’s from games I’ve played in and ones I’ve run, there is one particular NPC that always comes to mind. I had considered an NPC from some Star Frontiers games I’ve run, but since that was really one of my old player characters turned NPC, I didn’t feel that really qualified in the spirit of the blog carnival topic I proposed. And so my entry comes from the same world (and I believe the same campaign, it was 20+ years ago after all) as the highwayman I presented in the Blog Carnival announcement post.
The Military Aide
This NPC was my character’s aide de camp. She was the niece of Dalin Dafka, the Minster of Defense, who assigned her as my aide. I’m sure Dafka’s rationale was that it was partly subtle harassment of my character (he was a “friendly antagonist” to our party after all) and partly a way to spy on our group. You see this young lady was over-eager, over-zealous, and always did the “right” thing (in her eyes) and followed the rules and reminded you of what they were all the time.
As with the Highwayman, I have no recollection of this NPC’s name. I have my old character sheet and looking over it I have all kinds of bits of trivia noted in the margin but the name of my aide doesn’t seem to be there. The only name that I can find written down that I don’t recognize is Asimath. That could be her name but I don’t think so, it doesn’t sound right. And so I’ll just refer to her as we did in the game, as my aide.
You might be wondering why the Minster of Defense would be assigning my character an aide. It’s a long story but the short version was that by this point in the campaign our group were adventuring as the Queen’s Guards. One of the girls in the group had managed to get her character married to the young king, as his second wife. She didn’t give up adventuring and so the rest of us all became, eventually, part of the royal guards. My character was one of the main holdouts (being lesser nobility from a distant, rival country) until he was given the choice between joining the Queen’s Guards or a heavy crossbow bolt through the back of the head. It was shortly after I finally “joined up” that I was assigned my aide.
My aide’s personality was such that she tended to rub her commanders the wrong way and drive them batty. I know she did so to me a number of times. It probably also didn’t help that her uncle was the Minister of Defense. Digging a little into her back story we learned that she had bounced around from assignment to assignment, in each case with the officer she was assigned to requesting her transfer because they couldn’t stand her. And she was a little obnoxious. At least at first.
You see, I did something that none of her other commanders had done. I was nice to her. I’m sure that the other officers she had been assigned to looked at her connection to the Minister of Defense and saw her as a spy and there to evaluate them. So they saw her as somewhat of a threat and treated her as such. I knew she was a spy for her uncle, not necessary under orders, but just as a matter of course in reports she would file. But unlike the other officers in the military, I couldn’t care less what her uncle thought. So I didn’t see her as a threat and didn’t treat her as one. I saw her more as a resource to help the group out and provide information. I didn’t go out of my way to be nice to her. I just simply treated her decently as befitting her position. But that was apparently considerably better than any previous treatment she had had. And because of that, she became intensely loyal to my character.
So why was this NPC so memorable. It was because of some of the completely crazy things that happened as she went about in her “doing the right thing” mindset. Two stories:
Near-complete Destruction of a Neighboring Country’s Air Force
Okay, so it wasn’t the country’s entire air force but it was the main force in the western region of the country. In this campaign/setting there existed “flyers”. These were magically enhanced boats that could float up to tens of meters above the ground. They were primarily used as floating archery/artillery platforms in support of ground troops and for reconnaissance. Flyers were typically crewed by women as they tended to be smaller and lighter and it took more magic to sustain flight with heavier loads.
Flyers came in a variety of sizes from little 2-man (or more accurately 2-woman) scouting ships to the more typical 20- to 50- man sizes and there were even a few 100-man versions. They sported arbalests or ballista in the prow and stern and also along the sides in the larger models and then the sides of the ships consisted of wicker breastworks with arrow slits to provide protection to the archers as they fired on troops below.
Our group had a 50-man flyer to transport the 20 or so characters in the group (we had a lot of gear and the PCs were physically larger than the average flyer crewwoman so we needed a bigger boat). We had found the flyer in an old abandoned ruin that we had been exploring and were bringing it back to our home base. Unfortunately, we had to cross a neighboring (friendly) country on the way home.
A storm came up and, since these boats are fairly fragile and don’t handle well in high winds (think about sitting in a hot air balloon in a major windstorm), we had to set down. Being we were in a friendly country, we put in at the main town just twenty miles east of the border into our home country to wait out the storm. Unfortunately, our flyer stirred up some interest and inspection by the town’s military wizards (all part of a routine inspection of course ) showed that this flyer had some magical enhancements that made it more efficient. And so they wanted to impound it for further study.
We weren’t having any of that, and so made our plans to escape and make a run for it. We only had to cover 20 miles and had plenty of magic points to fuel the ship and figured we could make it. There might be a bit of fighting at first but, with the magic we had to spare and the wizards with fire spells we had as part of the crew, we figured we could pull away and get clear. We also had the foresight to call ahead home via communication spell and let them know we were coming and so the eastern flyer forces of our home country would be waiting for us by the border (This was one of the few times it was to our advantage to be the Queen’s Guards).
During all our preparations to make good our escape, my aide vanished. I had no clue where she went. I was going to give her an assignment and was informed by the GM that she was gone. There was nothing I could do but we weren’t going to wait for her. We were just boarding our flyer in the predawn darkness, having knocked the guards out with sleep spells, when she showed back up. She was a little disheveled (unusual for her) and a little out of breath. We didn’t have time to question her as we were getting underway.
As we lifted off and started out of town, the alarm went up and we all braced for the pursuit that we knew was coming. However, after a few minutes, no flyers had risen to pursue. A little puzzled, those of us watching behind the ship noticed a reddish-orange glow on the horizon in the direction of the city. It was neither the right color nor direction to be the early light from the sunrise. One of the PC’s wondered out loud what the light could be when my aide answered.
“There was a fire back in the town,” she said. Of course that got everyone’s attention. So I asked her, “What sort of fire?” To which she responded, with a completely straight face, “Apparently someone accidentally spilled lamp oil all over the flyers at the fortress. And then while trying to clean it up, they accidentally dropped a lamp and it all caught on fire.”
We all just stared at her for a moment and then the players all burst into laughter. Needless to say we made it back home without any further incident.
My Elevation to Crown Prince
This one caught me completely off guard when it happened and came completely out of the blue. Some time after the incident with the flyers, we had traveled down to a city in the western wildernesses of the country my character was originally from in an attempt to rescue the crown princess (Jennifer) of an ally country. She had been kidnapped and was supposed to be handed off from the kidnappers to those who had wanted the kidnapping at the slave market in that city. And of course along the way, one of the girls in our group managed to get her character kidnapped by slavers and so we had to rescue her as well.
We failed to rescue Princess Jennifer at the slave market, although we weren’t too concerned about it as the person who “bought” her was someone we recognized as a very wealthy, very eccentric man from her home country that was completely loyal to the crown. So in effect she was rescued, just not by us. Also there to try to rescue her, traveling “incognito”, was her fiance, the crown prince from a neighboring country, and that county’s royal wizard. Later that night, the prince, not knowing who the man was that had “bought” Jennifer, rescued her from his clutches and the pair, along with the royal wizard, escaped into the nearby jungle. We eventually had to rescue the three of them from jungle but that’s another story.
In the process of trying to get our captured PC back, we were out-bid in the market and failed to get her as well. She was actually sold just before the princess. The problem was that the market was cash only and we didn’t have enough ready cash. We had other valuables (in the form of two dozen 20 carat rubies) but they weren’t accepted as payment at the auction. After the auction was over, we approached man who had purchased our PC and tried to buy her from him but he wouldn’t sell.
This is where my aide started to step in and take matters into her own hands. About this time, as we were considering our next move to try to rescue the missing PC, there was a ruckus in the hotel raised by the disappearance of Princess Jennifer and her “rescue” by the prince. We went to investigate, not knowing at the time that it was the prince that had stolen her (we had recognized him at the market). Once a little investigating had discovered the identity of the “thieves”, we were once again satisfied with the safety of the princess and returned to our rooms.
Upon our return, we found our missing PC and my aide waiting for us. Apparently, she had used the diversion caused by the uproar to liberate our missing party member. Of course since I had just been taking to him, when her “owner” discovered she was missing, our rooms were the first place he came looking for her. There was no denying that we had her and after some persuasion and haggling, he agreed to accept compensation for the price he payed for her and then some in the form of a dozen of the rubies, and let us keep the character. He only agreed, however, on the condition that we also take the other slave he had purchased since he didn’t want to have to deal with the added expenses of transport for just a single slave and had already made a profit on the trip from us.
We agreed, figuring we could at least free this other young girl as well. We had seen her at the slave auction as she was a few lots ahead of our PC in the sale. She was interesting in that she had waist-length silver hair but we had no idea who she was. I think I had even bid on her in keeping up my disguise as a slave trader while waiting for our PC and the princess to show up.
After concluding our business with him, the man had the girl sent up to my rooms. When she arrived, she seemed completely terrified. She seemed to be about 18 or 19 years old and we couldn’t get her to say anything. I tried everything, using all my character’s charm and communication skills to try to get her to open up, reassuring her that we weren’t going to hurt her and just wanted to help her get home to her family, wherever they might be. Nothing seemed to work. Finally my aide suggested that I let her talk to the young woman, “girl to girl” for a few minutes and that maybe she could get some information out of her. I was a little reluctant to let my aide take the lead knowing her past performance but nothing else was working so I finally gave in.
I should have known better. A few minutes later my aid came out and said that Temera would talk to me. A bit surprised I went back in to see an even greater look of terror on the young girl’s face than had been there before. It turns out that my aide had decided to play the bad cop to my good cop to try to get the girl to talk. I don’t know what she said, but apparently it worked since she learned the girl’s name and Temera had asked for me to come back. But she wouldn’t talk while my aide was still in the room. So I sent my aide out and tried once again to talk to the young woman.
However, she still wouldn’t talk at first and finally asked me to take my sword out and lay it on the ground between us. Thinking this was a little weird, but willing to humor her in the attempt to get her to open up and tell us where she was from so we could take her home, I did as she requested. She then proceeded to preform some sort of ritual involving the sword.
It didn’t have anything to do with magic (I was a wizard and could tell. And yes, in this setting wizards could carry and use swords) but I had no clue what it was (none of my lore skills helped). It ended with her kneeling on her side of the sword, kissing the blade, standing, and stepping across the sword on the ground. She then turned, picked up the sword and presented it back to me. As I took the sword from her hands, she simply said, “Now we are wed.”
Alarm bells started going off everywhere in my head. All I said was “What?!?”. All I knew was that the GM was going to make my character’s life miserable. It wasn’t that my character was now married. It was more that he was married again. You see, my character was already married. My character’s (now) first wife was also a wizard and was trained as a flyer pilot and had been the one operating the flyer in the earlier adventure. And it wasn’t that polygamy was illegal. In fact, it was kind of expected for the upper social classes of which he was a member. It was just that the first marriage was voluntary and this was completely out of the blue. Plus I played my character’s first wife as a PC and this one I knew would be a pure NPC.
It all worked out in the end, however. We learned that Temera was also a princess. So we did rescue the princess, just not the one we had originally intended. In fact, it turned out that she was the crown princess of the largest human kingdom on the planet. And that ritual? It was an official marriage ceremony from her country and completely valid. So I was now the crown prince. Needless to say our lives got quite interesting after that. All thanks to my aide who had decided that the “best thing to do” was play bad cop to my good cop to try to get the girl to talk.
So my aide is probably my favorite NPC of all time. She provided us with comic relief at times, she helped get us out of trouble, and she provided a way for the GM to introduce new plots and hooks into the game (usually by getting us into more trouble than she got us out of). It’s a credit to my old GM that I still remember her after all these years. He played her so well that we still loved her even with all the trouble she caused.