Steal my notes, Brandon Mull on Characters
We listen to great DMs and writers to find the perfect way to create epic NPCs without epic preparation.

Steal my notes, Matthew Mercer on NPCs

Crafting epic NPCs without epic preparation.

Lesson starts at 6:50

The notes:


We are talking about the setting, plot, and character. World-building is much more setting than character. But as characters often are what draws players/readers into your setting I chose to include them.

"I make up stories about imaginary people doing things that never happened and I want others to care." - Brandon Mull



  • Keep characters less complicated than in real life, more consistent. Players/readers want to be able to predict them. This “fulfillment of expectation” is what makes them feel alive beyond the scene/page.
  • Be horrible to your characters.
    • A world where all is good and everybody gets along is boring. You need conflict.
    • When characters achieve things without hardship players think they don't deserve their success.
  • Make characters relateable, to the player/reader or to someone they know.
  • Try to provoke an emotional response in your player/reader.
  • If you want to “show” a character in a scene, show how they interact with the world and how the world interacts with them.

"Fiction is the truth inside the lie." - Stephen King


Hard character traits:

  • Age and gender.
  • Ambitions: What do they want?
    • If you write only one thing, this is the most important.
    • And secondary why do they have these ambitions?
  • Triggers: What would make this character do what?
  • Relationships: With whom and what kind of relationship?
  • Troubles and obstacles: What worries the character? Remember, everybody bears a cross, be horrible!

Characters as mini icebergs:

This is our humble opinion. For those who read Brandon Sanderson on World Building it might have become clear, characters are like mini icebergs.

  • The above-water part is “Live”: what the player sees when he encounters the NPC/character.
  • The underwater part is “Life”: when the player/reader isn’t with the NPC/character.

all the rest applies.

Author(s): Gregory Vangilbergen - (Updated:Jan 24, 2022)