As I prepare to unleash my PCs on a new city tomorrow, I am prepping up a storm. I hate being caught short without NPC names and descriptions. Luckily, there’s a lot of nice random generators out there that can provide you with an invaluable list of a dozen or so ready to go people. Then, you just pull the one out of the top five or so that seems most applicable to the situation, whenever the PCs grab some random bar patron/messenger/guild thief/whatnot aside and you want them to be more than a stock nameless/faceless prop.
I’m using the Seventh Sanctum description generator and a Yet Another Fantasy Name Generator, freely mixing and matching for first and last names. In short order, I have a list of potential NPCs like:
This serious gentleman has large eyes the color of blue tropical waters. His luxurious, straight, brown hair is worn in a style that reminds you of a fluttering flag. He has a slender build. His skin is china-white. He has small hands. His wardrobe is sexy, and is completely gray.
Now, they do start sounding weirdly the same, so you have to finesse them in use, but it’s a great starting point that saves me thirty seconds of trying to remember some guy I ran into at the grocery yesterday to use as a good NPC description starting point (though that’s also a good exercise; over a week note down your first impressions of people you run across for later use…).
As a second pass, I use Chris Pound’s name generator to get some epithets to sprinkle in, and edit the descriptions to include styles it clearly doesn’t have (e.g. people have hair or are bald, but there’s no balding/thinning people, so I edit one of the bald guys to be partway…) But what if a couple of these guys end up needing stats? Well, Myth Weavers has a random NPC stat block generator. I throw in a second level male rogue, and get:
Tahir, male human Rog2: CR 2; Size M (5 ft., 10 in. tall); HD 2d6+4; hp 16; Init +2; Spd 30 ft.; AC 12; Attack +2 melee, or +3 ranged; SV Fort +2, Ref +5, Will +2; AL LE; Str 12, Dex 15, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 15, Cha 8. Languages Spoken: Common. Skills and feats: Appraise +2, Decipher Script +3, Disable Device +2, Disguise +4, Gather Information +4, Hide +6, Intimidate +3, Knowledge (Local) +3, Listen +4, Move Silently +7, Sense Motive +6, Spot +9, Use Magic Device +2; Alertness, [Evasion], Weapon Finesse. Possessions: 2,000 gp in gear. Primary motivation: Boredom. The character has no other reason than their life is otherwise uninteresting. Secondary motivation: A deep hatred of the Evil. The character's hate runs deep, and dominates their personality. Recent Past: The character has been visting a friend in Verbobonc.
Helpful! Obviously there are little bits to change. But there are great bits too; sometimes random generation is awesomely wise. This guy is LE but is motivated by a hatred of evil! That’s a great character hook, an interesting “I’m not evil, I just use these harsh methods to combat true evil” thing.
I want the perfect Pathfinder random generator. Pathfinder, and Golarion, are so new there’s not really good generators tuned for their ethnicities and suchlike – specifically Chelaxian names and descriptions, specifically Varisian, et al. And all these generators do one thing and not the other – some do good names, some do good stats, some do good descriptions, some do good personalities – but none do more than 1-2 of those at a time.
My wish list:
- Support Golarion (and other) ethnicity naming schemes.
- Support Golarion (and other) ethnically tuned descriptions.
- Support Golarion (and other) locations – for example, we know the general racial/ethnic makeup in Taldor, so let me roll a random Taldan!
- Support Pathfinder (and other) stats
- Do name (including epithets), stats, description, and personality.
- Let me fix anything I want and then randomize anything I want. If I don’t want to pick race, roll it for me. If I just know I need a redhead, or a female rogue, or someone named “Bart,” pull the rest.
- Let me do a little multiple choice – often a randomly generated NPC has bits of “bleah” in them. Gen maybe 5 choices for each field into a popdown, and if I don’t like something I have a quick-pick to modify.
The problem with making a perfect generator is that everyone wants different things in them, and if you make them too complicated, they’re just a pain.
I have some code on my site that lets you make your own (relatively simple) generator, if that would be of use to you: http://chaoticshiny.com/gengen.php
That’s cool! I was kinda thinking that a really neat “generic generator” should be doable, especially if you combine the ability for people to contribute new data bits (e.g. that guy thought of “cornrows” as a hairstyle and the original dataset writer didn’t) and letting people write the rules using something simple-ish like rules for a rules engine (e.g. Drools).
I think you’re talking about pretty much what abulafia does: http://www.random-generator.com/
I’ve never made a generator on there, so I have no idea how easy/hard they are to edit, but from what I gather it’s a collaborative kind of thing.
Funny! I just made a few random planets (http://donjon.bin.sh/sf/world/ ) before looking here… I totally agree to your wishlist, maybe with additional generic names based on real world history. For NPC stats I still use Jamie Buck’s Generator in it’s 3.5 incarnation made by Andargor http://www.andargor.com/ (scroll a few posts down), the online version seems to be offline, sadly.
Oh, this is exactly the same as the Myth Weavers online one. I downloaded it and all the popdown choices are the same. And it’s good, I like it, I just have to go “elsewhere” for names/descriptions/personalities and it’s not PFized yet…
Ok, ignore the ‘(scroll’ on the andargor link…
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