NPC Webs details a set of NPCs who could appear in a standard adventure location.
While talking to some other campaign figure, these minor NPCs can serve as fleshed out background players, living their own lives.
Use them to give bit parts more personality, or let the PCs get embroiled in the dramas that unfold as they meet these background characters.
The Market Square
This group of NPCs is several merchants in a city of moderate size. Unless otherwise noted, each of these characters uses the commoner stat block.
Oslar Strapsure, Cobble and Stone
Description: Halfling, tanned complexion, elderly but spry
Portrayal: Warm and genuine, fond of both telling and hearing stories
Oslar has lived in town long enough that even the elders can’t remember a time when he wasn’t around. Though he’s never told the full story of how he came to leave the pastoral life, rumors abound, growing more ridiculous with each passing generation.
His shop contains items to ease the burdens of living and travel. His deck chairs are especially popular, but most in the “delve and slay” professions come to him for extraordinary quality adventuring gear. Backpacks, quivers, waterskins, pouches, rope . . . Oslar’s touch gives these mundane items durability and resilience beyond what most would expect, let alone comment on.
However, he never claims to sells adventuring gear. Heavens, no. That backpack? Lovely for hiking. That scroll case? A beautiful piece for the mantle. That chest? Well, everyone has to keep their clothes in something. He laughs off any suggestion that his catalogue has a use beyond enhancing the hearth or home.
This would be amusing if another store in town didn’t pride itself on its adventuring gear, constantly losing customers to Cobble and Stone. Mantin Sular, the owner of that shop, really, really hates this guy.
The unusual durability of Oslar’s goods can be reflected with advantage on a relevant roll if it ever comes up.
Mantin Sular, The Dungeoneer
Description: Human, an absolute specimen of a man—tall, muscled, dusky, luscious dark hair
Portrayal: Radiant with exaggerated confidence
Mantin works on himself, sure. When he’s not at his store—a self-proclaimed one-stop shop for “the heroes of our age”—he’s training his song-worthy physique. And he loves repeating the story of that one delve he went on. (You know the one. Down the well. With that one monster. Terrible affair.)
He sells simple weapons, light armor, and gear not specialized to a particular profession. It’s functional but bland. He has no skill as a craftsman, so he outsources his wares at a discount to preserve his margins.
His clientele reflects his inventory, which frustrates him. Yes, selling a village youth their first dagger pays the bills, but there’s no glory in it. Real adventurers stop in for a quick browse and then go right down the street to Oslar’s place, or Elaine’s. Oslar doesn’t even like adventurers!
Mantin wants to be seen as a real player in this business. This has led him to be more active in local politics. He is actively courting the favor of Valliana Lestrovia, head of the city’s Merchants Guild, with the goal of making things hard for his competition.
Elaine Dunn, The Maker’s Space
Description: Human, vaguely middle age, sepia complexion, bald, runner’s build
Portrayal: Energetic, vital, usually tinkering with something
Elaine often says she’s in the business of helping others make a living. Her shop is a barely organized collection of miscellanies, basically anything you’d need to cobble together a tool set for just about any profession. She even sells a handful of rugged musical instruments for those inclined.
This makes her one of the most well-connected merchants in the market, as almost everyone operating there buys supplies from her. She also does brisk business with passing adventurers looking to restock items like inks for a forgery kit or a broken lockpick.
She has long been a friend and advisor to Valliana Lestrovia, a silent partner in the administration of the Merchants Guild. Lately, they’ve become something more than friends, and as their relationship has deepened, Valliana has confessed a desire to step away from her very visible public office. Elaine is Valliana’s preferred successor, but it would mean a radical change in her professional life, stepping out into the light.
She doesn’t want to disappoint her lover, but those are big shoes to fill . . . especially with people like Mantin scheming for power.
Charka the Witness, Tromidora’s Cosminium
Description: Charka is formless and void in its true aspect, heard only as a tinkling, androgynous disembodied voice
Portrayal: One or both of its mortal disguises: Tromidora, a busybody gnome woman dressed like the cliché of a wizard, or Lethan, a smarmy elven salesman and assistant
In the ancient past, a demon lord of extraordinary might nearly succeeded at anchoring this city to its home in the Lower Planes and creating a permanent bridge for them and their kin to thunder across.
A band of powerful heroes intervened but could not destroy or banish Charka completely. Instead, they stripped Charka of its former power and bound its remaining essence to the city, to spend eternity watching mortals thrive after their defeat.
Through the long centuries, something strange happened – Charka became invested in the lives of these pathetic creatures. Charka found ways to participate in society by using the tiny amount of power it had left to create projections of people that could speak to and interact.
Charka has used this ability over the years to sow petty chaos and disharmony among locals, manipulating them into conflicts. The market square currently has Charka’s attention because the intrigues of the Merchants Guild are labyrinthine and easy to provoke.
Charka has no corporeal form and is immune to damage from physical or magical effects. It cannot be engaged in physical or even magical conflict, and barely registers on detect spells. In any other interaction, treat Charka as though it has the stats of a demon lord, such as Ranga (see Creature Codex). Sufficiently determined players can discover Charka’s secret. If they do, Charka vanishes for a century or so until people forget about it again.
The shop mostly sells spell components.
Valliana Lestrovia, Guildmaster of Merchants
Description: Half-elven, aquiline nose, high cheekbones, regal bearing and the wardrobe to match
Portrayal: Emotionally detached but alert, courteous, patient, collected
A master blacksmith who once had the honor of supplying arms and armor to the royal guard, Valliana turned to politics after a rival got her shop closed down over some petty, made-up tax offense. Rather than fight it directly, she decided to walk in the halls of power herself to find out how it was done.
After years in the Merchants Guild’s pinnacle seat, she’s noticed that her own position has become weighted down with enemies, secrets, and hidden wealth. How it all crept up on her, she cannot say.
The turning point was when Mantin Sular began trying to make deals with her, offering to handle certain guild affairs in exchange for an invitation to dine with the powerful, or the waiving of some tariffs. The surprise was not that Mantin offered. It was that she felt inclined to accept, to ease the burden of state for a little bit.
If her darling Elaine knew how far she’s fallen, it would be over. But Elaine won’t do the right thing and replace her, and Mantin wants the power, even though it’s for all the wrong reasons.
She’s walking a tightrope and could fall off any day.