NPC Concept, by Dmitry Burmak

NPC1NPC Concept Art, by Dmitry Burmak

“You’re our new henchman, where do you want to be in our marching order? You can march in front and get caught in every trap we run across… or you can be in the back and get eaten by any monsters that sneak up on us.” —Yeager, the Fighter

Yay! First post of 2015! I hope everyone had a safe and relaxing New Year and Holiday Season. I thought I’d start the new year off with something a little different: a salute to the Non-Player Character hired help in table-top role-playing. I’m talking about the henchmen, minions, lackeys, and flunkies of the gaming world. The torch-wielders, armor-bearers, squires, and loot-haulers: the poor bastards who player characters seem to go out of their way to sacrifice in order to complete the quest. Whether they’re quest helpers assigned by the GM or hires from the local henchman’s guild, the NPC helpers have been slaves and cannon-fodder for players since first-edition Dungeons and Dragons. Unloved and only rarely celebrated, I think it’s time at least a little appreciation was shown our friends in the burden-bearing business.

Dmitry’s feathery-haired hench-girl is an NPC concept character for a Russian MMORPG called War.RU. I ran across our frazzled heroine while browsing back over Dmitry’s galleries, and the load she’s carrying reminded me immediately of some of the ridiculous burdens henchmen like Nodwick must carry at the behest of greedy adventurers. I can imagine her following gloomily behind some archetypical adventuring party, mostly ignored when not being given orders, unknowing when she might be left behind because her bosses bungled a move-silently roll in the trolls’ den and didn’t want to come back for her. (PCs are jerks sometimes…)

NPC1Contractually indentured to her adventurer bosses, she hauls their gear about like an underpaid golf caddy. She travels light, naturally, to stay under her encumbrance limit. Her shirt is loose and light for easy movement, while her leather jerkin was an old one her parents had lying around. But even if it barely protects from arrows and melee, it should at least keep the straps on her pack from biting and chafing her chest and shoulders. That skirt is split up both sides for unhindered movement, and because the saleswoman made some comment about “eye candy” and “elevating her position.” The boots are leather armored only because some laundry-pincher swiped her shoes and the party’s elf had just looted a new pair of move-silently +2s. Though all our carrier could afford on her budget, at least the outfit doesn’t in any way hinder or restrict her movement—her load does enough hindering and restricting as is.

On her back our henchwoman hauls all the necessities for an adventuring party on the go. Blankets and bedrolls, food and cookware, rope for the ranger and prybars for the rogue, everything is piled on her back without a single “can I help with some of that?” or “let me get the door for you.” The kettle is for the cooking, though the wizard mixes his potions in it as well. The orange bundle holds the bard’s dress-shirts (she doesn’t want to get them dirty on the road, you know). The sword and shield are the fighter’s backup weapons and the glaive is the monk’s second-favorite. The trident is the cleric’s—he never uses it, but keeps it around because worshiping his sea-goddess gives him weapons-proficiency with it. Overworked and rarely paid, she sleeps on the floor of the inn and doesn’t even have her own bedroll because it would put her over the weight-limit. It’s a thankless job, but deep down she knows she’d never get a better one with the current economy.

Be kind to your NPCs, people. Imaginary characters have feelings too.

Huge thanks to Dmitry for his awesome work. As always, thanks so much for reading, folks! Take care and stay awesome for 2015!

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