5e NPC – Burkhart Zykleres

Dire Rugrat Publishing has released 5e NPCs: Nobles & Ne’er Do Wells.  With 20 pages of unique stat blocks, write-ups, and colour art, there’s plenty of NPC goodness. While all of the characters in the book are a noble and/or ne’er do well of some sort, there is plenty of variety; challenges range from 1/4 to 9.

One such NPC is Burkhart  Zykleres, an abusive aristocrat who takes credit for other people’s good ideas and flees a situation he can’t win.

More on House Zykleres can be found in Houses and Heraldry, available on DriveThruRPG.

Burkhart Zykleres

Abusive Aristocrat

You know that was my idea.”

Burkhart is the youngest son of Count Fredrick Zykleres, a lord known for his unpleasant attitude. Along with his father’s sour disposition, Burkhart shares the family’s striking blond hair and blue eyes. Charming as some found young Burkhart, his boyish good looks have long faded. Burkhart has no desire to take over the house as it would require far more time and work than he is prepared to spend. Instead, he is happy to reside in the family home, enjoying the benefits of lordship without any of the responsibility.

Burkhart is a weaselly man who eagerly avoids the consequences of his actions by blaming them on someone else. If faced with a situation he cannot talk his way out of, Burkhart runs away by whatever means necessary. He is not above disguising himself as a servant, or even killing them to take their place, if it means living another day.

Should his older brother Ambrosius have one of his occasionally insightful ideas, Burkhart deftly takes credit for it. He has become such a master at this tactic, Ambrosius often believes the idea was his brother’s. Burkhart employs the same strategy with suggestions from some of his father’s advisors, which has become increasingly frustrating for them. He has a canny knack for twisting only the successful ideas to seem like his own, and any poor ideas always appear to belong to someone else.

Burkhart discovered a young age how easy it was to coerce people to do work on his behalf, and he has long enjoyed the power he holds over servants and staff. Burkhart shows only some respect to his father, brother and their head of staff, which is more than he shows to anyone else.

His mother, Amelia Zykleres, formerly of house Stylark was a gentle woman, and a trusting one. She adored her children, and always took them at their word. Young Burkart quickly realized he could use this to his advantage, and he blamed any of his misdeeds and mishaps on staff that displeased him. His charming plump face, large blue eyes and halo of blond hair were convincing. Pieces of shattered vases were disposed of, and their disappearance was blamed on a sticky-fingered page. A filthy room was the result of a lazy maid. A kennel master who lacked discipline with the dogs was responsible for the mess in the garden. Over and over again staff were forced to take responsibility for young Burkhart’s poor behaviour. No one dared to speak up for fear they would be next. 

Amelia Zykleres died when Burkhart was a boy, and he spent much of his youth with a parade of assorted governesses. If one displeased him, he bullied them into resigning or otherwise staged a scenario that resulted in their employment being terminated. While some noble parents may have realized something was amiss, Count Fredrick Zykleres gave little thought to his children.

The only member of the house who realized what the growing boy was up to was Ximena Diguera, the housekeeper and head of staff. Ximena had long been involved with Fredrick, and had even more power over the house than a housekeeper usually would. Disinterested in anything would upset their way of life, the two developed a mutual understanding to stay out of each other’s business.

Olanna, Burkart’s new step-mother, is not much older than he is, and his only interest in her is trying to bed her. Ximena, for her part, is encouraging his attempts.

 

Burkhart's stat block

 

Nel, Temptress of the Tarn

“Come, traveller. You must be thirsty.”

This soft-faced fey creature watches over a large, clean lake. She smiles innocently at those who approach her domain. Nel has no desire to directly harm mortals. She instead encourages them to drink and bathe in the lake, where they might be transported to her mistress in the Green Realm.

fey creature in a pond

Nel once spent her days serving her mistress, an aspiring lesser fey lady. She was well regarded and respected among her kind, and one of her mistress’ favorites. Nel spent much of her time being doted on by lesser fey than herself.

Several decades ago, Nel’s rival Shara intentionally committed a grievous act against their mistress, framing Nel. The once favorite servitor could find no evidence to prove her innocence, and Nel knew better than to argue with her superior. She threw herself upon her mistress’ mercy and asked for a chance to prove her devotion. Shara had anticipated Nel’s destruction, but instead the mistress sent her favorite pet from her sight, banishing her to a lake in the mortal realm.

Before her banishment Nel had been on good terms with many creatures in the Green Realm. Her pleasant disposition made her easy to get along with, and she had used her position with her mistress to assist more than a few petitioners. During her time in prison in the Material Plane, Nel has been able to get word back to the Green Realm. She has called in a few favors and a one-way portal to her mistress’ court now exists at the bottom of the lake.

Nel spends her time on the mortal plane luring travellers who will appease her mistress into the lake, and pushing them through the portal. She is eager to return to her mistress and seek revenge against Shara, but dares not pass through the portal herself until she has sent 263 worthy mortals through first.

Nel does not risk endangering travel to the area by preying upon all who visit, and has let several satisfactory offerings go when the risk of exposure was too great. Nel uses whatever means necessary to draw her prey beneath the surface.

While Nel is homesick for a great many things, she misses the music more than anything else. Even when travelling alone, mortals who are able to entertain Nel for a time are not sacrificed to her mistress.

Pick up Nel (plus her sturgeon and snakeshead) and more NPCs like her, in 5e NPCs: Woodfolk and Wanderers, available now on DTRPG.

Pearls of Life (Magic Item)

Wondrous item, rare (requires attunement)

You may use one of the pearls from this necklace to have advantage on a single death saving throw. If you have already failed two death saving throws, you can instead use five pearls to automatically stabilize yourself. The string starts with 49 pearls in total; each pearl is a luminescent off-white until it is used, at which point its color darkens to a glossy black. When all of the pearls have been used, the string becomes a mundane necklace of black pearls worth 150 gp.

If a pearl is removed from the string, it turns black and no longer has any magical properties. If the string is broken, all remaining pearls turn black and cease to retain any magic benefit.

Veteran Knight

Your players have run afoul of the city guards, but when you pull up the stat block you realize it isn’t going to be as effective as you hoped.

We present to you, the veteran knight.

Veteran Knight

To be regarded a veteran, most knights have seen their fair share of war and atrocity. Outside of a wartime environment, many veteran knights become watch commanders or household trainers who teach younger members of the house in warfare and force of arms.

 

Find this stat block, and others like it, in Houses and Heraldry for 5e on DriveThruRPG.


Houses and Heraldry

old fashioned book with a house shield of a black elk on a green and white backgroundThis book sketches out ten noble houses for your campaign. Each house is laid out on one page; the top half contains the house name, its motto, a representation of their heraldic device as it would appear on a shield, and an information block detailing important personages, numbers of troops, and vassal houses. The lower portion provides enough detail about the interesting characters of the house to get your imagination going, but leaves plenty of room for you to add your own details. See a sample here.

Pick up your copy today on DriveThruRPG.

Lord Alvin Cyris

old fashioned book with a house shield of a black elk on a green and white background

We are pleased to release Houses and Heraldry.

This book sketches out ten noble houses for your campaign. Each house is laid out on one page; the top half contains the house name, its motto, a representation of their heraldic device as it would appear on a shield, and an information block detailing important personages, numbers of troops, and vassal houses. The lower portion provides enough detail about the interesting characters of the house to get your imagination going, but leaves plenty of room for you to add your own details.

The younger son of Duke Cyris is getting ready to branch out on his own. The exclusive blog content below details his family, servants and vassal houses.

Pick up your copy today on DriveThruRPG.


House Cyris

Steady On, A Dragon’s Dawn

 

Lord of House: Lord Alvis Cyris

Spouse: Lady Julianna Cyris (formerly Houghton)

Children: Jarle (son), Raoul (son)

Household Knights, Retainers, Servants: Hal Wainwright (butler), Fiona Wainwright (head housekeeper)

Bannermen: 425 (300 infantry [50 immediately available]; 100 archers [10 immediately available]; 25 personal guard)

Vassal Houses: House Houghton

 

Lord Alvis Cyris is the younger son of Duke Azin Cyris. His title is technically a courtesy title, though he does hold a small parcel of land his father his given him in the family’s duchy. The younger Lord Cyris is quickly securing relationships with other noble houses, and solidifying ones with House Drekyn, the family his mother was born to. He has recently revealed his family crest, which is an amalgamation of his father’s banner with his mother’s.

Lord Alvis Cyris
Alvis is a canny young man who aspires to lead House Cyris upon his father’s death. With his wife Julianna’s support, Alvis is gaining favor and support from his family’s vassal houses, and nobles further afield. Alvis is an accomplished duellist, and has taught his wife how to defend herself. He has a tactical mind, and understands the politics of nobility well.

Lady Julianna Cyris
Lady Cyris was born into a family with strong ties to House Drekyn. When a marriage between her and a grandson of House Drekyn was suggested, her family eagerly accepted. Lady Cyris has been well taught in arts of manipulation and subterfuge, and is eager to see her family rise to great heights. She is working closely with her husband to manufacture a series of events that would see them inherit all of House Cyris.

Jarle Cyris
A short, stocky boy nearing ten years of age, Jarle is already being groomed as the future head of the house. He is often present at his father’s meetings, listening quietly. Afterward, his father quizzes him on what was discussed, ensuring his son pays attention to every detail. He understands how to use various weapons and trains with them each day. He is also very well educated, and is encouraged to spend at least an hour of each day reading books he borrows from his grandfather’s library.

Raoul Cyris
Slighter than his older brother, Raoul is a charming eight-year-old with a cheeky smile and large blue eyes. He is quickly becoming a capable swordsman. He despises his studies, which causes them to drag on longer than he or his tutor wish them to.

Hal and Fiona Wainwright
A serious faced couple in their younger years, Hal and Fiona work as the heads of staff for Lord and Lady Cyris. Hal is the son of Herbert Wainwright, House Drekyn’s dedicated and loyal butler. While he worked for some time at the Drekyn estate, Duchess Gunnilda Cyris requested he relocate from her old family home and become the butler for her youngest son. He was honoured to do so, and arrived with his wife. The two have no children, and have been unable to conceive any. They are loyal to Lord and Lady Cyris, but also to Duchess Gunnilda Cyris and House Drekyn.

 

Pick up your copy of Houses and Heraldry on DriveThruRPG.

Download a PDF copy of the above. 

Our Crew Solution

A problem reared its head shortly after we began playing a pirate themed D&D 5th Edition game: there are a lot of NPCs in play when the crew of one ship boards another ship.

Assessing the Options

I looked at the limited rules about handling mobs in the DMG and disliked them. I then read a lot of advice on the subject, most of which boiled down to “avoid mass combat at all costs”, or “let the NPCs do their thing in the background while the PCs star in the important action.”

The advice didn’t work for me. I like situations where perhaps the PCs are struggling against their opposition while the friendly NPC crew have quickly mopped up the enemy crew and can help the PCs. Or the inverse where the crew is nearing defeat which forces the PCs to divert some or all of their efforts to save them. I could just decide these things as the GM, but that felt cheap as well.

Looking Elsewhere

Unable to find a solution in the core D&D 5e books, I looked at other solutions such as the minion monster rules in D&D 4e, which are workable but still require too much management and rolling at the table. I also looked at 13th Age which has excellent and elegant rules for mooks, and I almost adopted them until I found the entry for the Bar Brawl in the Creature Codex by Kobold Press (which is a fantastic monster resource and highly recommended by us rugrats). This third-party work gave a group of aggressive humanoids the swarm feature, allowing them to use their numbers to threaten the PCs and their crew while elegantly working within the 5e framework.

Creating the Crews

I took this idea and ran with it. The resulting crews and monster swarms worked well in play testing (aka: our campaign). We compiled them together, added some officers and captains to bedevil the PCs, and created some magical and mundane seafaring equipment.

The Seafaring Supplement contains nine crew stat blocks, including two sets of sea creatures. Challenges range from 2 to 10. From crews of undead to experienced marines, these stat blocks keep ship combat from becoming bogged down, while still bringing excitement to the combat. 

You can pick up the Seafaring Supplement on DriveThruRPG.


NAVAL MARINE TROOP

Little clenches the stomach of a pirate faster than the sight of a frigate carrying regiments of naval marines. These hardened soldiers are equally adept at fighting on land or the heaving deck of a ship. Naval marines are more heavily armed and armored than most sailors, and take a great deal of care ensuring their weapons and armor don’t succumb to the brine and spray. 

The Dagger of all Daggers

Our interest in writing RPG products stems from our love of playing RPGs. One of my favorite campaigns, and certainly our most epic one, is Way of the Wicked. Written by Gary McBride of Fire Mountain Games, this adventure path allows the PCs to be anything but good. (Specifically, it actually recommends they all be lawful evil.)

The Bull & The Bear coverSome years ago, we ran through this campaign, taking the time to explore the cities more than the adventure path may have intended, which is where the Bull and the Bear was born. The PCs began amassing a reasonable collection of taverns, some of which have been published by us since.

We enjoyed dropping a fair few 3rd party products into this PFRPG campaign, including the 101 New Skill Uses by Rite Publishing and Legendary VIII: Evil by Sam Hing and published by Purple Duck Games.

It was in the latter we pulled Black Spider – a magical weapon (and a then some). Though intended for use by the BBEG, it was allowed in our evil solo campaign. (I should note here this product received a poor review and indeed has some glaring oversights.)

This blade was legendary in the course of the campaign. One moment I still clearly remember was when many of the party had fallen, with only the rogue (myself) and our anti-paladin remaining. Both of us were near the death. The righteous paladin still stood before us, and with the blade knocked from my hand, and my companion drawing her last breath, I was sure we were done for. Then this diminutive construct unleashed its fury upon the virtuous knight, scuttle across the floor before actually puncturing through his calf (hello double nat 20!). Perhaps it stole a bit of the thunder from the characters, but it earned this weapon much favor from its master.

Very recently we decided to revisit a version of Way of the Wicked: an alternate reality with some minor and some glaring differences. All of the PCs are rogues. The valiant Mitrans in the country are unknowingly demon worshippers (those pesky demons and their deception filled long game!). Our PCs did not start in prison (which made sense, but if you haven’t played WotW as intended, give at least the first module a go – it’s amazing!).

Some things have stayed the same, and one such similarity is the presence of Black Spider. With the switch to 5th Edition as the framework (as well as some of those glaring oversights), we’ve had to adapt the blade. Here is our modified version below. Again, a big shout out to Purple Duck Games for creating an amazing (and overpowered!) collection of weapons, as well creating one of my favorite weapons to date.


BLACK SPIDER

Weapon (dagger), legendary (requires attunement by a creature that meets all the listed requirements)

Requirements. A creature that wishes to attune itself to Black Spider must meet the following criteria.

  • Any evil alignment.
  • Proficiency in Dexterity (Stealth) checks.
  • Sneak Attack feature.

Black Spider grows in power with the creature it is attuned to. When a creature attunes itself to Black Spider, it gains all of the benefits listed for a creature of its current level.

  • When you reach 2nd level, Black Spider gains a +1 bonus to attack and damage. The dagger maintains a telepathic bond with you, and regularly urges you to commit acts of violence.
  • When you reach 4th level, Black Spider can animate itself and act independently from you. When it animates, the barbs lining the blade twist and act as spidery legs. Black Spider maintains its telepathic bond with you and follows your instructions, unless it can cause more carnage by doing something else. Black Spider’s starting statistics are below.
  • When you reach 6th level, the telepathic bond between you and Black Spider allows you to see and hear everything occurring within 60 feet of the dagger as an action. This effect can be ended as a bonus action. While using this feature, you have disadvantage on ability checks, saving throws, and attack rolls until the start of your first turn after ending the effect.
  • When you reach 8th level, Black Spider can urge you to overcome certain conditions. If you fail a saving throw and become charmed, frightened, paralyzed, or stunned, you can use your reaction to reroll the saving throw. If a condition allows a new save to overcome it at the end of each of your turns, you have advantage on it. If you are unconscious, Black Spider can use a bonus action to deal 1 hit point of piercing damage to wake you. Black Spider Enhancement: Armor Class increases by +1 (natural armor), Hit Points increase by 7 (3d4), Dexterity increases by 2 (add +1 to Armor Class,stealth skill, and Stab action to hit and damage), Challenge increases to 2 (450 XP), Sneak Attack damage increases to 14 (4d6), Multiattack action is added adding one additional attack per round. Black Spider’s CR 2 version is below for your convenience.
  • When you reach 10th level, Black Spider’s bonus to attack and damage increases to +2. Black Spider Enhancement: Stab action to hit and damage increase by +1.
  • When you reach 12th level, attacks made with Black Spider score a critical hit on a roll of 19 or 20. Black Spider Enhancement: Hit points increase by 7 (3d4), Challenge increases to 3 (700 XP), Sneak Attack damage increases to 21 (6d6).
  • When you reach 14th level, when you make a sneak attack against a creature, you can gain half of the sneak attack damage as temporary hit points. Once this feature has been used, it can’t be used again until you have finished a short or long rest.
  • When you reach 16th level, if you have surprise when you make your first attack with Black Spider in an encounter, you deal maximum damage. Black Spider Enhancement: Hit Points increase by 7 (3d4), Challenge increases to 4 (1,100 XP), Sneak attack damage increases to 28 (8d6)
  • When you reach 18th level, Black Spider’s bonus to attack and damage increases to +3. Black Spider Enhancement: Stab action to hit and damage increase by +1
  • When you reach 20th level, if you are hidden from your target when you hit it with Black Spider, it must succeed at a Constitution saving throw with a DC equal to 8 plus your Dexterity modifier plus your proficiency bonus or die. Once you have used this feature, you must finish a long rest before you can use it again. Black Spider Enhancement: Proficiency bonus increases by +1 (affecting skills, and Stab action to hit), Hit Points increase by 7 (3d4), Dexterity increases by 2 (adding +1 to AC, Stealth skill, Stab action to hit and damage), Sneak Attack damage increases to 35 (10d6), Black Spider can make three attacks per turn with Multiattack.

Black Spider is both greedy and jealous. You have disadvantage if you make a melee attack with a weapon that is not Black Spider. This penalty does not apply if your attack is made with a weapon in your other hand when you are fighting with two weapons.

 

 

 


What’s the most memorable weapon you’ve used in your game?

flawed rose

Flawed Foe: Robert “Robbie” McGee

Some NPCs make excellent allies, others are debilitating nemeses, but some are just sad. In this series of posts we bring you Flawed Foes.  These NPCs may once have held great potential, alas, their flaws have created substantial hurdles.  Don’t let that stop you from enjoying some good old role-playing fun though!


“It is important to engage in one’s pleasures, is it not?”

Robert McGee was born to an average couple in an average city. His home was small, but still fairly average for commoners; he had a reasonably warm bed and enough clothing and food to get by. His parents worked long, hard days at their import shop, which sold a variety of strongly scented herbs, overly perfumed soaps and oils, and other exotic items. Robbie spent much of his time helping out at the family shop sorting and refilling spices, the smell of which embedded itself in his clothing and made his nostrils burn.

Publisher’s Choice Quality Stock Art © Rick Hershey / Fat Goblin Games

The family earned enough to get by, but it was no fortune. The McGee family ate a lot of grains flavoured with some of the herbs from the shop, as well as bread and what meat they could afford (which was often poorer cuts his mother marinated in herbs and liquid to mask the quality). Robbie and his parents worked well into the night each day and began again early the next morning. Hygiene was not a huge priority as finding time to visit the local bathhouse was difficult and costly. As a result, Robbie was teased mercilessly from a young age for his poor hygiene and strange odour. Children would chant “Stinky McGee” in his presence, and very few children ever played with the pungent adolescent.

The growing boy distanced himself those around him, assisting his parents or exploring the fields outside of town alone. Over the years Robbie learned how to turn his emotions off, deadening himself on the inside to the world around him. He passed more time than he would ever admit to his parents inspecting the carcasses of creatures he found, and even killing some wildlife, and once a stray dog, he happened upon. The cold distance with which he performed these acts is what would have troubled the McGee’s more than anything else, but the parents remained blissfully unaware of their son’s pastime.

When Robbie grew older he decided to leave town. Taking a supply of goods from the shop, the youngest McGee thought he might have some luck as a traveling merchant. He knew his parents would need him in the coming years, but Robbie wished to see life outside his hometown, and secretly also wondered if he might be able to move the business somewhere else. With his parents’ blessing, Robbie set out.

What Robbie came to find was that there was indeed a market for goods such as his family’s out on the road. In a very short time, Robbie sold the majority of what he had set off with, and, having noticed the eager faces of many potential patrons, had done so at a higher cost than his parents normally charged in the shop. The days were just as long, and time on the road perhaps less pleasant than in town, but Robbie enjoyed the solitary nature of it.

Pleased with his progress, his bags near empty of their goods, and his pockets laden with coin, Robbie found lodgings at a nearby inn and decided to treat himself. Rather than order the least expensive food items available, Robbie decided to savour his success with a strong glass of ale and a meat and cheese platter. The smoked meat was delicious in the way so many roasts of his youth had not been, but it was the cheese with its strong flavours and unusual texture that delighted Robbie.

After enjoying much of the tavern fare Robbie stepped outside to the back ally to relieve himself. Here he inadvertently found himself listening to the end of a negotiation between two parties. One, a well-dressed man with a hood pulled low, was bartering with the other, a poorly dressed half-orc with several knives at his belt. From what he could gather, the half-orc was trying to increase the rate of services he was offering, and the human was frustrated by this. At Robbie’s appearance the half-orc appraised him, scowled, and looked back to the human stating if he changed his mind, he knew where to find his services. The half-orc rounded the ally toward the main street and the human looked in Robbie’s direction. A brief conversation ensued where the human became frustrated with Robbie for interrupting his business deal. While not always the canniest of people when it comes to people’s emotions and motivations, Robbie quickly determined less than reputable dealings were transpiring in the ally. Robbie cared very little for anyone but his parents, but he was distantly curious, full of satisfaction from his job well done, and emboldened by the copious amounts of food and drink he celebrated with, and so somehow, he convinced the man he might be able to help. That evening Robbie walked away with the first job in his new career.

The execution was easy; he simply slipped into the house via a window, dispassionately murdered the woman, and left the scene. Robbie found his ability to feel so little for so many, to be so distant from everything around him, was a huge asset in this line of work. The fee was substantial, and the work even easier than travelling with a large volume of goods and speaking with people long enough to convince them to purchase said goods. Robbie wanted to return to his parents; he wanted to help them with their business. He also wanted to do this.

That night, after he returned to the inn, his blade wiped clean on some discarded clothing, Robbie felt ill. At first concerned he had been poisoned, and then perhaps cursed, and so the next morning Robbie made his way home. Travel was slow at first, but as the days passed and Robbie ate the rations procured some days prior, the pain began to subside.

Feeling intrigued with the possibilities of completing more jobs like the one he recently done, Robbie returned home with the funds he had received the goods he left with. His condition cleared up while he resumed living with his parents, dining on seasoned meat and vast quantities of rice and other grains. He told his parents of the success of travelling with the goods, and the three of them agreed that for as long as Robbie wished to, this would be a good business practice. Within a few days Robbie set off once again, travelling here and there and peddling his wares, but he also kept his ear out and made contact with a few less than savoury people in the various places he visited. Before long Robbie had built himself a reputation with the “right” people, and had begun a second business of sorts – a hired hitman.

All the while the traveling merchant found himself obsessed with cheese and other delicious milk products, seeking out more varietie s in each town he came across, and enjoying it with every meal he could. Along with his new-found love of cheese, Robbie discovered something else about himself: his body had trouble digesting the milk protein. The malodorous man, who was used to the foul looks of those around him, realized he hadn’t been poisoned that first night, not exactly at any rate: from what he could tell his new favorite food caused him minor gut pain, and the most flatulent of farts.

For some time now, Robbie has travelled from town to town, completing jobs for those need to simplify their lives or have messages sent and peddling his parent’s wares, all the while indulging in the fare that causes him (and those around him) such anguish.

NPC: Shades the Blade (Blade Slinging Mercenary Goblin)

Looking to add an NPC to your Starfinder session? Look no further!

Shades the Blade was originally featured in 5e NPCs: Goblins! Goblins! Goblins!, but has been lovingly crafted into a Starfinder NPC. If you love Starfinder, keep an eye out for our upcoming Tangible Tavern: ICON.


Shades the Blade

Blade Slinging Mercenary Goblin

What, that? That’s just a fracking flesh wound, chum, it’ll be gone in a tick.”

Tarrgk Facegump was like every other member of the Flayback Tribe: vicious, impulsive, greedy, and short-sighted. The day the burning ship fell from the sky onto the Flayback camp he ceased to be impulsive and short-sighted. That was the day that Tarrgk Facegump died and Shades the Blade was born.

Publisher’s Choice Quality Stock Art © Rick Hershey / Fat Goblin Games

When his tribe’s camp was destroyed, Tarrgk and a small band of warriors were returning from an unsuccessful raid, laden down with their dead companions. Upon seeing the burning craft strike their home like the finger of a vengeful god, Tarrgk’s companions fell to their knees and begged forgiveness for their failures. Tarrgk, however, did not. He had seen something break off the crashing structure and arc to the east, and after the crash, he could see a faintly blinking white light some distance in that direction. Sensing opportunity, he snuck away from his companions to investigate.

About a mile away, Tarrgk found his prize: a segmented metal cylinder the size of five goblin tents. As he approached the cylinder, a door sized portion of it folded out into stairs with a hiss, creating a softly glowing entryway. The goblin cautiously hefted his spear and entered the cylinder with a mixture of trepidation and excitement, sure that he had discovered something truly valuable.

As Tarrgk passed through the door, a terrifying, man-sized creature with a smooth, glassy black face lunged at him, stabbing him with some kind of fine spear attached to a liquid filled shaft. Tarrgk thrust his weapon at the thing reflexively, stabbing it deep in the thigh and killing the already mortally wounded monster. As the rush of adrenaline subsided, Tarrgk’s head began to swim, and he passed out.

When he awoke mere moments later, Tarrgk was changed. He understood the cosmonaut he had killed had not intended to attack him; she had injected him with a nanite solution that connected Tarrgk’s brain directly to the escape capsule’s central computer, effectively making him smarter and more canny than he had been. The connection also informed Tarrgk that the nanites would work to keep their host safe, knitting almost any injury suffered and making his body and mind hardier.

Tarrgk used his enhanced knowledge to assemble a resonant blade, an extraordinarily sharp knife that doesn’t suffer the effects of friction, and that returns to his hand at his mental command, and a pair of tinted goggles. He also found the craft’s stealth module and rendered the ship invisible to all but the most advanced sensors, though he can always locate it due to the nanite’s connection to its central computer.

Finding his fellows far more limited than himself upon his return, Tarrgk quickly abandoned them, and his name. With the new name, Shades the Blade, he set out into the world ready to sell his services to whomever was willing to part with sufficient funds. Shades takes on nearly any task, regardless of the danger, as the nanites heal even the most grievous wounds rapidly, though he is quick to retreat in the rare instance that his injuries are slow to disappear.

 

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Flawed Foe: Jago Sudsworth

Some NPCs make excellent allies, others are debilitating nemeses, but some are just sad. In this series of posts we bring you Flawed Foes.  These NPCs may once have held great potential, alas, their flaws have created substantial hurdles.  Don’t let that stop you from enjoying some good old role-playing fun though!


“You think your beauty is cherished by all that behold it, but it is merely a sweet lie held on the lips of a world that cares nothing for you.”

In his youth Jago was often called handsome. His square jaw, deep brown eyes and flawless skin made him the object of desire for many of the girls about town. When Jago smiled, it was as if the room lit up. His muscular stature, earned from moving heavy goods and otherwise helping with the family business – a small import shop – further enhanced his appeal. Despite his status as a commoner, many of the noble girls in town took notice of the good looking young man.

Jago Sudsworth

©Rick Hershey, Empty Room Studios, 2017

Jago enjoyed the attention, and the affection.  By the time he neared the end of adolescence Jago had numerous lovers, and had caught the eye of the very wealthy and notable Tillie Anne Sharperre.

Tillie, an attractive young woman of noble breeding, was the epitome of a lady in public, but she was also an emotional rollercoaster behind closed doors.  While Tillie was often passionate and adventurous during the secret moments she found with Jago, she was also prone to jealousy. Tillie demanded that if she and Jago were to continue, she be the only woman in his life. While Jago balked at the request initially, he quickly realized Tillie meant more to him than any of the other women. He called things off with his other lovers and assured Tillie his feeling for her were pure and true.

Tillie’s parents had promised her to a nobleman in town who was slightly older than the bride-to-be. She was disinterested in the relationship, but knew it was her duty to follow through. Tillie convinced herself that even after the union she would be able to continue her relationship with her beloved Jago, and he promised her the same.

As spring flowers began to bloom the wedding day drew closer; Tillie and Jago did what they could to find time together, while keeping their relationship a secret. Three nights before the wedding, Tillie and Jago met for what they believed to be the last time before the wedding. After a passionate kiss goodbye, and promising to visit Jago as soon as she could get away, Tillie set off, unaware it would be the last time she would see the handsome face of the man she loved.

Tillie’s future husband had begun to suspect something was amiss with the young girl and, determined not to be made a fool of, had hired someone to follow her.  When news came of her lover, he was furious. The nobleman hired thugs to ensure the relationship ended. The brutes cornered Jago in an alley and beat him, punching and kicking him, and even slashing his face until he was barely conscious. They told him if he loved his parents, he’d never see Tillie again.

It took some time for Jago to recover. He convinced everyone he was the victim of a mugging and had no idea who the attackers were. While the family business was successful, neither he nor his parents had enough funds to procure the services of a magical healer, and the attack left Jago horribly disfigured. Where he once caught the eye of many a fair maiden for his picturesque features, they now did their best to avert their curious gazes from his scarred and misshapen face.

Despite the warning, Jago was desperate to see Tillie.  His mind raced with the possibilities of her state – was she happy in her new marriage? Was her husband kind to her? Did she know of what happened to him? He convinced himself he could stay far enough away from her that no one would notice his presence.

Once Jago was well enough to travel about the city on his own, he set off to see Tillie. He was concerned about the welfare of his parents, but his love for the young woman was strong. He positioned himself in an alley that looked out at a busy street and here he waited for his beloved to pass by.  Even those who didn’t give the alley a wide berth paid him no notice, as he hid in the shadows deep in the alley with a large cloak wrapped around him for warmth, the hood pulled low over his face.

After some time the fetching young lass moved down the adjacent street. Jago heard her laughing and his heart leapt with joy, but he also became nervous. Was there anything she wanted to say to him? Did she miss him? Was she as happy as she sounded? Had her marriage caused her to forget him?

Jago hadn’t even realized his feet were moving until he had stepped out of the alley. His hood fell back over his shoulders and he came face to face with the love of his life, who was accompanied by a friend and two servants. He wanted to reach for her, despite all the reasons not to, when she recoiled, a look of terror upon her face. Heartbroken, Jago fled immediately, consumed with the knowledge that the beautiful Tillie Anne, his lady love, found his disfigured face repulsive.

Jago ran. He was hardly even aware of his actions as he returned to his home and hastily packed a few belongings. To this day he can only vaguely recall stealing the horse from the stable in a nearby inn, his appearance startling the stable boy into a corner and leaving him so speechless he couldn’t even bring himself to call for help. Jago rode the stallion into the night, and set off again the next morning. For days he travelled, blind to where he was going, knowing only that he must escape the small town and distance himself from the woman who now viewed him as a monster. Jago, heartbroken and betrayed, swore to himself he would never love again.

It never occurred to him in his haste to depart his home, to distance himself from the look upon his beloved’s face, that Tillie was not repulsed by him, but terrified of a figure emerging from the alley, surprised at Jago’s presence, and astounded at what had been done to him. It never crossed his mind after that brief moment that she still loved him and that her heart broke each day over their last encounter.

When Jago eventually stopped in a town he had never before seen, he found a shop selling masks. Here, his hood pulled low, he petitioned the shop keeper to fashion him a custom face mask, one that would ensure no one ever looked upon his face again.

Every year as the first spring flowers bloom, Jago’s heart breaks at the memory of Tillie and what they once shared, but he continues to move forward, desperate to put his memory of her, of their love, of the way she looked at him that final day, behind him. For years he has travelled the lands, targeting wealthy nobles with brutal acts of reprisal. It is hard to say for certain which bothers him more: those truly in love or those together for social status, but both become the victims of the masked man who leaves one or both of lovers broken, disfigured, or dead in the hopes it will bring him some solace for what he lost so many years ago.

 

 


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Open Game License


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