D&D General Powerful NPCs?

Oofta

Legend
I run a persistent world so PCs from previous campaigns become NPCs in new campaigns. While there are typically time gaps between campaigns in case someone wants to play the child of a PC, there are plenty of ways to have other high level NPCs running around without interfering.

First and foremost, most threats are relatively local and I have a big world. In theory there are high level PCs running around in the kingdom to the south, but they have their own thing to deal with. A couple of high level PCs have acted as benefactors or indirectly dealt with some threats but rarely directly interfere. So some NPCs are simply retired or doing their own thing, leaving current troubles to the next generation. Some are involved but want to keep their actions secret. Yet others are directly involved, but just with things the PCs either aren't interested in or not ready to tackle yet.

If there are high level enemy NPCs it only makes sense to me that some NPCs will be helpful while others will simply be neutral. I don't really do world ending plots and there are plenty of threats in the world to go around for everyone.
 

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That is a curious situation. I guess I would have turned that around on my players and ask them exactly what they expected the Queen to do in the situation? Published settings have an advantage in a lore built out that folks can read up on in their own time.
I did... and paul was 100% honest "Dude, she's a chosen that is [redacted] she should either handle it or help us or give us stuff to help us"
but the party was level 7ish and the adventure was meant for level 7 PCs so a 29th level sorcerer chosen could solo it
However, I do think you need to give the GM some leeway when they are running the game. To me this is like a GM getting a combat mechanical rule wrong and not just discussing it at the table and working it out. I expect these mistakes to happen on occasion, I don't think GMs are prefect, and don't expect them to be.
it was the klast time i ran for paul last time i ran FR and when i developed my hatred for cannon novel sttings (although not the first issue with FR
 


Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
on the other hand in 3e when I tried to run it and didn't read all the stats and had the red wizard threat be something that the PCs should handle, for them to ask if they could get an audiance with the queen (that I quickly looked up her name but not stats) and had her thank them and ask them to handle it they would be rewarded... it destroyed there immersion, I didn't realize they were going to a 30th level sorcerer that hated the red wizard, I though they were going to a queen
If it destroyed their immersion, then they really didn't know much about the Simbul at all. First, she stands against the nation of Thay. The big guns and keeps THEM at bay. She doesn't bother with the little stuff, because that's beneath her and she has many others, like the PCs, to do that for her. If she tried to personally handle every threat, not only could she not do it because there is not enough time in a day, but she would have to sacrifice other things she loves like spending time with Elminster and plane traveling. Second, she's CN. Deciding on a whim to have them do it is right in character for her.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
and this is were homebrew (or atleast a world the players don't know) works better... if I run 2 FR campaigns for 10 people that know nothing of the setting, and just don't bring the archmages or chosen or whatever in for the first 12 levels, they don't know they exsist...

on the other hand in 3e when I tried to run it and didn't read all the stats and had the red wizard threat be something that the PCs should handle, for them to ask if they could get an audiance with the queen (that I quickly looked up her name but not stats) and had her thank them and ask them to handle it they would be rewarded... it destroyed there immersion, I didn't realize they were going to a 30th level sorcerer that hated the red wizard, I though they were going to a queen
Yeah, the Queen of Aglarond is so OP that they even comment on in it in-universe, but somehow Thay remains a threat.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Yeah, the Queen of Aglarond is so OP that they even comment on in it in-universe, but somehow Thay remains a threat.
Thay is strong enough that it would be mutually assured destruction. If she could take Thay out, she would. Instead she acts as deterrent force. Thay doesn't attack because of her. What she would not do is go running off to handle an issue that a small handful of 7th level PCs could handle. She had better things to do.
 


Some examples from my home game. Note, "powerful" does not strictly mean "personally full of magic mojo."

Tenryu Shen: An ally who began as a mysterious foreign priest, revealed to actually be a gold dragon in disguise. He is helpful to the party and acts kind of like a friendly father or uncle figure: he's busy doing Uncle Things, but glad to help out when he can, and trusts the PCs ro help him when he needs it. His mission requires secrecy though, so he has to conceal his power, making it hard for him to just fix problems on his own. The players quite like him, much to my relief, in part because he actually does do things to make their lives easier. He's also Hafsa's fiancee.

Hafsa el-Alam: A talented Waziri mage focused on artifice and analyzing magic items. She is independently wealthy from her work, and thus invests her money into funding archaeological expeditions to uncover new things, and invests back into the community. She may not work as fast as a PC would, but she is reliable, trustworthy, and has connections fhe players don't. She ranks rather lower on the power scale, but has been a staunch ally for their entire adventuring time, so she matters a lot more than some of the others on this list despite that.

Fahd el-Sattar: Leader of the Asiad al-Khafyun, the "hidden overseers" of the Safiqi priesthood. Essentially, the chief of their internal police/spy network. Extremely powerful in a political and intrigue sense, not very powerful in terms of magic. He's effectively a divine ninja (think Avenger from 4e), mostly doing the desk job side of things in the present day. There's a mutual respect between him and the PCs, as they have aided one another, but I wouldn't call their relationship friendly per SE. Cordial, certainly not cold, but it's mostly business, not a personal connection. He's a bit too dedicated to his work for that, but that simply serves to highlight his steely resolve and borderline ruthless efficiency.

Sultana Thuriya: Monarch of the city-state of Al-Rakkah. Come to the throne at a young age, but she has proven herself in times of crisis and is beloved by her people. Composed, cool-handed and sharp-eyed, she knows she can't rule as brashly as her father did in his youth, but she can rule with cleverness and soft power just as well. The party hasn't had many opportunities to meet her (she has a full time job ruling the city, after all), but they like her and she likes them. Her power is theoretically vast, given the military and economic resources at her disposal, but limited by politics and economic realities, so the difference comes across as, "I do what I can within my fenced-in limits; I rely on you to exploit your freedom of action, to do what I cannot."

There are several others I could list, but these give a good spectrum of possibilities for "powerful NPC" that averts the risk of the NPC taking over the narrative. Each is tied down with responsibilities or connections, or cannot exercise the kinds of power and action that the player characters can. As a result, the characters are not portrayed as being "less" than these NPCs (other than maybe Shen), but rather as being different and, ideally, complementary. The NPCs can have things they want or need but cannot get, which allows rhe party to feel useful, to see how their skill sets are still useful and valuable even when they aren't "objectively" more powerful. Further, the personalities of these characters matter. Hafsa is intensely curious, but also a true philanthropist. Shen is like a father or grandfather, wise and caring, but very very devoted to his mission. Fahd is utterly no-nonsense, but his contrast of faith and pragmatism is interesting, and his forthright sincerity with the party means they know they've earned his respect, not just gotten it by proxy. The Sultana is young and sassy, but cares deeply about her role as Al-Rakkah's leader and puts the safety and well-being of the city before all other concerns.

These things, both the limitations/needs side and the actually-has-a-personality side, help prevent these NPCs from stealing the show or trivializing the PCs' efforts. The party both values them as allies and as people, and further, they know this feeling is mutual. It makes a world the players care about, one that they'll take risks to protect. It's a huge part of why I enjoy DMing as much as I do.
 

Immoralkickass

Explorer
I think out of the 7 sisters, half of them are supposedly dead/missing by the time 5e rolls around. I know one is currently ruling Silverymoon, another in Waterdeep who is the wife of Blackstaff. Another one i cant remember but presumably still alive and active.

I dont think any of them are pure evil or pure good, most of them are on the side of good, but as you know, power corrupts even the noblest. And they are certainly very powerful (i think all of them are Chosens of Mystra?)
 

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