by Mike Shea on 4 June 2012
In late May 2012, Wizards of the Coast released the first D&D Next playtest including a short adventure, the Caves of Chaos, built on the original 1st edition Keep of the Borderlands adventure. This article contains NPCs you can use to fill out your playtest adventure. This article works along-side the D&D Next Caves of Chaos Character Relationships article.
Note, you can download the Caves of Chaos Relationships and NPCs PDF suitable for printing along with the adventure.
If you plan to run a series of adventures in the Caves of Chaos, you will likely benefit from a used copy of the original Keep on the Borderlands adventure which still sells for a reasonable price on Amazon.
We will begin with a brief overview of the town before diving into the NPCs.
The keep itself is a small walled town on the edges of civilization. Through a variety of circumstances, the citizens of the keep find themselves somewhat trapped in the city surrounded by a wilderness full of monsters and villainy. Being out on the edge of civilization like this can have its advantages. Many caves and ruins lead to lost treasures and artifacts beyond price. Many of those who found themselves at the keep had hoped to capitalize on this though most simply found death or isolation. A few, such as Torin the barkeep and Reeves the provisioner have found a way to profit from the continual stream of adventurers who travel off to seek their fortune.
Here's a list of the keeps primary locations. Flavor them to suit:
PCs and NPCs alike might have a variety of motivations for coming to and staying at the keep. Here are a few:
Any of these reasons can help fill out the NPCs below or any random NPCs your party might encounter.
Below is a list of potential major NPCs. This is a short list to keep things manageable for you and your group. It is quite possible that these NPCs might become minor NPCs and minor NPCs might become major. Depending on your group, keeping somewhere around three major NPCs will give your players a lot of options without confusing them with too many characters.
Stark is a middle-aged man with black hair, black eyes, pale skin, and sports a thin mustache and beard. His eyes are dark and piercing and he always moves with confidence and purpose. Stark holds the protection of the keep very dear and makes its protection his personal responsibility. Stark introduces himself to any PCs he does not know, gives a brief tour of the outer keep, and lists the rules. A veteran protector of the keep, PCs would have a difficult time lying to him or trying various ruses. He is also not easily intimidated but can be flattered if the flattering is truthful.
Quest: Orc Ears
The local orc tribes grow stronger and more wild every day. Stark hopes to hire mercenaries, adventurers, or hunters to thin their numbers. Stark will pay adventurers for each set of ten left orc ears.
Quest: Return of the jeweled sword
Months ago, a noble left the keep and was killed along the road. Stark will pay a handsome sum for the return of a blade once carried by this noble that now hangs on the hip of the orc chief.
Torin is an older scarred man who has kept home in the Keep for decades. He's seen adventurers come and go but is quick to find a way to profit from their excursions. He's often willing to share a rumor or two that he's picked up. For a bit of coin, the rumors might even be true. For a list of potential rumors, consult the following list:
Torin is a man of big city streets and isn't afraid to get his hands dirty. He is suspicious and keen to deception. He prefers straight talk and profane language to flattery or flowery words.
Quest: Maps of the Caves
Torin is very interested in recovering maps to the caves in the valley. Using maps already in his possession, he is able to spot fakes but each truthful map gives him greater and greater accuracy. He is willing to pay a modest sum for the map to each cave and will pay handsomely for a complete map.
Adrin is a soft-spoken priest of Pelor who is a recent newcomer to the Keep. There he aids the locals and visitors alike in a small chapel purchased by his church for his mission. Adrin does not like to partake in rumors and is saddened to see so many fall within the valley of chaos. Adrin's kind heart makes him susceptible to deception but he has no love for street talk. He treats all well and responds well to such treatment in kind.
Quest: Find the missing husband
Adrin has aided a merchant woman whose husband went missing two weeks ago when traveling between the Keep and a nearby city. Unable to fund a rescue mission herself, she sought Adrin's aid. Adrin seeks out adventurers who might be willing to look for the man. It is said he was captured by goblins (and secretly ransomed to the hobgoblins who have kept him alive).
Brandis the Smithy: A large overweight blacksmith sells basic goods and seeks fine weapons from the caves.
Daven the Castilian: The overseer of the town, he distances himself from the local riff-raff and lets Stark take care of the day to day business.
Reeves the Provisioner: A small unassuming man with a strange accent, Reeves buys and sells a variety of adventuring goods.
Sebastian the Innkeeper: A small nosy man who loves to pass gossop and engage in get-rich-quick schemes rents rooms by the night or by the week.
Two months ago, another priest came to town along with two acolytes in hopes of starting a business to fund his church. He worships a little-known god named Rune (history checks reveal no mention of this god anywhere).
Velor is, in fact, an agent of the cultists of Bel, Archdevil of the first layer of the nine hells. Velor seeks to strengthen the power of the cult of Bel in the keep and within the caves. He will purposefully mislead adventurers and sends secret word to his brethren in the caves. Velor is second only to Ashar, the leader of the cultists who resides in the caves.
One great way to build out a town full of rich and realistic NPCs is to model them on existing characters in one of the best sandbox TV shows ever, the HBO series Deadwood. Most of the NPCs above correspond to characters in the show. Here's a list:
These templates may or may not work for you but using character archetypes to flesh out your NPCs is a great way to determine how they will act and react to the actions of the PCs and of the world.
If you enjoyed this article, take a look at Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master, Sly Flourish's Fantastic Adventures, and Sly Flourish's Fantastic Locations. You can also support this site by using these links to purchase the D&D Starter Set, Players Handbook, Monster Manual, or Dungeon Master's Guide.