Subscribe to the Roleplaying Tips Weekly Newsletter - game master tips

Roleplaying Tips Weekly E-Zine Issue #319

How To Build A Large Character Gallery


Edited by: Isaac Calon

This Week's Tips Summarized 

How To Build A Large Character Gallery

  1. Make A Copy Of All New Characters
  2. Building An NPC Gallery: Make Additional Copies Of PC Sheets
  3. Use Modified PCs As Future Pre-Generated Player Characters
  4. Organize Your NPC Gallery
  5. Mirrored Death
  6. Level-Up With New Character Sheets

Readers' Tips Summarized 

  1. Online RP Rooms - Try One Today
    From: Dana Fisher
  2. A Little Campaign-Colour - World Events
    From: John Eikenberry
  3. TheDomino Puzzle
    From: Nate A.

Deck O' Names: Anglo Saxon Places

Give historical flair to place names with the Deck O' Names! Quick names for fantasy towns are a cinch, even for the naming challenged. This 100-card deck provides over 31,000 variations. Complete with Runes and pronunciation guide, this product makes naming easy. Need names for people? Try other Deck O' Names productsÑincluding software. Help for the Harried Game Master!

Deck O' Names: Anglo Saxon Places at RPG Now

Return to Contents

A Brief Word From Johnn 

Plain Text or HTML?

Thanks for all the e-mails answering my poll about whether you'd like this e-zine to switch to HTML format!

You answered:

Keep it Plain Text: 74% Make it HTML: 15% Either is ok: 11%

And some of your comments were:

  • Plain Text:
    • Plain text = smaller message sizes = keeps inboxes small
    • Presentation isn't forced by HTML design
    • Readers like me are still using dial up Internet access and the text only e-mails I receive are much faster to download
    • If you make the tips in HTML format, then I won't be able to access them at work
    • Faster to read and easier to send chunks of text to my players
  • HTML:
    • HTML = kewl features
    • The HTML format is better at displaying tabular data and lists. It also makes it possible to link directly from the text to external sources or from the table of contents to a desired topic
    • Pictures can be added to articles if it makes sense
    • Headers are easier to recognize if using larger fonts or other formatting, making them stand out

FR Atlas Petition

A reader sent me this notice:

I noticed that you've mentioned playing in Forgotten Realms a few times in your newsletter. ProFantasy is starting an online petition to organize the movement to get WoTC to re- release the FR Atlas software again.

Get some gaming done this week.


Johnn Four

Return to Contents

D&D War of the Dragon Queen HUGE Pack - USD $17.99 + 5% cash back!

Long anticipated by fans, War of the Dragon Queen features Huge figures from the D&D realm. These figures tower over other miniatures and are accurate representations of the larger side of the D&D creature lineup. The figures in the set were chosen from a variety of D&D roleplaying titles, including several volumes of the Monster Manual, Heroes of Battle, and the Eberron and Forgotten Realms campaign settings.

D&D War of the Dragon Queen HUGE Pack at RPG Shop

Return to Contents

How To Build A Large Character Gallery  

By James Patrick Patterson

Using the methods outlined below, you can gain a large collection of non-player characters to use as pre-generated player characters or as NPCs that are just as detailed as normal PCs with little effort.

Return to Contents

1. Make A Copy Of All New Characters 

Have the players make two copies of their beginning PC - one for them and one for the GM. There are several reasons for keeping a second copy of all player character sheets:

  • Players often find and correct mistakes when making copies.
  • Allows the game master to go over the new character in greater detail between gaming sessions without cutting into session time.
  • If the player forgets or loses the character sheet, the GM will always have a spare.

Return to Contents

2. Building An NPC Gallery:  Make Additional Copies Of PC Sheets

With a simple name change, that extra PC sheet becomes a complete, useable, NPC. I call these NPCs "Mirror Player Characters." Mirror NPCs (MNPC) make great allies or foes, and however they are aligned to the PCs, the resulting relationship will be interesting.

Make three additional copies of each PC, but without a name or a description, and try making some (or all) of the following changes to create your NPC gallery.

  • Change the character's age, possibly by several categories.
  • Change the character's wealth level.
  • Change the character's sex.
  • Change the character's culture or homeland.
  • Change the character's gear. Customize it. Make it suit the character's talents.
  • Add a reputation. Rumors or tales about the character add depth.
  • Add a mount or pet.
  • Add a special relationship. (He is the Queen's second cousin twice removed, you say?)
  • Give the MNPC a secret motive.

Keep extra, undescribed MNPCs handy so they can be used during play, and be sure to write down specific details as they come to you during the session. That way you don't have to worry about forgetting important details.

Return to Contents

3. Use Modified PCs As Future Pre-Generated Player Characters 

MNPCs can also be used to quickly pull a new player into a game, or to reintroduce a player who has just witnessed his PC's death. Not everyone will want to play a pre-gen PC, but the immediate benefits might be worth it.

Here is a short list of ways to introduce an MNPC to your ongoing campaign:

  • Have the player "assume control" of an NPC that is already travelling with the group. The player should probably adopt the NPC's name (or could go by a nickname), but the just- introduced MNPC's other statistics can slide in with just a little suspension of disbelief.
  • The MNPC could be related to another PC.
  • The MNPC could be hired on to replace a lost PC, or fill a needed skill-niche.

Return to Contents

4. Organize Your NPC Gallery 

What might take time and effort is making a habit of keeping the NPC Gallery organized. It is much easier to start organized than to wade through a mountain of character sheets from 15 years of gaming that transcend campaigns and game systems.

My current gallery is sub-divided with the current PCs in one section and all the MNPCs organized again by race, class, profession, level (or point total), and gender.

Return to Contents

5. Mirrored Death 

A specific use for an exact mirror copy of a PC is a situation I call Mirrored Death. The setup is this: Death has sought out a PC for a given reason, such as:

  • Drawing the Death Card from a Deck of Many Things
  • A serious religious reprimand
  • A deadly curse
  • The result of attempting to break or ignore a Geas
  • Insulting the greatest powers of the universe

Rather than facing a cloaked skeleton with a large scythe, which is so iconic that it no longer scares people, the PC faces its exact double. The mirror image should be ruthless in using the PC's own abilities against himself, and any other PC joining the fight will also be given an exact duplicate to battle, alone. It should make for a tough fight and a good memory later on, and a PC's death immediately gives you another NPC for your gallery.

Return to Contents

6. Level-Up With New Character Sheets 

Try to encourage your players to create new character sheets each time they level-up or significantly gain in power and ability. This lets you use the previous tips to generate a wide array of PCs instead of just beginning ones.

  • Players grab blank character sheets and transfer over their characters, plus advancement changes.

    If your group doesn't mind doing this, then keep a stack of blank character sheets handy to help facilitate the process.
  • Players update their character sheets and make you a photocopy.

    Rather than re-writing characters each new level, collect all the character sheets after updates and photocopy them. If you know your players will get the job done, ask them to do it. If you have a computer and scanner handy, make hi-res scans.
  • Use software.

    Many game systems have character creation software, self- calculating PDFs, or spreadsheets available. Enter the characters in the software and print out new versions after each level-up. If it's convenient, hand over the keyboard and ask your players to do the updates. If that's not possible, collect the sheets and do the updates between sessions. Sometimes, the updates are quick to enter at the game table with each player telling you what's changed or new.

Return to Contents

Steel Sqwire Flip-Mat - USD $9.00 + 5% cash back!

The Steel Sqwire Flip-Mat is constructed of durable laminated card stock ~ 70 lb paper - comparable to that of a restaurant menu. It's 2 feet wide by nearly 3 feet long (24" by 30") & quickly & conveniently folds up. On one side there are 1" Squares & on the flip side 1" Hexes.

The Flip-Mat can handle Wet Erase, Dry Erase, & Permanent Markers.

This gaming aid is great for conventions, new gamers, or Game Masters who want multiple mats to pre-draw separate encounters.

Steel Sqwire Flip-Ma at RPG Shop

Readers' Tips Of The Week: 

1. Online RP Rooms - Try One Today 

From: Dana Fisher

Campaign scheduling was nigh impossible for me until I found online roleplaying rooms. We call around, set a date (or dates), and game. When players are forced to type what they think rather then say it, I find descriptions get more imaginative. Players get into the game better.

A couple of hints:

  • Establish a posting order. I try to break up the posting order to include a natural rhythm. Some people take longer to post then others, so I put a long, short, long, short.
  • Encourage players to find pictures or ask other chatters in the different rooms to design pictures for them for their characters; this really helps in a text-based field to let players get into the swing of things.
  • Let players who love to write break up their posts by doubling as NPCs. This takes a huge burden off the storyteller.
  • Make use of message boards. This is your lifeline to keep track of everything campaign related. Encourage other players to post to it to form new storyline theories and ideas.

Some sites have an option to scroll back approximately 100 posts and save them to email. You can distribute archives to players, especially to folks who might not have been able to play. With a spoken game, you can only convey the general happenings. With each player having a written log of what happened, there are no arguments, and players can enter one game seamlessly from the last one.

Encourage your players to hang out in the different rooms so they can see other styles and get ideas. This is called lurking, and sometimes even 10 minutes of lurking can make a big difference to a player.

Two free sites that you can register and play at: (My personal preferred hang out, with lots of friendly people willing to lend a hand and help out! I usually hang out in the room "Dimensions" under the handle (R2)D2 ) and World Broadcasting System

Please be aware that most of the rooms have themes, so check out a room before you decide to play in it, as a matter of courtesy. Some rooms require powerful characters to be registered with the moderator (who keeps the room running smoothly). However, if you wish to have an uninterrupted game with just your group, I highly recommend using the private room feature. It lets you create a temporary room and password so only those you invite can join in the game!

Return to Contents

2. A Little Campaign-Colour - World Events 

From: John Eikenberry Eikenberry Webpages - Events

Events are things that show time isn't standing still.

In an effort to make my campaigns more fun, I wanted to add the concept of events that were occurring around the characters. I created the following list with help of the GURPsnet-l discussion group, and some guidelines. I hope this list is useful to other players, and if you have any suggestions or additions you would like to make, please email me at john [at] eikenberry [dot] com. Enjoy.

In medieval RPGs, world events can be approached at multiple levels - local, regional, national, or international. For instance, a burglary of a bakery in a town 2000 miles away probably wouldn't get mentioned unless there was something special about it. It could have involved a grisly death or an important figure. But a burglary of the local bakery probably would just get local attention. Likewise, a prince's treason would be the talk throughout an entire kingdom, and perhaps beyond.

My rules of thumb for the two extremes:

  • Local - petty events, plus anything more grand
  • Regional
  • National
  • International - only events involving celebrities, or special circumstances

In other words, the farther you are away from an event, the bigger/more important/more gruesome the event needs to be for you to hear about it.

So how do you set up an event?

  • Description: What happened?
  • Quality: What is the nature of event (Magical, natural, economical, religious, or whim)?

Why is it important? How important? How long ago? (Ancient, past, recent, present.)

  • Reason: Why did the event occur? (Relates to the nature of the event.)
  • Cause: What is behind the event? (One person, group, organization, nation?)
  • Effect: How many will be affected by the event? How?

Some ideas to get you started:


  • Wedding (Between whom? Was it arranged? Why?)
  • Birth (Who are the parents?)
  • Death
  • Uprising/Revolt/Rebellion/Coup
  • Political unrest/Demonstration/Protest
  • Riots
  • Change in government/union/guild policy or law
  • Traitorous/Treasonous/Spy/Sabotage activities
  • False charges against/framing of celebrity/political/ hero/local
  • Feud (family or otherwise) begins/ends
  • Coup (attempted or successful)
  • Assassination (attempted or successful)
  • Funeral
  • Kidnapping of public/political/local figure
  • Jailbreak/rescue
  • Trial (public or private)
  • Crime wave
  • Travelling Troupe/Bard
  • Message by messenger/post/town crier/town meeting
  • Stranger/traveller arrives/departs/passes through
  • Great performance done or great masterpiece created
  • Heist/Burglary
  • Fight/Duel
  • Smuggling/Contraband
  • Crime (rape, extortion, blackmail, bribery, murder)
  • Trial/Imprisonment/Execution
  • Slavery market
  • Coronation
  • Granting of land to someone (knighting?)
  • Removal of land rights
  • Omen or oracle vision/seen/witnessed
  • Ambassador - sent to, or arrives from, another land
  • Famous Person (hero, artist, mage, bard, criminal)
  • Injustice done/corrected
  • Recruiting (military, political party, criminal)
  • VIP (political/religious) visit/sent
  • Troop movement (redeployment, military action, drilling)
  • Refugees (depart, arrive)
  • Kidnapping
  • Tournament/Contest
  • Visitation/Avatar of deity appears
  • Revenge
  • Inquisition/Fanatical behaviour
  • Religious/political/business coalition forms or breaks up
  • Skirmish/battle/war/revolt by peasants/neighbor/army/ political/business/religions
  • Pacification/military expedition/explorations - powerful state fights primitive people.
  • Interventions/reprisals - powerful state fights small state
  • Shift in power within politics/crime/religion
  • Invasion/Raid
  • Archeological find
  • Festival/Fair/Market/Sporting Event
  • Religious celebration/observances

Meteorological and other acts of nature

  • Tornado
  • Earthquake
  • Monsoon
  • Hurricane/Typhoon
  • Tidal Wave/Tsunami
  • Drought
  • Dust bowl
  • Dust storm/Sand storm
  • Blizzard
  • Avalanche (mud, rock, or snow)
  • Flood
  • Volcano eruption
  • Wildfire (natural)
  • Firestorm (natural)
  • Heat wave
  • Cold spell
  • Lightning strike/storm
  • Bountiful harvest
  • Becalmed seas
  • Rough seas
  • New land formed (volcanic or earthquake)
  • Food supply changes (poor harvest/poor fishing)


  • Fire
  • War
  • Raid
  • Ambush
  • Skirmish
  • Disease outbreak (human, animal, plant)
  • Crop failure
  • Famine
  • Incursion
  • Accident
  • Structure collapses (bridge/dam/levee/building)
  • Haunting/Supernatural event
  • Monster/Wild animal


  • Meteor Shower
  • Comet
  • Lunar Eclipse - partial, complete
  • Solar Eclipse - partial, complete
  • Shooting Star
  • Meteor Strike
  • Planetary body moving into/out of a constellation (Zodiac?)
  • Star goes nova (visible)
  • Conjunction of planets
  • Harvest moon - full moon closest to autumnal equinox, more light at night to harvest


  • New Construction: (Castle/Church/Cathedral/Fortification/ Building/Aqueduct)
  • Caravan established
  • Promotion (guild member/apprentice->journeyman->master/ political)
  • Invention made (but not readily available)
  • Discovery made (theory of electricity, germ theory)
  • New product introduced (spices, tools)
  • Town founded
  • Town destroyed
  • Guild treaty made/broken
  • Alliance made/broken
  • Treaty made/broken
  • Taxes - increase/decrease/comparison
  • Bandit/Pirate/Breaker activity
  • New land/item/people discovered/created
  • Taxes levied/reduced/increased/removed
  • Destruction/emergence/bankruptcy of new trading guild
  • Economic depression

Return to Contents

3. The Domino Puzzle 

From: Nate A.

Here's a moderately challenging puzzle with simple rules based on an ordinary set of dominoes. Be warned however; this is a logic puzzle, and some players may not like this type of problem solving. Also, it may be time consuming, so it's probably best the puzzle does not occupy a choke point in the campaign or story. Better if it's something non-vital the players can study in their own time and come back to later, such as on an item they can carry with them. It could be a complicated key pad lock to a vault, or perhaps each tile must be collected and put in place to open the archmage's spellbook. Maybe the numbers have meaning or are replaced with symbols? Alter the flavor to fit your needs.

Here's the puzzle:

The following grid of numbers is made up of an ordinary double-6 set of dominoes. The tiles have been removed, and only the number locations remain. Determine where each tile was originally laid down flat.

6 1 1 5 4 2 5 0
3 2 0 6 1 1 3 1
0 6 5 6 5 1 5 4
1 6 3 3 3 5 5 2
2 2 0 4 1 3 4 0
2 2 2 0 6 6 6 5
3 4 0 0 4 4 3 4


0/1 1/1
0/2 1/2 2/2
0/3 1/3 2/3 3/3
0/4 1/4 2/4 3/4 4/4
0/5 1/5 2/5 3/5 4/5 5/5
0/6 1/6 2/6 3/6 4/6 5/6 6/6

Optional Hint: the 3/6 tile is in the upper left-hand corner.

This puzzle actually came from an old news stand logic puzzle booklet. Books of this type can be a cheap inspiration at about $3-5 each for usually 40-60 puzzles. Give 'em a shot.

[Editor's Note: I didn't solve this puzzle, but I did find the following link to help you do it yourself. Domino Logic - Solving Techniques ]

Return to Contents

Epic Monsters

The third of the Expert Player's Guides, Epic Monsters provides 256 hardbound pages jam-packed with Epic-level monsters of Challenge Rating 20+.

This tome is the perfect companion to Epic-level campaigns, containing over 100 creatures geared to giving the most powerful characters a real challenge. Whether your scenarios are earth-bound or span the dimensions, there will be monsters in this book you can use to give your players a real fright!

Epic Monsters at RPG Shop