So, I'm a part of an organization now called the Role-Playing Blog Alliance which is sort of a centralized hub for blogs about the hobby which gives you free advertising and stuff. It's pretty cool. One of the things I noticed on there was something called a 'Blog Carnival' where a blog puts up a topic and everyone that wants to makes a post about that topic.
In the interest of ranting about random topics, as I thoroughly enjoy doing, I decided to throw my hat into the ring!
This month's topic is 'My Favorite NPC.' Now, as someone with near Perma-GM syndrome, this is kind of tricky, because I haven't really played in games long enough to find an NPC that I really, truly enjoyed interacting with. Not to say that there haven't been some great ones, but none that I would elevate to the status of 'My Favorite'.
Of course, I could just be a derp and maybe this topic also includes NPC's you've created and ran, but I digress.
I'm going to cheat a little.
The first D&D campaign that I ran in college was a real treat to run, and at some point I'll probably elaborate more on it, but there came a time where I really wanted to play. So, a friend of mine said that she wouldn't mind running the game for a while and we changed guard. The NPC I am going to describe first showed up during the segment where I was playing, but I decided to bring him back and make him an important part of the plot when I got back in the GM chair after my character's touching death via sacrifice.
Without further ado, let me introduce you all to...
Balthazar's origin came at a time where a lot of my player's wanted a nemesis of some kind. My friend Harry, who was playing a Samurai, wanted to have an Oni that killed his mother involved in the plot somewhere, so I allowed that for a bit. Then, my friend Jean, who was playing a Revenant Assassin in service to the Raven Queen, wanted a nemesis of his own. I didn't get a lot of details other than a name, and that he was a former Assassin of the Raven Queen who left the order.
My friend Ellen took the game over for a bit while her character was trapped in a pocket dimension. Fun, right? Well, anyway, she first introduced the character as someone who was working with a mysterious figure known as 'The Occultist' who worked for the bad guys. He didn't have a lot of depth, just a bad-ass Eladrin assassin leading a twisted family of monstrous freaks. We didn't see too much of him.
When I got the reins back, I decided that Jean's nemesis didn't get enough screen time, so the wheels in my head started to turn, and I planted him at a most inopportune moment as a sort of off-the-cuff, unplanned way to prevent my party from doing something nearly suicidal. They were about to go kill a dragon on top of a mountain, who had a macguffin and was also the creator of the Dragonborn in my world. Only one problem, though. If a Dragonborn is hit by this dragon's fire, they turn into ash instantly, since that was the fire that created them. We had two Dragonborn in the party, too, so this was potentially going to be a disaster.
So, there to warn them about the dragon's fire and tell them that there's a way to make the fight much easier was Balthazar. Now, I'm an impressionist, so I enjoy doing cool, strange voices for my NPCs/characters. Somehow or other, by fate or chance, the more I talked as Balthazar, the more he started to sound like a certain celebrity. Not a particularly famous celebrity, mind you, but one that is close to my heart.
John de Lancie.
(I actually met him and shook his hand!!)
And, thus, Balthazar was born.
So, Balthazar is an Eladrin in a world where most of the Eladrin were corrupted into Orcs for messing with the Gods and the ones that remained had some weird sort of destiny. As such, he looks like an elf pretty much, tall and lanky with the pointed ears. Except, I picture him as a little taller and lankier than most, almost skeletal in his appearance but he tries to hide that with his clothing and mannerisms. Long silvery hair cascades down his features, very fine with an almost glittering quality to it. Since Eladrin are practically immortal, or else incredibly long lived, he still has a youthful face, but his piercing blue eyes carry the weight of a thousand years.
This is where Balthazar becomes fun. Since the voice started to sound like John de Lancie, I decided to go full-out impressionist and mimic his voice, which lends itself obviously to the 'Q'-like mannerisms. In almost an instant, this originally rather flat NPC became someone the party loved to hate. He always had a snide comment, a taunting air of superiority with a twinge of boredom because, after living so long, he has experienced almost everything. Balthazar is a man looking for his destiny that was apparently promised to him by the Gods, and his search has brought him into almost every profession and walk of life to no avail. He possesses an Ecclestiastian mentality that everything is meaningless in the view of mortality and death, and there is nothing he loves more than tearing down the hopes and beliefs of those around him, playing Devil's Advocate to every position because he knows better. In fact one of his most memorable quotes was the following:
"I love destroying religion. That's why I pick on the little one." - Balthazar, in regards to a young cleric in the party.
Oh, and he's kinda flamboyant, but that goes with the voice.
Why He's My Favorite:
In all of my years of GM'ing, I have never had an NPC that engaged the party to the level that Balthazar has. Come to think of it, in all my years of acting, this is the character that I'm most comfortable improving, and almost everything he said was gold. For this reason, the players kept him around in the party because he always had a secret, always had something to say, and kept the advantage as long as he could. We would have conversations that lasted for a half hour, debating things, talking about the past, the future, all of it a duel of wits which Balthazar almost always won. All off the cuff.
Come to find out, he's also the son of the main bad-guy, and that father and son team had enough persuasive power and were in such an opportune position that almost half the party joined their cult in order to get the last macguffin. Yeah, that's right. This NPC was so powerful by personality and presence alone that he could get half the party to join the cult that was hounding them the entire campaign.
Of course, he betrayed the party when the time was right, but that backfired. His father was killed, and he was left for dead in this huge pool at the bottom of an ancient, extra-dimensional plumbing system that was designed to feed blood to a vampiric dragon.
Yeah, you wish your campaign was that awesome.
And, even after all he had done, all of the snide comments and backstabbing and arrogance, they let him live. For a party whose strategy was kill everything in sight, this is pretty significant.
These are the reasons why Balthazar is my favorite NPC ever. Yes, I ran him and played him, but it wasn't the cool factor or even my contributions that made him the best. It was the level that he affected the party, changed the way they viewed the story and the game. He made the game awesome, and you can't deny that kind of power that I have yet to see recreated.
That's my story! Hope you enjoyed it. If not, here's a funny picture.