NPC All-Stars: Dr. House

NPCs bring your world to life. Instead of creating interesting NPCs completely from scratch, take inspiration from the media around you. Amazing characters exist and are waiting to be used as templates or archetypes in your game.

In this article, we examine the ways in which an exceptionally flawed specialist can breathe life into your game.

Dr. Gregory House is the star of the hit TV series, House. If you haven’t watched it, I highly recommend it. He’s an interesting character played brilliantly by Hugh Laurie. Let’s take a look at how you can build an NPC inspired by House.

At the Top of Their Craft

House is the absolute top of his field. He’s a diagnostician at Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital but is known around the country and world for his skill. Time and time again, he’s able to figure out the diagnosis for rare illnesses, despite the doubts from those around him.

Your NPC should be known the region over for their skill or craft. People with the resources will seek out this NPC from far away. Perhaps it’s the only master blacksmith in the kingdom. Or the only alchemist with the knowledge of ten thousand chemicals. Despite the doubts of their peers, they consistently outperform everyone else in their craft.

Brilliant Asshole

Dr. House is a brilliant asshole. He’s disliked by his peers, colleagues and patients and it’s easy to see why. He constantly insults them and shows no empathy. His actions are sometimes deplorable. He breaks rules and tradition and does what he wants.

Your NPC should be unpleasant in the same way. Those that are forced to work with them or seek them out willingly, soon find out that they’re a jerk. The people around them are torn between disgust and respect for the master-level skill. It creates a wonderful dynamic that gives you a lot to work with as a dungeon master.

Have a handful of clever insults ready for this NPC. Create a few instances where your NPC really pissed off other NPCs and powerful people. Remember, they’re known for their craft but also for their attitude.

Fatal Flaw

House is not just a brilliant asshole. He’s incredibly flawed. He’s an addict. He can’t function without high doses of prescription pain pills, which he often gets by forging prescriptions and stealing. He pops the pills like candy. But it’s a logical flaw for someone with extreme physical pain.

Your NPC should be fantastically flawed in the same way. But make sure it’s logical, based on their character. There must be a reason behind the flaw that drives it or caused it. The flaw opens up new opportunities and drives the behavior of your NPC.

Hardened Philosophy

Dr. House’s entire philosophy can be summed up in two words: “Everybody lies.” It’s not a happy philosophy but more often than not, it’s his belief in this that leads to an accurate diagnosis in the face of doubt. Time and time again, his philosophy proves true.

Your NPC should carry an unpopular but true philosophy that guides their actions. If you’re playing Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, this could be a Personality Trait or even Ideal. The rigid guidance of this philosophy will chart a course for your NPC to show their deepest beliefs over and over again in your story.

By creating a master of their craft that’s a fatally-flawed, brilliant asshole with a hardened philosophy, you’ve created an NPC guaranteed to be interesting and exciting, just like Dr. Gregory House.

Originally published at https://phd20.com.

👋 My name is Kirk. I’m an adventure designer and map maker. Most of my maps are available for commercial use. Check them out at https://ko-fi.com/phd20