How to make your Female NPCs more realistic in Dungeons and Dragons!
I was unaware that this was really an issue in D&D, however it has been brought to my attention that as D&D is still primarily popular with men that sometimes it can be difficult to create authentic female characters. Without realizing, I created several female NPCs who had large parts to play in my campaign and analysing them now, I can now see there are definitely some key components to making your female characters as awesome as the others!
1) Give them motives.
For my campaign, the villain was a female mage called Elphaba. (Yes, from the Musical Wicked – good, right?!) Though she wasn’t really ‘evil’. Her daughter, Ezri, (Star Trek reference there) was in a comatose state, and Elphaba was determined to do all she could to revive her. This meant ‘borrowing’ some children from the nearby village and setting them up for a blood ritual… though she never killed them and was never actually planning to. Evil actions work best against matters of the heart. Look at Anakin from Star Wars. It’s always done to the fact they think they know best, and they’ll do anything to save the ones they love.
If you’re stuck for ideas in terms of interesting female characters, take some fictional ones from films/ games, mod them and change their names! Ripley from Alien could be a gunslinger, or fighter. She could even appear mysteriously when your players encounter a dangerous new species, and boy, does she have some stories for them! Lara Croft, could be a ranger or hunter, and perhaps they encounter her searching for some lost relic in a dungeon. Hermione from Harry Potter, Lulu from Final Fantasy, Bayonetta – kick-ass female characters are all around, take your pick!
Fleshing out the family for your characters is great because it opens up possibilities to create new drama and tension! Elphaba in my campaign was driven to her actions through wanting to save her daughter. In the next village, a Warlock I named Ororo, (X-Men reference) refused to help my players unless they helped her find her little sister. Although I used their families in this way you can really play around with it. Perhaps one NPC wants to kill off her father or mother, or even wants to get married without their approval. It all goes towards keeping the plot moving and making things interesting!
It can be easy to make the majority of your characters straight because that can often be the default. However, I’m going to rip a page out of Bioware’s book here and briefly talk about Dragon Age Inquisition. Many gamers were annoyed that in this game who you could romance was dependent on your race and gender. The companions had their own preferences and this is how it should be for your female NPCs too. Remember what LQBT stands for and mix it up a bit! Note that they can even be Asexual!
At the end of the day, personality is everything. You don’t need to spend forever on your female NPCs to make them three dimensional, but it’s helpful to maybe write three things under each character that makes them intriguing or strange. For example, Emily: only child, compulsive liar, addicted to sweet foods. Or, Cathryn: seven brothers and sisters, has claustrophobia, transgender. All the things fall together to create well developed NPCs.
So there you have it, five tips to remember for your writing days! Remember they don’t just have to be hags, witches and wives, get creative! And if you have any questions you can tweet me at @freeplayfrenchi !
Cover image by: https://www.artstation.com/artist/idalino