EncounteRX – NPC Makeover, SyFy Face Off-style

Some of you may be addicted to Syfy’s Face Off competition series where they pit aspiring makeup and effects artists against different solo and team challenges in insane time frames. If not and you’re interested in some of the movie magic that goes into creating some of the creatures you find on television and the big screen, it’s a fantastic way to get a little education on a wide array of techniques. If so, then you know how much fun it is to see an initial sketch or idea turn into a person in costume on a stage. Or maybe it’s just me.

At any rate, it had me thinking that the way they treat some of the characters, depending on time, would work really well in a game situation. I’m calling it the “Three Levels” approach for now. And it will work great for NPCs.

  • Level 1 is the easiest level. Think of it as the “touch up” – a bit of makeup, a small appliance, some fake teeth, etc. to just give the character a little uniqueness. These could be applied to a throwaway character or a regular NPC that you’re in the process of developing.
  • Level 2 requires a bit more work. This is the “mask and cowl” level. These are more significant modifications as you might want for a recurring character.
  • And level 3 is the “Full Monty.” Makeup, masks, cowls, costumes – the works. A head-to-toe treatment you might want to do for a significant or major figure in the world.

Let’s go through these in a little more depth…

The Touch Up (Level 1)

retrolady3For these characters, you really only want to do the bare minimum here to set them apart. A bit of paint and spackle to change the eyebrows and ears (think Spock from Star Trek) or a hairdo or some teeth. To give you some ideas for things to ponder:

Element (d6):

  1. Eyes
  2. Lips
  3. Teeth
  4. Hair
  5. Ears
  6. Skin

Roll on this table and then again on the Descriptive Hints table…

  • (Eyes/Tall) – that’s kind of strange. But I might interpret it as if the character has droopy eyelids or over-sized Anime-style eyes…
  • (Lips/Short) – this person may have very thin lips or “pursed” lips where they’re always ready for a kiss…
  • (Teeth/White) – this character either takes very good care of his or her teeth or has a strange biological quirk that makes their teeth glow brightly…

Nothing substantial, but enough to give a bit of detail to a NPC who needs just a bit of color. You could even roll up a bunch of these and come up with a table of just random details to throw together when you need them.

Mask & Cowl (Level 2)

AnonimousmaskHere’s the level when you need a bit more than just a splash of color but don’t want to go all the way to the “Full Monty” level. A mask can change the character’s facial landscape quite a bit, but when you add a cowl to the back of the head you can change all sorts of fun things…

Element (d8):

  1. Ears
  2. Crown
  3. Chin
  4. Helmet
  5. Hands
  6. Forehead
  7. Cowl
  8. Feet

Again, a quick roll here and another on the Descriptive Hints table and you might end up with:

  • (Crown/Scaly) The leader of the band was a odd fellow, bald but with a tattoo wrapped around his head above the ears decorated with dragon or lizard scales in red and green. His moniker while on stage was “the Lizard King” and he saw things no man should see…
  • (Feet/Tattooed) As you watch the lady come to greet you at the store, you notice she is not wearing shoes, but she has tattooed images of all the bones in the foot on her skin. It makes for an eerie topic of conversation as you wonder if the rest of her body is decorated in the same fashion…
  • (Ears/Handsome) The child is wearing a hat to keep himself warmer in the cold weather, but when he removes his hat you see that his ears are covered in a brown, downy fur. He will be a handsome young man when he is older, but for now you can see the hairs matted and ratty, tangled with brambles, leaves, and grass like he’s been tumbling somewhere in the autumn foliage…

The Fully Monty (Level 3)

Small wooden dummy on white backgroundLastly is the level when you can really go all out with a character…

Element (d8):

  1. Clothes
  2. Head
  3. Limbs
  4. Torso
  5. Digits
  6. Accessories
  7. Layers
  8. Mask & Cowl (roll on earlier table)

So roll on the Element table, then roll on the Touch Up table, and get two Descriptive Hints. This gives you a bit more to play with.

  • (Limbs/Teeth/Weather-beaten/Wrinkled) The legend is that Sigen was born old, but when you see him walk into the tavern you see why that is said. Standing a mere 5 feet tall, he is stooped over and wrinkled, gnarled with age like an old tree. As he sees you, he stops briefly to look you over, then smiles. That’s when you wonder what he actually is. His teeth are made of black stone, worn like the craggy peaks of an exposed mountain. When he speaks, he sometimes grinds the stones together and you can see sand and gravel fall from the corners of his mouth… what is he?
  • (Digits/Helmet/Tan/White) Wena Brotsva is a legend of the kingdom’s mounted guard, but she herself has come to see you off at the Gate of the Fallen as you leave the city on your important task. As she dismounts, you notice how classically beautiful she is with a pair of crystal blue eyes peering out beneath the edge of her helmet. Her hands go to her head and you see the scars criss-crossing every inch down to the tips of her fingers. She was the hero who reached into the mouth of the razor vines to save the royal child and she paid the price. But when she takes her helmet off, you see the single tightly wound braid of white hair she keeps wound beneath. Whatever she has to say to you must be important for her to reveal herself in this way…
  • (Clothes/Eyes/Freckled/Stocky) Helry Stomas is not a pleasant man. His huge frame, dressed in a tailored suit that probably cost more than you could ever afford, sits on a reinforced chair behind a table surrounded by his lieutenants and his eyes betray no fear. You may be the heroes of the city, but to Stomas you’re an obstacle. His freckled face watches you approach and breaks into a wide smile. “What can I do for you, gentlemen?”

gaming_dice-300x300Descriptive Hints (d100)

  • 1-2. Chiseled
  • 3-4. Craggy
  • 5-6. Furrowed
  • 7-8. Lived-in
  • 9-10. Long
  • 11-12. Furry
  • 13-14. Bald
  • 15-16. Fine
  • 17-18. Baby-smooth
  • 19-20. Handsome
  • 21-22. Weather-beaten
  • 23-24. Unlined
  • 25-26. Wrinkled
  • 27-28. Rusted
  • 29-30. Sculpted
  • 31-32. Thin
  • 33-34. Thick
  • 35-36. Seamless
  • 37-38. Petite
  • 39-40. Fair
  • 41-42. Dark
  • 43-44. Tan
  • 45-46. Light
  • 47-48. Receding
  • 49-50. Grey
  • 51-52. White
  • 53-54. Freckled
  • 55-56. Pock-marked
  • 57-58. Scaly
  • 59-60. Spotted
  • 61-62. Pale
  • 63-64. Pimpled
  • 65-66. Curly
  • 67-68. Red
  • 69-70. Tall
  • 71-72. Short
  • 73-74. Stocky
  • 75-76. Ancient
  • 77-78. New
  • 79-80. Young
  • 81-82. Clean
  • 83-84. Dirty
  • 85-86. Spiky
  • 87-88. Albino
  • 89-90. Tattooed
  • 91-92. Scarred
  • 93-94. Painted
  • 95-96. Polished
  • 97-98. Pierced
  • 99-100. Muscular


There’s a lot of room for expansion here. More elements. More descriptors. More examples.

I’m curious what you think. Useful? Want more?

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