How to Use The Story Engine Deck To Create Characters For Your Solo RPG

 By Clare C. Marshall

Read Part 1 Here

Read Part 2 Here

If you haven’t been blown away by the sheer vastness of possibility when it comes to solo RPG, let’s continue our deep dive by learning how we can introduce The Story Engine Deck into your gameplay – specifically to create NPCs!


How do I know when to create NPCs in my solo RPG?

It’s your game, so you can create them whenever you want!

You walk into a tavern. Who's the innkeeper? Who's performing on stage? Who’s that fellow in the corner, beckoning you…?

If you’re using the Mythic GM Emulator (details in part 2), a specific dice roll will trigger a random event mechanic, which may direct you to introduce a new character. In this instance, I shuffle and prepare my Story Engine Deck. To me, this means I’m introducing a plot-relevant character, and not necessarily a one-off talking head.

I’ve also spent twenty minutes lovingly crafting a new seemingly important NPC only to have it immediately killed by other NPCs I was travelling with. Sigh. Such is solo RPG life.


Creating NPCs with The Story Engine Deck

People are rarely singular in their identity. This is especially true in stories involving mystery or intrigue. Your PC learned the NPC was a baker, but perhaps they were a gladiator in the war that ended fifteen years ago.

When creating or deepening a character, I often draw two Agent cards. One card is how they see themselves, or an identity remnant of the past. The other is their outward facing self or their current position.

To keep part of an NPC’s backstory a secret to yourself, choose the Agent card that pleases you and randomly draw another. Place it face-down beneath the first card. You can reveal the second card as appropriate to your story.

 Photo by Clare C. Marshall

Discovering an NPC’s motivations with The Story Engine Deck & Mythic

An NPC’s motivations are known to them and not necessarily my PC – but as the solo player, I still want to know what drives the NPC so I can properly dialogue with them.

But Clare, does knowing the NPC’s motivations spoil the surprise factor of a character? What if they’re the secret baddie?

Uncovering a villain’s motivation (for example) is a big deal—sometimes this is the twist or the reveal in a narrative. However, I’d argue that knowing a character’s motivation doesn’t take away the surprise and mystery of interacting with them.

The element of surprise comes from what the NPC does next, based on what the player knows about them.

For example: for my villain in a recent post-apocalypse story development session, I drew an Agent card with two Aspects to create a talkative, collapsing Messiah. I also drew an Engine card and paired it with an Anchor card to learn they’re driven to imprison a dangerous spirit in an incendiary device.

I want to create a scene where my protagonist confronts the villain about their plot. How will the villain react? Using a Behavioural Check in Mythic Variations II (a d10 roll on one table and a 2d10 roll on another) I get “Acts out of PC Interest.”

That’s unexpected! Why would my villain do this?

Answer: to lure my character into a false sense of security.

By my interpretation, the villain is a smooth talker. Because my first interaction with them is disarming, I interpret that charm is their primary tactic for achieving their ends. I will keep this in mind as I interpret further actions from them throughout the scene.

An NPC is never complete. After all, how much can you really know about a person you’ve just met? Even if you have access to their social media, you can only know what they’ve chosen to share. The more my PC interacts with an NPC, the more details I add to their character profile.

Character creation is an evolving process that morphs as the NPC themselves grows, changed by the happenings of their world.


Photo by Ann Spratt


Creating NPCs with The Story Engine and UNE (Universal NPC Emulator)

You can grab UNE here (pay what you want pricing at the time of writing).

UNE’s strength is quickly creating NPCs and their driving motivation, as well as determining their stance toward the player. I love combining it with The Story Engine to breathe life into my NPCs.

To determine motivation using UNE, roll on table 4 for a verb and 5 for a noun.

An Unstoppable, Dark villain I created in my personal campaign is a bounty hunter driven to track down and capture my PC. However, when I pulled an Agent card to deepen the character, I discovered they were also a (former) Ruler. The Unstoppable and Dark Aspect cards combined with the Ruler Agent card informs my interpretation of the UNE-rolled motivation of “offend dissonance.”

To me, “unity” seemed a reasonable way to “offend” dissonance. But why would my bounty hunter spend all their time chasing their quarry (Unstoppable) if they felt the pull of a crown? I realized that while they hunted my PC, they did so not for their own glory. Their relentless bounty hunting subsidizes their true mission: searching the galaxy to unify their now-scattered clan.



It’s easy to draw cards and whip up an NPC, but to bring your character to life, you must go deeper. Try drawing more characters and asking more questions of your prompts to give yourself a rounder, richer image of your characters!

Clare C. Marshall is the author-publisher behind Faery Ink Press. She also blogs about her publishing experiences and experiments and explores the connection between storytelling and solo RPG on her YouTube channel.


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