RPG Blog Carnival: Memorable Characters Inspired From Real Life

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on June 1, 2011

  • Truth is stranger than fiction.
  • I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t see it with my own eyes.
  • You can’t make this stuff up.

No matter how creative and imaginative we think we are nothing trumps real life. This is why so many popular TV shows feature stories that are ripped from the headlines. This is also a big reason that we’ve seen an explosion of reality TV in the past decade. People want stories inspired by or based on people and events that really happened.

For June’s RPG Blog Carnival, the Dungeon’s Master team wants you to look to reality for gaming inspiration. We’re asking you to create a memorable character (hero or villain) based on a real life person and provide guidelines for how this character might be used in an RPG. Just because we’re a 4e D&D site doesn’t mean that your memorable characters needs to fit within the confines of D&D (although we wouldn’t be opposed to that idea).

The character you create should have a clear connection to the real-life person from which they were inspired. The person can be someone from the past or present, dead or alive. Be creative.

Look at the recent release “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter” by Seth Grahame-Smith as a great example of what we’re going for. In this book the 16th President of the United States is re-imagined as an undead slayer. He’s still grounded in the detail we already know of Honest Abe, but with a few tweaks he’s become as a whole new man, and now he’s a lot more suitable for fantasy RPGs.

Perhaps you envision Napoleon as a Karrnathi Warlord, Houdini as the leader of a Thieves’ Guild, Da Vinci as a Gnomish Artificer or Justin Timberlake as a Bard by day and Assassin-for-hire by night. You’re only limited by your own imagination.

Once you’ve completed your character provide an outline of a possible encounter or even just a few possible adventure hooks featuring them. You might even want to create an encounter that is based on a well-known event from this person’s actual life.

Provide as much detail on your character as you see fit. If you want to provide full statistics or even a character sheet, feel free.

Be sure to come back and leave us a comment below once you’ve posted your contribution to this month’s RPG Blog Carnival. At the end of the month we’ll compile a list of all the characters inspired from real life, along with the encounters or adventure hooks you provide. This collection will be an easy to use resource that you can come back to again and again when you need a memorable NPC for your next campaign.

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1 Shinobicow June 2, 2011 at 12:22 am

Sounds like it is going to be a fun month! You can count me in 😉

2 Greg June 3, 2011 at 1:59 pm
3 PlatinumWarlock June 8, 2011 at 10:40 pm

Great topic for this month, considering that I’m running a scenario featuring Sam Clemens (Mark Twain) at Origins!

Enjoy, all: http://platinumwarlock.blogspot.com/2011/06/in-which-warlock-presents-sam-clemens.html

4 Victor Von Dave June 9, 2011 at 11:14 pm

I love this topic!
Here’s (my first time participating in RPG Blog Carnival) soviet scientist Ilya Ivanov:

5 Berin Kinsman June 12, 2011 at 6:58 pm
6 Mike Bohlmann June 26, 2011 at 5:26 pm

Here’s my submission for the month. John Wayne as a beast wrangler in the Dark Golden Age campaign setting for Pathfinder from bySwarm:


7 Matt Gallinger June 28, 2011 at 12:23 pm

I don’t have a blog in which to post my entry but here’s my idea:

Marie Tussaud, of wax sculptor fame, would make a great NPC or villain in a D&D or other RPG campaign.

The DM would have to play off of her fame as a “wax” sculptor of well-known current and historical figures, perhaps commissioned to create a lifelike replica of the local lord or the King of the land.

She could have a display shop where she displays her models, sort of like the medieval precursor to the Tussaud’s wax museum of today. The shop would be a well-known destination. A twist on this would be that she creates replicas of the gods which are fixtures in temples across the land… why not pray to a lifelike replica of Erathis (or Lolth if she does works for both sides of the alignment chart) instead of an ugly stone statue.

She could also be commissioned to create a replica of one of the PC’s if they are high enough level or have done something of great value for a wealthy noble, for instance, who commissions the work as a show of gratitude.

The twist would come when she revels that her artwork is not as innocuous as it seems and she animates her constructs to do good or evil, depending on the plot. Especially interesting if a replica of one of the PC’s is animated…

You could bring both story ideas together when a noble or lord on the run needs to create a lifelike animated replica of himself so he can hide from an assassination attempt—after all, who cares if the wax dummy gets killed… maybe the wax dummy cares…

There are a couple of classes that would make sense when stating out Madame Tussaud, Wizard being the obvious one. But an Artificer would also work well.

Also, the animated creatures that she creates beg for a new build of Golem—the Wax Golem. The Wax Golem would be vulnerable to fire damage but could be reformed after a fight even if it’s completely melted.

Finally, the DM could add some gruesome details into her back story by incorporating some real life history. According to the real Madame Tussaud’s memoirs, she would search through the decapitated heads of guillotine victims during the French revolution in order to make death masks, which were held up as revolutionary flags and paraded through the streets of Paris. Now that’s creepy.

8 Dungeons N Dragons Blog June 29, 2011 at 4:09 pm

Phew only just made it!
This was written by my brother for a competition on Reddit that happened this week, but seeing as yuor blog carnival has the same sort of topic I present for your edification Lord Yard of Keeplin:

oh and here’s an adventure featuring them (link to a PDF version at the top of the Article):

9 Middle-Aged DM June 29, 2011 at 10:03 pm

here is my kick at the can: Charlie Sheen, Blood Panther pact warlock


10 Captain DM July 1, 2011 at 2:35 pm

I spent a decent amount of time on this one. I gotta remember to get started earlier next time! Hopefully you guys enjoy my take on Edgar Allan Poe:

11 Mattwandcow September 12, 2012 at 12:02 am

My current character started out as a Captain America clone. I talked the DM to letting me throw a shield, built a goliath warlord, and in general tried to play as the Captain.

It didn’t really work. I wasn’t dealing enough damage and the character was much harder to roleplay with.

So when work got in the way and I couldn’t play for 2 weeks, I fed my DND addiction by thinking of my characcter and rebuilt him as a minotaur slayer, designed to be a companion to another player’s PC. Now role playing is a lot more fun, my character is distict and I get the feel of the Captain without a lot of the awkwardness.

The lesson I learned from this is that basing the character is fine, but until you’ve played him a few hours, your not going to know if it’ll all work. Be prepared to let the character evolve AWAY from the original

(I also figured out how to hurl a shield as a primary weapon in the DDI character builder! Yeah, no DM concession needed.)

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