For this DM Panic, I got an unexpected source of inspiration while watching some cartoons. Here are four characters whose roles I summarize as a ruler, the right hand, an animal companion, and a wizard. These characters are fluid enough to fit in nearly any setting, and any of them can be the villain of a last minute plot. I’ve also included some plot suggestions at the end of the article if you need help coming up with ideas.
1. King Jerry
A short, slightly overweight human in his late 40’s with graying hair on the sides of his head and a few yellow stained teeth.
King of the local area, Jerry is whiny, cowardly, and a typical flip-flopping politician. He generally follows the cheers of the crowds or agrees with whoever had the last word with him. He is someone who is never at fault, follows the group cheers, and rarely has a genuine good idea to contribute.
2. Alistar Winter
Tan skinned human in his late 30’s but extremely white hair. Smug, intense, tall, quite thin, and overdressed for every occasion.
The right hand man who may be a mob boss who actually runs the town. Winter holds the real power behind the curtain. Winter enjoys being the real ruler and has no reason to overthrow Jerry since he never stands in the way of true intentions. I recommend describing a ring or a jewelry that shows his prestige and high status; perhaps a large silver hawk with two blue sapphires for eyes. Winter owns the most successful business in town such as local inn or an auction house should the town be large enough. For inspiration think of the Wizard of Oz, Jafar in Aladdin, or The Hand of the King in Game of Thrones.
A yellow macaw familiar that is actually 40 years old.
Torty can talk- mostly swearing and griping- and is the only creature that knows the exact location of Lord Trik. As Lord Trik is known to hop between planes, Torty knows of a portal that returns him to Trik’s favorite pocket dimension where time passes more slowly, extending his life. I suggest putting the portal in a cliff side cave that’s easy to get to as a bird, but quite difficult for adventurers to reach. In exchange for his help Torty will ask for something small for the adventurers or does it for free because he knows the adventurers will annoy Trik which entertains Torty.
4. Lord Trik
An older tiefling, possibly in his 60’s, with gray hair and blue wizard robe.
While Trik occasionally travels into town to drink, he tends to prefer his solitude and lives as a hermit, letting very few people build on his lands. The Dark Lord Trik, as he is sometimes known, won his lordship over the forest where he resides by single-handedly defeating the BlackBill invasion and the Green Venom outbreak years ago. When he’s annoyed and doesn’t want to be bothered by the people he meets he’ll cast hold person and freeze them in place. This is his initial reaction especially when seeing the someone unfamiliar in his land. Trik also hops between planes via a crystal armlet with several large emeralds.
The great thing about these NPCs is any of the 3 primary characters can be a villain. Plot ideas include Trik accidentally releasing some new horror that’s bothering the town, such as phase spiders. Likewise, Winter might be plotting to remove Trik from his lordship by foiling his personal goals, or King Jerry might be setting up a poorly designed trap for Trik that will backfire on him and possibly the entire town.
You could also use these four characters as a quest chain. For example, King Jerry has a problem and needs someone to go find Trik to solve it. Trik then agrees to help after getting help with something that’s inconveniencing him. I also like the idea of Trik having a large obelisk or other structure that functions as an answering machine at the edge of his forest. Players would have to solve a puzzle to use it, and for a bit of humor at the end of the puzzle they could find out the “mailbox” is full. In this case, seeing the players making the message piques Torty’s interest in the party and still moves the plot further.
Also for expanded background information, I’ve provided ideas for the BlackBill Invasion and Green Venom Outbreak:
BlackBill Invasion: A large group of zombie kenku attacked the town after Trik let them out of a temple he found in his land. They were magic resistant, so rather than dealing with them immediately he waited for them to become a problem.
Green Venom Outbreak: Rare snakes not indigenous to the area infected the land itself, causing many problems for the locals. The illnesses from the venom killed a high number of people, and eventually Trik invented a vaccine for the venom and wiped out the population of snakes himself.
Good luck! The choices are yours, and yours alone.
P.S. In case anyone is wondering Rick and Morty and Aladdin were the muses for my inspiration.