And then she said, “Wait, Professor Jones can help us with this one!”

Have you said that in a game? For the longest time that was taboo in my games, but these days I’m willing to consider it. I’m not talking about Professor Jones per se, but famous characters from novels, movies or TV in general appearing in my games.

I’ve talked about names in games before but this time around I’m not talking about name dropping, but actually introducing NPCs inspired by well known characters. Let me tell you my rationale…

I always want to create my own worlds, filled with character of my own making and felt that dropping NPCs either thinly disguised (Doctor Joneses the adventuring Anthropologist) or simply using them outright (“Yes the wealthy industrialist in called Mister Warbucks, and don’t call him Daddy!”) broke the magic, the internal consistency, call it what you may, of the campaign.

However my perception has changed somewhat over time. I have a good friend, Mario, who is also a long time GM and he peppers his campaigns with famous NPCs, his players even play some of those iconic characters of literature, cinema or television. At first I thought that would not work for me and my knee jerk reaction was “No way!” And then I got to play with him and saw it in action. It actually worked. He runs a large group with players of all ages and the use of these characters as archetypes creates a shared experience that allows everybody in the group to know who that person is and what to expect.

I tend to run long campaigns so character, and non-player character, development is common and desired, so I don’t think I’ll be using famous NPCs in my campaign regularly unless it’s for a laugh. But if I’m going to play a short pickup game or a short campaign that will only last a few sessions using archetypal NPCs can be an effective form of shorthand.

I have also always played with the idea of casting a game, having all important NPCs be well known actors or entertainers, that way players will immediately know what the character looks or sounds like, even casting some of the actors in stereotypical roles so they fit the expectations of the players and throwing in a few curveballs along the way. That’s another in my long list of campaigns to run… Will I ever get to play them all?

So what do you think about the use of famous NPCS? Does it affect your suspension of disbelief? Do you like it? Have you ever done it? I’d sure like to know…

PS – I got that AWESOME image from a post on, about a mash up of all the 2007 summer movies! A hilarious read BTW!