As a DM, one of my favorite things to do to help me work out NPCs and make them more fully-realized characters is to create a playlist for them. Several of my crucial NPCs in my world currently have a playlist. Today I’m going to talk about the playlist of an NPC named Pierre Lancaster. Pierre is one of the four generals and official trainers of the Tovellian army. He never knew his elven father but he loved his human mother dearly, though she passed away when he was sixteen. Ever since he has been a loyal member of the army. Throughout his military career, he has also fallen in love with a fellow soldier, which is against the rules, though the couple has struggled for other reasons in more recent years. His connections to Tovell and the army mean that his path has intersected with a few of the PCs before the campaign even started. Within the seven proper sessions that we have done, Pierre has not yet appeared, but because of the weight he holds within a few character’s backstories, he is what I would consider a key NPC.
Pierre’s playlist was the first NPC playlist I had ever created, and as such it feels a bit scattered. Most of the songs I chose have a lyrical importance rather than an aesthetic one as well. Many of the later playlists have a better style to them than this one. However, I am still proud of how this one turned out. For playlist posts, I am going to list the song and artist, as well as a few crucial lines, and explain a bit about why each was chosen and how it fits in to the backstory. (Want to listen along? Here!)
Song: Tear in my Heart
Artist: Twenty One Pilots
Sometimes you gotta bleed to know
That you’re alive and have a soul
But it takes someone to come around
To show you how
She’s the tear in my heart, I’m alive
She’s the tear in my heart, I’m on fire
She’s the tear in my heart
Take me higher
Than I’ve ever been
After Pierre’s mom died, Pierre was just kind of moving through military ranks, trying to do the best he could. When his lover came around, he finally had something to work towards. First it was someone to protect and train, then she became someone to love and to fight for. All Pierre needed was for someone to kick start his soul, and she was that person. Pierre is a broken piece of pottery, and she is the gold lacquer that repaired him
Song: I am Terrified
You look good in leather, in bars
Breaking things, breaking hearts
You look good in pleasure, in hotels
Loneliness is the key to break that spell
I am terrified, I think too much
I get emotional when I drink too much
I buy every cry, ’cause I don’t trust
I am terrified, I think too much
This song is beautiful and depressing, a perfect snapshot of where Pierre has been for the past six years with his military career and his lovelife. Pierre is also a total light-weight, meaning he has spent more than a few nights in the bar wasted after only a drink or two.
And the walls kept tumbling down
In the city that we love
Gray clouds roll over the hills
Bringing darkness from above
But if you close your eyes,
Does it almost feel like
Nothing changed at all?
And if you close your eyes,
Does it almost feel like
You’ve been here before?
How am I gonna be an optimist about this?
A lot has happened in Goldcrest over the last few years. Despite his best efforts, this time has done little good for Pierre. The place that has been his home for nearly two decades now feels hallow, unwelcoming, and lonely. But if he concentrates, sometimes he can still smell her hair, imagine the leather of her armor, and feel the warmth of her hand in his.
Song: Dark Times
Artist: The Weeknd and Ed Sheeran
In my dark times I’ve still got some problems I know
Driving too fast but just moving too slow
And I’ve got something I’ve been trying to let go of
Pulling me back every time
In my dark time, taking it back to the street
Making those promises that I could not keep
In my dark time, baby this is all I could be
Only my mother could love me for me
This song perfectly encapsulates his mental state for the past few years. Pierre has never been one to not have spunk, but fights were never his thing. But some nights when the liquor flows too heavy and the pain runs too deep, all it takes is one wrong word to bring back those memories and Pierre simply breaks.
Song: One by One
Artist: One OK Rock
Kept down so long
Sick of living in the middle
If you stand for nothing
You’ll fall for anything
Our time is now
We won’t stand down
Wake up scream out
We are the chosen ones
Standing on the battleground
Standing on the front
Can’t see my way out
Standing on the pinnacle
Standing on the sun
Can’t see my way out
One by one we turn our hands to guns
One by one they fall down
Sometimes you have to fight for what you believe in, and Pierre knows which battles he would pick any day.
Song: Pardon Me
So pardon me while I burst into flames
Pardon me while I burst into flames
I’ve had enough of the world and it’s people’s mindless games
So pardon me while I burn and rise above the flame
Pardon me, pardon me, I’ll never be the same
When his mother got sick, Pierre was angry at the world. A quiet and loving child, he couldn’t understand why his amazing mother was so sick, and he understood even less why no one could do anything about it. He began to question everything; his father, wherever he was, who had probably left the two of them to rot; the village elder, who said that the sickness was beyond his control to cure; the gods, for allowing this to happen. For a while, being in the army made sense, made Pierre feel as if he was doing something right. When he found out that his mother had died anyway, Pierre didn’t trust anyone for a long time.
Song: Help I’m Alive
Help I’m alive
My heart keeps beating like a hammer
Hard to be soft
Tough to be tender
Pierre has always been an incredibly kind and caring soul. But a bleeding heart doesn’t belong in the army.
Song: When the Day Met the Night
Artist: Panic! At the Disco
When the moon found the sun
He looked like he was barely hanging on
But her eyes saved his life
In the middle of summer
It’s hard to say where Pierre would be if his lover hadn’t come along. After his mother passed, Pierre didn’t really pray or believe in the gods, but having hr in his life felt like a godsend. Every night he would say a prayer to ask the gods to watch over the woman who he felt truly saved him.
Song: Peace of Mind
I understand about indecision
But I don’t care if I get behind
People livin’ in competition
All I want is to have my peace of mind
If Pierre could choose to be anywhere right now, he would be far away from Goldcrest-perhaps a farm or fishing boat, somewhere where he wouldn’t have to make a decision and be in charge. Pierre really isn’t cut out for army life, it’s just the hand he was dealt.
Song: Everybody Wants to Rule the World
It’s my own desire
It’s my own remorse
Help me to decide
Help me make the most of freedom and of pleasure
Nothing ever lasts forever
Everybody wants to rule the world
Politics are tough, and in Tovell only the strongest survive. Pierre has struggled to reconcile his need to be in his position with the values that his mother taught him. Being an army trainer has its perks, but sometimes it’s simply not worth it.
*I also chose this version over the Tears for Fears version because even though I like that version better, I feel that this version does a better job of signaling the dread that Pierre feels about his current situation.
I think that each of these songs does a pretty decent job of explaining who he is, where he comes from, and what he’s feeling right now. The original playlist was 16 songs, but it’s cut down to 10 here for clarity and because some of the other songs were only tangentially related. Please let me know if you like seeing more of these posts! I enjoy doing them and I will probably do more when my school and work schedule gets a bit crazy again.
Questions, comments, or concerns? Leave me a comment or find me on Twitter @DandDDM.