Monday, October 30, 2023

Dracula - dead, but not always loving it

 Obligatory Halloween post

I've been in a bit of a Dracula frame of mind lately. We all know there are LOT of Drac films out there from over the decades. And of course, some better (and less stupid) than others.

A stupid one, at least in terms
of casting choice

This little phase for me started a few weeks ago. I decided to pay for a few months of AMC+ to do my third or fourth rewatch of Mad Men, one of my favorite all time shows. But you also get some Shudder content with that, and I saw that my fave horror host, Joe Bob Brigg, had been doing his thing the last few years with his latest show The Last Drive In. I noticed he had an episode with the original Nosferatu. So I watched it. 

I probably never saw it before due mostly to it being and old black and white film. Those always seem so hokey. The organ music and what not. But what surprised me was this version had the original orchestral score from its first limited release (it was halted during its original run by Bram Stokers wife, and she nearly caused all copies to be destroyed). That made a HUGE difference. As with all great scores it was a character in itself. It lended so much weight to the now somewhat goofy goings on and helped a lot with the mood of it. And Joe Bob coming in now and again to explain some of the crazy backstory of the film and those involved also added interest. 

I have to say, I found it very spooky. unnerving in a way that more modern stuff just doesn't have. Maybe that dream like quality many old silent films have. 

Not long after, maybe that same week, I watched the Klaus Kinski version from 1979. Creepy in its own way, it had that sort of hyperrealism but also surreal thing that most Herzog films have, such as the great Aguirre the Wrath of God. 

I also rewatched Bram Stokers Dracula last week, but I had seen that many times. I mostly watched it because I heard a humorous podcast about it (and Australian pod called The Weekly Planet, with a youtube channel called Carvan of Garbage).

And just tonight, for laughs, I watched the Bela Lugosi Drac. I had seen that, but it had been a long time. It was a little over an hour long, so I whipped it through before dinner. I guess it counts as my Halloween movie. 

So without going into a long text about them, I thought I would just share some random thoughts:

First and foremost, I think 1922 Nosferatu is the most chilling at this point, in some part due to what I said above. But the biggest reason I think is the sheer inhumanity of The Count. He has none of the sympathy you can feel for the Lagosi and Kinski Dracs. No love longings or regret at his fate. This Count is more like an insect man, totally operating out of some almost alien instinct. This makes him extra frightening. Another thing I just love about the 1922 is the war of wills from hundreds of miles away Mina (I think she is Lucy in this) seems to be fighting on the pyschic plane with The Count, and man she never met and knows nothing about. Like so much in his film its way ahead of its time in concept. 

I was not blown away by the 1979 Herzog film. I found Kinski's portrayal almost comical. A several minute focus on him running back and forth across london carrying coffins made me laugh. Also in this version there is an amazing scene towards the end where plague-stricken townsfolk dance and feast in the town square, which historically was apparently a thing. The ending to this also had a twist that many folk, including myself think about at the end of a movie when a human-like monster is killed. Isn't this murder?

Not a lot to say about Lugosi Drac. Growing up with cartoons and such that parodies it does not help the mood. Everybody from Bugs Bunny to the Three Stooges have made fun of it. But it's interesting just how small the story is. It was based in large part of a stage play that Lugosi actually appeared in. Very little is explained about Dracs motives other than the usual stuff coming out of Van Helsing. And the ending is anti-climactic to say the least. What I did love was the understated brides of Dracula. When Renfield passes out, they come from behind pillars in a sort of methodical stalking mode, but looking almost like Elvish princesses. They are so focused on the prey. Scary. A moment ahead of its time, and I think more effective than the orgiastic brides from the Coppola film.

Francis Coppola's Dracula from the 90's is the biggest depiction of the story, adding a ton of origin material, but also maybe the most faithful. Lots of its dialogues are from the book. Its heavy on the love story, and I'm not sure how much I like Dracula being depicted so demonic in forms and powers, but so human at the same time. He bubbles and cries at least a couple times in this. So many schlocky moments. But damn if this had the best depiction of Van Helsing of all time. 

Not sure how soon I'll do it, but I have a hankering to watch some Hammer Dracula at some point, which I have not seen since I was a kid. 

Cheers and happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Balders Gate 3 and the banging of the Bears

 If you are even just a mild video game player who pays at least a little attention to the media surrounding Balders Gate 3 and its sexual content, you will know that at least to some extant there is, well, sexual content. 

Like me maybe a couple months or so ago you saw a trailer for it where a strapping dude and a bear give each other "come hither" looks and seem to be about to do the deed. The short scene cuts to a squirrel in a tree holding a nut. Then he drops the nut. BTW that is not a euphemism. They don't show if the nut busts when it hits the ground. We never see the actual character to character contact, but when they cut away one is still a bear. I think. It's been a while since I saw that bit, because in the following months much more has come out about the game, and it sounds great. The use of current edition D&D mechanics, plus an old school turned base system. 

Anyway, there ya go. A D&D video game with sexual content. And what the hell, some of that has been part of my gaming experience, such as talked about in these more recent posts:

Post: Edit (

Post: Edit (

But outside the sexy stuff yeah, the game sounds good.  

I don't mind a little CGI boffing. And hell, the bear is a human druid, though not sure how much a diff it makes. If it looks like a bear, and smells like a bear, and drools like a bear it probably kisses and knocks boots like a bear. Those things will mess you up. Ever see Revenant? Or Grizzly Man?

I am guessing any dating and sexy time cut scenes will be a small percentage of that will probably be hours of long ass cinematics that are popular now. Its turn based, so a lot of that will need to be spaced out to build the story. 

I guess the real "bear in the room" though is the identity politics that seem to be heavy in the game. I mean, OK. My only gripe is that so many things have to "present day" us. It's like fantasy worlds or anything else needs to be a reflection of Los Angeles of San Francisco. Maybe it's just an aging straight white dude thing, but whatever happened to escapism? Creativity should be the main goal, but that has been toppled from the number one spot to inject present dayism. I mean, OK, fine. I still might play it (when it comes to XBOX). Because at least you have a choice as to how deep you want to indulge in the Alphabet Mafia stuff. It's not like Starfield, where you are forced to choose a pronoun in character creation. No choice in it. But it would not be a deal breaker for me. Though I think my next space game might be Outer Worlds, because so many people think its way better. 

Anyway, I do hope I get to play Baldurs Gate 3 eventually. I'm usually 3-5 years behind on my games (and more...I'm still playing GTA % here and there). And I look forward to the sexy time in it. With a humanoid. Probably. I can't predict how I'll feel in 3-5 years. 

Sunday, August 13, 2023

My 4th Campaign on Roll20


So as of last night my new 5th ed. campaign, The Lost and The Lurking (yep, title totally stolen from a Silver John novel). Well, actually, the first session zero was a couple weeks ago, but out of the four in that (long time player Terry could not make it) only two remain, the eager and adorable noob couple in their 20's who I, as I often do with couples, refer to as "The Twins." One guy seemed promising, but he wanted both a more dark ages setting, and he wanted orcs to be like Warcraft orcs. Well, my setting has progressed (after over 100 years of character continuity) to being sort of post Italian Rennaissance-like, and pre-industrial Britain-like. Strike one. And Strike two was my orcs are nasty, stinky, rape your wife and eat your guts Tolkien orcs. Warcraft? As if. Those are just big humans with tusks. Fucking boring. The worst thing to ever happen to orcs.  So he was out. The other was a girl who seemed great, I hit it off with right away, and immediately thought of her as player numero uno. The others were mostly new to the game, so it's always helpful to have a seasoned vet. Especially since I haven't exactly memorized the PHB. 

But then after the session zero, she started being problematic. She was running an Eloquence Bard. I didn't study up on it at first, because she was talking up how she was sort of an acrobat high wire performer. That sounded cool, but I should have seen a red flag when she kept asking about running some sessions featuring her circus family as the NPC's. Hm. That was usually a mistake in the past. OK. Maybe. But then another new guy told me "hey, do you know what you are in for with that class?" 

So I looked it up and was like "wow." This bard by third level will pretty much be successful with every persuasion roll. Its called "Silvertongue" or some such. Plus the character will get the ability to reduce the saving throws of foes, a lot, and will also be able to give almost endless bardic inspirations. So I was a little concerned. I told her so, and though I won't nerf it, we need to be on the same page on how some of this stuff would work. I was being nice about it, but she seemed offended. Accused me of calling her a power gamer (which she was being...she was also asking to start with a powerful 4th level feat). It was getting negative, so I bailed on her. I felt bad about it. Almost sad. I went from being excited she would be involved to in a week not wanting to deal with her. So out out out. 

More humorously, another girl, an 18-year-old, contacted off the forum practically begging to be in the game. I much prefer folk 25 and older, but she said she did art and likes to make images throughout a session. That was enticing. But when I let her into the Discord to talk more, she started demanding written up setting information. Well, I have an "info dump" setting channel for random thoughts on my setting I post, but she was all like "no, if people are going to play in your world you need organized and detailed info on politics, important families, etc etc." Sorry kid, I don't keep piles of notebooks anymore. I've had this setting since I was a kid. It mostly lives in my head. And that she should maybe be more concerned about what happens in the course of the campaign than detailed background durp. Then she started demanding to know what the "story" will be and was name dropping Critical Role. Ah, that makes sense now. I told her that CR is actors pretending to play D&D as a performance and there are plenty of groups doing that out there. So lotsa luck.

Ah well. I promised myself I would heavily vet the group, so that was what I was doing. But with a couple more dudes on board, and Terry doing her dwarf from the previous campaign, we were up and running. I used Marge, the major caravan master from the last campaign, as a sort of patron for this one. This would not be a caravan campaign. The NPC is simply taking a couple seasons off to invest in some expeditions. I'm using LOFP's Death Frost Doom as sort of an inspiration. I personally find that adventure to be sort of Unrunnable as is, but there are gems in there, including the Lichway rip-off ending. I love Lichway. 

From DFD I'm mainly using the mountain, town below, graveyard, and cabin. I would be using my own, decently smaller, dungeon map for the temple (I will show in a later post). The temple in this case will be a temple of Orcus. Here's is the information Marge will show the party next session (this session was mostly dealing with some town thugs and a kobold cave).

This cult arrived at the pass some 100 years ago (year 1 of the New Age), when there was still a well-trod overland trade route between the West and The Acherian Empire to the northeast. 

At that time in the area it had a force of several Orcus  (a foul devil lord who has nothing to do with orcs) clerics, a few dedicated and well-trained guards, and always a dozen or so slaves, and with the fierce power of the cult protector and anti-paladin Atrigan the Deathdealer, they carved a hidden complex on the top of The "Broken Spine," a local mountain with a high peak and a rambling trail that lead up to it. It was what the religion of Orcus called "a material plane undeath garrison", a place where worldly worshippers of the Demon God tortured living humans to drive them chaotic mad, and then murdered them to temporarily lay them to rest, seizing their souls so they could be unleashed to help create an undead army at such time as when Orcus decided he wished to conquer the living world with a great force. The bodies of most of the priests, after they passed away for whatever reason, would also share this fate. Even his worshippers will serve Orcus in death.

Apparently, there are many such temples and "garrisons" across the lands. And perhaps waiting undead armies of a variety of Lords of Hell. The thought is chilling. Perhaps many of the hostile undead encounters in the dark corners of the earth are souls who have awakened early to inhabit their devil-cursed material forms. 

In the 100 years since the creation of the temple at the top of the "The Broken Spine" the dead where never called upon. But over the years the progeny of Atrigan and the other priests continued to slowly accumulate victims from the trade pass and remote villages, and eventually bury their bodies in the dirt consecrated for Orcus. 

Captive non-humans, elves and dwarves, were unwanted as soldiers of the future undead army of Orcus (for Orcus was a devil brought about by human sin), so after proper torture, degradation, and murder, the bodies of any non-humans were burned in a kiln that the Orcus priests trapped a fire elemental within.  

In the year 40 of the new age, 60 years ago, the cult got greedy and instead of the usual furtive and secret capture of a select few unwary folk from year to year, attacked a well-guarded Acherian noble caravan going through the pass, as they had a surplus of living slaves to force into battle. A dozen captives were taken. Among them was Grunhix Maxima, the young niece of the then Acherian Emperor Decemberious Maximus The Third. Grunhix was on a sightseeing tour of the trade roads to the west.

The Emperor back in Acheria met with his royal Oracles,and was told of the cult and what they did with captives. The forces he sent to destroy the cult on the top of the mountain found the trail up The Spine to be treacherous, as both guards, slaves, and landslides were sent down to rain devastation upon them. The troops camped at the bottom of the mountain, and the emperor sent them three high priests of the Acherian Empires cruelest and most powerful gods of the time. A priest of Borias, God of the North Wind and Winter, a priest of Jubilex, lord of slime and corrosion, and the priest of Flambix, Goddess of flames and wartime destruction. The powerful Flambix priest personally killed the Orcus priests and their mad slave defenders, the priest of Jubilex cursed the underground temple with acidic green slime to keep the complex uninhabitable, and the priest of Borias covered the mountain top and its graves of woe with eternal winter. 

Ironically, it was a few handful of years before the Kingdom of Tanmoor ousted Acherian forces from the western kingdom and gained independence, and the great East/West pass became far less travelled. 

Apparently, there is a village at the base of The Broken Spine Peaks that was founded by the last freed slave of the Cult. 

But the temple of Orcus at the top of the spine still sits, quiet and undisturbed.  Only fear, and the constant chill of never-ending winter on the mountaintop, keeps the greedy away from any possible wealth there.

So a nice sense of grittiness there. This will be the first several games. I purposefully have no plans yet for the rest of the campaign. I wanted it to be open depending on the characters and hooks they get and so forth. So the characters are:

Female dwarf fighter

Female gnome wizard

half elf ranger (grasslands)

human fighter (cavalier)

Half elf warlock

(Pic unavailable)

I think it's an interesting and diverse group. More to come


Sunday, June 4, 2023

1980's D&D Cartoon characters in Honor Among Thieves!

 (Spoilers, other than the one in the post title, follow)

I don't really feel like reviewing the new D&D movie. Suffice it to say it exceeded expectations. 

I will say I like the nods to classic monsters (though they seem to be in most cases somewhat altered, though maybe not as much as the character classes), and tropes like leveling up (maybe multiple levels). And it was pretty funny, and sailed along in large part on Chris Pine's "silver fox" charisma. 

The only real signs of woke was that the two straight, white leads were buffoonish dipshits, but I was able to swallow it. And that is pretty much the way of Hollywood now, even in non-woke things. Yeah, whatever. The kind of folk who designed and built most of the world are the enemy, so dipshit-them up. 

The one jaw-dropping thing was the inclusion of the kids from the 80's cartoon. 

I know they are teenagers, but
acrobat is pretty damn hot. 

I'm lucky I noticed, because you could miss it. They are seen a couple of times in the final acts maze (dungeon I guess)  scenes; one of several groups who are trying to make it out of the hellish automated labyrinth. 

Clearly they are older. Did they make it out of D&D world in the cartoon? I did watch it, but don't remember. And how older? They all have that "25 year old playing a teenager" thing going on. Fine, but the youngest one now looks the oldest. 

The glimpses of them are literally seconds, but even then I thought that cosplay I've seen in the past captured them better.

The Cavalier dude for sure has that bitchy 
look that suits him from the cartoon. 

Based not on the movie version, but the cosplay photo above, I'd kind of like to see a live action version of the cartoon. Maybe its a couple years later and they having been a world devastated by Venger

I'm kind of glad to have not seen the little whiney baby unicorn from the cartoon. I hated that little thing. YMMV.


Tuesday, May 16, 2023

So Lamentations of the Flame Princess had a PDF Sale

 I cannot think of a single PDF item related to gaming that I have ever paid money for. I have a small collection of items I found online that cost me nothing. I think over the years most were from The Trove website (does it still exist?) which I suppose can be considered piracy, matey. But most are very old. And mostly Judges Guild items from back in the day that I actually owned at some point in my youth, but are gone for whatever reason. Wilderlands sourcebook, Modron, etc. 

I always preferred to have a physical book on hand, and mostly still do. But in this day of the iPads, I can read a PDF without sitting at a computer. That's big. 

So, I don't have much experience with LOTFP products. Or James Raggi himself. Early in the OSR I remember seeing him post on his website a flyer he was hanging around his town looking for players. It had the image of a female thief at a treasure chest. I thought I saw it recently, but can't find it. But since at the time I was looking for players around 2008 I contacted him to ask about the flyer and if he had luck with it. He gave a friendly reply, and that was the only interaction I had with him. Lately I considered reaching out to ask about the expat experience, since I was considering getting the hell out of this fucked up country. 

It was not long before he had a business, mired in a certain amount of controversy. "Weird Fantasy" products. Cover images of female adventurers losing limbs to ochre jellies and such. But hey, to me all D&D was weird, so I never really looked into his stuff. A lot of the scuttlebutt was about shit monsters and character penis's getting turned into eels, etc. Stuff that was not exactly the call to adventure for me. But I will admit I always had some curiosity. 

I promised myself to spend no more than 15 bucks. Not because I'm broke. That's like 20 minutes pay for me. But because I did not want to get saddled with a bunch of PDF's I mostly won't use. Again, this was about curiosity, though I hope there are things I can use throughout. I went over a bit, and here is what my 16.50 got me.

Veins of the Earth: I found Deep Carbon to be interesting (though I had to change a lot to make it usable for me. For a Star Wars session no less). So I wanted to check this out. I'll do anything to make the stale old underdark more interesting.
Curse of the Daughterbrides: Sound like a father marrying his daughters. Curiosity killed me on this one. 
Terror in the Streets: sounds like an urban adventure, so what the heck. Hopefully mine it for bits. 
Frostbitten & Mutilated : like other Zak things I got, pure curiosity. 
Fish Fuckers: Sounds like humans raping Deep Ones for a change. Pure curiosity. Maybe useful for Cthulhu games?
No Rest for the Wicked: heard somewhere it sucks. So spent a buck fitty to find out why.
A Red & Pleasant Land: I doubt I will get much use out of a setting about Dracula and Alice in Wonderland, but I just gotta find out what the hype is about. Erik Tenkar calls it Zak's masterpiece. 
World of the Lost: the cover sold me. 
Vornheim: Again, gotta see the hype. 
The God that Crawls: Heard it was good.
Tower of the Stargazer: can always use a wizards tower.
Isle of the Unknown: heard good things. Heard bad things. But maybe has a lot of things to mine. 
Death Frost Doom: The Lichway from White Dwarf is a fave I have used several times over the decades, and I heard this ripped it off. So gotta have a look. 

OK, so there were some I knew well of but just decided not to get. There is Carcosa, which seems more or less a complete setting. I could tell over the years that I could not probably mine much ideas from it. But now that I think of it I should have just got it for a read. I think it is still on sale. 

I may go in and see if there was an item or two I missed and want to add to my new collection. 

I'll say this. I don't mind supporting Raggi. He does not seem like a bad guy. Not long ago on the Tenkar Discord I made fun of his comments about "why bother cleaning the toilet?"and got a chorus of Tenkars apparently high attendance of mentally ill people piping up about picking on those with mental issues. I just thought he might be a slob, not necessarily bonkers. But really, I can respect what he is gaming, not bathroom hygiene.  


Saturday, May 13, 2023

Clerical Healing is the Best Healing


So the party is heading to a dungeon (taking several sessions to do so), and they leave Shire's End, the last settlement of the southern portion of the kingdom and head into the Grass Wilderlands of the South. 

NPC (non-precious) teen healing god cleric Evador is down in the dumps a bit, having gotten a bit wine tipsy the night before in Montigar Silverglen's tower, and unsuccessfully trying to seduce the almost 300 year old elvish legend. 

Evador grew up a rich girl in Tanmoor (her last name is "Del Tanmoor," and if you have "Tanmoor" in your last name you are from old money), had a year or so at the university studying literature, but discovered the religion of Billick the Healing god and joined the order not long ago. She has chosen to be on the "Blue Heart on the Red Path," which essentially means she is on an adventure quest where she might need to spill blood, maybe her own, to get quick higher status at Billicks great cathedral. Her chosen quest is to investigate the old "Meadowlands Dungeon" south of the kingdom. She is a lovely, tall, but physically awkward (DX 8) 19-year-old (in the last game she missed several attacks in a row on a giant ant).

Evador's troubles are very much compounded while on the road to the mining town near the dungeon area, when a Peryton attacks from the blue. It hits her hard, and she is down for the count and immediately going into Death Save mode. 

The party wins the day and destroys the beast, but Evador is badly hurt. She is one failed save away from death, but Ruvan the young sorcerer from the Riverlands, happens to have healing. I decide Evador is still going to be out for a while, but she is at least saved. 

My first little Roll20 campaign about 3 years ago involved T's elvish bard Xanthia, and she remembered the 20-something Billick cleric "Afina of Mercy" who was encountered on her own Red Path to the same mining town near the dungeon to set up a mini-temple to Billick. So, they haul her into the town and to the small temple that is now a wood building among a lot of tent cabins. 

Afina is encountered locking the building and heading out to dinner. When not clericing in the little temple, she likes to dress in the height of current upper class young person Tanmoor fashion (Billick seems to attract young city girls of wealth to the religion), even though the city is almost 200 miles away. 

Blue is the color of healing in my world

Afina has been successful in the few months since she last saw Xanthia the Bard. Though there is a small tent cabin temple of the fighter god "Diamonnis", the cleric there will only heal those injured in conflict, so Afina has seen a lot of donations from injured mine workers and town maintenance people. Her Red Path has been completed. She is officially high priestess of her own recognized temple (though she is only like 5th level).

So Afina inspects Evadors terrible claw/impact wounds. And there is the focus of this post. 

I don't know where it came from, but on the spot I got hit by a bolt from the blue. In my decades of running games, I never differentiated between styles of healing. Healing was healing. But for some reason I improvised some dialogue from the somewhat serious young cleric Afina. 

"These wounds. Who healed them (Ruvan the sorcerer had healed Evador for 9 points)? Certainly not a cleric much less a Billick cleric. So jagged and sloppy." She eyed Ruvan...

"Was this you?" Afina said. "Are you a sorcerer? 

"What of it?" replied the young caster.

"Well, I suppose you saved her life. We can be grateful for that. But she could be left with terrible scarring. But she still needs more healing, and I think with the blessing of merciful Billick I can help the scars be a minimum."

That was it. Out of the blue after a lifetime of the game I decided that there is different types of healing skill. Billick is one of the first gods I created for the setting as a kid, and over the years I often let Billick clerics have anywhere from a +1 to +1-4 to their heals. But now it is part of my world that you can tell by the leftover wounds and scars if somebody focused on heals did the deed. A sorcerer's heal would be just about saving the life. But a Billick cleric, or most clerics, would be about overall healing which would include a reduction of scarring. 

A very minor thing to be sure, but it's kind of fascinating to me that a DM can just add and alter his world with a whim based on a certain situation long after the world is established. Instant creativity that is unique to rpg's. Man, I love winging it. Even if it's for my own fun.

And at the same time I decided that a cleric of a war god won't heal a non-combat violence wound. 

Of course, clerics of different deities having different affects is nothing new. But for my setting I will be keeping an eye on clerics to seek out little ways to add flavor to them. To differentiate them with the Rule of Cool.  


Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Overdoing the DM NPC


I had first heard of the term a DM NPC in some forum or another around 11 or 12 years ago. A DM NPC was one of the campaigns NPC's, but usually had a more negative connotation. Not just meek shopkeeps and street sweepers/walkers. But the terms "precious" and "favored" NPC's were thrown about. 

There seemed to be a real thing about this. Many folk clearly had a bad experience with DM's about NPC usage. And I guess I can see that. I remember about 12 years ago going to a Star Wars Saga session at this guys dad's apartment, me and 3 or 4 other full grown adults sitting on the floor playing in the guys Saga game (I only went because I was to run the system and wanted to experience it). I don't remember a lot other than the black dude in his 20's running a game while me and a handful of others in our 40's sitting there on the floor smoking pot. But one thing I remember is his main NPC, a well painted jedi miniature, being all over the little model buildings set up on the floor, doing almost everything while the rest of us kind of just waited our turns. But this kid loved his NPC clearly, and just wanted his favored guy doing most of the work while we watched. An extreme case to be sure. 

I also remember back in the day in my early teens going to the local Jewish community center in Santa Monica a friend invited me to because there was an older (probably around 30) guy running D&D for anybody who wanted to play. The main thing I remember was towards the end our characters were in trouble and were going to get killed by a local gang or something. And older DM dude having our characters having heard of this NPC, clearly his own character from some other campaign, and seeking his help. I remember the NPC confidently walking down the street with us, casting haste on himself and twirling a pair of swords around as we walked. I think that NPC mostly took care of the final fight. 

So yeah, I get it. Both of those are probably extreme examples, but if anybody was in the hobby long enough they probably had similar experiences. But how guilty am I? I suppose its subjective. 

From early on in my DMing my "precious" NPC's would be present. And more often than not they started as my early characters, and I incorporated them in my fledgling game world because, well, I wanted NPC's to be around other than shopkeeps and wenches. So here are two examples of my earliest D&D characters/NPC's (started in the latter 70's).

Arcturus Grimm - A ranger. He was probably among my first couple of characters ever created. I think from the original Greyhawk supplement where ranger was introduced (or maybe an issue of Dragon). There was no 1st ed Players Handbook yet.  He was exceptional and though we used 3d6 in order, I rolled nothing lower than 14, and the stats included 3 of them 16 or higher. As I was practically a kid I probably didn't realize how rare that would be. I made him a ranger, a strong 6'5" man (maybe based on one of my older brothers who was that big, and an all city athlete in school). His name was taken from a couple of my fave comic book characters. He was raised by bears in the northern Darkwold Forest. I had Arcturus Grimm be the elvish words for "Archer Bear." He was raised in the deep woods, and was fairly naive. 

When I soon started my own world, and began rarely sitting down as a player, I just injected Arcturus into the new setting (mostly just a tavern and a dungeon.). Over those early years Arcturus was there as the world grew. I expanded his background as being the adopted son of The Woodking Armis, the leader of an ancient order or rangers in the Darkwold known as The Woodlords, which I also added to the world. An early teenage sweetheart playing the game eventually would have a character marry Arcturus (making things awkward setting-wise when we broke up). But as characters, players, and campaigns came and went over the years through the 80's and into the 90's, Arcturus was here and there.

 Not hogging glory or fighting the fights for characters, but he would be around. Cameos as PC's adventured or playing a bigger role as wars and other major world events went down. At one point in my early 20's a girlfriend ran a daughter of Arcturus. New ranger characters might have heard of the Woodlords, and maybe aspired to join at higher levels. And Arcturus would be there. I have him pop up rarely to this day, still mortal but somebody of very high level who dallied with gods and other major spiritual beings. His adopted sister, Sheenara (or Sheen) rose to a minor woods deity status. Over 120 years of game time has gone by in my games, but Arcturus is actually 3rd elf so is not all decrepit yet, but far more mature than the young man I started him as when I was very young. Of all my characters/NPC's I probably had the closest affinity for Arcturus. I lived his ups and downs in the game world along with him.  

Over the decades I used various miniatures for him. Ones older gamers like me would recognize. 

One of the few minis I still have since the early 80's. Of any mini I used for Arcturus, this one looked the least like him. I suppose it is relative from a distance, but this does not convey the sense of a 6'5" dude. Just a basic ranger figure. Like most of my minis I got it at Aero Hobbies where I played a lot (but not as Arcturus) in my early teens. Owner Gary Switzer offered to paint it, and despite my descriptions proceeded to paint him how he wanted. I already did not like that the mini had a mustache, at a time Arcturus was clean shaven. And he gave him light hair instead of dark brown. But what the hell, it was a mini.  Early on as a character Arcturus had a Pseudo Dragon familiar (we levelled up fast when we were kids), so he used epoxy to put it on his shoulder, which was a nice touch. 

But more recently for brief cameos in Roll20 games I used this image:

Also his sister Sheen has made and appearance or two in the matters of druids:

These appearances are more for me than anything else. A brief touch of nostalgia. In most cases the players have no idea of the greater history I have with them. But I have had children of his (he left many of them throughout the lands after the Woodlords disbanded) appear in more recent games, specifically the twins Frend and Frenda, who are rangers encountered working for local caravans and what not. They appeared in the last couple of campaigns but nobody knew their parentage. So another insider bit for myself. 

Montigar Silverglen - he was an elvish fighter/thief I did up to play maybe a year or so after I created Arcturus. He was a high elf raised among wood elves and was an adventurous spirit who dallied with player characters here and there. He fought primary with two swords, and yeah when he became an NPC in my world I pumped him up a bit. 

Through the 80's and 90's he popped up here and there, usually meeting new characters in new campaigns. Every time he was encountered he was into something else. He was a dualist, a privateer, a Bon Vivante, a highwayman,a monster hunter, and a hero of two kingdoms, human and elf. I somehow ran him very charismatically; no less than 3 women in my games over the years had characters romantically involved with him. A romantic triangle between him and two other player characters (neither of them were girlfriends of mine, though "T" who I often mention is still one of my players) ended in death for one of them (his former girlfriend character, a fighter, killed a mind-controlled character of T's thief (the players were actually roommates then) who was his current girlfriend. Rather than restrain her, the fighter killed her. It was wild. No ending of friendship with the players, but this was a memorable moment that just became another part of his storied history bards would eventually sing of (which actually happened in recent games. Keep reading).  

One interesting aspect of Monitigar is his father was Whirligar, a high elf illusionist who was looked upon as a deity by gnome illusionists. Just one of those weird facts you come up with as a kid. 

I had a teenage sweetheart who ran a wood elf thief named Noradama. She identified with this character the same way I did with Arcturus. She and Montigar hooked up and were a famous power couple in the mostly city games I tended to run in my later teens and early 20's. This was the first time (but not the last) I would experience personal relationship role-playing, and my GF and I spent late nights acting out these characters as if they were in an inn room. Sometimes it can be extra good being the DM. I imagine other people must have experienced this. 

Much later, after the 90's, I had Montigar be a bit of a tragic figure when he appeared, someone who had bards across the lands sing of his many adventures and misadventures. Triumphs and failures. But I thought of him as somebody who was tired of the death and violence and doomed romances. He was a lone soul who never lost a fight but always lost in love. 

The first of many times I used the old Apple Lane setting for D&D in the early 2000's, I had characters encounter him living out the song Margaritaville there, working for the weapon trainers and drinking day and night, pestered by various would-be legend killers coming to make a name by taking his life.  

As a kid I got my hands on some Ralph Bakshi LOTR minis, including Legolas. I would eventually use the Legolas mini for Montigar, adding two longswords to the mini. Though Legolas was fairly effeminate looking in the film, the mini was a bit more butch.

Yep, after many decades I still had this fucker, though with an arm missing. One of my first ever paint jobs, and it shows. But really, now much better was Gary's paint job for the Arcturus mini.

Prior to the most recent games I think characters in a couple of campaigns the last two decades ran into him living the more or less quiet life. Probably several years since the last. But recently he appeared in my current Roll20 thing. 

The characters were on their way to the dungeon just beyond the southern border of the kingdom (taking several games to do so), and when they came to Shire's End, a remote village at the southern frontier of the Halfing Shire, I was brainstorming encounters there. Three families control the place, mining families who have concerns in the mining town a couple hours south near the dungeon out in the Grass Wilderlands. As the place had not much in the way of kingdom security (army outposts), the place had its own force of volunteer halfling frontiersmen, but also I decided this would be Montigars latest hang out place, being a Regulator for the families in return for a nice tower to live in and a modest stipend.

 The characters show up to the area and are chased by a hill giant but make it into the walled village. There they eventually meet Montigar, who is happy to see other than mining material and lumber merchants and invites them up for a party in his well-appointed tower in the merchant family inner compound. Here is the image I used for later in life Montigar, with scars and all.
Montigar spent a lot of the time manning his
minibar. "One for you, one for me, one for you..."

There is an issue with a hill giant, wandered up from the grasslands, menacing folk and stealing sheep. Long and short of it Montigar will deal with it, though he does not want to kill it because he is tired of killing things in his long life. The next day the characters go out to help him (he says maybe with their help he can subdue it over killing it), and it turns out there is a female one as well that was hidden in the copses of trees. With help from the characters Montigar got the giants to submit, and he offered the big dummies the opportunity to stick around to help protect the area and be helpful to the inhabitants in return for regular offerings of sheep, pigs, and bags of potatoes. Montigar asked the characters to stick around for another night of partying. 

I added the minibar to this map!

Despite my hopes that the wood elf bard Xanthia of "T" and the wood elf ranger Myrnigan of "L" would hook up at some point, given his history I thought it would be just right for Montigar to get the Xanthia hookup. I mean, she is super-hot. Tall, built like a female volleyball player, platinum locks, and a high charisma bard. Who would not want to experience that?

Or maybe I just have a thing for a cartoons

Ultimately, she wasn't having it. That is until Montigar asked her to do a duet of a famous old love ballad from their hometown of New Denaria. Luckily there was something nice in elvish in the jukebox to play and set the mood.

It won her over, though there was no nookie for ol' Montigar. Not yet, but it was on her mind. We'll see if that hookup comes down the road. The dungeon is only two or three hours away, so...

BTW, Evador the young cleric was taken with him, and snuck up later the last night to be with him. Xanthia the bard actually followed her up to the den to see what happened, and was glad to see Montigar nicely turned the Tanmoorian teen down, said she was too drunk and so was he, and sent her back to bed. Xanthia seeing that put her in the "I like Montigar" camp even more. 

So yeah, that DM NPC appearance was fairly self-indulgent. But what the heck, "T" enjoyed seeing an NPC from the past she knew of, and B and L thought he was cool. "Like a character from a fantasy romance novel" one said. 

But this is a rare case. I'm coming up with NPC's for games all the time, some regular, some more interesting. But jeez, I've had this game world a long time. It's nice to drag out old NPC's that have been around since my youth out of mothballs now and again. Not all of them are still alive. But why not use them?

Above: any Dragonsfoot Grognard who 
might read this post