Perfect Ten: MMO NPC lives from best to worst

Wow, positive.

The lives of NPCs are unpleasant within MMOs. Imagine coming into existence knowing that you are forever doomed to perform one singular function, one thing that you have to do until the end of time. Bad enough in and of itself, but then you realize that you’re going to always perform that same function until the servers finally shut off. No one will care if you do well at it or not, they only care that you continue to do it, over and over, forever.

If they have a religion, it’s probably bleak.

Of course, some NPCs have it worse than others. Some of them just have an existence which is bleak; others have existences which are actively a parade of suffering. So here, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, are the lives of MMO NPCs from best to worst. You probably won’t change how you behave around some of these poor souls after understanding their plights, but you can at least respect what they’re going through.

This is more successful in some cases than in others.

1. Storyline NPCs

A lot of storyline NPCs can have roles overlapping with other points on this list, but at the end of the day, the storyline NPC has it pretty good. For one thing, players know who you are. That’s not just some white-haired dude in Final Fantasy XIV, that’s Haurchefant of the Silver Fuller, everyone loves him. For another, half of the time you show up primarily to do cool things, so that’s even more awesome.

Granted, depending on the game you have a pretty substantial chance of dying at some point, but you’re a legend up until the time that happens. In the words of Tarquin: “Sure, the last ten minutes sucked, but you can’t have everything.”

2. Quest givers

If you’re in a game like World of Warcraft, being a quest giver means having a target on your head when griefers pour into town. That’s a given. And you’re also not cool enough to be a big storyline NPC (unless, of course, you are a big storyline NPC giving players a quest, that happens). But you’re still a known person who is generally seen as a good thing, which is nice.

You don’t get to move around much, though. I hope you enjoy shuffling in the same spot for all eternity.

3. Important vendors

Who remembers the names of stable-keepers in Lord of the Rings Online? Anyone? That’s what I thought. But boy, you sure do need those guys, huh? Same goes for all of those gear vendors on the fleet hubs in Star Wars: The Old Republic and… well, you get the idea. These guys matter.

You get to see a lot of people, you’re always busy, and there are lots of people who need you around all of the time. The down side is no one really knows you. There have been more epic poems written about WoW’s Captain Placeholder (an NPC hiding the fact that a patch broke functionality for boats) than will ever be written about one of the NPCs selling tier armor. But, hey, at least you’re wanted.

What was that vendor's name? Saw? Was it Saw? Adze? Saw sounds right-ish.

4. Flavor NPCs

What’s an NPC who doesn’t do anything useful and isn’t a figure in a story? Flavor, that’s what. You’re there to fill out the scene. There are lots of flavor NPCs whom players can’t even target or see named, to boot. You are, in other words, forever at the mercy of players who may or may not care that you exist.

On the plus side, no one targets you. For anything. Ever. It’s a mixed blessing.

5. Critters

I’m so sorry, woodland denizens of Elwynn Forest, that you are my go-to whenever one of my Alliance characters has a new glyph to test in action. It’s not my fault that you take damage and are more satisfying to kill instead of beating up a target dummy. It’s not intentional, really. You’re just there.

That’s the bright side of critters, though. Sure, they get killed by players all the time – and I do mean all the time – but it’s rarely malicious, if ever. It’s just one of those things that happens. Mages, I suspect, have killed more critters in WoW than anyone else, because the critters are in the same space as an AoE. But it’s not intentional. No one has a reason for it.

6. Random enemies

Ah, now we’re getting into reason territory. At this point, players need to kill you for various reasons. Whether or not they completely like it is another matter, but the fact is that you’re a bear, the players need to collect bear tongues for some reason or another, and the inside of your mouth now has a date with something sharp. Other than your teeth.

This is an odd parabolic arc of being noticed, but you’re on the wrong side of it. Players notice you only as much as they notice critters, but they notice you because they have something you need to take. Feel afraid.

Let's not fight trash.

7. Dungeon fodder

The bright side of being a random enemy wandering around in the world is that players will stop killing you as soon as they don’t need to do so. I’m not fighting Tarantula Hawks in FFXIV without a quest (or a hunt) to kill Tarantula Hawks. But dungeon trash? I’m fighting that every time I go into a dungeon.

You’re still not noticed, or if you are noticed it’s only in passing (you’ll be called “the miniboss” even though your actual name is Steve or something). But now you’re officially a part of the journey through something, and that journey includes killing the heck out of you. Over and over. Whether you like it or not.

8. Bosses

You might think that this one is a step up. After all, players notice you and fear you. You’ve got power. But you have power that’s sharply curtailed and limited in how it can be executed, and that power is only frightening so long as players haven’t figured out how to reliably kill you.

Once they have? You realize that you misunderstood your role in the game.

You aren’t the powerful guardian of anything.

You’re a pinata.

9. That one boss

The one saving grace for bosses is that eventually, no one needs anything that they drop. Then, they can largely rest. But there is one category of boss in an even worse situation… the one who is so consistent as a roadblock that players specifically despise thatboss above all others. The kind of boss that makes players come back long after the boss has ceased to offer useful loot, rippling with power, looking forward to smashing the heck out of a boss.

For laughs.

This is nearly as bad as it can get. You will be noticed, and you will be feared, but you will be hated, and players have a higher power curve than you can ever aspire to. This does not end well. But there is one step that’s even worse.

10. Minipets

You’re noticed. You’re taken. You’re kept. And you must perform tricks fr your masters at their whims as they drag you through hellish environments, often running for shelter as That One Boss rips the entire world around you to shreds.

You can’t die, but you probably wish you could.

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at or with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”
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Rolan Storm

Simultaneously humorous and depressing read. Bravo.

Melissa McDonald

I think there should be a “living world” MMO where you are randomly spawned into one of many types of monster/creature body and have to play it until you die or log out. Now, there wouldn’t be a great deal of appeal in being a mouse, maybe, so it might need to have limits. Or not. It would be kind of like a cross between ARK and LOTRO’s Monster Play.


Gamon from WoW is probably a category by himself. He used to be a neutral NPC at the Orgrimmar inn, tied to a pickpocketing rogue quest (when class quests were still a thing). And since he was neutral, and in the capital, everyone passing through would just kill him for kicks.

At least in the siege of Orgrimmar they made him into an NPC that fights beside you in the raid, and there’s even an achievement if you kill Nazgrim while he is still alive. I guess all that beating up by random strangers toughened him up.

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In WoW, there’s a guild perk you get for having your guild kill some insane number of critters (I think it’s 50,000. I once ran into a mage repeatedly spamming AoE spells in the middle of a caveful of critters on the edge of the Eastern Plaguelands for this reason. So much for not having any reason to be killed!

Bryan Correll

11. The NPC in need of an escort. You spend all your time slowly walking through areas full of things that want to kill you while the PC keeps yelling at you to pick up the pace.


The most tragic part of 8, is that the better you are at your job the higher the chances of someone “cutting your hair while you sleep”, you wake from a a maintenance and all those plebs that were dying at your fleet repeateadly are now more than your match.


NPC vendors in a high traffic spot that players sell all their trash items to must have terrible lives.
Back when Iron Forge was a popular place there was a female dwarf bread vendor that I would always dump my [Troll Sweat], [Cat Hair], [Spider Ichor], [Gelatinous Goo] and [Moldy Leather Pants] on her.
When she should say “Watch yer back!” I could never tell if that was a threat….


NPC vendors in a high traffic spot that players sell all their trash items to must have terrible lives.

I periodically have thoughts along these lines, imagining the comments of vendors… “Another four dozen random fangs and droid feet? What the crot am I expected to do with these?”

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But it’s not intentional. No one has a reason for it.

Except in Rift, where they drop critter tears artifacts that you can turn in for a pet. I mean… I haven’t killed a thousand squirrels just for their tears…

Dirty Ape

Even worse than being a regular boss is being a boss that has a minuscule chance of dropping a mount, insuring that you will be farmed forever by PCs who can kill you with one hit.


Ah well, if you are going to include Bosses, you then you need a category for the undying boss. That is a boss that seemingly comes back again and again and again in different forms to torment you. Lol.

Those who have played Ops in SWTOR know exactly who I’m referring to, Kephess. He has appeared in three huge Operations thus far, and has mutated form and become some what of a legend for those that love Ops.

It is believed that the new Operation droping this year will include yet another iteration of Kephess. And I’m looking forward to it.

Cheers to Kephess the Undying!

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Or even better, one of those bosses who, at 10% health, suddenly turns green and says, “uhhhh, thanks heroes, you have… freed me from the lich king/demonic possession/mind control that was affecting me. Um, you may now pass?”