10 Slaves with Personality

When the PCs invade a slavers’ compound they’ll inevitably encounter slaves. However, in most adventures—except for the titular merchant and his wife who reward the PCs for their release—the slaves are generally unremarkable and undetailed.

Artwork by Claudio Pozas, copyright Expeditious Retreat Press, used with permission.


That’s a shame. Most encounters with slaves end up as role-playing encounters with the potential for moral dilemmas and deep exploration of a PC’s character. However, few adventures provide details of those held in the slavers’ pens beyond those directly involved in the adventure’s plot (and what rewards they offer for their release).

Use the NPCs below, to portray notable slaves encountered by the PCs:

  1. Varinius is old and weak. He is a sage of some renown captured during a recent raid. His once fine robes are ripped and travel stained. Now unable to stand without aid, he is perhaps only a few days from death. If rescued and nursed back to health, he is grateful and offers to serve the PCs. He would, of course, require a place to work but his knowledge is prodigious.
  2. Protected by the other slaves, Albina is only nine-years-old. Her brother escaped from the raid that saw her taken and she doesn’t know what happened to him. Sadly, her mother and father both died protecting her and she is quite alone in the world.
  3. While he might be a slave, Avel—in his mind—is quite free. Charismatic and mad as a bag of cats, Avel has decided he is the Emperor of the World and that his fellow slaves are his courtiers and servants. Occasionally, he utters decrees and becomes hysterically angry when his demands are not carried out. He also fears assassination. His fellow slaves ignore him as much as they are able—which in this confined space is difficult in the extreme.
  4. Harek is a thief sold into slavery to pay for his crimes. Thus far, he has managed to conceal his crimes from his fellows. If rescued his larcenous nature soon reasserts itself. At first, he contents himself with looting the bodies of any slain slavers he comes across. When this source of loot dries up, he targets the least perceptive rescuer. If confronted, he flees.
  5. Once a soldier, Ibba has languished in the slavers’ cells for months. A large, powerful man, Ibba possesses a deep streak of individualism, which makes him a terrible slave. Beaten repeatedly, his sullen insolence has led to many failed viewing by potential buyers drawn to his powerful, muscular frame. If freed, he may serve a similarly-minded PC for a while, but will eventually follow his own destiny.
  6. Once a fisherman, Unila was captured by pirates and his incarceration here is the last in a long line of indignations. Grey-eyed and balding, Unila is in his mid-thirties and yet strong. His clothes are old and frayed. He just wants to go home, but fears what has happened to his wife and children since he was taken over a year ago. If freed and given funds, he is pathetical grateful, but quickly leaves.
  7. This heavily tattooed woman—Giso—has an exotic caste to her mien. However, she is blind—having had her eyes put out at the culmination of a religious ceremony decades ago. Widely believed to be a seeress, she is thought to be valuable by the slavers and, consequently, has enjoyed slightly better conditions than her fellow cell mates. Far from home, she has no real friends. Without help, she will likely die on the streets.
  8. This dark-haired, scrawny man lies at the back of the cell and seems all but catatonic. He doesn’t react to, or answer, questions, but can be gently led about. He does nothing of his own accord except the most basic of actions—eating, drinking and so on. No-one else in the cell knows anything about him.
  9. Somehow, this skinny young woman, Avila, has managed to stay with her toddler. She dotes on the child—Irma—and is fiercely protective. Nothing is more important to her and she begs for food and assistance from any kindly-looking rescuer. Avila has a mean streak, however, and happily takes her revenge on any helpless slavers falling into her grasp.
  10. Wrapped in chains and covered in bruises, Ekur, a minotaur warrior, thirsts for revenge. He demands the PCs allow him to slake his thirst with his captors’ blood. Ekur agrees to any reasonable conditions to his freedom. If he subsequently encounters any slavers his barbarity and savagery in the ensuing combat are breath-taking. Ekur’s continuing freedom is, of course, a tricky matter for the PCs. Evil, and in many people’s eyes a monster, Ekur cannot easily roam the land, but slaying him out of hand might give some PCs pause.

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This article appears in 20 Things #12: Slaver Compound.

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