A few years ago, I found myself as the DM for a group of new players. It started with a couple of neighbors in the same apartment building, some of their friends, and eventually another neighbor.
They were all brand new to D&D and, honestly, there’s nothing I love more than new players. The way that new players really lean into the idea that there are very few limits to what you can do just always makes me so happy.
They want to explore the world and interact with it. Meeting NPCs (good or bad) becomes a big thing and they find themselves getting way more into the group’s story than they initially expected they would.
It brings a tear to my eye!
They were hooked!
These days, our group is still together. Some of the originals moved away but we found ourselves gaining new members.
As we are moving towards the end of our current campaign, I decided that there’s no better time to finally share this story from the group’s first adventure.
In today’s D&D Storytime, this is that time I made the most annoying NPC ever (and my players loved him!)
For this adventure, the party traveled to an island that was largely defined by an old fishing town. It took very little time for the party to realize that things on this island weren’t… quite right…
The initial party consisted of:
- Dagnarus, a white Dragonborn Vengeance Paladin
- Kain, a Human Tempest Cleric
- Vesper, a Tiefling Warlock of the Pact of the Fiend.
- Bjor, a Human Berserker Barbarian.
They had been hired by an eccentric art collector who was interested in the supposedly haunted paintings of a woman who once lived on the island, Brunhilde Durste.
12 years prior, the Durste Mansion caught fire and was all but completely destroyed. Brunhilde and her husband mysteriously vanished during this incident.
The very same night, a thick mist rolled in from the ocean and concealed the island from the rest of the world. The few people who tried to leave were never heard from again.
After some time in town, the party went to investigate the charred remains of the Durste Mansion.
They would eventually find a secret entrance that led to a massive underground chamber. While the Mansion sat firmly on the island’s lone mountain, the tunnels burrowed into the mountain and beneath the town.
Effectively half of the island had a tunnel system known only to the Durstes… at least, that’s what the party thought for a while…
The party set about exploring this tunnel system as they found cryptic clues about the Durste couple. Not only did they learn that Brunhilde was still alive, but she also had a trove of paintings somewhere in the tunnels.
Considering their client’s generous payment offer for each recovered painting, finding this would mean a HUGE payday!
The tunnels contained several monsters and unnatural horrors that the party would brave on their quest. Checking behind every door that they could find, the party eventually found a type of study room.
A lone candelabra sat lit on a wooden desk situated firmly in the middle of the room. The walls were lined with old books and vaguely occult curiosities. The party set to investigating this curious room until they heard a booming voice that entirely filled the space.
“I AM MOJO!” the voice called out in a rich, loud tone, “WHO STANDS BEFORE THE ALMIGHTY MOJO?!”
The party took defensive positions as they looked around them. Rolling particularly high on his Perception check, the Paladin, Dagnarus, looked up to the ceiling.
There, nailed to the ceiling, was a curious 2-foot-tall semi-humanoid figure made of tightly bundled straw. His black button eyes were seemingly fixated on Dagnarus.
“HAVE YOU COME TO PAY TRIBUTE TO THE GREAT AND POWERFUL MOJO?!?!” the creature called out.
Dagnarus drew the rest of the party’s attention above them towards the straw man.
“So, uhh, should we just leave?” asked Kain, the party’s Cleric.
Moving the magically lit candelabra and safely getting Mojo down from the ceiling, the party began asking him some questions.
As it turns out, these tunnels also led to an area within the island that was populated by fish-people called Kuo-Toa. Not knowing their species’ name, Mojo simply referred to them as “The God Makers” and revealed that they had created him.
For what, exactly, nobody knows. Either way, Mojo was here now.
“Mistakes Were Made”
The thing about the Kuo-Toa is that they’re basically all completely insane. However, they do have the ability to believe in a god of their own mad creation so strongly that it becomes a real, physical being.
This was the case with Mojo.
However, even this colony of Kuo-Toa eventually found Mojo irritating and useless. He was meant to be a protector of their people after a clever Sea Hag managed to corrupt and enslave their previous protector-god.
Instead, he simply relished in the Kuo-Toa’s worship without ever actually being able to do anything to help them.
In time, the Kuo-Toa had had enough of Mojo and turned their faith away from him. However, they couldn’t bring themselves to completely turn on their failed creation. Instead, they left their cavern and brought Mojo into the Durste Tunnels through a secret passageway.
They found a room that could serve as a type of prison and fixed Mojo to the ceiling. Should he try to escape, he would fall on the lit candelabra and ignite. For years now, Mojo has stayed nailed to the ceiling of the study room.
Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your perspective), Mojo doesn’t hold a grudge against his creators. However, he does miss their worship and is excited at the idea that the party has also come to bask in his glory.
A New Companion
As it turns out, the party was currently down a member. An earlier run-in with some Intellect Devourers claimed the life of Bjor, the Barbarian.
Mojo spoke highly of his worshippers and told the party that he would have them return Bjor to life. Furthermore, the party took his claims that “MOJO KNOWS ALL THAT YOU SEEK!” to mean that he could help them navigate the tunnel labyrinth.
As the party welcomed Mojo to their group, they were excited to see what he was capable of.
However, it would turn out that he wasn’t capable of very much…
“He’s Useless! We Love Him!”
Mojo was useless.
Not only did the fact that he exclusively and constantly spoke in a loud booming voice (aided by his only ability: Thaumaturgy) ruin any chance of a stealthy approach, but he couldn’t even perform the most basic of functions.
Lacking fingers or any kind of muscles, he would brush his straw arms frantically against a door that he wanted open. As he would loudly insist “WHAT YOU SEEK IS BEHIND THIS DOOR!” to every single door before quickly running ahead of the party, it eventually became easier for the Cleric to just let Mojo ride on his shoulders.
Mojo would now exclusively travel by being carried by his “champion.”
From this perch, he would come up with all kinds of insane and pointless “quest ideas” for the party. Things like “collect all of the old dolls in this craft room” were treated with the same level of importance as “save the world.”
Ultimately, from a DM standpoint, Mojo was just a quirky plot device to show off a few areas of the tunnels and eventually lead the party to meet the colony of Kuo-Toa.
He was loud, demanding, and useless in every possible way.
…and the party absolutely fell in love with him.
In fact, they didn’t just love Mojo’s company. After a few sessions, the Cleric literally abandoned his Storm Deity in favor of serving Mojo. (Ultimately I decided that the Cleric’s deity found this amusing and didn’t withdraw his abilities.)
This then inspired the rest of the party to hold Mojo up as a great and powerful god.
By the time the party met the Kuo-Toa and announced themselves as Mojo’s champions, they were met with a heavy collective groan.
“He’s Your Problem Now”
The party was able to successfully deal with the Sea Hag that had been causing the Kuo-Toa so much trouble. They broke the Hag’s enchantment over the Kuo-Toa’s (actual) protector-god and were celebrated upon their return.
The Kuo-Toa’s Archpriest thanked the party and offered to begin performing a ritual that would bring Bjor back to life. By way of extra thanks, he gave the party some useful magic items as well.
Kain asked for one more gift, though. He wanted Mojo to accompany them on the rest of their quest.
Attempting not to appear too eager, the Archpriest agreed that this is best for everyone.
Mojo Gets an Upgrade
I didn’t expect the party to love Mojo so much. In time, it only felt appropriate that Mojo would get an upgrade.
Fortunately, it didn’t have to be anything particularly amazing. After all, it could only get better from here, right?
As the party was approaching the end of the adventure, they were fighting their way up an abandoned tower that had once served as a type of Arcane Academy.
Halfway up the tower, they found a magical diamond that seemed to have a wisp of flame within it. Having Mojo attune to the diamond (by stuffing it inside of his chest), the mighty Straw One took on a slight arcane glow from the gem.
He could now cast Fire Bolt to be of some use in combat situations. However, the greatest strength was that he could now cast Revivify once on a party member. Doing so would consume the diamond, but it was a useful ace up the party’s sleeve.
Well… it could have been anyway…
As we all know, sometimes the dice have different plans…
Man Makes Plans and the Dice Laugh
The first “boss” in this tower is one that the party had previously encountered in the Durste Tunnelway.
After their first encounter, the party learned that this “Man on Fire” was the raging spirit of Mr. Durste. Consumed by an unnatural rage, his spirit could manifest to cause as much pain as possible to whatever unfortunate souls happen to be nearby.
While Mr. Durste was able to deal some pretty heavy damage of his own, it was his ability to incite the same rage in others that made him so dangerous. At the beginning of the encounter, the closest party member had to make a Wisdom save each turn to not be forced to use their action to attack the nearest person to them.
As combat began, Kain, the Cleric, was closest to Mr. Durste. The room was growing hotter and the party, still remembering how much trouble he gave them last time, were ready for an intense fight.
“No problem!” we all thought, “Clerics are great at this.”
We stared in horror as Kain rolled a natural 1.
“Wait! Can I use my Inspiration?!” he says.
I nod and he rolls another Wisdom save (with a different die this time.)
It was a 2 this time, which was still not enough to resist the affect.
As Kain prepares to take his turn we all notice something saddening: Mojo is standing right behind his faithful champion.
“COWER BEFORE THE MIGHT OF MOJO… AND KAIN!” their straw friend called out.
With that, Kain turned to look at Mojo. In a short time, the two had become close. It was definitely one of the strangest friendships, but it was pure.
Kain raised his sword…
*clack, click, clack, clack*
We all stared at the die. Everyone looked back up to me.
“Roll crit damage.” I said sadly.
*clack, clack, clack*
It was maximum damage.
As Kain slashed through Mojo, everyone at the table grew quiet. Concluding his turn, the Cleric stood up from the table to grab a drink from the refrigerator.
Within a few quick rounds, the party was able to fully defeat the flaming spirit of Mr. Durste. Unfortunately, some burns never quite heal…
“Oh…” we hear Vesper, the Warlock says as she looks across the table at Kain. Dagnarus reaches out and puts a hand on Kain’s shoulder. Grabbing for a napkin to wipe the tears from his eyes, Kain looks back up at his allies.
“We gotta get to the top of this tower. Mojo wouldn’t want us to stop.”
Everyone nodded. Vesper grabbed the diamond and buttons from the remains of the burnt straw on the floor as the party began to press forward.
Any time real tears are shed at the table, that’s a major moment.
Ultimately, Mojo was just a silly NPC that I had expected to get old after a couple of games. He could help the party find the underground cavern with the Kuo-Toa, but would also serve as a slight complication for the party.
Instead, he became the party’s beloved friend.
We still joke about the strange straw man in our group. From time to time, I might hide references in the game to him just to see how the table reacts.
Of course, it’s very possible that Mojo might come back one day and meet a new party of adventurers. Stranger things have happened!
The goal in bringing this character into the campaign was to introduce a bumbling NPC to the party. I wanted him to function as both a complication to the party’s efforts as well as the key to finding a fun subsection of the adventure.
I wanted to go for something similar to the Scarecrow from Wizard of Oz. He’d be much more helpful “if he only had a brain” kind of vibes.
But he needed a design that might make the party think he actually had the powers he claims to possess. With that, he started taking more of a “voodoo doll” appearance.
I ended up borrowing the design of a character from a game I played many years prior called Chrono Cross. Much like what I was going for, the character was a sentient straw doll which worked out for this purpose.
It was happy chance that trying to make a loveably annoying NPC reminded me of that game. One of the fun things about building a world is that you can incorporate characters and situations from countless sources.
I’ve come to realize that this article has upset some fans of the Chrono Cross game. For that, I apologize and should have noted the source of the character while making the distinction between the source and my own home game.
However, home games are one thing and I didn’t expect that I would one day be sharing this story on the internet.
My goal on this site is to help people have the best D&D game possible by creating guides, explaining mechanics, and sharing moments from my own games for inspiration. While I always cite references to other works, I originally forgot to include this acknowledgment which did send the wrong message.
I’ll do better and appreciate those who brought this to my attention!
Conclusion – The Tale of the Great and Powerful Mojo
When you’re making NPCs for your world, it’s hard to know what will “catch” and what won’t. Sometimes your weirdest ideas might just become your group’s favorite moments!
I think my next weird NPC might be the very strange “Brother Fishface” from this article. If you haven’t read that one yet, it’s pretty funny!
Do you have any NPCs that your group unexpectedly loved?
Let’s talk in the comments!