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What Are Narrator Characters and Catalysts?

Narrators have two important tools to help them drive the story, Narrator characters (NCs) and catalysts. Click here for an introduction to them.
Young boy throws dice into the air as yellow lizard creature sleeps beside him

It’s time for tips on writing your own stories for Tales of Xadia! To help you hone this skill, let’s take a few minutes to dig into two important tools in your storytelling kit: Narrator characters (NC) and catalysts.

For budding Narrators, I do recommend reading through the two premade tales on our website, The Gloaming Glade and The Lost Oasis. There’s a character in both tales, Feathershawl—later revealed to have the real name Tylluan—who makes for a great example in this discussion!

Narrator Characters and Catalysts

Before I use Tylluan as an example, I want to help folks out who aren’t familiar with the rules for Tales of Xadia. An NC is often called a non-player character, or NPC, in gaming. They’re someone the Narrator controls, and has a bit of depth, but not so much that they can compete with a player character (PC) in a contest.

On the other hand, a catalyst can compete, as well as influence the plot and change their die ratings! At the top of a tale, both NC and catalyst roles have all been decided. The cast is set, the tale begins, and much changes, though usually not which role a character takes.

Switching a Character’s Role

Both between sessions and between tales—if a Narrator feels it helpful—an NC can become a catalyst. In 2021, we held a big tournament to see which Lost Oasis NC should be made into a catalyst. The fan favorite was Olanna, so we created a full page for her.

Skywing elf in blue jacket with text that reads download Olanna's journal

But what about turning a catalyst into an NC? It’s fairly simple. You just have to reduce their catalyst die to two to three trait dice that reflect the three aspects of the character that would most likely be represented if they interacted with a PC.

To use Tylluan as an example, it’s helpful to not only have at least two catalysts in the mix to make up for the vacancy, but a Narrator should also plot out how this new non-catalyst NC will be content to participate in the plot without trying to force their agency on PCs. In fact, for Narrators who wish they had a PC playing along, a catalyst just might be exactly what they wanted. Just make sure they offer up plot to the PCs, rather than try to steer the plot. Under the name Feathershawl in The Lost Oasis, Tylluan accomplished the big task they set out for. Coming home, they are humbled by the new catalysts and ask the PCs to help. It’s important to set this NC’s ego aside; that NC is now here to provide detail to the plot, but not to interfere.

Inspiration for Your Table

Looking for more Cortex fun? Sign up for the Tales of Xadia newsletter and watch our playthrough of The Gloaming Glade to learn how to play the game! Follow Fandom Tabletop on Twitch to get an alert when new games are in session and get caught up on a few episodes of the story at your leisure on YouTube!