NPC Trope: Hermits

I’ve been thinking bit about hermits in RPG’s and how I want to represent them in my Dreamlands. As such I’m doing a Wikipedia binge, clicking links and having way more tabs open than I can probably read on one day. NPC hermits are a trope that has always seemed pretty neat to me. You’re traveling the wilderness and all of a sudden meet some strange and often crazy looking individual. Maybe they are sitting on a pole to be closer to heaven, live in a nest they built in a tree to be more natural and escape city life and thinking or perhaps they are talking to animals, having a seemingly one-sided argument. Maybe they are discussing wether you are a devil that has come to tempt them or an angel come to bless them.

I was wondering wether all of you would share your favorite things about hermits in games. Do you have good play experiences or ideas that you like about hermits? I’ll share a couple examples that so far have spoken to me.

1: Anchorites (from wikipedia)

“The term “anchorite” (from the Greek ἀναχωρέω anachōreō, signifying “to withdraw”, “to depart into the country outside the circumvallate city”) is often used as a synonym for hermit, not only in the earliest written sources but throughout the centuries. Yet the anchoritic life, while similar to the eremitic life, can also be distinct from it. Anchorites lived the religious life in the solitude of an “anchorhold” (or “anchorage”), usually a small hut or “cell”, typically built against a church. The door of an anchorage tended to be bricked up in a special ceremony conducted by the local bishop after the anchorite had moved in. Medieval churches survive that have a tiny window (“squint”) built into the shared wall near the sanctuary to allow the anchorite to participate in the liturgy by listening to the service and to receive Holy Communion. Another window looked out into the street or cemetery, enabling charitable neighbors to deliver food and other necessities. Clients seeking the anchorite’s advice might also use this window to consult them.”

Imagine coming to a city and fining out there’s this person that voluntarily let themselves be bricked in, living from the charity of people handing them food through a small window. Also imagine the people finding them valuable/holy enough to keep feeding them. They will also come to them for advice, and perhaps even as an oracle, asking them for advice and prayer.

2: Paul of Thebes (From Wikipedia)

The Life of Saint Paul the First Hermit (Vitae Patrum (Vita Pauli primi eremitae)) was composed in Latin by Saint Jerome, probably in 375–376. Paul of Thebes was born around 227 in the Thebaid of Egypt.

Paul and his married sister lost their parents. In order to obtain Paul’s inheritance, his brother-in-law sought to betray him to the persecutors. According to Jerome’s Vitae Patrum (Vita Pauli primi eremitae), Paul fled to the Theban desert as a young man during the persecution of Decius and Valerianus around AD 250.

He lived in the mountains of this desert in a cave near a clear spring and a palm tree, the leaves of which provided him with clothing and the fruit of which provided him with his only source of food until he was 43 years old, when a raven started bringing him half a loaf of bread daily. He would remain in that cave for the rest of his life, almost a hundred years.

Paul of Thebes is known to posterity because around the year 342, Anthony the Great was told in a dream about the older hermit’s existence, and went to find him. Jerome related that Anthony the Great and Paul met when the latter was aged 113. They conversed with each other for one day and one night. The Synaxarium shows each saint inviting the other to bless and break the bread, as a token of honor. Paul held one side, putting the other side into the hands of Father Anthony, and soon the bread broke through the middle and each took his part. When Anthony next visited him, Paul was dead. Anthony clothed him in a tunic which was a present from Athanasius of Alexandria and buried him, with two lions helping to dig the grave.

Father Anthony returned to his monastery taking with him the robe woven with palm leaf. He honored the robe so much that he only wore it twice a year: at the Feast of Easter, and at the Pentecost.

From this example I like the fairytale like “animals take care of you” and “one tree sustained him”. This I specifically want to try and incorporate in my games. Their greater connection to nature/wilderness.


If you are interested in linking your hermits to early Christianity, as it seems you are, then Peter Brown’s seminal article on “the holy man” may help (“The Rise and Function of the Holy Man in Late Antiquity,” The Journal of Roman Studies 61 (1971): pp. 80-101).

There’s a summary review of the article here, if the article is not available to you through

You may also find fun Christian tropes in the Apophthegmata Patrum.

For my settings, I would consider making a famous hermit (about whom there is a rumor) the object of a quest or search in a wild area full of monsters. The hermit is said to have a cure for a mysterious ailment or the lost talisman or the key to whatever it is that the PCs are seeking. Of course, when the PCs find the hermit, he or she sends them on another quest before granting their wish…

Hermits make good non-confrontational random encounters in the wilderness. A hermit can surprise characters who discover him or her deep in a dungeon, where least expected.

They always have their back-stories, too, which may be of interest: broken-hearted or bankrupt, they fled corrupt society in search of escape or transcendence or something else. And maybe there are wicked hermits who retreat because they hate other people, evil monks ready to poison PCs or capture one for a demonic sacrifice.

The possibilities are endless when we imagine a figure lonely and alone in the distant wild.


These are good examples, and I will check out the links in time hopefully, but I’m not specifically going for christian hermits. It’s mainly that the wikipedia page for hermits start with them. For the forest in my dreamworld they would specifically not be christian (since it’s another world). I was more thinking along the lines of refugees, fleeing their abusers or like ancient greek philosophers seeking solitude.

But for now I’m just submerging myself in the concept. Some of the Christian hermit ideas might make it into my ‘empire’ faction.

IIRC it was at one point fashionable to have a hermit on ones estate so nobles would actually pay a person to be a hermit on their estate - but they had to look the part and stay that way (like never clipping their nails, etc.).

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Yes! Very silly, but I wouldn’t have minded taking that job :slight_smile: Getting paid to be an introvert and occasionally say cryptic stuff? Sounds great!

I’m a big fan of stylites - the folks who would climb up on top of a column and live there. A practice that was more common than you would think in early Christianity.

A specific favorite is Symeon the Stylite, who kept occupying grander, and taller pillars throughout his life, including a purpose built pillar with a platform, so that he could both stay there longer and more effectively address his followers.

In a fantasy setting, you could imagine a hermit occupying a construction of such height and size that an entire adventure, potentially a kind of dungeoncrawl, could be spent navigating up to the hermit’s dwelling at the top.

(Edit: @TheBeardedBelgian I just noticed that you posted about Symeon on the NSR discord! haha - well great minds and all that)

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For a look at a hermit without a religious conviction: Japanese island man lives as naked hermit | Reuters

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Made a blogpost with a story seed from this thinking about hermits:

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