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Be the BEST NPC EVER!

February 7, 2013 Leave a comment

zombieSome games require that you NPC, some games do not.  No matter where you are, though, there is no excuse for not putting your heart and soul into NPCing.

People will occasionally complain about mandatory NPC shifts.  But even if you don’t like it, you have to think: what about all the people who NPC for me?

When it is your turn to PC, you want the people being your monsters and villains to be entertaining and awesome, don’t you?

Well, they aren’t getting paid.  They, like you, came to the game to enjoy themselves and have a good time.  If you want them to be awesome, energetic NPCs, you have to return the favor.

No matter how much you don’t want to NPC (sometimes, I would rather shoot myself in the foot than play a cookie-cutter monster), you have to remember that the effort you put into it HAS the be equal to or better than what you want to receive!

It is all in the way you look at things.  Sure, there is not much to interact with if you are a mindless creature, but ham it up!  Have a good time making people stare at you in horror as you creep out from under their bed.  Wait until they have made eye contact and slowly drool fake blood.  Sneak up behind them and screech like a creature just let free from hell.  Really get into your parts, and you will find that your NPC shift goes by quickly, and that you had a lot of fun, too.  Then you get to smile later when people come up to you and thank you for making them wet their pants!

I will play a brainless flesh monster with as much gusto as I play a crazy fairy or a badass necromancer.  I HATE being a cookie cutter, but since cookie cutters are a necessary part of the game, I will not be a half-assed cookie cutter.  I will be the most terrifying brainless nightmare beast you have ever SEEN.

And I can only hope that the favor is returned when it is my turn to PC, and someone else’s’ turn to take their turn at being a creepy shadow monster.

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Categories: NPC Advice

Be A Thief, Not A Jerk

November 9, 2012 Leave a comment

No, that’t not me.

I have played a rogue so often in games that, at this point, I refuse to take any rogue skills on my character sheet: I can hide and sneak and steal and beat-feet with the best of them.

I end up having to give a lesson on being a thief/rogue that people don’t hate A LOT.

The biggest problem with being a successful rogue is that you are doing things that are going to make people mad.  You are going to be thieving and lying on a regular basis.

Sadly, this tends to make you enemies.  Having enemies IN-GAME is a good thing.  Having enemies OUT-OF-GAME is a bad thing.

You want to avoid being a dick.  I am sorry for the frank language, but it is true.

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Lying

You are going to lie as a rogue.  It just happens…

Don’t mistake being a rogue with HAVING TO LIE.  You CAN tell the truth and still be in-character.

Be smart.  Does it actually do anything for you to lie about where the main villain went?  Then don’t do it.

Unless you can actually make bank or have a real reason to have to lie, don’t do it habitually if you want to be a successful rogue.  People won’t ever believe you, and then how can you get them to look in the wrong place for the Treasure Of MasterGoldEnStien?

(Being a habitual liar for BAD reasons is an entirely different character concept.)

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Thieving

If you are going to steal, NEVER STEAL EVERYTHING.  This is a HUGE rule.  Yes, I know that your character would probably steal everything that is not nailed down, but then you are going to make out-of-game enemies.

There is psychology behind this that may make so called “role-play purists” mad, but if you think that no one is going to be mad at you for stealing their shit, you need to go home.  Understand that people spend a lot of time gathering up their money, components, items, etc.  If you take all of it, they will become disheartened, angry with you, and may even not want to play anymore.

You can still steal things!  But you have to use good judgment so that you can be a successful thief without making players mad, or being a jerk.

Here are some good rules of thumb:

10%

Only ever steal  (at most) 10% of what people have.  If they have 10 gold, steal one.  This means you have more money, and they can’t really be too angry.  It’s only one gold!

Never Big

If you see a bunch of items that someone has, never steal their coolest, best item.  They probably spent a lot of time getting that, and it will dishearten them Out-of-Game if you take it.

Yes, I understand that your character would take it, and I know that you think that they are bad role-players if they get upset, but you are wrong.  You, not your character, are being mean if you take someone’s favorite toy.  Take something else!  If you see a Staff of Blasting, a Pendant of Dodge, and The High Gift Of The Gods To Magey McMageinstine: take the staff or the pendant.  Leave them their awesome toy, so that they don’t get mad at you out-of-game.

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You want to be a rogue who can thieve and such, and you can!  Just make sure that you don’t alienate the other players at the game.  Get yourself a reputation as a good rogue, but also as an awesome player.

NPCs: How to Handle Downtime

November 5, 2012 Leave a comment

Click picture for source page.

A few days ago, I posted something about PCs handling downtime.  Since then, I have gotten a few remarks about how NPCs should be responsible for the handling of downtime.  “That is what they are supposed to do, right?”

Well, yes… NPCs and GMs are there to entertain you.  It is why you paid to go to an event.  However, they aren’t supermen, and can’t be with you at all times.  Sometimes NPCs have to all go away to set something up.  Some of the onus of responsibility for entertaining the players MUST go to the players.

Having said that, there are a few ways you can deal with downtime at your game without using too many NPCs.

Take-Home Puzzles

Give your players a puzzle that will take them a while to solve.  It is nice to have these sitting around and ready for if you need to distract your players for a while.  These puzzles can include long cyphers, or physical puzzles that they need to put together.  I had my players work with two separate puzzles that I had spray painted white with a message on each.  It took them a while, and kept a number of players busy and chatting.

You have to make sure that you don’t do these too often, and be sure that they aren’t too hard or annoying, because then your players get bored and frustrated.

Angry Ex-Boyfriend (Or angry anything)

Send in an NPC, just one, with great fighting stats.  Have them there to challenge the lover of his ex, or the person who stole his bread… It doesn’t matter WHY he is challenging the players, just so long as he is loud and distracting for some of the downtime.  The players will have a good time dealing with the angry person, and you will have avoided some downtime.

Competition Loving Noble

Send out a noble character, who wants to find the best (fighter, singer, crafter, whatever) and have them arrange an impromptu competition, with prizes!  This can be put together quickly, and gets the players to compete amongst themselves.

Back Story Relevant Folks

Lots of characters have a “long lost” something.  Send an NPC out to fulfill that role.  But put in a twist.  Long lost love staggers into town, but with no memory!  Long lost father comes back, and wants you to help him somehow!

Whatever it is, it may take two people, but you are involving people’s backstories in the game, and it makes them feel involved.  Not ONLY are you involving them, but you are doing it with the least amount of effort on your part.  Heck, a backstory relevant mod can be handed to someone who you are currently testing out as a GM.  If they mess up, it doesn’t effect the entire game, and is only relevant to that one story-line.  Really, it tests them out on their ability to run serious, thoughtful mods, and makes a player feel like they are loved!

Treasure Hunt

This one can be set up in minutes and doesn’t require a lot of planning.  Have an NPC draw a map, and make it TERRIBLE.  Then give that NPC a treasure chest with some loot in it, and have him/her go out and get the players to help him/her find it.  Depending on how bad the map is, the NPC can have the players wandering around the property for ages, bumbling and hilarious.  Get one of your more inventive and entertaining NPCs to be the bumbling treasure hunter.

Gamblers, Drunks, Merchants, Trainers

These are things that you can give to ANYONE and then turn around and ignore them.  The players can interact with them, and if you give them free-reign to do what they want within their skill-set, then Huzzuah!  You have new blood out there, making your game interesting and odd.

In conclusion: having a few NPCs out to distract people while you set up or tear down mods (or just nap… I love naps) is a really good idea.  It tricks the players into thinking that you are clever and had more things planned, and keeps them out of your hair while you set things up and get things done!

When to Clarify, When to Let It Go

November 4, 2012 Leave a comment

Sometimes things go wrong on a mod.  Sometimes, people use the wrong ability to block something, or hit too hard, or call the wrong casting line, whatever.  Sometimes a mod calls for a clarify.

When you are compelled to correct someone on a mod, you have to take into account EVERYONE on the mod.  If it is as simple as saying, “Clarify, only Dodge blocks ranged attacks” and moving on, then sure.

However, if you have to bring the entire mod to a halt to clarify something, you may want to consider whether or not it is worth it.  If someone calls a Dodge when they should have said Parry, but you would stop the entire mod to inform them: let it slide.

You have to remember that you are playing a game where first and foremost people are trying to have fun.  Stopping a mod every couple of minute to clarify rules is not fun.  As an NPC, it shouldn’t matter so much to you if someone uses the wrong ability to block what you have, since you are an NPC, and probably a throw-away character.

People are also in a confrontational mood in the middle of a mod.  They are often fighting, or at least competing in some way.  Trying to correct someone when you are playing their adversary is going to be TOUGH!  Granted, everyone knows that it is a game, but they are still in a certain mindset, and it is hard to switch up.  If you try and correct them more than once a mod, you run the risk of getting into an argument with them in the middle of a mod, and then you have a shouting match between you and one player, while the rest stand around, embarrassed and bored.

After the mod is over, pull the person aside and clarify the rules with them when tempers aren’t high and action is not flowing.  Or you can pull them aside in between action.  Say, after you have died, but before you Respawn, pull them aside quietly and let them know about the rules issue.  This way, you aren’t in combat, and you aren’t slowing everyone else down.

Mods are no fun if they are stopped constantly.  You should attempt to NEVER do something that brings a mod or a scene to a crashing stand-still.  If you think you have ability, but aren’t sure, error on the side of the players, and assume that you don’t have it.  If a player hits you for a lot of damage, you may as well take it: you are an NPC, you have lots of HP, and players have not a lot of abilities.  Let them get the hit in and feel good about it.

A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself is “Will this be fun for the players?”  For example:

            This guy started a debate about rules in the middle of a mod.  I could just let it go and deal later.  Do I continuing arguing?  Will this be fun for the players?

No

I forgot some skills I had, can I stop the mod to check my character sheet, will it be fun for the players?

No

            I’ve lost track of my hit points, will dying in a loud way now be fun for the players?

Yes

This guy hit me for holy, but I think he meant lightning… Should I correct him?  Will the pause be fun for the players?

No

That last example brings up the second rule to remember: Does this really matter right now?

For example:

This guy hit me for holy, but I think he meant lightning… Should I correct him?  Does it really matter right now?

No

            I called dodge a second ago, but I meant evade… Dodge is better than evade… I wanted to save it.  Do I bring it up?  Does this really matter right now?

No

This guy should be taking double damage from my swings.  I think he is unaware of this… Does this really matter right now?

Yes

These two questions will help you decide when to correct people and when to just let things slide until you can correct them quietly.  Remember: while you may want to correct someone so things are perfectly right, it slows down play for everyone else.  Sometimes you have to let little things go, so that everyone can have more fun.

Categories: GM Advice, NPC Advice