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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 158 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: How do you handle NPCs in your game? simple vs complex  (Read 2782 times)
xjermx
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« on: August 01, 2006, 05:35:50 AM »

Hi folks,

I figure Actual Play is a reasonable place for this.

I'm curious how you handle NPCs in your game.  Specifically, their stats/sheet/combat related tasks.  To be even more specific, let me provide an example.  For my TSOY game, I spend time between sessions putting some work into the story and the motivations/goals of the NPCs, basically an R-Map.  What I dont do is to come up with even a basic sheet for them. Rather than having information on whether they're Adept or Master at Deceit, I just figure it out on the fly and roll the dice.  I've been doing this for years now, I think, and I've handled it this way for D&D 3/3.5, Feng Shui, and TSOY.  This does two things really for me:  it frees me up just a little more at the game table.. I dont have to dig through my notes looking for that guy's Sword skill; and it lets me just make it up on the fly to provide a reasonable level of difficulty for the players.  Let me note: difficulty not to defeat them, but to make things more exciting *for them*.

This kind of NPC organization doesnt work well for Dogs in the Vineyard, and so when I get to run it, they get numbers as normal.

So.. how many of you do something similar?  Are you "fast and loose" with your NPCs and their numbers, or are you hard core and by-the-book when it comes to your NPCs and their stats?

Also, and a bit tangentially, I picked up Burning Wheel recently and it looks great, but at first read it looks like I'm going to end up spending hours creating NPCs.  Anyone wanna throw me a bone on this?
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TonyLB
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« Reply #1 on: August 01, 2006, 05:40:41 AM »

Are the PCs on your R-Map?

'cuz I generally do very much what you're talking about, but the R-Map is a constellation branching out from the PCs.  If it doesn't matter to the players then it doesn't matter.
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xjermx
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« Reply #2 on: August 01, 2006, 05:52:05 AM »

Quote
Are the PCs on your R-Map?

Yes.

So I've got my Main Antagonists, and all of their lackeys, plus whatever the players get into that I didnt see coming.
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Arturo G.
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« Reply #3 on: August 01, 2006, 06:02:04 AM »


I think this procedure is quite common.
For me the important details of a character are not the numbers. I used to add notes stating not only relationship details, also their relevant traits or remarkable abilities. But without given them numbers, which were chosen on the fly.

What really puzzles me are your comments about DitV. The proto-NPC stats are generated previously. But they are not assigned to a specific character before she becomes relevant. And the traits are introduced and assigned to dice numbers on the fly. I don't think it is so much different from your usual approach.

Arturo
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xjermx
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« Reply #4 on: August 01, 2006, 06:10:25 AM »

Quote
What really puzzles me are your comments about DitV. The proto-NPC stats are generated previously.

Right. What I meant was that it seems to me that my "I'll totally make their stats up as I go" method doesnt work for Dogs - thanks to proto-NPCs.  Or it does because I'm assigning traits on the fly..  Or maybe Dogs was a terrible example.  How about Burning Wheel instead? :)
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Jon Hastings
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« Reply #5 on: August 01, 2006, 06:21:09 AM »

Hi xjermx,

With Burning Wheel it is probably best to Burn up any major NPCs ahead of time - going through all the steps, especially Beliefs, Instincts, and Traits.  NPC Beliefs should tie into or play off of the PC's Beliefs.

However, for less important NPCs or NPC that need to be statted up on the spur of the moment (because they've been introduced through a Circles test), you can probably get away with eyeballing it.  But it's important to keep track of the numbers you do assign these NPCs to maintain consistency.

-Jon
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Arturo G.
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« Reply #6 on: August 01, 2006, 06:25:15 AM »


DitV was not so bad example. DitV proto-NPCs is just a more organized way to do it. It helps you to create a somehow balanced collection of NPCs, where not everyone has "all good", or "all poor" stats. But you still assign things on the fly as they are needed. You could skip the proto-NPCs, but then it would be more complicate to keep control of the assignment of dice during the conflicts because you would be playing with too many options at the same time.

Arturo
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Robert Bohl
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« Reply #7 on: August 01, 2006, 06:30:04 AM »

When I ran more stat-intensive games, I would usually pick a power or two and wing it, and make heavy use of pregenned NPCs (or monsters).

Right now my favorite game is Primetime Adventures, where the notion of premade NPCs is irrelevant.
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #8 on: August 01, 2006, 08:42:07 AM »

Personally, I'm swinging towards games where characters are increasingly simple, at least statistically speaking.  Games like Capes, where a new character takes five minutes to create, for instance.  In my own FLFS, making a character is coming up with Thematic Batteries and then ticking off boxes while counting to 100.  Quick.  This is my ideal "solution" -- that creating a new character for NPCish purposes takes very little time.  Alternately, I prefer games where opposition-stats (commonly in the form of characters) are pregenerated; Dogs does this, and my own Agora does too, in a rather completely different way.

In games where the above are not options -- where an NPC sheet takes a significant chunk of time and mental power, I do prefer to have fully fleshed out character sheets for all the principals.  I don't stat up guards and random extras that aren't of importance to the story (which is where a strong situation creation mechanic comes in, distinguishing principals from extras).  Occasionally, if a nobody becomes a focus of the game through the characters' actions, I'll stat them up between sessions for their later use.  However, all this work?  Is increasingly looking more and more burdensome.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #9 on: August 01, 2006, 12:58:19 PM »

I think that we're all agreeing that the answer is "depends on the system." I think for TSOY or HQ or such, that stating out a character before hand (when they really only become a TN in play) is a big mistake. But for BW, I think you'd have to be really talented to do it on the fly.

Mike
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Matthew Glover
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« Reply #10 on: August 03, 2006, 06:41:50 AM »

Quote
Punks, pogues, and peeps
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
With people, abilities can be built as you need them. If this SGC has any real importance to the story, you'll need a name. After that, just assign abilities as you need them. With a small scale, it should be easy to decide if someone's a Unskilled or a Master or anything in between. Write down the ability and rank and make sure to keep that consistent. If you're making up someone on the fly, they have no pools. If you decide to give them a Secret, they can only use it once in a scene.

If you have a major SGC that you're building before play, design that character as normal. However, their pools should be halved, as they do not have the chances to spend them that the players' characters do.

I tend to handle this differently from one game to the next.  With my current TSOY game, I made up an NPC sheet with 4 mini character sheets per page to track stats.  I just fill in each NPC as I create it.  This is totally separate from my conflict web map (just as Tony described, branching out from my PCs, though I'll often draw a extra version without the PCs to keep me straight how my NPCs relate to each other) and my notes on what each NPC wants.
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