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Author Topic: umbrella term for "NPCs and Monsters"?? help  (Read 3457 times)

Posts: 37

« on: October 19, 2003, 09:47:49 PM »

Is there an umbrella term to include both NPCs and Monsters, i.e. a simple word to cover any and all GM-controlled entities?

I can think of terms like Supporting Characters and Company, but it seems to be more NPC-oriented. A word like Encounter is good, but it's more Monster-oriented, i.e. entities you meet then deal with, rather than ones that stick around like NPCs.

Any ideas?


Andrew Martin

Posts: 785

« Reply #1 on: October 19, 2003, 11:18:21 PM »

How about this:
GM Character/s (GMC)

Andrew Martin
Mark Johnson

Posts: 238

« Reply #2 on: October 20, 2003, 12:10:52 AM »

What is wrong with the term NPC to cover both "monsters" and non-monstrous NPCs?  

The term evokes a certain type of gameplay, but if that is the type of gameplay you are trying to achieve, I am not sure that it is inappropriate.  It lacks color, but I have the feeling you are looking for something rather generic anyway.

In other words, I am not exactly sure what the problem is.  As a game designer, you can call these game elements anything you want.  If you can state how those terms (which are not at all universal) are problematic, I think could probably give you a better response.


Posts: 869

« Reply #3 on: October 20, 2003, 04:23:12 AM »

I like "adversary" as an umbrella term that could include NPCs and monsters.
Jack Aidley

Posts: 488

« Reply #4 on: October 20, 2003, 04:43:25 AM »

Adversary doesn't really cover the majority(?) of NPCs though; all those barmen, helpful guides, city officials and others.

I use NPC for all of them, it helps with my general push for 'monster's are people too!'.

- Jack Aidley, Great Ork Gods, Iron Game Chef (Fantasy): Chanter
David "Czar Fnord" Artman

Posts: 246

« Reply #5 on: October 20, 2003, 05:40:43 AM »

I use "EC" for "extra/enemy's character" in my system. It contrasts nicely with PC ("player's character").

If you liked this post, you'll love... GLASS: Generic Live Action Simulation System - System Test Document v1.1(beta)
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Posts: 16490

« Reply #6 on: October 20, 2003, 06:39:21 AM »


For this thread to continue, I'd like to see the cost or problem associated with the lack of such a term be outlined for everyone. The discussion could be very helpful if we have a problem to solve, but otherwise it's an exercise in free-association.

Bear in mind as well that if one were to publish one's own game, you can invent any term you like. The issue at hand is whether we, as a discussion community, need a blanket term, and whether "NPC" is or isn't sufficient already.


Posts: 1741

« Reply #7 on: October 20, 2003, 07:23:32 AM »

I submit: Targets ... or ... for some group "victims."


What's the cost of not having a term? An opportunity cost, maybe When explaining the (traditional) role of the GM there is a stumbling block over the GM as an adversary and the GM as a facilitator.

Important-but-not-adversial might be seen as high-interactivity low-combat
Monsters might be seen as low-interactivity high combat.
Boss villains could be seen as high-interactivity high combat
"extras" would be low-interactivity low-combat

So having one word might even be worse--but having a breakdown beyond NPC might be handy.

Furthermore, in some circumstances, this could be used to encourage players to talk to adversaries (hey, this guy is high-interactivity--maybe I should talk to him instead of just killing him). I'm not sayin' it'd work all that well with just a descriptor--but IME the concept of a "bad guy you should talk to" is counter-intuitive to some people.

-Marco (who put a good deal of thought into that to justify the Victims joke)

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Posts: 563

« Reply #8 on: October 20, 2003, 10:32:25 AM »

I've always used NPC to cover any GM-controlled entity with its own volition, be it a friendly or hostile person, a mindless robot, a carnivorous plant or a slavering beast.

Frankly, the only reason we'd need such a term at all is for cases where the rule system treats PCs and NPCs differently  (Trollbabe and Octane come to mind, though most games at least make the distinction between PC races and NPC races).  Some systems also treat intelligent creatures (NPCs) differently than unintelligent ones (which is what I assume Monster usually means).  If the rules treat everything equally, then they can be written with reference simply to "characters."

Justin Dagna
President, Technicraft Design.  Creator, Pax Draconis
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters

Posts: 10459

« Reply #9 on: October 21, 2003, 09:54:26 AM »

Quote from: jdagna
If the rules treat everything equally, then they can be written with reference simply to "characters."
If it really treats everything equally, we'd call them Components. As in Components of the game world at large. The world in, in fact a Component, of which everything else is a sub-component. Some being closely enough related that there could be mechanics regarding this, creating a Master Component/Sub-component link.


Less in reference to Universalis, things are what they are. They are controlled in play by whom the game indicates. So you have Player-Controlled stuff, and GM Controlled stuff. Like Justin says, the only good reason to have terms for these things are to create focus through the rules. The term Monster only exists because in early D&D most things that the players encountered that might put up resistance were enumerated with a separate set of rules. It's a great silliness that you could encounter a Dwarf "Monster" (3 HD?), or a 3rd level Dwarf Warrior. The only difference being what set of rules the GM decided to use.


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Acts of Evil Playtesters

Posts: 1113

Master of the Inkstained Robes

« Reply #10 on: October 21, 2003, 12:14:26 PM »

Fastlane uses the term "supporting characters" for everything from people to inanimate objects to groups-of-people to corporations to emotions and addictions.  Really, anything can be characterized.

Alexander Cherry, Twisted Confessions Game Design
Maker of many fine story-games!
Moderator of Indie Netgaming

Posts: 384

« Reply #11 on: October 21, 2003, 03:05:02 PM »

Do we need a single word? Will one word suffice for the multitude of the "NPCs" that can be encountered?  Are not these "NPCs" really defined by their System?

The problem with NPC is the definition: Non-Player Character.  Is this true anymore? With the Game Master often regarded as another player but with extra duties or more characters, NPC may not in fact be accurate.  

I was thinking that perhaps they could be broken down by GNS or perhaps by type.


G- Advesaries; Competition;
N- Antogonist; Component; Flavor;
S- Scenery or Clickable (to borrow a computer term)

Another Option might be to break them down by function

Advesary; Informational; Ally; Mook; Contact;

The problem is one of multiple definitions and previously experiences.


M. J. Young

Posts: 2198

« Reply #12 on: October 21, 2003, 08:32:37 PM »

We use several words in Multiverser.

First, we use character, which applies equally to every independent animate entity in the game, whether it's a pet snake, a player character, a sentient robot, an alien life form, or anything else. Character is usually but not always distinguished from device, which is any object which can be manipulated by any character.

We do use non-player character for those characters which are in the exclusive control of the referee; we use it primarily for the convenience that experienced gamers (our target audience) already know the phrase. Again, this includes all independent animate entities, excluding those run by players.

We use indig, which is short for indigenous life form. This expresses the idea that we're distinguishing all the creatures who are native to the current universe from any who come to it from outside, including most frequently the player character, but sometimes others. Indig is distinct from associate, for example, which refers to a class of characters who are attached to a particular player character, and so travel with him from universe to universe. It is also distinct from any other dimensional traveler who happens to be visiting that universe, including supernatural entities, although supernatural entities are considered indigs in supernatural realms.

I think your choice of phrase should take into account whether your players are going to balk at it, whether it adds something to the understanding of the game, and whether you can use it smoothly. If in the end everyone who plays your game are going to call all those things NPC's, your use of something else winds up wasted words. We tried to avoid using the words "hit points" in our text, but in the end "damage intensities" is almost never used by players, who all understand what hit points are and see our construction as close enough to the same thing.

I don't think a general term is needed or even useful for Forge purposes; as a game design question, I think it's a valid one, but from one game to another it will have different answers.

--M. J. Young


Posts: 678

« Reply #13 on: October 22, 2003, 04:53:06 AM »

Sorry this is such a `me to` post, but my first thought on reading the topic of this thread was that surely monsters are characters. There are even very popular games in which the player characters are monsters, such as Vampire, My Life With Master, and many others.

IMHO game mechanics that distinguish materialy between monsters, creatures, NPCs and PCs have been largely obsolete since the publication of RuneQuest in the 1970s. There are some specialist games where it makes sense I suppose, but not many.

Simon Hibbs

Simon Hibbs

Posts: 135


« Reply #14 on: October 26, 2003, 08:50:35 PM »

@ This is my first post here, so please be gentle.

@ i would recommend getting rid of the term monster.  It's a hold over from D&D that leaked into many other games and game developers minds.  Just have NPCs, some of them are hostile to the PCs, some are intelligent, others are simple beasts.  The only difference between a monster and an NPC is that the PCs are expected to kill them or monsters will definately attack.  To me it is better to just have NPCs and let individuals on either side choose if they will fight, thus making it a real decision.  As opposed to the video game model of "it moves, its ugly, so i should shoot it".

@ Monster is a label that sanitizes the Player and the PC from the moral issues of killing (read: murder).  No guilt is associated with killing a 'monster'.  It is the same as labelling in our world, calling someone a *insert epithet* dehumanizes them.  "Go ahead and kill him, he's just a....".  Killing Bob Smith is more challenging (emotionally) than killing Monster on the Road #457.  

@ In D&D and Middle Earth (a bit redundant, huh?), such binary distinctions are possible.  In more um... realistic settings, like WoD, there are shades of grey and colors of morality.  In D&D all vampires are irredemably evil, in WoD some vampires are better people than normal humans.  

@ What is more compelling?  

Meeting some creature/being by chance or choice and knowing that you have to kill it/let it live because it has a name or is labelled a monster (box full of exp)


The same meeting where the intentions and (re)actions of the PCs and the NPCs determine if the encounter will be friendly, neutral or hostile.

If you live in the NoVA/DC area and would like help developing your games, or to help others do so, send me a PM.  i'm running a monthly gathering that needs developers and testers.
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