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Independent Game Forums => lumpley games => Topic started by: Arturo G. on January 12, 2006, 10:31:33 AM



Title: [DitV] Assigning traits to NPCs on the fly
Post by: Arturo G. on January 12, 2006, 10:31:33 AM

This question was brought up when reading the thread Tearing down the DM's screen (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=18322.0).

I've noticed that when I pick one of the proto-NPCs, to transform it in an important NPC for a conflict, I have troubles to assign appropriate traits and relationships on the fly.

If I try to do it in one stage before conflict begins, it takes me some time, and the players wait, losing some tension.
If I assign the traits during the conflict, it seems I'm doing it to compensate the dice of the players. I typically obtain a sensefull NPC, but somehow fitted to that conflict. I mean, looking after the game at the NPCs page I find some traits clearly tailored to increase the opposition to the NPCs during specific conflicts. I don't like that.

How do other people do it? It is just that I'm not yet enough trained to quickly assign traits before the conflict begins?

Cheers,
Arturo


Title: Re: [DitV] Assigning traits to NPCs on the fly
Post by: coffeestain on January 12, 2006, 10:36:54 AM
I always assign the traits just before I use them, as in, immediately before I roll them.  I believe the book suggests doing it in this fashion.

To this person, being in conflict with a Dog is probably a really big deal.  Wouldn't it make sense that the aspects of this conflict are extremely important to them?

Besides, unless your players are extremely gun-happy, it's very likely you'll be using the NPC again, if not in a followup conflict, later in the town.  Sometimes it's wise to save a few traits, just in case.

Oh, and don't be afraid to use your NPC's relationship dice to form relationships with the Dogs, too.

Regards,
Daniel


Title: Re: [DitV] Assigning traits to NPCs on the fly
Post by: lumpley on January 12, 2006, 10:38:16 AM
For what it's worth, this is (in my experience) the most difficult thing a Dogs GM does.

-Vincent


Title: Re: [DitV] Assigning traits to NPCs on the fly
Post by: Transit on January 12, 2006, 11:22:42 AM
I'm wondering if some sort of "trait menu" might be a helpful play-aid in these situations.  Some sort of reference list of example traits, grouped by the types of NPC's who might have them.

Of course, the GM would first try to come up with traits on the fly, appropriate for the particular NPC and the current situation.  But if he drew a blank, he could always fall back on a list like this to pick out a few appropriate "default" traits.

Typical "thug" NPCs would always have some sort of "I'm wicked with a gun" or other weapon trait.  Typical blacksmith NPCs would usually have "I'm as strong as an Ox."  Town drunks might have "I stumble into trouble."  Charismatic cult leaders might always have "I've got a way with words." etc.

I'm sure a lot of Dog GMs already have some traits they use often.  It would just be a matter of compiling a list that could be shared with other GMs.


Title: Re: [DitV] Assigning traits to NPCs on the fly
Post by: lumpley on January 12, 2006, 11:32:22 AM
Oh hey - that's a wicked good idea. On it.

-Vincent


Title: Re: [DitV] Assigning traits to NPCs on the fly
Post by: daHob on January 12, 2006, 11:46:10 AM
Would it be reasonable to assign a couple of traits to an NPC as you set them up in town creation?

Not assigning dice yet or really fleshing them out too much, but just jotting down a couple of trait suggestions for later.



Title: Re: [DitV] Assigning traits to NPCs on the fly
Post by: Andrew Morris on January 12, 2006, 11:52:37 AM
I choose to look at it as if the proto-NPC stats were just the tip of the iceberg, and that only the traits relevant to the conflict get written down. So, just because a particular NPC gets assigned "Stubborn," "You don't tell me what to do!," and "I'm in charge of my own family" in the course of resisting the Dogs telling him how to run his household, that doesn't mean that's all there is to the character -- it's just all we see. The Dogs will always have the NPCs outgunned (dice-wise), so this seems to be a good way of providing more interesting challenges to the players. Maybe it's just because there are five dogs in my group -- it's damn hard to beat that many PCs.

Come to think about it, I might want to give the NPCs new sets of unassigned traits every time the Dogs come rolling back into town, while keeping all the old traits -- sort of an advancement mechanism for NPCs.


Title: Re: [DitV] Assigning traits to NPCs on the fly
Post by: Eric Provost on January 12, 2006, 06:56:20 PM
Personally I've never had any real big issues with assigning the traits right before using the NPC.  But occationally I get stuck.  It's been my experience that I get stuck assigning traits to characters that are flat in my head.  Characters I can't sympathize with.  Otherwise I just write down the first four or five things that pop into my head about the character.

Like this....

Ok, so you wanna convince the old matron who's trying to take over the town?  Well, let's see, she's...

A bitch - 1d8... and she's...
Well respected 2d4... and she's...
Never Touched a Gun...1d10 and she's...
Got a wicked backhand 3d6.

There's my NPC's traits.  I just pulled those out of the air.  A steward who's trying his best but still addicted to hemp, you say?

Great Guy 2d4
The addiction shows 2d6
Has a helluva arm 1d10
and...
Enjoys a good conversation 1d6.

Are they good traits?  Well, that all depends on how much of a narration-groove I'm in at any particular moment.

I suppose what I'm really trying to say is that I expect that the primary reason some people get stuck on the traits thing is that they're thinking too hard.  Or setting just too high of standards for themselves.  Once I started letting go of all that and trusting my creativity I pumped out traits for NPCs easier and faster.  All they really have to do is give a little color to the NPC, let the players know who that character is in a conflict.  And it seems to me that whatever's on the tip of your brain at the beginning of a conflict makes for fantastic traits.

-Eric

p.s. I personally think that not assigning traits to NPCs before needed is a brilliant rule.  I'd never fuck with it.  Assigning traits before conflicts means that you, as the GM, might be tempted to bring a particular character into a conflict just to show off the kewl traits you've authored.  That becomes a problem when the players aren't interested in conflicts with that particular NPC. 


Title: Re: [DitV] Assigning traits to NPCs on the fly
Post by: Arturo G. on January 13, 2006, 04:24:54 AM
Eric said:
Quote
Personally I've never had any real big issues with assigning the traits right before using the NPC.  But occationally I get stuck.  It's been my experience that I get stuck assigning traits to characters that are flat in my head.  Characters I can't sympathize with.  Otherwise I just write down the first four or five things that pop into my head about the character.
Quote
I suppose what I'm really trying to say is that I expect that the primary reason some people get stuck on the traits thing is that they're thinking too hard.  Or setting just too high of standards for themselves.

I think this is part of the problem. When I have a clear idea of the character and her place in the whole scene of the town problems I don't have so much trouble to come up with some reasonable traits. I would say the the best investment would be in thinking about the characters before play, having a second deep look about their wants just before conflict begins, and try to do it easy.

I see why Vincent says it is difficult. Ok, it is part of the enjoyment.

daHob: I tried my first time to do that. It may work, but sometimes is wasted time. The couple of traits I was writting were the obvious ones which I was getting easily on the fly if I was really remembering the character wants and needs. And if you overdo it you may fall in liking some of them too much, bringing them in play without need, as Eric says. I have some experience on this from other games.

Transit, I agree some general traits are easy to define. Indeed I'm using someones to fill up NPC-traits some times. But I'm worry about overdoing it when I get stuck, making my NPCs too similar and flat. I think it should be used with care. Good for thugs. Sharing a list could be nice to get fresh ideas improve the menu.

Andrew, of course I like the idea to add some new traits or change a couple when Dogs come back to a town. I have not thought about it before because we have not yet played an old town. It is a completely different scenario as you need to tailor again the town troubles, but previous-play has already created many quirks and traits for the original NPCs. Nice.

Cheers,
Arturo


Title: Re: [DitV] Assigning traits to NPCs on the fly
Post by: Doug Ruff on January 13, 2006, 05:47:27 AM
Not so sure about a trait 'menu', but it may be worth having a prompt card with some good trait questions to ask yourself when you bring the NPC into play.

For example:

- What function does this person serve in the community?
- Who does this person actively like or dislike? Why?
- Is there anything about this person that other people remark on ("he/she's big/ugly/too clever for their own damn good" etc)
- What do they want from the Dogs?

So if Brother Luke is a farmhand, in Love with Sister Agatha, hates her father (Brother Luke) because he won't let them see each other, is known for his size and temper, and wants the Dogs to speak up for him, then:

I know these fields like the back of my hand 2d8
Agatha 2d10
Luke 3d4
Big as the horses he looks after 2d6
Fierce temper 2d4
I'm as good as the next man 1d8

spring to mind.


Title: Re: [DitV] Assigning traits to NPCs on the fly
Post by: Lance D. Allen on January 13, 2006, 07:35:55 AM
Doug,

Hey, that's pretty good.


Title: Re: [DitV] Assigning traits to NPCs on the fly
Post by: lumpley on January 13, 2006, 08:00:04 AM
What seems useful to me is a parallel to the players' "write down 'I'm a good shot.' Now write down how you got to be a good shot. Now write down something that breaks the type."

Like Doug's.

-Vincent


Title: Re: [DitV] Assigning traits to NPCs on the fly
Post by: TheHappyAnarchist on January 13, 2006, 08:30:59 AM
Yeah that is a good idea Doug.  Probably better than even a menu of common traits for NPCs.


Title: Re: [DitV] Assigning traits to NPCs on the fly
Post by: Transit on January 26, 2006, 10:18:22 AM
Why not have both?  A prompt card with questions that help create traits on the fly that also has a list of example traits in case the GM is really stuck?


Title: Re: [DitV] Assigning traits to NPCs on the fly
Post by: epweissengruber on September 04, 2006, 04:34:00 AM
Oh hey - that's a wicked good idea. On it.

-Vincent

Did you actually create a list of cool traits?


Title: Re: [DitV] Assigning traits to NPCs on the fly
Post by: Moreno R. on September 04, 2006, 10:27:57 AM
I typically obtain a sensefull NPC, but somehow fitted to that conflict. I mean, looking after the game at the NPCs page I find some traits clearly tailored to increase the opposition to the NPCs during specific conflicts. I don't like that.

It doesn't bother me, because I think this about these number: they represents the importance in the story of these traits.

Look at the Dog's trait and relationship.  You will see often something like "my older brother, whom I worship and with whom I always close and caring 1d4" and "this old man I saw once across a field in Bowers Draw 2d8"  (yes, it's the example in the game manual. Page 26). Because (citing again the manual) you "assign the dice based on how interesting you think the relationship is".

If the "value" of a trait/relationship is NOT assigned thinking about it's importance in the Dog's life, but based on the importance in the player's eye, I think that the same should be true of NPC, too.

A NPC could be the most accomplished guitar player in all the west, but if he doesn't use the guitar with the dogs, it's not important. It's not worth dices.

If a NPC try to kill the Dogs with a gun, he could be the worst shot in the city, but for the players that gun is really, really interesting in that moment.

So, I have really no problem in giving the traits in the middle of a conflict, basing the decision on what the NPC is trying to do in that moment. It's the most interesting thing in that moment, so it's the right way to spend dices.

Your mileage may differ, but if you try to think about the issue from this point of view, maybe your problem would disappear.




Title: Re: [DitV] Assigning traits to NPCs on the fly
Post by: Brand_Robins on September 04, 2006, 11:02:00 AM
So, I have really no problem in giving the traits in the middle of a conflict, basing the decision on what the NPC is trying to do in that moment. It's the most interesting thing in that moment, so it's the right way to spend dices.

That's a large part of how I do it. The one thing I'd add is that I'm pretty careful to make it "what would make this conflict more interesting" rather than "what would make me more likely to win."

Because A is all awesome. B is only awesome some of the time.


Title: Re: [DitV] Assigning traits to NPCs on the fly
Post by: Moreno R. on September 04, 2006, 11:23:46 AM
So, I have really no problem in giving the traits in the middle of a conflict, basing the decision on what the NPC is trying to do in that moment. It's the most interesting thing in that moment, so it's the right way to spend dices.

That's a large part of how I do it. The one thing I'd add is that I'm pretty careful to make it "what would make this conflict more interesting" rather than "what would make me more likely to win."

Because A is all awesome. B is only awesome some of the time.

I agree.  But the game rules take care of that: if the GM use the proto-NPCs from the rules, it's almost impossible to beat a REALLY determined player with the dices (the bigger trait you get are 2d10 or 3d8, not a big deal at all). All he can do is making victory really "interesting" (in the Chinese Curse sense) for the players. So, even if the GM would like to "win" against the players, he really can't, and has to learn to play in another manner (DitV is really the first rpg I ever saw that force you to play it well, if you want to enjoy playing it...)


Title: Re: [DitV] Assigning traits to NPCs on the fly
Post by: Vaxalon on September 04, 2006, 12:11:21 PM
The way the game is set up, the GM gets more d10's on his side (with demonic influence) so he can inflict fallout on a reliable basis, but the PC's get more dice in all, and as such can win conflicts on a reliable basis.


Title: Re: [DitV] Assigning traits to NPCs on the fly
Post by: Joshua A.C. Newman on September 14, 2006, 09:28:11 AM
Fred, where'd you get that quote in your sig? We just finished that game last night and I have comments to comment!


Title: Re: [DitV] Assigning traits to NPCs on the fly
Post by: Vaxalon on September 14, 2006, 10:09:08 AM
Actually... I don't know.  I saw it, thought it was cool, and grabbed it.


Title: Re: [DitV] Assigning traits to NPCs on the fly
Post by: lumpley on September 14, 2006, 11:09:45 AM
It was a conversation about bringing your fellow Dogs into conflicts, not about our game.

Post actual play, J!

-Vincent


Title: Re: [DitV] Assigning traits to NPCs on the fly
Post by: Joshua A.C. Newman on September 14, 2006, 11:13:19 AM
I will do it!


Title: Re: [DitV] Assigning traits to NPCs on the fly
Post by: drnuncheon on September 14, 2006, 01:10:21 PM
I think this is part of the problem. When I have a clear idea of the character and her place in the whole scene of the town problems I don't have so much trouble to come up with some reasonable traits.

Gonna take the GMing advice and run with it a bit, here:

If you don't have a clear idea of the character and her place in the town, are you sure she's important enough to be the opposition in a conflict?  Maybe you should just be saying yes?

(and wow, thread necro...should we split off, Vincent?)

J