Saturday, 16 April 2022

N is for Non-Player Character

Volumes have been written on the Non-Player Character ("NPC"). This will not add to that scholarship

NPCs, as in plural, are every being inhabiting the world in which the Player's characters live. The shopkeeper. The tavern barmaid, the orc, the goblin chieftain, the dragon, even the zombie horde (to the extent that the characters are interested in the actions of the group or swarm and wish to interact with the entity).

NPCs will have motivations, for good or bad, toward the characters. And well played NPCs have been known to become attached to the characters and players can be upset at their "deaths."

Mechanically, NPCs can be "stripped down" characters or fully realized as the Player's characters are. It is skill to develop NPCs that are not simply tools to keep Players on a story line. Even more a skill to keep NPCs out of the spotlight. NPCs in the spotlight can become a "GM PC," and this is dangerous. The Game Master has an omniscient view of the game, the world, and the plot. Using an NPC to "play" is simply a bad idea for this reason alone.

My rule of thumb is that NPC should be background if embedded with the party. Take orders from a player at the table and act in good faith if allied. My NPC allies and protagonists are often reoccurring elements. My last D&D campaign had at least three NPCs that aided or goaded the players. Hugh was a peasant that a player met and hired to be his business manager. Captain Jacque was only a military escort that the players loved to meet, often in his role as agent to the King, and Vog'dramach, a demon, goaded the players throughout the campaign, often cowardly retreating at the last moment, running back to his patron with news of the players whereabouts and actions.

Posted by caffeinated at 10:03 PM in d10