Why in English all of a sudden?
Well, I realized, that I can barely express myself in English, and it really upsets me. So, I decided to practice more. It reads awkward and unnatural, but please bear with me.
Let’s talk about NPCs.
"We could know each other if Robin is OK with it."
"Robin is OK, she’s an NPC."
"Aren’t NPCs human beings? Haven’t they got rights?"
It was the start of a long conversation with Aash and Lisa, and since I’m still thinking about it, here are some of my thoughts.
I consider NPCs as tools, useful but rightless, and Aash treats them as valid characters, just like PCs. I think doing things her way makes the world deeper and more interesting. Every character of hers is unique in a fun and a bit cartoonish way. I like it. But I’m too boring for this. Let me introduce some of my creations and describe the way I made them. They are all from The Poison Dreams, the teslapunk game I ran a couple of years ago.
1. Lady Kimberley, the mother of the main characters.
2. Lord Fitzwilliam Kimberley, Viscount Harris, the big brother, and the heir.
3. Sir Ethan Hunt, the missing scientist.
4. Lady Georgiana Kimberley, the (almost) deceased wife of one of the PCs.
5. Josh Brown, the servant of one of the PCs.
6. Karrie Keen, the undertaker, and the powerful enemy.
7. Doctor Peterson, the family physician.
There were others, but it doesn’t matter. These guys represent most of the NPC types I usually need in the game. A quest giver, an antagonist, some staff members, somebody to follow PCs and to guide them, somebody who exists because of PC’s back story, and people who appear because of the unraveling of the plot. This is the first thing I want to know about my NPC—why are they here? I always try to use what I got and don’t create additional characters. So, lady Kimberley became a quest giver.
If I have to create an NPC, I look for the opportunity to move the story by them. So, PCs don’t just talk to another innkeeper, they learn something about the town or important people, etc. I know, many players don’t like this. One may say, this is too convenient, and thus story becomes unrealistic. But of course, this is convenient! Have you ever seen a movie with a hero just wandering around without purpose? Maybe Tarkovsky can do that. But I definitely can not.
When I create an NPC, I try to think over their reasons, goals, fears, etc. It helps me to understand, how they act. I like putting some personality traits in every character, but it’s never deep. I know, that doctor Peterson is a gloomy and sarcastic person, and lord Fitzwilliam is soft and uncertain, but that is pretty much all. It doesn’t really help to introduce the NPC properly. And while players can empathize with that NPC, he or she can’t make a great entrance.
I like when NPCs live their own lives, which influences the main story. Lady Georgiana plotted all the time (I still don’t know, what she did exactly, only a few details) and the players had to deal with consequences. Sir Ethan was missing from the beginning, and I didn’t know what happened to him till the very end. I also didn’t know much about their past. So, I don’t expend much effort to create NPCs. It gives me some freedom in changing them when I need it, but I’m not sure if it’s the best way.
I feel like I miss all the fun. While metagaming helps me to create games, it really spoils gaming experience. I can’t interact with many features (including NPCs), because I feel stupid. It just came to my mind, so I don’t know why, but that is that and it’s really annoying. I missed the great dungeon in The Darkness («Тьма») because of that.
I think I’m OK with the way I create NPCs but not with the way I play with them. I’m going to try to change my attitude and think more in-game rather than metagame. I’ll also try to add some fun features to some of my NPCs and see if it makes any difference.