Advice on handling NPCs - Page 2 - Myth-Weavers


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Advice on handling NPCs

   
If possible, have the players design the NPCs in broad strokes (race, basic area of expertise, equipment, etc.) in such a way that the NPCs can be promoted to PCs, should the need arise. I have always liked, in theory, the idea of using henchmen and hangers on as back up characters, but I've never really executed it.

I ran the game last night and it went really well thanks to all of your suggestions. We discussed it before the game and decided that the NPCs would be involved in the fights, but wouldn't roll. They had a cinematic battle while the PC's did the heavy lifting.

What really surprised me is that the PC's have become very attached to these NPCs. Something about fighting alongside them, I think. It's really added a lot of depth to the campaign and it's a great way for me to be able to pass along information to the players when necessary. Even when the NPC's leave the party, the players will have some trusted people that they can go to if they need to lay low or get some information.

@Beta Centauri: I've heard of that idea before, but never tried it either. I think this might be a good time to test it though!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ciorstaidh View Post
@Beta Centauri: I've heard of that idea before, but never tried it either. I think this might be a good time to test it though!
I've heard of the idea referred to as a "trapdoor." People who produce long-running TV shows often use it. They have minor characters who, if the actor for the main character leaves, can be slotted in to fill the narrative role of that character, as if they were rising up through a trapdoor in a stage. The character is there, and sort of already does the same job, but isn't a main character until needed. Babylon 5 had trapdoors all over the place.

Anyway, good luck.

I think my favorite idea so far is to have them be backups. If you do, then don't be afraid to kill a PC, which is really hard after you see a first timer pour themselves into making an epic backstory and use their character's voice the whole game. If you can't do that then just have them form their own little party that shows up to help with the boss after missing out on the weenies.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marfio View Post
I think my favorite idea so far is to have them be backups. If you do, then don't be afraid to kill a PC, which is really hard after you see a first timer pour themselves into making an epic backstory and use their character's voice the whole game.
Exactly! Death is considered to be an important aspect of the game, but many GMs feel driven to avoid it because it's not worth the impact to the player. Even a backup might not be enough, but it's great when a GM can find something that allows them to stop worrying whether or not an encounter is too tough.

I've been prone to sort of 'cheat' with NPCs on the PCs side. The backup idea echoed, basically, but with a little extra.

Here's the thing - I don't roll for them. When the PCs are fine, I have them miss a lot, and basically act like a backdrop while having them, in-character, think they're genuinely helping. That, or maybe even panic during an encounter and even take the PCs to help them calm down. But if the PCs seem to be doing badly, they sort of sweep in and start performing competently, to keep things from going too far south. I like to make my PCs suffer, but I don't like to have them die unless necessary (vengeance can be a powerful motivator). Death, after all, ends all possible future suffering.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheFred View Post
You could always just do what they do in films, and kill one or two of them dramatically at opportune moments in the plot.
This is what I generally do if it can be accomplished plausibly. Of course if the players have become emotionally attached to the NPC they tend to interfere or even raise them from the dead again. Sometimes it comes down to a choice between getting rid of extraneous NPCs and letting the players save someone heroically ('cause that's what heroes do).

If the PCs are saving the NPCs heroically, then arguably the NPCs are still serving a purpose and certainly aren't overshadowing the PCs.

P.S. Slightly old thread to revive, I think.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ciorstaidh View Post

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My Question:
I'm in desperate need of advice on how you GMs out there have handled NPCs travelling with the PCs, especially when it comes to combat. Do you let the NPCs fight or have them hang back? I really don't want to end up playing D&D by myself as my players sit around a watch!

In my games, w/r/t to combat, it depends on the NPC.

Is she someone who is a pacifist? Does he get queasy at the sight of bloodshed? Does he long for the thrill of battle? Is she someone who, at the first sign of tension, steps away as quickly as she can?

Most of the time, the NPC participates, even if it's as small as casting a buff spell or being ready to heal at the first sign of near-fatalities. Very occasionally, the PCs might have someone who withdraws completely when armed conflict breaks out but those aren't typically the rule.

When it comes to non-combat situations, they're active participants as the situations warrant. Having said that, it's rare that more than one or two NPCs accompany the party.

I keep my NPC's in the back and have them occasionally jump into combat, just so the PC's know that they are still helping the group. However, I usually don't count them into any XP charts if I treat them that way.

but if they are the star of the show for a scene or two then yeah, I'll treat them like a player. I have an adventure with a half dozen npc's but their guarding the campsite while they PC's go off and venture through some ruins. A horn, a flare, or some kind of magical device is good to give the pc's so they can "summon" some help if needed.

If the party is traveling, I'll either keep them in the back of the convoy while the PC's lead or I'll have it the other way around and the PC's jump in if stuff starts going crazy. all depends on the story.

but then again, if its just a single npc the options will vary from time to time on what kind of role I have him take.







 

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