Advice on handling NPCs - Myth-Weavers


GM Workshop

A community-created and maintained place for Game Masters of all systems to bounce ideas around. It's a place for inspiration and sharing tips.


Advice on handling NPCs

   
Advice on handling NPCs

The system: D&D 3.5 - Eberron
The players: 1 first timer, 1 very new, 2 experienced

The Story (In Brief) So Far:
The characters have been hired by House Orien to find a pass though the Endworld mountains to facilitate the shipping of dragonshards from Q'Barra into the rest of Khorvaire. They have met up with 4 NPCs who are fleshing out the rest of the travelling party and have determined that the best place to attempt a crossing is the town of Nightbit. One of the NPCs is the expedition leader.

What Was Going to Happen:
The party was supposed to travel with the NPCs to a promising mountain pass. There would be an ambush in the mountains and the noise of the battle would trigger an avalanche. The avalanche would take them into an ancient abandoned city and kill most of the NPCs. The one surviving NPC would manage to avoid the avalanche and would be a hook for another plotline much later in the campaign. In the abandoned city, the players would discover a demon artifact that would play into the storyline.

The Current Situation:
The campaign is going to be a long running one. However, one of the players just found out he got a job elsewhere and will leaving town in September. He's the one who has never played before so I decided to change the campaign up a bit for his benifit. I'm making a short story arc that will take place in Nightbit and see the characters though until he leaves. Because he's a first timer, I want to make sure that he has the chance to fight a BBEG and be as awesome as possible before he goes.

My Dilemma:
I'm now stuck with 4 NPCs travelling with the party. I've got fully fleshed out characters for all of them but they were really only supposed to be with the group for a part of one session before dying/being separated from the party. This was just a hook the get the ball rolling in a sandbox type game. It's very important to me that the players are the main focus of the game and I'm really worried about having 4 NPCs in the party. I've got a plan in place to keep the NPCs from being able to enter Nightbit, but first they've got to get there.

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!

Quote:
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?
depends on the NPC. i always will have them defend themselves but whether they have the courage to charge in with the players is an iffy thing. if you have pack animals/wagons/supplies/wounded teammates have them hang back and support.

asking the players what they might want is also a good plan.

Talk to your players.
Then talk to them again after a session or two goes by.

You could always just do what they do in films, and kill one or two of them dramatically at opportune moments in the plot.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ciorstaidh View Post
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!
There's another option: they "fight" but not as full characters. They don't roll, and the enemies don't roll against them, but for every surviving NPC, the players get some kind of bonus in combat. Or maybe each NPC provides a different kind of bonus to the party, as long as they "in combat."

However, if an NPC is the only character next to an enemy when that enemy's turn starts, that NPC is killed.

That's just one way to handle it. The point is, just because they are "characters" doesn't mean you have to run them like characters. 4th Edition taught me that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rena_ishtar View Post
asking the players what they might want is also a good plan.
That's always a fantastic plan. I sincerely recommend it.

I just usually have NPC's like that be occupied w/something else, or maybe there are many combatants & NPC party handles a group of them while the PC's handle another (the actual combat). Combat between the good & bad NPC's cancel each other out, it's just happening in the background to what the players are doing. Maybe have a single roll or two to see how the NPC fight turns out or how many friendly NPC's died.

Don't worry that there are NPCs with the group. Especially with a sandbox, there's always going to be some non-player lurking in the wings.

I'd recommend having them as 'Support Characters' - someone to chat to and bounce things off, someone with information (GM opportunity to drop clues/hooks/local info), minding the horses, focusing on ranged attacks, moving up for close combat if the party are beginning to struggle/suffer, the keeper of that handy 'extra' potion or scroll when needed. They will be the ones that may attack - a bit - and then sprain an ankle, or get out of breath, or have to 'recover', they could be timid, or apprehensive. Their characters will go a long way to indicating what they can/will do.

More a supportive resource than acting with the leading drama merchants. The PCs are the stars, the NPCs are the support/extras.

Thanks for the advice everyone.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rena_ishtar View Post
asking the players what they might want is also a good plan.
I was planning on this, but it's great advice and it never hurts to be reminded!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aerzyk View Post
I just usually have NPC's like that be occupied w/something else, or maybe there are many combatants & NPC party handles a group of them while the PC's handle another (the actual combat). Combat between the good & bad NPC's cancel each other out, it's just happening in the background to what the players are doing.
I like this idea a lot. It makes the NPCs useful while keeping the PCs in the spotlight.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Beta Centauri
There's another option: they "fight" but not as full characters. They don't roll, and the enemies don't roll against them, but for every surviving NPC, the players get some kind of bonus in combat. Or maybe each NPC provides a different kind of bonus to the party, as long as they "in combat."

However, if an NPC is the only character next to an enemy when that enemy's turn starts, that NPC is killed.
This is a really interesting idea too. I'm gonna draw up some plans for bonuses right now!

These will give me some options to bring to the players. Thanks again!

Considering NPCs tend to die on contact with the party in my game, this has never really been an issue for me.

Perhaps turn them over to the PCs as henchmen? You'll be amazed how quickly PCs run through henchmen.
"I'll send Steve in first" is a super easy way to show the players how threatening the thing that just ate their henchman is, and in your case a super easy way to get rid of excess NPCs.







 

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
User Alert System provided by Advanced User Tagging (Lite) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2019 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.
Last Database Backup 2019-02-22 09:00:08am local time
Myth-Weavers Status