Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Making Memorable NPCs at Treasure Tables

Martin Ralya has an interesting article over at Treasure Tables on the seven traits of memorable NPCs. It’s a good list.

There’s one more I’d want to add, but only cautiously. The most memorable NPCs in my campaigns have always been those who defeated the party. It didn’t have to mean death. In fact, a little humiliation was often more memorable than death. But anyone who actually overcame the PCs, or forced them into facing choices they might otherwise have avoided, or in some way thwarted or defeated them, was moved to the top of their lists.

Why would I add this cautiously? All the attributes Martin lists are things you can do, at the table or when designing before a game, to make an NPC stand out. But while you can work your tail off making your NPCs a real challenge for the players, if you’re doing them and your game justice, the players will always have a chance of defeating any important antagonist they face. Dictating character defeat in advance is akin to the Garden of Eden problem: you’re trying to invalidate the actions and choices of the players. Uh-uh! Don’t do it! You have to give the players the victories they earn. Making choices is what games are all about. If you steal that from your players, they’ll have more fun staying at home and playing video games.

And, just for the record, I am never EVER going to play a sage in one of Martin’s games. Gross. Just, really, man. You did not need to go there. Ick! ;p

1 comment:

Martin Ralya said...

In future games, any time the PCs visited a sage, my players always asked if he was covered in poop.

What can I say? It did the trick. ;)