What Do Your NPC's Say About Your Game?

What is the difference between an NPC and monster in a tabletop role playing game? They often use the same stats, follow the same rules set as both players and monsters, but for some reason they are different, and get entire sections devoted to them in numerous RPG rule sets.

I think the reason is that NPCs simply have a chance of not attacking you. An NPC is the GM's version of a player character, and like the players, they should try to react as reasonably as possible in every situation. So it doesn't just start a fight when your players encounter them; rather it begins a whole new part of the game where players must act in character, and interact with your world in a very real way. It is the ultimate opportunity to watch your characters role play and grow how they view their character.

It is for this reason that NPCs are also the most difficult thing for a GM to write. They must be believable but you need to make a lot of them, so it also needs to be quick and straight forward. Often it means that NPCs go by the way side and GMs fall into some common troupes.

Here are some NPC Archetypes that I have seen before GMs fall into using before, and how to deal with them as a player and a GM.

They are All Shop Keepers

I have encountered this once or twice. The only real NPC interaction in game is with those willing to sell us supplies, a room for the evening, or a quest in exchange for something of capital value. When you encounter a game with NPC like this this, it usually means that you are up for an evening of combat, or that the GM really wants you to make your own way in this world.

If your NPCs are only selling you the items you need to survive, then adventure is going to be out in the wild. Get out there and find it and stop futzing around in town. You will have more fun, and your GM won't seem so stressed.

They Know Everything

If every NPC in the world knows exactly what is going, or information that they should have no way of knowing, it means one of two things. The first and most common is that your GM is more interested in having you move on with their story then having you figure out each piece on your your own. Just except it and move on, you will find what the GM wanted you to do.

It could also mean that your GM hasn't really prepared this area of the game, and is trying to hurry you along. Either way, don't question it, or argue, it will only slow things down.

They Know Nothing

For me there is nothing more frustrating then a stupid NPC. Now, I don't mean a character that is unintelligent, I mean an NPC that is devoid of the basic knowledge that their character should have. NPC interaction is the only way that your player characters can get the info they need to play the game. If your NPC's don't know anything then it can be a real challenge for your players to follow your story much less care about it.

Stupid NPC's can bring a game to a halt. If this is happening in your game, point it out in private with your GM. Maybe they will throw you guys a bone next game.

They Talk to Much

If your NPC's are running through minutes and minutes of dialogue without interacting with the players then you are directing, not GMing.  Sure it is tempting to move plot along, and this is OK to do on occasion, but this should not be your got to manoeuvre for revealing plot. Players find this boring and uninteresting. It doesn't have anything directly to do with them, and while you may capture their interest from time to time, it is really not a troupe you want to over use, lest the start drifting in and out of paying attention.

Similarly if your NPC's are giving your Player characters too much information it will overwhelm them and they will have difficulty remembering the details of what they are supposed to do. This means that all your hard work will be wasted and the players often won't be able to follow the plot.

They are All Shifty and Suspicious

It is one thing if you are a stranger in a strange place and the locals don't trust you, it is another when you are constantly needing to prove your identity, loyalty, etc. over and over again. Of course this can be fun if the situations warrants it. But not every NPC should approach everyone with mistrust. Do you?

This is exhausting and annoying for your players, and it normally feels like the GM is trying to punish the players or that they are stalling. Either way, suspicion should be used with moderation and only when reasonable. Otherwise your game will slow to a crawl.

They are Too Willing to Help

Sometimes NPC's seem a little too willing to help. I have seen them preforming dangerous tasks without any motivation, obeying ridiculous commands from the player characters, or even just giving up most of their possessions to help the players out, etc.

This means that your GM is bending to the player's wills too much. They are trying to be too helpful and not neutral enough. If you notice this happening, try to set the game back on track, by not exploiting it. If you do take advantage of it, things will get really silly, really fast and it will ruin the game.

What other kind of NPCs have you seen in your games?

Written by: Andrew Gregory

What Do Your NPC's Say About Your Game? What Do Your NPC's Say About Your Game? Reviewed by JADE Gaming on 9/15/2015 02:07:00 am Rating: 5

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