Tag: NPCS

Board Game Design Diary – The Premise

Board Game Design Diary – The Premise

So, I’m starting a new series, I’m going to be talking about and kind of designing a prototype game based off of SAO, Sword Art Online. SAO is one of my favorite anime, I think that I’ve watched the first season now three times and 

What To Do With Missing Players? – D&D Advice

What To Do With Missing Players? – D&D Advice

So, one of the common issues when people are trying to play D&D is scheduling, scheduling is just really hard for everyone because, well, people have busy lives. Now some of this is something as you become older, if you’re playing D&D in high school, 

Pillars of D&D (Part 3 Social Encounters)

Pillars of D&D (Part 3 Social Encounters)

Just a quick recap of what’s come before, there are three different pillars to Dungeons and Dragons, according to Dungeons and Dragons. Those are Combat, Social Encounters, and Exploration, you can find an overview of everything here. Then I went on to talk about what can be often the main pillar of Dungeons and Dragons, which is Combat. Today we’re going to be looking at probably the next strongest pillar, and that is Social Encounters.

So what are Social Encounters?

It can be talking with the shop keeper to learn about her in order to figure out ways to get a better deals on things. It can be searching for clues to solve a mystery or trying to seduce a dragon, because you’re a bard and in way over your head.

While combat is more “roll play” the Social Encounter aspect is more role play. Like in combat, most social interactions are going to have some point to what the characters are doing. While they might end up talking to the wrong person in the bar for a little bit, give them some interesting information about what’s happening or maybe a new quest. There is a bit of a temptation to make everyone into a quest giver or everyone have something useful, but that isn’t always needed, give yourself leeway to make Social Encounters, like we talked about with Combat, something interesting.

Image Source: D&D Beyond

So, like I did with Combat, here are some things to help keep Social Encounters interesting.

  1. Make it Part of the Story
  2. Balance Characters Being Truthful With Characters Who Are Liars
  3. Give Players What the NPC Thinks Is The Answer (Unreliable Narrator)
  4. If The NPC Doesn’t Know The Answer, Give The Players Another Option
  5. Characters Who Know Nothing Should Still Know Something
  6. Find The NPC’s Your Players Like And Reuse Them

1 – Make It Part Of The Story
First is pretty simple, even a random interaction with someone on the street can progress the story. Now, it doesn’t need to always, you can have the moment where the players realize that a character doesn’t know anything, but even that should progress the story. If the Archmage Deniphil sent the PC’s to talk to Lord Zuzu and Zuzu knows nothing and doesn’t even like Deniphil, well, maybe Deniphil sent the players away for a reason. Another example of this would be the Towers of Gods Session 2 that I just wrote about here. They are looking for two spies out of twelve different students, which include themselves, so two out of nine most likely. That means that they are having a lot of conversations that won’t reveal a spy to them, but it’s setting up a dynamic, friendships, enemies (?), that they’ll have to deal with in the story. It isn’t some big dramatic plot moment happening in each of those conversations, but it’s going to inform story going forward.

2 – Balance Truthful and Lying Characters
To me, this is one of the biggest issues that DM’s can run into with NPC’s. And that’s striking the right balance of the truth and the lies that the NPC’s are telling. More to come on the truth in point three, but here we’re talking about balancing the two against each other. The pitfall is that DM’s can have too many NPC’s lie, that’s the issue where it’s a bigger direction. That will mean that you’re PC’s/Players are going to start to treat each social interaction as an interrogation. Which, if you then throw a truthful NPC in front of that, now the PC’s are going to create enemies of NPC’s that maybe should have been their friends. So balance out the two, and by that I don’t mean an even 50/50 split, that’s lying too much. Use lying sparingly with NPC’s who have something to hide, even if it isn’t what the players might think it is. And using lying is even better when it seems like it could be a betrayal as well.

3 – Unreliable Narration
So, we just talked about lying, but I want to talk about the perceived truth at this point. And that’s talking about the unreliable narration of NPC’s. Much like in real life if you were to show people a scene and then ask them questions about it, separately, you’d get a wide variety of answers about things that might seem obvious. Two people who see a robbery happen might give very different description of a thief. Heck, a Gnome is going to see someone as much taller than a 6′ Dragonborn would. So let them get the general details right but get some specifics wrong here and there, and have them be inconsistent with others if it makes sense. This, unlike lying, isn’t being used to trick the PC’s. This is being used because NPC’s shouldn’t have photographic memories and remember every detail every time. There should always be something in there that can help point the PC’s to the right person that they are looking for, or the actual events of what happened.

Image Source: D&D Beyond

4 – The NPC Knows Someone
So, sometimes it just makes sense that a NPC wouldn’t know anything. Maybe the players are talking to the wrong person in the bar. Or maybe the person, Lord Zuzu is clueless about where all the money in his land is going. That’s fine that those characters don’t give any story information to the PC’s. But they should be able to point the PC’s forward somehow. Get them closer to the person that they need to get the information from. Lord Zuzu might not know where the money in the land is going, but he’d have a treasurer that would be doing that for him, and he’d know who the treasurer is. The patron at the bar might not know anything, but if the PC’s are at the right bar, the NPC or bartender overhearing everything, will be able to point the PC’s in the right direction. I’d use this sparingly, unless you’re meaning to walk the players through several social encounters to eventually end up with the right person.

5 – No One Knows Nothing
To tie into the previous one, no one knows nothing. Aka, everyone knows something. I just got done talking about how the NPC should be able to point the players to the next person until they get to the information they want. But that isn’t always going to happen. In those cases, if the NPC doesn’t know who they should go to next or anything about what they are looking for, they should still know something interesting. This can be a side quest thing, this can be a contact that they know, it can be that they know about building ships or what mushrooms are edible. No one is going to just be a generic grunt who is able to lift things and punch things and know or care about anything else. Every NPC should have their one thing. This gives the players NPC’s to talk to in the future so that when they find a grove with thousands of mushrooms growing in it, they will remember that the one random NPC they talked in the bar and didn’t know anything useful then was an expert on which mushrooms are edible. Use this sparingly, it’s less interesting, and should maybe be in a situation where the players are going to be talking to a lot of NPC’s in a session to find the one they are looking for because they don’t know enough to narrow their search.

6 – Reuse the Popular NPC’s
Finally, but maybe as important as keeping it tied into the story somehow is keep track of who the players are attaching themselves to as a favorite NPC. Is there someone that they are trusting? Is there an interaction that people seemed to be having the most fun with? Reuse those NPC’s, even if they were just a one off NPC that you didn’t think was ever going to matter and you made up on the fly, if the players and PC’s love them, use them again. If the PC’s are tormenting them, use them again. Whomever the PC’s and players have a strong reaction to whatever way it might be, use them again. This can also give you future plot hooks if something happens to a favorite NPC or maybe a least favorite, but somehow beloved for how bad they are NPC is being framed for something. It’s going to give you leverage to get buy in on story hooks if the players care about the NPC’s that they are after or helping with.

I said that I was going to give some examples of this, and I think that Social Encounters are hard to give examples of because they should be closely tied into your game, so instead of an Encounter, here are some interesting NPC’s.

Marathe
– Shopkeeper
– She Likes to Smoke
– Doesn’t Like to Haggle
– Claims to have the best priced potions in town
– Was a fairly well known adventurer before something happened to her adventuring party

Golden Farb
– Investor
– Loves Money
– Very Shrewd with money
– Always on the lookout to make more money
– Will invest in questionable things but would never admit to it

Mic Taloc
– Barkeeper
– Warlock
– Bar Looks Normal But Actually is a Haven for Warlocks
– Willing to help Warlocks in Trouble
– Can Put You In Contact with Someone To Make a Deal

What I was trying to do creating those NPC’s is that they are all going to have something that they know. Marathe might be able to tell the players where a lost temple is, but also might have a bit of a history and some baggage if the players snoop around what happened to her party. Golden is going to always being try to show off his best side, so anything on a subject that’s questionable, he probably won’t answer. Mic is going to be able to help in a very specific situation when asking about Warlocks, but only if he thinks that you won’t be hurting or are targeting Warlocks.

Just by doing something as simple as that, you are going to have more interesting NPC’s, five simple things that are going to make them unique and hopefully more memorable. And, hopefully, even out of those three NPC’s, one of them will stick and be someone that the players are interested in dealing with or will consistently deal with in the future.

What are some memorable Social Encounters that you’ve had in your games?

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RPG – Epic or Small

RPG – Epic or Small

As I’ve been thinking about finding people to run a new D&D game with, I started thinking, what sort of scope do I want for my D&D game? Do I want to do another epic story like the first season of Dungeons and Flagons where 

Dungeons and Dragons: NPCs

Dungeons and Dragons: NPCs

Today, we’re back to where I thought I was going after the world-building article. NPCs, or non-player characters, are the people of note whom your players meet on their journeys. It could be the king of the land, a peddler along the road, or a