Sunday, December 11, 2011

Easy NPCs

By Moon Soliel
Easy NPCs
by Tobie Abad
Originally published last 2009.

Name it:
Bus drivers, henchmen, police men, doctors, newspaper vendors, bums, aunts, next door neighbours, old teachers, schoolmates, former lovers, soldiers, grand mothers, office mates, sales clerks, street preachers... they populate our world and more often than not, exist also in our gaming worlds. Some games call them extras. Others, supporting characters. But most refer to them as Non-Playing Characters or NPC for short.

It can be difficult, managing NPCs when you are playing with characters who tend to have social skills. A simple scene of travelling from one area to another can suddenly expand into a larger scene if the player suddenly chooses to strike a conversation with the person sitting next to him in the bus. More so if you were the type of storyteller who set the game in a localized place (say a particular city) and actively tries to keep the sense of immersiveness alive in the game.

So how does one manage all these lists of names, identities and personalities?

Here are some suggestions:
Use an old diary/phone book entries
Diaries tend to have portions meant for the basic info: Name, address, phone number, birthday and at times a space for information. Why not use this as a ready-made form to fill out your NPCs. Worried about the fact that there already are names in there? Worry not for those same-said names CAN be used as the NPCs names (so long as your players aren't too familiar with them). That way, you don't even have to flesh out a whole personality for them. Just think of that actual person and try acting as him/her.

By Sister72

Old small photo albums
Old albums can be used as image banks for NPCs. Grab cut-outs from magazines, old comicbooks and the like and collate them all into an album, each having an empty sheet pasted behind it. On this sheet, write down any details important about the character. The fun here is that every NPC can actually have a picture if you play things right.

the Name list
Plain and simple, a name list is a major help. When you have a moment of free time, type one column of names, then type a second column of family names for the first colum, leaving enough space for other data to be scribbled next to the name. The Yellow pages, old yearbooks and even popular magazines can be sources for names to use. And there's no need to stick to the famous ones. Even the staff box of a magazine can be utilized quite easily for this.

Don't forget also that certain names are always more common than others.  Just think for a moment how many people you know have the name Mark, Brian, Ana, Lee or  John.  Why should your gaming world be different?  Don't be afraid to have some characters have the same name.  It can even be a cool twist to have times when the identities get switched or confused around in the story.

Index Card Filofax
For those with time, get one of these devices and create a card with a name, and possibly a picture. Names can be found in many places (see Name list above) while pictures shouldn't be too hard (see Photo album above). Each time an NPC is needed who you believe should be fleshed out well, grab a card with the image that you find appropriate, and use it in the game. Keep the used cards and the unused ones separate. And if you think it helps, make dividers based on geographic location or whatever appropriate divisor is necessary to make it easy to relocate past NPCs.

I always preferred making sure every NPC is just as interesting and lively as a normal person would be. The game stays lively and gives a more distinct impression of being immersive and real. Wouldn't you want that in your games?
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