Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Self Doubt Thwarting Dialogue

Q:  So what's with all these posts just spotlighting random NPCs?  Is overlong backstories for bit characters obliquely referencing the setting you haven't even posted a map for yet plus geologically dense Pathfinder statblocks really the best content you could be putting up here?

A:  First, "all these" amounts to two posts so far.

Q: "So far?" so you'll do more?

A:  Very probably.  They take some work because making leveled NPCs in Pathfinder is a long job of cross-referencing multiple books but it's still simpler than trying to lay out the baroque immensity of my campaign's setting.  Plus I like coming up with these.

Q: But seriously, you think any sane group of players cares to see you act out some elaborate NPC backstory, like that's good usable stuff other GMs can't come up with on their own?

A:  Well, they don't really have "elaborate backstories," they're not quintessentially tied to any really ideosyncratic setting and just because your players will never see something firsthand doesn't mean the GM shouldn't give the world and the NPCs peopling it some thought.

Seriously, setting aside that I am an incorrigibly wordy bastard (and that's something I need to fix through practicing writing), what you've got there amounts to a hook/goal for the NPC and a quirk that hopefully gives them a little spark, makes them amusing to intersct with in play.  Like with Glorianna, you have the hook that she's presented as a rival---leading her own party and possibly looking to scoop the PCs on their own treasure hunting expedition.  Then you have the twist that she's a fraud, coward and compulsive liar, with maybe just the potential for actual heroism buried in there.  With Wong, you have the hook that he's got his own mission which he'll ask the PCs about, and the possibility that long-term he'll become a bigger player and even change the very setting.  Persona-wise I think the idea of a wise martial arts master who's a bit of a freeloader and a lush accompanied by two shady ruffians and their longsuffering sister is just kind of funny.

The idea, in both cases, is to challenge and amuse the players.  The hook puts the ball in their court--how do you want to react to this, if at all?  The quirks are just to make them memorable, so they help the game world feel a little more alive.  The illusion that the setting exists beyond the PCs and has people with their own foibles pursuing their own agendas in it, is important.

The point is NOT to hog the spotlight, or for the DM to wow the players with wit and acting skill while they sit quietly like a good audience.  It's still their story, it just intersects with others sometimes.  If these NPCs get no reaction, send them on their way.  If the PCs push back, or try to subvert or befriend or otherwise effect these NPCs, then good!  If not, a good DM always can keep it moving until the PCs find something to sink their teeth into.  Maybe they murder Glorianna behind the tavern before she becomes a problem later.  Maybe they tell Wong to take a hike and pass him by without giving it a second thought.  Good!

Q:  Seriously are you going to write anything somebody might use though.

A:  Yes.  I have a fat post of campaign chronicle sitting in draft form right now, which will hopefully be amusing.  I don't intend for the Eastwylde to eat this blog either---unrelated ideas will get their moment.  I am going to get back to that Purple Plains thing soon-ish.

But as for NPCs I got a million more where these came from and they're an important part of the Eastwylde game in their own way.  They add a layer of activity and life to the setting thst's important.