Saturday, July 12, 2014

Make Yourself an NPC Generator

Inspired by the principles and moves of Apocalypse World and this post from False Machine, I present unto you a way to make yourself a random generator of NPCs. 

NPC Generation

When you need an NPC for more than like five seconds, you need to settle these (memorizable things) in your mind (in addition to their name) in order. Their: 
  1. Purpose: one of the GM moves (which see)
  2. Presentation: some stereotypical or exaggerated behavior, appearance, or affect 
  3. Passion: something they really want or are into 

Explication

By "GM moves", I mean the kind of things you say in your particular game to make things interesting for the players as players of a game. If you're playing D&D, that at least includes monsters, traps, weird stuff, and treasure. For my thieves guild game, I've got, at least:
  1. Show them an enemy
  2. Show them a mark
  3. Show them a scandal
  4. Show them a score (dangerous or easy)
  5. Show them a mystery (that leads to another item on this list, ++reward)
  6. Show them an ally
  7. Show them an opportunity to take advantage
  8. Show someone asking them why
  9. Show them someone judging their behavior and/or motivations, presenting another way
  10. Show them one thing that looks like another
And some principles:
  1. Be direct and obvious sometimes
  2. Misdirect and obfuscate sometimes
  3. Alternate between grim and playful
  4. Take a second to imagine what this person would actually be like
The three items above are for the "first pass," the first impression or first encounter with the NPC. As the players get to know the NPC or spend time around her, you have more options:
  • Complication: show something unexpected or paradoxical given what we already know
  • Confirmation: show the NPC being very consistent with what we already know
  • Virtue: show the NPC doing something admirable or suffering something pitiable
  • Villainy: show the NPC doing something that invites judgment or retribution

Examples

I'm doing these off the top of my head:
  1. A shopkeeper: immensely rotund, has 12 cats he treats as his children, has a common enemy of the PCs and will shelter them (show them an ally)
  2. A gang member: wears all white, looks like Bon Jovi, wants to be an architect but is short tuition (show them an enemy)
  3. A militia member: dyes the horsehair of his helmet fuschia, totally macho, exercising in every dull moment, wants to win the legion's bodybuilding competition this year, not above paying PCs to poison the rival (show them a score)