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Referee's Lounge Discussion of how to (and not to) Referee Traveller and Cepheus Engine games. No edition warring allowed.

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  #11  
Old January 4th, 2019, 02:26 PM
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Originally Posted by coliver988 View Post
While I can usually manage to at least fake it for a single NPC at a time, as a referee I often have to manage multiple NPCs. And quite often there needs to be some sort of tension between these NPCs for the players to figure things out and drive the story a bit.

For instance, I am starting up the sequel to the last game I refereed, and there are 4 NPCs, 3 of which are complicit in basically hijacking the characters (this started from a predefined adventure that I moved to MTU, but the plot and characters were right out of the book). We'll be picking up on the trip back to the port in a Scout ship, so there is little chance of evading anyone as there are about 8 or so people crowding the craft.

Last time I ended up pre-writing most of the dialog: I am not adept at accents or improv, so I fear that what should be role playing ends up being a monologue.

Any suggestions on handling multiple NPCs at once would be greatly appreciated.
Your mistake was using a setting where, as you put it, the NPCs are hijacking the characters. At that point, it is no longer fully your players game, as you are in effect, taking control of it. As you are not adept at improv, this also means that the situation does not play to one of your strengths, but a weakness. The fact that you are using what amounts, as you say it, a monologue, just emphasizes your control of the game even more.

My advice would be to admit your mistake, and go to something else which does not use NPCs.

I only use one or two NPCs in a game, and that only for needed skills or a means of passing information to the players that they should know, but I do not like to spoon-feed my players. NPCs do not speak to each other, and aside from volunteering information, speak only when asked a question. The players control what the NPCs do for the most part, unless they are going to do something really stupid, in which case, the NPC will not go along.
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  #12  
Old January 4th, 2019, 03:07 PM
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I agree with timerover.

The game is about what the player characters do, the role of NPCs is to facilitate player actions, not replace them.

NPCs have their part to play in setting the scene, showing how the monster works, providing clues - that sort of thing.

NPCs can be memorable, recurring, every bit as detailed as a PC but they shouldn't be 'centre stage'.

I would handle multiple NPCs interacting as a crowd scene -
me 'the huddle of passengers and crew are in a heated discussion'
player one 'is there anything notable I can pick out?'
player two 'yeh, I will eavesdrop as best I can and see if any of them are talking about the starport goon that shanghaied us'
player three 'I'm more interested in anyone staying out of the arguments'

I'm not into amateur dramatics...
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Old January 5th, 2019, 05:58 PM
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Thanks all! To summarize:

Spinward Scout:
It might help to assign in your mind different actors that you know and like. Don't tell the players this, of course. But, in your head, one NPC is played by Jack Nicholson, another is played by Sandra Bullock, a third is played by Sean Connery, and the last one is played by Nicolas Cage.
And tags. Character traits.

Aramis:
Good notes on each helps, too. 3x5 or 4x6 chards work really well

Kilemall:
To expand on the movie theme a bit, you might also give each a catchphrase, and a threatening, amusing or ominous line to deliver.

Spenser
A seriously large table of personality quirks, from GURPS but definitely serviceable in any game
Some advice about quirks or adding character ( heh ) to your NPCs: don't overdo the silliness. Well, very often. Everyone the Travellers meet can't be the most memorable person ever, but it doesn't take a lot of practice to learn to be better than most Referees/GMs

Shawn:
I have a picture of each NPC with me, and that the players also see whenever I am role-playing that person for a period of time. I don't have NPCs talking to each other in my sessions. Not at length, at least. I have nothing scripted, because of the sandbox we're in. And I don't voice-act. But I'll say things in ways that only an NPC would say them

Timerover
Your mistake was using a setting where, as you put it, the NPCs are hijacking the characters

Mike:
The game is about what the player characters do, the role of NPCs is to facilitate player actions, not replace them.
NPCs have their part to play in setting the scene, showing how the monster works, providing clues - that sort of thing.
NPCs can be memorable, recurring, every bit as detailed as a PC but they shouldn't be 'centre stage'

For the last 2 comments: this was a predesigned adventure that I moved to MTU (hangs off the OTU in the Great Rift area but I digress). They actually did not even meet the NPCs for the 1st 2 sessions other than another victim as listed below. And as most of the players had not played Traveller before, I figured this was a 1 shot to test the waters. It was (a) an easy way to get them all together and (b) how the adventure was written. But the background I need to expand on via hints, dialog and other means, such as NPCs. The players do not exist in a world that only they inhabit, but they are the ones driving the action after the initial set up. I just need help to corral the NPCs a bit so that it is not a monologue.

And it must have worked okay - I think I've got most of them coming back and at least 2 more to continue to play (see my blog link in my sig below if curious).

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  #14  
Old January 12th, 2019, 07:17 PM
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Default Follow up post-game session

With the aforementioned advice, the next game went pretty well. Although there were only 3 players (3 were out sick, and 1 switched to a D&D game), they indicated they had a good time (my Traveller blog details that session a bit; see sig if curious).

There were no monologues (not even the villainous one with a twirling mustache, although the bad guy did have such a mustache...) and it was a conversation between the sweating NPCs and the players. The NPCs I had created I felt I had more control over and played with more flourishes (and this is why I sort of hate playing with pre-gens: I restrict myself to what I think the person generating the character had in mind and I feel really constricted. But that is a possible new thread for that discussion).

Even though the play turned out a bit different than expected (bad guy did not get away to be a future antagonist due to an excellent shot), there is still the next leg of their journey to their high-end lab ship (the noble scientist rolled multiple times on a lab ship when mustering out; as the previous game played with the traditional lab ship, I switched to a much more luxurious model that I happen to have some posters and miniature for). They will need to make the trip to the next planet over, and there is a stretch Far Trader (an AL2m from Moon Toad) that is a pilot/owner with my Antares corporation that will be able to transport them there. So this will also allow me to introduce one of the corporations in my little quadrant. Still need to decide where to hang that off the Rift...

I feel there will be a bit of role playing during the trip, so I've printed up my cheat sheet with images on the front along with a short paragraph as to the role of that NPC, and on the reverse are my notes.
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Duke of The Solomani RimLANGELOS A4249A6-FLangelos Write Up AlphaTrane / Glisten 2038
Baron, IpkurIpkur C564543-9Ipkur Write Up AlphaRomar / Glisten 2140
Knight of the Third Imperium [x2]Rhylanor A434934-FCyan / Trojan Reach 2102
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MCG For Conspicuous GallantryThe Assault On AlellSelshor / Trojan Reach 1402
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Old January 19th, 2019, 07:02 PM
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Quote:
Any suggestions on handling multiple NPCs at once would be greatly appreciated.
are you trying to act the characters? that's not easy, and it caters to the player rather than to the in-game player character. a simple description of the impression the player character gets would be easier, and more in-game.
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Old January 20th, 2019, 03:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by flykiller View Post
are you trying to act the characters? that's not easy, and it caters to the player rather than to the in-game player character. a simple description of the impression the player character gets would be easier, and more in-game.
I've been leaning more towards the above, along with several of the other comments/suggestions. I cannot act (sometimes it seems I can barely talk!) so I do prepare notes as to how the players can see the NPC. I've got a working set of index-card sized cheat sheets that I use to help the players visualize that it is a 20 year old hood and not a middle aged man talking to them, along with some brief characteristics. Back of the card for me has any relevant stats and notes.

This all started by me trying to play a premade adventure that had too many NPCs at a time. I am also no longer attempting that.
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Duke of The Solomani RimLANGELOS A4249A6-FLangelos Write Up AlphaTrane / Glisten 2038
Baron, IpkurIpkur C564543-9Ipkur Write Up AlphaRomar / Glisten 2140
Knight of the Third Imperium [x2]Rhylanor A434934-FCyan / Trojan Reach 2102
Knight of the Third ImperiumIkuna E000410-AKryslion / Trojan Reach 2002
MCG For Conspicuous GallantryThe Assault On AlellSelshor / Trojan Reach 1402
Travellers Aid Society 2798Dudid B510526-9Blog - mix of OTU and MTUhttp://traveller-ct.blogspot.com/
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Old January 24th, 2019, 12:03 AM
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Perhaps the problem is a different sort of visualization?

Do you use any miniatures? You might get a better handle on multiple NPCs if you can place them in relation to the characters.

These can be plastic figurines, Nano Metalfigs, Lego minifigs, tokens, or paper miniatures.

One project I hope to try eventually is to draw up a stack of stock characters and transfer them to shrinky-dink plastic to make myself some flat-stock miniatures that I can slot into bases.

Alternately, you could use one of those Trading Character card makers to make up picture cards for your NPCs and print their stats on the back - the suggestion of an actor is a great one I've used. There are any number of card holders you can use to position them.

But in the end, yes, this is a game for the players - NPCs are bit characters that are there to support the player characters, so you can have a sheet of stats in a table and randomly select them for minor encounters like a bar room brawl - or get a copy of Classic Traveller Supplement 1001 Characters. They're just the odd stranger you bump into the street.

Recurring characters and hirelings ought to have a bit of personality and background, but they should never take center stage. It may be helpful though to keep a history of encounters they have with the characters. They're also really the only characters who can have flair. Which do you notice more? Jack, wearing ship coveralls drinking in the bar, or Akira, Japanese officer wearing a highlander army uniform with kilt, complete with a Scottish Dirk on his belt? Put someone like Akira in the background and your players are going to wonder why he's stands out? So keep flair for secondary bit characters to the basics.
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  #18  
Old January 24th, 2019, 08:21 AM
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Take a look at my blog in my sig - Lego characters at the moment (let's just say I have enough and leave it at that....) But that's just for any confrontational situations where I think it is important to know where people are in relationship to each other. I also use cardboard heroes - got one of the GURPS CDs and I have card stock so I print them up as needed, as well as other sources for character art.

My group has been good with helping - several of them DM and realize not everyone can multiple roles well. As long as they are having fun, we're good.

But on the transit in jump, I had cards with the crew images and if the players were interacting with them, that card got moved up so that the players knew who I was. It seemed to work. So now there is a folder with the ship and the crew in case they come back around in my sandlot universe.

So as always - there are many good ideas in this forum. On occasion I go back and realize that there is a LOT of good information buried in the forums. Wish there was a way to consolidate some of that into some sort of index (I know people have tried to manually keep post listings, and there is a search, but they fall short of what I feel is needed (and that's an entirely different thread).
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Duke of The Solomani RimLANGELOS A4249A6-FLangelos Write Up AlphaTrane / Glisten 2038
Baron, IpkurIpkur C564543-9Ipkur Write Up AlphaRomar / Glisten 2140
Knight of the Third Imperium [x2]Rhylanor A434934-FCyan / Trojan Reach 2102
Knight of the Third ImperiumIkuna E000410-AKryslion / Trojan Reach 2002
MCG For Conspicuous GallantryThe Assault On AlellSelshor / Trojan Reach 1402
Travellers Aid Society 2798Dudid B510526-9Blog - mix of OTU and MTUhttp://traveller-ct.blogspot.com/
Traveller Github spacehttps://github.com/COliver988/Traveller
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