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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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Old July 27th, 2017, 11:28 AM
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Default Memorable NPCs

NPCs are the lifeblood of any campaign- through them the adventure starts, runs and concludes, and recurring characters help build a sense of world and consequence.

But the ones that are memorable are the ones that players will remember, whether a 5 minute encounter or a running campaign long interaction.

What are your tricks for making a memorable NPC?

On a bit of reflection, let's expand that question to equipment, beasts and setting. All of those are not technically NPCs, but they can operate as characters in the sense of having aspects that convey a time and place, display unique behavior that is memorable, and greatly influence the action.

For instance, a snub pistol normally is not an NPC, but a smart one can be, or one that has some bizarre way of working specific to a world. A ship can be a character, or a predator beast that shows it is whipsmart at hunting the party.
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Old July 27th, 2017, 01:30 PM
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What are your tricks for making a memorable NPC?
by "memorable" do you mean the players thinking "I enjoy this npc's presence in the game" or "that's the guy that blew up our last ship and killed half the party ruining our plans for the next six months of game time!"?
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Old July 27th, 2017, 03:54 PM
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Originally Posted by kilemall View Post
What are your tricks for making a memorable NPC?
I reckon there's got to be a backstory that can be revealed through the campaign, so that the players have a chance to discover more about them as time goes on.

There should be flaws or inner-demons of some sort or another that they have to deal with. Even a brilliant pilot who's hired to crew their vessel may have some issues he has to deal with, otherwise what's he doing working for a crew of PCs?

They need a stake in what the PCs are doing, in one form or another. That way they can have a realistic opinion about what the players may want to do in a situation, which may not be what the players want to hear, but hey - they didn't just program a robot (or did they?....)

They should have an aim of some sort and a desire to achieve something, of some strength or another, and work towards that. Though, they may not have any of that if they've got some significant flaw that sees them just get by from day to day, with a bottle of raki next to the engineering console that they top up constantly from the still they've half-hidden behind the jump-drive.
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Old July 27th, 2017, 06:12 PM
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The noble, with the magna-sword he often used as a cane while on deck.
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Old July 27th, 2017, 09:03 PM
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Originally Posted by flykiller View Post
by "memorable" do you mean the players thinking "I enjoy this npc's presence in the game" or "that's the guy that blew up our last ship and killed half the party ruining our plans for the next six months of game time!"?
Yes.

Seriously, either one will likely be memorable.
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Old July 27th, 2017, 09:16 PM
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TNE campaign...

The party was always coming across an Ithklur Scout whose handle was "The Grim Reaper"...
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Old July 27th, 2017, 09:51 PM
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Yes.
very well.

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Old August 3rd, 2017, 03:49 PM
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For the main NPCs I use in my campaign I roll them up just like I would a normal character. Give them a history and personality. I look at them as my way of being a player for a short while. Here are the top three examples in my current campaign.

Wild Bill, Mechanic and Engineer
When the group started they didn't have anyone who would maintain their ship, so I rolled up a mechanic. Without any fudging he ended up with Mechanic-4, and at least 1 level in each of the engineering skills. I also rolled up some random personality traits and he is basically a savant when it comes to dealing with machines, but can't stand people. Especially people who touch his ship or tools. He also likes to drink, a lot. So he is a cross between the mechanical genius of Scotty and a stark raving drunk lunatic who is always cursing out the group for "messing up his baby." he did once kill a boarder who tried to touch his tools, with a big wrench.

Tamara Anderson, Pirate Lord
The 2nd most memorable has been a pirate, Tamara Anderson, who was the "employer" of one of the characters who had a pirate career. She has been sort of a sponsor on getting the group started in the Pirates of Drinax campaign and I used her early on to rescue the group when I put them in a ship battle that was a bit to much for them. She has been a contact for information at various times and a source or rumors as well. I modeled her after my Commander Shepard from Mass Effect, even built her a custom "Normandy". So it is pretty easy for me to "get into character".

Capt. Simmons
The group needed to recruit a 2nd ship captain for a ship they acquaired and they convinced a planetary defense system captain to join them, Capt. Simmons. It was a tough sell because they are technically pirates, but after they intervened when some Aslan slavers were attacking a passenger ship where Capt. Simmons was seriously out-gunned, she felt she could do good with them. She is the captain on their ship that they leave behind to keep other pirates out of their territory, so it all works out.
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Old August 13th, 2017, 11:05 PM
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One way I find useful is to affect a very distinct voice and syntax expression for the character.
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Old September 4th, 2017, 10:16 PM
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Typically I try to keep NPCs to a bare minimum, both in number and in detail. Makes it a lot easier to keep track of them. I come up with a voice and quirks for some of them to spice them up a bit, but otherwise they're cookie cutters.

For the last game I ran, though, the party needed a particular type of character. This was a Pathfinder game (D&D 3.75 for those who don't know), and somehow there managed to be no magic user, so I made some semi-helpless young sorceress the party rescued who decided to hire the party for self-defense, and take her somewhere she would be safe with her kind. Meanwhile, the party had its own missions, so she wound up tagging along.

One of the first things that happened after meeting her was that the party was taken totally by surprise by a white dragon. White dragons aren't known for their power or intelligence, but this one got the drop on the party and with one shot trapped them and did enough damage that a second hit would kill some of the party.

You could say I had their attention.

But they also had in their possession a device that would save them, they just were too paralyzed with fear to think of it, or to realize from the things that I said that the dragon was stupid and would be easy to trick. After a couple minutes of waiting for the players to realize all this, I finally asked who had the device, and after being answered, in the sorceress' voice, pointed to the player with the device and said, "SHE did it!"

I hoped this would spur them into realizing the solution to their problem, but it didn't. So the sorceress took the device from the player, tricked the dragon into taking it into its mouth, and then spoke a command word to detonate it. It's basically a magic fireball, so it doesn't hurt the party, but it does hurt the dragon. Severely. This knocks the party out of their stupor of helplessness, but the dragon flies away in shock and terror before they can attack it.

I don't like saving the day for them, and I don't like NPCs showing up the party either. So when they decided to hunt the dragon down (because who wants a dragon pursuing them, waiting to strike at the most inopportune possible time?), I made the decision that the sorceress was NOT going to save them again. This time, though, they had a plan. The dragon still got the drop on them, still got first shot at them, but this time the party wasn't as trapped and they managed to kill the dragon with no help from me.

Further in the cave they find the dragon's eggs. The party thinks they've got a real treasure here, but in her anger at being nearly killed twice, the sorceress starts chopping up the eggs with her sword. To my surprise, no one tried to stop her, so she destroyed them all.

Later on, another player joined who was a mage, so the party didn't really need the sorceress any more, but by then she was too well tied into the story that I couldn't just walk her out without some preparation. By then, the players were pretty much in love with her, and I was going to use that against them. Not turn her evil or betray them, but basically have something happen to her that would remove her from the party and become a central storyline for the players to follow if they wanted to get justice for her. (No, not be murdered either.)

But by then the number of players grew too large for me to handle. I split the group into three different co-existing missions, giving two of them to two other players to GM for me. Sadly, even though no one was enjoying sitting around for an hour between turns, no one wanted to split the party up either.
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