After I began gaming, individuals tended to play Dungeons & Dragons with bigger events than now. When sport periods fell in need of 8 or extra gamers, dungeon masters usually added their very own character to fill the group. Whereas widespread, the apply appeared like a mandatory evil at greatest. The highlight belongs on the participant characters. The gamers’ decisions steer the journey; their characters’ actions create the story.
Now, DMs by no means add their participant characters to the occasion, however typically they get the identical kicks by including a pet NPC. These game-world avatars let sport masters bask in want success. They flip different NPCs into admirers and switch PCs into sidekicks. (Aaron at RPG Musings tells how to spot a pet NPC.)
Over my profession as a DM, I’ve learn numerous how-to-DM guides. All of them warn in opposition to letting non-player characters overshadow the PCs. I learn this recommendation and doubtless shared a typical response: No duh. I by no means felt tempted to create a pet NPC, however I by no means even created an NPC who traveled with the gamers.
I’ve run some adventures that added NPCs to the occasion. To my shock, the additions labored. They enhanced the sport.
Out of the Abyss begins with the brand new PCs held captive. They meet a number of different prisoners, and everybody joins in an escape. The PCs and NPCs discover themselves deep within the Underdark, touring collectively for so long as their paths overlap.
As the journey progressed, NPCs left the group, leaving a pair touring companions: Jim Jar, the playing deep gnome, and Sprout, the younger Myconid. I began to see them enrich the sport. The continued characters turned extra vivid than the same old walk-on NPCs. The gamers loved interacting with them. Gamers by no means care concerning the NPCs they meet in passing, however they turned emotionally hooked up to a silent mushroom tot.
Plus, the touring NPCs served as guides. Most D&D gamers really feel at residence in a fantasy setting, however the Underdark ought to appear alien. The occasion’s Underdark natives helped me reveal the unusual surroundings. They may give background data and present the way in which.
Stroll-on NPCs might have met the occasion and distributed data, however having a information creates a sure economic system. The gamers don’t must preserve assembly characters they by no means see once more. As an alternative, the guides save time whereas they construct bonds. (See Use the Small World Precept to Construct a Higher Recreation.)
The journey Cloud Big’s Cut price additionally provides an NPC who guides the gamers. This journey takes place in a typical (for D&D), flying fort, so its information doesn’t assist introduce the background. However this journey goals to introduce D&D to new gamers, so teacher Tulahk guides novices via the journey. Designer Teos “Alphastream” Abadia writes, “Teacher Tulahk is one thing I added as a result of it was doubtless that new DMs can be working the journey, and it was the next stage journey with some spectacular foes.” Tulahk the NPC gave DMs a voice to remind gamers to do the sneaking, investigating, and diplomacy that may result in success. Plus, Tulahk is crabby, speaking cranium, so after I ran the journey, I had enjoyable channeling J. Jonah Jameson whereas calling the PCs empty-headed boneheads and numskulls.
Regardless of some great benefits of giving a celebration an NPC information, solely add them after they serve a job. After which preserve the information out of the highlight.
To forestall a NPC from stealing the highlight, comply with two ideas:
A information can’t make selections for the occasion. Both create a information with little curiosity within the occasion’s objective, or make the information too younger, too silly, or too bizarre to direct the occasion. Ed Greenwood prevented his NPC wizard Elminster from overshadowing gamers by making him eccentric. “I by no means wished Elminster to be something greater than the ‘outdated storyteller’ determine,” Greenwood said. “He was the mind-wandering, irritatingly whimsical outdated man who might OCCASIONALLY be of assist to PCs.”
The gamers should show extra succesful than their information. Tolkien understood the dangers of letting a strong determine upstage his important characters. He stored contriving to have Gandalf go away for essential enterprise elsewhere. If a information brings extra energy than the PCs, the gamers will surprise why they confirmed up. Then again, in the event you combine in NPCs who the gamers can upstage, and who admire the PC’s exploits, the PCs shine even brighter.
This publish flippantly updates a model that appeared in January, 2017. Within the feedback, Alphastream talks extra about writing Cloud Big’s Cut price.
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