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Recipe for Making Memorable NPCs

Making a world is a hard job for a GM to do, but it is certainly worth it! …if your players get invested in the world you make, that is. Bringing your world to life takes a lot of careful thought an planning, not to mention in-game-session delivery. And too many times a GM tries to do something interesting that the players ignore.

The role of a game master is as much an art as it is a science. There are many things to consider when making your game world interesting and consistent enough to be engaging. Most game books include sections to give you advice on how to make your world feel real. Today we’re going to focus on making NPCs.

NPCs are one of the best tools in a GM’s belt for engaging a player. When a PC and an NPC have a conversation, you and the player are already engaged. They want to hear what you have to say and are trying to understand it so that they can respond. Information is much more easily absorbed through human interaction, and RPGs are social by nature in the first place.

Memorable NPCs are a lot of fun to make and play. Some are hated antagonists, some are helpful allies, and most are just a small part of the world they live in. Today we are going to share with you a simple recipe for making some engaging NPCs

Start With an Empty Container

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Burn Everything Characters: The Tinkerer

Last time we talked a bit about supporting characters. Today we are going to look at a specific support character I have used in a number of genres: the tinkerer. I love this type of character that can make things that other people can use because of the versatility. A good tinkerer should have a trick for every occasion.

What Is a Tinkerer?

Now depending on your genre, the Tinkerer may be called a number of different things. In a medieval fantasy setting, this might be an artificer, enchanter, or even an alchemist. Modern day tinkerers would be mechanics, mad scientists, and Macgyvers. In a future science fiction setting, they may look more like an engineer, nanobot-mancer, or technopath.

The job of the tinkerer is to create something that other people can use. A wizard scribes a scroll or crafts a wand. An inventor creates a rocket pack or grappling hook. A lab tech engineers a cybernetic arm or temporary force field. People take their inventions and put them to good use, hopefully for the benefit of the rest of the party.

In Fate Core, these characters tend to have high Crafts and Resources, two skills that normally do not see a lot of use in games. Which, to be honest, is one of the reasons I love playing a character.

Making an Effective Tinkerer

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Playing a Support Character

Today we are going to talk about playing a Supporting character, and by that I mean a character that is tied to one or more PCs. This is the best friend, the bard that is in love, the champion of faith that is desperate to save a soul, the lunar exalted that is bound to the solar champion, and the librarian that is desperate to feel needed by the hero that saved his life.

Every group needs a supporting character, a glue to hold them together. We previously talked about the role of the Glue of a campaign in a previous post. Dungeon delvers need a healer. A starship crew needs a commander. Raid parties need stat buffs. A group knows it will survive longer and can tackle tougher challenges if at least one person in the group is dedicated to supporting them.

The Story of the Glue

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Pregenerated and Regenerated Characters

Recently I have been running the alpha test version of a Sentinels of the Multiverse Comic RPG. It’s an amazing role playing game based off of an amazing card game based off of a comic book world that is mostly in the creators’ (and now fans’) imagination. You should totally check them out if you are not yet familiar with their work.

The game I ran was a 2-part one shot with pregenerated characters. Or rather, I guess I would call the regenerated characters since they are characters that exist in another game converted into character sheet stats for this game. And that has brought up some interesting issues that I think can be overcome but only if we are aware of them going into such a game.

Playing a Character the Wrong Way

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Better Characters

A while back, I promised to share some tips about how to make better characters. No, not betters that are bigger or faster or stronger. I am not a big fan of min-maxing in games because it is often done at the price of character depth, and depth is what I really believe makes a strong and memorable RPG character. Today I am going to make good on my word to share some tips with you about making sure your characters are deeper and feel more real. Now my hope is that this list will be tips that anyone can use. There are plenty of unique talents that can bring a character to life that I personally do not possess; skills like voice acting, drawing, costume design, makeup artistry, and puppeteering. I wish I had some of those skills, or all of them if I am being greedy. Oh dear. Now I’m getting much sidetracked. On to the tips!

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Sticks & Stones, Rubber & Glue = Successful RPG campaign

When you and your friends sit down to an RPG you invariably get to the question “what characters should we choose so we can be successful?” The answer to this can often be different based on the types of players and the type of campaign you are playing.

What we would like to remind you is that at the core of playing an RPG game you are trying to tell a story. No matter the setting/world/system, a way to guarantee enjoyment in a story is to have some kind of drama. In a physical campaign like a D&D game or Pathfinder game, this drama can usually come from the fighting and the chance of death. In other systems the drama can come from a more social aspect and how the different characters interact and what happens after. No matter what kind of campaign or system you are running, we have the 4 types of characters that can guarantee you a successful campaign.

We believe, that to tell a successful story you should use these 4 character roles: stick, stone, rubber, glue. Now, the idea of having 4 different character types in a successful story is nothing new, if you are familiar with Humorism this may seem very familiar. There is even an interesting CRACKED video  that covers that as well as a TV TROPES. The types of characters we are going to be talking about have different temperaments and provide a different purpose. We believe these 4 types of characters ensure a longer more successful campaign.

Below, Joshua and I have a little conversation on these 4 character types. Enjoy!

The Stick

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Religious Characters

Some character types are easier to play than others. A fighter in old DnD is much easier than a wizard, especially for new players. Street Samurais over deckers. Minor talents over white court vampires. A big part of this difficulty curve has to do with mechanics, but another part has to do with familiarity.

Religious characters, for example, are often challenging to play. They are often played for mechanical benefits (healing, advantages versus evil, balance of magic and equipment, etc.) without consideration for their beliefs, which is much more limited when compared to the ever-popular hero that makes his own way and plays by his own rules.

Rather than rant about clerics that mechanically serve the goddess of generosity and yet steal from crippled beggars, I’d like to take a more constructive approach. Religious characters can be a lot of fun to play, and it is not hard to play them well if you have a good grasp about what their religion means to them. So with that in mind, let me share with you some tips to help play a devoted holy character.

What Is a Religious Character

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