Need advice on using NPCs with PCs

Where new Keepers can ask "stupid" questions without fear of hazing.
Post Reply
flashbackjuice
Sophmore
Sophmore
Posts: 66
Joined: Fri Mar 07, 2014 2:55 am

Need advice on using NPCs with PCs

Post by flashbackjuice » Mon Jun 16, 2014 1:56 am

So, after the game on Friday with Cthulhu Dark, I realised that one of my weaknesses as a GM is how I use NPCs. I have no problem acting them out, but I do tend to forget that they are there if they are accompanying players. Do you guys have any tips and tricks that I can use to implement the NPC better into a group of PCs, or how I can remind myself that the NPC is still there?

Thanks!

Keeper Dan
Daemon Sultan
Daemon Sultan
Posts: 708
Joined: Thu Jul 05, 2012 4:46 pm

Re: Need advice on using NPCs with PCs

Post by Keeper Dan » Mon Jun 16, 2014 1:42 pm

My first thought is to use something that acts as a placeholder for the NPC, and keep it in your line of sight when they are in use. This can be as simple as a notecard with their name in big letters at the top and their stats, or a printed photo used to represent the character. If you have similar things for the PCs, then you can have the whole party represented with the NPC in there too. That might help to keep them as a live member and not a cardboard cutout that they pull out when they need a skill.
Keeper Dan of the Miskatonic University Podcast

Dr. Gerard
Professor
Professor
Posts: 1353
Joined: Wed Jul 25, 2012 2:00 pm

Re: Need advice on using NPCs with PCs

Post by Dr. Gerard » Thu Jun 19, 2014 10:59 am

I like the photo method. I print a bunch of 20s movie head shots or mug shots onto sheets and then cut them into cards. Name and traits on the back (no stats). When they are in a scene, I put their card on the table. Having a face for an NPC does wonders for conveying personality, and putting the card on the table is a great reminder of their presence to everyone.
Keeper of the Cthulhu Dark "Secret Everest Expedition" PbP scenario
Rip Wheeler in the Call of Cthulhu "No Man's Land" scenario
Plays for Keepers

Eibon
Sophmore
Sophmore
Posts: 57
Joined: Tue Oct 30, 2012 10:50 am

Re: Need advice on using NPCs with PCs

Post by Eibon » Tue Jul 08, 2014 1:32 pm

Yes, a placeholder is good, whether a mini-character sheet (Chaosium did some nice quarter page NPC sheets which I've used), a photo, name card or even a figure (if you use figures (I know lots of people don't as they can distract from the mood). You could even assign them their own set of dice, separate from the Keeper's dice.

Also, what is the function of the NPC in the game? Is he making up player numbers, in which case you should probably be thinking about how he would react if you were on the players side and didn't know what was about to happen? Is he back-up/adviser? In which case it's not so important if he stands at the back and doesn't say a lot, after all it's the players adventure not the NPC's. Or is he a "dependant" -- by this I mean is he someone who the players need/like, but who can cause they grief by doing things the players wouldn't do -- like reading aloud from the Necronomicon the players just found. Think of someone like Indiana Jones' father in The Last Crusade. NPCs can also have their own motivations for doing things, separate from the players, and that will help make the NPC memorable.

fallingtower
Graduate Student
Graduate Student
Posts: 188
Joined: Tue May 14, 2013 11:30 am
Location: Dearborn, Michigan

Re: Need advice on using NPCs with PCs

Post by fallingtower » Wed Jul 09, 2014 10:43 pm

Two words....

Sock Puppets

I have for years wanted to make use of sock puppetry for a game. I have a few players who never 'speak' in character. I wonder if i require use of sock puppets it will break them out of this habit.
If religion were true, its followers would not try to bludgeon their young into an artificial conformity; but would merely insist on their unbending quest for truth, irrespective of artificial backgrounds or practical consequences.

H. P. Lovecraft

bn322
Freshman
Freshman
Posts: 4
Joined: Tue Aug 06, 2013 1:05 am

Re: Need advice on using NPCs with PCs

Post by bn322 » Tue Jan 06, 2015 5:45 pm

I can attest to the effectiveness of Gerard's recommendation. This past week I tried it with my group, and not only did I remember they were there, but it also helped clarify which NPC the players were talking to. They would either point at the portrait or address them via a descriptor noticed from the portrait, i.e the one with the big nose or SIr Silly Mustache.

Dr. Gerard
Professor
Professor
Posts: 1353
Joined: Wed Jul 25, 2012 2:00 pm

Re: Need advice on using NPCs with PCs

Post by Dr. Gerard » Tue Jan 06, 2015 8:23 pm

fallingtower wrote:Two words....

Sock Puppets

I have for years wanted to make use of sock puppetry for a game. I have a few players who never 'speak' in character. I wonder if i require use of sock puppets it will break them out of this habit.
One word: Puppetland. I think I talked about it on the show. The PCs in the game are actually puppets in a dark nightmare world. Making puppets isn't required, but if there was ever a game to support it, this is the one. Not kidding at all. I think it would be awesome and horrific.
Keeper of the Cthulhu Dark "Secret Everest Expedition" PbP scenario
Rip Wheeler in the Call of Cthulhu "No Man's Land" scenario
Plays for Keepers

Dr. Gerard
Professor
Professor
Posts: 1353
Joined: Wed Jul 25, 2012 2:00 pm

Re: Need advice on using NPCs with PCs

Post by Dr. Gerard » Tue Jan 06, 2015 8:27 pm

bn322 wrote:I can attest to the effectiveness of Gerard's recommendation. This past week I tried it with my group, and not only did I remember they were there, but it also helped clarify which NPC the players were talking to. They would either point at the portrait or address them via a descriptor noticed from the portrait, i.e the one with the big nose or SIr Silly Mustache.
Glad it worked for you! Yeah, there is somethong about seeing a face that really fleshes out the character for me. I find it easy to hear their voice in my head that way.
Keeper of the Cthulhu Dark "Secret Everest Expedition" PbP scenario
Rip Wheeler in the Call of Cthulhu "No Man's Land" scenario
Plays for Keepers

Post Reply