371 Multiple NPC's in the Same Scene

Recording 12/21 via Youtube.


In last night’s home game, I introduced half a dozen new NPCs—the party had cleared out a fey cockatrice cave (thanks Fantastic Lairs) and several of the statues came to back life. This was an opportunity for conversation-based exposition (when I was stoned, the evil hobgoblin prince you speak of was just a babe-with-arms), humor (the low-quality bard telling a shaggy dog story), hooks (I was on a mission, maybe you can help), and story advancement (at least one of the NPCs has some dark intentions). Aside from having six people join the story in a relatively short amount of time, and trying to keep each one interesting (how many times can you play out, “I was a statue? how long? thanks for rescuing me.”?), I also wanted to end up with the PCs trusting or liking some of the NPCs, but having some of the troublesome ones get under their radar without having a dishonest “gotcha” moment. I think it went well, and the party definitely seemed to enjoy when the thanksgiving feast turned into one of the hosts getting framed for murder and one of the new NPCs unleashing a crossbow bolt into the shoulder of the king’s ambassador. When next we play, I’ll be curious to see which side the PCs take in the ensuing brawl.

Looking back on the evening as I wrote up my notes, I was thinking that there can be a lot to introducing NPCs as to the whys and the hows, and perhaps it’s time for another GBS episode on the topic. One resource I was pleased to have during prep was Nord Games’ Ultimate NPCs—Skulduggery.

Thanks @enn.in.me

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I may have missed it in the show but one thing I don’t think you talked about is how running too many NPCs in a scene can feel like the GM playing with themselves. As a player I’ve seen this happen. A GM gets all caught up in his NPCs. Pretty soon they are talking to each other and the player characters become an audience rather than participants in the dialogue. My gut reaction to this is that my character is no longer the center of the fiction and I’m just along for the ride. Like a tourist on an open-top bus tour of the plot.


Yeah, I fell on that grenade myself a few times in my early days.

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