NPC Creation Through GM Approaches

My Sunday Supers game didn’t go off today, but I wanted to share a mechanic I was going to implement. It comes from Rob Donoghue’s fantastic idea for GM approaches.

Instead of making these things the GM could do, I went with making them the things the NPCs do. Essentially, every GM has the same score in every stat – the GM’s score. This way the GM can say, “I want this adventure to be about solving a mystery, not combat.” Sometimes, when a GM sets this up, but then has a few thugs to throw a wrench in the PCs’s plans, things can go too far into combat status if the GM has an imbalance issue.

This mechanic might solve that. The GM doesn’t have to fear balance issues because he sets the stats up from the beginning towards what he wants to emphasize (what he wants to make more difficult and challenging, meaning that the players will spend more time having to figure that one out).

In a mystery game, the GM/NPC stats might look something like this (using Rob Donoghue’s approaches):

  • Harm +1
  • Misdirect +3
  • Steal +2
  • Misrepresent +1
  • Delay +1
  • Escalate +1

When any NPC, from the BBG to the lowly henchmen rolls to harm the PCs in this session, they roll at a +1. But if they want to lead the PCs on a wild goose chase with misinformation and more clues than could possibly add up, they roll that Misdirect +3.

But what about uniqueness, you ask? That’s where aspects and stunts come in.

Today, my session was to be full of deepening scenes as I lay out what’s to come down the line. Thus, my stats would look like they do above. But then you have the combat oriented minions who gave the PC’s a fairly intense, although not very dangerous, fight last session. Their sheets look like this:

The King’s Guard
Aspects: For The King!; Weapons of Honor, Symbols of Freedom
Stunts: Energy Blade (Gain +2 on Fighting attacks when using the energy blade), Deflection (Use Fighting to defend against ranged attacks)
(Yes, I stole these from Jedi, sue me – Jacob Poss almost did!)

Note, I did use Fighting as a stat, which the GM approaches don’t. I just copied them from the sheets I wrote up after our last game. This is where I would bring in a list of my own, as Rob’s mostly covers approaches to affecting the PCs, but doesn’t cover reactions to defend against the PCs, which I believe is more important in a game where the players are supposed to be proactive instead of reactionary.

And that’s the beauty of this system. The NPC sheets are done! That’s all I had to do – the fun parts. Select a few aspects, write a stunt or two (which is easier than normal stunts because here I just think about what I want these characters to be good at even if the GM scores are low). Fast!

Here’s another, these are the stats for the villain enemies (those above were neutral entities, mostly):

Sentries
Aspects: Despot’s Stormtroopers; Conscious AutomatonsPowered Armor
Stunts: Jets (Move +1 zone for free), Combined Fire (Grant +2 instead of +1 when assisting an attack action through teamwork)

Done!

The reason I used to hate writing adventures in the past was how long it took to write NPCs. Even in Fate Core it can take a while. But yesterday, I wrote up 3 main villains (with super powers!) and two minion groups (the ones above) in all of 10 minutes!

So, what do you guys think? Is Rob onto something? I think so. If this mechanic playtests well, it might see at least a sidebar in Jadepunk, if not become the definitive method for GM difficulty/reaction rolls and creating NPCs.

Exciting stuff!

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5 thoughts on “NPC Creation Through GM Approaches

  1. I think it’s a good idea especially for one offs like you say stating NPC’s can take to long and I can see how this way making things quicker.

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