NPCs accompanying the party

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ochd
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NPCs accompanying the party

Postby ochd » Fri Apr 07, 2017 10:36 am

I was intending to present my players with the opportunity to go find the Amuar, after purchasing Mongoose's latest adventure, but wondered about having ever-present NPCs with the party -- particularly the patron/captain/boss (Erek). Wouldn't the NPCs either end up being a vehicle for steering the players in particular directions or at least being perceived by the players as being so? Is it better for the referee to just stay on their side of the screen?

Just wondered how others may handle that.

Thanks,

Dan.
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daryen
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Re: NPCs accompanying the party

Postby daryen » Fri Apr 07, 2017 1:24 pm

That is the NPC captain/patron/boss's entire function: To direct the actions of the players to keep them in the adventure. It doesn't however, have to be as bad as that apparently sounds to you.

The point of a present (as opposed to distant) patron is to make sure the players keep on task at each point of the mobile adventure. If the patron sends the players off, then the moment they hit jump they can then do whatever they want. By having the patron tag along, the patron can ensure the players stay on-task. However, it isn't (or doesn't have to be) a straight jacket. Instead, the patron stays in his owner's suite, gives the players general instructions for that stop, and lets them handle the specifics. So, the players still have agency and they decide how to handle each stop of the mission. They just loose the opportunity to choose what the next stop will be. Then, the patron comes out of their owner's suite for certain set-pieces to advance the plot. They can also potentially help the players if the players get absolutely stuck.

It is a different style of patron, but is completely viable, reasonable, and fun.

(This is said knowing nothing about the particular adventure in question. It is just focusing on the idea that a patron that tags along isn't that unusual or a "bad thing".)
ochd
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Re: NPCs accompanying the party

Postby ochd » Sun Apr 09, 2017 12:06 pm

Thanks Daryen.

Probably worth clarifying that Last Flight of the Amuar seems to be intended as a mini campaign, lasting several sessions. Having an NPC boss that accompanies the party now and then I don't see as problematic, but if it was for an extended period then I would have thought that players would feel like they are being railroaded -- ie, the NPC is there as a means for the ref to keep them on track.

But then again, maybe not. Thinking about it, maybe he can be effectively "absent" in just being ostensibly the decision-maker but in effect relying on what the players decide. And like you say, without a bit of steerage the whole mini-campaign might end up running aground.

Dan.
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paltrysum
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Re: NPCs accompanying the party

Postby paltrysum » Tue Apr 11, 2017 12:03 am

ochd wrote:
Fri Apr 07, 2017 10:36 am
I was intending to present my players with the opportunity to go find the Amuar, after purchasing Mongoose's latest adventure, but wondered about having ever-present NPCs with the party -- particularly the patron/captain/boss (Erek). Wouldn't the NPCs either end up being a vehicle for steering the players in particular directions or at least being perceived by the players as being so? Is it better for the referee to just stay on their side of the screen?
SPOILER ALERTS FOR LAST FLIGHT OF THE AMUAR

I've read Last Flight of the Amuar, and my sense of it is that Erek need not be present for each and every chapter of the story. He is with the ship throughout the story, but he can often be off doing his own thing, which I take to mean running the probes and collecting data about whether or not the Amuar was in-system while the travellers are off either pursuing leads of their own or getting involved in other side adventures.

Erek reappears at some point on each system to push them on to the next system. "Nothing to see here. The probes came up negative. Time to move on."
My published Traveller adventures on DriveThruRPG:
https://www.drivethrurpg.com/browse.php ... %20Griffen
Epicenter
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Re: NPCs accompanying the party

Postby Epicenter » Wed Apr 12, 2017 7:48 pm

ochd wrote:
Fri Apr 07, 2017 10:36 am
Wouldn't the NPCs either end up being a vehicle for steering the players in particular directions or at least being perceived by the players as being so? Is it better for the referee to just stay on their side of the screen?
It depends on your nature and the nature of your gaming group. I run two groups of gamers these days.

One is younger group of players I do stuff with at the local gaming store. They range from late teens to mid 30s. They're very much along your lines - they're very much into "freedom" and prefer sandboxy adventures and dislike it when there's some NPC or trail of clues to lead them to the next point, referring to it as "railroading." They're easy to run games for, but I don't find it particularly challenging or interesting. They typically are the sort of "bring and play" characters. Almost inevitably one character doesn't fit in with the group and either the player drops or they make a new character. I guess if I had to conclude about them, they're very much those open-world players who like Bethesda type games.

I also run games at a local community hall that's basically open to the public but is for a local retirement community. The youngest player there is in his late 40s, most players are in their 50s and 60s. They don't follow the "RPG is a sandbox" attitude. They want to experience the story that the campaign-writer has written as intended. As a result they like to be steered with clues or a patron who'll tell them what to do next. In return, they expect well-planned adventures with thrilling encounters and love interesting set-piece battles. In addition, the story has to have interesting protagonists and antagonists. They prefer to be told up-front the theme of the game they'll be playing in and go to great lengths to roll up characters appropriate to the theme. In contrast to the first group, I guess they would be like raid guild characters from an MMO.

My experience with both groups is that you'd be surprised at what your players like.

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