NPC Agendas?

Hey guys!

Got a question for you all.

In Conan all the secondary characters and villians always have an agenda that 'sometimes' has nothing to do with Conan originally. He just seems to get caught up in it all. My question is, how do all you GM's out there develop convincing NPC's with agendas all their own?

When I first started to GM years ago, my NPC's plots almost always focused directly on the players. Although there are times when this is great for the story, such as an epic story, there are also times when it just seems cheesy and makes it seem as if the world revolves around the PC's.

How do you guys create convincing villians and NPC's that have a life of their own? How do you make the Conan world feel 'alive' for the players, rather than having major events come to them instead of happening 'around' them?

This question always intrigues me as every GM has their own way of trying this.

Again, my apologies if this thread is somewhere buried deep in the vaults of the Mongoose Forum. I did a search but found nothing...
 

Vincent791

Mongoose
When I used to play D&D we have this kind of "problem". Every story was oriented to have the PC's as the pivot of the stories. Sometimes we found a "sidequest", but those were used to have quick sessions. Those sidequests give some "live" to the world, that was when the things appear to be there with them or without you.

I really want to change this with my Conan session, I'd like to have a living-breathing-moving world, just as you mention. That players, with their adventures and everything, work more like any other NPC.
 

Crisippo

Mongoose
Hey, interesting question...

Personally i have found that putting a lot of work, or at least thought, into major NPC background and personality helps me a lot in giving them agendas that doesn't revolve around the PC's.

I usually also layer the information on major NPCs, keeping the deepest levels unrevealed to the PC's. That way i always know more about the NPC's motivation then my players do. This always makes them a bit unpredictable and keeps me from portraying them like one-dimensional characters.

Scavenging characters from REH stories, or other sources, and using them without directly connecting the players to the plot of the source.
Exempli Gratia: I'm having Demetrio, the Head of the Inquisitorial Council in Numalia,(fromThe God in the Bowl) show up in Shadizar having left his post under less than honourable circumstances. (Given the incidentets surrounding The God in the Bowl i feel that would be appropriate) His role in my plot will simply be that of being insulted/threatned by the PC's enemies giving them the opportunity for a,competent but not powerful (he's on the run) ally.

I don't know if this was any help but they are a few thoughts on your question. Doubtless other GMs will have other, possibly better, ways of doing this.
 

Bregales

Mongoose
Everyone has their own agenda. That's about all you need to consider. You wrote it in your opening query rather well, DaylightDrifter. I may have a different angle than some GMs, but I use my experience as an actor when trying to run NPCs in a game - I ask the basic questions for every NPC: *Who am I; *Why am I here; *What do I want; *What obstacle is in my way of getting what I want; *How do I best go about getting what I want?

Whether running a Conan game or as I now am involved with a King Arthur Pendragon campaign, I constantly have NPCs floating around, often on-the-fly, but the main NPCs have (usually) been thought out beforehand and probably written up. The more important an NPC is to me, the more I consider [his] motivations. But sometimes a player says something like, "I go into a bar and try to find a woman to flirt with" and I make up a generic character, and then the player's prodding forces me to establish a persona right there which I hadn't anticpated, and as I'm working on-the-fly I'm using those questions to establish the new NPC and ground [her] in the world. Aside from a very small number of prepared NPCs who will be interacting directly with the players' characters, I consider all other NPCs as individuals going about their lives who probably never saw the PCs before and will forget about them in a minute as they're too busy living their own lives.

I think of Hyboria and Camelot (sic) as real places, and in gaming or prepping for a game I think of them as alive in the here and now. I ask myself *What happened a long time ago, *What recently happened, (in the setting); *What is going on right now in the world; *What do I want the PCs to do in the next adventure; *How, or will, their adventure affect major NPCs; and *What should I put in the back of my mind for an idea for the next adventure after this one I'm working on right now?

If I keep these kinds of things in my mind as a GM, I find that I will act both pre-prepared (established) NPCs and those created on-the-fly in the same, consistent manner. And often (but not always) do I find that character drives or determines plot and obstacle.

When I was running a Conan game, I wanted to begin adventures en medias res (in the middle of things). This trait I love most as a writer and as a literary critic was introduced to me by Howard's stories. I've done it for years in d20 games and games like theStar Wars RPG, James Bond RPG and TSR Conan RPG. Start them in the middle of a battle, start them in the midst of a heated chase (on foot, horseback or vehicle), start them in a prison or chained to a slaver caravan. I don't like to start with "Okay we finished in room 420 of the dungeon. You guys went back to town and got your wounds healed, sold the loot for 5,326 G.P. and can now buy stuff, so what do you want to buy?" In my mind adventuring games like Conan are destroyed by beginning a session in a mire of tedious bookkeeping. So, if I have a clear conception of how NPCs work, think, act, then I can begin a session at any point or event or location. Well, anyways, that is a fun way of starting a game, but in general, no matter which game I'm running, I usually make an adventure start with: *an opening event or clarification of whats going on around the PCs as the adventure begins, maybe interlacing exposition with the immediate action or maybe in a sense of a lull; *an action-sequence to get them going, facing danger or death; *an interlude after wherein they have time to analyze what happened and plan for what's ahead; *the climax which could be a battle or finding and fighting the demon, sorcerer, bandit camp, or whatever; and *denoumont where the survivors assess the damage, flee the collapsing city and escape to the jungle beyond, or they decide that an NPC they were dealing with is now a major foe/ally and will need to be re-visited, or they get the girl and she is grateful and promises them reward which could make her either someone I'd need to develope for future plans or "here today, gone tomorrow", or they quip "I've had enough, I go back to the bar, get drunk, and forget this night ever happened." NOTE: I could shift the order for individual adventures, say begin with the climax and everything after is denoumont of a sort, or start with a denoumont if I'm linking the previous adventure, and take my time in developing a new conflict for the group. Whatever. In general, this framework usually works for a game other than King Arthur Pendragon.

Anyways, them's my two cents. Hope this helps. :p
 

bobarian

Mongoose
I'm putting together a follow-up story to an adventure that I ran last summer. In the last adventure, that monster of a Kushite that is Shaka, managed to score with a harem maiden of a rather powerful wizard.

Now in addition to having said wizard as an enemy, Shaka has to deal with his new 'girlfriend'. She will drag him down in a chase, get grumpy if he doesn't provide her with the sort of lifestyle she thinks she deserves, and occasionally drive him into a fit of jealous rage if he ignores her. On top of that, he'll have to make Will saves if he chooses to dump her because... well lets just say she knows Shaka's weakness.

This is not to say she won't help at all. She has an INT 17 which nicely balances Shaka's own INT 7. She also has a broader skill set and will be happy to put them to use for her man.

She will be both a help, and in some ways a hinderance. She has her own motivations. She will be, I hope, very much a real person in the story. I'll have Shaka make several opposed Diplomacy checks when he tries to convince her to do something. If he's been spending money on her, it will help.

You don't want drag the story down with this stuff, so it's important to have thought your NPC's through beforehand. That way you can quickly have them act in a believable way.
 

Yogah of Yag

Mongoose
Bregales said:
Everyone has their own agenda. That's about all you need to consider. You wrote it in your opening query rather well, DaylightDrifter. I may have a different angle than some GMs, but I use my experience as an actor when trying to run NPCs in a game - I ask the basic questions for every NPC: *Who am I; *Why am I here; *What do I want; *What obstacle is in my way of getting what I want; *How do I best go about getting what I want?.....

Great stuff.
However, I must be an NPC because I'm always asking those very same questions! :shock: :lol:
 

Bregales

Mongoose
Yogah of Yag said:
Bregales said:
Everyone has their own agenda. That's about all you need to consider. You wrote it in your opening query rather well, DaylightDrifter. I may have a different angle than some GMs, but I use my experience as an actor when trying to run NPCs in a game - I ask the basic questions for every NPC: *Who am I; *Why am I here; *What do I want; *What obstacle is in my way of getting what I want; *How do I best go about getting what I want?.....

Great stuff.
However, I must be an NPC because I'm always asking those very same questions! :shock: :lol:
LOL, well I may have mistakenly assumed that all players ask those questions, but glad to know there are at least a couple of us who do. :lol:
 

tofu

Mongoose
Hey,Um vincent good artwork but you have 1 flaw, here ears arenot pointed, lol just jokeing man good work
 

tofu

Mongoose
VincentDarlage said:
I put in a chart for random agendas in Hyborian Empires. I don't know if it will survive the edit, but I included on in the draft.

For myself, I usually use the random agendas found in Thrilling Tales: Gamesmaster's Guide to Pulp Adventure if I don't already have one in mind.

I always give NPCs agendas - and most of them have little to do with PCs until they get involved.

Sorry, shouldhave clicked the quote button. heh just letting you know what I was responding to with my lil joke

Your pic of liv tyler
 

Evil_Trevor

Mongoose
I use several types of NPC/villian and the amount of work needed for each varies according to how much interaction the npc will have with the players.

Basic : Virtualy no prep-work, one scene or non-speaking npc's made up on the spot using (if needed) avarage scores and skills. Sometimes get a few words of description or one distingushing feature. E.g. The serving maid is a short fat sandy haired woman. Such npc's more often than not don't have names or lives other than for the few minutes they are in the game. This also covers things like ghouls that just want to eat the party.

Stock: As most g.m.'s I have a few 'stock' npc's that appear in one form or another in the games I run, one of my favourites is a character I first used in a 'Dark Sun' game long eon's ago, Mad Bob. Mad Bob is harmless unless you 'trigger' him by using some word (such as 'magic') or sit in his seat in the tavern. Mad Bob turns out to be a) Mad and b) Dangerous.
These guy's help give colour to the settings.

Major: More thought out and pre-prepared characters with stats and equipment, followers,allies, enemies and personality. Usually a back-story and on occasion are old characters rebuilt. Tend to have an agenda. I like to know what a 'Day in the life of ....' would normally be like too. Often based on one or more people I know / have known. These guys are the fun in g.m.ing

Central villan/N.P.C. A very detailed Major character I prefer to do about twice as much work on the main villian as on any other npc. The more I know about this guy/gal the better and more convincingly I can portray them, in some cases I even think about what they prefare to eat, wear and drink.

Monster (orc) : Something for the more combatative players to hit, requires a short description (It's Big and hairy will do) and combat stats with any combat revelant feats/skills/equipment. and a treasure list. Very A.D. & D. like. Often found in groups where the only difference between members is Hit points. Anything from a group of street thugs/soldiers to a small tribe of man-apes or ghouls ...... From a personal g.m. point of view these are the least enjoyable encounters since the game will turn into a dice/accounting excercise. Can be improved using minatures and skirmish rules which also makes tracking where everybody is and what they can do easier.
 
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