Sunday, July 1, 2012

How to create NPCs

It’s been a while since I gave away the “keys to the kingdom”, so here I go again. First off, let me say that my ADHD (no not that game system) enables me to come up with dozens of ideas in a day. I write down as many as I can, though this can be an issue when driving. I will never write a novel, because I cannot stay focused long enough, but coming up with characters - I pretty much kick ass. But even with this, I sometimes need either more characters than I can generate quickly or I’m just stumped a little bit, so here is what I do: Open a spreadsheet program that allows for a random number formula. Here are your columns: Extrovert, Introvert, Sensing, Intuition, Thinking, Feeling, Judging and Perception. Anyone recognize these as the Myers/Briggs test? That is what they are. If you don’t understand anything about Myer/Briggs, look it up and sort of review what they mean by these. In many ways, this can be used to describe any person’s personality. So now what? You have eight personality descriptions. For example - If they have a high extrovert and a low introvert as well as high scores in Sensing and Perceiving, then you have someone who can stand up in front of folks but is also very logical and concrete in their thoughts - sounds like a college professor to me (a stereo-typical one, not an actual one). I hope you saw how I did that. By looking at the highest two or three scores, I make wildly inaccurate decisions about their personality. But is doesn’t matter if they’re inaccurate, because the personality grows out of what I decide. If these personality types don’t work for you, look up the 16 general categories. Instead of trying to make the assessments yourself, just randomly choose one of these 16 personalities. But wait, there’s more. Because of the adult way that my campaigns usually twist, I have to have a morality score for people. People of low morals, have a low score here. I also usually use a beauty score. Both of these are less on a straight line, and more on a bell curve. To be really ugly, you need to score in the low teens. A 33 in beauty makes you more plain than really ugly. What else - Well I sometimes use a couple of different columns as well. In Forsbury, they have a 70% chance of working for one of the major cartels, so I determine which cartel they work for. I often throw a 10% nobility chance in there too. If I’m really looking to create a character, I will have three columns for skills. Yep - A quick look up table determines which three skills they randomly have. I almost always throw out one of these. This gives me a personality, a couple of skills they likely know, who they work for and if they’re noble, as well as looks and morals. Sometimes, it is fun looking at the more challenging ones: An extrovert, noble with mining experience and upstanding morals. She is actually a pretty cool character now. The point of this is NEVER to force you to accept a character you don’t want. The point is to instantly create a couple dozen character concepts, and you choose the three or four you want to flesh out. Then hit the recalc button and instantly make up dozens more. The randomness keeps throwing new ideas at you until something appeals or fosters that “spark of imagination”. You’re a GM - You should only need the spark, and you’ll be up and running (at least mentally).

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