Lately I've been spending a lot of time playing or writing tabletop Games. It's amazing how much you can learn about storytelling, people, and improvisation with something like Dungeons& Dragons. So for the month of June I want to talk about some of my favorite things as a game master, the person who runs the game, some things that helped me along the way.
Today I want to talk about non-playable characters. Either the people who inhabit your world start the heroes of the story necessarily. People like the barkeep, the shop owner, the farmer looking for help dealing with the werewolf problem, or anyone else that none of your players are controlling. I really love playable characters and I have a really bad habit of getting super attached to them. How do you make a memorable non-playable character?
For me it all starts with their character traits. What makes this person tick and how does that impact how they interact with the world? I actually put it together a chart of traits that you can use to roll and just come up with something on-the-fly. A lot of non-playable characters will come about based on pure improvisation. The players decide to go to a bar and they want to talk to the barmaid they meet there. You may not have anything planned for her and now suddenly having to come up with the character on the go. I suggest always having a few blank templates of characters that you can just pull on as well as a random name generator, just make sure that you actually taken note of what you've named to people and where they were so that if your characters decide to come back to that city you can have the same person stomach.
At the game master it can be really tempting to use a non-playable character as a way for you to get to be involved in the game. I've done this before for sure. It's where you create a character then travels along with your players so you get to play the game to and while it's not a with a bad thing, it's really easy to get too distracted into playing the character then into running the game. Your player should be the one dictating in leading the story with you but do not being pulled along by an NPC that you threw it in. I know it's so easy to get attached to some of the characters and you want to get the chance to play too because it's just not fair that you got to spend all this time building a world and doing all this work the players will never see. But I promise trying to keep a non-playable character with the group long-term is only going to add more work for you in the long run. I just think really hard before you do this.
Are you simple tricks that help me build an NPC on the go. You're welcome to downloading use the rolling chart character traits that I created and if you do, let me know what kind of character you make.
Reading the room
It's really easy to think about tabletop games as something only incredibly awkward, completely people illiterate groups play. For game master, and even being a player, actually require a lot of interaction with other people even if you're just playing in your character and not as you. Forgetting master however you really need to develop the skill of how to read a room. You need to be able to recognize when your players are disengaging, or when the story has taken a wrong turn and everybody is pissed.
Now I'm saying completely deviate from the past that you have already created but I am saying that if it suddenly becomes clear to you that no one is having fun, that's probably something you should pay attention to and learn from. But how will you know?
Watch the reactions of your players. I'm rolling, crossed arms, leaning way back from the table, playing on their phone, and just staring down word of their character sheet and no longer interacting. If you start to notice these things it might be a good idea to call for a brief break from the game and you take 10 minutes to evaluate what is happened, where things may have gone wrong, and what can be done to return enjoyment to the game. Pretty much everybody place to have fun so what the point that it becomes a chore or annoying, it's not something anyone wants to be doing.
And sometimes this can't be helped. They're going to be moments in a good story where think suck, the heroes have lost, the villain is in power and things look bad. There will also be times that somebody just have a shitty night of rolling and all they get our ones or twos and I thought anybody's faults and is not really anything you can get it fixed it. What I'm talking about our moments when perhaps your players we're really interested in a strange artifact they found an elaborate far beneath the town, but you are forcing them to abandon that and jump back onto the plot you'd already constructed for them to do today. It's not an easy position and it requires a lot of thinking on your feet. And sometimes you won't be able to do that and making everybody happy is pretty much impossible task matter what you doing but I found the one way to make sure that your players enjoyed the story is very simple.
Remember that they are the hero.
Give your players the chance to shine. Let your rogue but they're sneaking and stealing skills to use for an important what item. Your bard can talk her way out of what should be an impossible diplomatic situation. You're fighter deals the killing blow the terrible monster. Given the moments to shine, moments that you know their characters will be amazing in. As long as those moments are sprinkled throughout it helps again be more fun and helps everyone feel like a hero.