Episode 483 - Outsourcing NPCs

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Episode 483 - Outsourcing NPCs

Postby Penguinsushi » Wed May 02, 2018 7:44 am


TL;DR : I think on-the-fly setting declarations by the players are cool (I loved the Fat Tony story) and I'm sure it works great for some, but I see this going awry at my table at least 50% of the time.


Chad's initial comment about how contradicting things your players declare about the world means you're a bad GM kinda ruffled my feathers (and I swear that isn't a penguin pun), but as I heard him unpack his position, I don't think I disagree with him *that much*.

No particular shock here, but I think overall I'm with Dan on this one, though I may be a step or two further toward retaining control. My default position is to see the *narrative* as totally in the players' hands, but the *setting* in mine: I present the world, they decide what to do with it.

On the one hand, I think player setting input this is pretty cool and I like it. Like you all pointed out, boosting player investment and interaction is good. In general I would opt to keep player setting contributions to discussions away from the table (before the campaign, between sessions, etc), but I could see it working mid-stream (like you're talking about) In theory.

On the other hand, I tend to have a lot of machinery running in the background. Even if I DON'T describe something up front (a cue I think Wayne mentioned), I STILL might have a very specific reasons things are as they are. In practice, I can see this being a bit rough at our table.

There are numerous situations where the players could declare something and I would just roll with it because, as Dan said, it's not a vital detail. Or, even if it IS a vital detail, I can work with the change as long as it doesn't derail other bits domino-style. I'm not so rigid that there is no room for alteration of the setting (in fact, I make adjustments to my setting almost constantly, based on how the game's going, what the players are into, and what has so far been revealed - but I have all the components and reveals in front of me, so I know what will work and what won't whereas the players do not).

Thing is, there are also numerous situations where the players could declare something that simply isn't true and cannot be true for very specific reasons. Ok, "cannot be true" is maybe a bit overstated. Perhaps "is something I would choose not to change because it contradicts too many other dependent truths" is more accurate, but that doesn't really roll off the tongue.

Not to beat the dead horse, but in the situation with "Shut the fuck up, Fat Tony!" (which I loved, btw): I can see myself having a plot in a similar situation where all of the other prisoners are gone when the PCs woke up. Because it might take the characters a minute or two to notice, I might not draw attention to how quiet it is up front. The players, acting in good faith and on the info they have, start making declarations about how noisy it is but, because of what they don't (yet) know, it just....doesn't work.

Now, would a situation like that ruin the game? Not at all. We'd back that up. Or maybe I'd describe how the character is reflexively yelling at someone he expects to be there who is suddenly not (as I think Dan alluded to with "Tonya"). But if that sort of thing constantly happens, I can see it becoming annoying for the GM and frustrating for the players.

Also, maybe my POV comes from the fact that I don't have Chad at my table. My players don't tend to do this sort of thing - or, if they want to, they're more likely to approach it with an ask: "Are there other prisoners here? Can I say I've known one for a long time? Ok, cool." True, that's not as smooth with the RP, but it can prevent frustrating contradictions. Plus, the ask is a way for the players to learn something about the setting I didn't think to describe or didn't really fit in the description: "Oh, I *don't* know anyone else here?" "Oh, the prisoner above me is a quiet hermit called Tonya?" Perhaps I've inadvertently conditioned them with a pretty steady subversion of expectation. Doing it that way works well for our group. If I had players that constantly wanted to have their declarations canonized mid-stream and on the spot, I'm sure I would adjust my GMing style to accommodate that - at least to some extent.

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Re: Episode 483 - Outsourcing NPCs

Postby clintmemo » Wed May 02, 2018 8:26 am

I think this might be something that I and my players can do better with work/practice/experience.
If I have a player that likes to do this, I should leave blanks for him to fill in and let him get it out of his system but make sure that where I have NPC's and details that I need to have a certain way, I describe them before he gets a chance to try to unknowingly paint over them. As Wayne said, if it's detailed, leave it alone.

Before I do this, I always ask, just in case it messes up the GM's plot. "Is it ok if I know a guy in the bar?" Because I have been told "No"
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Re: Episode 483 - Outsourcing NPCs

Postby VaMinion » Wed May 02, 2018 8:52 am

clintmemo wrote:Before I do this, I always ask, just in case it messes up the GM's plot. "Is it ok if I know a guy in the bar?" Because I have been told "No"

That's how I do it and it's how I prefer my players do it. I want the chance to say so before they get enthusiastic about an NPC they just created.

I love it when players help me flesh out existing NPCs. That's almost always fun.
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Re: Episode 483 - Outsourcing NPCs

Postby N00b13 » Wed May 02, 2018 8:55 pm

I'm now picturuing now a scene were lovin and another guy go into a cell. You hear muffelef crying and squeeking springs.

Then cut inside and lovin is giving talk therapy to the guy who has his face berried in the bed while he is hitting the pillows.

Because "everyone needs some lovin".
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Re: Episode 483 - Outsourcing NPCs

Postby Young_0ne2 » Thu May 03, 2018 9:38 pm

This concept's worked great so far in a Pathfinder game I've been running.

I allow the PC's to spend Bennies for a wide variety of things and one of those things is to add in NPC's into my world. How this happens and where the NPC's are is dependent on the information i've been given.

For example:
I had a player spend 2 Bennies in the first session to make 2 of the guards that were in charge of protecting this post cataclysmic war city, Hobgoblins. And he specifically said they were the only 2 Hobgoblins in this whole city of refugees.
So far they are probably the #2 and #3 most popular NPC's in the game. #1 is held by a Gnome Engineer/Chef.

I took the concept of the Devils Bergen from Blades in The Dark ( Thank you Chad!) And said in Session Zero that the concept would work both ways. If i offer it and ANYONE takes it, something will happen to the current scene, Likewise, if my players wanted to add something to the game, whether that be an NPC, some Legend, Monster Fact, tradition of their people, or what have you, I as the GM could also take the Devils Bargain from my players.

I chose to do this for 2 reasons, the first one was to get my players to be more creative. As much as i love my group and friends, some of them are as creative as a Ham Sandwich, on white bread, with Mayo, and a side of milk to wash it down.
:problem: This gets boring fast. I think, though, the issue is they have, as Dan has put it, Battered Gamer Syndrome Light. Or i guess rather they have Battered Creativity Syndrome. A few of the other GM's in our group were always REALLY restrictive with their games and what we could or could not do with our characters based on the GM's perspective of them. So i think the idea of really adding to the world they're gaming in is just an instant Slap in the face.

However, i am happy to say that it does seem to be working. The aforementioned sandwich has gotten a bag of chips added to it now, which doesn't sound like much, but when that translates into my game being requested to be run either longer than 6 hours or Weekly, i'll count it as a win!

The Second reason is I wanted a way to reward the PC's for telling me what they're interested in with out them knowing. It's sometimes hard to really stay interested in what you said you wanted to do, back about 8 months ago. Or maybe we've just hit a point where you dont want to hunt your father down, you just want to have a girls day at a hot spring. I leave my worlds pretty sand boxy because of past games that were destroyed in minutes because i over planned everything.

However, some people really dont know how to handle a game like that, SO to help them out, in my game i have Bennies. If the players are delving through a dungeon or traveling in the wilderness, aside from just listening to what their conversations are about, i also allow them to use the Bennies to influence whats happening in the moment. It could be as little as the next town has a really well known bath house, or as wild as a red dragon in the next room.

Now thats not to say that if a dragon doesnt "fit" in the next room, it might be something similar. Like Dan, i dont just drop random strings in my games that lead nowhere. Every creature, location, encounter, and environment tells a little bit about what this areas all about. So they might give me a Bennie for a Dragon in the next room, but it might be a wyrmling or a Mechanical Dragon some Kobolds rigged up to scare intruders.

This also reinforces the Devils Bargain. A few rooms into the dungeon nothings happened and one player starts mouthing off about Mimics, well well well, i just so happen to have a Bargain for you sir, 1 "free" Bennie to your small pile there... also the front door now wants to eat you instead of let you leave.... so does that stool.. :twisted:

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Re: Episode 483 - Outsourcing NPCs

Postby Knaight » Fri May 04, 2018 2:00 am

On the fanfic analogy - while everyone writing fanfic might care in some way, there's definitely room for that caring to take the form of hostility. There are entire genres based on the premise that the source material is garbage, and here's how it should be done. In the context of an RPG, a player doing that is a problem, and I could see that being something worth watching out for given certain group dynamics.
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Re: Episode 483 - Outsourcing NPCs

Postby ScoobyThulu » Fri May 04, 2018 1:48 pm

Is Lovin the "Norm's wife" (Cheers) or "Howard's Mom" (Big Bang) of the FtB AP?
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