Tuesday 10 February 2009

Players will never forget their friends - or enemies...

Help your players organise who they know in your compaign world with NPC contact cards. Download 8 examples, with four contact cards on each page in a handy zip file. When the characters have been in the game for a long time, they tend to end up with a large number of contacts - people they know and will help them or will sell them stuff. This is a simple system for helping them keep track of who they know. Download, print, cut into four (with the help of a responsible adult, if you can find one) and then fold down the middle. You'll find that when they get a bit of a stack of these contacts, they will shuffle through them like trading cards to find the person that can help solve their problem.
[edit]Thanks to misterecho for spotting the link was dead. I have updated the file host.

Instant NPC contacts

I always have a bull-dog clip of these attached to the back of my GMing folder to whip out when I need an NPC quickly and one that is likely to stick around. By giving the players the card, it forms a semi-permenant relationship for the characters.

Why use celebrities?

I've tried faceless people from Google Images and assigned them random names but the players would find it difficult to attach the name to the face. If you use celebrities, then it's a lot easier for the players to do just that. Also, you can have a bit of fun by selecting a celebrity that sort of fits the bill. For example, I used Robert Deniro as a gangland boss. When they met him, they knew instantly what he was about. I then tried a terrible New York accent that invariably ended up sounding like Michael Caine. Players cackled, some sharpened knives, others vomited blood but that's just normal for them. What's more, I used this at Gen Con 2008 and although the players had only been sitting together for 2 hours, then instantly knew what the NPC was likely to be about and easily recalled their name. I've chosen a few UK-centric celebrities, which might act as 'unknowns' for you but that can be good too.

See it in action

I've cheekily lifted these contacts from one of the goat-legged, horned demons I have the mispleasure to play with each week. They're printed on standard 90gsm paper, although I still refer to them as 'cards'. As you can see, one of them is even hurried scribbled in ballpoint when I hadn't any ready to go. Laughter ensued but I'm not allowed to change the contact card for a printed one now. The whole lot fits with the mini bulldog clip I got from Staples. You'll also see that I've added some printed text to some of them. This is because they were all premade contacts that the characters got at the start of the campaign setting. Worked a treat.

I am experimenting with other things to put on the sheet (such as scale for friend/foe) but I think the minimal system here is neat and functional. If you have any ideas or find use for these, then please do let me know.


Joshua Macy said...

Neat. I think I may give these a try.

Jeremy Murphy said...

That's a really good idea. An old DM of mine had a little note card he made about all his NPC's to use while playing, and he had the best NPC's ever. I think the headings on the note card were:

Unique Mannerism/Behavior:

Overriding Goal:

Why he gives a Fuck about the Players:

Stress Response:

You don't really need anything else, and it gives you just the prompts you need to roleplay pretty much the same person each time the PC's encounter them.

Rob Lang said...

@jamused, please let me know of your results.

@Wickedmurph, I like the additional headings. As these are handouts, they might be good for the players to fill in. For the GM, you need that extra NPC information.

I like the consistency you mentioned. They know that went I put on a certain voice or a certain "look" then its the same person they talked to before. It's very powerful.

Sewicked said...

My favorite game system recommends that for recurring NPCs (aka Named NPCs), the gm list 3 goals, of which the first is usually survive. If that is not one of the goals, that tells you something about the NPC right there.

For example, the sweet, elderly nun who is hiring you has these three goals 1) survive 2) get proof regarding holy relic 3) be vindicated in my research

Unknown said...

Stop stealing my stuff! :P

These have worked really well I think - from times when we need a certain kind of contact (Infobroker, Weapons dealer etc) to keeping track who we owe favours (and theoretically who owes us, but this rarely comes up TBH).

DeGi said...

Really nice advice, I like it a lot. I will start using it in my next session in 1 week.

Noumenon said...

Do you make one card for the whole group, or one for them and one for yourself, or one each?

Haven't you run out of celebrities by now?

Noumenon said...

Just for the use of people like me, I think it would be good to have a tag for "GMing advice" -- stuff like this that a D&D DM can use. Your "resources" tag is the closest right now, as it has paper minis and a map generator.

Rob Lang said...

@Noumenon - Distributing cards - it depends:
Some contacts are held by the whole group, others personally. I use the 'telephone call' analogy. Whoever is most likely to make the 'call' holds the card. As GM I normally have a whole host of information written down about the NPC, so do not need the card. I use relationship diagrams, so the name is all I need.

I've not run out of celebrities just yet. However, there are some I might use again as campaigns are not back-to-back.

As for the GM tag, that was a really good idea. So I did it. Thanks for the comments!

Noumenon said...

Thanks for tagging, it helped me find your Star Frontiers post!