Monday, February 21, 2011

Simple NPCs

Game Masters can have it rough in combats. While everyone else is running a single character, they're often left keeping the details straight on a number of NPCs, any of whom may have special options. To further complicate matters, the GM hasn't had the time to get to know these characters and their special rules the way a player has his character. Keeping track of all that can be difficult, and the more complicated dice mechanics are on top of this, the slower everything goes.

Since one of the primary goals of this game is to keep things easy on the GM I decided to make the game work different on the GM's side of the screen. Nothing says he's got to follow the same rules as everyone else, especially given how different his play experience and role is.

NPCs, be they characters or monsters, use stats similar to the PCs, but make much heavier use of them and have a simpler, more restricted kind of effort pool. Their stats include Attack and Defense, but they get no Recovery. Instead of a hope/destiny pool, they have something called Threat. Threat is a pair of numbers, such as 3(2).

The first number is a chunk of points that gets allocated on an exchange by exchange basis to the NPC's stats. The parenthetical value is the number of chunks the NPC has. So, in the example above, the NPC has two bundles of 3 points he can see added to his scores each exchange. Grouping up effort in this way makes for fewer options, and thus, hopefully, speeds allocation.

Because NPCs don't have a pool like PCs, they need to track damage differently. They do this with a rating called Fight. Every time the NPC accumulates damage equal to his Fight rating, he loses a point of Threat. When his Threat hits 0, he's taken out. While I'm not a huge fan of hit points, they are pretty simple, and for NPCs the lack of flavor is forgivable, since their specific mechanics aren't part of the player experience.

1 comment:

  1. Cool insight into how NPCs work. Many young people looking to get into game design have no idea about any of this. thanks for spelling it out, i will share this post with the interns around the office:)