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> [-Writing-] A New Plot Tutorial: Townies and other Minor NPCS, Might as well jump on board!
knight9910
post May 18 2008, 09:11 AM
Post #1


Some sort of alien-worshipping, neutral wizard/paladin hybrid.
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Type: Spriter
Alignment: True Neutral




Hi, folks. Figured I'd jump on board and make a tutorial of my own. And it's going to be about random townsfolk.

Wait, what? Townies? Really? Yes, really. They're an often overlooked part of any RPG, but when done well, they can make a huge difference in suspension of disbelief.

An Example

From my current project. At the very beginning of the game the players find themselves in a town called Porto Azul. The town alchemist, who sells the party items, is a somewhat effeminate young man. Whenever the party talks to him he's halfway through humming some random song. He's married to a winged elf girl with pink hair who spends all of her time with their female roommate.

As the game progresses the party discovers, through conversation with other townies and one sidequest, that the alchemist is A) an earth elemental in disguise and B) a homosexual; his marriage is a cover and in fact his wife is a lesbian and is involved with their female roommate. He even makes a pass at the protagonist, who promptly turns him down.

You may not like the character, depending on your views on homosexuality and/or how immature you are. You may hate his guts. But you have to admit he's a million times more interesting than "Event EV001" the nameless NPC shopkeep. He has a personality, a history. You could see meeting someone like that in real life (okay, maybe not the earth elemental part, but the rest definitely).

This can make the difference between townies that will be ignored and ones that your players will actually want to talk to. You don't have to make every townie interesting like this, but in general you will want to flesh out NPCs the character will be dealing with more often, such as shop owners and inn keepers.

So how can you make interesting townies? Here's a few tips.

Setting Up Interesting Townies

It's probably better to come up with your own ideas, but failing that, here's some more ideas.

Cameos

The character mentioned in the example above are cameos. The alchemist himself is my character from my DnD group, the others are characters run by two of my friends in the same group. I also allowed some of the people who played the demo version of the game cameos as thanks for their input.

Cameos don't have to be of your friends. Copyright law has a nice provision for cameo and parody, so you can cameo your favorite TV, book, or game characters as well, as long as you don't overdo it. Done well, cameos subtly acknowledge the fourth wall, provide an interesting character with little effort, and can be fun to spot.

On the other hand, cameos can sometimes be inappropriate and may alienate players if every NPC is a cameo they don't get. Too many cameos can make your game feel like it's designed only for one group of friends and no one else.

Random Pick
There's a ton of random NPC generators on the internet. (No links because most of them are things you have to download and a quick google search will find them for you anyway.) For my fellow DnDers, the Dungeon Masters Guide (both 1 and 2) have helpful charts for randomly rolling NPC traits and motives. Failing that, you can always just write up your own list or just draw traits from a hat.

Randomly created NPCs allow an easy way to come up with townies, but if not watched carefully they can seem ridiculous. Done incorrectly the random drawing becomes obvious and breaks the suspension of disbelief.

Getting To Know Them

It's important to remember that as interesting as they may be, townies are NPCs and should be treated as such. What you're going for here is what Harmill's topic refers to as a "round static" character. They likely won't have as much character as a PC or major NPC, and they are highly unlikely to develop very much.

Townies should probably be kept at arm's length. To explain, ask yourself this: how much do you really know about your dentist? Your barber? Your baker? You may know his name, some of his family members, a few of the things he likes...but do you really KNOW him? Chances are the answer is no. Just the same, you may discover a lot of interesting facts about a townsperson even become friends, but at the end of the day he's still a stranger.

Another important consideration is how the townies can bring out your protagonist's personality. For example, say your protagonist is a knight for the kingdom, and during a visit to a small town a man comments to him that the king is a tyrant. If the hero strikes the man and tells him to watch his mouth we will get a wildly different view of our hero (and, likely, the king) than if, say, he dryly agrees. Of course, just as the topic on sidequests said a good sidequest should contibute to the metaplot without being necesarry, you should not rely entirely upon your townies to bring out protagonist's personality.

Advanced Ideas

Random Comments.

It's fairly easy to make an NPC give random comments. The Control Variables event command has an option to set the variable to a random number. So here's what you do.

Step 1: Set a variable named Random, Random Comment, or something else to a random number between 1 and whatever your maximum number of comments will be.
Step 2: Put in conditional branches to say which comment will be given, depending on what the variable is.

At the end, you should have something that looks like this, only somewhat less imbecilic and without the 0-1, 1-2 screwup that I'm not fixing.



Just set your comments to whatever and viola! Random NPC comments.

This post has been edited by knight9910: May 18 2008, 12:04 PM


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GrandmaDeb
post May 18 2008, 11:13 AM
Post #2


Retired
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Type: Undisclosed
Alignment: Unaligned




Nice and clear, your wild example contibutes to your point, and your balanced approach keeps things going in a good direction.
Thanks!


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Sevith
post May 18 2008, 03:11 PM
Post #3


Retired Bear Fighter. ಠ_ಠ
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Type: Designer
Alignment: Neutral Good




A very good tut. Great examples, well written, and easy to understand!


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QUOTE (nagilhs @ 2 May 2010)
this guys just a power crazed jack ass.
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Badger
post May 18 2008, 03:17 PM
Post #4


Not a Mushroom, Or a Snake
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I like it, this would add some spice up to the towns and somewhat get rid off repetitive conversations.


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spike_vii
post May 19 2008, 08:06 AM
Post #5


A Certain Lazy Student
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Type: Designer
Alignment: Chaotic Evil




good tuts! i just wondering: a townsfolk just have to gives info or rumours

but this can give me more chance make good side-quests!


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Pokeplushy

Quotes (big, black, bullshit)
Spoiler:
Trying is the first step towards failure.

Pretty women make us buy beer. Ugly women make us drink beer.

Don't send funny greeting cards on birthdays or at Christmas. Save them for funerals when their cheery effect is needed.

Everything is funny as long as it is happening to Somebody Else.

Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It's the transition that's troublesome.

Music is what's painting inside you.

If you want a thing done well, do it yourself.

The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means.

Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. That's relativity.

There's no such thing as a soul. It's just something they made up to scare kids, like the boogeyman or Michael Jackson.

Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity and I'm not sure about the former.

Eighty percent of married men cheat in America. The rest cheat in Europe.

Hey, can you take the wheel for a second, I have to scratch my self in two places at once.

Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.
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soneric84
post Jun 24 2008, 02:33 AM
Post #6



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Type: Designer
Alignment: Unaligned




This is very well written, it really makes you think of interesting ways to add depth to your game. I've always liked RPGs where you get involved with the everyday lives of random NPCs as opposed to just having them around to sell you stuff or spout information.
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Rhyth
post Jul 9 2008, 04:31 AM
Post #7



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Type: Designer




My NPCs aren't showing up when I'm using the whole multiple random comments thing.
I MUST be doing something wrong.
http://img244.imageshack.us/img244/2613/thidko4.jpg
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Lennox55
post Jul 9 2008, 12:54 PM
Post #8



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Type: Designer




QUOTE (Rhyth @ Jul 9 2008, 06:27 AM) *
My NPCs aren't showing up when I'm using the whole multiple random comments thing.
I MUST be doing something wrong.
http://img244.imageshack.us/img244/2613/thidko4.jpg


Hmm, try removing the variable box you have checked in the conditions window, I think that's your problem,
because if it is checked, the variable has to be three or above for the graphic to show up!

So removing it should fix your little problem wink.gif


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...what the guy above said ;D
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look.to.the.sky
post Jul 15 2008, 03:08 PM
Post #9


take my soul
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Type: Writer
Alignment: Unaligned




I thought this was a great angle, because no one thinks about the townies and random people. Thanks for the tips, I would have been at a loss if I didn't put the simple two and two together like you did here smile.gif
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cyberskelet0n
post Jul 17 2008, 02:59 PM
Post #10


Living Proof of Death
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Type: Musician
Alignment: Lawful Neutral




Nice tutorial. wink.gif
I'm going to be looking at this when designing NPCs from now on. Mine are admittedly a little dry.


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stoney153
post Jul 17 2008, 03:07 PM
Post #11


Stoney
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Type: Designer




WOW...heh I wasnt expecting this much detail to explain townies! great tutorial...Ive always agreed with having interesting and 'Deep' townsfolk...I mean...Wheres the game without all the people who have no idea they are in a game!? tongue.gif

---Once again great tut.


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