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 IdeasRandom 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