A question I wanted to ask to everybody is "When you are designing NPCs for your session/campaign" how detailed do you get?
Do you just design a name, species, and some traits of importance or do you give them a whole entire history like a PC?
I do not write a lot of details on my NPC's, and I tend to give them more traits when describing or playing them, that I can note for later, making nameless or very simple NPC in more detailed characters. For example:
Before play :
The player's contact in Anytown is the tavern keeper.
Added during play :
The player's contact in Anytown is the tavern keeper : Gohbo, tavern keeper of the Famous Groose, bald, snarky, dislikes Elfes for not drinking enough ale.
Before play :
If the player's travel on the highway in a small and seemingly non-dangerous group, they will be ambushed by the rag wearing outlaws ( 5 x good forester, mediocre fighters, reversed qulaities for the leader)
Added after play :
Bolgar one eye, ex-outlaw leader and thug, has a grudge against Thordhil the Dwarf (PC) for killing his fellow hignwaymen and cutting out one of his eyes (mediocre forester, good fighter, one eye only, bad temper and nervous when in dwarven company).
Similar to Andre, I tend to add detail to NPCs during game play as the situations call for.
However, for a major villain, I will actual generate a fair amount of detail before the game - their appearance, motivations, locations, key equipment, relationships to the PCs (if any), their organization, objectives, key associates, what they have for available resources (which some times is just a note such as $$$$$ to remind me they have LOTS of money) and, of course, weaknesses. I believe the old saying that heroes are only as good as their villains. If you want a really good adventure, you have to have a really good villain that the players (even more than their characters) develop a burning desire to see brought to "justice". Which also means they need to be believable within the context of the setting of the adventure.
And, of course, I take great delight when the PCs finally achieve their hard fought victory over the villain, in revealing that they really were only working for somebody else... Mwahahhahhahha!
I give NPCs a basic description (using fudge adjectives where relevant). I think the real challenge is making NPCs as real as possible and not mere plot devices. So what motivates these people and marks them as individuals forms an important part of this background.
And before I give the wrong impression, I'm only talking of a sentence or two (maybe a couple of paragraphs for a Big Bad), perhaps using some key words as summaries. Additional titbits are added to the background as games develop. I also try to find a photograph online for each principle NPC; which I find a handy focal point for players?
Incidentally I use software called Scrivener, actually a novel writer's tool, for designing and organising scenarios. It's currently a Mac application, but there's a Windows version on the way (currently in beta).
I wing just about everything, including characters. However I've been doing this for long enough to have lots of mentally stored resources for all this, from various books, prior RPG sessions, etc. so the characters do grow out a fair bit, eventually acquiring significant detailing.
The [-] die.
JonathanS223 wrote:So I take it the more "experienced" the GM is, the less he has to put on paper because he/she has done it so much that it comes naturally? (generally, though not a rule is how I speakish)
In essence yes, though mechanics are less susceptible to this. You will need to prep for D&D 3.5 regardless of how much experience you have, Fudge, the mechanics can be improvised as well so having no prep is fine.
The [-] die.
JonathanS223 wrote:Ah. I see. That makes sense. Thank you for explaining.
The irony of this statement after a Shallow Graves* session is overwhelming. If you are, who I think you are in any case.
*For the uninitiated, it is a deliberately shallow, action packed, far from serious setting.
The [-] die.