Monday, June 17, 2019

To-Do Lists, Making Friends and Influencing People, and Ruling the World

  One thing that I can struggle with is making sure NPCs stay dynamic. They aren't just animatronic puppets that sit in their castles, inns, and lairs waiting for the PCs to do something.

  I mean, that is a TON easier - everything remains in a stasis-like status quo until the characters get to it = no work for Rick so that is OBVIOUSLY the best, right?

Unfortunately, this makes the game(from OD&D to Champions to any other RPG) predictable and booooooorriiiiiiiiiiing. So how do I solve it?

  To-do lists for NPCs. 

  No, really. 

  I quantify and list their goals, limits, etc. As needed I use the NPC personality traits table from the DMG to keep me from being bland.
  I start with who they are, their basic personality, and their goals. Then I list what they plan to do to get it with a timeline.

  Here is an example from Seaward; Morgorth, head of the Lava Cult.
  Background: the younger son of a minor merchant. While not dim he isn't as smart as he thinks he is. 
  Personality: Motivated by money, power, and envy of others. Wants the cult to be large enough that he can kills his enemies and make him rich. A true believer he also knows that the burning of non-believers pleases his evil master (and he likes it, too).
  Goals: Main - Protect himself; Then - Get rich; Then - Grow the cult in size; Then - Kill his enemies.
  Positives: Brave, ruthless
  Negatives: Greedy, envious

  Protect himself - He carefully shields his identity behind the robes and mask of the cult when meeting with cultists except for the 2 people he thinks he can trust (his greedy, vain wife and his dim, loyal manservant/guard). He knows he can always start again if he lives so has at least three escape plans for every meeting, home, etc.
  Ongoing - he is going to have his home modified with secret passages and escapes. Timeline - 2 years
  Ongoing - he is turning an abandoned mill into a cult meeting place with no connection to his front as a merchant. It will take 4-5 years because of the many secret passages, hidden rooms, etc.
  Future - he is vry focused on gaining magic items like Ring of Invisibility, Carpet of Flying, etc.

  Get Rich: Every cult member owes him "dues". He has hidden caches of gold in three locations. The cult is expected to take all the money and valuables from their victims and pass along most of it to 'the cult'. 
  Ongoing - his 'secret identity' (he poses as a successful merchant) consumes a lot of money and his many building projects are expensive, so he is chronically short of money. He is directing the cult to perform robberies, burglaries, and muggings as part of 'getting sacrificial victims'. Currently he is just barely keeping his house in order.
  Ongoing - he hates bribing officials so he is trying to get 'leverage' on important people via blackmail, extortion, threats, etc.
  Future - within a year he will start kidnappings to raise money and place powerful people under his influence.
  Future - he is trying to find a brigand group willing to work with him, attacking rival merchants while also funneling him a percentage. This could take time.

  Grow the Cult in Size: His cultists are constantly looking for the outsider, the downtrodden, the mean, the evil, and the insane. They really like bandits, criminals, madmen, and the like. But they must have routine sacrifices to their evil master and adding new cultists requires a living human sacrifice.
  Ongoing - cult members lurk in the worst taverns, in the slums, and around gaols. They also sometimes save prisoners from gaol wagons or even the gibbet. They seek out madmen and insane hermits and whisper dark secrets to them.
  Ongoing - the sorts of people who are good cultists are the opposite of good sacrifices. Cultists also work in high-end taverns (looking for a drunk noble), near churches (for a lone worshipper), orphanages (for children of virtue with no parents), etc. 
  Future - Offering the possible base as a refuge for the worst criminals will probably encourage recruitment. An alliance with brigands could lead to the brigands joining the cult
  Future - Once the cult is powerful enough and has brigand allies and a base they true goal is to attack an entire small village - many sacrifices, a few new cultists, and loot. And the fear it will spread! Cowing leaders will be easier, he could even extort whole villages for 'protection'.

  Kill his enemies: Morgorth's enemies fall into three broad groups: people who are richer or better looking; people who have bested, thwarted, insulted, or ignored him, and; people of good virtue.
  Ongoing - the most successful merchants, the best-looking people, and people above him in station tend to have accidents befall their warehouses and wagon, fields, and servants.
  Future - start placing cultists among the servants of merchant and noble houses once the cult is about twice its current size
  Future - once the brigands are in the cult begin a campaign of reduction and terror against the rural barons who snub him.

  This is obvious barebones, but the overview allows me to keep tabs on what the lava cult is doing while the adventurers are, oh, mapping the Briars.

  I sometimes include what I call decision points. Here is an example for Morgorth-

  -the robberies and such of the cult this month were not enough to cover his expenses:
      1. Have the cultists stage a full raid on a rival's warehouse and pin it on the thieves (60%)
      2. Start a kidnapping now, not later (30%)
      3. His wife (who spends a LOT of money) 'dies' and he sells off her jewelry secretly (10%)



  1. How deep of a bench does this involve?

  2. It looks great, but it seems to be a lot of work to do that with every single NPC, specially since the potential for the players to never find out or just kill the guy before he gets to do any of that is so higch. How would you deal with that?

  3. Such a great outline for things I should be writing down instead of trying to remember.

    Out of curiosity, how close to real time is your in game time? I've noticed in the past that your summer solstice sessions take place near the summer solstice in real life. Should we be expecting a Skull Mountain garrison update with telescope sightings and cultists arriving?

  4. Well I'll be making use of this system.