Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Evil Machinations of the Local Baron

I've been thinking a lot lately about what makes a character tick. Oddly enough, a great source of inspiration for this musing has come from the fact that one of my favorite guilty pleasures, Deadliest Warrior, is now on Netflix Instant Watch, and I've been watching the hell out of that bloody mess of machismo, pseudo science, and anachronistic bullshit of a TV show. I like the weapons, so sue me. Anyway, I began thinking about just how ridiculous the show is when they do their final battle. You see, they basically rate the common weapons used by each type of warrior against the other warrior's weapons. I do think it's possible to say, quantitatively, that one type of sword is generally better than another, but the thing that the show really misses is that it's actually really, really hard to do so without context. The reason these weapons are known today is that they were the best weapons for the people for the place and time they lived in.

So all of that hot air brings about today's topic. As a player, I'm responsible for fleshing out my character to give my GM and fellow players something interesting to work with. If you've seen my posts from the past two weeks talking about the Three Questions, you'll know what I mean, but to sum it up quickly - I need to know what my character wants, why my character wants it, and what my character is willing to do to get it. These three things about my character will give me enough information to react to any situation that could pop up and make life difficult for him (or her, but almost always him). The answers, in a way, are a shortcut to a lot of other useful information that I am than able to make up on the fly. This allows me to develop my character through play while still have a rock-solid foundation to fall back on for the sake of consistency.

But what about the GM? What about an NPC that you may only meet twice ever? We want our NPC's and supporting cast to be colorful and memorable, rigth? How do we make this happen? Since we're talking about a lord/mayor/baron whatever of a small area, I think the easiest way to make a character like this stick out is to make sure you have a clear understanding of how the town is affected by his leadership. You may only see the character once or twice (or maybe even never in some cases), but the thing that's really going to stand out about your Baron is the people who suffer or succeed around him. Yes, like any NPC, the Baron will benefit from having the Three Questions answered for him, but like I said, the three questions are really best used for laying the ground work and developing a character over time.

Look at the scenery of the town. Are the hedges kept short or let loose without much care for how they make the rest of the town look. Is the public hearing hall in good shape, or are the planks and ceiling rotten and falling apart? When you ask the grounds keeper about how long the lawns take to groom into such beautiful arrangements, how does he react? Does he beam at his work, knowing he's done his lord proud and in turn feels pride for having done a good job, or does he flinch and mumbles about the one imperceptible error he made last week while he rubs the large goose egg on the back of his head? These things leave impressions on players and in turn work all the time to build up the Baron in whatever way you hope to do so. This how you build a context for an NPC without having to actually spend a lot of time with the guy. It's probably for the best anyway - guy's kind of a douche bag.


  1. Just to address your opening tangent, weapons. I had the pleasure of being part of a European martial arts group. Re-enactment was part of the group's focus, but most of all, it was about training with sword, axe, spear, and shield. This gave me a completely new way of looking at weapons and combat in rpg's.

    So, to stear this back on topic, I'd say that which weapon a PC or an NPC has can also tell you a lot about that character, or even a group of characters. A band of warriors with spears, shortswords and shields will most likely be skilled in warfare, a lone fighter with a flail will probably fancy himself quite dangerous, etc.

    While I try to answer a lot of the questions you put forth, I also try to arm my NPC's in a manner that fits the character, rather than what does the most damage.

  2. Totally agree with you, and thanks for the insightful comment! Check out my Bann's Soldier NPC as I think we think about NPC's in a very similar way:

    That Soldiers are all equipped with a spear and shield because they're trained to fight in a formation. They're very classically Roman as well given their short sword and ability to quickly draw a weapon as basically part of the action they use it for. All of this together speaks to a group of men who have trained endlessly specifically with the weapons they carry, and, as in the story of Beast of Brisborough, although they are all armored differently, it's easy to see who belongs in the group as a result of the way they carry themselves in combat.


Noble Knight Games

Wanna support The Hopeless Gamer? Shop at Noble Knight Games via the banner below!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...