A post by the small stabby GM, aka Berra. In which she talks about how she builds NPCs.
I have never played Final Fantasy. An odd thing to say, given that this is a RuneQuest blog, but it’s important. You see, I watched it a LOT. I had a friend1Surprising people who know me, there. Yes, I have friends. I have not even stabbed this one. Except about one time. who played Final Fantasy VII, and I’d sit on his sofa, eating his food, watching him, and stealing the love of his pets. I got to know one particular mechanic very well indeed.
Materia. In FFVII, Weapons and armour work by plugging in power-ups. You have sockets on your gear, and you can find different materia to plug in. Some sockets can take any ‘colour’, some can only take one. Swords are good at having hurty magic. Armour often takes healy magic. And, the important bit, the better the gear, the more materia sockets it has.
I give NPCs a number of sockets for loves, hates, and fears. The things that motivate them, but do not always come to the surface. (Often I give them the thing they fear most in the world, but not for RuneQuest.) These are modelled for us already in RuneQuest. They have passions and Runes. But they don’t need to have all of them written out. They just need the important ones. Sometimes, this is no passions, because the PC sheet is more important. That works too. Most of my NPCs who have any passions have only one or two defined.
The idea of sockets limits the amount of work you have to do, while keeping people ‘real’. You are defining the parts where the NPC may have an interaction with the PCs. Nobody will know that nothing else is defined2Well, they probably will. GMs do this all the time. But they won’t mind.. However, it’s easy to add Love (Spouse) and Hate (That tribe over there) at very short notice, if the PCs begin to get interested in their new friend. You can add Air to define how they are proud and violent, or Darkness to make them cold and patient. You only find those things out when you have been around someone for a while, anyhow. The number of sockets on a person can be defined by looking at how interesting they are to the PCs, and can be added to at any time.
I tend to do it all at very short notice. I’ll often have a name list by my side, and when PCs interact with a person, I decide if I need to use the PC sheet (Social skills that they roll) or the NPC sheet (RP that gets around the passions, or aligns with them). If I want something to be smooth, it will happen. If I want a quick resolution to something, the PCs roll on their sheet. If I want a slow resolution, then the NPC is expanded and roleplay happens more. Keeping track of the passions and Runes lets me know how important that person is.
The materia model is not one I use for everyone, but ‘one passion NPC’ is a good model for putting an easily played-around problem in the way, depending on the timing that the GM wants. Ultimately, this is a tool for constructing NPCs that act like they are real people, without having to roll them up all at once. Just add passions and Runes as needed. It does not need the socket/materia model, but that’s where I got it from, so that’s how I’m explaining it. I do not use it strictly, but it is part of my underlying model for creating NPCs who seem real, with minimal work.