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> How sympathetic are you to your NPC's?
emo samurai
post May 10 2006, 03:00 PM
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The discussion about Humanis being punching bags/having a reasonable amount of bitterness convinced me to do this. What do you do to make your NPC's, villains even, sympathetic, and where do you draw the line? Mob bosses? Insect shamans? Senor Oscuro?
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eralston
post May 10 2006, 05:49 PM
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Bug Shamans, Corrupted-types, Blood Shamans...basically any really demented is completely unsympathetic because their is no way of "saving" the good man inside them.

The only real exception to that would be that ghouls can be fairly tragic in their portrayal.

Anyone who's just a meta standing in the team's way I generally just present as "same as you, but with a different agenda". The team usually kills them, but not before pointing out that they would have done the same.
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SL James
post May 10 2006, 05:54 PM
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“When you write about somebody you hate, write about them with love..."
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emo samurai
post May 10 2006, 06:01 PM
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What if it's a blood mage?
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eralston
post May 10 2006, 06:02 PM
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I think the heart of that statement would be just to keep them from monolithic evil. I would say that on a continuum, someone has to be monolithic evil...blood mages do that for me
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emo samurai
post May 10 2006, 06:04 PM
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Any really monolithic evils will be rare in my game. Most of the evils they encounter are just really twisted people.
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stevebugge
post May 10 2006, 06:05 PM
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In order to be sympathetic an NPC has to be somewhat familiar so there are a lot of unsympathetic characters but they fall in to two very broad categories. First are grunts who you never get to know, they just sort of exist. Second are the completely twisted, inhuman type of enemy like Insect Shamans, AI's, Blood Mages, and even just some really nasty people. In between are contacts, rivals, and some of the more normal opposition. These people have the usual range of traits that can make people either like or dislike them, but they are still working towards different goals then the characters most of the time. Steve Morris from Brainscan is a great NPC to use for a sympathetic bad guy.
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nezumi
post May 10 2006, 06:06 PM
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Good topic, emo (although that might be because I inspired it ;P )

I try very hard to sympathise, understand, even love any NPC the PCs are likely to have any amount of serious interactions with (time allowing) excepting those that lack a rational mind (such as animals, debatably insect spirits and horrors). I definitely try to understand any character that does 'evil' but is not mentally deranged, because most people don't do evil just for kicks. Members of DSF seem to be a regular exception to that, however.
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emo samurai
post May 10 2006, 06:10 PM
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What about the (FanGirl don't read)
[ Spoiler ]

He seems to be very much an exception to your rule. I think you're supposed to just kill that guy.
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SL James
post May 10 2006, 06:20 PM
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QUOTE (emo samurai)
What if it's a blood mage?

Did I say anything about, "Well, except for blood mages?"
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stevebugge
post May 10 2006, 06:28 PM
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QUOTE (emo samurai)
What about the (FanGirl don't read)
[ Spoiler ]

He seems to be very much an exception to your rule. I think you're supposed to just kill that guy.

There could be reasons to be sympathetic to that guy. Think about Tybalt and Mercutio (minor characters from Romeo & Juliet) and see if you can't work that angle a bit.
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emo samurai
post May 10 2006, 06:30 PM
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Dude, he's not Tybalt-esque. He just wants revenge because he was told off at a party while he was drunk and stupid. His problem isn't that he's minor, his problem is that he's stupid and drunk, both on alcohol and his own power. You can't feel bad for that kind of guy. You can find him on my campaign thread on, like, the fifth page or something.
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stevebugge
post May 10 2006, 06:45 PM
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No that would be more like Mercutio, Tybalt was more the bully. But drunken, self important, flamboyant individuals are not automatically unsymapthetic (unless you are an angsty teenage outcast at an upscale Colorado highschool). The point I was trying to make was that put in context of the Montague-Capulet Fued (an the inherently strange childhood that would entail) personalities like Mercutio and Tybalt make some sense and could be used as templates for a more sympathetic Bad Guy from page 5
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Kremlin KOA
post May 10 2006, 06:51 PM
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I usually keep my NPCs in a box between essionsand beat them repeatedly if they complain
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emo samurai
post May 10 2006, 06:54 PM
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Okay, you don't seem to know the backstory for the guy. I'll tell you here.
[ Spoiler ]

So yeah, that's why he's unsympathetic.
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Laser
post May 10 2006, 07:28 PM
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Yeah, power-abusive executives get all the sympathy that the business end of an Ares Viper can deliver :D
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nezumi
post May 10 2006, 08:03 PM
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Yes, I would sympathise with him. Basically, unless you can sympathise with him, he's not a real character!!! He's a fake, cardboard tree. Now if you like stuffed dummies meant to be punched in the face in your game, fine, but I'd be hesitant to call it a character (well, a personality).

In this case, it sounds like you've intentionally made the character a bit unbelievable with the intention of making a punching bag. That's not making a personality, it's making a punching bag and it's about as realistic as an action movie (again, if that's what you want, go for it). I *COULD* believe a situation like that can come up, but I just don't think that's what you were actually going for.

But we'll work with what we're given, so let's stop and look at it for a moment.

You are an honored Japanese businessman. You are aware that much of your power is based on perceptions, on keeping face, on following the rules of etiquette and rank and order. While at a party hosted by your company, while sharing drinks with your superiors and inferiors (mostly the latter), you find a lovely young inferior of yours, a secretary, who you express interest in. She seems shy, which is cute, but ultimately you think she's really interested in you.

Then some bungling, ugly, smelly Renraku guard, almost an eta, certainly of low birth even though he fancies himself a samurai as he proudly proclaims it on his uniform, comes and dares reproach YOU, his superior and host. What an insult! What a slap to the face! You disregard his advances, hoping that those watching will realize he is in the wrong. Anyway, what business is it of his? If this girl wasn't interested, she would have walked away a while ago. And what does the foolish man do? He dares to THREATEN YOUR LIFE!!! He dares to lay a hand on you! To shame you in front of your friends, your superiors, your potential business partners. These are men you've been working almost your entire life to impress, and this foolish man tries to make you look a fool because he wants your girl!

Worse still, this isn't just a slap between two men. If he were a Mitsuhama employee, he would be thrown on his rear end promptly the next morning. But this is a sign that the foolish Renraku either lack the discretion to send properly mannered people to your party, or dare to consider even their lowest of front door guards greater than your company's greatest managers. This is truly a disdainful moment.

Of course, you're not about to come to arms in the middle of a cocktail party, and even though true samurai blood runs through your veins (and you have the family tree to prove it), you did not think to bring a katana to this particular social engagement. However the man will learn soon enough that you do not insult your betters, and everyone else at the party knows this as well. Because this is an insult from one corporation against another, there is only one way to solve it, and no business may continue until it is properly put to rest. Renraku must do justice to its own and provide the appropriate apology for the man's terrible manners. To do otherwise would disgrace both parties.

And so the deal is sealed. Your red samurai would do well to learn the meaning of 'insolence'.
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Voran
post May 10 2006, 08:32 PM
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I think that if you want to make a NPC sympathetic, you need to introduce him as a personality first, and keep his 'class' nebulous until the PCs start to know/like him. If I know someone is a "Renraku Corp Exec" or an "Ares Anti-Runner Specialist" before I know they're that pleasant dude I see in the pub where we chat about sports on fridays, it'll color my view on him. Same with Humanis, or whatever. If I know you're a humanis klanner before I know you as a person, I'm probably going to shoot you in the face before I get to know you.

If I get to know you first, then find out later you're a humanis klanner, I...well, I might still shoot you in the face, but I might be sad, there could be tears.
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hyzmarca
post May 10 2006, 09:05 PM
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RPG characters are very much like television, literature, and movie characters. They can easily be divided into three catagories.
Red Shirts, the cardboard cutouts that you never get to know. They rarely have lines and if they do they are going to die soon. Usually, they are just window dressing. They are the crowd in the mall, the people on the streets, the wageslaves, and the two-bit rent-a-cops.
Supporting characters provide support for the -tagonists. They have personalities and motives though they may not be fully fleshed out. These characters can easily be highly sterotypical and surprisingly unique.
The -tagonists are the ones that drive the story, they are the PCs and their real enemies. Generally, an NPC should never be a protagonist. That just detracts from the PCs. Antagonists should be fully-fleshed out three-dimensional characters with subtle and complex motives. It should be rather easy to sympathize with them even if they are heartless bastards.

Are insect Shamans sympathetic? It depends on how you play them. If they are enemy redshirts, obviously not. If they are supporting characters or -tagonists, then certainly. I can understand the mindset and, if it were'nt for Potency, would support allowing PCs to follow hive totems.

Consider what an Insect Shaman is. It is a magician who feels a strong connection to a particular type of insect. This is not much different from a Shaman who follows Dog. The only difference is that the Insect Totems demand more from their loyal Shamans. The Shaman could be driven by greed, by fear, or even by love, to follow his totem's will.

Are Blood Mages sympathetic? Again, not if they are redshirts. But, nothing stops them from being sympathetic if they aren't. All they are is magicians who cut people. There is nothing wrong with that. What one must consider is who they cut and why they cut. Such characters can be very simple or very complex.

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nezumi
post May 10 2006, 09:06 PM
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That's very true, and it's a problem I've been having with contacts chosen at chargen. I don't mind having even brief introductions ("Hi, I work at Mitsuhama in R&D"), but having a job title without even a name sort of removes any modicum of personality.
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Kagetenshi
post May 10 2006, 09:15 PM
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QUOTE (emo samurai)
He just wants revenge because he was told off at a party while he was drunk and stupid. His problem isn't that he's minor, his problem is that he's stupid and drunk, both on alcohol and his own power. You can't feel bad for that kind of guy.

Yes, you can. I would.

My NPCs are people. Well, not all of them—my Stuffer Shack clerks tend to be (but aren't always) cardboard cutouts. Of course, I don't go out of my way to show the sympathetic side of them either—while I've yet to encounter a person for whom I could reasonably say it doesn't exist (I feel bad for Adolph Hitler, for example), that isn't a side of people that is usually available to strangers during casual interaction.

~J
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nezumi
post May 10 2006, 09:44 PM
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I recollect when I was running The Other Game and the group had their first combat encounter. As I gently put aside the sheet of the first downed NPC and said, 'well, there goes Vincent,' the entire group suddenly realized I named my NPCs. I had little histories for them. Families even! All of a sudden the combat got significantly less brutal for some reason.

I was very pleased with myself. Your PCs should know every person they kill has a family. The family might not be in touch with them, but that doesn't mean they don't exist. How your PCs deal with the fact that they are killing fathers, mothers, brothers, wives, well that's their problem. But they should realize that's the case. When they loot bodies they find more family photos, notes to pick up laundry, phone numbers, drivers licenses ten years out of date, marriage rings. etc than they find spare magazines.
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Voran
post May 10 2006, 10:45 PM
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That's a good idea as well. Granted, it only really works for players that aren't souless, which can be pretty rare in games :) Some comp games do that, via 'voicemail' or email messages you find on terminals while you wind your way through in an FPS, so when you finally run into the guy/gal who left the messages and find they've been eviscerated, you feel a little sad, as opposed to "WOW LOOKIT THE GIBS!"
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Kanada Ten
post May 10 2006, 11:08 PM
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QUOTE (nezumi)
And so the deal is sealed. Your red samurai would do well to learn the meaning of 'insolence'.

Grade A, material.

I have to agree in spirit, too. As a GM you have to love even the characters you hate. When my players deal with Green Lucifer, I draw on all the qualities I hate about myself - greed, ambition, I have to play the PCs like pawns in a very deadly game, and I have to be motivated by pride (something I often am, but dislike). Lucy isn't unsympathetic in many ways, since he's thumbing his nose at Tir while trapped in their game, but his methods don't include compassion, which makes him hard to like. My players have come to hate him, to have a real feeling about a fictional character (and not in some wrong loss of reality way). Yet, they are sympathetic to Sting, despite her similar methods, because she is besieged on all sides - which is how they often feel...
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Wounded Ronin
post May 10 2006, 11:27 PM
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Well, I just started reading the Harry Potter books, and I just finished number 3. (It's only been 2 days because I read fast.)

I'm finding that I like the "bad guys" more than I like the heroes, so I could argue that the villians being sympathetic is part of an entertaining story.

I like Malfoy better than Potter because I think that Malfoy has a better repetoire of insults. It must be my internet-fu speaking, where I appreciate acrimonious insults and wit. I think you're supposed to dislike Malfoy because he is rich and his family calls in unfair favors but on the other hand Potter basically has Dumbledore sucking his dong. Potter also calls in favors all the time but he just does it in a more subtle way. At least Malfoy is up front about his influence-pulling.

I think that elements like that make a story more mentally engaging. If the "bad guy" is just some guy you're supposed to hate I think your mind can just gloss over that. If the "bad guy" makes better wise cracks than the hero I think that the story does a better job of stimulating your imagination.
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