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> Noobies Guide to NPC's, Help for the helpless
Thanos007
post Jan 13 2004, 03:40 PM
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I decided to start this topic from reading one of the GM help threads. Hopefully this will give people who need it some idea of how to handle various NPC's.

First I've always divided NPC into two groups Goons and Players. Goons are the countless security guards, gangers, canon fodder, that the runners encounter. Players are fully fleshed out NPC that for all intents and purposes could be a PC. You work out his stats et. al. so that it's mostly legale (so as not to have too much of an advantage over the PC). Think about his back ground, motivation, etc.

Goons are easy. You can make a 10 or more in about 5 min, if that long. Give them all the same stats (maybe give the leader a little something more) basically the same equipment and your done. This works for gangers and joe sec guard. For military guys and elite squads you might have two or more that get that little something extra but most should be clone troupers.

Don't for get to figure out all the pools and pre-roll at least three rounds of initiative. Bang! Your done.

One thing that helps is if you have the NPC sheet from 1st edition. I find this invaluable. I have copies but can't post them. How about one of you other Dump Shockers?

Thanos
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MrSandman666
post Jan 13 2004, 04:19 PM
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Disclaimer: this style of NPC-management may be unconventional and unusual. It's a style that I developed for myself because I found it workes for the games I run (story-driven on fairly relaxed on rules and rolls).
I'm not telling anyone that this is the only right way to do it. If something else works for you, great! But please don't flame me for having another oppinion.
That being said, here goes:



Actually, with a bit of practise it's not a problem to improvise goons. Once you've done two or three of the same type you'll have a general idea of what they can or can't do.
And remember: you only need to come up with the needed stats! You don't need a charisma stat or Asian Cooking skill for your rent-a-cop. Get him a SMG skill of - say - 4 or 5 depending on security and profesionality rating, give him a body rating of 3 or 4 and some off-the-shelf armor and gun. That's it. Don't need much more. And if you do, it's just as easy to come up with it on the spot.

I find it much more interesting to mix groups a little, however. Get a base staff (gangers), then get a leader (tougher ganger) and one or two guys who stick out (mage or troll or ganger with rabies or whatnot). It's easy to whip up the base type (the gangers, in this case) you can then deduct the tougher types by modifying the base types. Raise a relevant skill and an attribute by one point, give slightly better equipment.
And get a clear hierachy of the group and general group behaviour. This can easily done by common sense.

Only the most fanatic guys will fight to death. If the leader dies, the pack will slowly start to flee. Not right off but they will notice that their chances to win are decreasing greatly.
If security guards feel outpowered they will retreat and request backup. If you flee, they will come after you and retreat once you start to shoot back. Then they will retreat again and so on.
A wounded fighter will most likely retreat instead of keeping fighting.
And so on and so forth...

And take care to give some personality to every character! Don't stereotype everything and everyone. Of course, you don't need a bio for every ganger your PCs fight but adding a few feature for flavor is always nice. Like one of the gangers has half his face burnt away or a crazy tattoo on his bald head or a twitchy eye or speaks with a french accent or whatever.

This is even more important (and also more difficult) for the PC's contacts. Since these are recurring characters, they should seem alive. Go through the trouble to create a little background for every contact in your game. Where do they come from? Why are they here and doing what they do? Do they have family? Any personal beliefs, religious or political opinions? Any health issues troubling them? Do they like what they are doing and where they are?
This is important to get some dialog going. To make the characters more three-dimensional, if you know what I mean. Believe me, it's well worth the trouble.

The really important NPCs (the ones that really matter for the storyline) don't get any stats from me. I use them as plot devices and usually they don't need stats. I apply my sense for reality and drama to determine the outcome which would be dictated by the dice. I try to avoid railroading my players the best I can but sometimes it would just suck if a bit of bad luck ruins a great story (Main NPC dies in a bar fight, runners don't take the job because the NPC rolled too high on negotiations or whatever...)
Of course you could go through the trouble of making a full fleshed character but I don't find it worthwhile. I rather focus on making him an exciting personality and use him to add fun and exitement to the game. And most of the time they don't need stats either.
The farthest I would go is create some stats for negotiation, charisma and willpower and the like.

Also, I'm not a friend of NPC sheets. Not for goons at least. If I have goons that are created randomly I just put down a name for each ("ganger1, ganger2, leader, mage") write down basic stats somewhere if I can't remember them and then make crosses next to the names for damage. Much less of a hassle, if you ask me. But that's a matter of preference and if you rather work with NPC cross-out sheets that's fine with me.
However, I do find NPC sheets very usefull for Contacts. I haven't yet found a good sheet though. It should contain all attributes plus room for skills, implants and notes. Wouldn't necesarily need a damage monitor or pools nor equipment. Equipment I assign on the fly usually since it is not so unlikely that they got new equipment since the last meet. If they have some characteristic equipment that adds to their personality (that old revolver they always keep at hand or that shagyy old Ford Americar) you can write that down in the notes section.
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Cain
post Jan 13 2004, 04:28 PM
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I do something similar, but I make it even easier.

For the Goons, as you put it, I simply assign them stats of 3 in every attribute. Their skill will range from 1 to 4, depending on how good they're supposed to be. (For simplicity's sake, I tend to default to a 3 as the standard.) The leaders will go up to 4s in most categories. I assign a standard issue set of armor (armored jackets are a fave) and a standard sidearm for all of them, depending on the circumstances.

By doing this, I don't need to actually write out a sheet for each and every one. I just know what's going on, and all I need to track is damage.

For the leaders, and the "players", I'll either just add to these numbers, or I'll do the truly dirty trick of copying a PC's character sheet, then amplifying it.
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Austere Emancipa...
post Jan 13 2004, 04:46 PM
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I give most goons 3 stats of 4 and 3 stats of 3 (in most cases, with secguards and the like, the 4s are the physical stats). Gangers and the like will get 3s in their combat skills, while mid-level secguards get 4s and higher-level secguards get 5s (usually the high skill is a specialization, but that doesn't matter).

I give them a bit more variety with guns, though armor is almost always the same for everyone. Secguards just guarding a place are likely to all have the same guns unless situation calls for it. Gangers will have all kinds of guns -- I just slap them with some handgun, shotgun, SMG or something as they are spotted. I know the stats of most common guns by heart (and there's a lot more in my games than in canon) so this doesn't slow the game down.

All I write down of such groups are gear allocations (e.g. 4 AKs, 4 Rem990s), a few different init-values and sometimes their damage if they don't go out of the fight immediately (either run off or lose consciousness).

Leaders are usually slightly boosted goons, perhaps with slightly different gear (which I can make up as I go along). So far I've written up a total of ... 1 NPC charsheet.
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Thanos007
post Jan 13 2004, 05:38 PM
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Have any of you seen the 1st edition NPC sheet? It has room for 6 NPC. It's little more than condition moniter and stats, with a little box below to recored skills and equipment. It's realy handy. Most of the time I just fill out the 1st box and then write see #1 in the equip box for the rest.


Thanos
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Pthgar
post Jan 13 2004, 06:10 PM
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I made my own in Excel. Looks almost identical.
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Thanos007
post Jan 13 2004, 07:25 PM
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QUOTE
I made my own in Excel. Looks almost identical.


Can you post it some where?


Thanos
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Zazen
post Jan 13 2004, 07:43 PM
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I'd like to see it too.

I recently made a sheet for keeping track of essential player info in a space-friendly way (without actually laying 6-12 sheets of paper in front of me). I think it'd make a fine NPC sheet, though. I made it just for my own purposes so it's probably not for everyone.

I'm setting up an angelfire page right now so I can put it up.
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Zazen
post Jan 13 2004, 09:11 PM
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I put a few things from my miscellaneous GM crap directory onto this site: http://www.angelfire.com/jazz/srsheets

The password for maintenance of the site is dumpshock. Anyone who wants to add their own sheets can do so. This means you, Pthgar ;)
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BullBear
post Jan 13 2004, 10:09 PM
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Hey fellas!
Coming back to the Shadowrun world after a 10 year hiatus.

I'll be starting a SR campaign soon, and have found this and the help for GMs thread very helpful. Reading over the SR rulebook, I've scratched my head about npc, encounters, etc. as well. I do have an idea that I want to run by ya'll to see if it would work in SR.

I used to play a game called Feng Shui, and it had a great system for fast combat against mooks (what someone earlier called goons). Basically, if you rolled 5 over what you needed to hit, the mook was taken out (KO, killed, whatever the PC preferred). 'Named' NPC (Bosses, gang leaders, etc.) had actual stats to keep track of. Anyway, this was amazingly simple for creating and keeping track of large numbers of nameless thugs. You either took one out or you didn't based on the to-hit roll. So, I ask, how could something like this work in SR?

Also, I see there's an adventure called 'First Run'. Seeing as the sourcebooks don't contain anything to start off with, would this be a good purchase or is there one better? Not to play out a complete bought campaign, but to get our feet wet so I can take it from there.
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Fortune
post Jan 13 2004, 11:07 PM
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First Run is pretty good for getting new characters (and GMs) familiar with the rules and mechanics of SR3. Some people don't particularly like certain aspects of it, but as a GM you can alter whatever you dislike.

As far as NPCs are concerned, I use the SR2 Threat Ratings for Mooks instead of worrying about any appropriate Pools. These can easily be adjusted either way on the fly, and add no time to the generation process, which is almost always a quick and dirty 'whatever feels right at the time' system.

Named NPCs, on the other hand, are usually worked out in relative detail, with all associated Pools and Bonuses pre-calculated. I tend to run games 'on-the-fly', so sometimes have to retroactively create important NPCs after a particular session is finished, when somebody new unexpectedly pops up.
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bwdemon
post Jan 14 2004, 01:12 AM
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Learn to love the threat rating. When you're setting up a bunch of NPCs and you need some that are a little (or even moderately) better than the others, give them the same stats and a higher threat rating. Makes the dice part easy so you can spend a little more time filling in a few details on the appearances/goals/whatever of the more important types. You can use pools if you want for NPCs, but it'll only slow things down. Only the most important NPCs need the same level of detail and management as a standard PC and, even then, a threat rating may be the better choice.
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toturi
post Jan 14 2004, 02:40 AM
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For more realistic results, I do not usually increase the stats of the usual NPCs, the common people are not suddenly going to pack cyber and have higher stats just because your PCs got better. Indeed, I do not throw AP rounds at the PCs unless it is known that the PCs are going to be packing them or that the guards are going to face the PCs.

I usually throw more of the usual at the PCs if and only if the PCs have demonstrated their obvious superiority, so if the PCs simply hide and do nothing (and remain undetected) when the human Sec Guards arrive, the Sec Commander is just going to assume it to be just a false alarm. Which encourages my PCs to use Stealth, not force.

Only Named/Special NPCs get to increase their stats, and that is only for special circumstances. If they don't get killed and managed to salvage some measure of success from the PCs run or if they managed to hit an alternative site, etc, then they "level up". This is done after the players have gone home, so it doesn't cut into game play.
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Glyph
post Jan 14 2004, 03:32 AM
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Bullbear: I wouldn't really recommend such a system for Shadowrun. Part of the premise of the game is that lowly thugs can be deadly. Normal goons in armored jackets with SMGs can ruin you day, even if their stats and skill are only around 4 or so.
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Sahandrian
post Jan 14 2004, 05:54 AM
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I avoid making sheets in MS Word / Works / Wordpad. I don't have anything against those programs, it's just too easy for the formatting to get messed up when someone with different settings looks at them.

I'll try and rebuild my normal character sheets into quick NPC sheets. I probably won't use them because most NPCs in my games are major enough to get a full sheet (many of them, I like making characters and writing background) or have generic stats. Gangs are almost always done with the Gatorboy gang generator.
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Austere Emancipa...
post Jan 14 2004, 06:22 AM
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QUOTE (toturi)
I do not throw AP rounds at the PCs unless it is known that the PCs are going to be packing them or that the guards are going to face the PCs.

I'm completely with you on the rest of the message (not making usual NPCs tougher just because the PCs get tougher) but I do throw AP rounds at the PCs if the secguards might reasonably have them. On a corp compound far from any urban areas, the security forces might well use AP ammunition. I always double-check myself, however, just so I don't give the opposition more toys because of what the PCs are like, but because of what the NPCs should be like.
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toturi
post Jan 14 2004, 06:32 AM
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QUOTE (Austere Emancipator)
I'm completely with you on the rest of the message (not making usual NPCs tougher just because the PCs get tougher) but I do throw AP rounds at the PCs if the secguards might reasonably have them. On a corp compound far from any urban areas, the security forces might well use AP ammunition. I always double-check myself, however, just so I don't give the opposition more toys because of what the PCs are like, but because of what the NPCs should be like.

What I meant was that unless the sec guards had good reasons to use AP, I wouldn't give them AP ammo. Most probably, I might arm them with AP only during the second engagement if they are packing visible(detectable) armour or AV weapons/ammo if the PC rigger is using drones. Otherwise, if there is no better reason than the PCs are packing AP/AV, I wouldn't use those type of ammo.
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Solstice
post Jan 14 2004, 06:33 AM
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I have the NPC sheet, i just don't know where i got it. I think it was at rpgsheets.com or something. If you google enough u can find a pdf with about 30 different sheets in there. They are all really usefull.
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Austere Emancipa...
post Jan 14 2004, 07:09 AM
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Okay, I though that might have been what you meant. It just looked a bit PC-centric the way it was written.
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Sahandrian
post Jan 14 2004, 07:19 AM
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My quick NPC sheet

I based it on the character sheets most of my players use. I wish I had a way to fit three sheets on one page without decreasing the font size and still fit everything I use in, but I couldn't pull it off.

It uses the decker front if you hapen to have it, otherwise it defaults to Century Gothic, which I think looks pretty similar anyway.
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Fortune
post Jan 14 2004, 07:22 AM
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QUOTE (Sahandrian)
I based it on the character sheets most of my players use.

I want to see the ones your players use. :)
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Sahandrian
post Jan 14 2004, 07:28 AM
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The Decker
The Face (my character, Phaeton runs a game I'll be playing him in)
The Assassin
The Cat Shaman
The Sociopath

Don't mind the high background skills. Those are in due to a misunderstanding of the "Background at Active minus 3" optional rule, which I haven't bothered to clean up.
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Fortune
post Jan 14 2004, 08:11 AM
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Cool, thanks. :)
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