Thursday, September 30, 2010

The 5 Minute NPC

An extremely late September blog, but here it is.

One thing that is pretty darn essential in any game that I run is the ability to write up an emergency NPC in about 5 minutes or less. If my PCs start a fight that I hadn't planned for, or I need to know what a particular NPCs skill chance is, I should be able to come up with that quickly, before play gets too bogged down.

Now, I'm sure that you Palladium GMs have this all figured out. You probably have a huge binder or similar full of NPC stats ready to whip out at a moment's notice. But it took you a long time to build up the material in that binder, didn't it? Whether you rolled up that binder all in one go, or it slowly accumulated as you planned for session after session, or some combination of the two, that's a notable chunk of your life that you'll never get back.

In GURPS, the 5 minute NPC is the order of the day for me. For the average mook, I just assign four stats and a skill level or two, do a little math (these steps are pretty quick for me because of my experience with that system, but they're not killers for the rookie), look up the Strength table to see his damage capability, hit the weapon and armor tables to determine what I want him to wield, and go. Non-combat NPCs are even easier, as I only need the first step.

One of my goals with BTR is to allow for the 5 minute NPC. Getting rid of classes and levels is a good first step, as they create extra layers and steps that makes things take longer. And most NPCs do not need to be built using the same rules as PCs. The same mechanics, yes, but not the same rules. Basic mooks might only have stats and a couple of skills with the success chances they need to threaten the PCs, but not much more than that. A notable fight might include an NPC with a milestone or two. Master villains will most closely resemble PCs, but only because they deserve the most detail. Even then, they will not typically be built using point, skill picks, or dice rolls, but based on the needs of the campaign.