A quote from F/X: the Series brought up an interesting point about movies. “What drives every horror story? The monster. And what drives the monster? Think about it, Frankenstein, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, even Victor Fries(Mr. Freeze). They all longed for a girl. At the core of perhaps every great horror story is a love story gone tragically wrong.” Another quote goes along with that to help with the idea of antagonists, “You don’t really understand an antagonist until you understand why he’s a protagonist in his own version of the world.” And if you think about it, when you look at it that way it can help make some unique villains. For example, Darth Vader, Keyser Soze, even SHODAN from System Shock series (for a great review of what makes Shodan so spectacular an NPC/Villain, especially in how System Shock 2 was done, check out this article) We all love the unique villains and there’s examples all over the place, even previous in this blog on creating villains.
But what about NPCs in general? How can we come up with some fleshed out characters that are more than a simple quirk or two and a few basic stats that will usually do no more than play a bit part from time to time? There are a lot of different options, and pretty much anyone has their own approach. You could read a dozen writing books and get a dozen different approaches. You just need to find what works, but I want to give a few different options.
Before we get started, I have joined the world of Twitter finally, and can be found @drraagh for those looking for me.
I was recently exposed to Pixel2Paper and their stuff is pretty interesting to examine and I may even make reference to it more in other material, but right now I am interested in their June 18th discussion on Combat/Story. They use the examples of Destiny and Farcry 4 to show how, since roleplaying games are primarily a conflict media, the story in the games do not need to suffer because of the desire to have combat in the games. They then use these as examples as to how you can incorporate it into your tabletop.
My stance on this issue is the fact that games are about conflict and conflict does not have to equal combat. So many games use combat as the main conflict in the game because fighting someone is a universal experience to do, everyone knows how to fight and in most RPGS has at least some capability to do it. So Pixel2Paper was right with the fact that you want to have conflict and story together, but there are options besides having direct combat.
When you look at superheros, you have groups like X-Men, Avengers, Justice League, the Maggia, the Brotherhood, AIM. Plus you have Wayne Industries, Queen Consolidated, Roxxon Oil, Stark Industries… Two different types of organizations that are important to the settings of the story and constantly don’t get the amount of attention they deserve. I aim to change how people look at organization design for games to see if they might find something that works for them.
Let me start with some good gaming examples. Old World Of Darkness has Pentex, which was basically an evil version of ACME: A Company Makes Everything. Using their vertical integration, as well as powerful magical NPCs, their goal was corruption and destruction, and was fully integrated to mass produce it. For example, they had companies that would use the most aggressive means to collect resources like strip mining the land, then send these off to processing plants that would use the worst means to manufacture and produce the most pollution, which would them be sold at their stores which would rake the prices and use mind control techniques in advertising shown on their televisions and their newspapers and magazines to make people buy things which would weaken their wills to make them even more subserviant. Think the way the citizens were in The Lego Movie, blindly following directions.