Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Storyboarding for NPCs

On Free RPG Day this year I ran a scenario for the Star Wars Edge Of The Empire RPG.  I really need a shorthand version of this name!  SWEotE?.

As part of that I developed (and stole in places) a quick and dirty way of developing a storyboard for NPCs and Pre-Gen PCs.  This is something I'd used on and off during the 1st Chapter but I've refined it over time.

It's not hugely detailed but for a "one and done" game like at Free RPG Day or indeed at a Convention the approach gives the characters more flavour.  My approach is to share these with the players rather than the character sheets that sit behind them.  Once all the players have settled on their characters I would then supply the character sheet to complement it.

This storyboard approach gives the players a chance to review the characters without seeing the character sheets enabling them to select the character that appeals to them most rather than necessary the stats that they want.

Now the storyboard itself gives clues as to what the character's stats may be but given that a lot of the content is based on the perception of those around the character and indeed their self-perception it can be misleading.


Storyboard Template / Example

Name - Dreevus Malarn
Age - 46
Occupation - Trader / Sometime Smuggler
1 thing you are really good at - Spotting a good deal.  Dreevus has always been able to made a good and quick return on most deals he makes.
1 thing you are really bad at - Piloting...  As someone who spends the majority of his life out and about on the job, Dreevus has never quite developed the skills to pilot beyond the basics.  To remedy that he has a good pilot as part of his crew.
1 Positive character trait - Positive.  Dreevus rarely lets things get to him and has a very positive outlook on life in general.
1 Negative character trait - Trusting.  Dreevus has a tendency to trust too easily and this has on occassion resulted in him getting in trouble with buyers as the goods haven't always been as advertised.
Things you never leave home without - Datapad.  Dreevus is meticulous at storing all information in such a way that he can get easy access to it.  He also keeps detailed records of all his trades and monitors prices of common and rare goods to ensure he's getting a good return.
What keeps you going - The job.  Dreevus wants to retire in the next 10 years.  To do that he has to pull off enough jobs to make enough money and set up his own trading business.
What keeps you awake at night - Family.  Dreevus was married once but the <insert bad guy here> destroyed his home with no survivors found.  This happened when Dreevus was away on business and is convinced that his family are still alive, somewhere...
How you appear to others - Gentle and fair.  Dreevus is seen as an honest trader who always gives good value for his services.

From the above the player gets a good insight into the character they can play and what motivates them.

This approach is also useful as a GM to flesh out their NPCs in a campaign.  Normally this would only be used for those NPCs who are named and not for every "mook" or "minion" going.  However the same approach can be taken to develop storyboards for groups of NPCs and organisations.