Friday, July 17, 2015

So what do your NPCs know?

“In encouraging players to expand their methods of tackling an adventure a DM has to invest more in the details of the campaign, players aren't going to root about for more if there isn't "more" to be discovered. One means players can expand the power and have richer play is finding out what monsters know about the dungeon/adventure area. What do the monsters know?”
JDJarvis of Aeons& Augauries asks that question and then provides two things that I think are very useful. One is a series of lists of random bits of knowledge organized by Faction, Location, or other Knowledge Areas. (JDJarvis uses Dungeon Level Layout, but since I am not running a dungeon I prefer to use the more generically useful Location.) The lists are nice as a way of quickly generating random facts that an NPC might know. They are also nice in that they force the GM to think about what a particular faction knows and what is known about that faction along with what is interesting or known about a given location. The list provides an additional source for useful information for the players as well as another way to seed the campaign with rumors and plot hooks. It’s a good idea that keys off of the usual sorts of lists that many DMs and GMs use to add variety to their game. What I think is particularly clever is the way he quickly denotes what a given NPC knows.
JDJarvis uses the following example: “Orc Mercenaries:  Crimson Tide Faction Plans-2, Level Layout (level 1-3)-2, Crimson Tide Membership-2.” This indicates that an Orc Mercenary know 2 randomly rolled facts from each of the three tables listed. The GM could roll twice and decide that all the Mercs know the same 2 facts, could roll separately for each Merc, or could pick 2 facts from the list. I’d tend to go with something a bit between the first and second choice and would add in another set of roll for each doubling of the number of Mercs; so one Merc rolls 2 times, two roll 2+1 times, four roll 2+1+1 times, eight roll 2+1+1+1 times, etc. (If you like math, the formula is for 2^n opponents with Knowledge-m roll m+n times.) If you don’t like math, just make something up for how many rolls to make.

The GM can easily list NPCs with greater or lesser amounts of knowledge, so an NPC with Crimson Tide Faction Plans-1, Dungeon (level 1-3)-2 would indicate that the NPC knows one random fact about Crimson Tide Faction Plans and two random facts about Dungeon levels 1-3; while an NPC with Dungeon (level-3)-4 would very knowledgeable knowing four random facts about Dungeon level 3.
He then provides a couple of 1d10 fact lists or as he calls them, Knowledge Pools. Deciding on the types of knowledge pools and populating them is the heavy lifting for the GM. But you only needs a few small tables to start. You can gradually extend the length of the fact list (depth of the Pool) or the breadth of the knowledge by create new Knowledge Areas or Pools.
I’ll be adding this to my Honor+Intrigue campaign. I have a lot of factions, so I expect this will always be a work in progress. Some areas that I want to fill first are Faction Knowledge for the four parties and their purported leaders or figureheads I mentioned in this post:
  • Dévots (Catholic Church),
  • Bon Français (King),
  • Ultramontanists (Pope),
  • Gallicans (Cardinal),
  • noblesse de robe,
  • noblesse d'epee,
  • Prince de Condé’s Faction.
Later I’ll want to add in more factions:
  • Queen,
  • Queen Mother,
  • Jesuits,
  • Oratorians,
  • Huguenots,
  • King's Musketeers,
  • Several secret organizations.
But I expect all this will take a while to implement and will proceed in parallel with creating a network diagram for the factions and revising and extending the membership lists. A GM’s work is never done.

For more on French politics Go To Political Alignments

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