Monday, March 5, 2012

NPCs as Locks

I posted twice about trying to make rules that actually encourage more interaction with NPCs here and here.  I've used the card system outlined in those posts to generate backgrounds for some of my NPCs but never did much more with those ideas.  Here's an idea for a simpler if more mechanistic method:

NPCs are Locks
Some set of topics will "open" them.  Opening them will mean different things depending on who they are.  A merchant could give a discount or offer black market goods.  A guard allows entry into restricted areas or gives gossip on crime in the area.  You get the idea. 

I would keep the "keys" to three topics or less and record them along with what it unlocks in your DM notes.  Something like:

Prophet of the Pot - ask about his health, ask about his sons = reveals location of a new temple risen from the sea.

You could check off each "tumbler" in your notes after players have engaged the topic.  If it's been a really long time you might decide they have to start over and ask again about his sons, which makes sense if weeks and weeks have passed.

A great DM could probably do this in their head, but I'm interested in anything that can make my life as DM simpler.  And if you keep in mind that you might have to talk to other NPCs to even know what the Prophet of the Pot cares about, this could give a reason for your players to interact with the folks milling about your imaginary cities.


  1. I envisioned something along the lines of what I had read somewhere, when I saw this. It was a lock mechanic with d4s as I recall. Wonder if that could be incorporated?

    Will have to look up my lost reference when I get home...

    Thanks for sharing a great idea!


  2. Thanks. You wouldn't be thinking of this:

    would you?

    And, I don't know why I didn't think of that, yeah you could do the same thing-- replace the lock verbs with conversation verbs like: compliment, divulge, question, and joke, or whatever. Not sure I like the idea of having to do them in order, though. It doesn't seem quite right that you could "fail" at a conversation, then try again with jokes and compliments in a different order.

    But if you had enough time you could map out a whole tree of topics and conversational maneuvers that would "unlock" various things "Aha, finally got her talking about her childhood, now we'll get a tip on the Rod of Seven Parts."

  3. She might remember it more of a rod of 4 parts. Just sayin...

  4. Telecanter, that is indeed the link. I always meant to bookmark it, so thanks for running it down for me. It retrospect, it might be cool to try it out, but I don't know how well it would work in the long run.

    It was the first thing that popped into my head when I read your OP, but I think the cause of that was because I have been playing a ton of console games lately; Dragon Age, Dragon Age II, etc.

    You know, some NPC respond to Praise, then Flirt, then blah blah. I can see having some notes on what 'turns the NPC's crank', but a mechanic? I will have to ponder that for a bit. I still love the idea and glad you brought it up, just not sure, for me, how to implement it...


  5. Neat. Kind of like how Old Ultimate games worked. I dig it.