Friday, September 22, 2017

NPC Interaction Bingo

I’ve long been interested in taking existing parlor games and absorbing them into D&D.  The idea is that if the game has existed forever as something people do to have fun. then why not leverage that fun into D&D, instead of always having to come up with mini-games and mechanics from whole cloth.

For example, I have an idea for using Yahtzee for a one-page Thieves' Guild (Hopefully more on that later).  But here is an idea of how to make NPC interactions more interesting for all players, not just those that are the most talkative and confident:
  • Give each player a bingo card with spaces that correspond to things an NPC is likely to do or say in a conversation.
  • Getting a “bingo” would mean that player could either ask a single question that would be answered truthfully, or ask a favor that the NPC will do their best to perform.
The mini-game is meant to portray a character paying close attention to a person speaking and interacting with their comrades, and then leveraging a weakness or some bit of insight they noticed to gain an advantage.  The player can role-play a bit what that looks like “You keep dancing around this, but I get a feeling someone told you not to help us, who was it?”, and the DM can role-play out what the response might look like, “I’m so sorry, Count Ris said he would burn my inn down if he found you had stayed here.”

Player with a high charisma should get a bonus of some sort, maybe a free square of their choice— which would add some strategy— maybe cover a spot less likely to come up in a conversation or put just put it in the middle to make “bingos” easier to get.

So, now I need to come up with the cards.  What should I fill the blanks with?  I was thinking “Mentions a person you haven’t heard of,” “Mentions a place you’ve never been to.”  But what else?

What I’m noticing now is that this would lead to not just passively listening to a NPC talking, but a player trying to maneuver them into doing things that would fill their bingo card.  So, for example, asking them where they grew up in hopes of having them mention a place the players have never been to.  That’s cool, because if the bingo cards are different enough, it should tend to draw all the players into the conversation; each participating to try and hit their different bingo spaces.

Other possible spaces:
offers an excuse
makes a threat
mentions a person they dislike
begs or pleads for something
snitches on someone

How about you, what are typical things that happen in NPC interactions that we could fill the bingo card spaces with?


  1. Well, this could be a way to get players to pay attention, as you mention. However, there are a number of permutations of NPC that it might make sense to limit it to a certain category... a shop-keep might not have the same conversational choices, and thus the bingo card would not work.

    Things that could go on the card: Mentions their religion, mentions your religion, mentions area you know about, mentions monster you have defeated, mentions monster you have fled from...

    Something like this would be helpful I think:

    Also, welcome back! Hope all is well.

  2. Really glad you're back!

    The bingo cards, they would be kept until used right? Through however many conversations? Then you would turn it in and get a new one?

    Okay here.

    NPC says something that is:
    Completely medieval
    Talks about the weather
    Talks about what they like to eat
    Talks about carousing
    Asks about the dungeon you went to
    Asks you for money
    Asks for a favor
    Asks for a date
    Tried to sell you something you didn't come to buy

  3. Good to see your post. I think your use of minI games is inspired. A lot of prep but I bet your players appreciate it.

  4. Cool idea!

    Accidentally reveals a secret of theirs
    Accidentally reveals a secret of someone else
    Reveals a secret they really wanted to tell anyway
    Relates whatever the PCs ask to their favorite trivial topic
    Refers the PCs to someone nearby who will know the answer
    Refers the PCs to someone far away who will know the answer
    Refers the PCs to someone who won't actually turn out to know the answer
    Talks about the weather
    Blames the elves
    Blames magic-users
    Blames clerics of cross-aligned religion
    Blames the local leader
    Blames the king (etc.)
    Observes what day of the week it is and what the next day will be

  5. Hey, thanks so much for the comments.

    @lasgunpacker: Yeah, I was thinking more along the lines of special NPCs, like rescued prisoners, or captured enemies. For most shopkeeps I just have players use a shopping mini-game.

    And that link worked great. I picked Ink Saver, 1 large card, with all the words the same size, and a free space. It is a bit inconvenient because it's trying to make you buy a bunch of prints (I tried saving the sample but it I cant open it), but for my players I only need about 6 unique cards. And, hell, once I have one, I could just use Gimp to manipulate the image to randomize more if I needed.

    @Scott: one of yours that sticks out is the anachronism, I like the idea of catching the DM in goofs, like how my accents always seem to turn into a bad imitation of Irish.

    @Darnizhaan: Thanks, I think I might err on the side of spectacle, so a lot of these things aren't something we would always use all the time, but I really like trying to surprise and engage my players with new, showy stuff.

    @Alec:One that sticks out for me is Blame, that seems like a nice general, easy to define one I might use myself.

    Here are the ones I ended up putting in my rough draft (with a free space it was enough for a 5x5 card):
    Person named
    Place named
    God named
    Shares Secret
    Reluctant to answer
    Sings or whistles
    Food named
    Monster named
    Warning given
    Asks for clarification
    Says "I don't Know."
    Directs your question elsewhere
    Weeps or moans

    and here is a screenshot: